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Educating Current Leaders in Practice and Policy

Through conferences, lectures and other forms of outreach, Teachers College provides leaders in educational practice and policy with the latest information they need to keep abreast of what is new in the field.

Through conferences, lectures and other forms of outreach, Teachers College provides leaders in educational practice and policy with the latest information they need to keep abreast of what is new in the field.

BookTalk Lectures

Each year, the Office of Alumni Relations along with the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation and TC Press presents several lectures by authors on topics of interest to the TC community and alumni. In 2002, the BookTalk lecture series featured Clara Hemphill and Deborah Meier.

Clara Hemphill

Some people don't have an optimistic view of the New York City public school system, but author Clara Hemphill does. Though only 10 percent of the New York City public schools are good schools, Hemphill said, this shows that good schools are possible. Her guidebook, New York City's Best Public High Schools: A Parent's Guide (TC Press), according to Hemphill is "not just a guidebook like Zagat's, but it also helps urban planning and political support for public education."

Hemphill, who is Director of the Public School Information Center at Advocates for Children of New York, was a journalist for 20 years in New York and abroad. Currently, she is using her skills as a reporter to build public support for the institution of public education that has come under so much attack.

In addition to her guidebook, Hemphill's Center launched a Web site ( that will not only review all 1,200 public schools in the city, but serves as a forum and news site about education. "It's not just news as information," Hemphill said, "but news as advocacy for social change. I am advocating for decent public schools for every child."

Deborah Meier

She is a teacher who doesn't care about tests. She is interested in the data they can provide, but she said tests are harmful if we think they mean something they don't. But it's not only tests that she challenges; she wants to know if the public can trust its schools. In September, Deborah Meier spoke at the TC BookTalk about her new book, In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.

Meier has spent more than three decades working in public education as teacher, writer and public advocate. She began her teaching career in the mid-1960s as a kindergarten and Head Start teacher before becoming founder and teacher-director of a network of highly successful public elementary schools in East Harlem. The first, Central Park East, opened in the fall of 1974 and remains an innovator in education under its two subsequent principals.

Drawing on her experience, Meier argues for a dramatic reinvention of public schools based on an older tradition in which adults kept meaningful company with children. Kids, she said, need to see how adults talk, argue and compromise with each other. Adults need to have the chance to get to know kids both inside and outside of schools. She suggested teachers and parents become allies in bringing up children because, she said, family and teachers need to make the significant decisions in education so that they can be in a position to make the rules they have to follow.

Professional Development

TC Innovations

TC Innovations (TCI) began in 2000 with its New Teacher Academy working in New York City public school districts to provide master teachers to work with teachers new to the profession or new to the district. In addition to working with New York City public school districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 32, the Academy has begun working in Dallas, Texas, and three cities in Mississippi. Their goal is to be able to reach as many educators as possible and to help thousands of new teachers with real-life classroom concerns.

A grant from the Kellogg Foundation supports three components of this work-bringing the New Teacher Academy to other school districts, developing and testing a program that will expand the New Teacher Academy to include teachers in their third and fourth years in the classroom, and implementing an evaluation of the three districts funded by the grant.

An anonymous donor who wishes to extend the reach of Teachers College to thousands of teachers around the country, recently gave $5 million to help TCI bring its New Teacher Academy to school districts around the country through the creation of programs that combine online professional development seminars with in-person discussion groups run by master teachers.

Through the combination of the New Teacher Academy, a new Principals Academy and a future Mid-Career Academy for teachers, TCI is "carrying the mission of Teachers College off 120th Street to make schools and classrooms better all over the country," according to Peter Cookson, President of TCI.

The Charles and Jane Cahn Fellowship Program for Distinguished New York City School Principals

Charles and Jane Cahn, friends of Teachers College, are establishing a New York City Principals Fellowship Program that begins in Spring of 2003. The Program will work with a cohort of 25 outstanding principals from New York City, each of whom will be responsible for mentoring one less-experienced principal.

Cahn, an entrepreneur and businessman, described why he and Jane Cahn created the fellowship. "I am particularly interested in juxtaposing education and success in leadership. The principals are the ones who drive success or lack of success in the school. The idea was to come up with a program that would recognize high performing principals."

The goal of the program will be to help outstanding principals improve student achievement in their schools, maintain job satisfaction, and increase their capacities to serve as examples and mentors to other principals.

