My Professional Background
During more than 35 years at Policy Studies in Education, my nonprofit organization, I have worked hard to improve K–12 public education. I have developed traditional and innovative K–12 curricula in all subjects, developed K–12 student examinations for school districts and states, and evaluated new programs in over 400 school districts nationwide. I have trained thousands of teachers and administrators.
But some of my most interesting times and proudest achievements have come from projects I have done with parents and school board members. The founder of my organization and I have created policy systems for school boards and trained school board members across the U.S. I am constantly reminded that school board members—most of whom are parents—happen to be some of the smartest, savviest individuals connected to our public schools. They do not get nearly enough credit.
And what about parents? I have had the great pleasure of working with parents in big cities and medium-sized suburbs and tiny rural towns. Some did not graduate from high school, and some had advanced college degrees. Some had great jobs, and some had no jobs. But they all cared deeply about their children and what they were learning in school, and most of them were ready to pitch in. That is why, years ago, my organization came up with checklists and handbooks that would help parents do just that.
I have done a lot of things in my career. I have conducted market studies for over 150 colleges. I have consulted for state legislatures, state boards of education, state education departments, and foundations. I have conducted workshops at nationwide and statewide meetings of school board members, superintendents, curriculum directors, and principals. I have written books and articles.
And what I have learned over and over again is that we need parents and school board members to make public education thrive—just like the ones I have worked with for 35 years.
My Personal Background
The only thing I might love more than working on improving education for kids is dance. I take ballet lessons every week—something I have been doing for 57 years. What’s the best dance company in the world, you asked? That question is too easy: any Russian classical ballet company and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. No contest.
Oh, something else I might love more than working on improving education is travel abroad. Someday, you will have to come visit me in my retirement years on Italy’s Amalfi Coast (the most beautiful place in the world) or in Paris (the most beautiful city in the world). And did I mention that the two most awe-inspiring and lump-in-the-throat-producing monuments anywhere are the Arc de Triomphe, especially when it is lit up at night, and our very own Alamo, especially when it is lit up at night. I would be perfectly happy looking at one or the other every night forever.
Oh, something else I certainly love more than working on improving education: my three children. Those of you who have listened to my podcast USACollegeChat or read my book How To Find the Right College: A Workbook for Parents of High School Students have heard all about them. Jimmy, Bobby, and Polly Anne (ranging in age from 28 down to 22) all got bachelor’s degrees in the arts: one in music; one in art, design, and media; and one in dance. Two have finished their master’s degree work abroad, and the little one is just starting. Let me just say that they were “strongly guided” both toward studying the arts and toward studying abroad. Because what could be better than that! I am sure they would tell you that they have taught me everything I know about being a parent (though I think it was actually my own incredible parents that did that first).
My father went to the best university in the world, he would always say: the University of Pennsylvania. But when it came time for me to go to college, he sent me to Cornell University, the Ivy League school that he thought was the best for girls and that, fortunately, had a chapter of my mother’s sorority, Delta Delta Delta. After earning my bachelor’s degree in English, I headed to Teachers College, Columbia University (because my boyfriend and future husband was going to Columbia for graduate school), and I picked up a graduate degree in education (majoring in curriculum development). After our honeymoon in the U.K. (or, as my husband would say, a tour of dead authors’ homes), we came back to New York City, and I started working at Policy Studies in Education. And I never left.