Scott Gelber

Professor of Education; Department Chair


Education, History


Education, History


Doll's House 202

(508) 286-3671

(508) 286-3640


Scott Gelber specializes in the history of American higher education. His most recent book is Grading the College: A History of Evaluating Teaching and Learning (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020).  Whereas critics routinely dismiss evaluation as a recent manifestation of misguided external accountability, Grading the College reframes the pursuit of more systematic assessment of institutional performance as a genuine intellectual challenge that has engaged professors for more than a century.  This work was supported by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.  Gelber’s second book, Courtrooms and Classrooms: A Legal History of American College Access, 1860-1960 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) revealed that early judicial deference toward colleges was contingent on their perceived service to the public interest. The project was supported by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship.  Titled The University and the People: Envisioning American Higher Education in an Era of Populist Protest (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), Gelber’s first book argued that the core principles of public higher education evolved out of a taut relationship between grassroots activism and professorial expertise during the late nineteenth century. The project was supported by grants from the Spencer Foundation and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. In 2012, it won the Linda Eisenmann Prize of the History of Education Society.  He is currently researching the history of teacher recruitment.


Ph.D., M.A., Harvard University
B.A., Columbia University

A former New York City public school teacher, Professor Gelber coordinates Wheaton’s secondary education program.  He advises high school licensure candidates and offers courses in secondary school instructional methods as well as the history, politics, and philosophy of education.


  • Schooling in America (ED 250)
  • American Higher Education (ED 280)
  • Secondary School Curriculum (ED 391)
  • Seminar in Teaching Methods (ED 495)
  • Student Teaching Practicum (ED 496)
  • First Year Seminar: American Cities/American Suburbs


Grading the College: A History of Evaluating Teaching and Learning (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming).

“‘You Can’t Belong Anywhere Else’: Postsecondary Aspirations of Rural Students in the Postwar Era,” American Journal of Education 123 (May 2017), 393-411.

Courtrooms and Classrooms: A Legal History of American College Access, 1860-1960 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).

“Expulsion Litigation and the Limits of In Loco Parentis, 1860-1960,” Teachers College Record 116 (December 2014), 1-16.

“Child Support Litigation and the ‘Necessity’ of American Higher Education, 1926-71,” American Journal of Legal History 54 (January 2014), 39-72.

“The Populist Vision for Land Grant Universities, 1880-1900,”Perspectives on the History of Higher Education 30 (2013), 165-94.

The University and the People: Envisioning American Higher Education in an Era of Populist Protest (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011).

“‘City Blood is No Better Than Country Blood’: The Populist Movement and Admissions Policies at Public Colleges and Universities,” History of Education Quarterly 51 (August 2011), 273-95.

“The Crux and the Magic: The Political History of Boston Magnet Schools, 1968-1989,” Equity and Excellence in Education 41 (November 2008), 453-66.

“Pathways in the Past: Historical Perspectives on Access to Higher Education,” Teachers College Record 109 (October 2007), 2252-2286.

“A Hard-Boiled Order: The Reeducation of Disabled World War I Veterans in New York City,” Journal of Social History 39 (Fall 2005), 161-180.