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Independent ESSA State Plan Peer Reviewers

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Independent ESSA State Plan Peer Reviewers

John Bailey

John Bailey currently serves as a strategic advisor to philanthropies, investors, and technology companies. His experience includes senior positions at the White House, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Education, Whiteboard Advisors, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. John is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on finding new ways to reskill individuals who have lost their jobs during times of economic disruption, whether because of normal business cycles, automation, or artificial intelligence. His research on related issues includes rethinking the way people are taught new skills. He is concurrently a fellow at the Walton Family Foundation. John also serves on the board of directors for the Data Quality Campaign and previously served on the DC board for the social innovation fund Indego Africa. He is an alumnus of the American Council on Germany Young Leaders Program, a Pahara-Aspen Fellow, and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.


Tony Bennett, Education Reform Strategies, LLC

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Tony Bennett has dedicated his life to educating students. He began his career in southern Indiana as a high school science teacher and basketball coach, quickly advancing to school administration while building a reputation as a leader with talent for school management, strategic planning, and effective budgeting. After serving as district superintendent, Tony was elected as Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2009. He also served as Commissioner of Education in Florida before starting TBX2, Inc./Education Reform Strategies, a consulting company focusing on supporting cutting edge reforms.

As State Superintendent, Tony led Indiana through what most consider the most comprehensive, student-focused education reform initiatives in the nation. Focused on choice, greater accountability and freedom, a partial list of Tony's accomplishments included the creation of the nation's most-expansive school voucher program, developing one of the top-rated educator effectiveness programs in the nation, and boldly taking over failing schools. During his tenure in Indiana, the state saw record high school graduation rates and participation and success rates in Advanced Placement courses and exams. Student achievement on the state's ISTEP assessment also rose dramatically during that same period. Under Bennett's leadership, Indiana achieved improvement in the state's NAEP results that ranked among the top 3 in the United States. Bennett's leadership quickly earned him a national reputation among government and education leaders. In 2010, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce named Tony Government Leader of the Year and, in 2011, The Fordham Institute named him Education Reform Idol.

Tony's high expectations for students and commitment to involving community partners have also made him a key player in the national education reform efforts. He served on the board of the Council for Chief State School Officers, the governing board of the Partnership for the Assessment for Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), and was a founding member and former chair of Chiefs for Change.

He received his doctorate degree in Education and his Superintendent's License from Spalding University. He earned his Certification in Secondary Administration and Supervision, a Master of Science in Secondary Education, and a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Indiana University Southeast.

Dr. Bennett, a devoted father of four, resides in New Albany, Indiana with his wife Tina and beloved dog, Teddy.


Lauren J. Bierbaum, Senior Research Analyst, CREDO

Dr. Lauren J. Bierbaum is a Senior Research Analyst at CREDO and the leader of CREDO’s qualitative research program. In this capacity, Dr. Bierbaum designs and implements qualitative and mixed methods studies, conducts policy analysis, and helps lead CREDO's translational science efforts to inform strategy, policy, and design of education reform initiatives throughout the United States. Prior to joining CREDO, Dr. Bierbaum served as Executive Director of the Partnership for Youth Development, a nonprofit organization which supported systems rebuild, policy reform, organizational development, and program evaluation in the areas of K12, out-of-school time, and juvenile justice in post-Katrina New Orleans. She also has previous experience in market research and fuzzy front end product development. Dr. Bierbaum currently serves on the Advisory Committee for the Center for Cities and Schools at UC-Berkeley and the Board of Directors of PlayBuild New Orleans. Her areas of expertise include ethnographic research, formative and summative evaluation, collective impact frameworks, systems design and strategic planning. Dr. Bierbaum holds a master’s of science in Development Psychology and a doctorate in American Studies from Yale University.


Whitney Chapa, Vice President of Education Policy and Budget, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Whitney Chapa currently serves as the Vice President of Education Policy and Budget for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In this role, she works to modernize Arizona's K-12 school finance system and to replicate educational excellence across the state. Whitney also currently serves as an educational policy representative on the Arizona State Board of Education's A-F Accountability Ad Hoc Committee, responsible for adopting recommendations for the state's academic accountability system. Prior to joining the Arizona Chamber of Commerce she served as the Executive Director of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. The Board, which oversees more than 530 charter schools throughout the state, is the primary charter school authorizer in the state and the nation’s largest independent state authorizer. Whitney’s past experiences also includes State Policy Director of K-12 Funding for the Foundation for Excellence in Education and K-12 Budget Analyst in the Arizona Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

Born and raised in Arizona, Whitney has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in public policy from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.


