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 too often failing to prepare 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-makers seek their goals blindly.

The National Research Council (1999) recently concluded a major three-year study of the potential role of research in the improvement of the nation's public education system. Its principal finding is that there is not yet an adequate knowledge base for the task, and that utilization of educational research lags far behind that in other areas of national life (public health, agriculture, engineering, and even highways), in part because the research has not been adequately oriented to high-priority needs of educational practitioners and policy-makers. They diagnose a serious national underinvestment in educational research and propose a 15-year national commitment to a strategic educational research program. The NRC represents the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine and their collective understanding of the role of research in national life.

The NRC report articulates the growing leadership consensus in the U.S. that any solution to the present crisis in urban public education must be research-based and knowledge-driven. From policy analysis to classroom practice, every component of the educational system must develop a culture of analytical self-examination and continuous change and improvement. All proposals must be subject to careful research and evaluation before and after they are implemented. If education is to become such a research-driven enterprise in this country, we are going to need a lot more trained and dedicated educational researchers and policy analysts.

The total number of doctoral degrees in education granted annually in 1995-96 (the last year for which NYSED data are published) in New York State was 427 (New York State Education Department, 1997). Outside New York City, public higher education accounts for 24 percent of doctoral degrees in education. Within the city CUNY awards 8 percent of the state's doctoral degrees across all fields, but provides a much smaller proportion in education: only 2.5 percent of education doctoral degrees (11 from The Graduate Center's small Educational Psychology program). By contrast, in the same reference year, CUNY graduated 2400 students with master's degrees in education, which represents 20 percent of the state total. CUNY's proportional contribution at the doctoral level in education (8 percent of 427) should have been about 35 individuals. The proposed new program aims ultimately to graduate an additional 15-20 students per year, approximately closing this gap.

For future prospects we can also turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (1997) reports and projections. For the period 1996-2006, BLS projects an 11.6 percent increase in the number of education administrators (including replacement, this means 51,000 needed per year nationally, of which the proportional share for New York would be about 4600 per year). While not all these positions require the doctorate, those that do should rise at least as fast as the total number, and probably faster given the national movement toward a more research-informed basis for education management in the United States. For college and university teaching positions, of which there were 33,780 nationally in education in 1997(with New York State underrepresented by population at only 1140 or 3.4 percent versus its 6.7 percent proportional share), we can probably rely on the anticipated rapid increase in teacher education (e.g., the projected 22 percent increased need for secondary school teachers) to ensure that education's share of new jobs will rise at least as fast as the general need for college and university faculty, projected to rise 19 percent over the 1996-2006 period; the proportional share for education as a discipline would be 5200 new faculty needed nationally each year, or about 175 annually in New York State. Note that these figures include replacements for the many educators now near retirement. (Estimates are based on data from National Center for Education Statistics, 1998, and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1997.) Our program is anticipated to produce 15-20 Ph.D. graduates per year.

The planned intake of students to the proposed new Ph.D. Program in Urban Education is 15-20 students per year, with a projected maximum cumulative enrollment after 5-6 years of approximately 120 students at all stages of doctoral study. This estimate is based on the assumption of no new resources for the program. Demand for places will greatly exceed this capacity for the foreseeable future, particularly because in addition to local students, the uniqueness of the program and the resources of New York and the distinguished CUNY faculty will attract many out-of-state and non-U.S. applicants as well.

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 directly to the welfare of the community that supports us.

This proposal was initiated by City University faculty whose long experience in the public schools and the University's undergraduate and master's programs had convinced them that a CUNY-wide Ph.D. program was necessary: (1) to bring together faculty from education programs on many separate campuses to coordinate their research and development efforts to improve urban education, (2) to make CUNY proposals more competitive in gaining needed external governmental and private funding, (3) to make it possible to recruit and retain distinguished senior faculty and capable younger faculty in education who would not join an institution that lacked a Ph.D. program in their field, (4) to ensure that curriculum and staffing for master's degrees and advanced certificate programs that provide the largest proportion of education professionals to New York City would benefit from the expertise of an organized doctoral faculty, and not least (5) to respond to the frequently expressed desires of outstanding students and career professionals in urban education for an opportunity to earn a Ph.D. that was within their means.

Again and again the members of our committee have heard the same responses to our proposal from education professionals in New York: Why doesn't CUNY already have a Ph.D. program in urban education? Why hasn't there been a program like this all along? If you'd had this program 15 years ago, I would have been a student in it. Where can I get an application form? When are you going to be accepting students?

A review of existing doctoral programs in education offered in New York City (see Noble, 1994, Review of PhD Programs in Education in 16 Institutions of Higher Education; updated in 1997; also see Appendix E for a discussion of programs at Fordham University, New York University, Teachers College of Columbia University, and Rutgers University), indicates that other institutions' doctoral programs are not comparable in significant respects to the one proposed here. Other universities' curriculum studies 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 that situate 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 extent 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; (3) a shift in focus away from narrow specialist concerns toward 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 that 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 the intellectual and methodological sophistication necessary for 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. The intent of this Ph.D. degree is to prepare researchers in the field of urban education and research-trained urban education policy analysts. The original intent of an Ed.D. degree was to prepare education practitioners with a high degree of specialized skill but without the full training needed to conduct original research at a professional standard (for a detailed discussion of these matters and further citations, see Deering, 1998).

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 of the many CUNY colleges that now support programs in education. Its teaching programs will draw on expertise located on the campuses and provide to the colleges advanced students as a potential pool of part-time instructors and participants in college-based funded projects, and as resources for staff and curriculum development. It will serve as a reservoir of intellectual resources and should support and sustain efforts in the master's degree programs at the colleges 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 CUNY Graduate Center 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 the community school districts as well as to individual schools, to the New York State Education Department, and to 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. The city's schools and districts can provide essential research sites for inquiry, critical professional coparticipants for projects and studies, and substantial archives of data. A mature professional partnership should frame all these essential enterprises.