Grant Kuehl '15 Searches America for Great Teachers

In the summer of 2012, Grant Kuehl '15 spent three weeks traveling the country in search of America's truly great teachers. The elementary education major received a travel grant for advanced study to complete his project, titled "Few and Far Between: The Hunt for Quality Education and Great Teachers for American Students", and spent time in California and Washington, D.C. learning about the educational systems in place there. He was able to meet with members of education boards, politicians, and school faculty members throughout his trip and talk to them about education in their districts.

"I was approached by Dr. Leighton after the first semester of my freshman year about doing something like this," Kuehl said. "I'm really interested in education reform, so being able to focus on learning more about that was my main motivation."

Two days after his freshman year ended, when most other students were arriving home to relax for the summer, Kuehl left Emmanuel for Washington, D.C. - the first stop on his three-week journey. His studies followed Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the D.C. public school system, and her ideas for education reform.

"She was definitely the main focus of the whole project," he said. "A lot of her ideas for reform were based on teacher evaluations, making sure that we had great teachers in every single classroom, and fiscal responsibility."

Kuehl met up with Emmanuel alumni in Washington to study some of the work that was being done in the classrooms there and how the school system there was affected by the work that Rhee had put into place. He interviewed teachers and principals there to get their opinions on the work that she had done and how they felt about the state of education reform today. After Washington, he traveled to Sacramento - following the path that Rhee actually took during her career.

"Michelle Rhee moved from D.C. to Sacramento to continue her work, so I got to follow that path and see the before and after of the things she put into place, which was awesome," he said.

Kuehl spent his time in California working with the school districts in both Sacramento and Los Angeles, doing similar studies to the work he did in Washington.

"A lot of my work focused on teacher evaluations, and moving from evaluating needs through tools like assessments and standardized tests to evaluating the whole child and their knowledge experience," he said. "I also took a look at parents and their role in a child's education - many of the ideas and tools they have can help schools from the outside in."

Kuehl, who is hoping to eventually have a career in public education reform, was amazed at some of the changes that have been made in the country's educational systems in recent decades.

"There was a 1-page sheet used in 1964 by D.C. schools to evaluate their teachers," he told me. "In 2002-2003, it was a 67-page document. It's becoming more and more structured every year."