PROFILES IN EDUCATION
An Interview with Dr. Tony Bryk, New President of Carnegie Foundation
It’s clear that Anthony S. Bryk is not only “privileged” and “honored” to have been selected as the next president of one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious education institutions, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a post he officially takes up in September 1—he’s also delighted at the “challenge” to hasten urban school reform, particularly in regard to the integration of technology to foster and enhance teaching and learning.
Although all times are said to be critical for education, Dr. Bryk, whose doctorate is in measurement and statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is particularly pleased to be appointed at a “transformative” time for schools. He sees parallels between the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. Both were times of major cultural, economic, and therefore educational change. As the 19th century ended, the country was moving away from being agricultural nation to being an industrial one. Now, of course, industry and manufacture have given way to communications and technology, a shift that has meant that schools not only ensure the acquisition of basic skills but focus on “knowledge-based” education. Both periods also share the fact of mass immigration, “major demographic change” that dramatically affects teaching and learning systems.
What are the core problems of our time? Bryk asks on behalf of the Foundation. How can Carnegie be an even more “fertile hub” to support the inquiry and suggest appropriate and efficient changes in policy and procedure to advance needed reform?
Though his previous work has largely focused on grades K-12, he is, in the words of Catharine R. Stimpson, vice chair of the Carnegie Board, “deeply aware” of the “profound connections among educational activities from preschool through postdoctoral education, and of the relations between U.S. and international education.” Indeed, a particular trip to China in the mid `90s has stayed with him, Bryk says, having proved formative for his growing interest in technology. What he saw in China then was a highly “sophisticated” education system in which technology served not only to promote the teaching of math but as a model for professional critique. The experience, “a haunting observation,” convinced him that America must use its technology resources efficiently and effectively to help improve the way teachers do their work. In this regard, he has become a strong advocate of “multimedia records,” a term he describes as the use of “common case materials” in teacher education. This means, for example, using video not just to show best practices, but also to show what students actually do in a classroom, how students respond to what the teachers have set out as their purpose. The idea is to analyze and evaluate the actual against a given ideal and to generate “conversations about practice.”
Dr. Bryk comes to Carnegie with an impressive background which includes several awards for distinguished contributions to education and scholarship. Since 2004 he has held the Spencer Chair in Organizational Studies in the School of Education and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Before that he was Marshall Field IV Professor of Urban Education in the sociology department at the University of Chicago and the founder of the university’s Center for Urban School Improvement. His book, Catholic Schools and the Common Good (1993), has broad implications for all schools, he suggests, by showing the effectiveness of an academic organization centered on a core program that unites a diverse student body, and the benefits of a social organization that creates a powerful dynamic between students and adults.
The Carnegie Foundation dates to 1905, when it was established by Andrew Carnegie “to encourage, uphold, and dignify the profession of the teacher and the cause of higher education.” Contrary to some impressions, Bryk points out, The Foundation is not a grant-making but an “operating” organization, focusing on policy studies, research programs and programmatic initiatives. www.carnegiefoundation.org.#