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> Nicole Simon
2011 Radcliffe/Rappaport Doctoral Policy Fellow
May 1, 2011
Graduate Degree: Harvard Graduate School of Education
Undergraduate Degree: Cornell University
Areas of interest: Education Issues
Mentor: Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President of Communications, The Boston Foundation
Agency: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Supervisor: Karla Baehr, Deputy Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Project description: Nicole was a Rappaport Fellow in the Commissioner’s Office at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Her work centered around the state’s new Educator Evaluation Regulations, which were being revised for the first time since 1995. Since her fellowship overlapped with the public comment period – she began working shortly after the Commissioner announced the proposed regulations, and completed her fellowship just after they passed – she focused on building public understanding of the proposed regulations and garnering, synthesizing, and responding to feedback from educators, students, parents, and community members across the state. In addition, she worked on the development of DESE’s model evaluation system that districts can choose to adopt or adapt. It was an exciting time to be working at DESE!
I entered the doctoral program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education after several years in the New York City Public Schools. While working on the ground level in education, I became acutely aware of how disconnected policymakers can be from practitioners – and thus, how policy can pose unintended problems for educators and students. The Rappaport Fellowship allowed me to test out working in the policy realm. I spent the summer working closely with the Deputy Commissioner and her team at the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as they designed and passed groundbreaking new regulations for evaluating educators state-wide. The Rappaport Fellowship gave me access to high-level people working on high-level content in my field. It not only helped me think about my career path – it also taught me how decisions that affect students on the ground get made.