Monroe forging ambitious literacy partnership with SUNY Geneseo

This article originally appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle.

Due to a D & C server change the photos are no longer available.

• January 10, 2014

By now it is almost axiomatic that strong working relationships between universities and public schools are essential in our ever expanding information age economy.

This year, Monroe High School is taking secondary/higher ed collaboration—putting policy into practice—to new levels.  As part of its Phase Two Transformation plan, Monroe is implementing a comprehensive partnership with SUNY Geneseo that will bring to campus Geneseo faculty trained in literacy and bilingual studies to work directly with Monroe teachers.  In addition, Monroe will be offering Geneseo undergraduate education majors an unprecedented opportunity to work for an entire year as apprentice teachers with a stipend.

The initiative emerged two years ago when Monroe Principal Armando Ramirez and RCSD District Chief Brenda Pacheco-Rivera determined that Monroe—which has the highest percentage of Spanish speaking students and parents in the District—needed a laser like focus on literacy education for its bilingual community.  Aided by a School Improvement Grant, Ramirez and Pacheco-Rivera reached out to SUNY Geneseo—where they were warmly received—to build this win-win partnership.  In describing the ambitious plan, Ramirez uses a phrase of which he is fond:  “Go big or go home.”

First, students win.  As Monroe faculty gain increased expertise in bilingual education, students are sure to benefit.  Monroe teachers win by both becoming more effective in the classroom and by actually earning credit towards advanced certifications and degree. Geneseo faculty wins by having the opportunity to meld theory with practice.  Geneseo wins by establishing its presence—one previously lacking—firmly within a Rochester urban school.

Finally, Geneseo undergraduates training to be teachers win.  As a former student teacher, I would have loved the opportunity for a year-long paid apprenticeship as opposed to the conventional format of two seven week (unpaid) placements.  When the Geneseo students complete the program, I think there is a strong chance they will want to commit to the District for their career.

Recently, Superintendent Vargas has called for local colleges and universities to help manage schools.  I don’t know how far his plan will go, but nonetheless it has sparked new discussion about secondary and higher ed collaboration.  As the Monroe/Geneseo partnership successfully moves forward, it will undoubtedly become part of that conversation.