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New York City
September 2002

Dean Deborah Shanley: Brooklyn College School of Education
By Sybil Maimin

Deborah A. Shanley, Dean of the School of Education at Brooklyn College, is in an enviable position. She works on a campus that has just been voted “most beautiful” in the country by The Princeton Review and creates and oversees programs in education that have the support of the political power elite from Bush to Bloomberg. At Brooklyn since 1998, she was previously Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, where she was an activist dean and an admired advocate of building working bridges between diverse constituencies in the college and the community. Energetic, open-minded, and creative, she is no ivory tower academic, emphasizing instead that, “to be an effective dean, I have to be out there.” And “out there” she is, looking at policy and exemplary practices as she meets with principals, superintendents and teachers and creates opportunities for these leaders to confer with faculty and administrators of the School of Education through such avenues as monthly meetings of the Teacher Education Advisory Panel. She has hosted principals on campus to share concerns and challenges and help determine “how we can do better at what we both do.” She is determined to find “what works” and to align programs accordingly.

Dean Shanley stresses the importance of partnerships, whether within departments or between departments in the school, as well as between the college and the community. Many programs in the School of Education are based on collaborations. For example, the Brooklyn Transition Center brings District 75 students to campus where they are trained for independence, given appropriate jobs around the school, and nurtured. Their presence provides an inclusive practice model. The College Now project,
a partnership between Brooklyn College and 10 local high schools, interfaces high school curriulum with the college theater department by, for example, providing a high school English class the opportunity to see a play they are studying, produced and performed by Brooklyn College. The Brooklyn College Academy, a campus high school in the alternative high school division, gives 11th and 12th graders access to college facilities and courses. “Learning Communities” have been formed in districts 19 and 23 by teams of faculty who link up with principals and superintendents. Partnerships with the Lincoln Center Institute and the American Museum of Natural History introduce best practices in incorporating the arts and sciences into the classroom. The range of partners keeps growing. Dr. Shanley “thinks deeply about the partnerships” to help bridge gaps between theory and practice. “You cannot develop teachers in isolation,” she explains.

Brooklyn College produces the second largest number of teachers in New York City (Queens College trains the most). Degrees are given in early childhood, elementary, middle school and adolescence education, with extentions avaliable in bilingual and special education, as well as in literacy. Dr. Shanley is a strong advocate of “blending” programs. Special Ed and General Ed should be blended with specialized courses tagged on as needed. “Don’t separate professionals into boxes,” she advises. As mandated by the state, students must take 30 credits in a subject major and far fewer, perhaps 12 credits, in pedagogy. This will provide an essential “knowledge base” for teaching to the New Standards. Pairing courses, such as methods and materials of teaching social studies together with a content English course, is a unique initiative at Brooklyn designed to give depth. Under a recent law, the Commissioner’s Regulation for Registration of Curriculum in Teacher Education, students must spend 100 hours of documented time doing various tasks in schools before becoming practice teachers. Set to go into effect in September 2004, the requirement is already in place at Brooklyn. The graduate program prepares principals, psychologists, guidance counselors, and special educators. To earn a masters degree, 18 credits are taken in a content area and 12 in pedagogy. A Teaching Fellows program prepares people from other professions to teach in New York City underperforming schools. Underwritten by the Board of Education, the program leads to a Masters Degree.

Many of the education programs at Brooklyn College can be found at other CUNY campuses. The strength of Brooklyn, explains Dean Shanley, is its core curriculum and the quality of the arts and sciences departments and their strong relationships with the School of Education. In addition, the depth of its collaborations and partnerships is unique and “goes beyond lip service.” Graduates are encouraged to stay in touch with the school, which offers ongoing support and help as well as workshops, conferences, and round tables. Looking to the future, she hopes the education department will be recognized as a strong resource that schools in Brooklyn will turn to, a vital “cog in the borough.”#


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