The Cahns are working closely with Peter Cookson, President of Teachers College Innovations. According to Cookson, "The program will include a series of intensive professional development activities for outstanding school principals that prepare them to mentor less experienced principals. Each principal will participate in the program for a period of two years." Through face-to-face meetings, an electronic communications network and relevant reading material, Cookson and the Cahns expect to create and spread a culture of effective school-level leadership.

Responding to 9/11

As the nation and the world were gathering together to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, the TC community drew together once again to mourn those whose lives were lost. The long list of names of those lost in the attacks was read, moments of silence were observed, candles were lit, and bells were rung.

At the same time, plans were being made to follow up from last year's response to the events, in the form of a day-long Teach-In, to another teacher's forum held in conjunction with the School for International and Public Affairs. The event, held in October 2002, looked at how to best teach current events and the historical circumstances that shape them. For details, click here.

Alumni Club Events

In recent years, the Metro NY Alumni Club put together a series of events aimed at engendering thought, discussion and communication among TC alumni and others in the various fields of study represented within the College. In November, Adam Vane, M.A. 2000 in Organizational Psychology, worked to bring management expert Edgar Schein, the Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, as presenter at a reception at the Columbia Club.

Schein, whose research has covered subjects ranging from the study of brainwashing of POWs to studying management development and organizational socialization, focused his remarks on his work with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC is one of the leading producers of workstation servers and high-end PCS, and developed one of the leading Internet search engines, Alta Vista. He talked about what contributed to the success of that corporation and what lead to its eventual downfall. Schein does consulting work for organizations around the world and he is considered one of the founders of the field of organizational psychology.

Over the years, through the generosity of donors, Teachers College has been able to present lectures by speakers who are well-known and well-respected in their fields. Throughout the academic year, these speakers present their experience and research on topics that range from psychology to the arts to teacher education.

Marx Lecture

The eighth annual Virginia and Leonard Marx lecture featured writer and educator Jonathan Kozol, who has been called the "most eloquent spokesperson for America's disenfranchised." Kozol spoke about his experiences with the hardships associated with teaching and learning in inner-city schools. He charged educators in the audience to defend inner-city children against market-driven madness and, instead, to uphold a nobler tradition. For more information, click here.

Sachs Lecture

The 2002-2003 Julius and Rosa Sachs Distinguished Lecturer was Elizabeth Ellsworth. Ellsworth, a leading advocated of media-enhanced learning and social change, gave three lectures-"The Power of What We Can't Know," "Time, Space and Place in Teaching and Learning," and "Reorienting Education." For more details, click here.

Conferences that Educate Current Leaders

School Vouchers

In the spring of 2003, in what is referred to as the Zelman Voucher Decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the constitutional status of the Cleveland Scholarship Tutoring Program, which offers educational vouchers that allow great school choice. The voucher is a small financial incentive for a limited time to a select few students. That decision emphasized the advantages of choice and the fairness of education vouchers over possible losses in social cohesion. It also corresponds with the new agenda of advocates-voucher programs for low-income families in inner cities.

In response to that ruling, the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE) and the Teachers College Record brought together a group of experts to discuss the implications for New York City and the rest of the country. Discussion revolved around the topics of: separation of church and state, allowing everyone in the country access to school choice, the educational effectiveness of vouchers and equity effects of vouchers.

Henry M. Levin, NCSPE's Director and the William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, hosted the conference and told the audience it was the first in a series of three conferences. The second was on the impact of privatization on the testing industry, and the third, which was scheduled for spring 2003, looks at for-profit institutions and higher education.

Disabilities Studies

The "First Annual Interdisciplinary Forum on dis/Abilities Studies in Education" brought together academics, researchers and students to examine disability by screening Liebe Perla, an award-winning film that documents an international friendship between two women of short stature: Hannelore, a young German academic, and Perla, an 80-year old WWII concentration camp survivor. Though the film and panel discussion were designed to inform the audience about issues affecting people with disabilities, several speakers addressed the importance of examining ableism critically across a wide variety of disciplines.

Institutions from Columbia University participated in panel discussions, including representatives from the School of Social Work, the School of Arts and Sciences, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Teachers College. New York University was also represented.

Professor D. Kim Reid of TC's Department of Curriculum and Teaching, explained that the forum was created to bring awareness of the disabilities movement and disability studies to a wider range of students. As Reid explained, she and Assistant Professor Beth Ferri and Instructor Lynne Bejoian are working to provide a chance for all students to engage critically in the study of disability. "Our hope," Reid said, "is to establish an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental center for disability studies here at Teachers College" in conjunction with faculty from Columbia University School of Social Work, Columbia University School of Arts and Sciences and Jewish Theological Seminary. They plan to propose a "certificate, or perhaps, in the future, a degree program where students can take courses from various professors in various departments throughout the entire University that are related to disability studies."

