Kara Finnigan
Spencer Foundation
Senior Vice President
Kara Finnigan

Year Elected


Membership status

Kara Finnigan is Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation and a Professor of Education at University of Michigan’s School of Education. Prior to Michigan, she spent 19 years at the University of Rochester, most recently as Professor of Education Policy and Leadership and as a Distinguished Equity, Inclusion, and Social Transformation Fellow. Finnigan has conducted research and evaluations of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level for more than 30 years. She has written extensively about high-stakes accountability and school choice and focuses on issues of racial justice and equity in policy design, implementation, and outcomes. Finnigan has published two edited books and co-authored Striving in Common: A Regional Equity Framework for Urban Schools (Harvard Education Press). Finnigan's research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science and employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis and GIS mapping. She is currently studying connections between education and housing policies; social movements around integration in metropolitan areas; and the social networks of educational leaders around research evidence. Finnigan has served in many leadership roles for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and is currently Editor in Chief of AERA Open, the association’s only peer-reviewed open access journal. She serves on local and national policy-related committees. She began her work in K-12 education as a substitute teacher in Anchorage, Alaska.

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