Feb. 15, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 10

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    SSA students helping to formulate a new model of practice for school social workers

    The North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School, established by the University, and its partner school, Ariel Community Academy, will be the site of an innovative project by the School of Social Service Administration to formulate a new model of practice for school social workers.

    The two schools occupy the remodeled Shakespeare School at 1119 E. 46th St. The North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School receives professional assistance from the University’s Center for School Improvement, which is working with teachers and administrators to develop a model program for urban schools.
    social workers
    Christina Felice Gonzales, a first-year in the School of Social Service Administration, talks with sixth-graders at the North Kenwood-Oakland Charter School. These discussions are part of the school’s social work programs.

    The Chicago Community Trust is funding SSA’s Shakespeare Community Schools Partnership, which will use the two schools as a training location for social workers who will develop new ways to assist students outside the usual assignments given to urban school social workers. In so doing, the social workers will deal with factors that affect student performance that are usually not addressed by teachers: circumstances of families and the availability of supports within the community.

    “The desire to bring about systemic reform is high, but the knowledge and the tools to do so remain in question,” said Edward Lawlor, Dean of SSA. “While teachers and administrators are clearly central figures in making schools work better for children, agents to address the social problems are in the periphery. The social work professional has largely been left out of major educational reform initiatives.”

    The Chicago Public Schools currently employ social workers, but many of them spend much of their time working on improvement plans for special education students. They also are infrequently consulted on issues dealing with school curriculum and often have a limited role in the operation of a school.

    Through the project, SSA faculty will work in partnership with the Center for School Improvement to examine how the training and support of social workers can be changed to promote more effective learning environments. The goal of the program is to reshape training of graduate students who will be able to deal with new roles for social workers in changing schools.

    SSA began working at Shakespeare this year in a preliminary way with teachers and students. Next fall, a master social worker will be assigned to the school to serve as a model of experience and provide leadership and supervision to graduate students from SSA working at Shakespeare.

    The full program will begin with eight to 10 master’s-level students receiving field placements at Shakespeare. Additionally, links between SSA and the two schools at Shakespeare will help SSA develop its curriculum for the school social work initiative.

    Parents and representatives of local school councils and community groups will comprise an advisory committee that will provide suggestions to the master social worker during the planning year 2001-02. Also during the planning year, SSA will develop a research component to determine what data must be gathered to broadly disseminate information about the project.

    To provide information about its work at Shakespeare and further guidance on the issue, SSA expects to convene a social work and school reform summit to bring together scholars, policymakers and practitioners to refine the model of school social work being developed at Shakespeare.