Education Reform has become a scaldingly hot issue for the Obama administration. Throughout the campaign the President made improving the American educational system one of his top domestic priorities, and is now backing up his rhetoric with billions of dollars in stimulus money to reward states that improve student performance. In order to effect real change, however, the president needs tangible solutions to address a myriad of problems, including underachieving students, inadequately prepared teachers, and inequality of school choices. To do that, he’s turned to the best and brightest education minds across the country. Here is a breakdown of the educators who will help Obama reshape American Education for the 21st century.
Is there someone that is missing from this list? This list is by no means comprehensive, so go ahead and post a comment with people who you know are doing great things to reform our educational system.
Brief Biography: Born in Hyde Park, Chicago, Arne Duncan attended Harvard University. He then took a position as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. A friend of president Obama’s, Duncan was appointed Secretary of Education upon the president’s election.
Stance on Reform: Duncan is the current Secretary of Education in the U.S. He supports charter schools and merit pay. While in Chicago, Duncan adopted the practice for teachers to annually reapply for their jobs. He also did not hesitate to close failing schools despite criticism because of their low socioeconomic areas. His role will be integral in implementing President Obama’s education reform plan. With $100 Billion in stimulus money to utilize, Duncan is poised to become the most powerful Secretary of Education ever.
Brief Biography: Martha Kanter earned her B.A. from Brandeis University in 1970 and her Doctorate of Education from University of San Fransisco in 1989. During her education, Kanter worked mostly with special education programs. After her doctorate, she switched her focus and held a variety of jobs in various Community Colleges. In 2009, President Obama nominated Kanter to be the Under Secretary for the Dept. of Ed.
Stance on Reform: Kanter has been a strong advocate for community colleges since she graduated with her doctorate. She is also for changing the way financial aid is run so that students do not have to seek out government financial aid, they will be informed what they qualify for upon acceptance to a school. Upon confirmation as the Under Secretary, Kanter has expressed her interest in re-instating the Workforce Investment Act, a government run job training program.
Brief Biography: Born in Cleveland, OH, Linda Darling-Hammond earned her B.A. from Yale University and her Doctorate of Urban Education from Temple University in 1973. She is currently an advisor for the Obama administration alongside Duncan.
Action for Reform: From 1994-2001, Darling-Hammond served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, an organization promoting closing the teacher quality gap in order to eliminate the student achievement gap. Through the organization Darling-Hammond brought the public’s attention to the issue of the teacher quality gap. She then co-founded the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching which takes note of the organization of the institutions that create the highest quality teachers and uses the information to help improve other institutions. Darling-Hammond has also helped develop the licensing standards needed to become a teacher.
Brief Biography: Norman Atkins earned his B.A. in History from Brown University and his M.A. in Educational Administration from Columbia University Teachers College. After graduation, Atkins became the co-executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization to aid in eliminating poverty. He then co-founded and co-led North Star Academy Charter School of Newark.
Action for Reform: Atkins is the Founder, Board Chair, and former CEO of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization based in New York City. Uncommon Schools is a nonprofit organization that starts and manages outstanding urban charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college.
Brief Biography: Born in New York City, NY, Randi Weingarten earned her B.S. in Labor Relations from Cornell University and her J.D. form Cardozo School of Law. After law school, Weingarten was chosen to counsel the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Then in 1998, Weingarten was elected President of UFT.
Stance on Reform: During her presidency, Weingarten had won higher teacher salaries (14.2% increase over 52 months, 2005, and 7.1% increase over two years, 2007) in NYC but at the expense of longer work days. Weingarten is an proponent for reform as long as reform does not cut into the funds allocated by the city for public schools such as private school vouchers and charter school funding.
Brief Biography: Born just south of San Francisco, Steve Barr graduated high school and dropped out of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Barr worked various political jobs before starting his own charter school near Lennox, California.
Action for Reform: Barr’s interest in education started when President Clinton visited California’s first charter school. Barr came into contact with the Principal of the school who was trying to increase the number of charter schools in the region. Barr said he would help and a year and a half later, he opened Animo Leadership Charter High School, near Lennox. Barr’s passion for education reform came from looking back on his experiences in high school and how the school failed his brother who died of a drug overdose while Barr was 32.
