Educ 308: Cities Suburbs and Schools

Spring 2022 Syllabus

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:50am-12:05pm from Feb 1st to May 5th, 2022. Due to the pandemic, the first week of our course will meet in the instructor’s Zoom room For subsequent weeks, we are scheduled to meet in-person with masks in Trinity Library Room 02 (basement). See Trinity Covid policies.

Professor Jack Dougherty, Trinity College, Hartford CT. Email me a quick question or schedule a Zoom appointment on my calendar.

Course description: Our upper-level undergraduate seminar operates as a team research workshop on cities, suburbs, and schooling. To develop our skills with qualitative, quantitative, and historical methods, we closely read other studies and conduct our own small-scale research in metropolitan Hartford. As a community-learning seminar, we partner with local groups and share our findings and stories on the public web.  Prerequisite: Ed 200 or the Cities Program or permission of instructor. Cross-referenced with Community Learning. Enrollment limited to 19.

Research Projects

This seminar fulfills the Research Project requirement for Educational Studies majors. This semester our theme is Connecting Schooling and Housing, and we will work together to design, conduct, and publicly share our findings for two team research projects:

1) What are meaningful ways to present public data released under the Sheff v. O’Neill school integration settlement? How do different Hartford-area community members interpret these tables, charts, and maps?

  • Learn about Hartford-area magnet schools, the public school choice lottery, and political and policy implications of disaggregating student outcome data
  • Explore different ways to visualize disaggregated student data as described in the 2020 and 2022 Sheff settlements
  • Share our work with a guest expert evaluator and incorporate feedback
  • Conduct Zoom interviews with Sheff Movement members to listen to and compare their interpretations of our work

2) How can we use the TeachIt CT framework to design inquiry-based lesson plans on the history of housing segregation and school integration for middle and high school students? How do experienced teachers interpret and offer feedback on our curricular contributions?

  • Learn about Hartford-area housing segregation and civil rights activism, past and present, and the TeachIt CT inquiry-based curriculum framework
  • Working in teams to create lesson plans on four different topics:
    • Federal lending and redlining in Hartford region, 1930s onward
    • Race restrictive covenants in Hartford-area suburbs, 1940s onward
    • Exclusionary residential zoning in Hartford-area suburbs, 1920s onward
    • Sheff v. O’Neill activism for integrated schools, 1989-present
  • Share our work with guest expert evaluator and experienced educators and incorporate their feedback.


Your academic progress will be evaluated in three ways:

A. Open-book reading quizzes

  • The purpose is to improve your comprehension of key ideas in major readings and to demonstrate your knowledge prior to our class, so that we can delve deeper together during discussion.
  • By most Friday afternoons, I will post 1-3 open-ended and/or multiple-choice questions about selected major readings on Moodle. You may discuss readings with anyone who has not yet begun the quiz. Select any 3-hour period from Friday until Tuesday’s seminar to complete the quiz, and during this time you may use your readings, notes, and the entire Internet, but you must work independently and you may not communicate about the quiz content in any way (except with the instructor) until the quiz has closed. You are responsible for following the Intellectual Honesty policy as described in the Trinity Student Handbook. If doubts arise, the instructor may require you to retake a quiz under direct supervision and/or refer the issue to the Honor Council.
  • Each quiz may be taken only once, but only your 5 best scores of the semester (worth 5 points each) will be counted, for a total of 25 points.

B. Research Project Stages

  • The purpose is to develop your skills in designing and conducting qualitative, quantitative, and historical research. Each of our research projects will be scaffolded into smaller stages, including guest evaluation by experts. Research Project 1 will be divided into 35 points, and Project 2 will be divided into 20 points, and a Final Reflective Essay on schooling-housing connections will be worth 10 points, for a total of 65 points. A 20 percent late penalty will be deducted for every 12-hour period beyond the deadline. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies.

C. Leadership and Participation

  • The purpose is to develop your discussion leadership skills and promote active learning with accountability.
  • Students will be invited to choose a major reading and prepare in advance to lead 10-15 minutes of engaging class discussion, using one of my recommended methods or your own. Afterwards, I will evaluate your discussion leadership skills, worth up to 5 points.
  • Also, each student begins the course with 5 participation points. During class, you may be randomly called on discuss our common topic. You do not necessarily need to know the correct answer. But if you are not present or not able to participate when called, a point will be deducted from your participation score. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies, or scheduling conflicts where you have notified me well in advance.
  • Total 10 points.


