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Notre Dame Sociologists Receive Grant to Research Indiana School Choice

Author: William Schmitt


New research at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Research on Educational Opportunity will focus on the implications of Indiana’s school choice laws on students’ friendships and achievements. Notre Dame sociologists Megan Andrew and Jennifer Flashman have received a $600,000 grant from the W.T. Grant Foundation and a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Andrew, a fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives and assistant professor of sociology, and Flashman, an affiliated research scientist at the Center for Research on Educational Opportunities and a data scientist at Microsoft, will collect and evaluate new data about middle school students in Indiana, which is known for its robust school choice programs.

“We will study peer influence and its social-psychological and behavioral links to students’ subsequent achievements,” Andrew, the principal investigator for the study, said. “Indiana is an ideal place to evaluate peer influence in the context of school choice because it has a relatively unique constellation of school choice policies. It is exactly these sorts of policies that are the centerpiece of contemporary educational reform.

“Yet, we still don’t understand important implications of these policies, particularly how students moving to new schools under private school vouchers or charter school programs integrate into and interact with peers in their new schools and whether this is any different from public schools.”

The project recognizes the importance of school choice policies and the Indiana educational reform movement. The data will be drawn from public, private, and charter middle schools in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis mayor’s office established the Office of Education Innovation to provide public charter school alternatives to traditional public schools. And in recent years, Indiana state law has given Indiana parents vouchers, helping them afford schools that charge tuitions as alternatives to free public or charter schools.

Andrew holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Flashman holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles.


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