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Claire Smrekar

Associate Professor of Leadership, Policy and Organizations

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


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.

Media Appearances

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

    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.

    August 7th, 2019

  • DeVos Digs Herself Deeper

    “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.”

    March 14th, 2018

  • Williamson County Schools parents raise millions for education

    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."

    March 9th, 2018

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

    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.”

    January 15th, 2018

  • Consider Different Types of Public High Schools

    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.

    April 25th, 2017

  • Could Mississippi integration ruling trigger 'white flight'?

    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.

    May 27th, 2016

  • Mississippi city ordered to desegregate schools 60 years after landmark ruling

    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.

    May 17th, 2016

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

    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.

    February 10th, 2016