Paint Branch's partnership with the University of Maryland helps both schools

By David Hill
The Gazette
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Officials from Prince George's County public schools and the University of Maryland, College Park, signed an agreement last week to extend the university's academic partnership with Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park.

The university has provided tutoring at Paint Branch since 1996, and the relationship has expanded since 2008 to include more than 15 on-campus organizations. A Feb. 1 event formally established a plan for the partnership's future.

"The entire university is mobilized to make this a successful partnership," said Nariman Farvardin, U-Md.'s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.

The partnership will aim to improve student performance at Paint Branch, provide research opportunities for U-Md. students and give elementary school students early exposure to a college environment.

The university also has helped to expand the students' horizons by sponsoring trips to campus to see gymnastics exhibitions and theater and dance productions. Sixth-grader Muhammed Ahmed, 11, of Greenbelt said the time spent on campus will help students as they mature and plan for college themselves.

"It helps [students] to think about college because then they get better ideas," said Muhammad, who is one of 20 students who will visit China next month on a trip sponsored by the university's Confucius Institute at Maryland. "They get more creativity, so they can figure out what they want to be."

Academic performance has improved steadily at Paint Branch, which has met federally-mandated Adequate Yearly Progress goals for two straight years. On last year's Maryland School Assessment, the federally mandated state math and reading test that measures performance, 83.9 percent of students tested proficient or better in math and 85.6 percent did in reading.

Both figures exceeded statewide figures of 77.9 and 84.4 percent, respectively.

Many of the partnership's programs are in place, including the BizWorld program, which has taught sixth-graders how to run businesses, and a mentoring program linking fifth- and sixth-grade girls with U-Md.'s women's basketball team. Eight students from U-Md.'s College of Education also observe or assist in instruction at the school.

"It's a very constructive relationship," said Paint Branch parent Sarah Wayland of Riverdale Park. "Teachers here can help train the next generation of [college] students, but also, the faculty of the university can collaborate with the teachers here."

U-Md. officials said they hope the program will not only boost the quality of instruction at Paint Branch but improve the quality of College Park and its relationship with U-Md.

"I do not know of any world-class university that is in a mediocre city," Farvardin said. "Our world-class university has a profound influence on our community."

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