Investigating Connecticut School Choice at the State, City, and School Levels

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Research presentation and discussion
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

12:15 – 1:15pm (common hour)
Hallden Hall, Grand Room 104, Trinity College
Directions: see building #18 on the campus map, adjacent to McCook Hall

Presentation by Stephen Spirou '15 -- photo by John Atashian
Presentation by Stephen Spirou ’15 — photo by John Atashian

Open to the public — Light lunch buffet for the first 30 guests

More than 50,000 students (nearly 1 out of 10) are enrolled in Connecticut’s public choice schools, including interdistrict magnets, charters, vo-tech, and city-suburban transfers. But these choice programs were designed to achieve divergent goals, and attract different types of students and supporters. Working as a team of researchers, we have investigated choice systems at three distinct levels, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and present our findings to help place these education reform policies and practices in a broader context.

Madeline Perez, University of Saint Joseph

Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs
Robert Cotto, Trinity College
– full report and PowerPoint

Who Chooses? A Comparison of Magnet School Lottery Applicants and Non-Applicants
Stephen Spirou ’15, Diane Zannoni, and Jack Dougherty, Trinity College
presentation slides and full report

‘Untouchable Carrots’?: Marketing School Choice and Realities in Hartford’s Inter-district Magnet Program
Mira Debs, Yale University
– presentation slides

Discussion with the audience

Sponsored by the Educational Studies Program, Trinity College

Mira Debs, Robert Cotto, Diane Zannoni, Madeline Perez, Stephen Spirou ’15, and Jack Dougherty -- photo by John Atashian
Mira Debs, Robert Cotto, Diane Zannoni, Madeline Perez, Stephen Spirou ’15, and Jack Dougherty — photo by John Atashian

Introducing a new School Search Tool from Trinity College

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The SmartChoices school search tool, which the Cities Suburbs & Schools Project at Trinity College ran from late 2008 to 2014, is no longer online. To replace SmartChoices, we created the School Search Tool template, a generic mobile-friendly interactive map with sortable results, which any organization may freely download and modify to host their own school information on their own website. Try this live demo of the new tool, based on the open-source Searchable Map Template with Google Fusion Tables, created by Derek Eder at DataMade in Chicago. Read more at

Screenshot of School Search Tool template on a desktop.

Insights on Schools & Choice: Mira Debs and Robert Cotto Jr.

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Two new researchers have joined the Cities Suburbs & Schools Project at Trinity College to share their insights on education and housing through our new group blog. Both of my colleagues share a special focus on public school choice programs, such as interdistrict magnet schools, city-suburban transfer programs, and charter schools, which have grown dramatically in the metropolitan Hartford region over the past decade. All of us can benefit from sharper insights and richer evidence on how choice programs may be changing the landscape of equal educational opportunity in the racially and economically divided state of Connecticut.

RobertCottoJr200x200Robert Cotto Jr. recently co-authored a CT Voices report on Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs, and he also joined Trinity College community as the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives and Lecturer in the Educational Studies Program. In addition to his work on K-12 policy, Robert previously taught secondary-level social studies for six years at the Metropolitan Learning Center interdistrict magnet school in Bloomfield CT, earned master’s degrees from Harvard Graduate School of Education and Trinity’s American Studies Program, and also serves as an elected member on the Hartford Board of Education.

MiraDebsMira Debs is conducting field research at two Montessori magnet schools in Hartford while writing her dissertation for her Ph.D. degree in the Sociology Department at Yale University. She recently gave a guest lecture at Trinity on “Parent Choice and Involvement on the Ground,” based on preliminary findings from her 18-month qualitative study and interviews with city and suburban parents. In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, Mira taught high school history for five years at a district school and a charter school in the Boston area, and is a founding member of the first public Montessori school in New Haven, Elm City Montessori, which will open in September 2014.

Learn more from my colleagues on the Cities Suburbs & Schools Project group blog at Follow us with an RSS feed or my Twitter account (@DoughertyJack).

Writing Hartford’s City-Suburban Past with ConnecticutHistory

Posted on editor Clarissa Ceglio and I co-presented “Collaboratively Writing Hartford’s City-Suburban Past” at the Association for the Study of Connecticut History 2014 meeting. Our presentation explains and illustrates how Trinity students have developed and published essays on educational and housing inequalities for this statewide online publication. Check out the students’ essays at