David J. Chard, dean of Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been elected as Chair of National Board for Education Sciences.
Chard was nominated by President Obama and approved by the U.S Senate in 2012 as a member of the board. He was then elected as chair by the board when the previous board chair finished her two-year term.
“I was not expecting it at all,” Chard said.
As chair of the board, his responsibilities include organizing tri-annual board meeting agendas, working with congressional staff and other stakeholders on the Education Sciences Reform Act, and institutes’s budget.
“It’s an honor to be in this position, but this is a very important position because this is our research and development effort for the country,” Chard said.
The 15-member board, part of the U.S. Department of Education, advises the research priorities for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The institute manages, monitors and funds education research for the U.S. It also runs small and large scale educational innovation, basic social science and psychological studies related to teaching and learning. IES has a budget of $450 billion annually.
“If you believe that education is the driver of a health economy, and it’s the thing that helps people meet their dreams, then being involved in the research and development to improve it is one of the things most people dream to be part of,” he said.
He will be in Washington monthly to meet with congressional and institute staff.
“This type of role you build trust with institute staff congressional staff and outside stake holders,” he said. “When you ask for more money, they believe you’re using that effectively, they trust you’re being honest. Those kinds of things are the things you use in any kind of life relationship.”
Chard turned down a job before as Commissioner of Education and Special education because he would have to taken a leave of absence.
“I didn’t want to leave SMU,” he said. “It was a critical time in the building of the school. We’re building a team that was excited about doing something new.”
Chard came to SMU in 2007 as the founding dean of Simmons. He built the faculty, increased funding for the school and developed the curriculum.
“Before David the school really was only being planned,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Ludden.
A goal for Simmons is to have a school that thinks about education differently. Chard emphasizes using a “what works” model rather than “what has always been done” model based on research both as board chair and dean.
“Having David manage that committee will be a positive for education in our country,” Ludden said. “David understands the educational landscape, need for leaders in education and the need for new ideas in education.”
Chard believes there are two parts of education. Building the knowledge and skill of conveying information and the relationship of people and education.
“The best teachers are those committed to their students and the students feel that,” Chard said. “Even if you’re not their favorite deliverer of information, if they trust you’re there for the right reasons then students will want to have a relationship with you because you believe in them.”
Chard taught high school math and chemistry in public school in the U.S. and in the Peace Corps in Lesotho, Africa.
“These kids were committed and showing up for class each day,” he said. “Unfortunately there wasn’t any job prospect for them.”
Education becomes more expensive as a student progresses in Africa. There is an underdeveloped economy, leaving students with only the options of going into education, government or clergy.
“I learned public education is very important to the life we have,” Chard said. “Even though we complain about it.”
Chard would ride horseback to rural areas to deliver school supplies to elementary schools.
“I still think about it a lot,” he said.
He taught for a total of 8 years before going to graduate school in 1990. He then taught at Boston University, University of Texas and University of Oregon before coming to SMU.
“There are transportable leadership skills,” Chard said. “So many things we do in life related to building relationships with people.”
Simmons Centennial professor of Education Policy and Leadership, and Associate Dean Michael Mclendon sees Chard’s leadership and drive as infectious.
“Dean Chard is an inspiring leader, and this I have learned first-hand,” Mclendon said. “It has been one of the great privileges of my professional career, in coming to work with David these past two years.”
Chard also believes partnering with the community is essential. The Simmons School is actively involved with non-profit and philanthropic organizations, businesses, cities and school systems in helping to improve educational opportunity, equity and outcomes.
“He is a great believer in education and the power of education to transformer to young lives,” Ludden said. “He believes education in our country needs to be reformed to be more accessible to all members of our society.”
The school works with West Dallas and Vickery Meadows through the Center on Communities and Education that endeavors to close the education gap for low-income communities.
Both Vickery Meadows and West Dallas neighborhoods have a large concentration of Central African refugees and Hispanic populations.
“It’s hard to be completely culturally competent,” he said. “You make yourself open to try to understand it. That’s what you try the hardest for.”
Chard, who grew up in a small Michigan town, tried to help his three children be culturally aware by travel and immersing them in other cultures.
According to Ludden, Chards views on research, education and culture reflects on well on SMU and its Simmons graduates.
“It says SMU is a place that attracts and provide opportunities for great thought leaders to move our society,” Ludden said.