School & District Management

Leaders in Business and Education Take Up Improvement of Teaching

By Bess Keller — January 22, 2003 2 min read
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Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the former IBM head who co-chaired a prominent national effort to advance academic standards, has now turned his attention to better teaching.

Mr. Gerstner is slated to announce this week, several weeks after stepping down as the chairman of the International Business Machines Corp., that he will lead a new, nonprofit group, the Teaching Commission. Organizers say it’s aimed at formulating and promoting the best policies for raising teacher quality in the public schools.

Joining Mr. Gerstner as members are prominent leaders from education, business, and government, including San Francisco schools chief Arlene Ackerman, former Gov. Roy E. Barnes of Georgia, and W. James McNerney, the chairman and chief executive officer of the 3M Co.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining the best teachers, Mr. Gerstner said in a statement, “we need a road map and the political will to act. This is the objective of the Teaching Commission.”

The launch of the group comes as concern about an undersupply of teachers intersects with a new emphasis on the importance of teachers to higher student achievement. That focus is reflected in the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, which calls for a highly qualified teacher in every classroom and authorizes nearly $3 billion to address teacher quality.

Mr. Gerstner, 60, whose public service in education goes back more than three decades, was the chairman and chief executive officer of IBM from 1993 until last year, when he announced his retirement. This month, he took over as the chairman of the Carlyle Group, a well-connected international-investment company based in Washington.

From 1999 to 2002, he co-chaired Achieve, a nonprofit group that he and other business leaders and governors founded to promote higher student achievement through academic standards. And under Mr. Gerstner, IBM established Reinventing Education, a program that helps states and districts use the resources of the computer giant to enhance student learning.

Research Synthesis

R. Gaynor McCown, a former senior vice president of Edison Schools Inc. and adviser to President Clinton, has been tapped as the executive director of the Teaching Commission, which will be supported by private donations and have its headquarters in New York City.

Ms. McCown said the commission’s first task would be “a synthesis of the existing research looking at the best [teacher-workforce] practices to be found at the school, district, and state level.” The synthesis will use both the experiences of other professions and other nations as points of comparison, she added.

The commission expects to make policy recommendations in March of next year, followed by a push to get them accepted.

Other commission members include: former first lady Barbara Bush; Philip M. Condit, the chairman and CEO of the Boeing Co.; Sandra Feldman, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; Matthew Goldstein, the chancellor of the City University of New York; and Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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