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Drexel Urban Education Series to Discuss Potential of West Philadelphia Promise Zone and Beyond

Nancy Songer, PhD, is the dean of Drexel's School of Education

October 22, 2014

A diverse group of educators, parents, students, researchers and representatives from organizations who are interested in education in Philadelphia will come together at Drexel University on Monday, Nov. 17 from 6 – 8 p.m. Attendees will collaboratively define “urban education” and determine how that shared understanding informs the promise, potential and possibilities in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone neighborhood bordering Drexel and beyond.

The discussion is part of the Critical Conversations in Urban Education series hosted by Drexel’s School of Education.

The event seeks to bring together stakeholders from the School District of Philadelphia, community groups and Drexel’s partner schools such as Morton McMichael Elementary School and Samuel Powel Elementary School, as well as representatives from other schools and colleges across Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Special guests Lori Shorr, PhD, executive advisor and chief education officer to Mayor Michael Nutter, and Nancy Songer, PhD, dean of the School of Education, will offer opening and closing remarks.

Lori Shorr, PhD, is the executive advisor and chief education officer to Mayor Michael Nutter
Lori Shorr, PhD, is the executive advisor and chief education officer to Mayor Michael Nutter

“I think we all agree that the educational challenges within the West Philadelphia Promise Zone are extremely complex,” said Songer. “As such, they require school district, community and university partners to engage not just in conversations with each other, but in strategic conversations and problem solving. This forum is not just important, it is essential, as it provides a vehicle for Philadelphia-based individuals from all stakeholder groups to engage in these strategic conversations. How do you define urban education? Come share your voice and energy in helping us all to move forward.” 

Attendees will be split into groups for roundtable discussions on such topics as multiple literacies, STEM education and Common Core State Standards and university-assisted schools. First, the tables will discuss and share perspectives on what urban education is, and then they will apply that shared understanding to a variety of issues. A facilitator at each table will document key takeaways which will later be shared with the wider group.

The event, entitled “Promise, Potential and Possibilities: A Collaborative Conversation about Urban Education,” will take place in the Creese Student Center’s George D. Behrakis Grand Hall (3210 Market St). Refreshments will be served. It is free and open to the public. To register, call 215-895-6770, email ccues@drexel.edu or visit http://soe.drexel.edu/ccue.

The event also will be webcast live at http://soe.drexel.edu/ccue. Online participants will be able to join in the roundtable discussions.

The School of Education’s Critical Conversations in Urban Education series, which began in April 2012, is a vehicle for discussion within the Drexel and Philadelphia communities. It seeks to create a space for dialogue related to a range of education topics in an urban context for a mixed audience. The series provides professional development that augments understanding of factors in preparing educators and that transforms learning outcomes for urban students.

Shorr has served as Mayor Nutter’s chief education officer since she assumed office in January 2008. In this position, she is responsible for building the public will and infrastructure to attain the Mayor’s educational goals. In addition to her role with the City of Philadelphia, Shorr has been serving as an executive advisor to the School District since October 2011. Prior to taking this position, Shorr was the special assistant to the secretary of education at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In this capacity, she was responsible for the Department’s K – 16 initiatives including dual enrollment, transfer and articulation. She also led Governor Rendell’s Commission on College and Career Success and served on the Governor’s Job Ready Budget Task Force. Previously, Shorr was the director of school and community partnerships in the Provost’s Office at Temple University.

Songer became the dean of Drexel’s School of Education in August of this year. She previously worked at the University of Michigan as a professor of science education and learning technologies and director of the Center for Essential Science, a multi-disciplinary research organization addressing the underrepresentation of urban students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Songer is best known for her research on how to engage and support complex scientific reasoning among students ranging from elementary to high school ages. Her scholarship has received frequent recognition including a Presidential Faculty Fellowship awarded by President Clinton.