Ronald Edmonds, whose pioneering work in the area of "effective schools" gained wide national recognition, died July 15. Mr. Edmonds was 48 years old.
"He was an extraordinary person and a good friend. It's a great loss for American education," said Frank J. Macchiarola, former chancellor of the New York City public schools, and now executive director of the New York City Partnership. Mr. Macchiarola hired Mr. Edmonds as his aide in 1978.
In a report issued after Mr. Edmonds left the system in 1981, Mr. Macchiarola acknowledged his continuing contribution to the New York City schools. Mr. Edmonds's research and recommendations concerning the school system, he wrote in his annual report on the system, were "based on a seemingly obvious but actually revolutionary idea: that all children can learn."
Mr. Edmonds, a native of Ypsilanti, Mich., received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, and his master's degree from Eastern Michigan University. From 1970 to 1972, he was asistant superintendent in the Michigan Department of Public Instruction, and in 1973 moved to Harvard University, where he was a professor at the graduate school of education.
The effective-schools method advocates frequent tests to measure progress, clearly spelled-out teaching goals, strong leadership and much classroom contact by principals and teachers with high expectations of all students.
The movement was first applied in elementary schools and subsequently spread to the high-school level. Mr. Edmonds launched an effective-schools program in New York City in 1979 and began another program when he returned to Michigan in 1981.
"He was a catalyst and a stimulant, and a person who really believed that schools could be made much better, particularly for minority kids," said Marshall Smith, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "This was a constant concern of his that may be getting lost today among some people worrying about educational policy. But Ron kept bringing it back and saying that schools are able to work effectively with all kids."
Mr. Edmonds "made a marvelous contribution to the sense of optimism of those who worked on making schools better in New York City," Mr. Macchiarola said. "We learned that there are hard decisions that administrators have to make, but the optimism about the capacity of children was always there. That was due to Ron."
"He's a very important figure for this particular era," Mr. Smith said. "Many people had lost confidence in schools. He didn't lose it at all, especially for the poor and minority students. He just kept pushing it and was a constant stimulus."