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Dr. Mike Trevisan

Dean's Perspectives

Is ‘Superman’ not so super?

A.G. Rud

Diane Ravitch is doing some remarkably informed and incisive work. I was impressed and moved by her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, and now by her review of the documentary Waiting for “Superman.” Titled “The Myth of Charter Schools,” it appears in the New York Review of Books.

I have not seen the film as it has not been available to us yet, but we in the College of Education have talked about possibly arranging for a showing. What I’ve read about it greatly concerns me. I value the presentation of data by Ravitch debunking some of its central points, including its claim that 70 percent of eighth-grade students cannot read at grade level. “This is flatly wrong,” she writes, and goes on to prove it.

Ravitch is dismayed that the film downplays the problems outside of schools that are working against students, including poverty. She notes the difficulties of identifying “bad” or ineffective teachers, especially in light of a trend toward hiring administrators who have little or no education experience. She points out that the film decries teachers’ unions, while lauding the school system of Finland — a country with a completely unionized teaching force.

I am interested to hear reactions from others about the film, and Ravitch’s review.

FAQs: What people ask the new dean

A.G. Rud

In my first two months on the job, the people with whom I’ve talked have expressed hope, excitement and concern about the future of the College of Education, along with curiosity about this new fellow in the dean’s office.

Some of the questions I’m frequently asked:

What is your vision of the future for the college
?  The Washington State University College of Education will be a vibrant center of learning that is responsive to the educational needs of our state, country and world — but especially of our state. We will not lose sight of our land-grant mission to the people of Washington.

Details, please! The college will have a much larger and well-funded research agenda. That’s why one of my first actions was to create the position of associate dean for research and external funding, and appoint Mike Trevisan to fill it.  The college will also make the most of the strengths of each campus, including the residential Ph.D. programs in Pullman; the urban education expertise in Vancouver; the health science collaborations in Spokane; and the Hispanic-serving mission of the Tri-Cities.

How will you stay in touch with such a far-flung campus system?
Though based in Pullman, I plan to visit each of our regional campuses no fewer than four times a year.  And I rely heavily on our campus academic directors to keep me informed.

Will the role of teacher education diminish? Not on my watch. My WSU colleagues and I are adding our voices to the national conversation about the best ways to graduate competent, well-educated, socially responsible teachers whose students will succeed in the classroom and in life.

How will the college be affected by this latest round of state budget cuts that’s hit WSU? We don’t know yet.  President Floyd has asked for input from the deans, and my administrative team and I are working on that. I’ll keep everyone informed.

How are you settling in? My wife, Rita, and I are enjoying small-town, big university life on the Palouse. We have 100 boxes of books and some other important items yet to unpack, but we’re settling in well in the house we bought on Pullman’s Pioneer Hill. By the way, there sure are lots of hills here.  I’m starting to understand the concept of “Cougar calves.”

Of course, these are my elevator-speech answers.  I look forward to having in-depth conversations with many of you, and welcome suggestions from the alumni and supporters I won’t have the pleasure of meeting.  Leave your comments on this blog, or drop me a note.

Go Cougs!