A program spearheaded by PECO and Drexel University to improve public school options for families in West Philadelphia will receive new life thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Exelon Foundation and PECO.
The program, called the “Drexel Exelon Foundation/PECO Community Education Collaborative,” began in 2011 with support from a $1 million grant from PECO. Its goal was to create new educational opportunities for local students and engage the community to focus on improving student retention.
“With a focus on improving academic achievement in reading, math and science, the Drexel Exelon Foundation/PECO Community Education Collaborative closely aligns with our company’s focus on STEM education,” said Mike Innocenzo, senior vice president and COO, PECO. “Our continued partnership with Drexel allows us to invest in our local youth and help them plan for successful futures in our community.”
Through Drexel’s University Assisted Schools (UAS) Initiative, the program focuses on the unique needs of two neighborhood schools, Morton McMichael School and Samuel Powel School, with particular emphasis on assessing and improving academic and school climate.
Since the partnership began, major achievements at the McMichael School include implementation of a universal screening of all students’ literacy and math skills; professional development to teachers about behavior intervention; development of a unique schedule for academic enrichment and intervention; development of a customized education plan for every student; and the development of robust STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programs with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, as well as several of PECO’s community partners, including the Philadelphia Zoo, The Franklin Institute and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
At the Powel School, the Collaborative has provided a range of support to enhance instructional practices and sustain a positive learning environment, including hiring a director of school support, funded jointly by Drexel, to coordinate professional development and support all school climate initiatives; introduction of a socialized play program by Playworks that has reduced conflicts during recess; addition of 30 laptops for student use in Powel’s library; and integration of new instructional materials for math.
“The efforts of this program to improve educational options and learning opportunities for students in the Mantua and Powelton communities have been incredibly successful, and have become a model for achieving improvements in Philadelphia’s public schools.” said Drexel President John A. Fry. “We are grateful to the Exelon Foundation and PECO for their partnership and support in continuing this important work.”
The additional funding will be used to continue implementation of two evidence-based, school-wide academic and school climate strategies that are proven to have significant effects on improving both the academic achievement of students and school climate. It also will support STEM education, technology integration and curriculum development.
Continued efforts have three central components:
- Response to Intervention (RtI): Through academic screening tools in math computation, math applied problems, reading fluency and reading comprehension, teachers will be able to better understand students’ strengths and weaknesses in order to develop individualized learning plans. Implementation of this strategy will identify instructional needs and deliver increasingly intensive interventions in classroom settings.
- Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS): Drexel will implement a tiered approach to student behavioral support for internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Implementation of this strategy is expected to result in teachers using more effective behavior management strategies, classroom ecologies that are conducive to the learning process, more time on task and active educational participation, and the use of inclusive and instructive discipline outcomes.
- STEM enrichments: The program also will pilot one of the nation’s first science benchmark assessments that follow new national science standards and enable targeted intervention in specific science domain areas.
Tina Richardson, PhD, associate dean and director of the University Assisted Schools Initiative in the School of Education, leads the UAS Initiative. James Connell, PhD, clinical director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and associate professor in the School of Education, will coordinate the RtI and PBIS efforts at both schools. Working collaboratively, they will align in and out of school time interventions to build a comprehensive database and set of resources that articulates the educational and instructional capacity of students, while providing resources for teachers, school leaders and students in the core academic areas of reading, math and science.