A nationally known expert on the history of education and education research, Ellen Condliffe Lagemann was enticed into joining HGSE in 2002 by the promise of making more direct impact on the field of education. Coming from the Spencer Foundation, where she had been president, Lagemann arrived at Harvard with fresh eyes and a unique approach to the issues facing HGSE and schools of education in general.
As dean, Ellen Lagemann was a leader with fresh eyes — and a vision for how HGSE could best position itself to make an impact on the practice of education.
At the time, many schools across the country were in danger of closure. “I thought it was very important to strengthen the Ed School, because it would strengthen education,” she told Dean Bridget Long in an interview recorded to mark HGSE’s Centennial.
In addition to retaining and strengthening HGSE’s faculty, Lagemann’s tenure featured an emphasis on translating education theory and research into actual tools that teachers and students could use in learning environments. This resulted in the first iteration of Usable Knowledge in 2008, a digital publication that highlighted the research of the HGSE community, and which continues, in an enhanced version, to this day.
Lagemann regularly reached out to faculties of other Harvard schools with ideas on projects and initiatives that would enhance the university’s role in improving K–12 education. These conversations led to the establishment of the Achievement Gap Initiative, an effort to help study and narrow the achievement gap in education, and the Public Education Leadership Project, a thriving collaboration between HGSE and the Harvard Business School to enhance the capacities of leaders in urban school districts.
– Video produced by Elio Pajares, story by Marin Jorgensen