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. She teaches in the educational leadership program and is currently the director of the doctoral and master’s programs in educational policy. Her courses focus on educational policy and politics, 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 more than 17 years through her work at several prominent national research organizations, including SRI International, RPP International, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. She has written extensively on the topics of low-performing schools and high-stakes accountability, principal leadership, teacher motivation, and charter schools. Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science; employs both qualitative and quantitative methods; and focuses on urban school districts. 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 School Choice, Urban Review, and Education Policy Analysis Archives.

Finnigan’s current research focuses on social network analysis in low-performing schools and districts; school improvement under sanction; inter-district choice; district-wide reform; accountability policies; school closure; and the role of districts and states in school improvement. She is currently an associate editor of the Social and Institutional Analysis section of the American Educational Research Journal.

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PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara (Education with an emphasis in Educational Leadership and Organizations)

MA, University of California, Santa Barbara (Education with an emphasis in Educational Administration)

MS, San Diego State University (Counseling with an emphasis in Multicultural Counseling and School Psychology)

BA, Clark University (Psychology with Concentrations in Education and Philosopy)

Over the last 15 years, Alan has held a wide variety of positions in public education ranging from classroom teacher to district psychologist to site administrator. In addition to his K-12 public education experience, Alan has most recently been the Program Director for the Center for Educational Leadership and Effective Schools at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he collaboratively supported the delivery of high quality services and research to 5 school districts focusing on the rigorous examination of strengths, building leadership capacity, and facilitating the potential of systems for transformation.

Alan has presented at the local, state, and national level around conflict mediation, the creation and maintenance of positive school cultures, and the impact of current accountability structures. As a licensed educational psychologist, he has also provided consultation to school districts working to build and sustain systemic leadership capacity, district reform, and implementation of adult and student conflict mediation systems. Alan’s research interests include social capital, the analysis of social networks, trust, educational policy, and the building of strengths-based systems of support.

Learn more about his work here: