2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Professor Margaret Terry Orr Joins the Faculty

After five years as a term Associate Professor in the Educational Administration Program, Margaret Terry Orr was hired this year by the College to fill an open tenure-track position in that program.

Orr's research covers various areas in improving students' school experiences and performance. "Years ago I did a lot of work on drop-outs and wrote a book called Keeping Students in School," Orr noted. Before coming to Teachers College, she worked at the Academy for Educational Development as a Senior Program Officer. At the Academy, she directed a national evaluation of the federal initiative, Youth Fair Chance. That initiative explored a process to integrate educational, recreational and vocational services for kids at a community level. She is currently completing a book on the results of that evaluation.

Since coming to Teachers College, Orr's research has been focused on school-to-work transitions and relationships between secondary schools and community colleges. More recently, through NCREST, Orr is directing an evaluation of the William Penn Foundation's support of Philadelphia's Children Achieving initiative. The four-year evaluation, which is in its second year, is looking at how two clusters of schools use additional funding and resources and how those uses affect students.

Orr teaches courses in Organizational Behavior, Qualitative Research Methods, and Action Research. "Action Research is applying research methodology to real-life problems and using tools to explore possible solutions," Orr explained. In other words, not trying to guess about the source of a problem, but actually looking into it before taking action. A mother of four boys ages 4 through 9, Orr says parents may do action research all the time without even realizing it. "I train education administrators in using it because it is good in messy, complex problems," she added.

While she devotes her full attention to her work when she is working and her children when she is home, Orr says that being the mother of four independent boys adds insight to her research. "They help me get a new perspective on schools as a parent-consumer," she explained. The boys, in turn are fascinated with the idea that adults go to school and that their mother teaches school principals. "They like the idea that adults can be learners, too" she noted.

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