Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll

President Emeritus, NCTAF (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future)


Stop fixing the schools we have so that we can create the schools we need.

We don’t have the time or the resources to do both. The great recession is actually a system reset opportunity. Our hundred-year tradition of solo artisan teaching is no longer fiscally viable or educationally sound. School leaders who hunker down with retrenchments to weather this downturn will lose to those who navigate their way to the future by reinventing teaching and learning. We have an urgent need and an unprecedented opportunity to remake American education.


The future of American education is about less teaching and more learning.

We are living in the Learning Age. Yesterday we went to school to learn how to work—today learning is the workWe need to transform schools from teaching factories into 21st century learning organizations that look and function like the spaces their students will work in for the rest of their lives. To accelerate this transformation, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) has created seventeen Learning Studios, where we are rapidly prototyping the development of learning teams composed of teachers, students, and industry experts who join forces to tackle complex learning challenges. Learning Studios are transdisciplinary, cross-generational learning places where every participant—adults and children alike—becomes a continuous learner who knows more, does more, and creates more.


We need to reinvent the teaching profession.

In every high performing organization teamwork beats individual effort. A “highly qualified teacher in every classroom” is an idea whose time has passed. We need to replace solo artisan teaching with learning teams that look and function like the professional teams in every other sector of our economy. In learning teams, professional educators orchestrate their knowledge, skill, and experience to personalize student learning.


Instead of plugging the Web into schools—plug the schools into the Web.

For over two decades we have been putting 21st century technology into factory-era schools in a vain attempt to improve industrial era teaching and learning—we see little progress because we are using new tools to do old work. The good news is that during that same period we have used the internet to build an open learning ecosystem, where school is no longer the primary learning space. We need to stop tinkering in the classrooms of the past, so that we can turn our schools into nodes in a globally networked learning environment.


Schools of Education should get out of the teacher preparation business and into the educator development business.

Teacher preparation is rooted in factory-era job training. But today learning is the job. Every teacher should have an opportunity to become an expert learner who works as an effective member of a team of colleagues to facilitate the learning of others. NCTAF created TLINC® (Teachers Learning in Networked Communities) to kick-start 21st century educator development. With support from Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach™ initiative, college faculty, novice teachers, and teacher coaches are using mobile devices to participate in a seamless professional learning community.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Tom Carroll, President, oversees NCTAF’s research, policy, and implementation projects, develops and maintains strategic partnerships, and provides thought leadership about transforming schools from teaching organizations into learning organizations. Prior to joining NCTAF in 2001, Tom founded the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (“PT3”) program, and created the Technology Innovation Challenge Grants Program at U.S. Ed. He was the first Director of Technology Planning and Evaluation for the E-Rate program. Tom also served as the liaison to the Corporation for National Service during the launch of AmeriCorps for U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. He was Deputy Director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. Previously Tom was Director of National Research Centers and Regional Laboratories at the National Institute of Education (NIE). He taught and did research in the School of Education at Clark University and holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo. Tom served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho from 1967-1969.