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Urban Education

Education in urban America has long been a critical issue that cuts across social, cultural, political, and economic concerns. Today, the links between education and opportunity in our global society, as well as the myriad ongoing attempts to reform or improve urban education have made the topic especially timely and the subject of a wide body of scholarly literature from varied disciplines. The Urban Education MALS concentration is designed to immerse students in a range of topics and approaches to understanding urban education and equip them, ultimately, to identify and pursue their own interests, scholarly or practical, in urban education.

Degree Requirements

MALS students take four classes within the program — Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies, two core courses in their chosen concentration, and the thesis/capstone project — and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at The Graduate Center.

This master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000 Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies] (3 credits).
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to to key questions and topics in urban education [MALS 78100 and MALS 78200] (6 credits).
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice that are relevant to the student’s concentration or studies
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits).

Core Courses

Two 3-credit core courses will provide students with a critical foundation of knowledge in the issues and politics of urban education.

MALS 78100 Issues in Urban Education uses theoretical research and experiential learning to analyze the roots of the crisis in urban education as well as its current forms and issues. Integrating texts and perspectives from history, sociology, urban politics, education, and anthropology, the course aims to create a foundation for research and practice in urban education. Students will explore several key topics – the history of urban spaces and their schools, the experiences of those who have taught in and attended urban schools, and the efforts to reform urban schools – but will also be supported in developing their own research interests and questions. Race, ethnicity, gender, and class, along with educational policy matters of governance, school finance, community relations and teacher quality, will be considered within the larger context of social geography. When possible, readings, discussions, and activities will focus on education in New York City.

MALS 78200 The Politics of Urban Education investigates the social, economic and political forces that shape contemporary urban education. Readings and discussions focus on school reform as a political, rather than technical, construct. We will consider historical and contemporary efforts to reform urban public schooling by locating them within a wider political arena. The class will examine how both local and national political dynamics have helped shape and drive varying school reform strategies, including market-based choice models, state and federal accountability programs, changes to school funding mechanisms, and mayoral control. Particular attention will be paid to issues of race and class as frames for understanding the politics of urban education.

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at The Graduate Center.

For related coursework in Urban Education, students may look to offerings in the certificate program in American Studies and the doctoral programs in Sociology and Urban Education.


MALS faculty associated with this concentration:

Other GC faculty associated with this concentration:


Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Urban Education Research Guide.
Students' contact for Urban Education research is reference librarian Shawn(ta) Smith.