Seminar at Wesleyan, Spring 2015

CSPL 341: Choice – A Case Study in Education and Entrepreneurship
Spring 2015 seminar, begins Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 from 7-9:50pm
Room 004, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Wesleyan University
Visitor’s directions to our classroom & parking and to the Wesleyan campus

Instructor: Jack Dougherty
Harber Fellow in Education and Entrepreneurship, Wesleyan Univ., Spring 2015
and Associate Professor of Educational Studies at Trinity College
Personal website,  email, and online appointment calendar

Teaching Assistant: Elaina Rollins, Trinity Class of ’16, email:
Part-time long-distance support to help Wesleyan students coordinate their field visits to Hartford, and peer-editing support via Google Docs upon request.

Description: In this seminar, we will investigate an increasingly popular reform movement—choice—to better understand what happens when educators act more like entrepreneurs in competing for students, how families navigate both schooling and housing markets, and the outcomes of recent policy innovations. Drawing from the disciplines of history, sociology, and government, we will compare and contrast choice models that have been promoted by magnet schools, charter schools, and move-to-opportunity housing experiments. Enrollment limited to 19. See WesMaps course listing.

Acquire two books in any format:
Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (Teachers College Press, 2014).

Douglas S. Massey et al., Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Additional readings will be made available in our Moodle site and on the public web.

For each seminar, students must bring a laptop (Mac, Windows, Chromebook, or Linux) for in-class writing, peer review, and data analysis. Let me know if you need to borrow one.

Students are expected to arrange a one-time visit to Hartford to conduct site visits for one of our research projects. The instructor will assist students with scheduling and coordinating transportation.

Research projects:
As a community research seminar, we will conduct small-scale studies to answer questions about school and housing choice in Connecticut, discuss what we learn with local researchers and organizations, and share on the public web.

Project 1: How do school choice programs communicate with families at public events in the Hartford region? We will do basic qualitative research at choice school open house events and fairs, discuss what we are learning with Mira Debs (Yale doctoral candidate in sociology and Wesleyan instructor), and share our findings on the public web.

Project 2: What does public education data reveal—or obscure—about equity and outcomes among Connecticut school choice programs? We will do basic quantitative analysis of publicly-accessible magnet, charter, and Open Choice data. We will discuss what we are learning with Robert Cotto, Jr. (co-author of CT Voices Choice Watch report and Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College), and share our findings on the public web.

Project 3: Did Connecticut urban residents who received housing choice counseling move into better neighborhoods, and how is this goal defined? We will do basic quantitative and spatial analysis of housing mobility client data, masked by census block group. We will discuss what we are learning with Erin Boggs (executive director of the Connecticut Open Communities Alliance and Wesleyan alumna), and share our findings on the public web.

Project 4: How do Connecticut urban residents interpret their housing and schooling choices before and after using a digital search tool, and also after receiving personalized guidance? We will modify an open-source digital search tool ( and/or and interview people as they use it to explore their options. We will discuss what we are learning with Erin Boggs and housing mobility counselors, and share our findings on the public web.

See exercises for each project and additional work in Assignments and assessment.


*Subject to change by instructor, with important revisions marked in red.*

Week 1: Jan 28th – An introduction to school choice
How do school choice programs market themselves? How do different parents navigate this process?

Introduction to seminar, the syllabus, and long-distance TA Elaina Rollins

Public writing and student privacy policy; identifying students on the public syllabus

In-class simulation on school choice parent information: insert your results, and add your meta-questions

How to annotate an online PDF in Moodle (or any website) with tool

Assign online annotators to raise issues and questions on next week’s readings

Assign Project 1 Exercise A: school choice event field notes, due Feb 24th

Sign up on my calendar to chat with me and classmates over lunch, dinner, or hot cocoa. (For example, if 3-4 wish to book a one-hour lunch, sign up for three 20-minute slots)

Week 2: Feb 4th – Competing perspectives on school choice
How do different educational researchers and advocates frame their arguments and evidence?

Read in Moodle and learn how to write thoughtful annotations with tool:

Frederick M Hess, The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas (Harvard University Press, 2010), excerpt from preface and chapter 1.
See sample online annotations by the instructor.

