A Letter From the President
Published in Annual Report - 2009
President of Teachers College, Susan Fuhrman
In 1900, in a report to the Teachers College Board of Trustees, James Earl Russell, TC's first Dean wrote, "The influence we are even now exerting extends in all directions and includes within its scope all grades of public instruction, from the kindergarten to the university, and practically every phase of educational and philanthropic activity."
Those words have remained true throughout our long history. Over the years, TC has been the birthplace of comparative international education, special education, educational testing, nursing education, nutrition education, educational psychology, the application of scientific methodology to education research, conflict resolution, urban education, the study of gifted children and more.
Today, our commitment to making an impact hasn't changed-'"but the world has. The problems of our era-'"illiteracy, poverty, disease, conflict, the environment-'"increasingly are interconnected, and no single field can hope to tackle them alone. That's why at TC, with our focus on the three broad areas of education, health and psychology, we believe we are uniquely positioned to work on these challenges.
During the last year and a half, we have identified a range of issues and problems that require our breadth of expertise and that have the potential to galvanize different areas of our College to work together.
These include groundbreaking work in learning and cognition, equipping schools to serve all the needs of their surrounding communities, exploring the concept of global citizenship, explicating
the role of creativity and imagination in all areas of learning and much more.
All of these are compelling areas that we expect to yield powerful ideas for positive change. Yet even the best ideas don't sell themselves. To have impact, they must be adopted as policy-'"and for that to happen, they must first be tested, validated and articulated to those with the power to apply them on a broad scale.
As you'll discover in reading this Annual Report, Teachers College is the most experienced and influential institution of its kind in shaping informed, data-driven policy choices. Our expertise extends from the level of individual school systems to the international stage, across a range of education, health and social science disciplines, in both the public and private sectors and in all phases of the human lifespan. Our faculty not only conduct policy-oriented research within these different areas, but also are uniquely equipped to analyze the trade-offs-'"both social and financial-'"of emphasizing investment in one area over another.
And, as you will also see, TC's policy expertise has never been more front and center on the national stage than it is right now.
The Special Report that begins on page 13 describes the impact of our work on:
- Major legislation to invest billions of new dollars in early childhood education and community colleges;
- The use of research-based evidence of success as a criteria for funding social programs, such as home visiting nurses to teach essential parenting skills;
- State policies that govern the creation of charter schools;
- Judicial and legislative approaches to the racial integration of public schools;
- Federal funding for public health research;
- The adoption of promising new approaches to learner-centered teaching and assessment.
It is because of this work that leaders and policymakers are increasingly choosing TC as the place to be seen and heard. In October 2008, on the eve of the presidential election, we hosted a live debate between the education advisors to candidates Barack Obama and John McCain that was also Webcast to thousands of people around the country. This past fall, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came to TC to deliver a major policy statement on teacher preparation. A few weeks later, TC alumna Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of New York State's Board of Regents, and David Steiner, the state's new Commissioner of Education, came here to outline their vision for the state education system. And in spring 2010, we will be the site for the National Conference of State Legislators' annual National Education Seminar, at which a number of our policy faculty members will speak.
These and other events validate our claim that-'"quite literally-'"we are the premier address for the national conversation about education writ large.
Of course, as I indicated at the outset, we are making an impact in other areas beyond the policy arena. Our recent accomplishments include:
Our work in New York City's public schools
Last year, 89 percent of our student teachers worked in public schools and 77 percent in New York City public schools, teaching nearly 10,000 students. A recent study also found that, in New York City, 34 percent of those responsible for teacher education-'"that is, higher education faculty members who prepare the city's new teachers-'"are graduates of either TC or NYU.
The TC Peace Corps Fellows Program-'"which fast-tracks returning Peace Corps volunteers into teaching jobs in high-need, high-poverty New York City public schools-'"has trained 695 individuals since its inception in 1985. More than 300 of these teachers are still working in classrooms today, reflecting the program's extremely high retention rate compared with other alternative certification programs.