Alice Johnson Cain, Executive Vice President of Policy and Partnerships, Teach Plus

Alice Johnson Cain is the Executive Vice President at Teach Plus. She leads the organization’s efforts to improve state and federal policy and to build partnerships between Teach Plus and other organizations seeking to improve results for students. She works closely with Teach Plus staff and teachers across the country to ensure that their advocacy yields tangible victories for students. 

Alice brings over 25 years of education policy and advocacy experience to Teach Plus. She joined the organization in 2011, after serving six years in a senior role in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she led K-12 education policy development for the Education and Labor Committee under Chairman George Miller. During that time, Alice played a leading role in writing key legislation including Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), the Teaching Excellence for All Students (TEACH) Act, and the RENEWAAL Act to assist Gulf Coast schools after Hurricane Katrina. Alice served on the education committee that advised Senator Obama's 2008 presidential campaign as well as a similar committee that advised Secretary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Other roles include working for Senator Paul Simon on the U.S. Senate’s education committee, at the Children's Defense Fund, Hope Street Group, and the U.S. Department of Education. Alice previously taught GED classes to low-income and homeless adults in Washington, DC and spent many years as a literacy tutor for adults and youth. 

At Teach Plus, Alice has focused on bringing solutions-oriented teachers into the national policy conversation. In 2015, she brought Teach Plus teachers to the White House to meet with President Obama, and brought many teacher leaders to the U.S. Department of Education to meet with Secretary Duncan and Secretary King. Alice has secured invitations from both Democratic and Republican committee chairs for Teach Plus teachers to testify in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate and has brought top policymakers to speak at Teach Plus forums. Alice has published numerous reports, op-eds, and articles on education policy, including a report published by Fulbright New Zealand that included policy recommendations later adopted by the New Zealand government. Alice was a Senior Congressional Staff Fellow with the Aspen Institute, and has acted as peer reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program. She has given speeches and presented on panels before numerous organizations, including the American Educational Research Association, American Enterprise Institute, Aspen Institute, Council of Chief State School Officers, Democrats for Education Reform, Education Trust, Education Writers Association, Fordham Institute, National Education Association, National Governors' Association, and Teach for America. 

Alice earned a BA with honors in political science from Gettysburg College, and was set to complete an MA in policy management from Georgetown University when she was recruited by Chairman Miller's office. Alice lives with her husband and two sons in Maryland, where she serves on the board of Maryland-CAN and as a Commissioner on the Annapolis Education Commission.


Dale Chu

Dale Chu is currently an independent consultant on education programs and policy. His experience includes senior positions at the Indiana and Florida Departments of Education. During his service in Indiana, Dale helped to develop and implement all of the state’s key education reform initiatives ranging from educator effectiveness and school/district accountability to collective bargaining and school choice.

Dale’s career includes two decades of work in P-12, serving as teacher, lead teacher, assistant principal, principal, and consultant in both rural and urban districts. He began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member in San Benito, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley along the U.S.– Mexico border. During his second year of teaching, Dale was recognized as the district’s teacher of the year.

He later became the founding principal at a high-performing urban charter school. In three years, Dale took the school from a 26 percent to a 96 percent pass rate as measured by the state’s assessment. His school was recognized for achieving the highest African American student performance scores in the state.

Dale is a graduate of Cornell University and earned a Masters degree in administration and policy analysis from Stanford University. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, and resides in Denver, Colorado with his wife and daughter.


Aaron Churchill, Ohio Research Director, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Aaron Churchill is the Ohio research director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where he has worked since 2012. In this role, Aaron oversees a portfolio of research projects aimed at strengthening education policy in Ohio. He also writes regularly on Fordham’s blog, the Ohio Gadfly Daily, and contributes analytic support for Fordham’s charter-sponsorship efforts. Aaron’s research interests include standardized testing and accountability, school evaluation, school funding, educational markets, and human-resource policies. Aaron’s work has appeared in media outlets, such as the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and Dayton Daily News. He has also been a guest on NPR’s All Sides with Ann Fisher and The Sound of Ideas. A native of Pittsburgh, Aaron previously worked for Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania, an educational nonprofit that teaches students about entrepreneurship. Aaron earned degrees from the University of Maryland, Wheaton College (IL), and Carnegie Mellon University.


