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Martin School Director Featured in Education Week Series

November 13 Monday 02:22 PM

In addition to educating students in the classroom, faculty at the Martin School also publish research that impacts current public policy. In fact, Education Week recently published a blog series featuring the research of Dr. Ron Zimmer, Director (and an alumnus) of the Martin School. The series reflects on a recent publication titled “Lessons from Five Years of Research on State Turnaround Efforts” from the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA). As a part of the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University, TERA has a mission “to provide evidence based from research to inform education policy.” Dr. Zimmer, along with other researchers, has partnered with TERA to analyze Tennessee’s recent school turnaround efforts

In the first post of this series, members of TERA present their perspectives on the research, including a discussion of the outcomes of two primary reform programs, a synthesized retrospective look at previous research, and a plan for future research. According to Dr. Zimmer, the biggest success of this research has been its ability to produce “information that has helped refine Tennessee’s policy to turn around low performing schools.” TERA’s research brief indicated areas of success for these programs as well as various challenges that have impaired the progress of the programs.

The second post features Nate Schwartz, the Chief Research and Strategy Officer for the Tennessee Department of Education. He discusses the successes and challenges of following Tennessee’s school initiative as well as the implications of the findings of Dr. Zimmer and his colleagues. The perspective Schwartz presents highlights the sometimes difficult transition process between research and policy. Yet he also demonstrates how working with TERA and the researchers on this analysis has bettered Tennessee’s education department and its programs. Tennessee’s education department and Dr. Zimmer and his colleagues will continue to monitor the progress of the state’s school initiative.


The original blog posts can be viewed here:


September Feature: Lessons in Compromise

September 7 Thursday 03:11 PM

During the Summer 2017 Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship's College Congress, KET followed five students through the week. The mini-documentary includes individual interviews and filming all over the Lexington area: University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Three Chimneys Farm, Ashland Henry Clay Estate, and the Campbell House. The Martin School took part in constructing the programming these college students experienced in Lexington and in DC. The episode will air for the first time on KET on Tuesday, September 12th at 9:30pm

What Do Nurses, Barbers, and Truck Drivers Have in Common?

August 16 Wednesday 05:31 PM

Matt Shafer is entering his second year of the MPA program. In this post, he describes one his first projects as a policy analyst at the Council of State Governments.

What do nurses, barbers, and truck drivers all have in common? They need a state issued license to perform their jobs. When implemented properly, occupational licensing can help protect the health and safety of consumers by requiring training and education. However, differences and disparities in occupational licensing laws across states can create barriers for those looking to enter the labor market and make it harder for workers to relocate across state lines.

As an Education and Workforce Development Policy Analyst at CSG, I have spent the summer researching licensing requirements among all 50 states across 34 selected occupations in hopes of compiling a national licensing report by the end of the year. Scouring through thousands of state statutes and administrative rules constitutes the bulk of my research, and as you might expect, the task has been more difficult than initially anticipated. Statutes are confusing to read and vague, occupations are difficult to define uniformly, licensing requirements are cumbersome to obtain, and discrepancies amongst states are massive. Nevertheless, we are on pace to meet our goal and finish our research portion of the report by this fall.

This project is a joint effort between CSG and sister organizations: the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association. Together we are looking for solutions to solve problems caused by barriers created through disparities in states occupational licensing laws.

After the report is finished, our team will focus on the next phase of the project. Through a competitive application process, 10 states will be selected to receive technical assistance from all three organizations over the next three years to improve licensing policies. I will be traveling to the selected states to familiarize state leaders with licensing laws and best practices in other states, and begin actions to remove unnecessary barriers to labor market entry and improve portability and reciprocity of licenses.  

I love my position at CSG, and I’m grateful for the Martin School in providing me the resources to succeed there. I look forward to incorporating my occupational licensing research at CSG into my capstone project as I finish my MPA degree next spring. 

MPA Student Explores Professional Interests in Local Government Internship

August 4 Friday 11:34 AM

Paul Kleier is an MPA student beginning his second year this fall. He reflects upon his summer internship experience with the City of Cresview Hills in Northern Kentucky.

When I entered the Martin School last August I knew that my professional interest lay in local government. When it came time to explore internships, therefore, I looked at the possibility of working for a city government. Being a native of northern Kentucky, this search led me to the City of Crestview Hills where I have been interning for the past two months. My experience here has been both educational and eye-opening and included tasks ranging from the more mundane realities of small, local governments to intriguing projects that can shape the future of cities.

Working with Tim Williams, the City Administrator of Crestview Hills, and other staff at the City, has exposed me to a broad array of concerns that local government must attend to. While visiting road maintenance projects with the Public Works Director, I have learned about the many considerations that go into these projects, such having proper signage to denote changes in traffic patterns. By being part of the process to develop a Mixed-Use Zone for the City, I have been able to see the qualities that are important in choosing partners for projects. I have been leading my own project of reviewing and making informed recommendations to improve the aesthetics of the City’s office park. Through this, I continue to realize how much work goes into overseeing a seemingly straightforward task that can lead to contentious interactions with constituents of the City.

Besides the duties that have been assigned to me, I have learned a great deal from observing City Council meetings. Committee meetings are often even more informative, and they tend to be longer and more focused and, therefore, more substantive. The ability to lead a focused discussion, elicit thoughtful and constructive opinions, and be mindful of the various personalities and preferences in a room is very valuable whether the subject of the meeting is the possibility of a financing program to encourage energy efficiency or how to work with the local Sanitation District to address hill erosion.

As the summer draws to a close, I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned from my internship with Crestview Hills. I feel confident that this field is for me because it’s the most excited I’ve ever been to go into work, knowing the projects I have in store. After all, it is very reassuring when someone interested in local government spends free time wondering about whether a particular resident would have had to get a permit to construct a detached accessory structure in their yard!

