Volume 12 Issue 1

Editorial: Teacher Networks and the Drive for Equity

Gina Cappelletti, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

Cat McManus, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

As in the last issue, the Spring 2015 issue of Perspectives on Urban Education opens with what we refer to as the “Call for Response Piece.” The goal of the response piece is to catalyze responses from you, our readers, as well as to spark dialogue across the issues. The last issue’s response piece was entirely visual; this one is audio-only. We imagine--and indeed we hope--that your responses will take many forms and we encourage multi-modal representations of knowledge generated by education-watchers, practitioners, researchers, students, parents, and more. 

Networks, equity, and marginalized groups in urban school settings

Teacher Networks Companion Piece

Ami Patel Hopkins, Philadelphia Education Fund

Dr. Carolyn Rulli, Philadelphia Education Fund

Daniel Schiff, Philadelphia Education Fund

Marina Fradera, Philadelphia Education Fund

Network building vitally impacts career development, but in few professions does it impact daily practice more than in teaching. Teacher networks, known as professional learning communities, communities of practice, peer learning circles, virtual professional communities, as well as other names, play a unique and powerful role in education.  In addition to providing opportunities for teachers to impact school change on local, state and national levels, networking links teachers directly to resources that improve classroom environments and support the generation of instructional tools, which directly impacts student learning.  

Teachers, Traditions, and Transformation: Keynote Address Delivered at the 9th Annual Master’s Capstone Conference for the Urban Teacher Master’s and Certification Program at the University of Pennsylvania on 29 April 2014

John F. Smith, III, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow


An alumnus of both Teach For America and the master’s program in urban education at the University of Pennsylvania, I delivered the following address on April 29, 2014, to teachers in the 2013 and 2014 cohorts of Teach For America in Philadelphia. Program organizers invited me to provide remarks during the capstone event and to respond to the evening’s theme: “Teachers, Traditions, and Transformation.” The address below includes only two content edits, both additions to the seventh paragraph, in the form of an introductory phrase about privilege and a sentence about collective action. Otherwise, the text is as it was for the evening’s event. 


Intrinsic Motivation and the Five-Paragraph Essay: Lessons Learned on Practitioner Research, the Role of Academic Research in the Classroom, and Assessing Changes in Student Motivation

Dan LaSalle, Temple University


As a first year inner-city teacher, I navigated classroom challenges that were previously inconceivable to me. Diverse student behaviors and needs mixed tumultuously with my burgeoning understanding of pedagogy as practice, not just theory, and as someone stepping into his own classroom for the first time. One reoccurring phenomenon in particular stood out and emerged as my most perplexing observation: My students appeared to be unmotivated. Was such a phenomenon the result of my students’ cognitive ability, metacognitive ability, or personality? Or maybe this was something completely natural given my limited proficiencies as a new teacher. 

Reimagining Reading: Creating a Classroom Culture that Embraces Independent Choice Reading

Katie Dickerson, Olney Charter High School, Philadelphia, PA

Many of us are plagued by negative memories of sustained silent reading. In some of these memories, we are the students, attempting to read a book that didn’t hold our interest or trying to read over the din of our disengaged classmates. In other memories, we are the teachers, suffering through a ten-minute classroom management nightmare, deciding which pupil behaviors to ignore and which to address.

Saturday School: Implementing Project-Based Learning in an Urban School

Susan Catapano, Ed.D., University of  North Carolina in Wilmington

Jenny Gray, Ed.D., Griffith Elementary, Ferguson-Florissant School District 


Expanding the university-school partnership in one urban district led to the development of a Saturday enrichment program with pre-service teachers planning curricula based on project learning. Researchers asked if this program, a departure from the structured curriculum of Monday through Friday class, had an impact on learners involved. Data were collected through interviews, surveys, and observations from 2005-2010. Overall results indicate that the program had a positive impact on learners and their attitudes about learning. Attendance in the program was high when the curriculum was student-driven. Conflicts in philosophy among administrators had a negative impact on the ongoing success of Saturday School. 

“If there has ever been a time to improve schools, the time is now.”