25 points quizzes + 65 points project stages + 10 participation = 100 total points. In this course, unsatisfactory work (below 70%) falls in the D or F range, adequate work (70-79%) in the C range, good work (80-89%) in the B range, and outstanding work (90 to 100%) in the A range. Each range is divided into equal thirds for minus (-), regular, and plus (+) letter grades. For example, 80 to 83.33% = B-, 83.34 to 86.67 = B, and 86.68 to 89.99 = B+. Access your individual assessments on the password-protected Moodle site for this course at

Academic accommodations: please notify me before our third class session, and schedule an appointment on my calendar to discuss how we will implement your approved plan. For those students with accommodations approved after the start of the semester, a minimum of 10 days’ notice is required. Learn more at the Student Accessibility Resource Center.

Religious observances: please notify me before our third class session regarding any scheduling accommodations.

How to Succeed in this Course

  • Bookmark this online syllabus and check it before class for updates.
  • All readings will be freely provided to students in digital format. Let me know if you prefer paper printouts, and I will arrange photocopying for a modest fee.
  • Keep a calendar (paper or digital) to manage your time and meet deadlines.
  • Bring a laptop (with a fully-charged battery) to every session for in-class data analysis, writing exercises, and peer editing. Turn off distractions to help you (and others) focus on learning. Set notifications on digital devices to “Do Not Disturb.”
  • Take initiative and ask questions: during or after class, via email, or by appointment on my calendar. If you don’t understand something, other students probably are puzzled, too. Go ahead and ask.
  • Meet up with other students outside of class. Create a small study group to review the course material and work together. The secret to success in college is teaching yourselves how to learn new material.
  • If anything is interfering with your learning, email or talk with me about it. I care about how you’re doing in life, not just in our classroom.


I may modify the schedule to match the pace of our research projects, but the amount of work required will remain the same. Major changes will be marked in bold. Watch for updates.

Tues 1 Feb

Thur 3 Feb

Tues 8 Feb

Thur 10 Feb

Tues 15 Feb

  • Guiding question: How do school choice providers market magnet schools to different communities? How do parents navigate school choices?
  • Before class, read items below and complete open-book quiz 2 on Moodle:
  • Chana Joffe-Walt, “Act One: My Secret Public Plan” in “The Problem We All Live With - Part Two,” This American Life, August 7, 2015, listen to the audio and/or read the transcript Discussion leader 1: Sophia.
  • Mira Debs, Diverse Families, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice (Harvard Education Press, 2019). Read preface and chapter 4 in Moodle. Discussion leader 2: Victoria.
  • Jack Dougherty and co-authors, “School Information, Parental Decisions, and the Digital Divide: The SmartChoices Project in Hartford, Connecticut,” in Educational Delusions? Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair, ed. Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 219–37, in Moodle.

Thur 17 Feb

Tues 22 Feb

Thur 24 Feb

Tues 1 March

Thur 3 March

  • In class: seminar and instructor feedback on Stage 3
  • Assign Stage 4: Improve interactive charts and/or tables, based on NEW evaluation criteria, due Sunday 6 March by 6pm for me to forward to guest evaluators
  • Students offer time windows for me to schedule Stage 5 Zoom interviews with selected Sheff Movement members about all of our data visualizations
  • Recommended: Watch or participate in Fri March 4th Education Committee Public Hearing at CT General Assembly on Zoom and YouTubeLive about several bills under consideration (including Sheff 2022 settlement, school funding, data disaggregation, etc.) Scheduled to begin at 11am and expected to last for several hours. Testimony is recorded and archived.

Tues 8 March

Thur 10 March

Tues 15 March

  • Guiding question: How do we thematically analyze our interview transcripts to answer our research question?
  • Annette Lareau, “Chapter 8: Data Analysis - Thinking as You Go,” Listening to People: A Practical Guide to Interviewing, Participant Observation, Data Analysis, and Writing It All Up (University of Chicago Press, 2021), in Moodle.
  • In class: Ways to thematically analyze our Sheff interview transcripts - restricted to seminar
  • Assign: Stage 6: essay on interviews, worth 15 points, due by end of Friday 18 March on Moodle
  • Volunteer (or be assigned) to discussion leader roles after Spring Break
  • Update on Sheff 2022 settlement in the CT General Assembly: Maxwell Zeff, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, and Walter Smith Randolph, “Despite Concerns from Lawmakers, Sheff v. O’Neill Agreement Poised to Go into Effect,” CT Public, March 9, 2022,

Thur 17 March

Spring Break

  • No class on Tues 22 March or Thur 24 March.

