New Leader for Carnegie

Key foundation's next president is education researcher interested in the use of technology, links between schools and colleges, and partnerships.
January 9, 2008

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching -- one of the more influential foundations on education research and policy -- will today announce its next president, Tony Bryk.

Bryk is an education professor at Stanford University best known for his work on reforming urban schools. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Trust in Schools: A Core Resource For Improvement and Charting Chicago School Reform: Democratic Localism as a Lever for Change.

In taking over at Carnegie, he will lead a foundation that one way or another touches just about every college. The Carnegie Classifications, which group colleges into similar categories, are run by the foundation. The foundation has also been influential in carrying out the work of its one-time leader, the late Ernest L. Boyer, who argued against a teaching-research dichotomy and for a more inclusive definition of scholarship. The current (and soon to retire) president of Carnegie, Lee S. Shulman, has also pushed Boyer's themes, along with issuing a series of reports on various types of professional education. Unlike most foundations, which focus on grant-making, Carnegie is an operational foundation, and spends much of its money on research and related activities that it conducts.

While Bryk's background as a researcher is almost entirely on elementary and secondary issues, he stressed in an interview Tuesday that the foundation would not be shifting away from higher education. He said, for example, that his current area of research is on the use of technology in education, a topic that spans educational sectors from preschool to graduate school.

Bryk said he sees both great potential and cause for concern in the way education is embracing technology. "There is extraordinary promise in being able to use multimedia tools to enhance the capacity of teachers to teach," he said. Key questions are "how we can integrate technology effectively into the work lives of adults and students that advance much more ambitious instruction and higher levels and deeper learning by students." The fear, he said, is that technology could have education "reduced to a very mechanical activity."

While technology is one area of interest to Bryk, he said that Carnegie would continue to push the "fruits of the research" on projects it has led in the past. On the classifications, he said that he was not yet up to speed on the issues involved, and so couldn't comment on any possible changes. The classifications are undergoing personnel changes of their own. Alexander C. McCormick, who had directed them, is starting this month as director of the National Survey of Student Engagement. He has been succeeded at Carnegie by Chun-Mei Zhao, who had been his deputy.

The foundation world has been undergoing significant change -- and some scrutiny -- of late with mega funds like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spending sums that dwarf grants of others. Bryk said he welcomed such activity, especially given Carnegie's emphasis on research as opposed to grants. Bryk said that he sees Carnegie able to do more if it works with other foundations and that he would promote collaboration.

The issues in education are "way too big" for any one foundation, he said.


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