5 in 5: Heather Boughton, Ohio Department of Education’s Director of the Office of Research, Evaluation & Advanced Analytics
Results for America Fellowship Alumni give five answers in five minutes. This month, we caught up with Heather Boughton, Director of the Office of Research, Evaluation & Advanced Analytics for the Ohio Department of Education.
- Summarize what you do and how you do it.
I help the Department answer questions about education in Ohio, by connecting teams to resources, demystifying the research process, and helping teams see the human stories in data and research.
- Share something exciting that you’re working on.
Through a partnership with Cleveland State University’s Center for Urban Education, Ohio is studying how school districts make sense of their school climate data and use it to improve. A sample of our districts will be partners in this work and we are excited to see how they help shape the study and how they learn through the process of their participation. As a precursor to this study, Cleveland State will also soon publish evidence-based guidance to districts on building a positive school climate during times of crisis and in remote learning environments as well as building a positive racial climate in schools.
- Tell us one thing you learned from someone else during your RFA Fellowship.
During RFA’s State Education Fellowship, multiple people helped push my thinking about the importance of thinking critically about funding priorities and alignment. I appreciate the innovative thinking about funding that RFA Fellows and the RFA team brought into our discussions. As a result, I am far better equipped to think intentionally and critically about funding issues than I was prior to the Fellowship.
- If you could wave a magic wand and have any data or evidence, what would it be?
Ohio’s quantitative, administrative data is a great resource when it comes to seeing trends across the state. Our Department is getting better about combining that quantitative data with qualitative data, creating opportunities for educators to tell us more about their experiences so that we have a deeper understanding of how state policies and programs play out locally. Where we still have room to improve is bringing student voice into our research; I would love to see more quantitative and qualitative data that speaks to students’ perceptions and experiences.
- What’s the [pick-your-adjective] job you’ve ever had?
The most foundational job I ever had was working for my parents on our family farm until I left town for graduate school. Everyone contributed, “family” and “colleagues” were interchangeable, and the outcomes of our labor graced the dinner table in the winter. I’ll never replicate that same experience in another job, but to this day that experience influences my perspectives on work.
Extra Question: How is the Ohio Department of Education adapting its work in response to COVID-19 and urgent calls for racial equity?
While there are many ways we have had to adapt, when I think about the Department’s response to COVID-19, one key term that comes to mind is partnerships. Over the last seven months, we have been working closely with both new and established partners (e.g., other state agencies, new research partners, community partners, new statewide networks) — who bring new data, research, resources, technology and knowledge to the table — because that is the only way we can even begin to meet our schools’ and students’ needs. Watching these new relationships and networks grow, I hope they remain strong as we emerge from the pandemic. These partnerships represent opportunities for innovation that can have long-term positive impacts on Ohio’s educational system.
Regarding racial justice, I am optimistic that our state leadership is making a long-term commitment to prioritizing equity and is not shying away from difficult conversations about the existence of systemic racism in education. Over the summer, the Ohio State Board of Education passed a resolution condemning white supremacy culture and its impact on Ohio’s schools. Internally, we are having agency-wide discussions about the importance of racial equity, as well as establishing workgroups that will be responsible for keeping this work top of mind for our Department. Finally, many individual offices are weaving a focus on equity into the resources they develop for districts, including, for example, virtual meet-ups for educators to share and learn from each other on how to address equity issues in schools.
Heather Boughton participated in Results for America’s State Education Fellowship.