1. Purposes and Goals of the Proposed Ph.D. Program in Urban Education

We propose that the Graduate School of the City University of New York establish a new program of study leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the field of Curriculum and Policy Studies in Urban Education.

The primary intent of this program will be to prepare leaders in educational research and policy analysis who have a broad understanding of the complex issues facing urban education in America. We believe that the intellectual challenges of investigating the processes and practices of urban education as a social and cultural institution require a partnership among many disciplines and a unique doctoral program supported by the research of the faculty. Research conducted by students and faculty associated with this program can contribute to the knowledge base needed to improve urban education in New York and throughout the United States.

Research in education is not solely concerned with the accumulation of knowledge for its own sake, and researchers in education broadly agree that research guided by an assessment of practical needs and priorities produces more interesting as well as more useful knowledge. The goal of educational research, like that of medical or legal research, or of much research today in economics, engineering, political science, or psychology, is, ultimately: better policy, better practice, better results. The need for doctoral programs to prepare researchers and policymakers and to support the study of competing curricula for literacy education, the role and impact of new educational technologies, the development and implementation of new academic standards and methods of assessment, or the design and policy implications of culturally-responsive curriculum and teaching methods, is ultimately the need to know more in order to do better.

The special focus of the program will be on the intersections of two principal research agendas: (1) Research on issues of curriculum and instruction in urban schools, and (2) Policy analysis research on broader social, political, and economic issues which shape the context for curricular and instructional practices.

Researchers and policymakers require the broad intellectual base and diverse critical perspectives that only an integrated and coherent program of studies across a wide range of specialist disciplines can provide. We believe the Graduate School of the City University can and should make such a program available to the next generation of research and policy leaders in urban education.

2. Need for and Benefits from the Proposed Program

Recent decades have witnessed profound changes in the social, cultural, and historical contexts within which urban schools function. Technological advances have fundamentally altered the quality of everyday life and the nature of work, opening doors for some New Yorkers and closing doors for others. We have seen dramatic shifts in the demography of school populations and the emergence of new political and community forces, creating fresh opportunity for collaboration as well as conflict.

We have come to recognize that urban education is failing to prepare too many students in any meaningful way for their future, and systemic educational reform is now by necessity rising to the top of our national political agenda. The personal tragedies of educational failure today threaten to place our nation itself at risk tomorrow. Sophisticated research on urban education is urgently needed to provide knowledge of complex institutional interconnections -- from classroom, family, and community to city, state, and nation -- without which even well-intentioned policy seeks its goals blindly.

The City University of New York, as a distinguished center of scholarship and the primary public institution for higher education in the nation's leading urban center, has a special responsibility to provide a base for research and teaching that can contribute so directly to the welfare of the community that supports us.

A review of existing doctoral programs in Education offered in New York City (see the Noble Report, 1994, Review of PhD Programs in Education in 16 Institutions of Higher Education; updated by the Committee in 1997) indicates that other institutions' doctoral programs are not comparable in significant respects to the one proposed here. Other curriculum area programs tend toward specialization in a single subject area, with limited or no coursework in conceptual frameworks and methodology required outside the Education unit and the subject area discipline of specialization. These programs certainly do not provide Core courses for all students which situated curricular issues in the wider context of policy studies. Other institutions' doctoral programs in educational policy, where not specifically Ed.D. programs without a major research emphasis, tend to limit the focus of study outside the Education unit to only one or two social science departments, and do not include either the Core grounding in curricular and instructional issues and perspectives or the range of work in partner disciplines offered in the present proposal.

The proposed CUNY doctoral program will be distinctive in these respects, as well as in: (1) its primary research focus on interconnections between curricular and policy issues, (2) an interdisciplinary faculty base that extends beyond the doctoral faculty in Education to engage in research partnerships with other disciplines, and (3) a shift in focus away from specialist concerns towards larger social, cultural, and institutional analysis. In addition, at all stages of their work in this program, students will be encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers and with the faculty as they identify needed areas of research and conduct their dissertation studies. Dissertation topics will often find fruitful articulation with one another in the context of larger issues being addressed in longer term research programs of the faculty and of each generational cohort of doctoral students. Finally, as a newly established program, we can avoid the obstacles which institutional histories have placed in the way of work across disciplinary and departmental or program lines.

We believe that, above all, students need a firm grounding in theory and the intellectual and methodological sophistication of a research-oriented degree, so that this program will also be in this respect quite distinct from various Ed.D. degree programs, addressing different needs for a different population of students.

