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VOL. 23, NO. 5OCTOBER 3, 1997

Teachers College Is Selected to Host National Education Project

By Chris Cage

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has selected Columbia's Teachers College to become the Basic School National Center and to carry on the final project of its late president, Ernest L. Boyer.

  Boyer, who also served in the Carter Administration as U.S. Commissioner of Education, had dedicated decades of his life to improving education. Ultimately, he decided that what was really needed was a new beginning. Educators had to return to the basic elements that make going to school an intellectually exciting experience for children, he said.

  In April 1995, he launched the Basic School project. Thirteen schools across the nation agreed to adopt an educational framework grounded by four principles. School officials had to create a supportive community for children, design a coherent and connected curriculum, enrich the learning environment, and encourage the development of character in their students.

  Boyer died eight months after the project was launched. The Carnegie Foundation decided to find an organization to continue his dream. It chose the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College.

  Lee S. Shulman, president of the Carnegie Foundation, said, "I am delighted that one of Dr. Boyer's most interesting and fundamental interventions to improve education would have on-going and expanded impact through the work of NCREST and Teachers College."

  Arthur E. Levine, president of Teachers College, was a colleague of Boyer. They co-wrote A Quest for Common Learning: The Aims of General Education.

  The task is multifaceted. NCREST must evaluate the effectiveness of current Basic School programs, coordinate the national expansion of the project, serve as a clearinghouse for material on the Basic School, develop curriculum and assessment materials for the Basic School, and provide technical assistance to teachers, schools, districts and states interested in the Basic School.

  The total number of schools in the project has grown from 13 to 21. Several of those 21 schools are now gearing up to become regional centers that will help other schools develop Basic School programs as well.

  Beverly Falk, associate director of NCREST and coordinator of the Basic School National Center, said the Basic School does not focus on any single academic achievement or school improvement initiative. Instead it speaks to the broader notion that successful learning is the result of a variety of supportive and intellectually stimulating efforts focused on a child by the whole school community-the teachers, the school support staff and the parents.