In Memory of




Obituary for David K. Cohen

David was beloved as a teacher, writer, cook, and gardener. His legacy lives on in the family he loved and inspired, in the beautiful home and garden he created in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife,Magdalene, in his scholarly publications, and in the work of the many colleagues,students,and educators whose lives he touched,and in the lives they will touch.On August 21, 2020, David was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. He was able to be at home for a month,say goodbye to his family,and offer much wit and wisdom about dying and living to his loved ones.A prolific scholar of teaching, learning, and social policy, David was a renowned writer and beloved teacher and mentor.At the heart of his work was a focus on instruction and on the transactions that interact to produce students’ learning opportunities and learning outcomes. Through his research, he has shown that resources––school funding, teachers’ capacity, class size, curriculum, teacher compensation––impact the outcomes of schooling but only as a function of how they are deployed, interpreted, and used, and how those uses ultimately affect what happens inside the classroom. Author of seven books and numerous highly influential essays, he received the American Educational Research Association’s 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.From 2015 until 2020, David was a visiting faculty member at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he had been a tenured faculty member from 1971 until 1984. He became the John Hannah Chair at Michigan State University’s College of Education in 1984. He was Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan.Prior to his career in academia, David was consultant to the general counsel of the NAACP on schools and race (1964-66)and then director of the Race and Education Project for U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1966-67) where his research established both how Northern schools preserved segregation by redrawing school district attendance boundaries and how early federal funds targeted toward under-resourced schools did not greatly improve instruction.David is survived by his wife Magdalene Lampert, his daughter Lisa Cohen and her beloved partner Vanessa Haney, his daughter Sarah Cohen, his grandson Abraham Cohen Tapia, and his brothers John Cohen an dJames Cohen and their wives Linda Putnam and Mary Gibson.