Jonathan D. Becker, J.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Educational Leadership

Virginia Commonwealth University


twitter: jonbecker

skype: soejdb




After graduating cum laude from Duke University with a B.A. in Public Policy Studies in 1994, Jonathan Becker received a law degree and a masters degree in curriculum and instruction from Boston College Law School and the Boston College Graduate School of Education in 1997. Additionally, in May of 2003. Jonathan earned a Ph.D. in the Politics of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. From September 2002 to August 2007, Jonathan was an assistant professor in the Department of Foundations, Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education and Allied Human Services at Hofstra University. Now as an assistant professor at the Educational Leadership Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, Jonathan is teaching courses in school law, educational research methods, and technology leadership. Prior to beginning his professorial career, Jonathan served as Research Director at Interactive, Inc., an educational research and consulting company. In his capacity at Interactive, Inc., Jonathan directed and was involved in a number of research projects focused mostly on the achievement and equity effects of educational technology. Framed largely as mixed-methods evaluation research, these studies ranged from small-scale studies of school-based programs to federally funded statewide evaluations. As a principal investigator in a recent federally-funded study, Jonathan pioneered the use of novel data collection techniques including the use of desktop monitoring software to gauge file activity on classroom-based computers. Those developments were recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.


In a blog post dated May 17, 2008, "borrowing" a style that Peter King uses In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column on CNN/SI, I wrote about the 10 Things I Think I Think About Education. Here's what I wrote:

1. I think the thinkers/writers who've most influenced my thinking are Kieran Egan, Roger Schank and, well, I'd have to say John Dewey. I challenge you to read the following narratives by those three men, synthesize them in your head and tell me what you come up with (and, yes, I know that Egan is critical of Dewey, but that's fine by me): Egan article; Schank & Jona white paper; Dewey book chapter
2. I think the best book on education I've read to this point continues to be Schoolteacher by Dan Lortie. Over three decades later, Lortie's work stands out as THE definitive exploration (methodologically and substantively) of the "ethos of teaching." If you haven't read this book, please add it to your summer reading list.
3. I think we too often use the terms "education" and "schooling" interchangeably. They are too very different things. I think of schooling as a subset of the larger idea of education. This is not at all a novel idea, but I do think we need to continually remind ourselves of it.
4. I think if you read or hear someone saying that there is a "program" or "initiative" or "reform" that significantly improves student achievement for a large group of students (lets say, for arguments sake, greater than 384), especially in a short period of time, they are lying (or, at least, terribly misleading you). There are lots of ideas/programs/curricula/etc. out there designed by really smart, well-intentioned people. But, I promise you, none of them will dramatically and suddenly alter the achievement growth trajectory for any large group of students. None.
5. I think, having just written that, the bodies of research that are most compelling with respect to improving student outcomes (notice I didn't write "achievement") are about small class sizes, quality early childhood education, and year-round learning. In other words, if you told any educator that next year they were going to have a much smaller class, with kids who had high quality early childhood educational experiences, and who have had learning opportunities during the summer months, they'd be thrilled. If we're going to continue the institution of public schooling, we ought to think about improving early childhood educational opportunities for all kids, moving away from the agrarian-based educational schedule, and reducing class sizes (I might even be so bold as to suggest we break down classroom walls altogether; how open education of me). Notice I've written nothing here about technology?...that body of research is neither robust nor consistent enough yet. )-:
6. I think emphasizing evidence-based practice in education is a good idea. I think embracing a very narrow view of what counts as a warranted knowledge claim (i.e. what counts as evidence) is absurd.
7. I think whereas there has necessarily been great attention given to issues of between-schools segregation by race in the U.S., there is a huge, insidious problem of within-schools segregation in far too many schools in the U.S. For those of you that work in or know of schools with a reasonable semblance of racial diversity (yes, both of you), take a look at your school population and then the populations of the kids in: special education, gifted and talented programs, advanced placement courses, the APs office for disciplinary referrals, etc. Do those populations have the same racial compositions? I thought not.
8. I think we need more principals like Chris Lehmann and Tim Lauer. I kept that list short, for lots of reasons.
9. I think "Leadership Without Followers" by Chris Dede continues to be relevant and the framework for all that I believe about educational leadership.
10. I think all kids can learn...I'm just not sure they can do it well enough within the confines of 99.99% of the schools in the United States.
There, I said it...or at least wrote it.