Institutional priorities, values and commitments develop and evolve over time, changing when circumstances require. Bank Street is defined by a number of commitments. Some have very deep roots in the College, going back to the days of the founder, Lucy Sprague Mitchell. Others are more recent, drawing upon new information and changes in the world. So, what are some of today’s commitments?
We are defined by a number of commitments.
An old fashioned phrase: habits of mind.
What does this imply?
In both Children’s Programs and the Graduate School, we emphasize inquiry, we encourage curiosity, and we engage students on their own terms. The China Curriculum in the School for Children is a good example. Here, the 10/11s study China’s past and present, its evolution relative to culture and traditions. Students begin by looking at Chinese culture, which serves as a starting point for a later consideration of their own culture(s).
As a class, they look at examples of three children living in modern China and use these examples to learn about family roles, the value placed on education, and the many ethnicities, spiritual beliefs, occupations, and lifestyles in today’s China.
For a second example see Allison Warren’s response to her students’ interest in planes by looking at the video “Paper Planes” (http://vimeo.com/9973813). A Graduate School alumna, Allison more than meets her Memphis students’ curiosity.
We believe that these habits are enduring, producing a lifetime respect for learning.
Indeed, at Bank Street there is a long and deep commitment to diversity. New York City, of course, brings diversity to the doorstep on a daily basis. With more than 8 million residents and nearly 170 languages, New York is diversity. With respect to religion, race, gender, age, sexual preference, and economic background, Bank Street mirrors the City.
However, the biggest challenge to diversity facing Bank Street today and into the future involves our tuition. Bank Street is an expensive school when compared with New York’s public school and City University tuitions. We are keenly aware of this reality and continue to work very hard to contain costs and control tuition increases. In the School for Children, 30% of families receive financial aid. In the Graduate School, approximately 70% of students receive aid.
Bank Street’s commitment to diversity has a long history. In the 1960s, Bank Street was deeply involved in the formulation of two national federal education initiatives: Head Start, a program for poor pre-school children and families begun in 1965, and Follow Through, a program begun in 1968 to provide educational support services for elementary school children and their families in poor communities. In addition, the 1965 Bank Street Readers, the first multi-ethnic urban basal readers, revolutionized early childhood literacy teaching in America. Conceived by Bank Street President John H. Niemeyer, the Readers project was managed by Irma Simonton Black, director of Bank Street’s Publications division, and written by her and the division staff. LINK: FALL 2004 Street Scenes, pages 16, 17, 18 – discusses John Niemeyer and the Bank Street involvement in Head Start and Follow Through, and also gives the story of the creation of the Bank Street Readers.
Whether through the development of educational materials, engagement in educational research and policy-shaping, or internal policies that guide daily life, Bank Street has a clear record of commitment to diversity.
Engaging with our communities has been a part of Bank Street for many years. In September of 2010, for instance, we were awarded the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness by the Federal Office of Head Start. The major tasks of the center include:
- Developing and maintaining an extensive electronic catalogue that provides cutting-edge and evidence-based resources on cultural and linguistic competence;
- Creating research-to-practice materials that support high quality services to diverse children and families;
- Reviewing and revising existing resources for dual language learners;
- Sharing information and tools with the field on topics which include language preservation, supporting English and home language development, engaging families from diverse cultures, and emerging issues around immigrant populations.
We also worked with the New York City Public Library to develop a cadre of early literacy leaders for the population of children birth to three, their families, and their caregivers among existing New York Public Library staff.
Another example is the work we did throughout the city supporting the effective use of the Early Childhood Assessment in Mathematics (ECAM). This project supported teachers, math coaches, and network leaders to:
- Administer the assessment;
- Interpret the results of the assessment;
- Use assessment interpretations to enact improved learning opportunities with students;
- Work with other teachers to use the assessment to improve instruction; and
- Identify and prepare participants to work with colleagues in their schools and networks.
Health and wellness.
Beginning in September 2011 Bank Street is re-emphasizing the importance of health and wellness in two respects.
We are introducing Chef Chad and a new foodservice for the College Community; this will feature simple, healthy and when possible local and organic food. We are taking this step in concert with Chef Bobo at the Calhoun School (http://www.calhoun.org/page.cfm?p=48). Our goal is also to connect aspects of the lunch meal to the curriculum in the School for Children.
In addition, Staff Council and Human Resources are introducing a wellness program for staff; this will include lunchtime athletic activities, a speaker series, and a communications “hub” which will provide monthly email briefings and links on important health and wellness topics.
Commitments help to define institutions; they reflect values and basic assumptions. Bank Street has always had commitments. The commitments will continue to evolve and develop, guiding priorities and decision-making along the way.