Ed.D. in Educational Administration, 2009
School of Education
December 1, 2009
Educator Combines Love of Music, Nature, International Experiences, and Lifelong Learning to Benefit Students, Teachers, and Communities
Dr. Ronald Richardson has served in California schools for the past thirty years, teaching at the elementary and secondary levels in LAUSD and Carlsbad. His administrative experience includes four years at the elementary level and 12 years at the middle school level. He received his elementary and secondary credentials and Master’s Degree in Education at UCLA, his administrative services credential at UCI, and his doctorate degree through the UCI / UCLA Joint Ed. D. program in Educational Administration.
Dr. Richardson’s dissertation was titled “Expanding Geographic Understanding in Grade 8 Social Studies Classes Through Integration of Geography, Music, and History: A Quasi-Experimental Study.” Professor Liane Brouillette, his advisor, also serves as director of the multi-university ArtsBridge program. She introduced Dr. Richardson to curricula called “Mapping the Beat” that was originally developed for use in grade 5 classes. Dr. Richardson and two teachers adapted Mapping the Beat lessons and used them in grade 8 social studies classes. This action research project explored a number of problems that are of concern in middle schools across the nation including negative student attitudes toward geography-related subject matter, a perception that social studies is “boring,” a lack of interest in writing, and an alarmingly low level of geographic understanding. Dr. Richardson wondered if one or more of these problems might be influenced through high-interest instructional strategies that included explorations of music, interactive geography explorations, challenging topics, and frequent opportunities for discussion and reflection. This study found statistically significant results in favor of the experimental approach to teaching social studies. The findings suggest that many students respond positively, learning more deeply and writing with greater fluency and complexity, when they are engaged and have an emotional connection and interest in subject matter.
Dr. Richardson’s parents were teachers and community activists who were confident in their abilities to make a positive impact on the world. They regularly gathered up the family for extended road trips, dragging a battered teardrop trailer across the continent, exploring as many national parks, ghost towns, historic landmarks, and museums as possible. During his sixth grade year, Ron’s family took an extended sabbatical that involved their children in investigations of the American Civil War as well as the flora and fauna of national parks, including the Everglades. Experiences such as these heightened Dr. Richardson’s enthusiasm for learning about cultural and physical geography.
After one year at UCLA, Dr. Richardson transferred to UC Santa Cruz where he completed his undergraduate degree. In addition to Santa Cruz’s inspiring beauty, he was delighted to have many smaller, seminar-style classes. He created an independent major which he titled “Human Development,” cobbling together classes and fieldwork projects to explore psychology, anthropology, geography, community studies and foreign languages, working closely with multi-disciplinary professors such as his advisor, Dr. Frank Andrews. During his undergraduate experience, Dr. Richardson conducted fieldwork in innovative schools in England, studied Spanish and French in Europe, worked on a farm in the Ardeche region of Provence, sang in French restaurants, and worked as a camp counselor and mountaineering instructor in Switzerland and France.
In 1973, Dr. Richardson graduated with Honors from UC Santa Cruz. For the next five years he lived outside of the United States, studying Japanese and Aikido for two years near Tokyo.
Dr. Richardson became Academic Director as an Adjunct faculty member of the School for International Training of Vermont, leading American university students on academic programs to Japan, France, India, and Spain. In one situation after another, he found that music helped break down barriers.
For his first five years teaching in public schools, Dr. Richardson served as a bilingual teacher at Tenth Street Elementary in central Los Angeles, working with recent immigrants from Central America. His students responded with unbridled enthusiasm to music; several times each week, he incorporated songs and movement into language arts and social science lessons and organized song-fests and performances for parents and relatives.
For the next seven years Dr. Richardson served as a mentor teacher at Narbonne High School in Harbor City teaching Government, Economics, Advanced Placement U.S. History, Spanish and Japanese. He received a 5-year “Humanitas” grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, resulting in interdisciplinary themes that involved collaborative efforts with teachers of Social Studies, English, Science, and Art, assisted by academic consultants at UCLA and USC. Not surprisingly, Dr. Richardson incorporated music into the American Studies curricula to “jazz” it up and expand interest. For two years, he served as Humanitas coach in LAUSD, helping develop and refine interdisciplinary programs at high schools across the district. He considers the involvement in the Humanitas Academy a highlight of his teaching career.
In 1990, the California Jaycees selected Dr. Richardson as the Outstanding Young Educator of the Year for the South Bay. Soon after, he and his family moved to South Orange County, seeking a smaller town environment for their two young children.
In his next teaching position, Dr. Richardson joined the Carlsbad Unified School District where he taught English, Spanish and Social Studies to English Language Learners again serving as a mentor teacher. He especially enjoyed and valued opportunities to assist new teachers become more effective and confident.
In 1994, Dr. Richardson became an Administrative Intern in Carlsbad and was assigned district-wide responsibilities brought on by drastic cost-saving measures; he concurrently served as Migrant Education Coordinator for 600 children, Assistant Principal of Pine and Jefferson Elementary Schools for 900 students, and Director of the Spanish-English Language Academy, not to mention “other duties, as assigned.”
In 1996, Dr. Richardson accepted the position of Principal at newly opened Tustin Ranch Elementary School. He helped establish traditions, promoted parental involvement, and received $70,000 in grants. Then, for the next seven years he was principal of C.E. Utt Middle School in Tustin. The school’s Title I and at-risk population grew rapidly as a result of re-alignment of boundaries and demographic shifts. Bucking the trend, thanks to intervention classes and extraordinary efforts of the staff, student achievement for the entire school climbed steadily and in 2005, the school was recognized as a California Distinguished School.
During the past four years, while principal of Madrona Middle School in Torrance, Dr. Richardson has expanded his understanding of the Professional Learning Community model, resulting in annual improvements for all student groups at this already high-achieving school. In 2009, Madrona was honored as a California Distinguished School, in recognition of its high achievement, continual improvement, success in closing gaps between sub-groups, powerful intervention classes, and well-coordinated reading and writing across the curriculum.
Dr. Richardson enjoys writing, teaching, singing, kayaking, and his new-found freedom to read for recreation. He is interested in topics inspired by the dissertation research. He and his wife are avid travelers and nature enthusiasts. They are considering a bouquet of possibilities for the coming decades. These include, but are not limited to establishing an institute that may be dedicated to outdoor education, personal growth, and the arts – in some beautiful location, away from pollution but not too far from a vibrant university community, not yet determined – that might involve their two grown children.