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New York City
June 2002

NYU Dean of Education: Ann Marcus
By Marylena Mantas

"Teaching is a very difficult job and it needs to be a respectable middle class profession,” says Ann Marcus, Dean of the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University.

Since 1989 Marcus has led the school of education, which traces its origins to the School of Pedagogy established at NYU in 1890 and was the first education school of its kind in the United States. Today the school prepares approximately 2,300 undergraduate and 4,500 graduate students to enter the field of education. Over 80 percent of its graduates teach in the public school system.

"Teacher quality is the single most important thing. What we need are highly competent, experienced people,” says Marcus of the current challenges facing public school education. She cited the lack of certified teachers and the low retention rate as education's primary challenges and emphasized that new teachers need support.

"Under any circumstances teaching is a difficult job in the first years,” she said.

According to Marcus, several factors can bring more individuals to the teaching profession, including providing youth with positive exposure to teaching through internships. She also suggests creating mechanisms to support the number of new people entering the teaching profession, such as the establishment of a five-year program that allows students to complete their Bachelors and Masters degrees in education in five years. In addition, she emphasized that career changers must be supported and that immersion programs must be established to allow current uncertified teachers to gain certification.

"A source for certified teachers has to be the current uncertified teachers. There needs to be a huge investment in helping them get their degrees,” says Marcus, adding that "the basic strength of the profession can be found in the people who want to go into teaching.”

To address the retention of teachers, Marcus underscored that new teachers must be supported as soon as they enter the profession and be provided with professional development. In addition she highlighted that an improvement in working conditions, such as an increase in salaries, must take place.

"We have to emphasize the highly sophisticated approach to teaching and learning,” says Marcus. "The reason schools of education exist is because there is so much to be learned in terms of pedagogy. In the end there are no shortcuts.”

According to Marcus, the number of applicants to the school of education has increased in recent years, which she considers indicative of the fact that "teaching still maintains a positive hold on the public's imagination.” Students of the Steinhardt School of Education are immersed in an educational environment upholding research and practice.

"NYU always had a strong populist tradition,” said Marcus. "We believe in students having connections with schools. That is the platform from which we do research.”

According to Marcus, the Steinhardt school retains strong relationships with several New York City school districts, including districts, 4, 10, and 13. The collaboration with district 13 in Brooklyn, which has been in place for eight years, has been the strongest.

The establishment of several Centers and Institutes over the years allows students to conduct field-based research and to provide services to the public schools.

Marcus cited the NYU Reading Recovery Program as an example of the collaborations between the school and the community. The program, which involves 16 NYC school districts and districts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia, "is designed to identify and assist those first grade children who are at maximum risk of reading failure.” In addition to providing teacher training and technical assistance to school administrators, the program provides students with one-on-one intervention for up to 12 weeks. According to Marcus, 80 percent of the students who receive intervention never fall behind again. Other programs administered through the NYU Steinhardt School of Education include, The Professional Development Laboratory, The Institute for Education and Social Policy, and The Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.

"[Over the years schools of education have become] more connected to urban education and more focused on the broad issues of training, rather than just training teachers,” Marcus said, adding that NYU has a long tradition of such collaborations. "We've insisted that our faculty remain involved with the community.”

An emphasis on research remains an integral part of Marcus' vision for the Steinhardt School of Education and for its students, whom she characterized as "young, diverse, idealistic” individuals who come to NYU "wanting to be teachers.”

"I'd like us to become more of a leading center of research because we are a leader in practice,” she said. "Teachers should know not only how to understand research, but also how to do research in their own classrooms.”#

For previous interviews with deans, visit www.educationupdate.com and go to archives.


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