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Repolishing the Red Apple

New Ed School dean envision a model program for the teaching profession

Lowell K. Chow

GSE Dean ELLEN CONDLIFFE LAGEMANN has faced deficits and layoffs during her first year but is pushing ahead with plans to revamp the school’s curriculum.

University President Lawrence H. Summers promised unprecedented funding and support for the Graduate School of Education (GSE) when he tapped Ellen Condliffe Lagemann to be its dean last spring.

One of Harvard’s smallest and poorest graduate schools—particularly compared to schools with wealthy alums like the Law School and the Business School—GSE has historically received little attention from the University administration.

When Summers announced Lagemann’s selection, even Judith D. Singer, the school’s then-acting dean, marvelled that Harvard’s president would devote so much effort to finding the perfect fit for the GSE.

“This is not replacing [former Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean] Jeremy Knowles,” she said. “One could imagine a president not taking that kind of time to help find a new dean.”

Since Lagemann’s arrival in Cambridge, Summers says he has worked together with her and professors at the GSE “to renew the Education School and more sharply focus the University’s efforts in education on the crucial issue of public school education between K-12.”

The school, he says, should focus on “forging closer connections with the practice of education and increasing emphasis on teacher training, preparing people to work in public schools.”

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At a community meeting last month, Lagemann outlined her plans to revamp the school, including consolidating programs and changing the curriculum to add core courses that all students must take.

And in her first year as dean, Lagemann has already partially redesigned and refocused the school to make it a more professional model for other schools of education.

“I think at the moment the Ed School is known because of famous faculty members,” Lagemann says. “I’d like the Ed School to be known for itself.”

Though Lagemann has set lofty goals for the GSE, in recent weeks the school has been forced to deal with more practical concerns.

A new GSE accountant recently discovered $2 million of previously unknown debt in the school’s Programs in Professional Education. The school now projects a deficit of $500,000 for this fiscal year, and a deficit of $150,000 for next year.

“Dealing with that has been a major blow for the school,” said GSE Acting Administrative Dean Richard Pagett.

GSE laid off 13 administrative staffers in the program. And Pagett said the school will also keep faculty positions vacant to cut costs.

But despite budget woes, Lagemann says she is set to push ahead with her plans—refocusing GSE’s curriculum, making it a template for education schools nationwide, and fostering increased involvement in issues surrounding K-12 education.

Creating a Core

When she arrived at Harvard, Lagemann created several committees to examine the school’s administrative and curricular structures, aiming to bring together the faculty’s three distinct divisions—Administration, Planning and Social Policy; Human Development and Psychology; and Teaching and Learning.

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