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Richard Mills (EdD '77)

Richard Mills began his career as a history teacher at the Dalton School in New York City and helped found the Elizabeth Seeger School in 1971. He pursued an MBA at Columbia Business School, graduating in 1975 before pursing his doctorate at Teachers College. 

Mills worked  for the New Jersey Department of Education in the mid-1970s  and was named to serve as special assistant on education to Governor Thomas Kean in 1984. In 1988, Governor Madeleine M. Kunin selected him to serve as Commissioner of Education for Vermont, a post he held for seven years.

In 1995, under Governor George Pataki, Mills began his 13-year tenure as New York State's Commissioner of Education, succeeding TC alumnus Thomas Sobol.  During that time, he emerged as a leader of the national movement to promote standards through testing. He focused on accountability because, in his own words, “It’s not fair to graduate children without the knowledge and skills to make it in the world—we are setting them up for failure.” Under his leadership, New York's districts were for the first time held accountable for student performance on state achievement tests; the Regents diploma became standard; and the state allocated more money for New York City and other high-needs districts. When Mills stepped down in 2009, New York had significantly raised its high school graduation rates. He was succeeded by TC alumnus John King.

Mills received TC's Medal for Distinguished Service in June 2010.

To learn more about Richard Mills, read:

Learn more about TC's programs in education leadership, Learn more about the College's Department of Organization and Leadership and its programs in education leadership -- including  the Urban Education Leaders Program to prepare superintendents.

Premiered on 12/8/2013

About the Series

In "Mini Moments with Big Thinkers," leading figures in Teachers College's history discuss groundbreaking ideas, research and initiatives born at the College during the past half-century. The Mini Moments are drawn from the College’s Oral History Project, a collection of more than 90 videotaped interviews conducted by Melanie Shorin and Jessica Wiederhorn, the principals of The Narrative Trust, a private firm that conducts and captures the oral histories of institutions, communities and individuals. Produced in conjunction with TC’s Department of Development and External Affairs, the Mini-Moments are airing throughout 2013.

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