Education at the Ed School

Many graduate schools of education in research universities in the United States have been beset in recent years by perplexing problems of identity. Some have not been sure why they existed, or what they were supposed to be teaching, or on what subjects they should do research, or to what forms of employment their students would go. As their analytical capacities to understand the educational enterprise have grown, their options for programmatic activities have also increased.

This simultaneous growth of capacities and uncertainties has led to a plethora of possible curricula at a time when the traditional agencies of education, schools and colleges, have been severely criticized by the general public and by some articulate educators. Indeed, during the past year an unprecedented public attention has concentrated upon issues of schooling and the need for improvement of schooling. This widespread concern has been manifest in the reports of various commissions, including the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the Task Force of the Twentieth Century Fund on the Federal Role in Education, and the report of the Education Commission of the States.

At the Harvard Graduate School of Education we have faced these issues during the last decades as have other graduate schools of education. Fortunately, under the leadership of Paul Ylvisaker as dean in 1979 the faculty adopted the Barth Report, a recommitment of HGSE's interests in schooling. These activities complement our research, teaching and service in broader areas of education. Today, three principal arenas of interest encompass our activities at HGSE.

Clarifying what the role of education in society ought to be.

Informing and improving educational practice.

Increasing our efforts to understand and to improve education institutions, especially schools.

The increased national attention that the faculty have given to these matters in recent years, particularly the third has prepared HGSE to be a bit ahead of the national clamor Hopefully, we can help to shape the solutions not just decry the performance of schools.

In the face of such public interest and concern about education, particularly elementary and secondary schooling. We at HGSE are concentrating on our particular areas related to schools. Each builds upon previous work but each carries an earlier effort further. They are:

(1)Administrative leadership: We have had a long tradition of preparing administrators for the schools, especially through the Administrative Careers Program (ACP), the Administration. Planning and Social Policy (APSP) group, have revised their doctoral requirements to allow students in their second year of study to participate in an integrative seminar that the faculty of APSP believed would be more appropriate for practitioners than the present written qualifying paper. Such a vote exemplifies the manner in which the HGSE faculty has come to take its role in preparing practitioners as well as researchers seriously.

Also, HGSE's Committee on Schooling sought and received support from the faculty to enlarge the number of part-time students who could be admitted to the year-long course of study on school leadership. This shift in policy regarding part-time study allows us to recruit more actively among school people in the greater Boston area. Our present tuition of $8320 for 1983-84 makes it extraordinarily difficult for teachers to attend HGSE. We hope that this change will make it easier for them to attend our school leadership program.

One of the most successful accomplishments at HGSE has been the evolution of the Principal's Center. Inaugurated in 1981 under the leadership of Dr. Roland Barth, the Principals' Center undertook to recruit members in the Boston area and to organize a set of activities that would be useful to school administrators, especially principals, and would be within the resources of all concerned. During its second year the Principals' Center reached a membership of over 500, a unique involvement of the Boston school personnel with either Harvard or with other school administrators.

(2)Teachers For two decades Harvard was recognized as a national leader in the training of teachers through the Masters of Arts in teaching (MAT) program. Ten years ago the HGSE faculty voted to eliminate this program, largely as a consequence of the elimination of formerly substantial federal funds for this enterprise and of the shifting interests of the HGSE faculty. One program at HGSE which maintained an involvement with teachers was Professor Jeanne Chall's Reading Laboratory where both inexperienced and experienced teachers could become reading specialists for the schools.

The present public outery about the schools has focused upon teachers, stressing their academic inadequacies. Beginning in July 1982, we undertook to investigate ways of attracting nontraditional candidates--persons in their middle years who have had experience in technical fields but who have not previously considered teaching, who had mastered their subject matter and were academically strong--to the teaching profession. The fields that seemed to us then as the leading ones for such an undertaking were mathematics and science. Events of the last twelve months have confirmed our original view. Dr. Katherine Merseth has been instrumental in organizing HGSE's return to teacher preparation through our new MidCareer Math and Science Program. Successful completion of this program will yield a master's degree and Massachusetts certification as a high school mathematics (and possibly science) teacher. We believe that such a step is an important one, both actually and symbolically, indicating as it does our renewed commitment to work with both beginning and experienced teachers.

(3)Technology: One of the most notable strenghts of HGSE in past years has been the work undertaken by Professor Gerald Lesser and his colleagues in developing the children's television program. "Sesame Street" and by Professor Courtney Cazden on "The Electric Company."

Building on this significant tradition. HGSE faculty agreed this year to appoint a new faculty member to augment our present resources so that we can develop one-year program on technology and education. The intent of the program is to prepare persons to work in school systems and help the schools make intelligent use of the plethora of new hardware and software currently being offered to them. Expertise, particularly intelligent skepticism about the new technologies, is in short supply, and we hope that such a program will both attract good students and be useful to them.

In addition, in early October. HGSE was awarded a five-year. $7.6 million contract from the National Institute of Education to establish and operate a national center for research is school technology.

(4)Policy: The final area of our concentration upon the schools is policy traditionally one of the strongest fields at HGSE. Within the larger realm of social policy, increasing numbers of our colleagues have turned that attention to issues related to schools. During this year Professor Sara Lawrence Lightfoot has completed her study of "portraiture," six ethnographic studies of high schools. Professor David K. Cohen is completing a study of fifteen high schools as part of former dean Theodore Sizer's study of secondary education. Professor Anthony Bryk has worked with a group of students investigating the influence and consequences of Roman Catholic parochial schooling upon children.

Several faculty members have served with groups formulating or advocating policies in education. Harold Howe II has served with North Carolina Governor James Hunt's educational task force and with David Hamburg's Carnegie Corporation working group on educational policy. Francis Keppel continues his efforts nationally on behalf of student aid policy. I have been a member of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on Federal Education Policy, and of the National Science Board Commission on Pre-Collegiate Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.

During the late spring, 1983 we were approached by representatives of Massachusetts state government, who wished to consult with us regarding possible state initiatives to improve education. We hope that we may be able to work with them in ways that they will find useful. We are confident that we at HGSE do not have the requisite skills. Political and otherwise, to undertake fundamental legislative action but we hope that with a small group of graduate students and faculty we may be able to provide some useful analyze supplements for the use of the state legislative and executive personnel.

Patricia A. Graham is Dean of the Harvard School of Education and former director of the National Institute of Education in the Carter Administration.