Tues 29 March

  • Welcome back and general feedback on Sheff dataviz essays
  • Introduction to Team Research Project 2: Creating lesson plans on CT housing segregation and school integration activism
  • In-class: Designing inquiry-based history lessons for educators using the TeachIt CT template, and preparing questions for our guest (who also serves as guest evaluator for this project in April)
  • Guest: Rebecca Furer, TeachIT CT program director at CT Humanities (11:30am)
  • In-class: selected lessons from TeachIt CT
  • Prep for next class (and Moodle quiz will open Tuesday evening)

Thu 31 March

Tues 5 April

Thur 7 April

  • Class cancelled due to my illness

Tues 12 April

Thur 14 April

Tues 19 April

Thur 21 April

  • Assign Project 2 stage 3: Schedule of Zoom feedback sessions with designated educators on your lesson plans, worth 2 points for participation.
  • Workshop: Refining lesson plans based on feedback from peers and instructor. Reminder to improve how you display and identify your primary sources.
  • Feedback meetings in-class with instructor
    • 10:50 Daisy and Joe
    • 11:05 Teddy
    • 11:20 Mike and Victoria
    • 11:35 Maria
    • 11:50 Sophia and Azka

Sat 23 April

  • Two recommended virtual events that also will generate options for final reflective essay questions.

Tues 26 April

  • In-class: Student feedback on Zoom feedback sessions with high school educators; update from CT Public
  • Assign Project 2 stage 4: Revise your final lesson plan for review by guest evaluator Rebecca Furer. Resolve all Google Doc comments and finalize titles. Instructor will email your links to evaluator on Wed 27 April at 1pm to begin review, worth 10 points.
  • In-class: Prepare and practice an oral summary of highlights and commentary on decisions regarding your lesson plan, not to exceed 3 minutes, to deliver in-person to guest evaluator
  • Workshop time to review any edits with instructor, or schedule appointment on my calendar

Thur 28 April

Tues 3 May

  • Connecting Schooling and Housing, Past and Present
  • Assign: Final Essay on ONE of the topics below, no more than 1200 words. Your essay will be evaluated on the clarity, insightfulness, and persuasiveness of your arguments and supporting evidence in response to the question. Submit on Moodle for blind-review by instructor (place your Trinity ID number at the top, NOT your name) by Monday May 9th at 6pm, worth 10 points. This final writing assignment takes the place of a final exam.
  • Topic 1: Legal Strategy
    • In this April 12th video, attorney John Brittain suggested ways that present-day civil rights attorneys might take legal action to advance the goals of the original 1989 Sheff v. O’Neill case that he co-authored. (Brittain speaks about Sheff legal strategy at several points: 9:45, 20:00, 37:20, and 46:30). Clarify at least one of his suggestions for present-day legal activism, and respond to it with your own evidence-based recommendation. Your essay must cite supporting evidence from the first two sources below, plus other sources as you wish:
  • Topic 2: Sheff Data Transparency
    • In this April 23rd video, Ajit Gopalakrishnan, Chief Performance Officer at the CT State Department of Education, presented updates in the coming weeks to the EdSight Data Platform. Key portions of his presentation:
      • Educator Diversity Dashboard (around 30:00)
      • School Choice Dashboard for Sheff Magnet Schools (around 44:00)
      • Resident Town dashboard (around 53:00)
    • Your essay should answer both of these questions:
      • A) To what extent will the updated EdSight dashboards meet the Data Transparency requirements of the Sheff 2022 settlement? (see pages 2-3)
      • B) To what extent will the updated EdSight dashboards display the “Five Goals of the Sheff 2022 Settlement” created by our seminar?
    • Your essay must cite supporting evidence from the following sources, plus other sources as you wish:
  • Topic 3: Shopping for Schools
    • In 2012 I published an historical article which outlined the rise of “shopping for schools” in the post-WWII era, where suburban families, real estate interests, and government leaders promoted the buying and selling of private homes to secure access to more desirable public school attendance zones. Since this article was published, has “shopping for schools” intensified in the Hartford region – or have interdistrict magnet schools successfully broken the link between private home ownership and access to quality public schools?
    • Your essay must cite supporting evidence from:
      • Jack Dougherty, “Shopping for Schools: How Public Education and Private Housing Shaped Suburban Connecticut,” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 2 (March 2012): 205–24, available from Trinity Library at
      • At least two additional sources published after my 2012 article, from our syllabus or your additional reading.

Thur 5 May

  • Update from Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Public
  • In-class student feedback on specific aspects that helped you to learn in this course.
  • Opportunity to ask questions or discuss your approach to your final essay response, due Monday 6pm.