President's Letter: Practice, Theory and Breadth of Focus
Published in Messages
During the course of her 30-plus-year career in the New York City public school system, Marcia Lyles, the subject of our cover story in this issue of TC Today, has been both of those things and nearly everything in between. Dr. Lyles is a true champion of public education: a dedicated public servant who passionately believes in the potential of all children and who draws on a formidable array of experiences and skills (some of them learned here at TC!) to help them realize it in every way. As Deputy Chancellor, she has helped consolidate the performance gains New York City’s students have made in recent years while also working to ensure that the system never loses sight of the individual child. Brava, Dr. Lyles.
As practitioners like Dr. Lyles work on the front lines, researchers and policymakers are increasingly focusing on early childhood education as the leading strategy to close the nation’s school achievement gap. No one has contributed more to this promising field than TC’s own Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Sharon Lynn Kagan, co-directors of the National Center for Children and Families, who are also featured in this issue. Between them, they have conducted a wealth of groundbreaking studies on the capabilities of young children and what they should know; how poverty influences student achievement; how early learning can counter the effects of poverty, and much, much more. They’ve also given hundreds of their own students the chance to share in this work. One day, when the story is told of how American education was revitalized at the beginning of the 21st century, Brooke and Lynn, as they are known, will figure prominently in the tale.
Finally, the story in this issue on faculty member Joan Jeffri and her study of aging artists in New York City demonstrates, once again, the extraordinary breadth of focus at Teachers College—and the importance of that focus for education writ large. Artists are a precious if unquantifiable resource for any society—and as Joan reveals, beyond their artistic work, they have much to teach us about living and working in old age. As the baby boomer generation heads towards its golden years, those lessons may turn out to be very quantifiable indeed.