New York Scholars That Changed Education

New York has always been a hub of the United States in a number of different ways. For a long time and even more so quite recently, New York has been leading the charge in innovative educational changes. This includes new initiatives, new laws, and new programs aimed at improving the educational system and giving students a better shot at short-term and long-term success. From NYU to Columbia to Cornell, New York has led the way in educational excellence, and scholars and leaders within the state are bringing that exuberance and belief in positive change to the K-12 schools as well. Education has changed drastically many times over the past several years, and it will continue to shift and evolve as our leaders establish new standards for our educational systems and new ways to implement those positive changes. The following scholars are New Yorkers who have changed education in a number of ways in the past, and many of them continue to make strides toward improving our schools and setting our students up for success.

Geoffrey Canada

Growing up in a poor and violent neighborhood in the Bronx did not stop Geoffrey Canada from achieving academic success. He completed his undergraduate studies at Bowdoin College and later received a master’s degree from Harvard. He was determined to help children who were growing up the way he did. He worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone for more than 30 years, serving as both the president and CEO of the organization. He is known as a leader in education because of his passion for educational reform and an advocate for underprivileged and underserved students in New York City. Mr. Canada has been on multiple television shows, given TED talks, has written two books, was named an influential person of the year by Time Magazine, served on the Commission on Economic Opportunity in New York, and was appointed to the New York State Governor’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. He also serves on many boards of nonprofit organizations and continues to educate countless individuals about how to help children succeed.

Joel Klein

After attending New York public schools as a child, Joel Klein went on to get his bachelor’s degree from Columbia and his law degree from Harvard. He served as clerk to a judge on the United States Court of Appeals as well as another judge on the US Supreme Court. He worked for a non-profit that served developmentally and mentally disabled individuals, as well as worked in the White House and for the United States Department of Justice. He was also the United States Assistant Attorney General and the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. He is given much credit for bringing about a renewed sense of hope to the educational system in New York City, and he has made significant changes that revolutionized elementary curriculum. He also had an effect on principal autonomy and increased wages for teachers.  

Cami Anderson

While serving as school superintendent in both New York and New Jersey, Cami Anderson was determined to educate everyone that students can indeed succeed regardless of their life’s circumstances. She is a leader in change, she co-founded a network of charter schools that aim to serve students involved in issues with the court, and she served as the director of Teach for America New York. She is a widely published author, was named one of Time’s most influential people, and continues to push for change and reform in a variety of fields and initiatives.

Arun Alagappan

Raised in Queens, Alagappan went to school at the United Nations International School where he began tutoring other students at age 17. He graduated from Princeton University and went on to Harvard Law, where he worked as a teaching fellow. He was on the board of editors for Harvard’s International Law Journal, and he later worked as a lawyer and served as a clerk to a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. He created a company called Advantage Testing that offers tutoring and test prep services to students, often those preparing for the SAT. He is considered an expert on the SAT and standardized testing in general, and has spoken on the topic many times on media outlets such as CNN and Bloomberg Television. He was named one of the most influential people in education by New York Magazine in 2006 and has received countless other awards and accolades for his influence in education.

Randi Weingarten

Growing up with a mom for a teacher, Randi Weingarten understood the rights and responsibilities of those in education from an early age. After attending a New York high school, she went on to get a bachelor’s from Cornell and a JD degree from Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law. She worked as a lawyer where she began interacting with the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) as an adjunct law professor and as a real estate attorney. She later began working with the UFT, handling many high-level grievances and lawsuits, some of which dealt with school safety and educational funding. Weingarten held several roles at the UFT and AFT (American Federation of Teachers) where she faced many tough yet important issues in education, such as educational reform, standardized testing, poverty within schools, as well as teacher retention, training, pension, tenure, and retirement.

Clara Hemphill

First and foremost a mom, Clara Hemphill made a huge impact on the educational system in New York when she began a parents’ guide to public schools in New York City. She worked as an investigative journalist for years, but she found little to no information about local public schools when her children were set to begin kindergarten, so she created a resource called Inside Schools. It’s a comprehensive guide to every single school in NYC, and it’s an extremely beneficial tool for parents looking to get their kids into the schools that are best suited for their academic needs. Hemphill’s accomplishments include writing three books, being named one of New York Magazine’s most influential New Yorkers, working as a reporter and editorial writer for New York Newsday, receiving a Pulitzer Prize, working as a foreign correspondent, and being a published author in countless notable periodicals.