Lab School or Partnership School
Occidental should consider developing formal partnerships with local schools or create its own laboratory school or charter school. Such partnership or laboratory schools would both provide a setting for research by professors and graduate students, and would ensure that student teachers are placed with outstanding, dedicated mentor teachers. Members of the staffs of such schools could serve as adjunct professors to teach methods classes, and members of the Occidental faculty could teach professional development classes for the school staff. Such a close collaboration would necessitate the communication and integration required of an outstanding student teaching experience. A charter school or lab school would ensure that only interested, qualified teachers would participate as mentor teachers. Such a program would foster reciprocity. For example, student teachers will learn from the best teachers, and will help provide needed assistance in their classrooms. Schools will also be able to see the student teachers in action, thus providing a strong link to prospective teachers for the district.
The community literacy center or the child development center could serve as a beginning for the development of such a laboratory school on campus. Local schools such as Rockdale, Eagle Rock Elementary or Eagle Rock High School have expressed interest or been used in the past as such informal partnership schools. Creating digital classrooms or a digital high school within the existing schools could provide exciting opportunities.
Any such school must reflect the diversity of the community, and allow students the opportunities of dealing with a variety of learning styles and needs. A summer school program, taught entirely by students would be an interesting pilot program. Such a program would not only provide a service for local students, but would allow education students the experience of planning curriculum, opening and closing a program, and dealing with all the logistics of teaching in a classroom. They will have the experience of leading their own classrooms with coaching and support of teachers who will be on “vacation” and thus will be able to dedicate more time and focus on coaching, while the student teachers will have the experience of working with challenging students and provide a service that is desperately needed in the face of budget cuts.
Such a lab school or partnership school would also give Oxy visibility in the field of education. Providing model classrooms, including research into the effectiveness of learning strategies and developing an environment for innovative programs will move Oxy into the forefront of teacher preparation. These schools or partnerships could be developed gradually over a number of years. A model digital school would be a good place to showcase some of the work already being done at Occidental by the Center for Digital Learning and Research. In Taking Teaching Seriously, Susan Riemer Sacks (p. 179) discusses some of the ways Barnard College has done outreach to the community. They have a partnership with the Bronx High School, they provide peer health educators for high school girls, they provide a curriculum project designed by student teachers called, “Science in the City” for elementary students, they provide “Saturday Science Seminars” for 11th grade girls, and they provide on-going tutoring and mentoring programs.