The TC Reading and Writing Project, founded 25 years ago and still directed by Professor Lucy Calkins, works with perhaps a quarter of all elementary and middle schools in New York City and is also active in a number of other U.S. cities. The proficiency rate of students in all grades in TCRWP in New York City schools increased by 18 percent from 2007 to 2009. In addition, the number of students at those schools who are not meeting standards decreased by 18 percent from 2007 to 2009. Last year, 73.5 percent of fourth grade students in all TCRWP schools scored in the highest brackets on English Language Arts test scores, as compared with 69 percent of the rest in New York City.
In addition to these efforts, in Fall 2009, TC secured a $9.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to start a new urban teaching residency program. The program will recruit academically talented, diverse individuals from under-represented groups-'"for example, returning Peace Corps volunteers, veterans from the Armed Forces and mid-career changers-'"and transform them into exemplary, highly qualified teachers who can capably meet the needs of children and youth in high-need, urban school districts such as New York City. Residents will receive a substantial scholarship to TC, plus a $22,500 annual stipend and health insurance. After completing the program and attaining certification, they will be required to teach for at least three more years in a high-need school.
We are also making a major contribution to school leadership. It's a well-documented fact that the more experience a school principal has, the better his or her students perform. Now a new RAND study has found that participation in our Cahn Fellows program, which brings together top New York City principals to work on challenges they have identified in their own schools, translates into the equivalent of five years' worth of job experience in terms of its impact on student achievement in math. More than 150 New York City principals have participated in the program since it was created eight years ago, and they, in turn, mentor their colleagues in other schools.
Meanwhile, supported by more than $11 million in grants from the GE Foundation, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund and other sources, TC has forged a partnership with a group of Harlem public schools. Initially, this work, which is being spearheaded by our Office of School and Community Partnerships, is focusing on professional development for teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. In select schools, however, TC will ultimately share direct responsibility for student performance in all subjects.
More than 2,000 students from partner schools had the opportunity to visit the College's campus last year for a number of events, thus increasing their exposure to the arts and to cultural programming that has been increasingly absent in the public schools.
Finally, TC has moved ahead with plans for its own pre-K--8 public school in Harlem. Like the Speyer School, established by TC in 1902, this new institution will provide a range of services to the surrounding community, including on-site health care, counseling for students and families and more.
Our work in curriculum development
TC faculty members are advancing understanding of what subject matter students should be taught, and when, and how that material should be structured. One example of that work, by our Center on Continuous Instructional Improvement, can be found on page 30. In addition, faculty members Sharon Lynn Kagan and Herbert P. Ginsburg are part of a team of academics responsible for a National Research Council study that found that preschoolers-'"particularly those in low-income groups-'"need more and better instruction in math. Professor Ginsburg has created a widely admired mathematics curriculum for very young children, and he also is working with a technology company to create a hand-held assessment device that guides classroom teachers in monitoring student understanding and misperception. Professor Kagan, for her part, has been working with UNICEF to set early childhood learning standards in more than 40 of the world's poorest countries.
Through funding from the Carnegie Corporation, a group of Teachers College faculty, led by Professor Dolores Perin, has designed two content literacy courses for middle and high school teacher candidates in science and social studies. Addressing reading issues in middle and high school students is quite challenging, because the skills required to understand highly technical subject matter are quite different than those employed in simply reading narrative prose. Professor Perin's work represents an important advance in ensuring that young people reach high school and college fully equipped to learn.
And faculty members in our Social Studies and Education program are creating a fascinating array of multimedia curricula that encourage participatory citizenship among students as they grapple with complicated issues of race, class and privilege. The "Teaching The Levees" curriculum, created two years ago under the leadership of Margaret Crocco with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, has been used by more than 30,000 schools and community organizations and continues to be regularly downloaded. And this coming spring will see the launch of another TC effort, funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation: a curriculum on the national debt that will be distributed free of charge to every high school in the country.
