My research how parents and communities construct social meaning through their schools, and how these choices have a macro impact on school segregation. My research has focused on the multiple framings and contested meanings of a distinctive pedagogy like Montessori, both in the US and globally, or how parents navigate school choice in Singapore and Germany.

This meaning can be constructed around historical memory in relation to nation-building and community-building, and I’ve researched how this operates both in Italy with relation to frescoes and priceless art and in India around Gandhi’s assassination and Partition.

A third mode of examining the social meaning of schools is through research examining parents and students working toward school integration and broader social integration/racial justice. Spencer-funded research with Molly Makris and Elise Castillo examines New York City school integration activists during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a future project examines parental activists supporting local public schools in several global cities.


Mira Debs, Diverse Families, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice. Harvard Education Press, 2019.

Co-editor, Handbook of Montessori Education, Bloomsbury, UK, 2023.