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Teachers College Community School Finds Collaborative Success

Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman (center, in red) helps TCCS students celebrate the opening of the school's new location in September.
Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman (center, in red) helps TCCS students celebrate the opening of the school's new location in September.

The Teachers College Community School (TCCS), a university-assisted public pre-K8 school, opened the doors of its new permanent home in West Harlem, N.Y. in September. The school, which initially opened in fall of 2011 in a different location, represents a unique collaboration between the Columbia University Teachers College and the New York City Department of Education to provide a strong public education for members of the community, as well as education training for university students.

Teachers College President Susan H. Fuhrman says the first year was a successful one: for the kindergarten class, which was the only grade attending the school last year, 78 percent performed at or above grade level in reading, 90 percent did so in writing, and 88 percent in math. They were based on the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project assessments, evaluations created for the NYC Department of Education and used throughout the city.

TCCS has 125 students in pre-K1 and will grow by one grade each year to full capacity in grades pre-K8. It is a non-selective public school filled by lottery, with admissions preference given to families in Harlem Community School Districts 5 and 6. The school received 230 applications for the 50 kindergarten seats this year; 175 of them came from that area. The 180 children who did not get in were put on a waiting list.

The school also serves as an important professional development site for the Teachers College. Students from fields including teaching, counseling, and social work get hands-on experience, and faculty provide professional development for both pre-service and experienced teachers. By bringing together students with expertise in varied subjects, like early childhood education, nutrition, music, science, art, and special education, their work at the school becomes more well-rounded, Fuhrman says.

The school is developing a full range of academic and non-academic support services, including after-school programming and mental-health services. Though Fuhrman has previously spearheaded creating a similar university-assisted public school in West Philadelphia, she says it unfortunately remains a rare situation. “I think there’s hesitancy on the part of both public school systems and universities to engage in deep collaboration, because it takes time and there are a lot of transactional costs,” says Fuhrman. “It can be a protracted process, but I think it’s well worth it. Universities have a lot to offer, in education and in non-academic services. There are major universities in every urban setting where schools need involvement.”

For more information on the community school, visit