Our work abroad
Since the establishment of our Office of International Affairs in 2007, we have created new partnerships and exchanges with a range of other nations, including the Republic of Bhutan, Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Iceland, India, Jordan, Tanzania, Thailand and Turkey. The work in these countries is having widespread impact.
In Jordan, our faculty have helped the Ministry of Education conduct national meetings to rethink aspects of the education system there and have also been instrumental in the design and realization of the Queen Rania Teaching Academy, through which 45 teachers in Jordan have already received certification to teach English as a second language. Through the Teaching Academy, three school networks (eventually ratcheting up to 12) of 20 schools each are working towards improving math, science and writing education.
In India, a project led by Professors Madhabi Chatterji and William Gaudelli seeks to modernize high school education, ensure that learning objectives are being met by new and traditional curricula, and increase college access for exemplary students by providing developmental support and funding. The project focuses on 25 schools where an estimated 15,000 students are enrolled.
And we are making an impact in other countries where TC faculty members have been active for many years. In one striking example, Professor Mun Tsang was the first to focus China's attention on the fact that many children in rural areas were not being educated because their parents could not afford the government fees required for school. Directly because of his work, which was funded first by the Charles Schulz Foundation and now the Central Ministry of Finance, China has waived fees for approximately 20 percent of its nearly 200,000,000 school-aged children.
Health and Psychology
Since its inception, TC has taken the view that the physical and emotional well-being of students, families and communities is a critical variable in education.
Over the past two years, Charles Basch, TC's Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education, has amassed a body of research that documents the disproportionate impact of seven major health risks-'"aggression and violence, asthma, poor vision, teen pregnancy, poor physical fitness, inadequate breakfast, inattention and hyperactivity-'"on low-income students and students of color. Together with another faculty member, Randi Wolf, Professor Basch is also studying the potential for technology, including telephone outreach, to improve the compliance of low-income urban minority populations with preventive medical care.
Professor George Bonnano's work on emotional resilience to trauma has helped shape New York City's response in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and, more recently, has changed psychologists' understanding of what constitutes "normal" or "healthy" reactions to grief and loss.
Two of our faculty members also have received major recognition for their health-related work.
Professor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a pioneer in documenting the impact of poverty-related factors on academic achievement, has been named to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
And Professor John Allegrante, a leader in publicizing the importance to young people's academic success of physical fitness and health, has been appointed editor-in-chief of Health Education & Behavior (HEB), the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE). Professor Allegrante also was recently named Deputy Provost of Teachers College, a newly created post that focuses on academic initiatives.
Finally, the past year was also one in which TC alumni were seemingly everywhere in important and highly visible policymaking positions. In addition to Chancellor Merryl Tisch, this list includes:
- Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools;
- Maryellen McGuire, education advisor to President Obama's Council on Domestic Policy;
- David Johns, Senior Education Advisor to the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee;
- John King, former Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter school management organization, who has recently been appointed the New York State Department of Education's Senior Deputy Commissioner for P--12 Education;
- Howell Wechsler, Director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Our alumni are influential abroad as well. Perhaps the most outstanding example is Nahas Angula, Prime Minister of Namibia, who, as his country's first Minister of Education after the end of apartheid, created an integrated compulsory education system for all children under 16 that reaches all of Namibia's many remote regions. For this work, which has created a model for other developing nations while directly benefiting nearly 90,000 school-aged students who would not otherwise have received an education, TC will be honoring Prime Minister Angula at our annual Academic Festival here at the College in April 2010.
As success begets more success, TC's impact has laid the ground for even greater impact in the future. One sure sign is that, in a down economy, foundations and individuals continue to place their bets on our proven track record of groundbreaking research. The Honor Roll of Donors on page 48 bears ample testimony to that.
A second and even more important sign is that students continue to do the same. As we began the 2009--10 school year, our entering class was the largest and most diverse in over 30 years. That fact, more than any other, gives me confidence that Teachers College will continue to measure up to James Earl Russell's standard of influence for many years to come.
Susan H. Fuhrman