Brief Biography: After graduating from Sanford University, James Cleveland joined SCORE, a subsidy of Kaplan Inc., which provided supplemental educational resources. After working with SCORE, Cleveland started InsideTrack, an educational company to help college students plan their futures. He then joined Jumpstart in 2002 serving as the Executive Director of Jumpstart’s Northeast region. In 2007, Cleveland was promoted to President.
Actions for Reform: Cleveland is currently the president of Jumpstart, a nonprofit organization for the benefit of children in early education. Their organization is founded on helping preschoolers achieve the necessary level of literacy to begin a great education. Working with both preschoolers, and College students, Mr. Cleveland is doing great things for both the foundations of education as well as guidance for those in higher education.
Brief Biography: Born in Venice, CA, Ben Austin attended UC Berkley and Georgetown Law School. Austin has had a deep interest in reforming schools due to his daughter Fiona. Before joining the Parent’s Union, he helped to improve Locke High School to gain status as a family of college-prep schools.
Actions for Reform: Austin is the Executive Director of the Parent’s Union and the Parent Revolution since April 2008. The Parent Revolution is a community based group that takes advantage of the “Small Schools Resolution” passed by the Los Angeles Unified School District which calls for the breaking up of larger schools by 2010 into smaller student focused schools. With the ability to form private charter schools, the Parent Revolution has leverage to influence public schools to improve education, or their funding will be given to the new charter schools that will be built out of necessity.
Brief Biography: Born in Baltimore, MD, Derrell Bradford earned his B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for City Guide Publications as the managing editor prior to joining E3.
Actions for Reform: Derrell Bradford is the Deputy Director of E3, a large non-profit organization in New Jersey that is part advocacy group, part coalition of nonpublic schools, part law firm and part think tank. The aim of E3 is to improve the education system through parental choice. Bradford and E3 hope to provide the best alternatives to failing schools through the use of charter schools, vouchers, corporation tax credit funded scholarships for teachers, home schooling, and public school choice. Their mission is to break up the educational monopoly so that student’s and their families can make informed decisions about their education.
Brief Biography: Born in Palo Alto, California, Lisa Graham Keegan earned her B.A. in Linguistics from Sanford University and her Master’s in Communication Disorders from Arizona State University. Between 1991 and 1995, Keegan was the chair of the Educaiton Committee for the Arizona State House of Representatives and in 1995, Keegan was elected Arizona state superintendent of public schools. She was also an educational adviser to the Bush and McCain campaigns. In 2001, Keegan was elected CEO of the Education Leaders Council, a non-profit conservative education reform organization Keegan and a number of other state school chiefs had founded in 1995.
Action for Reform: Under Keegan’s time as chair of the Education Committee, Arizona had the most extensive charter school program in the country. Keegan is a strong supporter of school choice, teacher accountability, annual testing, and rigorous academic standards. She also spearheaded the School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Bill. The bill created a tax-exempt funding source for funding of scholarships at private schools or enrichment programs at publicly funded schools which met with much resistance from the NEA andAFT.
Brief Biography: David Steiner earned his B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Balliol College at Oxford University and his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. From 1990 to 2004, Steiner was a professor and associate researcher at Boston University’s School of Education and Vanderbilt University’s Department of Political Science and Peabody School of Education. He then became Dean of the Hunter College School of Education at the City University of New York. As of Oct. 1st 2009, Steiner is the New York State Education Commissioner.
Action for Reform: Steiner believes that raising standards for students is not sufficient for a change in academic performance. The main issue is the quality of education coming from the teachers. As Dean of Hunter College School of Education, Steiner was a leader of the national effort to transform teacher preparation and improve teacher quality. To do this, Steiner’s program involves more on-the-job teacher training in contrast to other programs that emphasize more graduate level coursework.
Brief Biography: Ellen Moir earned her B.A. from California State University, Northridge and her M.A. from San Jose State University. After graduating, Moir began her career as a bilingual teacher in Santa Paula, California in 1972. Then in 1985, Moir became the Director of Teacher Education at the Unversity of California Santa Cruz. In 1988, Moir launched theSanta Cruz New Teacher Project, a new teacher eduction and support program which has vastly increased new teacher retention rates. She founded the New Teacher Center at UCSC in 1998.
