Pitt School of Education Marks Its 100th Anniversary, Jumps in 'U.S. News' Rankings

Issue Date: 
May 2, 2010

As the University of Pittsburgh School of Education prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary this fall, the school can point with pride to some notable achievements, including faculty members receiving a number of prestigious honors and, just this month, a significant jump in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools rankings.

The School of Education is now among the top 25 schools of education in the country, advancing from 32nd last year to 23rd in this year’s rankings, which are published in the 2011 edition of the U.S. News & World Report newsstand guidebook America’s Best Graduate Schools and online at http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/....

“The School of Education continues to excel at training teachers, specialists, and educational leaders and meeting the continually changing requirements presented by a global society, a complex economy, and the many challenges faced by the nation’s school systems,” said Alan M. Lesgold, Pitt School of Education dean and professor. “We are working diligently to ensure that our school’s students learn how to teach key skills that are most highly valued in today’s economy—teamwork, problem solving, self-management, and disciplined creativity—all while faculty and doctoral students research and develop better ways to foster and measure those skills.”

The seed for Pitt’s School of Education was planted by Edmund Burke Huey, who joined the Western University of Pennsylvania (later renamed the University of Pittsburgh) in 1904 as a professor of psychology and education. In 1905, the University offered its first two courses on education for practicing teachers; Huey promoted the idea of a Teachers College, prompting then-Chancellor Samuel Black McCormick to propose the establishment of a school of education. Huey eventually left the University to pursue research on mental retardation and was replaced by Will Grant Chambers, who became the founding dean when the School of Education was created in September 1910.

Today, the School of Education boasts several prominent faculty members and programs. Among the faculty are Professor Louis M. Gomez, the Helen S. Faison Chair in Urban Education, first director of Pitt’s Center for Urban Education, and a senior scientist in the University’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC); John M. Jakicic, professor and chair in the Department of Health and Physical Activity and director of its Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center; Isabel L. Beck, professor emeritus in the school and senior scientist in LRDC, who is internationally known for her research in reading; Mary Kay Stein, director of the school’s Learning Policy Center and associate director of LRDC; and Professor Mary Margaret Kerr, a national expert on ways to end school violence and to ensure that schools are safe and nurturing environments. The Office of Child Development in the school, headed by Christine Groark and Robert McCall, enjoys a worldwide as well as regional reputation as a source of research and policy advice on early childhood programs and child development.

This past year, School of Education faculty members have received numerous awards and appointments, including, in November 2009, the naming of Gomez as one of only five senior partners for a new program at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Carnegie Foundation program seeks to address some of the most troublesome problems affecting the educational success of a large number of our nation’s students, beginning with the high failure rates among community college students in developmental mathematics.

Also honored this past year were Rita M. Bean, professor emeritus in the Department of Instruction and Learning, who received the 2009 International Reading Association Special Service Award for distinguished service to the association, and Roger D. Klein, a professor in the school’s Department of Psychology in Education, who received the 2009 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Media Psychology. Bean, who joined the University in 1971, also has been inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame, which recognizes individuals who have contributed to further improvement in reading instruction.

Later this month, Suzanne Lane, a professor in the Department of Psychology in Education, and Margaret G. McKeown, clinical professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning and senior scientist at LRDC, will be inducted as 2010 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Fellows at AERA’s annual meeting in Denver, Colo.

Lane and McKeown are being recognized for their exceptional scientific and scholarly contributions to educational research, and they join five Pitt faculty and researchers who were inducted into the inaugural class of AERA fellows in 2008. Pitt’s inaugural inductees were William W. Cooley, professor emeritus in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies; James Greeno, visiting professor of education at Pitt and the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University; Dean Alan Lesgold; Lauren Resnick, University Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, senior scientist and project director in LRDC, and former LRDC director; and Janet Schofield, senior scientist at LRDC and professor and social program chair in the Department of Psychology.

Among the School of Education’s many programs is the Center for Urban Education, which serves as a vital link to the regional K-12 educational community, leading the school’s initiatives in urban education research, training, and practice. The center’s partnership with the Pittsburgh Pubic School’s University Prep School serves a national model for school district/university cooperation.

Gomez, the center’s director, is the inaugural holder of the Helen S. Faison Chair, which was established in 2006 to honor Pitt alumnus and emeritus trustee Faison, a trailblazing educator who earned all her degrees in Pitt’s School of Education—the BS degree in 1946, the MEd degree in 1955, and the PhD degree in 1975. In 2004, Faison was selected as number one among the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Top 12 Educators” making a difference in Western Pennsylvania. The first fully endowed chair in the 98-year history of the School of Education, the Faison Chair was funded through gifts from the Buhl Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Grable Foundation, each contributing $500,000, with additional support from the Falk Foundation.

Education researchers Margaret Smith, Mary Kay Stein, Kevin Crowley, Jennifer Russell, Richard Correnti, Anthony Petrosky, and several others play important roles in Pitt’s LRDC, founded in 1963, where they and scholars from across the University study what learning is, how it happens, and ways it can be improved. LRDC scholars, including founder Robert Glaser, past director Lauren Resnick, and current director Charles Perfetti, have contributed substantially to knowledge about human cognition, learning, and effective schooling and training.

Within the LRDC, the Institute for Learning helps school districts around the country improve their performance and also provides resources to help the school prepare educational professionals. Pitt’s Learning Policy Center, a universitywide center within the School of Education, is dedicated to advancing ideas that encompass both education policy and learning theories, and the school’s Department of Health and Physical Activity focuses its academic, research, and service efforts on promoting physically active lifestyles and other health-related behaviors to prevent disease and enhance quality of life across the lifespan.

Along with its experienced faculty, the School of Education has a number of high-achieving students as well. The state Department of Education, for example, named Michelle Switala, Pine-Richland High School math teacher and doctoral student in Pitt’s School of Education, the 2010 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year.