February 11, 2006

On wonks and institutions

Andrew Rotherham has decided to publicly nominate three individuals he thinks would be good presidents of Teachers College, in the context of a discussion of colleges of education:

Doesn't this seem like a great opportunity to really bring in someone dynamic who can work to put an academic institution like TC on the front burner of educational debates as well as tend to the traditional academic responsibilities? ... TC (and other big name ed schools) aren't exactly in the mix on a lot of stuff that's happening in education today. TC’s not even engaged on some of the most exciting stuff even in New York City. Let's hope they cast a wide net beyond folks in traditional academic jobs today. Here are three names that Eduwonk thinks should be in the mix because they could take things to the next level: Jane Hannaway, Kim Smith, Eva Moskowitz.... Schools of Ed are teetering on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant except to the extent they survive by regulatory capture at the state level. Regardless of what one thinks of Ed Schools today, this isn't good for the profession.... going with one of the usual suspects and turning the place into a bunker for the dead-enders seems guaranteed not only to be bad for TC but bad for Ed Schools overall.

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I'm not sure if one should judge ed schools by how well they're involved in education politics. Many of them are underfunded places primarily geared towards initial certification of teachers and training of administrators. Regardless of how well you think they're doing their job, judging your local public ed school by how often local politicos look to them is like judging med schools by what happens to Medicaid and Medicare Part D. Many med and ed schools do have faculty who are interested in policy and politics, but the career rewards for individual faculty generally don't lie in schmoozing with city council members and legislators. For public institutions, as well, there are often arcane state regulations that mandate a schizophrenic approach to teacher education in a state: weedy bureaucracy in public colleges and universities and complete lack of regulation in other spheres.

I say this, incidentally, as someone keenly interested in education policy, firmly believing that academics need to reach out to the public much more effectively. Yet I'm also aware of the barriers to doing so effectively, for most faculty.

A successful education dean either has to know how such an institution operates or be willing to pick associate deans who do know the job. Of the names Rotherham mentions, Hannaway would be the only one I think could be successful as a college administrator, from her experience.

Oh, Andrew—"dead-enders" isn't exactly the way to someone's heart. I'm pretty thick-skinned, but I'd better appreciate insults that actually come from your reading my stuff or that of my fellow historians of education (or at least the work of some of us since 1974).

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Posted in Education policy on February 11, 2006 2:16 PM |