EdPolicyWorks continues its’ profile series with professor Dan Player and graduate student Veronica Katz. In this profile, Player discusses why he returned to academia and Katz highlights the ‘hand-on’ work she is doing after transitioning from the Teach for America program.
Dan Player comes from a long line of teachers. This may be why he is so interested in administration and teacher labor markets.
“Teachers are the most important factor that influences student achievement in schools,” said Player, who is leading a number of studies helping schools, districts and state educational systems understand leadership and track teachers.
Some of Players’ new work examines aspects of school leadership, like who becomes principals, and then how that links to teacher effectiveness and child outcomes.
“It is incredibly important to understand who becomes a principal or teacher and then how long they plan to stay in the profession,” explained Player. “We want to get the right people in the right places. So we are starting to look more at what types of educators are turning over in the profession, what they are doing and where they are going.”
This work aligns well with graduate student Veronica Katz who came to EdPolicyWorks after leaving a Teach for America position in California.
“I struggled as a teacher to get the support I needed from the administration,” explained Katz. “I now think about what it would take to keep a good teacher in a challenging school. For me, it wasn’t just pay. We needed broader supports like a counselor, nurse, and nutritionist.”
After having 5 principals in one year as a teacher, Katz now tackles these issues in her research through a school turnaround program that builds leadership capacity. She is using new skills to get data from schools participating in the program and then shape it into a dataset that could answer important questions about evaluating this program.
Katz used to miss the more ‘human side’ of education, now that she is crunching numbers as a student. But she describes her work as merging both sides by having the tools to ask important questions and getting valid answers that make a difference.
Together, Player and Katz make a dynamic duo at EdPolicyWorks.
Player returned to academia after working at Mathematica Policy Research, a policy research firm in New Jersey. “I missed mentoring,” described Player, who wants to help students explore what they want to do in a career.
“Dan gives me a lot of support in terms of my work but also my career,” said Katz. Player agrees that he approaches mentoring in a way that helps the student find their individual motivation by equally challenging and supporting them.
“One of the most rewarding pieces of mentoring is watching the student grow to where they really know the research inside and out,” described Player.
Katz talked about one of these moments. “I remember the first presentation I gave at a big conference. I learned how to briefly talk about my work in an intelligent way” said Katz. This initial milestone even garnered a fist bump from Player!
Katz described her experience with being mentored at EdPolicyWorks as both personal and professional, where faculty check in with you as a person but also with the work being done. Player added that his mentoring experience is most rewarding when watching students ask questions or discuss important topics intelligently during EdPolicyWorks’ Policy Labs or Speaker Series.
EdPolicyWorks is a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and the implications for the workforce.