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February 20, 2013

Warner professor takes research to policymakers on Capitol Hill

Kara Finnigan
Kara Finnigan

Kara Finnigan, associate professor at the Warner School, went to Washington, D.C., this month to discuss the chal­lenges facing low-performing schools and districts.

The Feb. 4 forum on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the American Youth Policy Forum showcased the five-year study, funded by the WT Grant Foundation, which she leads as principal investigator. More than 100 individuals from national education and youth organizations, advocacy groups, think tanks, higher education organizations, federal agen­cies, and congressional offices attended the forum, titled “Districts’ Use of Research to Support Struggling Schools.”

Joined by her colleague Alan Daly of the University of Cali­fornia at San Diego, Finnigan helped participants understand how educators define, acquire, and use different types of evi­dence as part of their improve­ment processes and the ways in which the underlying network of relationships district-wide impacts improvement. The panel, which also included Superintendent Joshua Starr of Montgomery County Public Schools, and Ron Rode, the executive director of account­ability in San Diego Unified School District, was intended to provide insights into the gap between policy and practice and the ways to develop stron­ger learning communities and research partnerships at all lev­els of the educational system.

The forum was part of a series of Capitol Hill forums, geared toward national educa­tion and youth organizations, advocates, think tanks, re­searchers, program providers, and national policymakers, and designed to challenge partici­pants to think differently about how research informs policy and practice.

Finnigan, who directs the educational policy programs at the Warner School, has conducted research and evalu­ations of K–12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal levels for nearly 20 years through her work at several promi­nent research organizations, including SRI International, RPP International, the George Lucas Educational Foundation, and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Finnigan has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools, high-stakes account­ability, and school choice, including charter schools and interdistrict choice.

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