MxAA 2014 Stipend Recipient: Danyoung ’12

For the summer of 2014, I was an intern at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a progressive think tank in Washington D.C. I worked on education policy and had several projects throughout my 10 weeks there. One project was a long-term report on the gender gap in mathematics. We wanted to know if teacher perception of students contributes to the lower performance of girls than boys in math. My supervisor conducted the data analysis and I conducted the background research and literature review and helped draft the beginning section of the report. We hope to publish the report either in an academic journal or as part of EPI later in the future.
Another project was updating and expanding case studies of local education reform around the country. This was part of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), a national campaign that aims to emphasize the importance of economic and social disadvantage in student achievement. BBA opened my eyes to the urgency of addressing poverty in education policy. With my supervisor, the National Coordinator of BBA, I co-wrote an article for The Huffington Post on the failure of Washington D.C. school policies to address the achievement gap between students of different demographics, such as income and race.
The third main project was developing a questionnaire for statisticians in different schools districts around the country on how value-added methods (VAM) are currently being used. VAM is a statistical method to evaluate schoolteachers by analyzing student test score gains in math and reading. It has been gaining much attention recently, and though it hopes to isolate external factors on student performance, such as different student backgrounds and school conditions, it, in the past, has not been able to do so completely. With this questionnaire, we hope to shed light on how the formula for VAM is designed in different districts.
I was also able to help out with miscellaneous fact-checking, research, writing, spreadsheet/graph work, and website/social media updates. Even though I primarily worked on education policy, I was able to learn a great deal about economic policy and issues such as wages, employment, labor, etc. I was able to meet with the economists, read their research, and ask about their career paths and how they see their role in public policy as researchers at a place like EPI. I was also able to meet the lawyers at EPI, and seeing their work has given me a clearer idea of what I can do after law school.
I chose to work at EPI because I admired its ability to produce excellent and honest research, and also because I admired its efforts to combat growing income inequality. I was confident before I interned at EPI that I want to dedicate my career to fighting income inequality, and EPI has equipped with me the skills to contribute to this cause more adeptly in the future. I have emerged from my internship with a more focused idea of how I want to contribute to the progressive movement, and I am so grateful for all the advice and guidance the people of EPI have provided me.