School & District Management

Urban Education

January 17, 2001 2 min read
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Big-City Doctorate: Hoping to improve the quality of education in the nation’s largest public school system, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York is starting a doctoral program in urban education.

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More information on the new Doctoral program in education is available from the Graduate Center at (212) 817-7170.

Applications are being accepted for the program, which begins next fall and will offer the first CUNY doctorate in education, a university official said.

Unlike many such programs in urban education that prepare candidates for top district leadership posts, CUNY will have a broader focus.

“We are looking at people who are interested in taking a research perspective, but primarily to affect the quality of teaching in city schools,” said Nicholas Michelli, the dean of teacher education programs at CUNY. “It’s a matter of social responsibility to bring the issue of teaching to bear on urban schools.”

Coursework will concentrate on two research agendas and how they intersect: curriculum and instruction, including the social, political, and economic context of policies that shape them. Students will do fieldwork and hold internships in leadership and policymaking settings, including in the 1.1 million-student New York City school system.

Fifteen “founding faculty” members from a variety of academic disciplines will lead the program, which will accept 20 students in its first year.

“In order to investigate urban education as a social and cultural process, the program will integrate a wide range of specialist disciplines available at the Graduate Center,” said Jay Lemke, the program’s founding executive officer.

One reason the CUNY program is likely to be watched closely is that urban education, with its distinctive policy and social climate, is often lumped in with general education research and coursework.

“There’s some debate about whether urban education is a field unto itself,” said Shirley Schwartz, the director of special projects for the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based coalition of urban school districts. “Intuitively, it makes sense, but not all academics agree.”

While CUNY has shown that it has moved beyond that debate by establishing its urban focus, that’s where the work will begin for its new students.

“We don’t think our kids are different or the goals are different. But the policy is different,” Mr. Michelli said. “Teacher preparation and funding require a special lens. That’s what we want to do.”

—Robert C. Johnston

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A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2001 edition of Education Week

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