The Division of Educational Studies offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of education with a special emphasis on urban and comparative issues.
In particular, the Division seeks to provide students with a foundation for understanding the social and cultural context in which education occurs and for interpreting the complex relationships among education, the individual, and society.
The mission of the Division of Educational Studies is to reform and improve education, particularly urban education, by conducting outstanding research, providing engaged and challenging teaching, and being actively involved in schools and other educational institutions in the community. We envision the study of education across broad foundations that take into account the sociocultural, philosophical, historical, political, and psychological perspectives that combine to influence and shape the educational enterprise. We believe that the study of education is ill-served if only one or a few of these lenses are used to inquire into an endeavor as complex as P-12 education. Closely related to this is our belief that global and comparative studies of education can inform and deepen our perspectives on educational issues. We recognize that study in any of these areas requires carefully planned and methodologically appropriate designs to obtain results that have the power to inform and influence educational policy and practice.
As the world becomes more interconnected, citizens of the United States lack critical knowledge of other cultures and global issues. Unless we begin a concerted effort to educate teachers to deal aggressively with dramatic changes in the nation and in the world, the future will bode ill for American education. But positive social change does not occur without enlightened leadership.
The mission is reflected in the Division's educational philosophy and professional commitment to educate a small cadre of reflective teachers and educational researchers who are competent and committed to work with diverse student populations and are able to envision schools as they might become rather than preserve schools as they presently exist. Documented professional standards serve as the desired outcomes for candidates in our programs. The Division recognizes that its mission, educational philosophy, professional commitments, and professional expectations operate in a complex and challenging sociocultural context. Hence, the Division of Educational Studies must first and foremost recognize its members as participants in a democracy. This requires vigilance to serve the greater good and to advocate equal opportunity for all. The mission of the Division is influenced by analysis of current demographic shifts occurring in the nation, region, and state. In the Southeastern region, and in Atlanta in particular, public school students are likely to be low-income African American students who live in single-parent households and immigrant students from Latin America and Asia. If the past is instructive, many of these students will score poorly on standardized tests, lack basic reading and mathematical skills, be tracked early (and often inappropriately), be suspended and expelled more often than their peers, and be more likely to drop out of school. The Southeast has a disproportionate share of these low-income students, and its history of segregated schools, poverty, high dropout rates, and low performance on standardized measures places these students in added jeopardy. These changes will challenge the nation's schools to develop new instructional strategies and curricula in keeping with the needs of those they serve.
There must be profound changes in the ways teachers are prepared if new realities are to be accommodated. As the number of non-White school children increases, the number of non-White educators is predicted to decrease. This decline has been most acutely felt, and likely will continue to be felt, in the South where Black teachers were disproportionately dismissed after desegregation, and, ironically, where the majority of Black children live. The South is also the region with the highest expectation for population growth and consequently where the prospects for future teacher employment are the most promising. These employment openings will be in growing urban districts with low-income Hispanic American, African American, and immigrant students and where inexperienced and often uncertified teachers seek employment. Students in predominantly Black and Hispanic, high-poverty, immigrant, and urban schools are twice as likely as students in other schools to be taught by the most inexperienced teachers. Research confirms that students whose teachers either have a major or a minor in the subjects they teach outperform their colleagues by 40% of a grade level in critical areas such as mathematics and science. African American students are twice as likely as White students to be assigned to the least effective teachers, and students who are subjected to several unqualified and ineffective teachers in a row fall further and further behind their classmates. Despite these data, the reality is that the most effective teachers are not found in the districts in which they are needed the most.