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Stanford Report, March 11, 1998

Fac Sen minutes 3/5/98 meeting continued

Minutes from March 5 Faculty Senate meeting


Dean's Report on the School of Education (SenD#4789)

The Chair invited School of Education Dean Richard Shavelson to present a report on his school, complimenting him in passing on his faithful, perhaps even record-setting, attendance at Senate meetings. Conley also welcomed Education Associate Deans Phillips and Nicholson as invited guests.

Shavelson said he hoped to paint a picture of the School of Education and leave an image in the minds of those who might not know what the school does. Originally called the Department of History and Art of Education, it was one of the 21 founding departments at Stanford, the tenth such department to be established in the country. The entire department ­ three faculty members, the library and the librarian ­ was for some time housed in a single room on the quad. "The school continues to face these kinds of problems of a small faculty and not enough space," Shavelson commented, looking pointedly at the Provost. The first Dean of Education was Cubberley, a protégé of David Starr Jordan, who set directions still followed in the school: empirically-grounded knowledge as the basis for theoretical and practical training and a focus on preparing a small number of leaders in teaching, administration and research. When Cubberley stepped down as dean in 1933, he actually financed and designed the present School of Education building, Shavelson revealed. Through a succession of deans (Quillen, James, Coladarci, Atkin, and Smith) the School of Education honed its mission which today is "to improve teaching, learning and administration by: generating basic knowledge; informing education policy and practice through research and analysis; and preparing teachers, administrators and researchers to be the next generation of education leaders."

Speaking to the question of how good the school is, Shavelson said that Stanford's School of Education has consistently been ranked number one by its academic peers for the past 30 years. To President Casper's chagrin he also displayed the recent U. S. News & World Report rankings that place more of Stanford's Education programs in the top five than any other school. The School focuses on graduate education, offering the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, in part because the State of California does not recognize a bachelor's degree in education. The faculty does participate in undergraduate education, however, through a successful honors program, courses toward the general education requirements, and sophomore seminars. Shavelson described the School's organization as purposefully non-departmental, and structured around program area committees with permeable boundaries to foster multi-disciplinary study of education issues.

The School of Education's four program areas are: Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education ­ dealing with the preparation of teachers and with subject content areas; Psychological Studies in Education ­ dealing with cognitive sciences, developmental and counseling psychology and psychometrics in order to increase the knowledge base surrounding teaching and learning; Language, Literacy and Culture ­ dealing with issues raised by an increasingly diverse population of language speakers; and Social Sciences, Policy, and Educational Practice ­ dealing with education policy, preparation of school administrators, and international comparative education.

Shavelson displayed faculty and student demographic data. The 38 full time equivalent faculty is 27 percent women and 16 percent minority. The 352 graduate students, half in M.A. and half in Ph.D. programs, tend to be older, married, and two-thirds women. They come in with significant and varied job experiences, presenting wonderful classroom challenges to the faculty, Shavelson remarked. He also noted that the students become genuine leaders in their fields, and that two-thirds of the Ph.D. graduates take academic teaching or research positions.

The School has about $10 million per year of research funded by foundations, state and federal government, averaging $410,000 each among the 60 percent of the faculty who are funded. Kidded about whether the $410,000 figure was the average faculty salary, Shavelson quipped that this was just the salary "per course." He pointed out that research is crucial to the school because it provides financial support for 90 percent of their doctoral students. The School is home to three research centers -- the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement directed by Professor Patty Gumport, the Stanford Center on Adolescence headed by a new faculty member Bill Damon, and the Teaching Context Center directed by Professor Milbrey McLaughlin -- and to many interesting research programs, a sampling of which Shavelson described briefly.

Dean Shavelson stated that the School of Education has extensive links with local schools and with state and national agencies, noting that the faculty is working with most school districts from San Francisco to San Jose and is heavily involved in local school reform initiatives. Concluding his presentation, the dean identified several challenges confronting the School: concern about graduate student financial support; an aging physical plant; a significant number of faculty retirements in the next 4-5 years; rapidly changing technology for teaching and learning; and California's rapidly changing, increasingly diverse student population.

Professor Harris (Medicine) asked if there were a simple explanation for the reality that the teaching profession is paid so poorly relative to other professions and in the context of the importance to society. Shavelson responded that teacher pay does in some sense reflect the value system of the general public and the politicians, and Professor Kirst (Education) added that it is very important to remember that teaching has always been largely a female profession, currently 80 percent female in kindergarten through 12th grade. Professor Street (Civil and Environmental Engineering) asked Shavelson who he thought was responsible for the state of education in the U.S. and whether Stanford's School of Education is in a position to do anything about it. The dean replied that education is a large, complicated system and that it is highly political. The School's faculty members are sought after to bring their technical knowledge to bear through national and state commissions and boards, he said.

Questioned by Vice Provost and Dean of Research Kruger, Shavelson said he believes the poor U. S. results on international math and science tests represent a "wake-up call." While there are no simple fixes, one needs to be concerned that American students are near the top in fourth grade, mediocre in eighth grade, and at the bottom by 12th grade, he said. Provost Rice and President Casper commented that the decline of test results as the subject matter becomes more complex may result from teachers not being well trained in the disciplines. Shavelson said that studies show that subject matter expertise is a necessary ingredient for producing the most successful learning outcomes, but pedagogical training is also necessary. Indicating other contributing factors, he said that the U. S. curricula in mathematics and sciences are "an inch deep and a mile wide," as compared to Japan and Germany where fewer topics are covered in more depth and are better sequenced from one year to the next. Additionally, since states and localities vary widely in the content of specific courses, national testing is difficult and students receive the message that only general ability tests like the SAT or ACT count. Americans have widely differing values, fought out at the local school level rather than the more divisive national level, and there is tremendous competition for the afternoon and evening attention of our children. "We pay the price in achievement results for some of this flexibility," Shavelson remarked.

Professor Harrison (Graduate School of Business) asked the dean to comment on how the school makes tradeoffs in faculty recruitment between the intellectual strengths of candidates and other factors such as programmatic need. Some of their searches are targeted to meet specific and important academic needs, for example science education, Shavelson said, while others are "cluster searches" looking flexibly for the best and brightest in a broad area such as the nature of democracy and impacts on education. Professor Eric Roberts (Computer Science) suggested that this might be a good time for the school to broaden its disciplinary base beyond the social and behavioral sciences, and to build synergies with other university departments. Shavelson agreed that moving in the direction of engineering and computer sciences makes sense particularly in the new learning design technology program. Professor Baker (History) commented that creating synergy among the many disciplines is as important as broadening the number of disciplines. Professors Phillips (Education) and Shavelson described long-running research seminars in which faculty from multiple disciplines come together to discuss common issues, and indicated that the School of Education works consciously on community and on dialogue across disciplines. The Chair thanked Shavelson for an enlightening report.

There was no new business. Conley reminded elected and ex-officio members of Senate to proceed upstairs for the quarterly informal executive session with the President and the Provost. Following a motion and a second, the meeting was adjourned at 4:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan W. Schofield

Academic Secretary to the University