Stories Across the Agency: Digging Into Data with Dr. Hilary Loeb
Elevating the Work of ESDs
This month’s installment of Stories Across the Agency focuses on Dr. Hilary Loeb, Director of Strategy & Evaluation at Puget Sound Educational Service District. Over the summer Dr. Loeb and Dr. Janet Gordon of Kaufman and Associates were awarded the E. Robert Stephens Award in recognition of their work to elevate the effectiveness and transparency of the state’s ESDs.
PSESD: Thanks for taking the time to connect with us to discuss your work, your recent accomplishment and your experience with the agency! To start, can you tell us a little bit about your role within PSESD?
Hilary Loeb (HL): I currently work on the Strategy, Evaluation & Learning Team, and I lead and support research and evaluation projects both inside and outside of the agency. An example of our work is the evaluation that our team recently completed of the SDAT 2 project associated with the pilot Competency-Based Leadership Development and Evaluation System. Additionally, our team is working on efforts in the Road Map Community to better understand equity-focused data use practices. Projects like these allow us to all learn together to envision what success looks like.
PSESD:In regards to equity-focused data use, have you seen changes in the way that data is both collected and interpreted?
HL: Definitely! Overall, I am noticing the greater emphasis on equity-focused data challenges us to think more critically about how institutional racism and implicit bias affects our perception of how we view information. In regards to data collection, the state of Washington now requires that student data be provided at a finer level. For example, the country of origin of students will now be tracked and made available so that we can better support the diverse experiences and needs of our students.
I love how we’re thinking hard about what it means to lead with racial equity, or what it means to be striving towards becoming an ARMCO. It’s a privilege to be able to accept as a given that I can have these types of important conversations in the hallways with my coworkers.
PSESD: It’s clear that you’re inspired by your work. Can you speak to what led you to this role within the agency?
HL: I was originally trained as a policy researcher, and during my graduate program at the University of Washington I interned at PSESD and completed a project focusing on reporting and evaluation. From 2013-2017 I worked at PSESD on various projects on the Postsecondary Team, including the Race to the Top Grant, the Puget Sound Coalition for College and Career Readiness and Project Finish Line. As both a researcher and practitioner, my role has always included working closely with teams.
At this point my role is focused more specifically on research and evaluation, and it has provided me with the opportunity to be in a position where I am continuously learning and applying new concepts and approaches to improve the effectiveness of programs.
There are gold mines of information everywhere that people can access, and our hope is to make that information more accessible and actionable.
PSESD:Your time at PSESD has led you to work on various projects with multiple different teams. What do you enjoy most about your work with PSESD?
HL: I love the people! I love how we’re thinking hard about what it means to lead with racial equity, or what it means to be striving towards becoming an ARMCO. These are values that I held prior to arriving at PSESD. It’s a privilege to be able to accept as a given that I can have these types of important conversations in the hallways with my coworkers.
If you didn’t already know, I’m a self-identified nerd. As such, I love being able to continue to research and learn. Part of the beauty of being a program evaluator is getting to collaborate with people to define what success looks like, or to craft critical measures that are relevant to their work. Currently I’m working to create a series of trainings around data collection and data use that will hopefully help people to become more comfortable with data and allow them to learn how to use their data to tell stories. There are gold mines of information everywhere that people can access, and our hope is to make that information more accessible and actionable.
PSESD: You and Dr. Janet Gordon of Kaufman and Associates were recently awarded the AESA’s E. Robert Stephens Award for advancing the understanding of educational service agencies at the regional, state and national levels. What does that award mean to you?
HL: It was a huge honor to receive this award, and it represents three years of work that has been very collaborative with Kaufman and Associates and the OSPI Professional Development Network. The hope of the project was to make data accessible to people providing professional development in real time. and it led to the creation of a homegrown database called Pdfor.us. Our work challenged us to think about how the nine ESD’s can be stronger together, and it demonstrates the need for partnerships to provide supports in school districts across the state.
Interested in learning more about the PSESD Data Capacity Partnership? Review the partnership overview here, or take a closer look at the environmental scan and concept paper here.
“Stories Across the Agency”is a bi-monthly column dedicated to the stories of the people who make up Puget Sound ESD. With over 100 programs across King County, Pierce County, and Bainbridge Island, our goal is to share the experiences of staff throughout the agency to increase awareness around the collective impact of our work. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing stories from your work, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.