Archive for Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Heard on the Hill: KU coaching for teachers program makes ‘New Yorker’ pages; university presidents across the country are getting older; additional details clarify Wall Street Journal ranking article

September 27, 2011


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• Thanks to the sweet tipster who pointed out that KU got a nice mention in a story in The New Yorker written by Atul Gawande, who’s written a lot about health care reform.

In this story, he discusses how many top performers have coaches, and makes mention of a KU program that essentially provides “coaching” for teachers.

He talks with Jim Knight, at the KU Center for Research on Learning. Knight is director of the Kansas Coaching Project, which Gawande explains in some detail.

“For decades, research has confirmed that the big factor in determining how much students learn is not class size or the extent of standardized testing but the quality of their teachers,” Gawande writes. “Policymakers have pushed mostly carrot-and-stick remedies: firing underperforming teachers, giving merit pay to high performers, penalizing schools with poor student test scores. People like Jim Knight think we should push coaching.”

Interesting stuff.

• I spotted an interesting report in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Graying Presidency.” (You’ll need a subscription to read it).

Bernadette Gray-Little, our chancellor, was 64 when she was hired in May 2009, and will turn 67 next month. While she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon, I do seem to recall many people (regents, search committee members) telling me that the national average for chancellors and presidents these days was a term of between five and seven years.

The Chronicle put that figure at seven to 10 years.

The article’s essential point was that searches for presidents and chancellors are going to get a little more difficult in the coming years with more universities looking.

Also, the article cites a 2008 survey by the Council of Independent Colleges that found that one-third of provosts aren’t interested in becoming presidents, which is often viewed as a logical progression for that position.

So fewer qualified candidates might be available.

Institutions in the Association of American Universities (like KU), the article points out typically will look to hire a sitting president or a provost from a higher-ranked institution (like Gray-Little, who was serving as provost at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before she was hired at KU).

Here’s a chart comparing the ages of several of the nation’s chief university executives.

"It's no fun to be followed around by a campus newspaper. It's no fun to have people writing blogs about you," said Ruth J. Simmons, the president of Brown University, who recently announced her intention to step down from that role. "And yet, if we cannot do this work without it, we must endure."

• I received a little feedback to an article in the Wall Street Journal I linked to on Friday, both in the comments and elsewhere. I figured I’d take a little time to clarify a few items.

First — as an eagle-eyed commenter pointed out — the research rankings used by the newspaper didn’t factor in KU Medical Center’s research with the Lawrence campus, as the AAU does.

Another professor pointed to these rankings from the National Science Foundation that place KU at 79 in total research expenditures and 81 in federal research funding. That's in comparison to the 138 overall ranking the Wall Street Journal cited.

The medical center discrepancy probably accounts for that difference.

The AAU allows KU to count its medical center research in its overall total. The University of Nebraska, which was unceremoniously booted from the AAU, wasn’t allowed to, which confused another commenter.

“Because the UN Medical Center in Omaha is materially farther away from Lincoln than KU Med in Overland Park is from Lawrence?” the commenter wondered. “That just doesn't make sense.”

I believe the answer lies in the fact that, in Nebraska, the medical center campus is considered a different campus entirely within the University of Nebraska system, and isn’t under the purview of the flagship campus in Lincoln.

The KU chancellor still maintains control over KU Medical Center, and so I believe that’s why KU gets to count that research for AAU purposes.

• Heard on the Hill is proud to be one of those annoying blogs that rudely blares out chancellor’s ages for all to hear. Feel free to contribute tips of your own to Heard on the Hill, rude or not, to


Jim Williamson 6 years, 5 months ago

A search for a university in Kansas should be nearly impossible. Who in their right mind would want to run a university when it's become clear that Gov. Brownshirt and the turbo-right wing Kansas legislature don't value higher education, at best, or want to keep Kansans stupid, at worst?

Until big changes occur in Topeka, Kansas is where a bright, young higher ed administrator/scholar/fund raiser's career would come to die.

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