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Priscilla Wohlstetter

Professional Background

Educational Background

B.A., Simmons College; M.Ed., Harvard University; Ph.D., Northwestern University

Scholarly Interests

Policy and politics of K-12 urban education, school governance and school performance, charter schools and charter management organizations (CMOs), parent involvement in schools of choice, public-private partnerships, implementation of the Common Core State Standards, school networks, and intermediary organizations.

Selected Publications

Marsh, J.A. & Wohlstetter, P. (2013). Recent trends in intergovernmental relations: The resurgence of local actors in education policy. Educational Researcher, 42(5), pp. 276-283.

Farrell, C., Nayfack, M., Smith, J., & Wohlstetter, P. (in press). One size does not fit all: Understanding the variation in charter management scale-up. Journal of Educational Change.

Wohlstetter, P., Smith, J., & Gallagher, A. (2013). New York City's Children First Networks: Turning Accountability on Its Head. Journal of Educational Administration, 51(4), 528-549.

Wohlstetter, P., Smith, J., & Farrell, C.C. (2013). Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective. Harvard Education Press.

Farrell. C., Wohlstetter, P. & Smith, J. (2012). Charter management organizations: An emerging approach to scaling-up what works. Educational Policy, 26(4), 499-532.

Hentschke, G., Wohlstetter, P., Hirman, J., & Zeehandelaar, D. (2011). Using state-wide multiple measures for school leadership and management: Costs incurred vs. benefits gained. School Leadership & Management, 31(1), 21-34.

Thomas, A. & Wohlstetter, P. (2010, May). Six keys to success: Districts attempting urban reforms can learn from strategies that work. American School Board Journal. Alexandra, VA: National School Boards Association, 197(5), 36-38.

Wohlstetter, P. & Smith, J. (2010). Uncommon players, common goals: Partnerships in charter schools. In C. Lubienski & P.C. Weitzel, The charter school experiment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nayfack, M., Hentschke, G. & Wohlstetter, P. (2009, March). Exploring superintendent leadership in smaller urban districts: Does district size influence superintendent behavior? Education and Urban Society, 41(3), 317-337.

Wohlstetter, P., Datnow, A. & Park, V. (2007). Creating a system for data-driven decision-making: Applying the principal-agent framework. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 19(3), 239-259.

Wohlstetter, P., Malloy, C.L., Hentschke, G. & Smith, J. (2004, December). Improving service delivery in education through collaboration: The role of cross-sectoral alliances in the development and support of charter schools. Social Science Quarterly, 85(5), 1078-1096.

Wohlstetter, P. & Chau, D. (2003). Does autonomy matter? Implementing research-based practices in charter and other public schools. In K. Bulkley & P. Wohlstetter (Eds.), Taking account of charter schools: What’s happened and what’s next? New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Wohlstetter, P., Malloy, C.L., Chau, D., & Polhemus, J.L. (2003, September). Improving schools through networks: A new approach to urban school reform. Educational Policy, 17(4), 399-430.

current projects

Public Schools and Socioeconomic Diversity Project

The Public Schools and Socioeconomic Diversity Project focuses on intentionally diverse public schools – both charter and district-run schools -- with student populations that are socio-economically mixed. The project is being carried out in two phases. During the first phase, the project team is collaborating with a national group of eight charter leaders and the Cambridge Public School District (12 public schools) to develop and field test school climate surveys targeted to the unique interests of diverse public schools. The survey instruments (for parents, staff, and students) are being designed to evaluate the benefits and challenges of diverse charter schools. Once the surveys have been finalized, they will be available to the hundreds of diverse public schools across the U.S. The survey data will allow schools to track their own performance over time as well as benchmark themselves against other similar charters whose mission they share.

In the second phase, the project team, with foundation support, will conduct rigorous research to delve more deeply into the benefits and challenges of diverse public schools. The research will draw on a nationally representative sample of diverse public schools, both charter and district-run.  The research methods, in addition to the school climate surveys, will integrate both qualitative and quantitative approaches, including school-level interviews with teachers and administrators, focus groups with parents and students, and social network analysis across key stakeholder groups. Student achievement data will also be collected and analyzed to shed new information on the link between integration and student achievement. Through the project, we hope to identify, describe, and disseminate promising practices and strategies across participating schools, as well as analyze and make sense of emerging patterns for both scholarly and practitioner audiences.

