Lynn University announces new dean of its Ross College of Education

Craig Mertler’s career has focused on helping school districts make sense of the numbers

Published Jun. 22, 2011

Craig MertlerAfter a national search, Craig Mertler, Ph.D., was selected as the dean of Lynn University’s Ross College of Education after serving as the professor and director of the Doctoral Program in School Improvement at the University of West Georgia.

“Dr. Mertler understands our focus on innovation,” Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross said. “He has developed innovative solutions for America’s education system and has proven success in helping school districts find novel ways to address issues they are facing. His understanding of how schools can not only survive, but flourish in today’s challenging environment is what we want to impart to the next generation of educators and administrators.”

Mertler’s career in higher education has focused on applied classroom and school-based action research that can be used by educators and administrators to develop real-world solutions for their school districts’ needs.

"One of the things I've always taken pride in over my 15-year career in higher education is that just about everything I've done, from my teaching to service and consulting work with schools and districts as well as my scholarship, has always focused on the practicing educator," Mertler said. "I see my role as trying to better understand the work that they do and trying to find ways to improve those conditions.”

When they are looking for solutions to their needs, school districts have a bevy of national education research to shop. However, often the national studies don’t translate well to local or even regional conditions. Mertler has worked with the Bowling Green (OH) City Schools District, Birmingham (MI) Public Schools, Norwalk (OH) City Schools, Edgerton (OH) Local Schools, and Clear Fork Valley (OH) Local Schools, as well as with teacher leaders in Michigan and Georgia, to find solutions that synthesized national and local research to develop localized solutions to meet the needs of educators and administrators in a specific school district.

“Dr. Mertler’s career successfully brings higher education scholarship to bear on real-world issues,” Gregg Cox, Lynn’s acting vice president of academic affairs, said. “As a former high school teacher, he understands the needs of K-12 teachers and administrators and will use this knowledge to build tomorrow’s educators.”

His work has focused on helping local schools interpret testing data—a skill of growing importance considering the standardized testing requirements of Former President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, President Obama’s current Race To The Top program and other federal laws.

"The debate about testing has heated up because more evidence is showing that not only is standardized testing not as effective as believed in terms of improving achievement, some consider it to be counterproductive…when you look at the kinds of budget cuts that schools are taking…and then the continued monies that are put into testing efforts, you have to ask if it is really the best way to spend increasingly limited funds," Mertler said. “I've always taken the approach that standardized testing is not necessarily the be-all-end-all, but if it's something we have to do, we might as well find a way to use the test scores to guide what is done in the classroom."

Interpreting testing information and sorting through the numbers is one thing educators are struggling with in this testing-focused environment because most are not formally trained to do this.

mertler helps schools understand test scores

In 2001, Mertler started a multi-year project with the Bowling Green district that was one of his largest efforts to help a local school district understand how to use testing data to improve their schools. He brought together the entire district’s administrators and teachers and helped them understand how they could use the testing information to develop their curriculum.

“They began to look at test scores very differently,” Mertler said. “They saw them as an additional source of information about student performance that they could factor in with other measures, like classroom tests and performance-based projects. By 2005, it had become part of their culture. Every year, they sit down and examine their scores across the district to identify areas where they are doing a good job and areas where they can improve.”

He has also published two books related to helping schools understand how to understand and use testing data to improve: Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators and Interpreting standardized test scores: Strategies for data-driven instructional decision making.

Mertler plans to bring this type of thinking to Lynn’s Ross College of Education.

"I think there are so many possibilities associated with work that could come out of the Ross College of Education,” Mertler said. “I think that this whole idea of being in a climate where higher education and public schools need to be more innovative gives us a lot of opportunities to begin to carve out a unique niche that Lynn could fill with respect to educator and administrator preparation."

He earned his master’s degree in Educational Research and Evaluation from The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. in Educational Measurement and Evaluation from Florida State University.