Local Control and Educational Inequality: A Longitudinal Empirical Study of School District Governance in the United States
Greer Mellon

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Columbia University

Primary Discipline

In the United States, school districts are places where consequential educational policy decisions – from school zoning to local funding initiatives– are contested and implemented. Despite their importance, we know relatively little about how policy decisions are made at the school district level, and in particular, what role school district officials – superintendents and school board members – play in determining local educational policy outcomes. My dissertation research addresses these broader gaps by examining two specific research questions: (1) how much policy-making power does the school board exercise relative to superintendents and (2) are there important policy voting differences among board members with different racial/ethnic, partisan, and other background characteristics? In addressing these questions, I use a new dataset of all school board roll-call vote records available from 2009-2019 that I have web-scraped from a stratified sample of 150 school districts in three states (FL, NY, CA). Policy introduction and roll-call vote records are matched to demographic data on district officials from voter files. This data source provides the first opportunity—to my knowledge—to directly observe school board officials’ policy-making behaviors longitudinally and to draw generalizable conclusions about the relationship between the characteristics of school district officials and the actions they take to support different policy outcomes. The goal of my dissertation is to further our understanding of the dynamics of an educational organization that sets policies that have implications for student achievement and educational equity.
About Greer Mellon
Greer Mellon is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Columbia University. Her research uses quantitative methods to examine how variation in school district leadership contributes to educational inequalities in the United States. Greer built a longitudinal database of school district superintendent employment tenures in 26 states to estimate variation in “superintendent effects” on academic achievement. Her dissertation research examines how school boards and superintendents balance policy-making power, and how differences in the political, racial/ethnic, and occupational composition of local school boards contribute to differences in local educational policymaking. Her research utilizes a novel data source: longitudinal “roll-call” policy vote records from school board meeting minutes from a sample of 150 school districts in California, Florida, and New York.Greer’s other research projects include examining explanations for college major choice among students attending less-selective four-year colleges, and assessing trends in the gender gap in early elementary school achievement.Before beginning her Ph.D., Greer worked in nonprofit and government research. She was the Director of Evaluation and Development at the Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD. She also worked as a Research Analyst at Legal Services Corporation in Washington, DC, and as a Political Market Research Analyst at Benenson Strategy Group. Greer received an MPhil in Development Studies (International Development) from the University of Oxford, where she was the recipient of a Euretta J. Kellett Fellowship. She also has an M.A. in Statistics from Columbia University, and a B.A. in History from Columbia University.

Pin It on Pinterest