Two MPA Students Spend their Summer at the State Capitol

August 1 Tuesday 11:38 AM

Dexter and Eve, two MPA students entering their second year at the Martin School, have worked at the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, or LRC, this summer as graduate fellows. We checked in with them to see how their internships were going. 

What does the Legislative Research Commission do?

Dexter: The Legislative Research Commission is the nonpartisan, fact-finding and service arm of the Kentucky General Assembly. It is a large organization of mostly nonpartisan, professional staff performing the structural work of the legislature through committees such as interim joint committees, statutory committees, and special committees/task forces.

Eve and I work for Program Review and Investigations which is one of nine statutory committees under the purview of the legislative branch. Statutory committees are established by the General Assembly to perform specific tasks related to oversight of the executive branch of state government year-round. Program Review specifically “reviews the operations of state agencies to determine that funds are being spent appropriately and whether state programs are implemented effectively by the executive branch.” We study the operations, practices and duties of state agencies and provide reports to the General Assembly. These reports are often posted online for the pleasure of the public, check them out! 


As graduate fellows, what do you do from day to day?

Dexter: I work with the Program Review team collecting data, scheduling phone interviews, writing academic literature reviews and thinking of creative ways to display numerical information to the General Assembly. Our projects are given to us by legislators and we employ a divide-and-conquer approach to our work, each person in our office addressing a piece of the overall puzzle and sharing information with one another along the way.

Because Eve and I are graduate fellows, we’re encouraged to leave our work from time to time and sit-in on interim joint committee meetings. These can be very interesting.  More on that from Eve. 

Eve: Our schedule varies day to day, but most days progress in a similar fashion. In the mornings I come in and check my email, catch up on news, and try to get a head start on any research projects we are assigned before lunch at noon.

We are given an hour for lunch, so Dexter and I eat lunch outside if the weather permits, and then walk around the capital or read until our hour is up. Frankfort has a beautiful capitol building and surrounding grounds, so we are very fortunate that we get to spend every afternoon learning about the culture and history of the area. We spent one day’s lunch riding the town’s trolley around Frankfort!

Back in the office, Dexter and I will either continue working on collecting/analyzing data for Program Review reports, or attend an interim joint committee meeting that is scheduled. So far, we have attended the Natural Resources and Energy, Education, and Health & Welfare & Family Services interim joint committees. We have also attended statutory committees, such as Tobacco Settlement Fund Oversight, Public Pension Oversight Board, as well as Program Review and Investigations. 


What has been your favorite project so far?

Dexter: So far, we’ve been working on one large project all summer that is due mid-August. While we aren’t at liberty to get into the specifics of the project itself I can say that one of the most enjoyable parts of my work so far has been the wealth of information that I have been able to consume and regurgitate to my co-workers on a topic I previously knew nothing about. I think that’s the cool thing about having rotating projects; in a month I’ll have the chance to become well-versed on a completely different topic. As someone who considers himself to be naturally academic, this aspect of my job is extremely refreshing. 

Eve: I definitely agree with Dexter. The project we have been working on so far this summer is a topic that was far out of my element previously. It has been eye opening in many ways and allowed me to approach an issue and learn how it’s impacted regional as well as state policy. The amount of detail and wealth of information we have collected has allowed us to become very familiar with the topic. With this familiarity we can better analyze information and present it to our colleagues, which I believe is a beneficial experience for us to have as we enter the job market post-graduation. As our current project is currently wrapping up, I am looking forward to our next assignment and researching another topic impacting the Commonwealth.    


Do you each work on individual projects, or mostly work together?

Eve: While we have been working on the same Program Review report this summer, Dexter and I have divided and conquered many of the tasks we have been assigned to do. Before we send anything in however, we always proof-read and discuss our results. The conversations we have in the editing and discussion stage have been very helpful in understanding our work and the research process within this department.

Additionally, our internship has included seminars to help us become more familiar with the state’s statues, administrative regulations, and drafting bills for the legislature. Although in Program Review we don’t draft bills, it was very interesting to go through the writing process of developing our own bills and using the LRC’s own drafting application. I wrote a bill on wine shipments to Kentucky, while Dexter designed a bill to regulate how drivers open doors on roadways to avoid biker injury.


Lastly, how has this internship changed your goals or perspective?

Dexter: This is a big question that I’m still working out in my mind as I enter month 3/10 here. I’ve really enjoyed being so close to the decision makers for our state. Before this fellowship I didn’t give much thought to how the state government operated or what exactly state officials were responsible for. I’ve developed an appreciation for this level of government that I didn’t have when I first started my time in the Martin School. Kentucky is a larger state than I remember with a diverse set of characteristics. As a result, there is a wide range of subject-matter experts here all working toward the improvement of our commonwealth. To me, that’s a really cool thing to be a part of and it leaves me excited to continue my education so to increase what I can contribute to Kentucky.

Eve: Before working at the state capitol, I didn’t fully grasp how much time and detail goes into the policy process. Although fluent in Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill”, it was eye-opening to witness the committee process and the subsequent discussion and research that goes into making policies law in Kentucky. Every level of government plays a role in providing and ensuring every region in Kentucky is provided for. Bill was right when he says, “it’s a long, long, journey.”

My fervor to work in the public sector has been solidified even further this summer. It is possible to make a lasting impact on a policy, and that was something I was beginning to doubt.  In fact, I am now interested in running for office someday, which is something I had never considered would be attainable nor useful. The Legislative Research Commission has been an exciting place to work this summer, and I’m looking forward to the next 7 months!