Tara Watford

Tara Watford, PhD

Director of Research & Evaluation


Dr. Tara Watford is the Director of Research and Evaluation at Youth Policy Institute. Tara directs evaluative efforts to ensure that YPI programs and services meet their goals of increasing academic achievement for youth and empowering high-poverty neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area.

Working with community, city, and federal partners, Tara oversees data collection, community assessment, and evaluation of the signature White House anti-poverty initiatives, the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood, the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Los Angeles Promise Zone. She also has oversight of YPI’s longitudinal data system, Efforts-to-Outcomes (ETO), a data tool that supports the comprehensive tracking and monitoring of achievement and success indicators across the organization’s programs and grants.

Previous to joining YPI, Tara was the Director of Research at UC/ACCORD (University of California/All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity), housed at UCLA. She directed Pathways to Postsecondary Success: Maximizing Opportunities for Youth in Poverty, a five-year multi-method set of studies funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that included national and state analysis of opportunities and obstacles in postsecondary education for low-income youth, detailed case studies of approximately 300 low-income young adults preparing for or pursuing a college education, and the development of a set of indicators to monitor the conditions of California community colleges.

Tara co-led the College Access Project for African Americans (CAPAA) at UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. She co-wrote reports that were utilized by the Urban League, NAACP, Los Angeles community based organizations, and alumni groups in their successful call for a more “holistic” admissions policy at UCLA. The investigation also helped to create additional financial aid mechanisms that support African American students across the UC system.

Tara earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In her downtime, she enjoys photography, gardening, and exploring Los Angeles with her daughter, Calliope, and son, Nico.

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