Economics and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University, M.A. 2018
Data and Assessment Specialist
New Bedford Public Schools – New Bedford, MA
Prior to applying to Teachers College, I was first an AmeriCorps volunteer at a high school in Philadelphia and, later, an elementary school teacher in Boston. The principals and instructional coaches at those schools emphasized the use of data in instruction, and I saw the tangible impact that this had on my practice. Making data-driven instructional decisions made me a more confident young teacher and informed a host of choices I made in the classroom. However, I had very limited experience with interpreting data from an undergraduate degree that had emphasized soft skills rather than hard ones. I loved being a teacher, but after four years in the classroom, I decided to make a shift towards a different type of role. At this point, I had the education “bug” and wanted to find a new role that kept me as fulfilled as I had been as teacher.
When I began looking at graduate programs to help me make that transition to a new role, I wanted to make sure that whatever I studied would include coursework in hard skills. While data and statistics were included in many education policy programs, the Economics and Education program at Teachers College appeared to have a stronger focus in quantitative methods. I ultimately chose this program over others based on a combination of that quantitatively rigorous coursework and the reputation of the university.
The program was exactly what I hoped it would be; throughout the 11 courses, I was exposed to a well-balanced mix of educational policy, statistics, data science, and economics. The program does allow a lot of flexibility, and – in hindsight – I wish I had committed to taking even more challenging courses in data science and research methods. Ultimately, I think I got a lot of value from the courses I did take, and the majority of people in my cohort felt the same way.
In addition to the coursework, I was able to get involved with the broader Teachers College community by engaging with my department’s student leadership group, a group dedicated to rural education policy, and several of my professors through lecture series and their own research. I also took three internships while I was a student; I interned at two different think tanks in their education policy divisions and with the New York City Department of Education’s enrollment office.
Since leaving Teachers College, I’ve worked as a consultant for NYC DOE, a data associate for a Harlem-based charter school network, and – now – as the leader of data analytics for a small urban school district in my home state. Within two years of finishing the program, I now advise the superintendent directly, conduct ad hoc research projects, develop data tools for principals and district-level leaders, and serve as a member and, occasionally, leader of several district-wide working groups.
As I look towards the future, I have more ambitious professional goals for myself than I had before my experience in the Economics and Education program. I love my current job a lot; it is challenging, engaging, and still gives me that same sense of purpose I had as a teacher. I’m not sure what the next steps in my career are going to be, but I haven’t ruled out a return to Teachers College to continue on with a PhD.