Advisory Board: Rachel Godsil (Seton Hall Law), Richard Kahlenberg (The Century Foundation), James Liebman (Columbia Law), Amy Stewart Wells (Teachers College, Columbia University), Renita Thukral (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools).

Project Consultant: Halley Potter, The Century Foundation

Director: Priscilla Wohlstetter

Contact Information:    212.678.8213

Funding: Diversity Research Grant

Teachers College, Columbia University
Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis
525 West 120th Street, Box 11
New York, NY 10027

Teachers College Survey Research Initiative

The Teachers College Survey Research Initiative (TC SRI) assists states, districts and schools in designing surveys that fit their needs and priorities. We develop surveys for parents, staffs, and students to provide feedback to schools about school climate, stakeholder satisfaction and engagement, and principal evaluation. The surveys are designed to help clients identify what they are doing well and areas that can be improved.

The TC SRI was created by a diverse group of faculty from across Teachers College with expertise in survey design, measurement and statistics, leadership, parent involvement, and student engagement. All of our surveys meet the high-quality standards of survey design.

With our surveys, clients will have 24/7 access to the results. TC SRI analyzes and produces survey reports for clients. TC SRI services include online and paper surveys, free language translation, customized services for clients, and developing presentations for clients to communicate survey results to various stakeholders.

Advisory Board: Alex Bowers (Dept. of Organization & Leadership), Thomas Corcoran (CPRE), Matthew Johnson (Measurement & Statistics), Aaron Pallas (EPSA), Brian Perkins (Dept. of Organization & Leadership)

Funding: Provost Investment Fund

Director: Priscilla Wohlstetter

Contact Information:

Box 11

(212) 678-8213



School Choice Opportunity Index

The School Choice Opportunity Index evaluates American cities based on their openness to school choice reforms. The project asks the question: which cities foster and support school choice by nurturing the development, growth, and success of innovative reform efforts from outside governmental and school-level networks.
The final report will identify which American cities have the most reform-friendly ecosystems, based on factors such as human and financial capital devoted to school choice options; availability of nontraditional reformers and service providers; district-level receptivity to nontraditional reforms and collaborative relationships; support for parents and school choice providers; and municipal openness to nontraditional service providers and reformers.
Utilizing publicly available data, local surveys, and data from local organizations, the project implements a grading metric to rate each city, based on overall receptivity, commitment to cultivating school choice, and accomplishments in the area of school choice reform efforts.


Funding: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

Principal Investigator: Priscilla Wohlstetter

Contact Information:

Box 11

(212) 678-8213



biographical information

Priscilla Wohlstetter, Ph.D., is Distinguished Research Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Director of the TC Survey Research Initiative. Prior to her faculty appointment in the Department of Education Policy & Social Analysis, she held the Diane and MacDonald Becket Professorship in Education Policy at the University of Southern California, where she also founded and directed the Center on Educational Governance. She specializes in research on education reform, policy implementation, and intergovernmental relations. She has led numerous longitudinal studies around school decentralization, public-private partnerships, and charter schools. Her recent research examines the implementation and effects of the Common Core State Standards in New York City, which has produced several publications, including Common Core, Uncommon Model: Implementation in New York City for AERA, and Networks in New York City: Implementing the Common Core for the Politics of Education Yearbook. Wohlstetter served as a member of the US Department of Education’s Technical Working Group for College and Career Standards. She also serves on the Broad Foundation’s Charter School Prize Review Panel. Her most recent book, Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective (with J. Smith & C. C. Farrell) was published in 2013 by Harvard Education Press.

custom course list

EDPS 5645: The Craft of Policy Analysis (formerly Policy Seminar I)

Documents & Papers

Download: Wohlstetter_Resume [Word]

Centers and Projects

Consortium for Policy Research in Education