In the United States and Canada, a school of education (or college of education; ed school) is a division within a university that is devoted to scholarship in the field of education, which is an interdisciplinary branch of the social sciences encompassing sociology, psychology, linguistics, economics, political science, public policy, history, and others, all applied to the topic of elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. The U.S. has 1,206 schools, colleges and departments of education and they exist in 78% of all universities and colleges. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 176,572 individuals were conferred master's degrees in education by degree-granting institutions in the United States in 2006–2007. The number of master's degrees conferred has grown immensely since the 1990s and accounts for one of the discipline areas that awards the highest number of master's degrees in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, following the recommendation in the 1963 Robbins Report into higher education, teacher training colleges were renamed colleges of education in the UK. For information about academic divisions devoted to this field outside of the United States and Canada, see Postgraduate Training in Education (disambiguation).
Typically, a school of education offers research-based programs leading to Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees, as well as professional teacher-education programs leading to Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), or Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degrees. Schools of education also offer teacher certification or licensure programs to undergraduate students. Generally schools of education have graduate programs related to teacher preparation, curriculum and instruction (or curriculum and teaching), public policy and education, and educational administration. In addition, some schools of education offer programs in school counseling and counseling psychology.
Schools of education have several areas of interest in both their research and practice. The first is teacher education, curriculum, and instruction. With their historical roots in the 19th century normal school, they train the vast majority of teachers. A second area of interest is educational administration. As the main institution for the training of principals and superintendents, there is a focus on the administration of schools and school districts. A final area of interest is education policy and reform. Many graduates of schools of education become involved in education policy. As such, issues such as equity, teacher quality, and education assessment have become focuses of many schools of education. The issue of equitable access to education particularly is common, specifically focusing on low-income, minority, and immigrant communities, is central to many areas of research within the Education field.
The annual rankings of U.S. News & World Report placed the following schools of education in the top 20 of all graduate education institutions in the United States for 2016. They follow in order:
1. Johns Hopkins University
2. Harvard University
3. Stanford University
3. Vanderbilt University (Peabody College)
5. University of Wisconsin-Madison
6. University of Washington
7. Northwestern University
7. Teachers College, Columbia University
7. University of Pennsylvania
10. University of Texas-Austin
11. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
12. University of Oregon
13. Michigan State University
13. University of California-Los Angeles
15. Ohio State University
15. University of Southern California
17. Arizona State University
17. University of California-Berkeley
17. University of Kansas
20. New York University
20. New York University
James Paul Gee
Gene V Glass
Traditionalist scholars have been critical of the status quo within most schools of education. Prominent figures contributing to this school of thought include E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Diane Ravitch, Chester Finn, and Lynne Cheney. Common assertions made by these critics include that the typical school of education has a Left-wing political bias, favoring Socialist philosophies such as Paulo Freire's critical pedagogy and the "Teaching for Social Justice" movement, and are of lower academic standards and include "Mickey Mouse" courses. They also argue that many schools of education are academically, professionally, and socially inhospitable toward students whose political views do not conform to the predominant Left-leaning ideology and that the field's interest in educational equity sometimes crosses over the line between academic research and political activism.
In March 2009, Katherine Merseth, director of the teacher education program at Harvard University, described graduate schools of education as the "cash cows of universities". Another criticism is that earning an advanced degree in education, specifically a master level degree, doesn't seem to actually make someone a better teacher. In October 2009, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that “by almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” He characterized many education schools as "cash cows" for American universities.