University of Pittsburgh
October 13, 2003

Pitt School of Education Launches Center for Urban Education

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's School of Education is launching the Center for Urban Education to help improve education in our region and to research and disseminate methods for improving urban education nationally. Initially, the center will focus on two ventures, a pilot program in the Wilkinsburg School District and a professional development program at the Pittsburgh Public Schools' Phillips Elementary School.

"Urban education is especially in need of focused, sustained, intense, and wide-ranging attention from higher education, and the University is ready to rise to this challenge," said Alan Lesgold, School of Education dean. "Furthermore, problems in urban schools often foreshadow problems that we soon see in all schools, so focusing on urban settings helps us stay ahead of all schools' needs."

"The University of Pittsburgh's new Center for Urban Education will help us improve urban education in our home region and across our nation," said Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "The center is uniquely positioned to harness the University's ever-growing research expertise in many disciplines—and to use that knowledge to improve educational outcomes. The powerful collaborations that this new center makes possible—with our Learning Research and Development Center, our Center on Race and Social Problems, and our Center for Minority Health, among many other Pitt entities—will undoubtedly advance the mission of quality education for all students."

The Wilkinsburg program is under the direction of the Partnership for School District Improvement, headquartered at Pitt. This partnership provides a team of professionals who have expertise in various areas of school system improvement to work with struggling school districts and schools in the region. By working with district administrators, teachers, and regional supporters, the team will help to develop and implement appropriate systems and structures that will support and sustain increased student achievement.

Sue Goodwin, Pitt clinical professor of education and former superintendent of schools at South Side Area School District, Hookstown, Pa., will serve as the Wilkinsburg pilot program's chief academic officer, and Jim Turner, who spent

10 years with the Pennsylvania Economy League in a variety of positions—including managing director and chief financial officer—will be director of the Partnership for School District Improvement project.

The general focus of the Wilkinsburg intervention model involves: developing a core leadership team comprising representatives from the school board, administration, and teachers union and University resource people, all of whom will meet frequently to resolve problems impeding academic progress; moving the reform into the classroom via teams of teachers working on all key areas; and improving the business, financial, and data systems in the district to give decision makers and teachers the information needed to implement reform efforts.

The Wilkinsburg School District, the Wilkinsburg Education Association, and the Pittsburgh and Grable foundations will support the pilot program at Wilkinsburg. "This partnership of a school district, a teachers union, and private foundations is a very positive landmark in regional educational reform efforts," said Lesgold.

The second venture includes professional development activities now under way with the staff of Phillips School. This site will be both an urban education resource and a locus for teacher preparation and professional development centered on the needs of urban schools.

Undergraduate students contemplating education careers soon will participate in tutoring and other parateaching roles with mentoring and oversight from Phillips and Pitt faculty. Pitt students also will serve as interns at the school.

Teachers at Phillips will be important partners in the design and presentation of some of the core methods courses taken by future teachers. Barbara Rudiak, principal of the school, recently was named Pennsylvania's National Distinguished Principal for 2003 by the U. S. Department of Education and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

"Pitt's Center for Urban Education will address the need to assure that every child is well educated to become a full participant in the information economy and to have full access to the American dream of success in proportion to one's personal efforts," said Lesgold.