Fund To Create Reform Center
The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund announced last week that it has given $2 million to Teachers College, Columbia University, to support a new national network that will track efforts to restructure schooling and teaching.
The grant to the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching is the largest ever received by Teachers College. It reflects the Reader's Digest Fund's interest in supporting efforts to improve the teaching profession. In recent months, the fund also has made substantial contributions to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.
The new center is being directed by Ann Lieberman and Linda Darling-Hammond, who are both faculty members at the college. "There is really no mechanism for like-minded people to talk to one another," Ms. Lieberman said last week in describing the need for such a center. To date, the center has been focusing on documenting and assisting restructuring efforts in New York City and New York State. The Reader's Digest grant will provide "seed money" over three years to allow the center to expand its work nationally, Ms. Lieberman said.
To link the people involved in various restructuring projects with one another, the center envisions creating "work groups" of educators involved in similar projects, connecting such sites on a computer network, and publishing a newsletter.
School-improvement efforts historically have not been sustained and widespread, the center's directors suggest, because information about successful changes is not shared, what is learned is not reflected in future training programs for school staff members, and the policy changes that would encourage structural reforms are not made.
Among the center's specific goals are to help link the growing number of "professional-development schools," in which teachers and university faculty members work to conduct research, improve the preparation of novice teachers, and increase student learning.
From the lessons learned in such schools and from other restructuring initiatives, such as the American Federation of Teachers' Urban District Consortium, the center plans to proH duce policy recommendations to sup port restructuring.--ab