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Neag School of Education climbs into U.S. News & World Report’s Top 25

by Beth Krane & Janice Palmer - April 10, 2006

The University’s Neag School of Education has made a meteoric rise in the U.S.News & World Report rankings, shooting into the top 25 graduate schools of education nationwide for the first time this year compared to four years ago, when the school didn’t make the top 50 cut.

The Neag School leapt eight slots from last year to rank 21st among all graduate schools of education in the country. In addition to remaining the top public graduate school of education in the northeast, the Neag School is now regarded as one of the top two public graduate schools of education along the entire east coast, second only to University of Virginia at No. 19.

Four of the School’s core programs also ranked in the top 25, including: Curriculum & Instruction (22), Elementary Education (18), Secondary Education (12), and Special Education (21).)

Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School, believes the rankings exemplify the growing national reputation the Neag faculty, research, and programs enjoy, especially among the school’s peers.

“The Neag School is now a school of choice,” Schwab says.

“We are proud to have some of the nation’s top graduate students and highly-respected scholars calling us, which has created a significant talent pool to draw from.”

Each year, U.S. News gathers opinion data from program directors, senior faculty, school superintendents, and deans to rank professional school programs.

Statistical indicators supplied by each school are used to measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students.

A rise in the Neag School’s assessment by the nation’s deans of education, coupled with gains in the GRE scores of incoming students, and continued increases in faculty research funding, helped propel the Neag School to No. 21.

Consider these recent achievements:

  • The amount of research grants and contracts awarded to the Neag faculty has tripled in six years, reaching $15.5 million in the 2006 rankings report.
  • The average GRE score of incoming education students rose 23 points within the past year alone, to a combined score of 1201.
  • The Neag School’s doctoral program in kinesiology was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. this year by the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education, one of the highest honors in its field.

“While we’re proud of our ranking, ultimately, this is all about improving learning for children here in Connecticut and nationwide,” Schwab says.

“We are in a far better position today to accomplish this because of the $21 million investment Ray Neag made in our school, along with other generous individuals who have helped raise our endowment to over $32 million. We’re able to hire top people, recruit top students, and increase our research efforts on the critical issues facing our schools and communities.”

For example, in 2005, the Neag School recruited George Sugai, one of the nation’s most prominent experts in behavioral practices to fill the Carole J. Neag Chair in Special Education.

Don Leu, who holds another endowed chair, the John and Maria Neag Chair in Literacy and Technology, also is regarded as one of the top national experts in his field.

Additionally the Neag School’s talented faculty members hold leadership positions in some of the nation’s top professional organizations and peer-reviewed journals, including the presidencies of the National Association for Gifted Children, the National Reading Conference, the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, and the Council of Academic Deans from Research Institutions.

The stage was set for the Neag School’s rise about seven years ago, after the leadership team developed and implemented a carefully crafted plan to invest in selected centers of excellence, including teacher education, gifted education, exercise science, literacy and numeracy, special education, and educational leadership.

That plan received a boost in 1999 when the school received a $21 million endowment, the largest any school of education in the country had ever been awarded.

That gift, from UConn alumnus Ray Neag, and another $3 million in matching funds from the state, gave the school the   resources to fund its vision and invest in its signature programs.

Other critical investments have also contributed to the Neag School’s rise, funded an increase in the number of scholarships, and supported an aggressive faculty recruitment effort.

The funding received includes a $5 million gift the Neag School and College of Liberal Arts & Sciences received from the Carnegie Corp. of New York as part of its innovative education reform effort, Teachers for a New Era; $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide professional development of the state’s superintendents and principals, and several multi-million dollar federal grants to improve reading and literacy skills among children in low socio-economic school districts.

The U.S.News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools 2006 were published in the April 3 issue of its weekly magazine.

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