Education For The City
By Dean Mary Erina Driscoll
The critical task of preparing excellent teachers has never been more important. By preparing highly qualified teachers and leaders, Schools of Education touch the lives of tens of thousands of city children and youth every year. Good teachers help to enrich and improve the life chances of those children.
Urban educator preparation has unique assets and challenges. In addition to understanding the urban context, urban teachers must also know how to draw on the cultural and linguistic riches found in cities. As Luis Moll1 argued more than twenty years ago, our teachers must tap into the diverse “funds of knowledge” that students in dynamic and vibrant urban communities bring to their classrooms.
As we aspire to prepare even better teachers, it’s important to remember that education has always played a role in enhancing social mobility. Good teaching provides opportunities for the students in our city classrooms, to be sure. But the profession of teaching itself has a history of opening doors. First-generation college goers, especially in urban settings, have had the opportunity to enter a “noble profession,” one that is dedicated to improving the fabric of the city itself.
City College was founded to educate what Townsend Harris termed “the children of the whole people.” Entwined with a rich history is a deep and continuing commitment to provide both excellence in, and access to, a superb education. For nearly a century, the CCNY School of Education has shared in that mission by preparing teachers and leaders who bring their many talents to our city’s schools. Our school still serves a unique, urban, first-generation and highly diverse population of students. Many of them come from city schools and most want to return to teach and lead in those settings.
The challenges faced by Schools of Education at the present moment are very real. Public institutions of higher education like mine, which have always educated a large share of city teachers, are now emphatically tuition-driven, a trend that it unlikely to reverse. Keeping an excellent education affordable for talented first generation students will rely more and more on investments by those committed to a better city for all through education in addition to state support. And recall too that education remains a field with extraordinarily high demands for public accountability. Succeeding on high stakes tests that assess teacher quality has become the new norm for aspiring teachers. The costs of those assessment are additional burdens for our students, however, many of who come from limited means or who support themselves throughout their CUNY education.
It is our great fortune that New York City remains a place where so many people, businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies care about the fate of the children of the whole people. In addition to our historical commitments to excellence and access, twenty-first century educator preparation will require us to partner in new and imaginative ways with those who share our mission. I speak not only for myself but also for my colleagues in educator preparation when I say we welcome this challenge. We look forward to building new alliances in the service of our city’s children.#
Dean Mary Erina Driscoll is the Harold Kobliner Chair in Education, CCNY School of Education