Community University School Partnership designed to foster continuous learning

 

The University of Nevada, Reno's College of Education and the Washoe County School District have come together to demonstrate meaningful collaboration among essential partners through a program called Community University School Partnership. 

"CUSP was developed about 18 months ago with the intention of capturing the established relationships between Washoe County School District teachers and College of Education faculty," Margaret Ferrara, associate professor and program coordinator in the College of Education, said. "Together with the district, we wanted to create an entity for housing information about these partnerships and begin raising awareness for what each one of them is doing."  

Salwa Zaki, the Washoe County School District Department of Professional Learning director, joined with Ferrara to put together a team of people across both organizations who could help identify already existing partnerships.  

"As we work together to develop a shared realization of Nevada Academic Content Standards and Teacher Leader Standards, it's important for us to engage more fully so we can apply what we're learning to multiple areas of education in the district," Zaki said. "We've known partnerships exist, but before CUSP there was no formal collaborative group tying these partnerships together. Our ability to break down communication silos and learn from each other is the fundamental reason for this program."  

In May, CUSP hosted a showcase where representatives from 11 identified partnerships were given time to present their work. Each collaboration presented on its history, future aspirations, funding sources and celebrations. Showcase attendees not only included College of Education faculty and administration and Washoe County School District teachers and administration, but also members of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents and Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.  

"As the program continues to grow, our hope is to also highlight established partnerships that other colleges at the University have within the district," Ferrara said. "The mission of CUSP is not to be exclusive but to connect University and district faculty with resources and to showcase intercollegiate collaboration."  

The partnerships already identified by CUSP offer a wide range of experience and longevity. Some, like Dean's Future Scholars and the Raggio Research Center have been around for years, while others, like the Nevada Mathematics Project and the Gifted and Talented Endorsement, are newer. All are helping to set the bar for what cross-collaboration in community education can look like and are helping develop new and meaningful teacher learning experiences.    

Nationally, more universities are looking at similar collaborations with their school districts.

"We are leading institutions in identifying the relevance and importance through ongoing educational partnerships," Ferrara said. "As we work on our goal for next year to further demonstrate the sustainable nature of CUSP, we plan to demonstrate how strategic partnerships ultimately benefit the students they are serving."

"CUSP's goal is not to take credit for any of the work that is well established by a number of these partnerships," Zaki said. "What we're doing is showcasing it in one place where others can gather the resources they need to learn from each other and further develop meaningful relationships. The result will strengthen teacher training and ensure those teachers entering the district from the University have similar background and training in the content standards."

For more information about CUSP, including a complete list of partnerships, contact Margaret Ferrara at 775-682-7530 or ferrara@unr.edu.