In addition to the important benefits to our society as a whole of a concerted research program addressing urban educational dilemmas, the proposed doctoral program will also have numerous, more specific local benefits. It will provide a common center for research collaboration among faculty on the many CUNY campuses which now support programs in Education. Its teaching programs will draw on expertise located on the campuses and provide to the campuses advanced students as a potential pool of part-time instructors and participants in campus-based funded projects, and resources for staff and curriculum development. It will serve as a reservoir of intellectual resources, and hopefully support and sustain efforts in the Master's degree programs at the campuses to prepare students at an appropriately high level of academic standards.

The doctoral research program will also undoubtedly attract significant private and governmental support, strengthening the Graduate School as a whole. Because the basic approach to research within the program will be interdisciplinary and in continuing partnerships with faculty in other fields and programs, much of this support will enhance their work as well.

The program will also seek to provide expertise and advice to the New York City Board of Education and its schools, the New York State Department of Education, and other local education authorities, working collaboratively with them, as many Education programs on the campuses have already been doing, to ensure that research done within the program will have needed access to and meaningful value for local educational institutions and policy-makers. In turn these institutions will have an opportunity to make invaluable contributions to research efforts to help solve the problems they have identified as critical and to prepare the next generation of people who will help in this important task. They provide essential research sites for inquiry, critical professional co-participants for projects and studies, and substantial archives of data that can be made available. A mature professional partnership should frame all these essential enterprises.

3. Prospective Students

The students we seek for this program are committed to making significant changes in urban schooling. We seek people who are eager and prepared for intellectually rigorous study, familiar with the problems and challenges of urban education, and willing to work with others to address these issues.

We seek a cohort of students who represent the diversity we find in New York and in all of our nation’s cities. In the 1996-1997 academic year, City University awarded over 2200 Master’s degrees in Education. In the Fall 1997 semester, the University had over 500 students enrolled in Advanced Certificate programs in Education in policy-related specialties. Each year many graduates of CUNY’s own programs emerge who are well-prepared for and eager to embrace the challenges of rigorous doctoral education because they know that only the research skills and insights provided by such a program can prepare them to know how to make a difference in the lives of children and the trajectories of educational institutions. Typically, candidates for doctoral programs in Education are mature-age students, with substantial life and work experience with the problems and issues they will study in their coursework and dissertation research. They are thoughtful professionals, often dissatisfied with the status quo and seeking to enhance their understanding of issues that concern them deeply. We are also committed to advertising and recruiting nationally because we believe that the work of this program must be relevant to urban education in the U.S. generally. We anticipate valuable interactions between local area students and those from other cities.

Qualified applicants to the program will be expected to demonstrate appropriate preparation for advanced study of educational issues, e.g. by completion of a Master’s degree in Education, through prior work experience in an educational institution, or participation in other programs of study or research related to the field of Education. All students should demonstrate the high level of academic skills needed to successfully pursue doctoral studies. We do not wish to limit admission to this program to students whose Master’s degree work was in the field of Education as such. Many distinguished researchers in Education did their initial graduate study in other disciplines, and we will make as generous a provision (see below) for credit for their past work as is consistent with the necessary pre-requisites for advanced study in the field, recognizing that they may need to take a limited number of pre-doctoral courses in Education studies (not creditable toward the doctorate) to complete their academic transition. Ideal candidates for this program should have had both practical teaching (and possibly administrative) experience, and strong academic preparation in a liberal arts or science discipline appropriate to their intended concentration option as well as in Education. The program faculty will take this ideal into account, but will necessarily need to make individual judgments about whether candidates for admission have appropriate prior background and experience to participate successfully in the program as described below. The first-year entering cadre of students will not exceed 15 students, some of whom are expected to be part-time students and some others self-supporting full-time students (see Section 10). We anticipate admissions of 15-20 new students each year over the first 5 years of the program, with the number of part-time and self-supporting full-time students growing within these limits according to demand, and the smaller number of full-time students eligible for and needing financial support increasing only as fellowship funds become available. For details see Section 10.

Graduates of the program will be well-prepared for university teaching and research in teacher education, curriculum studies, or educational administration and policy programs. Many will choose careers in public service, in leadership roles in schools and school districts, making contributions to research expertise and policy analysis. Some will base their efforts in the work of charitable foundations and other voluntary and non-profit organizations working in the public interest.