The School of Education Centennial: Donors, Scholars, and Communities Building a More Just and Hopeful Future

From the science of how people learn to the design of systems that prepare all people for the modern workforce, education is a complex and vital field that holds great promise both for individuals and society. For over 100 years, U-M has been a leader in the study of education. Together with visionary donors, the School of Education builds on a legacy of significant contributions to forge the future of education. 

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In 1919, the Michigan Legislature approved the building of the new model school, University High School, which opened in 1924. University Elementary School opened in 1930.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the formal establishment of the School of Education as U-M’s twelfth school in 1921. The university’s national profile as a leader in the field began in 1879, when U-M became the first American university to create a chair devoted to the study of education. Since those early days, U-M scholars—including educational philosopher John Dewey—have been leaders in education research, practice, and policy.

Early faculty and students pioneered methods for assessing student progress, managing schools and districts, and improving the connection between secondary schools and institutions of higher education. For over four decades, the School of Education operated a nursery, elementary, and high school in which new methods of teaching and evaluation were developed. In the 1950s, the School of Education emerged as a leader in the study of higher education at a time when college enrollment across the country was rapidly increasing. The School of Education community has rigorously evaluated and expertly informed national and state policy. Through robust partnerships, the school has shaped the experiences of learners of all ages.

Teachers and students from Detroit Public Schools arriving at the School of Education building to participate in summer programs on campus in 1985.

Tens of thousands of teachers, administrators, researchers, policymakers, and leaders in the government, nonprofit, and corporate spheres who were educated at U-M have made a profound difference in communities everywhere.

The School of Education enters its second century with a focus on the crucial needs of educators and learners and a commitment to meeting those needs with the same spirit of exploration and collaboration that made the school a leader from the beginning. From making preschool widely available and effective to ensuring access and affordability in higher education, educational opportunity is an essential path to a just future for all.

The potential to create lasting improvements in our world drives the School of Education community, including donors and alumni. Dean of the School of Education Elizabeth Birr Moje says, “Donors share our vision. Whether they are giving out of deep gratitude for the teachers in their lives or a commitment to create positive change through education, it is exciting to see that donors are thinking broadly about the role of education and the potential we have here at the School of Education to transform our world in meaningful ways.”

One of the most critical ways to ensure that educational opportunity is inclusive and equitable is to support educators. Among the school’s efforts is the development of a new model for teacher preparation inspired in part by medical training. The Teaching School is one of the components of the Detroit P-20 Partnership, which has been expanding in exciting ways since it was announced in 2018. U-M education students (called “interns”) and fully certified recent graduates (called “teaching residents”) work under the supervision of the school’s teaching staff and U-M faculty. Residents continue at the school as certified, paid members of the teaching staff for three years following graduation from the School of Education, while receiving the supports that all new educators deserve. The goal of this strategy is to train highly qualified teachers and retain them both in the profession and in the city.

The School of Education is also engaged in the development of the place-based and project-based experiences that define the K-12 education on the campus. The curriculum and teaching practices empower Detroit students to learn engineering and design principles, become problem-solvers, and see themselves as leaders in their community. Furthermore, a “community schools” approach directs attention and resources that address students’ physiological, sociocultural, and socioemotional needs so that students and families can flourish.

The twin foci of improving children’s learning opportunities and providing deeper and longer professional learning for educators fostered through a community-school-university collaborative serves as a proof of concept of how collective impact models can improve education. To that end, the School of Education leads evaluation and research efforts in the Detroit P-20 Partnership. These research and evaluation efforts will ensure the school’s accountability to children, their families, and their teachers while also providing evidence of the power of collective impact models that prioritize both children’s and educators’ learning.

Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje listens to students from The School at Marygrove during a visit to U-M’s campus. The School at Marygrove is the K-12 public school that is part of the Detroit P-20 Partnership.

With a generous matching gift from alumna Wally Prechter, the Detroit P-20 Partnership is an excellent way for donors to invest in education. Prechter has pledged to match $1 million in gifts that support the School of Education’s work on the partnership. Gifts will support teacher education students with scholarships and training in Detroit; advance curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation; and further the professional growth of Detroit educators.

The School of Education is also partnering with donors on a new approach to recruiting, preparing, retaining, and recognizing teachers by providing a comprehensive pipeline of opportunities and resources. Called the Teach Blue Initiative, the school is leveraging donor contributions for “Grow-Your-Own” teacher recruitment programs, no-debt scholarships for teacher education students, paid residencies for early career teachers, and special opportunities that honor the skill of experienced teachers. Teach Blue builds on the school’s extensive knowledge generated within its top-ranked educator preparation programs and in research and development centers and projects such as TeachingWorks, GRIP, Big History Project, and many others.

Dean Moje, who developed the initiative with the input of community and SOE colleagues and advisors, says, “For the past several years, we have analyzed the factors that are negatively affecting the teaching workforce. As leaders in teacher education with robust school and community partnerships, we are uniquely poised to meet the prevailing challenges to the profession through a fresh approach to recruitment and retention. With the Teach Blue Initiative, our vision is to introduce opportunities and resources that work together to support educators at all stages. This initiative is central to our efforts to ‘re-professionalize’ teaching.”

Learning in, with, and from communities is crucial for designing education solutions that work for all children, youth, and adults. The CREATE (Community-based Research on Equity, Activism, & Transformative Education) Center intentionally connects U-M faculty, students, and staff with community-based scholars and practitioners who are working to promote educational change in ways that honor the voices, knowledge, assets, needs, and experiences of youth, families, and community members. Directed by Professor Camille M. Wilson, the center advances educational practice and policy across four areas:

  1. Protecting, reinvesting in, and revitalizing public education;
  2. Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline;
  3. Forging and maintaining socially just educational partnerships; and
  4. Developing public scholarship that contributes to the public good.

Faculty and students in the school’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education are working on college access from many different vantage points, including affordability, college readiness, equitable admissions, and inclusive campus climates. Launching in 2022, a new center at the School of Education will be a hub for admissions research and information for the public. The center will build on innovative work like that of Professor Michael Bastedo that demonstrates how enrollment officers are more likely to admit a more diverse class when provided with robust information about applicants’ communities and high schools. This new admissions center has the potential to shape the future of college admissions practices.

As part of the school’s commitment to provide high-quality, affordable resources to educators everywhere, the new Michigan EdHub will leverage technology to offer online learning modules. Michigan EdHub will advance online learning, community engagement opportunities, professional development, and credentialing for educators. Professor Don Peurach, who leads the Michigan EdHub initiative, is expanding what online education can be by prioritizing authentic community-building in online spaces and preparing learners to approach problems in the field of education.

These major initiatives—among many others focused on creating vibrant societies in which all people can learn to their full potential—drive the School of Education into its next century. “When researchers, educators, communities, and donors work together, we have an unequaled ability to solve the greatest challenges of our time. Donors are central to our school’s efforts to translate the highest-quality education research into practice and policy. That kind of impact will define the second century of our School of Education,” says Dean Moje.

To learn more about supporting School of Education priorities, please visit the school’s giving page.