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Summer Archives

Charles Kay

Chicago, IL - Urban Labs

From the middle of May to the end of July, I worked with Urban Labs. Urban Labs is a research institute affiliated with the University of Chicago that designs and tests promising policies and programs across five areas: crime, education, energy and the environment, health, and poverty.


I worked closely with research managers in the Education Lab, assisting evaluations of three education programs/initiatives: a math tutoring program that brings individualized tutoring to 9th and 10th graders, a pilot program that provides first graders with daily individualized literacy training, and a military high school that received funding to provide a cohort of students with leadership programming and advanced STEM coursework. I contributed to those projects in a plethora of ways, from memo-writing to helping conduct interviews, and to data management. I also conducted literature reviews to inform grant applications, identified grants that Urban Labs could apply for, and updated baseline statistics on youth outcomes for city agencies/external partners. 


While my time at Urban Labs hopefully contributed to large-scale policy changes and the funding of the programs I helped evaluate, I also produced a number of tangible deliverables that will have immediate impacts. As previously mentioned, Urban Labs is evaluating a public high school that received funding to offer some students year-round leadership programming and AP STEM coursework. As a part of that evaluation, Urban Labs solicited over a hundred surveys from students at the school. The survey garnered information about the student's study habits, post-secondary aspirations, interest in STEM careers, and more. I took the lead on aggregating and visualizing the surveys, creating more than a dozen histograms which show differences in responses across each group (treatment, control, half-dosage). Urban Labs also conducted focus groups with students who received the Leadership programming and AP STEM coursework. I used a qualitative data analysis software to analyze and connect dots across the focus groups, eventually producing eight salient themes. The survey visualizations and focus group analysis will be used in progress reports to the school, granters, and policymakers. I conducted a similar qualitative analysis of my partner organization; the Education Lab is undergoing a strategic planning process to think through their comparative advantage, long-term ambitions, and more. As a part of the process, Urban Labs conducted interviews and focus groups with leadership and staff, and I spearheaded the initial analysis of the qualitative data, using the same software to produce a document that organizes the various interview responses/ideas by theme and topic.