I was honored by my colleagues to be inducted as the President of the National Academy of Education at a ceremony last Friday. My wonderful family was at my side as I accepted this honor – and though I don’t get to tell them often enough, they deserve great thanks for their abiding support.
It will be a great pleasure to work with my GW colleagues, NAEd members and leaders, and other friends in the broad education research and policy community as we continue to advance the cause of improved education and increased opportunity. A challenge, no doubt, but one that I feel privileged to take on.
President Knapp (and Diane Knapp), as well as Provost Lerman (and Lori Lerman), were kind enough to attend the ceremony, as were a number of our senior leadership faculty and staff. I’m grateful for President Knapp’s most generous introduction and welcome. GW Trustee Titulola Williams-Davies and former trustee Bob Perry also joined us, and it was again a joy to see their enthusiasm for what’s happening in GSEHD. And it was a special treat to have Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter in our company. Let me add my very special thanks to members of the GSEHD National Council who were present: Laura Taddeucci Downs, Ericka Miller, Elizabeth Lodal, Kathy Manatt, Dorothy Moore, and Ed Vest continue to grace us with their wisdom and support. My heartfelt thanks to all.
Following a memorable and moving introduction by my dear friend and mentor, Carl Kaestle (whom many of you will remember of course from his masterful “master class” earlier this year), I offered some reflections about the Academy, the world of education research and policy, and my hopes for the future. As I contemplate this new role, I am glad to share a slightly edited version of my remarks from Friday’s induction ceremony.
October 29, 2013
[Abridged remarks from NAEd ceremony on October 25, 2013]
I have been thinking about the name of our organization. Although I was an English major I am not really a big fan of deconstruction; but it is interesting to think about the words in our name, especially in the current policy environment.
The word “national” evokes, for some people, and maybe for more people today than in previous times, an anxiety about the excesses of federal involvement in those sacred rights of states and localities and individuals to keep doing their own thing. It’s gotten to the point where one wonders, listening to the shrill rhetoric, if anyone was in class on the day when the principles of individual choice and social well-being were taught. What can we do to remind ourselves that education is essentially a “public good?”
There are enough smart people expressing their strong views about the causes and effects of the Chicago strike that I hesitate to clutter the blogosphere with additional commentary. But I do want to share a few thoughts:
1) My sense is that the strike was symptomatic of a deep problem in American education, which I would summarize as the demise of trust brought on by the accountability movement that may have run amok. For a slightly longer discussion, see my Education Week commentary, due out in next week’s edition and available online probably by Monday or Tuesday. It was written before the strike began, and will appear after the strike was settled; nevertheless, I think the issues I discuss there are relevant – not just to Chicago but to the ongoing debate about evaluation and accountability.
2) With somewhat uncanny coincidence, just as the strike was ending, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was convening a group of education policy cognoscenti for a two-day conversation about teacher evaluation. In Tony Bryk’s opening to the conference he presented some fascinating data, drawn from the work of Richard Ingersoll and colleagues at Penn and included in recent reports of National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). It seems that the modal number of years teachers remain in their jobs dropped from 15 in 1987-88 to 1 in 2007-08. That’s the national statistic; here in D.C., for example, that translates to meaning that roughly 10 percent of teachers leave teaching after one year on the job and that fewer than 5 percent have more than five or six years of experience. For more on this issue, see the NCTAF report, “Who Will Teach? Experience Matters.”
I recently returned from an exhilarating faculty mission to Israel aimed at discovering and shaping potential exchange programs and collaborative research ventures with colleagues in various Israeli education and research organizations. We participated in an all-day joint workshop at the Western Galilee College, met with education leaders in various cities including Rahat (a Bedouin village near Beersheva) and Jerusalem, held intensive deliberations with senior staff of the Mandel Leadership Institute, and visited with the President emeritus and senior scholars of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. While in Jerusalem, I had the good fortune of being invited to speak at a major international education conference. The theme of this meeting, organized by the renowned Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, was “From Regulation to Trust: Education in the 21st Century,” and featured workshops, working groups, lectures, and sessions that probed the tensions – along with possible remedies — between trust, accountability, and regulation in education.
In my remarks I addressed some of the origins of accountability in democratic societies and some of the risks associated with relying too heavily on testing as the preferred metric by which the public acquires knowledge of the quality of schools, teachers, and learning. I encouraged a more moderate approach to developing a balance between blind trust of teachers and stifling controls that prevent professional excellence in the classroom.
An abridged version of the speech is below. Valerie Strauss, author of the Washington Post blog The Answer Sheet, was kind enough to post this version on her blog, which you can view here.
June 21, 2012
Abridged version of the Van Leer Institute Speech – Jerusalem, June 2012:
The topic of this conference brings back fond memories of my undergraduate years at Queens College (CUNY), where lessons of accountability and trust were a central part of the informal curriculum. The president when I was there, 1969-1973, was a remarkable young man named Joseph Murphy. Joe had come to Queens after writing his PhD under Herbert Marcuse at Brandeis University, drafting speeches for the Kennedys, and directing the Peace Corps in Ethiopia – all by the time he was 38. The name Murphy sounds Irish, but there was more to it.