International Education

Through a variety of education and training activities, the Center on Chinese Education seeks to contribute towards the preparation of educational leaders (from the United States and China) in the development of Chinese education and in promoting U.S.-China educational exchange.

Through bi-monthly seminars, the Center invites knowledgeable scholars and practitioners of Chinese education to speak on issues and developments in Chinese education. In January 2002, Weifang Min, Executive Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Peking University in China presented a seminar on higher education reform in that country. In April, Ruth Hayhoe, Director of the Hong Kong Institute of Education and former President of Comparative & International Education Society, spoke about a cultural approach to research on Chinese education.

Most recently, the Center hosted its first International Conference on Chinese education, which brought together scholars from all over the United States and from China, as well as doctoral students presenting research findings about education in China. For more information on the Center on Chinese Education, visit their Web site at

For several years, the Teachers College Department of International and Transcultural Studies has been offering a course in Evaluation of International Education. In the past, Professor Gita Steiner-Khamsi worked with different organizations to provide projects to be evaluated by TC students in the class. In the last two years, the course was done in cooperation with Professor Cathryn Magno, an adjunct faculty member at TC who also works with the International Rescue Committee, and Hugh McLean of the Education Support Programme of the Open Society Institute in Budapest (OSI).

In the past, the project staff who worked in the field offices of the partner international organizations would simply provide information on the projects being evaluated by TC students. Several organizations expressed an interest in using this course for the professional development of their staff based in the field offices. Starting in 2000, project staff members were able to actively participate in the course through the use of distance learning and technology. Now, TC students apply qualitative research methods in a real institutional setting while at the same time the international organizations are building their local capacity.

The course consists of three components: face-to-face interaction through meetings held in New York City, Chisinau (Moldova) and Budapest (Hungary); on-site evaluation by the students (the field component); and distance learning technology.

The face-to-face meetings consist of two three-day workshops for the New York-based and two for the Europe-based participants. Other than these two meetings, the remainder of the coursework was done on-line or on-site with their evaluation teams.

During spring break, the students travel to their project location to perform an evaluation and collect data with the team members on-site. For one hour per week, the TC students and the local team members interact on-line with their adviser to discuss logistics, clarify questions or receive feedback on their work.

The distance learning component consists of a Web site featuring ten lecture modules, discussion boards, chat rooms, a virtual library, and Web sites of students and instructors. Videotaped introductions by the advisers serve as an orientation. Posted lectures are interactive and records of the meetings in New York and Europe have audio links.

An important component of this course's distance learning is that it is not one-way. Many universities abroad are concerned about their students receiving distance-learning credits from U.S. universities. Professors from universities in the project site areas are also included as participants in the class. According to Steiner-Khamsi, "TC wants to help universities in other regions that teach the same course by having professors participate. Rather than making them dependent on us, we help them to teach the same course in their universities."

Honoring Current Leaders Who Make a Difference in Education

Not only does the College work with current leaders in education to prepare them for the work they do, it also recognizes those leaders whose life work has contributed to the improvement of education and society in some significant way. This public recognition takes place primarily at the Master's and Doctoral Convocation ceremonies each May.

In 2002, the Master's Convocation brought together what President Arthur Levine called, "four champions of equity-leaders in a lonely battle who suffered and won victories-not personal victories, but victories for humanity." They were four people who played an important role in shaping America's civil rights policies, and in doing so, emphasized the struggle for equity in education.

The recipients of the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service to Education were Cheryl Brown Henderson on behalf of her father, the late Reverend Oliver L. Brown, who played a role in the landmark Brown et. al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, Supreme Court Decision; Congressman John Lewis; David Levering Lewis, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the two-volume biography of W.E.B. DuBois; and Coretta Scott King.

In 2002, two Cleveland A. Dodge Medals for Distinguished Service to Education were presented at the TC Doctoral Convocation. Trustee William Dodge Rueckert, a descendant of Cleveland Dodge, presented the medal to Harold W. McGraw, Jr., former CEO and President of The McGraw-Hill Companies, for his work in literacy and education, and to the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose site-specific projects included wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and the Umbrellas in Japan and Southern California. For more information, click here.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2003