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Kara Finnigan

Kara Finnigan

Associate Professor
Educational Leadership

LeChase Hall 414
Office Phone: (585) 275-9942
Fax: 486-1159

Click here for access to papers and CV on Academia


PhD, University of Wisconsin - Madison (educational policy studies)
MA, Stanford University (education administration and policy analysis)
BA, Dartmouth College (English)

Kara Finnigan joined the Warner School in 2003 and specializes in educational policy. Her courses focus on contemporary issues in educational policy, state and federal policy, sociology of education, and research methods. 
Finnigan began her work in education as a substitute teacher in Anchorage, Alaska. She has conducted research and evaluations of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal levels for 20 years through her work at several prominent national research organizations, including the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, SRI International, RPP International, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
She has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools and accountability policies; school choice, including charter schools and inter-district choice; social networks, trust, and school and district improvement; and principal leadership. Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science; employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis; and focuses on schools serving low-income students and students of color in urban communities. She has published articles in the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Educational Change, Educational Policy, Educational Administration Quarterly, Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of Educational Administration, Journal of School Choice, Urban Review, and Education Policy Analysis Archives. Her research also has been featured in practitioner-oriented publications, including School Business Affairs and District Administration magazines.
Finnigan’s research focuses on low-performing schools and districts and organizational learning; school improvement under sanction; access, opportunity, and outcomes for students of color participating in inter-district choice; parents’ responses to and involvement in the governance of choice policies; district reform; accountability policies; and the role of districts and states in school improvement. Her current studies include:
  • Understanding Social Network Structure in Schools Under Corrective Action: A Longitudinal Comparative Analysis of Research Use and Diffusion in Urban Districts (Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation)
  • The Role of Social Networks in Organizational Learning in the Chicago Public Schools: Examining the Quantity and Quality of Educational Leaders’ Social Ties (Funded by the Spencer Foundation)
  • Investigating the Potential of Regional Collaboratives to Address Inequality and Isolation in Education (Funded by the Ford Foundation).
Finnigan directed the doctoral and master's programs in educational policy at the Warner School from 2005-13. She serves on the advisory board for the American Journal of Education and recently served as associate editor of the Social and Institutional Analysis section of the American Educational Research Journal.

Reports Created for Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI)

Profile 1: Individuals At or Below the Poverty Level
Profile 2: Low Income (200% of Poverty Level)
Profile 3: Non-Working Poor (Below 100% of Poverty Level)

In the News

8/31/2015 Warner Faculty Contribute Opinion Essay in District Administration
6/17/2015 Warner Professors Take Part in Local Anti-Poverty Program
12/03/2014 Wednesday Lunch Talk - Bridging the Divide Between Academia and the Rest of the World: Using Social Media, Popular Press, Twitter, and Other Avenues to Inform Policy and Practice
11/13/2014 New Shanker Institute Blog Post Co-Authored by Kara Finnigan
10/28/2014 AYPF Webinar with Kara Finnigan - Using Research Evidence in Education
8/19/2014 Kara Finnigan on the Role of Social Relations in Teacher Evaluation on Shanker Institute Blog
7/16/2014 Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog Features Finnigan's Post on Building Relationships in School Reform
7/07/2014 Kara Finnigan on the Importance of Relationships in Educational Reform on Shanker Institute Blog
5/19/2014 New Book Aims to Bridge the Gap Between Research, Policy, and Practice to Support Change in America’s Schools
2/05/2014 Wednesday Lunch Talk — The Geography of Educational Opportunity:  GIS Mapping and Interdistrict Choice
2/05/2014 Presidential Symposium Tackles Challenges in Rochester City Schools
2/04/2014 Presidential Symposium: Revitalizing K-12 Education in Rochester
10/31/2013 Kara Finnigan on School Integration in Democrat and Chronicle
10/23/2013 Kara Finnigan on the Role of School Boards in the Democrat & Chronicle
7/24/2013 Bridge Webinar with Kara Finnigan - Organizational Learning and How District and School Leaders Can Use Data for Improvement
6/30/2013 Kara Finnigan on Urban-Suburban Interdistrict Transfer Program in Democrat and Chronicle
2/11/2013 Warner Professor Takes Research to Policymakers on Capitol Hill
1/09/2013 Kara Finnigan Awarded Spencer Foundation Grant to Study Chicago Schools
5/31/2012 Kara Finnigan on YNN on Low Performing Urban Schools
5/30/2012 Improving Urban School Reform
11/02/2011 Warner Hosts National Research Conference on School District Reform
3/24/2011 Master's Students Use Real-World Connections to Engage in Education Policy
2/07/2011 New Academic Partnership Builds Understanding of Interdistrict Collaboratives
8/15/2010 Warner Professor Earns Tenure and Promotion in 2010
11/16/2009 Educational Policy Expert Receives Urban School Improvement Research Grant
11/16/2009 Finnigan's Urban School Research Grant Featured in Rochester Business Journal
3/20/2009 Warner School Offers New Educational Policy Master's Program
9/01/2006 Leadership, Thought, and Policy Program Redesigned
4/01/2005 Finnigan Co-Authors Controversial Charter School Report
8/01/2003 Warner Welcomes New Faculty, Staff, and Students


ED412 Sociology of Education
EDU413 Contemporary Issues in Education Policy
ED461 The Politics of Education
ED464 State and Federal Education Policy
ED523 Mixed Research Methods
ED524 Survey Design (1 credit)
ED525 Interview and Focus Group Techniques (1 credit)
ED531 Case Study Design and Analysis (1 credit)
EDE538 Educational Policy Seminar
ED540 Program Evaluation Dissertation Proposal Seminar
ED541 Program Evaluation Dissertation Seminar I
ED542 Program Evaluation Dissertation Seminar II