Oct. 30, 2002
Contact: Carol Anderson

EMU’s Porter Chair Noddings Says Addressing
Physical Needs of Students Can Improve Success

YPSILANTI – Nel Noddings, Eastern Michigan University’s 2002-2003 John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, said she believes learning is not just about how well a student scores on a battery of standardized tests. The formula, she says, for teaching is to genuinely care for students and, in turn, they will want to learn.

Noddings was an elementary and high school teacher and administrator in New Jersey public schools from 1949-1972. She has also conducted research in educational philosophy at various universities since the mid-1970s.

“Teachers should want to help children with their hostility or their shyness,” said Noddings, the Lee Jacks Professor of Education Emerita at Stanford University. “They don’t want to be pushing or forcing kids to get higher scores. But, test scores are all you see in the newspapers. It’s discouraging. Test scores are not the sole barometers of how a school is doing.”

Noddings will discuss “The Ethics of Care and the Future of Feminism,” at a brown bag lunch Monday, Nov. 4, noon-2 p.m., Burson Room, Roosevelt Hall. Call 487-1177.

The Porter Chair in Urban Education is named in honor of John W. Porter, a former EMU president. It is the first endowed chair in the College of Education. James Comer, Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, served as the first chair holder in 1999.

According to Jaclynn Tracy, interim head of EMU’s leadership and counseling department and chair of the Porter Chair committee, Noddings is a renowned educator and fits the criteria for selection as a Porter Chair professor.
Tracy said Porter Chair professors must have appreciable experience with urban schools, understand and have experience with change in an urban setting, and be able to relate to the typical urban school population.

“I would like to learn more about what people here are doing in urban education,” Noddings said of her goals as the Porter Chair. “I think I would like to convince people that many of the problems schools are asked to address today are not the school’s problems, but social problems.”

Noddings pointed to a New York Times editorial by Richard Rothstein that conjectured that if students’ dental, nutrition and safety problems were addressed, their test scores would improve based on those merits alone. During her next visit in November, Noddings plans to visit schools in Flint.

Because standardized tests have become more difficult with more emphasis placed on them as a gauge for student progress, the result is more children are being held back rather than advancing to the next grade, Noddings said. For example, she said 20,000 students in grades 4-7 in Baltimore schools were held back last year. And there’s a possibility 80,000 students in Texas schools will have to repeat a grade this year, she said.

“One thing we’ve learned in education is that when students are held back, they do worse the next year. It’s humiliating. They’re ashamed,” Noddings said. “The solution is to keep them in their age cohorts but put them in very small classes of eight to 10.”

Noddings is the author of 13 books; written more than 125 articles; and spoken about the challenge of caring in schools at conferences in the United States, Canada, England and Japan.

She received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Montclair State College, New Jersey; a master’s degree in mathematics from Rutgers University, New Jersey; and a doctorate in educational philosophy from Stanford University.