Chicago corporate 'school reform' researcher now heading Carnegie Foundation

One of the most notorious researchers ever to trample on the rights of public school children, teachers and parents has just been appointed to head the Carnegie Foundation. Virtually all of the approvals from “studies” that allowed the work of the Daley administration to proceed during the 1990s came from the Consortium on Chicago School Reform, most of those when Tony Bryk was heading it.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (http:// chronicle. com /daily/

2008/01 /1162n. htm) Wednesday, January 9, 2008) reported as follows:

Chicago School-Reform Veteran to Head Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, By DAVID GLENN

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has announced that its next president will be Anthony S. Bryk, a professor of organizational studies at Stanford University. Mr. Bryk, who will assume the post this summer, has had a wide-ranging career in education research, focusing on elementary and secondary schools.

Mr. Bryk will succeed Lee S. Shulman, who has held the position since 1997. Mr. Shulman announced last April that he planned to retire. Among many other projects, Mr. Shulman oversaw programs on strengthening students’ political engagement, improving doctoral education, and providing remedial and developmental courses at the community-college level.

Mr. Bryk, who taught at the University of Chicago from 1984 until 2004, is best known as a co-creator of hierarchical linear modeling, a statistical technique that has been widely adopted not only in education research but throughout the social sciences. Mr. Bryk’s interests range far beyond number-crunching, however. He helped to establish two major research centers — ”the Center for Urban School” Improvement and the “Consortium on Chicago School Research” that have brought a diverse array of scholars together with teachers, parents, and administrators to solve problems directly in the classroom.

In a news release, David S. Tatel, the chairman of the Carnegie Board of Trustees and a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said that Mr. Bryk “has a tremendous ability to think and act across disciplines and to bring together theory and practice.”

Mr. Bryk spoke with The Chronicle on Tuesday.

Q. In your conversations with the foundation’s Board of Trustees, what has been your sense of their most important priorities for the coming years?

A. Generally, what we talked about is that we’re in a period of extraordinary institutional change in U.S. education. The systems that we put in place, largely as we turned into the 20th century and into an industrial economy and a period of urbanization, all of those institutions are now being seriously challenged as we aspire to do much more, for many more students, than ever before, and to do it with much greater levels of efficiency. And sitting in the middle of this is this whale of technology, which is totally transforming how we live and how we work. The transformation in the context of schooling may be a little bit slower than in some other institutions, but it seems quite clear that profound changes are coming here.

Q. How do you believe the foundation should allocate its energies between basic research about effective teaching and the dissemination of best practices?

A. I think those things actually weave together. In my own work, which has mainly been in the K-12 area, there are lots of things that you think you know, but until you can actually make those ideas work on the job floor, in classrooms, in schools, in community colleges, the idea of best practices can be quite elusive. In this domain, the development of new wisdom is as much about being able to apply your insights in the context of real problems as about some abstracted form of knowledge....

Much of the work [at the Chicago research centers] has produced significant contributions to scholarship, but it has been very much driven by concrete problems of practice that were being observed and confronted in that school system. The Chicago experience also took very seriously the question of how we engage a community around these problems. So we did traditional things like writing papers, posting things on the Web, and so on, but we also did extensive, ongoing dialogue with civic actors about the problems and what we were learning.

So I think of research as having a kind of focal quality: Here are big issues that we need to attend to, here’s what we know about them. That process can inform the ongoing competition of ideas about what should be done next. I think that kind of public philosophy, if you will, about how social-science inquiry relates to democratic problem- solving will certainly shape how we think about the programs of the foundation going forward.

Q. You haven’t done much work on postsecondary education. Do you think that your insights about K-12 schools can also be applied to that domain?

A. I think some of the disciplinary research skills will transfer immediately. And the orientation toward problems of practice. All of our institutions of education are being challenged in very fundamental ways, from what we teach, to who teaches, to how they’re prepared, to who gets to run the institutions, to how we hold them accountable. In some large ways, these are all problems of organization. The perspective from the work that I did in Chicago is really about organizational design.... And that will certainly, I think, be a relevant perspective for the foundation’s work, from pre- K to postsecondary. 

This article originally appeared in the print edition of Substance for February 2008.


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