Mar. 20, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 12

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    Bryk wins inaugural Fordham Prize for advancing school reform

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Anthony Bryk
    Anthony Bryk, the Marshall Field IV Professor in Sociology, has received a new award that recognizes researchers who have made significant contributions to the study of school reform.

    Bryk is one of two winners of the inaugural Fordham Prize for Distinguished Scholarship from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. The other winner is Paul Peterson, (Ph.D., ’67), a former member of the University’s Education and Political Science faculties. Peterson is now on the faculty of Harvard University. The prize includes a cash award of $25,000.

    The awards recognize scholars, practitioners and policy-makers who have succeeded in advancing the cause of school reform in ways that promote high standards, accountability, diversity and responsiveness to the needs of the community.

    Bryk’s work has focused on Catholic education as well as Chicago public school reform. He helped establish the Center for School Improvement, the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School.

    He is co-author of seven books on schools and school research, including Catholic Schools and the Common Good (1993) and Trust in Schools (2002), which he co-wrote with Barbara Schneider, Professor in Sociology.

    “Bryk’s accomplishments include groundbreaking theoretical work on multilevel statistical modeling,” the foundation stated in its announcement. That theoretical work has enabled researchers to find some of the true causes for the improvement of student achievement.

    “His research has documented that when inner-city students are challenged with ambitious intellectual work, their test scores rise,” the foundation noted.

    Bryk’s research interest in schools, outcomes and equality was inspired in part by research done by the late James Coleman, University Professor in Sociology. Coleman found that Catholic schools succeeded in producing more successful students, even when those students were disadvantaged.

    Bryk found that disadvantaged students succeed in Catholic schools because those schools insist on academic coursework for all students rather than placing some students with less ability into courses that do not demand as much work. Catholic schools also are successful because they create a strong sense of community, Bryk found.

    Before joining the Chicago faculty in 1984, Bryk was a faculty member at Harvard University. He received a B.S. from Boston College in chemistry in 1977 and an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1977.

    At the award ceremony, Bryk discussed the efforts he and his colleagues have made to improve schools. “We seek today, not small, marginal changes in our schools, but rather the invention of new institutions–where students learn in different ways, as well as to much higher levels.” Borrowing a phrase from Daniel Burnham, who designed the plan of the University in 1909, Bryk added, “‘we make no small plans’ here.”