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Dr. David A. Gamson

Dr. David A. Gamson
Phone: 8148652583
Office Address:
310D Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Associate Professor of Education (Education Theory & Policy)


Education Policy Studies


Educational Theory and Policy


David Gamson is an associate professor of education in the Department of Education Policy Studies and the Educational Theory and Policy program. His research and teaching interests focus on school reform in the United States, both past and present. His current research focuses on the evolving roles and responsibilities of the school district since World War II, the changes to policies designed to provide equal educational opportunity, and the uses of academic standards throughout the past century. Gamson has been a fellow in the Advanced Studies Fellowship Program at Brown University, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, and a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. His publications have appeared in Educational Researcher; Review of Research in Education; Paedagogica Historica; the Journal of Educational Administration; Mind, Brain, and EducationIntelligence, and the 2007 Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. He is the co-editor, with Emily Hodge, of The Shifting Landscape of the American School District: Race, Class, Geography, and the Perpetual Reform of Local Control, 1935-2015 (Peter Lang, 2018). His book, The Importance of Being Urban: Designing the Progressive School District, 1890-1940  was published in 2019 by the University of Chicago Press.

Areas of Expertise

Age Levels


Curriculum Areas

Curriculum Issues
History/Social Studies Ed

Education Levels

Middle School/Junior High
Secondary/High School

Education Types

Minority Ed
Public Ed
Urban Ed

Educational Studies

History of Ed

Individual Difference



Education Access
Learning Standards

Methodological Research

Historical research
Policy Analysis
Qualitative Research

Social Issues

Charter Schools
Civic Engagement
Civil Rights and Education
Education Policy
Race and Ethnicity
Social Issues

Courses Taught

Social History and Education Policy (EDTHP 533)

Studies in Educational Thought (EDTHP 536)

Introduction to Education and Public Policy (EDTHP 200)

History of Education in the U.S. (EDTHP 430)

Education History

STANFORD UNIVERSITY (Ph.D., Education, 2001) (M.A., American History, 1998); UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY, Sydney, Australia (M.A., English Literature, 1991); BOWDOIN COLLEGE (A.B., History, 1985)

Representative Publications

Gamson, D.A. (2019) The Importance of Being Urban: Designing the Progressive School District, 1890-1940  (University of Chicago.

Gamson, D.A. and Hodge, E.M., eds. (2018) The Shifting Landscape of the American School District: Race, Class, Geography, and the Perpetual Reform of Local Control, 1935-2015 (Peter Lang). 

Gamson, D.A. and Hodge, E.M. (2018) “The Relentless Reinvention of the American School District,” in Gamson, D.A. and Hodge, E.M. (eds.), The Shifting Landscape of the American School District: Race, Class, Geography, and the Perpetual Reform of Local Control, 1935-2015 (Peter Lang), 1-28. 

Gamson, D.A. & Hodge, E.M. (2016) “Education Research and the Shifting Landscape of the American School District, 1816-2016” Review of Research in Education 40 (1): 216-249.

Gamson, D.A., McDermott, K., & Reed, D. (2015) “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at Fifty: Aspirations, Effects, and Limitations.” (Introduction to the Special Issue on ESEA at 50.) RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 1 (3): 1-29.

Stevens, R.J., Lu, X., Baker, D.P., Ray, M.N., Eckert, S.A., Gamson, D.A. (2015).  “Assessing the Cognitive Demands of Elementary School Reading Curricula: An Analysis of Reading Text and Comprehension Tasks from 1910 to 2000.” American Educational Research Journal 52 (3): 582–617

Lu, X., Gamson, D. A., Eckert, S.A. (2014) “Lexical difficulty and diversity of American elementary school reading textbooks: Changes over the past century.” International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 19 (1): 94-117.

Gamson, D.A., Lu, X., Eckert, S.A. (2013) “Challenging the Research Base of the Common Core State Standards: A Historical Reanalysis of Text Complexity” Educational Researcher 42 (7): 381-391.

Baker, D., Knipe, H., Cummings, E., Collins, J., Gamson, D., Blair, C., Leon, J. (2010) “One Hundred Years of Elementary School Mathematics in the United States: A Content Analysis and Cognitive Assessment of Textbooks from 1900 to 2000.” Journal for Research in Mathematics Education 41 (4): 383-423.

Gamson, D. (2009). “Democracy Undone: Reforming and Reinventing the American School District, 1945-2005.” in Wong, K. and Rothman, R. (eds.) Clio at the Table: Using History to Inform and Improve Education Policy. (Peter Lang): 79-90.

Eslinger, P.J., Blair, C., Wang, J., Lipovsky, B., Realmuto, J., Baker, D., Thorne, S., Gamson, D., Zimmerman, E., Rohrer, L., Yang, Q.X. (2009). “Developmental shifts in fMRI activations during visuospatial relational reasoning,” Brain and Cognition 69: 1-10.

Blair, C., Knipe, H., and Gamson, D. (2008). “Is There a Role for Executive Functions in the Development of Mathematics Ability?” Mind, Brain, and Education 2 (2): 80-89.

Gamson, D. A. (2007). “From Progressivism to Federalism: The Pursuit of Equal Educational Opportunity, 1915-1965,” in Carl F. Kaestle and Alyssa Lodewick (eds.), To Educate a Nation: Federal and National Strategies for School Reform (University Press of Kansas): 177-201.

Gamson, D. A. (2007). “Historical Perspectives on Democratic Decision Making, 1920-2005.” In Moss, Pamela A. (ed.), Evidence and Decision Making: The 2007 Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE): 15-45.

Blair., C., Knipe, H., Cummings, E., Baker, D., Gamson, D., Eslinger, P., & Thorne, S. (2007). “A Developmental Neuroscience Approach to the Study of School Readiness” in Robert C. Pianta, Martha J. Cox, and Kyle L. Snow (eds.), School Readiness and the Transition to Kindergarten in the Era of Accountability, (Brookes Publishing).

Blair, C., Gamson, D., Thorne, S., & Baker, D. (2005). “Rising Mean IQ:  Cognitive Demand of Mathematics Education for Young Children, Population Exposure to Formal Schooling, and the Neurobiology of the Prefrontal Cortex,” Intelligence 33: 93-106

Gamson, D. A. (2004). “The Infusion of Corporate Values into Progressive Education: Professional Vulnerability or Complicity?” Journal of Educational Administration 42 (2): 137-159.

Gamson, D. A. (2003). District Progressivism: Rethinking Reform in Urban School Systems, 1900–1928, in Paedagogica Historica 39 (4): 417-434.