It’s no surprise that people in the U.S. rank a great educational system as one of their highest priorities. What is surprising is that although the majority of Americans are pleased with the schools to which they send their own children, we are nonetheless uneasy about the quality of U. S. public education in general. We are dismayed that our children are falling behind in national and international comparisons and that employers report new workers are lacking in basic academic and social skills. We get conflicting reports on almost every topic and begin to lose confidence in the “experts.” This new column for The Independent‘s growing website is one venue for your hometown experts at UCSB to tell you the truth about education.

The Gevirtz School is working on all the important issues facing educators and families today. With almost 100 faculty and 400 graduate students, the Gevirtz School is a hub of research, teaching, policy analysis, and public outreach in Santa Barbara and surrounding area. In addition to national and international collaborations, the faculty and research staff work with more than 50 schools in the tri-county area on issues related to English language learning, immigration, child development, violence prevention, mental health, science and mathematics education, literacy and writing, early childhood education, parent education, incorporation of technology in teaching, and leadership training.

Our country rightfully asks for great things from our teachers, who must be smart, compassionate, demanding, moral, tolerant, multi-lingual, great communicators, patient, and democratic. We also demand that our school administrators be great leaders and managers with unquestioned integrity, creativity, planning skills, and community orientation.

To help provide just such professionals, the Gevirtz School develops 100 teachers each year for California schools and graduates other masters and doctoral students who assume leadership positions in universities and educational and mental health agencies. With programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology, teacher preparation, special education, administration, culture, language, literacy, mathematics and science education, and human development the School offers a comprehensive pathway to study education and growth across the life span.>

Political rhetoric and media reports often give distorted views of the evidence that really exists on how children learn best. Teachers are described as key to children’s success, but controversy swirls around how to best prepare them. The country worries about safety and civility in our schools, but we are frustrated by our failure to achieve our goals.

The Gevirtz School faculty has decided to offer the evidence associated with many of the questions we have about U.S. education and child and family welfare in our complex, multicultural, and economically diverse society. Subsequent columns will deal with issues of school safety, bullies, teasing, the role of tests in helping children learn, and much more. We will offer the facts as they are known through careful research. We’ll cut through the politics and ideologies of the day so each column may please some, enrage others, and frustrate still more who imagine that more evidence exists.

We are your university and your source for unbiased evidence about questions that matter. Contact me with your issues. We’ll tell you what’s known and what’s still a mystery in the life long adventure we call education.

Jane Close Conoley, a well known psychologist who believes that a great life-long education is the best gift a society can offer its citizens, is dean and professor of the Gevirtz School. She can be reached at


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