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Faculty Research Fellow


Peter Murrell
Associate Professor
School of Education
College of Arts and Sciences
50 Nightingale Hall


Despite decades of educational reform initiatives, our nation’s public school systems are still failing miserably, especially in urban communities. This is reflected in the devastating achievement gap, where minority students continue to under-perform in high stakes standardized assessments. Currently, within educational leadership and teacher preparation programs, there are serious disconnects from the context of urban practice, such that policy is made independently of practice and the everyday experiences of learners, their teachers and their parents (Elmore, 1996). As a result, the critical collective sense-making about how new policy initiatives actually benefit children rarely take place (Hawley & Rollie, 2002; Rollie, 2003). Engestrom (1998) characterizes this failure as a gap between local, on-the-ground practice and the policy- and bureaucratic-structures designed to administer this practice.

A major component of this crisis in urban education is that most school-university partnerships still exclude the community constituencies that are essential for creating the social environments for high quality teaching and learning in under-resourced urban schools (Murrell, 1998). There simply has not been a consistent effort to synthesize these traditions into a grounded theory of effective school-university-community collaboration dedicated to enhancing teacher quality and student achievement. The consequence has been a general failure of schools of education to tap into the localized and contextualized knowledge of urban communities to produce effective urban teachers and sufficient numbers of minority teachers. The failure of teacher preparation programs to be responsive to urban communities has led too many young people of color, who might otherwise consider teaching as a profession, to view the profession as disconnected from their own experiences and steer away from the profession.

My project, the Community Teacher-Community Schools, articulates and evaluates a national model of evidence-based, practice-oriented inquiry in urban schools that is dedicated to the enterprise of simultaneously elevating the quality of teaching and learning and urban teacher preparation. The project consists of two distinct but integrated components:

  1. A demonstration project of community-university collaboration for the simultaneous preparation of urban teachers and the renewal of communities at the local level, called the Community Collaborative Demonstration Project (CCDP). This component will mobilize a practice-driven community of parents, local residents, after-school teachers, principals, Northeastern students, children in Boston Public Schools (BPS), and BPS teachers.
  2. A research enterprise, called the Urban Teacher Research Collaborative (UTRC) Project, which appraises the effectiveness of the model in terms of demonstrable elevation of student achievement and teacher quality at the national level.

Based on our community teacher framework (Murrell, 1998, 2001), the project will demonstrate efficacy of the model in two ways:

  1. By measuring the benefits in the academic achievement and personal development of children and youth in the urban service area using multiple measures (e.g., achievement test performance, grades, attendance, matriculation, etc.).
  2. By documenting enhancements in the quality of teacher preparation for urban settings and by the increased number of minority teachers from the service area of the projects.


    Elmore, R. F. (1996). Getting to scale with good educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 1-26.

    Engestrom, Y. (1998). Reorganizing the motivational sphere of classroom culture: An activity theoretical analysis of planning in a teacher team. In F. Seeger, J. Voight, & U. Waschescio (Eds.), The Culture of the Mathematics Classroom (pp. 76-103). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Hawley, Willis D., & Rollie, Donald L. (2002). The Keys to Effective Schools: Educational Reform as Continuous Improvement. Commissioned by the National Education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press Inc.

    Murrell, P. C., Jr. (1998). Like Stone Soup: The Problem of the Professional Development School in the Renewal of Urban Schools. Washington, DC; the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

    Murrell, P. C., Jr. (2001). The Community Teacher: A New Framework for Effective Urban Teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Rollie, D. L. (2003). The KEYS Initiative in Memphis City Schools: A “Jump-start” on the Journey to School Restructuring. In B. S. Portin, L. G. Beck, M. S. Knapp & J. Murphy (Eds.) Self-Reflective Renewal of Schools: Local Lessons from a National Perspective (pp.vii-xiv). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.


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