Meet Yael Caplan, Summer ’17 UELIP

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By Julia Weigand

DCPS Office: Office of Talent and Culture, Teacher Recruitment and Selection Team
Education: Rising Senior at University of Chicago
Program of Study/Major: Public Policy with a specialization in Education Policy, minor in Comparative Human Development
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Yael Caplan, a public policy undergrad with previous internship experience in the urban school district of Chicago, has developed a keen eye for recognizing the nuances in education policy. At DCPS, Yael’s efforts focus on improving the teacher selection process. Currently, she is refining teacher preference surveys, a data-based initiative that aims to match teachers with their ideal school environments.

“The more I learn about the district, about the different pipelines for hiring and what it means to be a highly effective teacher, the more I understand the data, but, the trickier it gets,” Yael said. Examining data allows Yael to better understand the qualitative components that DCPS should be considering for its teachers during the hiring process. Discussing her project, Yael noted the nuance involved in using data to make robust conclusions, “it is important to step back and think about the questions behind the data,” she said.

Data is a clear interest of Yael’s — she worked with the Research Management Team at the Chicago school district office and is considering writing a thesis about the balance between data collection, and accountability maintenance in education research.

Like many UELIPs, Yael’s interest in education is derived from her experience as a high school tutor; however, it has been her time in Chicago that hardened her interest into a passion.  Immediately following her matriculation to the University of Chicago, Yael began tutoring kindergarten students. Her exposure to the Chicago system stood in stark contrast with the “bubble” of quality schools she had attended while growing up. Yael discovered education in the city has a myriad of problems, many stemming from racial and economic segregation and translating to inequity.

Although Yael recognizes that many schools simply lack the resources they need to succeed, she remains motivated by her belief that, when schools are “done right,” they can be momentous mechanisms of change. To make tangible changes in districts like Chicago and D.C., Yael thinks reform efforts should engage children outside the classroom. Yael emphasized the importance of incorporating academic and health services as well as early childhood education programs in reform efforts, as students benefit from the connectivity between community, family, and classroom.

After college, Yael wants to work for a think tank or research organization that focuses on children’s welfare and education. Longer term, Yael hopes to attend law school to deepen her skill set as an advocate for equity in education

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