Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell shuttered its Department of Education over the course of two years from 2010 to 2012, citing issues with resources. Now, some students are asking for its return.

December 9, 2019

Years After Cornell Closed Its Department of Education, Students Are Asking For Its Return

Print More

Every Cornellian has heard Ezra Cornell’s famous motto for the University: “Any Person, Any Study.” While Cornell boasts 80 major fields from eight undergraduate colleges, there is one gap in the education the University provides.

Students who attend Cornell cannot major in Education, and, as a result, cannot be certified to teach K-12; in fact, there is no longer a Department of Education at Cornell after being shuttered over the course of two years starting in 2010.

“We do not have the additional resources that would need to be invested in the program to ensure its pre-eminence as we move into the future,” said Kathryn Boor ’80, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in a Cornell press release announcing the department’s closure nine years ago.

Cornell’s teacher certification program, a master’s program that allowed students to be approved to teach in New York state, also wound down at the same time, due to lack of resources and costly new accreditation requirements implemented after 2008.

“New York State had its own accrediting body for teacher certification. The recession hit that accrediting body very, very hard … All the programs that used to be accredited by New York State now had to get national accreditation,” said Prof. Bryan Duff, development sociology, who said such a hurdle “requires more resources, more money, more faculty, [and] lots of time.”

“When I first got here in 2011, Cornell had a teacher certification program, and so, we could train teachers. We could recommend them for New York State certification. But only in agriculture and the STEM fields,” Duff told The Sun, noting the limitations of its program.

But the decision to not seek national accreditation, and instead close its department, was not one mirrored by other schools, however. Duff pointed out that nearby schools Cazenovia College and Ithaca College decided to conform to the new regulations in order to keep on offering their education program.

As a result, Cornell students interested in getting certified to teach humanities, for instance, are  encouraged to apply to the teacher certification program at Ithaca College.

“After Cornell got rid of its teacher certification program, we formalized that referral process a little more … we call it on the website, an Articulation Agreement, but all it really says is, if you complete the Education minor at Cornell and do a lot of fieldwork in the process … you do have to apply to Ithaca College, but you do not have to get letters of recommendation,” Duff said.

Such a process aims to make up for the University’s lack of a certification program, providing an easier pathway to teacher certification for Cornell students, while also creating closer links between the two schools.

For instance, since Ithaca College previously did not have a program to certify teachers in agricultural education, Prof. Jeffrey Perry ’89, development sociology, now works as a full-time professor at Cornell and an adjunct professor at Ithaca College, allowing its students to be certified in that field.

“While we did lose the major and we no longer certify here, I’ve run four cohorts at Ithaca College, and in the 30 years that I’ve been teaching, the students coming out of Ithaca College are stronger teachers than what we produced at Cornell,” Perry said.

And even though the University’s education imprint has been significantly reduced, students interested in pursuing the field can still pursue the Education minor, which Perry called an important component of Cornell’s Education structure.

According to Perry, students who major in any field and pursue an Education minor are ultimately more “content-based teachers” than those who major in Education, highlighting the notion that Cornell’s lack of an Education Department does not necessarily make for poor educators.

Kyle-Avory Muna ’21, a student pursuing the minor, too echoed these sentiments, saying that the lack of a “full-on” education department has given reason to be “more creative with my education at Cornell,” which will “make me a better educator.”

Nevertheless, Muna said that reconstituting Cornell’s dormant Education department could send an important “signal to the New York state community and abroad that Cornell actually cares about education.”