Terry M. Moe and Paul T. Hill, “Moving to a Mixed Model: Without an Appropriate Role for the Market, the Education Sector Will Stagnate,” in The Futures of School Reform, ed. Jal Mehta, Robert B. Schwartz, and Frederick M. Hess (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2012), 65–93.
Online annotations due Feb 3rd at 10pm by CB, JC, OC, YC, AF

Janelle Scott and Amy Stuart Wells, “A More Perfect Union: Reconciling School Choice Policy with Equality of Opportunity Goals,” in Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance, ed. Prudence L. Carter and Kevin G. Welner (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 123–40.
Online annotations due Feb 3rd at 10pm by IF, AG, SG, HH

Howard Fuller with Lisa Frazier Page, No Struggle No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette Univ Pr, 2014), excerpts from chapters 12, 15, 17.
Online annotations due Feb 3rd at 10pm by EK, AL, AM, CM

Christopher Lubienski, “The Politics of Parental Choice: Theory and Evidence on Quality Information,” in School Choice Policies and Outcomes: Empirical and Philosophical Perspectives, ed. Walter Feinberg and Christopher Lubienski (Albany: SUNY Press, 2008), 99–119.
Online annotations due Feb 3rd at 10pm by SS, LS, NT, RU, EW

View ONE video documentary:
Davis Guggenheim, Waiting for “Superman,” Video documentary, 2010,, available in Moodle,
Madeleine Sackler, The Lottery, Video documentary, 2010,, available on several paid movie streaming services.
AND any Trinity student web essay on either video (*list to be posted*)

Presentation: a brief history of school choice in the US

In class: Resources to answer meta-questions about school choice policies in Connecticut

Week 3: Feb 11th – School Reform and Choice in Connecticut

Read: Robert Cotto, Jr. and Kenneth Feder, Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs (CT Voices for Children, 2014),
Online annotations due Feb 10th at 10pm by ___

Policy briefs TBA

Presentation on school reform networks

Assign Project 2, Exercise C: school choice data analysis, due on Wed Feb 18th at 4pm

Week 4: Feb 18th – CT School Choice and Equity

Read: Jack Dougherty et al., Who Chooses in Hartford? Report 1: Statistical Analysis of Regional School Choice Office Applicants and Non-Applicants among Hartford-Resident HPS Students in Grades 3-7, Spring 2012 (Hartford, CT: Cities Suburbs Schools Project at Trinity College, May 12, 2014),
Online annotations due Feb 17th at 10pm by ___

Guest: Robert Cotto, Jr. (7-8pm) to discuss our preliminary results in Project 2

Assign Project 2, Exercise D: school choice data visualization, due before break (March 6)

Week 5: Feb 25th – CT School Choice and Access

Read: Mira Debs, “Marketing Schools in Hartford,” draft dissertation chapter, 2015.
Online annotations due Feb 24th at 10pm by ___

Due night before class on Feb 24th: Project 1 Exercise A field notes

Guest: Mira Debs (8:30-9:30pm) to

In class: Thematic analysis of field notes; Exercise B due March 3rd

Week 6: March 4th – CT School Choice and Outcomes

Read: Robert Bifulco, Casey D Cobb, and Courtney Bell, “Can Interdistrict Choice Boost Student Achievement? The Case of Connecticut’s Interdistrict Magnet School Program,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 31, no. 4 (2009): 323–45,
Online annotations due March 3rd at 10pm by ___

In class: Support for data visualizations for Exercise D

Break: March 11th and 18th

Week 7: March 25th – Schooling and housing boundaries and choice in CT

Read: Jack Dougherty and contributors, On the Line: How Schooling, Housing, and Civil Rights Shaped Hartford and Its Suburbs (Hartford, CT: Trinity College, open-access book-in-progress, 2015),, selected chapters.
Online annotations due March 24th at 10pm by ___

Week 8: April 1st – Housing choice and moving to opportunity

Read: Douglas S. Massey et al., Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb (Princeton University Press, 2013).
Short response essay due March 30th at 10pm by ___

Week 9: April 8th – Housing choice and moving-to-opportunity in CT

Read: DeLuca or Schwartz article TBA
Short response essay or author video interview due April 7th at 10pm by ___

Guest: Erin Boggs (tentative)

Assign Projects 3 and 4 and Exercise due dates (all by April 21st)

Week 10: April 15th – Rethinking Charter and Magnet Schools

Read: Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (Teachers College Press, 2014).
Short response essay or author video interview due April 14th at 10pm by ___

Assign web essay proposals due April 22nd at 4pm

Week 11: April 22nd – Interview data analysis

Thematic analysis of interview data in class

Week 12: April 29th – Teachers and Choice

Read: article tba

Video conference guest: Recent Wes alum teaching in choice school (tentative)

Assign web essay drafts due Sunday May 3rd (for guest evaluators to review)

Web essay workshop

Week 13: May 6th

Web essay draft presentations and discussion with guest evaluators

Friday May 8th

Due: Revised web essay

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