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In the Spotlight: Edmund W. Gordon and the Institute for Urban and Minority Education

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Edmund Gordon

Edmund Gordon

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The Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) is undergoing a renaissance under the leadership of founding director Edmund W. Gordon. Gordon, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University, created IUME at Teachers College in 1973. Gordon left Teachers College in 1979 for Yale, and returned after his retirement there. He served as special advisor to the President, Trustee, and acting dean before re-assuming the directorship of IUME.

In the last two years IUME has initiated a series of research and outreach initiatives aimed at better understanding the educational, psychological and social development of urban and minority students. Along with the Institute's current effort, Gordon envisions a host of future activities aimed to provide educational and economic opportunity to the Harlem community.

Gordon focuses much of his energies on a research project on the correlates of high academic achievement. The aim of the project is to describe and document how high-achieving people from historically low-achieving populations, such as blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, are able to succeed as they do. The project has four distinct prongs: looking at ecological and environmental factors, studying characteristics of individuals, looking at select higher education programs that have a reputation for succeeding with minority students, and identifying public schools that are also successful with these students.

Another major aspect of IUME's work is the Education Extension Service, which provides technical assistance, professional development, relational data management, research and evaluation, and research information services to public schools struggling with the achievement gap between white and minority students. The Education Extension Service is the outreach arm of IUME; they send a bulletin to affiliated schools and help schools understand relevant research.

The third major project of IUME is curriculum development. The curriculum development project includes M2, which focuses on creating new ways of teaching math in ways that build upon the cultural and numeric skills kids bring to school. IUME also has a dynamic assessment project that explores new ways of approaching assessment. The aim is to build assessment into the instruction process so that it is seamlessly embedded in the curriculum.

IUME also studies supplementary education, or the informal educational opportunities affluent families offer their children, including good nutrition, health, support, and trips to museums. A study on "defiers," or people who have defied negative predictions for their achievement, found that defiers come from families or communities where they got a lot of support in the form of supplementary education. Currently IUME is field testing an approach to supplementary education in a small community in upstate New York. The Institute will be embarking on an attempt to have faith-based organizations in Harlem accept the supplementary education model.

Gordon has many ideas for the future of the Institute including becoming more engaged with the Harlem community. By fall IUME plans to move to offices on 125th Street in order to provide education services to the community.

In the meantime, the 82-year-old professor emeritus is focusing on the correlates of achievement and curriculum development projects. He also has a book coming out this summer on supplementary education and one to follow in the Fall. Gordon is the author of more than 200 journal articles and book chapters, more than 15 books. He was also one of the founders and designers of the Head Start program and helped write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, among many other achievements. Under his visionary leadership IUME is poised to aid in the challenges facing public schools in the 21st century.

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