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July 1, 2008

Columbia Engineering School and Teachers College
to Partner with Harlem Public Schools

$5 million grant from GE Foundation supports math, science,
engineering and technology education

Teachers College (TC) at Columbia University and the University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science announced Monday that it has received a $5 million grant from the General Electric (GE) Foundation to create a new partnership with a group of 10 public schools in Harlem.

New York City Congressman Charles Rangel shakes hands with Evelyn Roman-Lazan, director for K-12 programs at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), at Monday's press conference. With them are Jack McGourty (left), SEAS associate dean, and Ted Gershon, assistant vice president for Columbia's Government and Community Affairs.
Photo by Karl Crutchfield

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The Teachers College grant is part of a $29 million GE Foundation effort to support New York City public schools, the largest-ever single corporate contribution to the school system. New York is the sixth city to join the foundations’ "Developing Futures" program, which is aimed at improving schools in cities where GE operates.

The GE Foundation has granted $18 million to the Department of Education and a total of $11 million in grants to individual schools and programs, including Teachers College. By combining these grants with the award to the Department of Education, the GE Foundation hopes to build a framework of solutions to benefit students citywide.

Teachers College will use the grant to increase the partner schools’ capacity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction. Ultimately, the partnership will expand to include a broader range of subject areas and disciplines at a larger group of schools.

The GE Foundation grant was announced at a press conference that included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, GE President Jeffrey Immelt, New York City Congressman Charles Rangel and New York City Public School Chancellor Joel Klein.

As part of the work funded by the GE Foundation, the Center for Technology, Innovation and Community Engagement (CTICE) at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, which runs extensive science and technology education programs in Harlem public schools, including the Hayden Engineering and Applied Science Program and the Harlem Robotics League, will work with Teachers College to develop specialized science and technology education programs for middle and high schools covered by the GE Foundation grant.

“We’re delighted with our new partnership with Teachers College,” says Jack McGourty, associate dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and executive director of CTICE. “The GE Foundation grant will allow the Engineering School to utilize its expertise and resources to improve science, technology, engineering and math education in New York’s public schools.”

“Our involvement in this exciting new project is the latest and most emphatic demonstration of TC’s longstanding commitment to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for children in the communities surrounding the College,” said Teachers College President Susan H. Fuhrman.

Renee Belton, principal of Community School 200 (the James McCune Smith School), one of the partner schools, states that the new initiative will help teachers who have shied away from teaching math because of a lack of training. “This program will help them understand math, not just do it. And when the teachers have that understanding, the students are going to do better as well.”

Peter L. McFarlane, principal of PS/IS 180 (the Hugo Newman College Preparatory School) said the new partnership “means that Teachers College is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of a collaboration encompassing the entire community and not just a part of it.” McFarlane, who received his doctorate from TC and is an alumnus of the College’s Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished New York City Principals, added, “It’s important, when you look at the change dynamic in New York City, that we now have a leading educational institution go to the forefront in helping to cultivate support for schools in the community.”

McFarlane said he believes the partnership will help “every aspect of my school, from teacher recruitment and retention to comprehensive professional development to the alignment of curriculum to state and national standards. “It also enables the principal to draw on the best research when he’s thinking about how to improve the school,” he said.

Teachers College has a longstanding tradition of preparing teacher candidates in the disciplines of math and science. The College’s Math, Science and Technology Department are particularly attuned to the cultural differences in how young people in urban settings learn their motivations and frameworks. The department includes a center that focuses on helping teachers adapt new technologies to the classroom and is distinguished by a strong interdisciplinary approach.

While at least 10 Harlem schools are expected to partner with Teachers College as a result of the GE Foundation grant, the full list has not yet been finalized. Details of the partnerships will be worked out over the course of the summer. Core activities of the partnership will focus on ensuring a rigorous and relevant math and science curriculum through technology, increasing teachers’ knowledge of new developments in math and science, and the creation of after-school programs for students.