Ellen Condliffe Lagemann announced March 21 that she will step down as dean of the Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the close of the 2004-05 academic year and will refocus her energies on scholarship and teaching as a member of the GSE faculty.
“When I agreed to become dean of the Ed School, I did so knowing that I was first and foremost a scholar and a teacher,” Lagemann said. “Having now had the extraordinary opportunity of serving as dean of the GSE for three years, I have decided it is time for me to return to teaching and scholarship.
“I remain committed to the well-being of the Ed School and to the interests all of us share in education,” added Lagemann, who will continue as the Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education at the GSE. “I continue to believe and will always believe that nothing is more important for this country or the world than education. I intend to work with Larry Summers, Steve Hyman, and all members of the GSE community in the time ahead to ensure the smoothest possible transition. I have come to love this community, and I will do all I can to ensure its continuing welfare.”
“I want to thank Ellen Lagemann for the initiative, dedication, and drive that she has brought to the GSE during her time as dean,” said President Lawrence H. Summers. “Under her guidance, the Ed School has progressed toward a core curriculum, reorganized its master’s degree programs and its academic areas, redoubled its efforts to contribute to the improvement of K-12 education, and worked to strengthen its relationships both with other Harvard schools and with the broader community of professional educators. In addition, Ellen has been a consistently constructive voice in discussions among the deans about key University priorities, including planning for Allston and for the GSE’s eventual new home there.
“After a span of more than a decade in a series of senior administrative roles at New York University, the Spencer Foundation, and most recently the GSE, Ellen has indicated her desire to devote her full-time efforts once again to her academic work as a leading historian of American education,” Summers added. “I am pleased that we will continue to benefit from her insight and her devotion to educational improvement as a member of the GSE faculty.”
One of Lagemann’s most significant accomplishments at the GSE has been the creation of the “usable knowledge initiative,” which aims to counter a major problem facing schools of education, the difficulty of linking research to practice. The initiative has encompassed a series of conferences and produced a book, “Scaling Up Success,” that explores different models for taking successful programs from the classroom level to the district level and, eventually, nationwide. During Lagemann’s tenure, this emphasis on translating theory into practice has become part of the underlying ethos of the GSE.
Lagemann’s deanship has further been marked by major initiatives to develop innovative core courses for the GSE curriculum, to reorient the School’s master’s degree programs, and to reorganize its academic organizational structure. She has also played a leading role in shaping Universitywide activities designed to enhance Harvard’s role in the improvement of K-12 education. She organized a seminar on the race achievement gap that has now become a Universitywide Initiative on Diversity and Achievement. She also helped create a new center for research on urban schooling. In addition, she has led the planning process for a new institute that will eventually serve as an organizational umbrella for faculty-led projects, programs, centers, and initiatives in various parts of Harvard having to do with K-12 education.
Lagemann served from 2000 to 2002 as president of the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation. From 1994 to 2002 she was a professor at New York University, where she served as chair of the Department of the Humanities and the Social Sciences and director of the Center for the Study of American Culture and Education in the School of Education from 1994 to 2000. Earlier in her career, she taught for 16 years at Teachers College, Columbia University, and was also a member of Columbia’s Department of History.
Lagemann is a past president of both the National Academy of Education and the History of Education Society. She is an acclaimed historian of education whose many published works include “An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research” (2000), “The Politics of Knowledge: The Carnegie Corporation, Philanthropy, and Public Policy” (1992), and “Private Power for the Public Good: A History of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching” (1983). She received her undergraduate degree from Smith College, before teaching high school social studies in Roslyn, N.Y. She holds a master’s degree in social studies from Teachers College, and a Ph.D. in history and education from Columbia.
Summers said that the search for a new GSE dean would begin promptly. “I will be in touch soon about preliminary plans for the search, and will want to ensure close consultation with the GSE faculty and the wider school community,” he said in a message to the School’s faculty, students, and staff. “For now, I hope that you will join me in extending appreciation to Ellen for her service to the Ed School and the University, and wishing her well both in the concluding months of her deanship and in all that lies ahead.”