City of Worcester, MA in the winter

Impact - Institutions of Higher Learning as Community Resource

The Issue

In 1989, the Massachusetts Department of Education required the Worcester Public Schools to update its voluntary desegregation plan by adopting a "Controlled Choice" plan which included a mixture of voluntary integration and mandated student assignments in exchange for 90% State reimbursement for new school buildings and renovations. The Research Bureau suggested that to encourage as much voluntary integration as possible, the Worcester Public Schools should work with the City's colleges and other educational institutions such as the American Antiquarian Society and the Worcester Art Museum to develop programs, taking advantage of each institution's expertise, that would draw students to "magnet" schools voluntarily, even if that meant traveling beyond the neighborhood school.

In early 1990, the Research Bureau conducted an extensive survey of the existing collaborative programs between the colleges and the Worcester Public Schools. We found that the City's colleges had been working extensively with the public schools to develop new curricula, provide professional development and teacher training opportunities, internships and tutoring services, and specialized programs for public school students. But in light of data about collaborative efforts in other communities, we learned that the success of these programs depends on a serious commitment of personnel and resources by the colleges and the public schools. The Research Bureau recommended that the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium or the Worcester Public Schools employ an individual who would be responsible for working with the schools and the colleges on program development and implementation, resource development, and grant writing. This person would also coordinate the resources of other educational and cultural institutions. A more formal organizational structure would make it easier to track ongoing programs, evaluate them, and replicate successful ones. We suggested that the colleges and the public schools focus their attention primarily on professional development and curriculum development. Through courses, seminars, and summer institutes, teachers would have the opportunity to learn new subject areas and new methods which would have a direct impact on teachers' professional development and therefore on the education of their students. The Research Bureau argued that collaborative efforts between the public schools and the colleges and other institutions would provide the Worcester Public Schools with a unique dimension not found in communities without those resources.

The Results

In 1990, Dr. Gale Nigrosh was appointed by the Worcester Public Schools Superintendent to the position of Specialist for Higher Education and Business Partnerships. A few of the most significant partnerships that have been developed since her appointment include the following:

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