In Memoriam: David K. Cohen

We are devastated to report the death of David K. Cohen, a founding member of the Albert Shanker Institute’s board of directors who honored us with his service for 20 years. David was a gifted teacher, a brilliant scholar, and an absolute mensch. He was an inspiration and mentor to his colleagues and the many students he taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan, and the many students they in turn will touch. 

David was the John Dewey Collegiate Professor of Education Emeritus and Professor of Public Policy Emeritus at the Graduate School of Education and the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. For the past five years, he served as a visiting faculty member at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he had been a tenured faculty member from 1971 until 1984. He also served as  president of The Huron Institute (1971-86). He then served as the John Hannah Chair at Michigan State Universitys College of Education (1984-93) before coming to the University of Michigan.

Prior to his academic career, David was a consultant on schools and race to the general counsel of the NAACP (1964-66) and then director of the Race and Education Project for U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1966-67), where his research established how Northern states preserved segregation by redrawing school district boundaries and how early federal funds for under-resourced schools did not greatly improve instruction.

His early work included studies of instructional improvement, studies of various efforts to reform schools and teaching, the evaluation of educational experiments and large-scale intervention programs, and the relations between research and policy. His more recent research interests included educational policy, the relationship between policy and instruction, and the improvement of teaching.

A scholar of teaching, learning, and social policy, David was motivated by a quest for social justice, civil rights, and for equal educational opportunities for all students. A prolific and insightful writer, he authored seven books and numerous highly influential essays, receiving the American Educational Research Associations Palmer O. Johnson Award in 2004 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Educational Policy and Politics Division in 2015. He was an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education.

David is survived by his wife Magdalene Lampert, his daughter Lisa Cohen and her partner Vanessa Haney, his daughter Sarah Cohen, his grandson Abraham Cohen Tapia, and his brothers John Cohen and James Cohen and their wives (Linda Putnam and Mary Gibson). Information on services are not yet known.

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