For my Macaulay Seminar 4 class (Shaping the Future of New York City), I am doing a research project on the Board of Education (now the Department of Education). The first part of this project was due just this past week, and since the topic seems to fit the theme of the class, I thought I’d take you through how I found the information.

I had known from the outset that I wanted to do my project on the Board of Education. I knew a lot about the current issues surrounding the Education bureaucracy in New York City (the change-over in 2002 under Mayor Bloomberg, the appointment of Cathie Black as Chancellor, both of which are to be covered in the next part of my project) but I knew almost nothing about the history before 2002, except for some inklings about a controversy in the sixties involving Ocean-Hill Brownsville.

A quick Wikipedia search confirmed this inkling: there had indeed been a crisis with the Board of Education in the 1960s. However, the “History” provided by Wikipedia, started and ended with this crisis, and devoted all of one paragraph to it. My usual strategy of simply clicking on the citations in Wikipedia articles could not even help me, with only one, small article cited. While I certainly wasn’t expecting detailed information, I was at least expecting a timeline, including the founding date of the Board of Education.

My next stop, after googling “New York City Board of Education.” The entire first page of results were links to, so I perused the city’s website for information. After a few minutes of this, I realized it didn’t contain any historical information that would be useful for my first segment of the project. Loath to try googling again, I went to and searched for “Board of Education.” This finally gave me the answer I had been searching for. On, there is a page entitled “Board of Education” with the complete records of the Board. Though I was not ready at this stage of my research to look through these, the title of the page also included the dates “1842 – 2002”: I now knew when the Board of Education had been founded, as well as a brief overview of the history.

My online search did raise some interesting questions relevant to my research. For example: why doesn’t the current Department of Education at least link to the website with the complete records of the Board of Education? Is it simply a technological oversight, or a subtle statement?

In the end, most of my research did not involve online sources. I had to consult the books of educational history and education policy experts, such as Diane Ravitch (who we have encountered before in this class) and Joseph Viteritti. I was able to find these sources because of my prior knowledge (I knew Diane Ravtich from this class and an event I had attended) and with the help of my Professor (who knows Viteritti because they are colleagues). From there, I was able to use the footnotes and bibliographies of these sources to cast my net wider. Ultimately, no amount of Google-fu could have solved my research dilemma. Perhaps one day, when these texts are available online, and new, updated texts are immediately made available via the internet, it will be enough. For now, old-fashioned research techniques are equally important.