GSE’s Community School Partnership Network (GSE-CSPN): Empowering the Next Generation of Social Justice Educators

The Community School Partnership Network (GSE-CSPN) was established in 2016 and is an important part of the GSE’s Urban Social Justice Teacher Preparation Program. It is a select network of eight urban school districts that partner with the GSE to support the education of P-12 students and advance the practice of high-quality teaching and learning for pre-service teachers. 

GSE student, Tabatha Gould always knew that she wanted to be a special education teacher. Last year, Gould served as a pre-service teacher in Franklin Township Public Schools (FTPS) with Cynthia Normart as her cooperating teacher in a special education classroom at Conerly Road School. “Tabatha really grew into the role of teacher during her time here. She learned to be open-minded about different behaviors in the classroom, to use positive reinforcement, and be flexible with her instruction,” said Normart. “One student in particular was struggling with comprehension and Tabatha’s hard work with him helped improve his reading level. It was also really great for our diverse group of students to have a strong, positive role model leading the classroom.”

Franklin Township Public Schools is one of the GSE’s partner districts in the GSE Community School Partnership Network (GSE-CSPN). “The mission of the GSE to Advance Excellence and Equity in Education is very aligned with the FTPS mission to address issues of equity,” stated Daniel Loughran, FTPS Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “Niche magazine called FTPS the most diverse district in New Jersey and this partnership with the GSE is invaluable because we are always looking for new teachers who can help advance our mission of equity and the GSE, through their Urban Social Justice Teacher Preparation Program, provides us with a great talent pool of high caliber teachers.”

GSE faculty member, Lisa Knox-Brown who is the Partnership Leader for FTPS and provides mentorship and support to GSE’s pre-service teachers who are placed there also believes that this partnership is invaluable. “Having access to urban districts that have student diversity in terms of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds is critical for us in our mission to empower the next generation of social justice educators,” said Knox-Brown. “At FTPS, our students work in concert with their cooperating teachers and bring the theory of urban social justice education into practice using culturally responsive texts and having an understanding of cultural differences and the social emotional needs of children.”

“As part of the overall mission, the GSE and Franklin have embarked upon an exemplary working relationship that grants all involved members the opportunity to implement educational practices that can be open to discussion while seeking new venues to learn and grow through academic and professional development,” stated Dr. Donna Silva-Burnett, the Principal of Conerly Road School who has been integral to the success of the GSE and FTPS partnership.

“My cooperating teacher at Conerly Road School, Cyndy Normart and I connected on a very high level – she was very relatable, open to my ideas and let me slowly assume ownership of the classroom. She gave me pointers and feedback but also allowed me the room to learn from my own mistakes and grow as a result. I had an outstanding experience with my student teaching at FTPS and at the GSE,” said Gould about her pre-service teaching experience. “It was phenomenal for me to have mentors at the GSE like Professors Lisa Knox-Brown and Kisha Porcher because they looked like me and were really invested in the success of my journey to becoming a special education teacher.”