The strategy group McGuinn is part of is profiled in the September-October 2014 issue of Harvard Magazine. Photos by Bill Cardoni
The strategy group McGuinn is part of is profiled in the September-October 2014 issue of Harvard Magazine. Photos by Bill Cardoni

Political science professor Patrick McGuinn knows his stuff. He is co-author of Educational Governance for the Twenty-First Century: Overcoming the Structural Barriers to School Reform and co-president of New Jersey’s chapter of the Harvard-based Scholars Strategy Network, a policy think tank at Harvard. Yet few outside the academy ever got the benefit of his insights. They remained tucked away at Drew.

That’s changing. Mc Guinn now shares his expertise with policymakers, becoming one of the country’s leading public scholars in the field of educational reform. To accomplish this he distills and sharpens the technical reports he produces as a political scientist. “I took an original report that was 55 pages and condensed it to two or three pages. Influential government staffers are not going to read a 55-page report, but a two-pager focusing on political policy is a smart idea—especially if it’s right,” he says. McGuinn will broaden the conversation on October 24 with a New Jersey Scholars Strategy Network public lecture at Drew featuring Suzanne Mettler, a professor of American institutions at Cornell.

McGuinn certainly has his own views. He distinguishes between policy and implementation. He admits politics have dominated and shaped educational reform. He believes the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Math is a good idea despite having unleashed a national backlash. Common Core standards will replace No Child Left Behind, former President George W. Bush’s bible of educational standards.

“Part of the argument I’ve been making is that there’s a lot of opposition to the Common Core. On the right they call it ‘Obamacore.’ They see it as federal encroachment on states’ rights. On the left, it’s an anti-testing backlash,” he says.

McGuinn thinks public scholars like himself will connect universities to the world at large, something that is sorely needed. “There had long been concern that professors’ research was not accessible to government. We were doing research, but it did not inform public policy as it should,” he says. “Now scholars are affecting public policy.”—Mary Jo Patterson