Welcome to the first issue of Inside, and to the 2006-07 academic year at Teachers College. Whether you're new to TC, or returning, as I am, after some time away, this is a tremendously exciting time to be here.
I'll confess at the start: I've probably been away longer than you have. I finished my Ph.D. here in 1977. Those were exciting times, too. My thesis advisor was Donna Shalala, later Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration. Through her, a group of us who were interested in government and policy worked with state legislators who were fighting some of the early battles on behalf of poorer school districts. We hung out together in a shack on one of the roofs of the College that we called The Penthouse, and we talked about education and how to improve kids' lives. There was a sense of being involved in what mattered, and a joy in being fortunate enough to do what we cared about passionately.
Of course, everyone tends to burnish their memories. But I've spent the past several months reacquainting myself with TC, and while obviously there have been enormous changes since my day, that same spirit clearly exists. People are involved, motivated, idealistic, excited and ready to change the world. Certainly they come here that way, because those are the qualities that mark nearly everyone who goes into education, but they leave with the same fervor-'"and more importantly, with the tools to make good on their hopes and ambitions.
What's changed is the outside world. Schools today are the focus of demands for ever greater returns on behalf of an ever more diverse population. There is a greater emphasis on quantifying and measuring those returns; indeed, the common thread to all the changes in education during the past 20 years is the focus on accountability for performance-'"of students, of teachers, of schools, of districts, and of schools of education as well.
Our job at Teachers College is to help schools meet those demands. We must do that by conducting the highest-quality research to determine what constitutes good teaching, good professional development, and good support for the physical and emotional wellbeing of families and communities. We must do it by preparing the highest quality teachers, administrators, health educators and researchers and reinforcing their commitment to urban schools, families and children. And above all, we must do it by communicating what we know to educators, administrators, lawmakers and others so that they make decisions about policy and practice based on the best possible information.
I believe TC remains singularly well-equipped to provide those services. I will be writing regularly in this space on ways that I think provide us with the best opportunities to do so. I hope you'll let me know what you think, and that you share my excitement about the possibilities for what we can accomplish.
It's great to be back.
Published Monday, Sep. 18, 2006