University City Schools

The Institute for School Partnership and Brittany Woods Middle School

The University City community is part of the Washington University in St. Louis neighborhood, and the Institute for School Partnership is committed to working collaboratively to increase student achievement in the school district.

Among the services ISP provides to Brittany Woods Middle School are curriculum, instruction and assessment support; classroom coaching; teacher professional development; and after-school enrichment programs.

Victoria May, executive director of the Institute for School Partnership, says, “It is wonderful that the university is situated in such a diverse and engaged neighborhood as University City. We are very fortunate to have a relationship with the district that is focused on strategic problem solving and alignment of resources.”

Brittany Woods Middle School Case Study

Brittany Woods is a middle school serving students in University City, Missouri. Predominantly made up of students from middle-class working families, the school began facing more challenges as socioeconomic indicators of area residents began to ebb. A partnership with Washington University in St. Louis began to address significant issues, especially in lesser quantified social needs areas.

Developing the partnership

Joylynn Pruitt, superintendent of schools for the University City School District, says, “Three years ago, we met with the chancellor, and he spoke about creating a partnership with the school district of University City. And, so, here we are, three years later. Professional development is happening intensely here. Our summer school program has been revamped to be inquiry based. They’ve done a lot of professional development for us. They work with our kids. They’ve been able to afford us human resources, which, in these financial times, we could not afford as a district. It has been a wonderful partnership.”

What started small has grown large

Victoria May says, “What we’re doing in University City is working with every single school, and, particularly at Brittany Woods Middle School, working with every teacher in the school. The complexity of the partnership has really grown. We say, “How do we look at the entire school and, as a university, connect all of our resources to the school in a way that’s a win-win for both of us?”

Mentoring can have a lasting effect

Victoria May says, “The middle school students are working with our undergraduates and they’re interacting in a way that they really feel like they have a mentor. It’s the first time they’ve been knee-to-knee with a Washington University student. They’re a little bit starstruck and then they start developing a long-term relationship, and, sometimes, those last for years.”

The multiplier effect

Jamie Jordan, EdD, principal at Brittany Woods, says, “The people that we’ve worked with through Washington University are unbelievable. They’re dedicated, their hearts are in the right place, and they really want to make Brittany Woods a better spot, a better place, a better school. It’s wonderful for me as the building principal because I can have the responsibility and feel like it’s getting done, and it’s getting done well, and I don’t have to worry about it. That allows me, then, instead of spending two hours developing the after-school programming brochure, to then spend two hours in the classroom focusing on instruction. It really has a huge impact on what we can do at Brittany Woods and how we’re able really to reach every single student here.”

Everything matters when the goal is student success

Jamie Jordan says, “University City doesn’t have the funds to support an after-school program, so everything that was done was volunteer hours. Eventually what happened is that there were very few clubs. We had two or three to start, plus sports, which actually was funded. But the parents showed a need through a survey that they wanted to have more after-school activities. So, through the partnership with the university, we were able to expand it. Starting last spring, we actually had someone come from the university who oversaw the whole program and started building. Then we brought in lots of additional people from the university to help. They helped with our chess club. The Ervin Scholars helped with a dance program. All different people came in to help build and support those clubs. We’re about to kick off this year, and we’ll have about eight to ten clubs that service all different kinds. We hope to continue to build on that. The more kids feel involved with the school, the more kids feel they are a part of the school and connected to the school, the better they will do academically. What we want to do with everything we do is bring it back to student achievement, to make sure that we are really preparing kids for high school and college and beyond.”

Students naturally pay more attention

Barry Williams, 8th grade science teacher at Brittany Woods, says, “Every year when a new group of kids comes in, they have a different perspective or a different idea on life. If you’re still doing old experiments, old labs that are outdated… Through Washington University, all our stuff now is current, and we’re doing things that are more relevant to the kids of today.”

Same message + different medium = enhanced learning

Pamela Woodard, 8th grade American history teacher at Brittany Woods says, “I think Project Baseline tied into what the students are more familiar with. They could relate when I showed a picture or a video clip of the journey of the African American, whereas before they would have just read about it and maybe written on it. Instead, with other media, they put themselves in the character and it was easier for them to experience it.”