This upper-level undergraduate seminar operates as a team research workshop. We closely read a noteworthy study on a topic related to cities, suburbs, and schools, then design and conduct a small-scale research project to test whether the author’s claims apply to the metropolitan Hartford area. Researchers who have dialogued with the seminar (in person or via conference call) include: Courtney Bell, Jack Buckley, Casey Cobb, Kevin Fox Gotham, Erica Frankenberg, Susan Eaton, Jennifer Jellison Holme, Richard Kahlenberg, and Amy Stuart Wells.
Students typically develop three types of research skills:
-historical methods (interpreting archival documents)
-qualitative (analyzing oral interviews and observational field notes)
-quantitative (generating descriptive statistics and data visualizations)
As part of our community learning experience, our seminar forms partnerships with local organizations to develop our research studies and interpret the findings. To date, our community partners have included: Achieve Hartford, CEO Foundation of Connecticut, Capitol Region Education Council, CenterEdge Coalition, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Hartford Public Schools, Hartford Youth Scholars Foundation, Regional School Choice Office, the Sheff Movement, Town of West Hartford, the Wintonbury Historical Society (Bloomfield), and many others.
Several students from the seminar have continued to work on research projects during subsequent semesters or summers, and have co-authored publications or delivered presentations to local organizations and national conferences.
Past syllabi (selected readings and research projects change each semester):
Spring 2016 – School Choice and Civil Rights: how school choice programs communicate with families in the Hartford region; how housing mobility advocates communicate their policy goals in the Connecticut legislature (with CT Open Communities Alliance); creating histories and teaching ideas on discriminatory barriers and local activism (with Hartford History Center and UConn Dodd Center).
Spring 2015 – at Wesleyan University. Investigating Choice: how families navigate magnet school choice information, and move-to-opportunity vouchers in the private housing market. Tested how low-income residents used a web search tool with the Connecticut Open Communities Alliance, analyzed qualitative data on parents at school choice fairs with Yale researcher Mira Debs, and quantitative data on CT magnet, charter, and technical school enrollments with Trinity researcher Robert Cotto.
Fall 2013 – Housing and Schooling through Stories and Data: writing civil rights history with ConnecticutHistory.org, creating online charts and maps to analyze school choice policies with CT Mirror and CT Voices for Children.
Fall 2012 – Barriers and Bridges in Housing and Education: writing civil rights with ConnecticutHistory.org, analyzing discrimination patterns with CT Fair Housing Center
Fall 2011 – Housing, Schooling, and History on the Web; Interpreting maps of inequality
Fall 2008 – Housing discrimination; the Sheff II metropolitan desegregation remedy; SmartChoices public school choice tools
Fall 2007 – Home buying simulation; Project Choice family interviews; Mapping desegregation and urban school reform
Fall 2006 – Shopping for homes and schools: Interviews with suburban homebuyers; Mapping schools, test scores, and home sales
Fall 2005 – Who chooses schools and why? Mapping public and private school choice data; Interviewing at private school choice fair
Spring 2005 – Marketing and selection of magnet schools; Private real estate markets and public schooling
Fall 2002 – Mapping metropolitics; Magnet school ethnography; Project Concern alumni oral history
Spring 2002 – Mapping city-suburban demographic change; Race, schools, and real estate ads; Bulkeley high school alumni interviews