The League of Education Voters (LEV) benefits from the help, expertise, and hard work of summer interns. We recently interviewed one of our policy interns, Taylor Beach, who just completed a Master’s of Education Policy at the University of Washington. Read more about her background and her experience at LEV, in her own words.
What was the focus of your internship at LEV?
During my internship with LEV, I focused my efforts on two main topics: early learning and school discipline. My mentor, Policy Analyst Tracy Sherman, invited me to attend related meetings, and I was able to start assessing the early learning and discipline environments across the state.
My internship resulted in two deliverables: first, a directory of schools across the state that use discipline practices other than suspensions and expulsions; and second, a two-page briefing report that describes positive and preventative disciplinary practices succinctly. The intent of both of these instruments is to provide information to legislators and community members about a potential discipline bill that may be considered next session.
How did you first hear about LEV?
I returned to Seattle to pursue my Master’s of Education Policy at the University of Washington. A significant piece of my program was a four-month-long internship experience in the spring and summer, for which we underwent a selection process in the fall. Tracy presented about LEV to our program in September, but I really began to understand LEV’s mission during our trip to tour Olympia. LEV was consistently lauded in our meetings for its work as a major stakeholder in improving education in Washington state. When I was selected to intern at LEV, I knew I would be working for a well-respected organization that truly makes a difference for Washington’s students.
What motivated you to apply for an internship at LEV?
LEV was my top choice internship site for various reasons, but three were crucial. First, Tracy seemed like she would be a phenomenal mentor with incredible experience and knowledge to share.
Second, Tracy’s work on school discipline. I have been passionate about changing the status quo with regard to school discipline policies since my work with City Year at Asa Mercer Middle School in 2011. One of the students in my in-school suspension-alternative program was absent from school more often than she was present. After a particularly long period of truancy, where her absences totaled more than the district-allowed twenty consecutive days, she was expelled. It is counterproductive and contradictory to expel a student for missing school; especially since students that have to leave their home school (with their friends, familiar teachers, and, in the case of this student, her twin sister) would be less likely to follow through with attending a new school. Illogical policies like these motivated my decision to pursue my master’s degree, and the project working with Tracy on this very issue made an internship with LEV especially attractive.
Third, LEV is known statewide as a non-partisan organization, and members of the local community, policymakers, educators, and administrators alike respect their opinion. Interning at LEV provided me with invaluable experience in maintaining an unbiased perspective while working toward improving education.
What has been your favorite part of interning with LEV?
While it is tempting to say that my favorite part of my internship was when Tracy took me out for old-fashioned custard (chocolate peanut butter with cookie dough chunks!), I really enjoyed and benefited from attending the weekly staff meetings. Witnessing the collaborative work and seeing how the teams both complement and support each other provided insight into the inner-workings of nonprofits that are actively working to improve the education system. I really appreciated learning from everyone on the LEV team.
What are you up to next?
I recently moved to Denver to join my fiancé. I have an internship lined up with Denver Public Schools’ Director of Student Engagement. Though I will complete various projects, one of the projects aligns with the work I did for LEV by evaluating and offering recommendations for improving the currently employed suspension-alternative programs used by Denver Public Schools. I also hope to work for State Senator Johnston, from Denver, since he focuses on improving education in Denver.
While I am still new to the education policy sector and unsure of my long-term goals, I plan to focus my efforts on district-level policies. At that level, one can account for local differences and truly gather insight from various stakeholders, such as teachers, students, policymakers, and community members. I may return to school down the road to obtain my doctorate degree, but for now, I am excited to launch my new career in Denver.