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Joanna Smith

Joanna Smith's picture

Contact Info

Office Location: 
113 Lokey Education
B.A., English, Haverford College, Pennsylvania, 1996
Graduate Diploma in Education, English and ESL, University of Melbourne, Australia, 1997
Ph.D., Educational Policy and Administration, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 2004

Joanna (Jo) Smith is a Lecturer in the Department of Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership, where she co-directs the D.Ed. program. She teaches a variety of courses, including Research Writing, State and Local Policy, Education Policy Analysis, and Learning Organizations, as well as courses in qualitative and mixed methods research. Jo began her education career as an English and ESL teacher at an Islamic high school in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Oregon, Jo was a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. She has been at UO since 2013.


Dr. Smith couples academic peer-reviewed publications with the creation of tools developed in collaboration with the field to best meet the diverse needs of education leaders. Her work – often co-authored with students and other colleagues – has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including Education Finance and Policy, School Leadership and Management, Policy Studies Journal, and Journal of Educational Administration. She regularly presents her work at national and state conferences and has co-authored numerous reports, issue briefs and practitioner-focused guidebooks, including a 2013 policy brief published by the Center for American Progress on the use of categorical funds in state education funding formulas. Her 2013 book, Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective, co-authored with colleagues from Teachers College, Columbia and U.C. Berkeley and published by Harvard Education Press, distills the past decade of research on charter schools to identify the contextual and operational factors that influence these schools' varying performance. Selected publications are listed below:

Smith, J., Thier, M. & McClure, H. (2016). Stakeholder-Informed Research Design: Lessons about Culture and Context from Qatar. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Anderson, R., Guerreiro, M., & Smith. J. (2016). Are all biases bad? Collaborative grounded theory in developmental evaluation of education policy. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation.

Wohlstetter, P., Smith, J. & Farrell, C. C. (2015). The choices and challenges of charter schools, revisited. Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 9(1), 115-138.

Smith, J., Gasparian, G., Perry, N., & Capinpin, F. (2013). Categorical Funds: The Intersection of School Finance and Governance. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

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

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.

Smith, J., Wohlstetter, P., Farrell, C. & Nayfack, M. (2011). Beyond ideological warfare: The maturation of research on charter schools. Journal of School Choice, 5(4), 444-507.

Brewer, D. & Smith, J. (2008). A framework for understanding educational governance: The case of California. Education Finance and Policy, 3(1), 20-40.


Dr. Smith's research uses qualitative methods to explore the links between educational policy, leadership, and the improvement of schools and school systems. Her primary focus is the policy conditions that foster successful reform by educational leaders, defined broadly to encompass the decision-making roles played by the spectrum of system actors including (in some contexts) teachers, parents, school leaders, board members, and district and state administrators. As such, her work explores three levels of the education system: schools, districts, and states and has included studies of site-based management, charter schools, district responses to state budget reallocation, parent involvement, state education governance structures and policies, school-based governance, school networks, public-private partnerships in education, and the use of categorical funding. Dr. Smith's work has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement as well as a number of foundations and policy organizations, including the Weingart Foundation, the Center for American Progress, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. In 2014, she received funding from the UO College of Education to work with a group of EMPL students analyzing Oregon’s preparedness to implement the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. In 2015, she received funding from the Qatar National Research Fund to spend ten days in the country’s international education hub, Education City, to build collaboration for a study examining the experiences of female Qatari Education City students and alumnae.