New York University announced today the creation of a Program on Education and Civil Society, which will be co-chaired by leading education scholars Diane Ravitch and Joseph Viteritti. The goal of the program — which is based both in the NYU School of Education and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service — is to promote critical analysis and public understanding of school reform efforts. Particular attention will be paid to urban school systems and the needs of underserved students.

To this end, the program will commission research by the nation’s premier scholars in a wide range of disciplines — history, political science, law and economics, for example — with the purpose of informing policy makers and opinion leaders on ways to improve education and ensure equal educational opportunity. In addition, the program will sponsor lectures, seminars and other activities.

In its first 3 years, the program will focus on: charter schools, school choice, management reforms, educational standards and accountability.

Program Co-chair Ravitch said, “Our program will give policy makers and opinion leaders new research to guide their school reform efforts. In particular, we will be looking at urban systems, where the problems of educational quality are most pronounced. Likewise, we will be looking closely at how to meet the needs of the nation’s underserved students more effectively. Our goal is to explore the role that education plays in fostering a healthy democracy.”

Program Co-chair Joseph Viteritti said, “At all levels, America’s leaders are talking about how to reform public education. But despite the sheer volume of discourse, there is a paucity of quality educational research that leaders can rely on to guide their decisions. By commissioning research by the nation’s leading scholars on pressing educational issues — charter schools, choice and standards, for example — we will foster a more informed and meaningful national discourse on educational reform.”

Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, dean of NYU’s Wagner School, said, “As the nation’s largest school of public service and administration, Wagner is excited to participate in this program. In the last decade, Wagner has distinguished itself as a center of research on educational finance and governance. With the formation of this important program, we have the opportunity to expand our role in the analysis and formation of educational policy.”

Ann Marcus, dean of NYU’s School of Education, said, “NYU’s School of Education is an important center of excellence for the study of educational practice and policy, and Diane Ravitch is one of our most distinguished participants, and an important public voice. The new work that Professors Ravitch and Viteritti are undertaking will enable us to expand the range and impact of current research and discussion, and will bring in new voices and viewpoints.

Diane Ravitch is a Research Professor at the NYU School of Education. She has served as Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education and presently holds the Brown Chair in Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. She was recently appointed to the National Assesment Governing Board by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. She is one of the nation’s leading historians of education, whose books include National Standards in American Education, The Troubled Crusade and The Great School Wars.

Joseph Viteritti, who will serve as director of the program, is a Research Professor at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and an Adjunct Professor at NYU’s School of Law. He has served as a special assistant to the Chancellor of the New York City public schools and as a senior advisor to the Superintendents of Schools in Boston and San Francisco. He has written extensively on the political and legal aspects of educational policy, and is author of Across the River: Politics and Education in the City.

Ravitch and Viteritti have previously collaborated in editing a collection of essays, New Schools for a New Century: The Redesign of Urban Education. Published by the Yale University Press, the book was recently reviewed in The New York Times. Ravitch and Viteritti are planning a second volume under the auspices of the program.

The program is establishing a University advisory board that will draw its members from NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, its Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, its School of Education and its School of Law.

The Program on Education and Civil Society is being supported by a grant of $1.2 million over the next three years from the John M. Olin Foundation, with additional funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Achelis Foundation and the Bodman Foundation.

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