Grant Sim has a career that is exactly in the field he wanted: policy analysis and public administration in the field of education.
As a policy and research analyst at the Value-Added Research Center, an education research unit at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Sim uses his La Follette School training every day. “My time at La Follette provided me with a great foundational skill set in analysis, evaluation, and policy writing,” he says. “I use skills I learned in classes such as advanced statistics, program evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, and policy analysis in almost all of my work.”
For VARC, which is led by La Follette School professor Rob Meyer, Sim works on a variety of projects, many of them in program evaluation, that are quantitative and qualitative in nature. “One of my largest projects is the evaluation of the SAGE program (small-class size initiative in grades K-3) in Wisconsin,” Sim says, adding that he is the project lead for this multi-year evaluation that blends qualitative and quantitative methods.
“The quantitative element of the evaluation uses statistical methods to explore student measures of learning from across the state,” Sim says. “The qualitative element includes an annual survey and frequent outreach to districts and schools to improve the model for the evaluation. My responsibilities on the project include coordination and communication with the state Department of Public Instruction (the client), data analysis, presenting our results, writing reports, working with the evaluation team of economists and researchers, qualitative research, overseeing the project deliverables, and project management and budgeting.”
Sim also is a technical assistance provider for the Teacher Incentive Fund to help grantees in the creation and support of human capital management and performance-based compensation systems. He also assists in general research and analysis, report writing, grant writing and project management.
Sim came to the La Follette School in 2006 with an education policy career in mind, after he graduated from the UW–Oshkosh that spring. During the summer between his first and second years at La Follette, he worked as a legislative intern in a U.S. senator’s Washington, D.C., office. “My time there not only equipped me with both knowledge of educational policy and legislation, but also allowed me to see the politics of education first hand,” Sim says. “The La Follette School was a great experience for me overall. It provided not only the foundational skills that most policy jobs require, but also provided a vast array of electives to help with any special areas of focus a prospective student might want.”
After graduating from La Follette in 2008 with a Master of Public Affairs, Sim joined DPI as a data and research analyst in the Office of Educational Accountability. “My work there included performing data analysis and research related to special education student populations, providing interpretation and presentations on student and district level assessment data, and conducting policy and data research to help determine the effectiveness, validity, and consequences of assessment practices for special populations,” Sim says.
Sim’s familiarity with Wisconsin’s public education system is a benefit to VARC. “A lot of my work is based in Wisconsin, including the SAGE program evaluation and frequent work with the Milwaukee Public Schools,” Sim says. “All of this work has the end goal of improving the advancement of student learning.”
“VARC as a whole has the focus to develop and implement education analytics to support educators and improve student learning through value-added analytics, professional development, educational research, and stakeholder engagement,” Sim adds. “Through my work as a program evaluator and technical assistance provider, I strive to assist states, districts, and schools to improve their policies that will hopefully have the impact of improved student outcomes.”
Those districts benefit directly from Sim’s policy analysis and public administration training. “I rely on my quantitative training from La Follette almost every day on my job,” Sim says. “Frequently I utilize statistical methods on my projects. I am also often tasked with interpreting and presenting the results of statistical analyses to a variety of different stakeholders. La Follette’s courses were great in preparing me for quantitative analysis, interpretation, and presentation.”