Embarking on a New Era: A Letter from Carnegie Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Lowery

July 29, 2020

Nearly 115 years ago, Congress chartered the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to “do and perform all things necessary to encourage, uphold, and dignify the profession of the teacher and the cause of higher education.” Early in its history, the Foundation helped shape the U.S. system of higher education—from admissions to financial aid and pensions. More recently, the mission of the Foundation has expanded to include strengthening preparation for the next generation of teachers and educational leaders and working directly on advancing more equitable educational outcomes in K-12.

Each era of the Foundation has been shaped by a distinguished leader who marshalled scholars and distinguished practitioners to address the challenges facing the education field. Since 2008, Anthony Bryk has transformed the Foundation’s work to bridge the disconnect between research and practice through improvement science and networked improvement communities.

Some 18 months ago, Tony began a conversation with the Board of Trustees about the future of the Foundation. Recognizing that to truly transform how schools improve is a generation’s effort, it was in his view a good time to begin thinking about a leadership transition that would allow the Foundation to continue to press this mission forward over the long term. Earlier this year, the Trustees accepted Tony’s decision to step down as president effective the end of this calendar year, and the Board has initiated a national search for his successor.

It’s hard to overstate Tony’s contributions to the Foundation and to the field of improvement science in education. From his pioneering research on school reform in Chicago, to his vision for a systematic approach for “learning fast in order to achieve quality outcomes reliably at scale,” Tony has inspired us to get better at getting better. Under his leadership, the Foundation:

Without a doubt, Tony is leaving the Foundation stronger and more relevant than when he joined 12 years ago. The next president will build on these achievements and, with the extraordinarily talented staff now assembled at the Foundation, continue to forge more productive relationships between researchers and practitioners and to strengthen our partnerships with the field.

The education challenges before us remain daunting: persistent inequities in outcomes for students of color; a lack of experience with continuous improvement at all levels; and a continued fixation on short-term fixes in education. Over the past few months, we have also witnessed the devastating impacts of school closures related to Covid-19 and the pressing need to improve distance learning to meet the needs of all students.

It is because of these challenges—and the urgency we feel in addressing them—that I believe our work is more important today than ever before. The Foundation will remain a champion for systematic, disciplined approaches to improve outcomes for historically underserved students, and I am confident that the next era in our history will live up to the legacy of the past century.

I wish you health and safety during these difficult times, and I look forward to sharing more information about our search with the Carnegie Foundation community later this year.

–Lillian Lowery