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February 16, 2011

New partnership examines urban-suburban school programs

A new research partnership between the Warner School, the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race and Poverty will examine policies that allow students to cross school district boundaries to better understand the extent to which these interdistrict collaboratives address inequality and isolation in education.

Only nine such collaboratives exist across the country and are an under-examined policy tool to reduce metropolitan segregation. The study focuses on regional collaboratives in Omaha, Neb.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Rochester.

Kara Finnigan, an associate professor of educational policy at the Warner School, is a coprincipal investigator on the study. In addition, she oversees the Rochester component which involves the Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program, the oldest of these programs which began after the Rochester race riots of 1964. The new joint project will be a subcomponent of her current study of the Rochester program.

Jennifer Jellison Holme, an assistant professor of educational policy and planning at the University of Texas, serves as the project’s principal investigator and directs the Omaha component, while Myron Orfield, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota and executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty, serves as a coprincipal investigator and oversees the Minneapolis component.

Phase one of the project, which has been funded by a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, will investigate the issues relating to the implementation of these three regional collaboratives, as well as create local and national venues for stakeholders to network and dialogue around the complex issues. Phase two would allow a longitudinal examination of the programs as well as anin-depth focus on the structures of access and opportunity, and resulting outcomes, for low-income students and students of color across each of the metros.

“We have the opportunity as a community to better understand this long-standing program and the ways in which it has reduced isolation, improved opportunities for low-income students and students of color, and enhanced the awareness and sensitivity of all students involved,” says Finnigan. “The fact that only a few of these collaboratives exist across the country means that we are in the unique position through this joint project to inform ongoing national policy debates relating to segregation.”

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