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Harvard Alums Support Local Educators through WIDE World

WIDE World, an online professional development program developed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recently received a $35,000 grant from Harvard Club New York Foundation (HCNY) to continue funding New York educators to attend their programs. The result is a unique partnership that affects educators, schools, and HGSE programs.

"We appreciate the generosity of many Harvard Clubs in enabling educators in their local communities to learn with our faculty through our professional education programs," said Keith Collar, associate dean for planning and outreach at HGSE's Research, Innovation, and Outreach. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Harvard Clubs to reach more educators and to make a positive impact on student learning through these programs."

In August 2007, WIDE received a $75,000 one-year grant from the HCNY. The grant enabled six New York City elementary and middle schools to take advantage of WIDE's online and onsite professional development courses for teachers and school leaders. As a result of the funding from HCNY and matching funds from the schools, 127 teachers and school leaders in the Bronx have taken part in six different online courses including Teaching for Understanding, Getting Started with Data Wise, and Using Multiple Intelligences.

WIDE World offers coach-supported online and onsite professional development to help educators understand how to apply proven research on effective teaching and learning in their own workplace. Programs for teachers, teacher-leaders, and school leaders support collaborative teamwork towards the integration of research-based strategies that engage students, enhance their performance, and develop school systems as coherent learning organizations.

For HCNY, funding educators in WIDE's professional development programs represented an expansion of the foundation's activities and a unique collaboration among Harvard organizations, educators, and alumni. "We felt that it would be good for the members of the club to know that we on the foundation board were expanding our interests to something as important and timely as helping with the problems of education," said Truda Jewett, chairwoman of Harvard Club of New York and executive associate of external affairs for The Children's Aid Society. When HCNY approached the university about ways to help educators, their request was directed to the Ed School. Meanwhile, WIDE was brainstorming ways to expand its program into New York City schools. The intersection of WIDE and HCNY created a unique partnership. WIDE sees the HCNY grant as an opportunity to work with schools around systemic improvement not simply to provide courses for individual educators.

HCNY's donation of additional $35,000 to fund New York educators' attendance at WIDE's programs further underscored the burgeoning partnership. "This allowed for a catalytic process to unfold," said Lecturer Stone Wiske, cofounder of WIDE. "We are thrilled to continue this process, complementing what HCNY has provided to extend the benefits to a larger number of schools and stretch this into the future."

Participating educators spoke with enthusiasm about how they have benefited from taking the online courses, which support application of educational research through extensive interaction with an online coach and fellow online learners. Additional results of the WIDE program included more collegial staff relationships, specific strategies for improving instruction, and systematic analysis of student performance data to inform instruction.

The results of the first year were overwhelmingly positive. In April, WIDE World presented the project to the members of HCNY and Dean Kathleen McCartney. The overview included the New York educators from two of the six schools, who shared their experiences of taking WIDE courses and the impact it had on the classroom.

"I want you to know how important this is to my school and to the kids," said Principal Patricia Quigley. The Bronx elementary school learned to use student data to enhance instruction and meet New York's standard requirement for school improvement. "It is almost like hitting home runs. It is almost like winning the lottery. I believe right now with the help of Harvard and WIDE World online courses we are hitting home runs...and we are enjoying and loving it," she said.

WIDE courses and workshops are designed to foster participants' ability and motivation to strengthen their own teaching and to continue learning in a collaborative professional community. "[WIDE] has impacted my building and myself as an educator," said Mary Gamory, a kindergarten teacher from a Bronx elementary school, who took a course on multiple intelligences. "The opportunity that this has provided us to work with other collogues is just phenomenal."

"The teachers that went through the course that WIDE World provided were so excited, and the results as they reported them were nothing short of awesome. We on the board were taken by surprise," Jewett said.