Action for Reform: Moir is an advocate for the improvement of teachers and teacher quality. Her program, the New Teacher Project, has had great effects on the retention rate for new teachers. The first years of teaching are often the most difficult and is thus the period of time where most teachers drop the profession. Moir believes that programs that stress on retention rates compromise teacher quality, but her innovative progam provides high quality instruction for teachers as well as a support system for new teachers so that up to 95% of high quality new teachers remain in their positions compared to the nationwide average of only 50%.
Brief Biography: Gary Stager earned his Doctorate of Science and Mathematics Education from the University of Melbourne. His doctoral work included creating an high-tech alternative learning system for incarcerated teens.
Actions for Reform: Gary Stager is an educator who is concerned primarily with the technological revolution in education. After earning his Doctorate of Science and Mathematics Education, Gary has gone on to several universities as a visiting professor and has spoken at many educational functions. Stager helps both students and teachers keep up with current trends by helping educators integrate technology into the classroom. Technology helps students get the most of their education by allowing the educator to more efficiently convey their message.
Brief Biography: Jeanne Allen is one of the forefront leaders in education with the publication of her co-authored book The School Reform Handbook: How to Improve Your Schools. She has a reputation on Capital Hill and in the White House as a grassroots organization leader.
Action for Reform: Allen is the President of the Center for Education Reform, an organization devoted to bringing education reform through parental choice, charter schools, and challenging current teaching techniques. Allen currently serves as an Alliance Trustee to the America’s Promise Alliance and as an advisor to the Mercy Center Foundation. She is also the mother of four, Johnny, Teddy, Anthony, and Mary Monica.
Brief Biography: Arthur Levine earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology from Brandeis University in 1970 and his Ph.D from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After earning his Ph.D, Levine was a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation and the Carnegie Council for Policy Studies in Higher Education. He then became the president of Bradford College in 1982. Levine is now the sixth president of theWoodrow Wilson Foundation, an organization that aims to improve the way teachers are prepared, developed, and deployed.
Actions for Reform: Levine is an active author on the current state of education and publishes his reports regularly. His most recent articles and books focus on increasing access to higher education and improving equity in the schools. As president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Levine uses recent reports on the successes and failures of the educational system to improve the way new teachers are taught so that they will, in turn, provide higher quality education for their students.
Brief Biography: Born in Montreal, Canada with dual citizenship in the U.S., Peggy Williams earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto and her Doctorate of Education from Harvard University. She assumed presidency of Ithaca College in 1997 until 2008.
Actions for Reform: Dr. Williams made great strides in many areas of Ithaca College. During her tenure as President, Dr. Williams instituted the LGBT center and chaired the Commission on Women in Higher Education. Her commitment to these groups is an exemplar for the acceptance of special groups in education and a model other Universities to follow. She also signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment which calls for the reduction of campus’ emission output and education for students in environmental research.
Brief Biography: Karen Symms Gallagher earned her B.A. in political science from Western Washington University, her Master’s of Education in Communications from the University of Washington and her Ph.D. in educational administration from Purdue University in 1982. After graduation, Gallagher taught language arts, social studies and speech and served as principal in the public school system in Washington State and North Carolina. She was then elected a Dean of the University of Kansas. As of 2000, Gallagher is the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. Gallagher also a representative of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society.
Actions for Reform: Gallagher is a believer in student assessment and that teachers’ salaries should be partially based on the outcomes of these exams. Although she believes that the teachers should be reviewed based on scores, Gallagher also believes that “teaching the exam” to students is detrimental to their education and has written extensively about this and other topics in her column on the Huffington Post and in her book: The Politics of Teacher Education Reform. At USC, Gallagher also oversees the first fully accredited online Master of Arts in Teaching program from an elite research University, the MAT@USC. The program allows already certified teachers and those looking to become certified to earn their Master’s degree in teaching in a rigorous but convenient online environment.
Many challenges plague the the educational system, and true reform won’t be easy. Many have tried and failed. This time, however, it appears that we have an administration with both an understanding of the severity of the problem and also the political will to do something about it. Take a good look at the luminaries above — you’ll be hearing a lot more from and about them as the debate rages on.