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Claire Smrekar - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Claire Smrekar

Associate Professor of Leadership, Policy and Organizations | Vanderbilt University


An expert who studies K-12 school choice, charters, magnet schools, vouchers, private schools and segregation.



Claire Smrekar Publication Claire Smrekar Publication






Claire Smrekar conducts qualitative research studies related to the social context of education and public policy, with specific focus on the impact of desegregation plans and choice policies on families, schools and neighborhoods. She is currently studying the effects of private school markets and demographic trends on school voucher plans. She has served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice on school segregation cases.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Education Policy


Charter School Education

Demographic Trends in Schools

School Choice

Private Schools



Education (4)

Stanford University: Ph.D.

Stanford University: M.A.

Stanford University: M.A.

University of California: B.A.

Affiliations (5)

  • Consultant, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
  • Consultant-Developer, Tennessee Charter Schools Association
  • Member, Nashville 2040 Metropolitan Planning Initiative
  • Member, Technical Working Group, Magnet Schools Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Education
  • Consultant, Metro Nashville Public Schools/Metro Legal Department.

Selected Media Appearances (8)

For some students, Nashville isn’t the 'it city.' It’s the 'inequity city'

The Tennessean  online


In high-performing public schools, "the inequity comes from private, organic sources that no one really pays attention to," like money raised just from the parents, said Claire Smrekar, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.

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DeVos Digs Herself Deeper

The Atlantic  online


“I found [the interview] to be somewhere between disappointing and disturbing,” said Claire Smrekar, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University whose research focuses include school choice. “It just demonstrates—again—an appalling lack of understanding of some public fundamental principles and practices related to public education.” “I can understand being nominated the Secretary of Education and lacking some of the deeper knowledge,” Smrekar continued, “but then I would go to work.”

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Williamson County Schools parents raise millions for education

The Tennessean  online


But how that affects student achievement varies by classroom, said Claire Smrekar, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College. "What we know is that parents have a powerful influence on students in terms of investment," Smrekar said. "I think it’s important, and rarely explored asset of public school finance that creates incredible opportunity for some kids but leads to an uneven pathway and budget picture."

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What we can learn from closure of charter school that DeVos praised as ‘shining example’

The Conversation  online


When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and first lady Melania Trump visited Excel Academy Public Charter School last spring, DeVos praised the school as a “shining example of a school meeting the needs of its students, parents and community.” Melania Trump called the charter school “an exceptional example of a school preparing young women both academically and personally so that they may succeed in a global community.”

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Consider Different Types of Public High Schools

US News  online


Charter schools are designed to be different. Charter schools are public schools run by independent groups, usually nonprofits, that have more freedom to do things differently, says Claire Smrekar, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.

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Could Mississippi integration ruling trigger 'white flight'?

CNN  online


Testifying for the parents, Vanderbilt University professor Claire Smrekar called fears of white flight overblown and Rossell's source material outdated. Furthermore, Smrekar testified, economic demographics and other factors in the region led her to believe Cleveland parents would not be willing to pay for private schools.

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Mississippi city ordered to desegregate schools 60 years after landmark ruling

The Guardian  online


Vanderbilt University education professor Claire Smrekar, who helped the Department of Justice devise its plan, said in an affidavit the best way forward would be a district-wide middle school that uses the current East Side high school building, and a district-wide high school campus using the current Cleveland high school and Margaret Green junior high buildings.

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How the Department of Defense schools are teaching their version of Common Core math

The Hechinger Report  online


But the hurdles for children in military families are also very real, says Claire Smrekar, an associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, who has researched DoDEA for more than 15 years. Given the transiency of military life, children can change schools as often as six times over the course of their academic careers, potentially leaving them on shaky academic foundation. Other challenges include a high rate of divorces and remarriage among military families, the strain of frequent or extended deployments, and the difficulty of finding work for spouses of military personnel, which can mean getting by on one income.

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Research Grants (2)

Examining the Learning and Leadership Outcomes of the EdD Capstone

Peabody College $7,800


Vanderbilt University

Does Race Matter? The Shifting Landscape of School Desegregation in American Cities

Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies $40,000


Vanderbilt University

Selected Articles (5)

Localism rediscovered: Toward new political understandings in school district governance

Peabody Journal of Education

Claire Smrekar, Robert L Crowson

2015 Our nation continues to struggle mightily with efforts to reform and to improve the public schools. The improvement efforts to date have been extraordinarily diverse—and there have been some major consequences over the years, particularly in the domains of curricular reform, teaching, and administration.

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The desegregation aims and demographic contexts of magnet schools: How parents choose and why siting policies matter

Peabody Journal of Education

Claire Smrekar, Ngaire Honey

2015 This paper is designed to specify a set of new opportunities for educators, school administrators, and scholars to realize the practical aims and strategic advantages envisioned in magnet schools. The paper is divided into three distinct sections. In Section I, we examine the extensive research literature on parents’ choice patterns and school preferences in magnet schools and other school-choice programs.

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HOPE VI neighborhoods and neighborhood schools: Understanding how revitalized neighborhoods influence school environments

Peabody Journal of Education

Claire E Smrekar, Lydia Bentley

2011 This article poses the central question, How do neighborhoods (specifically, different public housing designs) shape parents’ social interactions and social networks? To answer this question, we interviewed families residing in a HOPE VI neighborhood and an adjacent Section 8 apartment complex, all of whom had at least one child attending the close-by neighborhood school (Crawford Elementary School, a pseudonym).

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The influence of local conditions on social service partnerships, parent involvement, and community engagement in neighborhood schools

American Journal of Education

Lora Cohen-Vogel, Ellen Goldring, Claire Smrekar

2010 By using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software to combine health and crime data with data from 20 schools in one Southeastern district, the study explores whether and how neighborhood conditions affect school-community arrangements.

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Beyond the tipping point: Issues of racial diversity in magnet schools following unitary status

Peabody Journal of Education

Claire Smrekar

2009 This article uses qualitative case study methodology to examine why the racial composition of magnet schools in Nashville, Tennessee, has shifted to predominantly African American in the aftermath of unitary status. The article compares the policy contexts and parents' reasons for choosing magnet schools at two points in time—under court order and under unitary status.

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