Thomas Hatton is a part-time MPA student in his final year. He currently works at the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, which collects and maintains data for “education and workforce efforts in the Commonwealth” (more information). Prior to KCEWS, Thomas worked as a GED teacher for migrant workers, an outreach coordinator for the Southeastern KY Migrant Education Program, and a coordinator of a mobile clinic that helped farmworkers, refugees, and individuals experiencing homelessness. He shares with us his experiences with KCEWS and his time at the Martin School.
What do you do with KCEWS?
My specific job title is Business Analyst/Training Coordinator for the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS). I am in charge of helping our stakeholders (policymakers, school staff, parents, and students) to better understand how to utilize our longitudinal data system to achieve their goals. Kentucky, along with 16 other states, just received the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grant, in the amount of $6.7 million. Part of this grant will involve creating a dynamic reporting solution that will make our data more usable and accessible. I will develop curriculum, create training materials, and plan professional development so that our stakeholders can better obtain and utilize our data with our new system.
What has been surprising about your work with KCEWS? Challenging?
I think the most surprising thing about KCEWS has been the level of recognition that it has received nationwide in what has been a relatively short time. KCEWS is well respected nationwide, and in many ways, is viewed as a model for the rest of the country, both for our data system and our use of data. The most challenging aspect, for me, is the pressure I feel as a result of this reputation to do my job well. Although I have taught for several years now, and I feel relatively comfortable in front of groups, there will be pressure to do so in a way that maintains the excellent reputation that KCEWS has managed to build over the last few years. There are far worse challenges to have! I have really enjoyed the work I have done and very much look forward to the work I will do as the grant progresses.
How have your previous experiences or schoolwork at the Martin School prepared you for your position? What has been valuable?
The Martin School’s reputation has opened doors, as it is well known for preparing individuals for work in the public sector, especially in Frankfort. A few weeks ago, I went to the Prichard Commitee’s fall meeting, and was amazed to see how many Martin School graduates were doing great work for education policy in the state. I think the most important thing I learned at the Martin School was the crucial role that data should play in decision making. Another important skill I refined at the Martin School was the ability to try view things objectively and without bias- not as an advocate, but as an analyst.
What are the “hot topics” in that field right now?
Many states that are using longitudinal data systems are trying seek ways to better disseminate their data. We are producing data that could potentially be very helpful to many different groups, and a major concern is that stakeholders aren’t aware of the data or are unsure of how to utilize it. A major part of the SLDS grant we obtained involves with making sure our data ends up in the hands of people who could use it- policymakers, superintendents, school counselors, parents of school aged children, and students. Another big topic in the longitudinal data world is data privacy. Part of making data available to the public is ensuring that the highest standards of privacy are maintained.
If you could wake up tomorrow speaking a new language fluently, what language would that be?
Hmmm…pragmatically speaking, I’d love to be able to speak Chinese/Mandarin. I have spoken Spanish for a while now, and I can understand some of the words and grammatical structures from the other romantic languages due to cognates and my studies of Latin and medieval Spanish, so learning a language with a completely different grammatical system would be great.