Gordon College Announces Naming of Peter Herschend School of Education, Additional Programs to Accelerate Excellence in Teaching Reading  

Today Gordon College announced the naming of its School of Education—the Peter Herschend School of Education, named in honor of Peter Herschend—and a renewed commitment to resourcing teachers to mitigate the literacy crisis in America. In the birthplace of American education, the state recognized as first in the nation for educating young people, many students still struggle to read. But Gordon College has been bucking this trend, leading the way in using evidence-based methods to teach reading. 

“Reading is foundational for learning and for life. When learning to read is challenging, or when children choose not to read because it is burdensome, they are likely to struggle in all subjects, including math, science, and social studies. The impact extends beyond PK-12 education into college and career options and lifetime earnings. There are impacts on the whole family,” explains Dr. Ellen Ballock, dean of the Peter Herschend School of Education, who has been a leader in teacher education and data-driven continuous improvement for 20 years. 

“For Gordon faculty, literacy is an issue of social responsibility and justice,” Ballock says. “This is why Gordon faculty are committed to the science of reading. We want all PK-12 students to develop into confident and skilled readers, and we know using evidence-based practices yields a benefit to all students.” 

Dr. Ellen Ballock, Dean of the Peter Herschend School of Education

Gordon-trained teachers are committed to changing the trajectory for all students, regardless of learning ability and background, by using evidence-based methods for teaching reading. The Peter Herschend School of Education is poised to expand Gordon’s reach as a leader in language and literacy research and practice. New initiatives include:  

  • A new 9-credit online certificate in the Science of Reading offers a professional development opportunity for teachers looking to build confidence in supporting all developing leaders. The certificate equips teachers with knowledge of structured literacy, profiles of reading difficulty and interventions grounded in the latest research.  
  • An Ed.D. program is in active development, with an anticipated launch within 2–3 years, pending approval by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. This degree will offer tracks in leadership and reading, building on Gordon’s existing strengths to train the next generation of education and literacy leaders at the expert level.  
  • An announced partnership between Gordon College and North Shore Christian School. North Shore Christian School’s Beverly campus will begin renting on-campus space from Gordon in the 2024–25 academic year, providing potential opportunities to enrich the already robust classroom experiences teacher candidates have across diverse school settings. 
  • A new license in Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) equips education majors to impart knowledge of new essential literacy tools, computational thinking and skills to be well-equipped as innovative, digital citizens. Gordon College is one of the first two educational preparation institutions in Massachusetts to offer this. 

Honoring a longstanding commitment to education  

Peter and Jan Herschend

The Peter Herschend School of Education is named in honor of Peter Herschend, in gratitude for his longstanding commitment to education and his dedicated service to the Gordon community. Mr. Herschend is co-founder and co-owner of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, parent company for entertainment attractions including the Harlem Globetrotters, Dollywood theme parks, Silver Dollar City and many more. He has served with distinction on Gordon College’s Board of Trustees since 2000. 

For 32 years and under seven state governors, Mr. Herschend served faithfully on the Missouri Board of Education to empower students of all ages with the strongest academic programming the state could offer. During his tenure as the longest-serving member of the state board, Mr. Herschend became a respected and honored leader in public school administration. His work on the Missouri School Improvement Program reshaped how Missouri public schools set their success standards, pushing them to be accountable for meaningful reading and academic statistics rather than antiquated success metrics like staffing numbers and building specifications. He has long endorsed the need for high-quality reading programs, firmly believing that reading is the pathway to success for all students. 

In 2011 the Missouri Chamber of Commerce honored Mr. Herschend with its Education Supporter of the Year award, and he was inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2018. Mr. Herschend announced his retirement from the Missouri Board of Education in October 2023. 

Leading the way in the science of reading  

The Peter Herschend School of Education builds on Gordon College’s decades-long reputation of offering nationally ranked teacher preparation programs and producing excellent teachers. Gordon’s program is one of two in Massachusetts—and only 18 reading programs in the nation—to receive the Accreditation Plus rating from the International Dyslexia Association. It also received National Recognition from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and consistently ranks as one of the top teaching schools for preparing future teachers. In 2023 Gordon was one of 48 teacher preparation programs in the country, and the only one in Massachusetts, to receive an A+ Rating from the NCTQ for its outstandingly effective methods of evidence-based reading instruction. This is the fourth time the NCTQ has highlighted Gordon in the last three years. 

NECHE, the College’s regional accreditor, commended Gordon for its students’ extremely high pass rates on the high-stakes Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) exams, required for all teachers entering the profession. Gordon graduates are effective, in-demand educators. With nearly 100 percent job placement, Gordon graduates earn exemplary job performance ratings at higher rates than teachers statewide, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Students of Gordon grads are more likely to show the highest levels of growth compared to teachers statewide. 

Gordon also trains teachers in the Wilson Reading System®, a teacher-created, teacher-friendly learning system that implements the science of reading and is used in many local schools. Gordon was one of the first higher education institutions to provide Wilson Language System Certification courses. 

About the Herschend School of Education 

Gordon’s School of Education was established in 2020 to unite its thriving graduate and undergraduate programs under a single roof. Now named, the Peter Herschend School of Education continues to serve first-time teachers, career-changers and current educators and paraprofessionals looking to advance their careers through a variety of undergraduate and graduate program offerings. Undergraduate students may pursue a major or minor in communication sciences and disorders or complete a major in early childhood or elementary education with the option to pursue dual licensure with special education or ESL through completion of a minor. Graduate program offerings at the M.Ed. and Ed.S. levels prepare teachers and school administrators for initial or professional licensure in more than 20 different licensure areas. All Gordon’s programs in education feature rigorous academic coursework coupled with frequent real world practical experiences and personalized advising. Graduates of the Peter Herschend School of Education impact learning worldwide, serving as teachers, interventionists, researchers, and educational leaders.