Candace Hester

Principal Researcher

Candace Hester, Ph.D., is a principal researcher at AIR. During her time at AIR, she has worked on dozens of rigorous evaluations to examine the implementation and impact of policies and programs particularly for their capacity to address root causes for harm and promote safety, dignity, and thriving.

Dr. Hester has a growing body of work aimed dismantling structural disparities in justice system impacts. For example, she is currently the project director and quantitative task leader on an evaluation with the city of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and their Families to understand the implementation and impact of their Justice Services Programs. Dr. Hester is simultaneously the principal investigator for a study to examine the implementation and outcomes of youth diversion programming in Oakland, California. Both studies use interviews with youth and adult stakeholders to understand implementation, and administrative records and youth surveys to examine an array of outcomes and impacts. The Oakland diversion study features a parallel Youth Participatory Action Research project.

Dr. Hester also leads an ongoing body of work in Arkansas, where she was the principal investigator of a recently completed study for the state of Arkansas, Identifying Valid Indicators of College and Career Readiness and Success, on which she works with federal, state, and local education partners to merge and examine student-level secondary and postsecondary data records spanning 2007 through 2018 to identify the best early-life student indicators for later-life success using a combination of logistic regression and Random Forests Machine Learning methods. These findings are the product of collaborative interpretation with broad stakeholder groups to elevate conversation around practices for providing students with individualized support needed to improve readiness for and access to a broad spectrum of postsecondary institutions and even greater numbers of career pathways. Early-stage collaborative interpretation have additionally spawned supplemental analyses through which Dr. Hester and collaborators estimated and shared differences in indicator accuracy and strength by student group (including race/ethnicity and gender) which can support the states’ interrogation of the barriers and facilitators of equity gaps in later life success.

Prior to entering graduate school, she was a high school math teacher for five years in Oakland, California where she received awards for excellence in teaching and teacher leadership. Currently, Dr. Hester is also a member of the University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School for Public Policy’s teaching faculty and a What Works Clearinghouse-certified reviewer.

Candace Hester

Ph.D., Public Policy, M.A., Economics, and M.P.P., University of California-Berkeley; B.S.E., Operations Research & Financial Engineering and African American Studies, Princeton University