Dean Andrews: An Appreciation

To fully grasp David Andrews’ accomplishments during his nearly six-year tenure as dean, one must revisit the state of graduate education at Johns Hopkins before he arrived in 2010.

While the university has over a 100-year history of work in education, it didn’t establish a formal school of education until the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education split from the Carey Business School in 2007. And its focus was primarily in continuing studies.

President Daniels asked Dean Andrews to shake things up. He wanted him to establish a top-ranked education school befitting a top-ranked research university. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, consider that Dean Andrews took office during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The School of Education not only had a new mission and limited resources, but the withering economy caused a drop in revenue from tuition-reimbursement programs for Maryland public school teachers.

Dean Andrews approached his new role as if he were an entrepreneur at the helm of a Silicon Valley startup. He reorganized programs and sought new markets, and established a culture of innovation within the ranks of faculty and staff.

During his first term, the School of Education significantly expanded its research capacity by strengthening two world-class research centers—the Center for Research and Reform in Education and Center for Technology in Education—and absorbing the Center for Social Organization of Schools into its core operations. The productivity of the centers’ researchers enabled the school to raise millions of dollars in grants and recruit other highly sought-after faculty.

“We’ve worked really hard to create a school that had a wide range of contributions—research, teaching, service, outreach,” said Dean Andrews. “We’ve done a good job of creating a climate that doesn’t make everyone contribute in the same way, of finding niches for people that take advantage of their strengths.”

Diversifying the contributions of the faculty required a fundamental change in the school’s structure. Dean Andrews made the bold move of eliminating departments to encourage integration and collaboration throughout the entire school. “At the time it was painful to do,” he said, “but we broke down silos, enabling faculty to cut across different disciplines.”

Before he arrived, the school didn’t distinguish between research and practice. Even though some of the most recognized and productive faculty are practitioners, they were marginalized when it came to visibility and promotions. Dean Andrews remedied that by creating a career ladder for clinical faculty and that, in turn, opened the door for researchers to get closer to the School of Education.

Today the School of Education’s diverse faculty are the top researchers, social scientists and instructors in their respective fields. Research-proven programs developed by the school’s faculty are being implemented in over 1,000 schools nationwide, in districts within 47 states, by over 20,000 teachers, and currently contributing to the development of over 300,000 students.

Dean Andrews has been a national leader in digital education, both in projects on personalized learning for elementary students, as well as for graduate education where the School of Education has become a trailblazer. He launched an online EdD program, tailoring teacher education to suit individual needs, and expanded its reach beyond the region. Today the practitioner-focused EdD program draws scholars from around the world, and has contributed significantly to the expansion of school programs, 60 percent of which are online.

When he promoted the creation of the PhD program to focus more exclusively on research and scholarship, the school was able to recruit students with the strongest academic backgrounds in the country, as evidenced by some of the highest GRE scores reported.

“These students are undoubtedly among the best and brightest in the profession,” said Dean Andrews. “Getting up the online EdD program up so quickly and successfully was a coup for the faculty.”

Dean Andrews has been in the forefront of creating new education models to advance the school’s mission. He championed expansion of the school’s decade-old partnership with Teach For America, an alternative certification program, helping them build their national professional-development infrastructure.

The goal of the partnership is to attract the best and brightest to the field of education and give them the tools to do their jobs. Casting a broader net enabled the school to be more selective, but it had to reach out to them through the online space. The TFA program today enrolls nearly 1,100 students out of a student body of 2,200.

“Moving the TFA program online and taking it national required a lot of vision and bold action,” said Vice Dean Mariale Hardiman. “David was ahead of the curve in creating a partnership with Laureate to help develop courses and manage enrollments.”

He also engaged the school in a new endeavor to integrate the worlds of the teacher, researcher and policy-maker with the establishment of the Institute for Education Policy. David Steiner, former commissioner of education for the State of New York and dean of Hunter College, was brought onboard to bring these often-disparate communities together in the service of excellence and equity for all American children. To do so, Dean Andrews and Steiner believe that policy must be informed by evidence and sensitized to real-world conditions in our schools.

Dean Andrews also found ways to actively participate in the reform process with his leadership at the Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School (Henderson-Hopkins). It now stands as a testament to his commitment to reforming high-poverty schools and the city it inhabits.

Opened in 2014, Henderson-Hopkins was the first new school built in East Baltimore in 20 years, and it includes the Weinberg Early Childhood Center and classes for grades K-8. He believes a holistic family-centered approach will contribute to restoring safety, prosperity and vibrancy to the East Baltimore community. To demonstrate his personal commitment to the project, he moved into a neighborhood three blocks away from the school.

“Henderson-Hopkins was a very rewarding experience. This is our demonstration site for best practices in education and for anchoring a redeveloping neighborhood with a strong school. We’re dealing with three generations of entrenched poverty. We’re fighting a lot of issues at once, so good instruction in the classroom is not enough. It helped tremendously that Hopkins put its name on it, and it demonstrates our commitment to the neighborhood. We’re not going away.”

One of the key drivers of Dean Andrews’ tenure has been his interest in using current technology and sophisticated data systems to personalize the educational experience for every student. Personalized learning is a developing method of instruction that leverages the latest advancements in science and technology to create an ultra-personalized approach to teaching and learning. Taking into account not only the pupil’s age, but his or her home environment, cultural background, interests, learning style and abilities, personalized learning has been embraced by School of Education researchers as a potential method for improving achievement for all students.

Aside from his administrative duties, he was a founding member of Deans for Impact, a group of leading educators committed to developing more effective teacher preparation programs. He also was a member of Convergence: Center for Policy Resolution in Washington, D.C., whose Education Reimagined platform accelerates the transformation of our school-centered education system into a learner-centered one where all children thrive and are prepared for life.

Given the scale and complexity of the U.S. public education system, Dean Andrews set an ambitious agenda for the School of Education. It was grounded in the vision that ultimately the school serves to prepare schools, as well as students, to become effective agents for a just society. His vision has propelled the School of Education to number one in U.S. News & World Report‘s ranking of graduate programs in education for two consecutive years. This is a position long occupied by the likes of Harvard, Columbia, Stanford and Vanderbilt, much larger and older institutions in education. The school has managed to achieve this status while staying true to an approach that fundamentally challenges the status quo of education in America and around the world.

“To say that David will be difficult to replace is an understatement,” said Robert Slavin, an educational psychologist and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education. “His impact on the School of Education will leave a mark for a very long time, not only at Johns Hopkins but elsewhere as well.”