The essential acts of teachingengaging and motivating students, assessing their moral and intellectual growth, and modeling a life of learningare common to all educators, from grade school teachers to graduate school professors. Yet schoolteachers and college professors in America are not seen as part of the same profession.
Teaching in America: The Slow Revolution(Harvard University Press, 1999; $26) explains why this is true, how it is changing, and whether the change is good for schools.
Co-authors Gerald Grant, SU's Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology and professor of the cultural foundations of education, and Christine E. Murray G'76, G'90, professor of education and human development at SUNY College at Brockport, note that professors did not always have the autonomy and status they possess today.
At the start of this century, college professors fought for the rights of tenure and academic freedom that gave them significant control of education at the college level. "Professors got the power to hire and fire their colleagues, to shape the curriculum, and basically took over many of the functions that had been performed by college presidents," Grant says.
By contrast, schoolteachers have remained locked into a hierarchical system, their work mandated by an administrative elite. Grant says although good teachers have tried to be creative behind the closed doors of their classrooms, they have been treated as functionaries, not as professionals capable of independent judgment. "The second revolution is all about that core issue," Grant says. "Can teachers take charge of their practice analogous to the way the professoriate took charge of their practice early in this century?"
In the book, which Grant calls a historical and sociological look at the evolution of the teaching profession, he and Murray assess the competence of today's teachers. They find that America's teachers are doing better than is usually reported in the popular media, but are far from achieving what the public should hope and expect. "We wanted to be sure to really answer those critics who say that in international comparison studies, American schools get an F," Grant says. "This book provides a very careful look at how well American kids and their teachers are doing, as measured by standardized testingfaulty as those tests are."
The book, he says, gives "a fresh and more balanced look at the whole picture, and says, 'Yes, there is plenty of room and need for improvement in teaching. But teachers in America have been basheda lot. And they're doing a better job than most newspaper readers realize.'"
Grant and Murray would like teachers to see Teaching in America as a book that is true to their profession, one that captures the struggles in which they've been engaged. "I hope that in some small way this book helps move ahead the second revolution," says Grant.
Teaching in America: The Slow Revolution is winner of the Virginia and Warren Stone Prize, awarded annually by Harvard University Press for an outstanding book on education and society.
During February, the Government Performance Project (GPP) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs issued report cards to 15 federal agencies and all 50 state governments. Above-average grades outnumbered below-average grades, and while there were no failing grades, some came close.
The GPP is a multi-year project that rates the effectiveness of federal, state, and local government management systems central to the delivery of public services. It is administered by the Maxwell School's Alan K. Campbell Public Affairs Institute; is funded by a four-year, $2.5 million grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts; and links Maxwellthe nation's oldest school of public policywith Governing and Government Executive magazines, two of the nation's leading publications dedicated to fostering better public management.
The federal agencies and state governments received grades in five critical management areas: financial management, human resources management, information technology management, capital management, and managing for results.
Among the federal agencies, the Social Security Administration received the highest grade and the Immigration and Naturalization Service the lowest. The findings among states are considered significant because they don't follow any regional pattern. The top four states are spread across the map, and poor southern states outshone their wealthier neighbors to the north and the west in some management categories. The highest overall grade (A) went to Missouri, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. New York received a C-. The lowest grade (D) was awarded to Alabama.
"This project builds on all the strengths of the Maxwell School, linking a real interest in public management to a deep concern for the quality of citizenship and citizen involvement in government," says public administration professor Patricia Ingraham, director of the Campbell Institute and the GPP. "And that's been a driving force for us."
Back to page 3
Back to page 2
Back to page 1
E-mail the magazine
E-mail the web guy
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040