Soncia Coleman, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, United Way Worldwide

Soncia Coleman is a Director of Public Policy & Advocacy at United Way Worldwide where she leads lobbying and grassroots advocacy efforts on a range of issues, including education policy, and works to build the advocacy capacity of local United Ways. Prior to joining United Way, she developed federal and state policy as an education advisor to Chairman Tom Harkin on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and as a nonpartisan attorney on education, banking and judiciary issues for the Connecticut General Assembly. A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Ms. Coleman received her B.A. from Spelman College and her J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and she is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York.


Kathy Cox

Kathy Cox is an award-winning educational leader with extensive experience in schools, districts, and states. As former CEO of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, she worked with over 70 various state and local education leadership teams from PK-20 to help them define priorities, organize complex projects, and manage for improved outcomes. She is considered one of the nation’s experts on large-scale implementation of education reforms. Previously, she served for eight years as Georgia’s State Superintendent where she focused on strategies and initiatives aimed at raising student achievement and closing gaps. During her tenure the state adopted college and career ready diploma requirements, new academic standards and more rigorous assessments. She initiated strategies that not only raised the graduation rate but also ensured that rural students had access to rigorous courses. Kathy became a real “celebrity” in 2008 when she was the first million dollar winner on the gameshow “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” Being a long-time advocate for children with disabilities, she donated the million dollar prize to Georgia’s schools for the deaf and blind. Kathy holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Emory University.


Lucille Davy

Lucille Davy is an education policy consultant and has been involved in education policy and reform for more than twenty years, working with leaders at the local, state, and national levels. She was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board in 2013, and was elected its Vice-Chair in 2015.  

In addition to serving as a consultant to the Learning Policy Institute and Hunt Institute where she collaborated with state and national partners, she served as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education from 2005 to 2010. Under her leadership, the department expanded high quality early childhood programs, established preschool learning standards, improved early literacy programs which resulted in narrowing the achievement gap as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, crafted a student weight-based school funding formula, increased high school graduation requirements to prepare all students for postsecondary education and careers, revised core curriculum standards, raised performance benchmarks for proficiency on state assessments, developed and implemented school district monitoring focused on continuous improvement, and instituted standards for pre-service teacher preparation programs. During her tenure as commissioner, she also served on the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Education Workforce Committee and Math and Science Education Task Force.

Earlier in her career, Lucille worked in for two New Jersey governors as Special Counsel for Education Policy, and prior to that as an education policy researcher and advisor. She has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and holds a juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame Law School. A certified math teacher, Lucille has taught mathematics at the secondary and collegiate levels and has also practiced law.  


David Dunn, Executive Director, Texas Charter Schools Association

The Executive Director of TCSA is David Dunn. David most recently served as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of Education. Mr. Dunn's experience includes service as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Associate Executive Director and chief lobbyist of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), and 15 years in education and fiscal policy analysis for the state of Texas.


Dale Erquiaga, President and CEO (with Tiffany Miller, Vice President for Government Relations), Communities In Schools

Dale Erquiaga is the president and CEO of Communities In Schools, the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization.  Dale most recently served as the chief strategy officer for Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and previously served as the state’s superintendent of public instruction.

Dale has a long career in public service, including public education, and marketing communications. He worked for the Clark County School District as executive director of government affairs, public policy & strategic planning. He also served as director of the Nevada State Department of Museums and was Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state. His private sector experience includes managing a successful consulting practice and working as a vice president and managing director with an advertising firm in both Nevada and Arizona.

The grandson of Spanish Basque immigrants to America, Dale holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nevada, Reno and a master’s degree in leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a member of the board of the Buck Institute for Education, and the advisory board of the Center for Basque Studies.  He was recently named a Nonprofit Fellow with Results for America.  He is the proud father of two grown children, Brendan and Morgan.


Tiffany Miller is the Vice President of Government Relations for Communities In Schools (CIS). In this role she executes a comprehensive government relations strategy and actively engages with federal policymaking bodies to raise the awareness and brand of CIS. She also leads the development and implementation of state and local advocacy strategies that support both the CIS network and builds the field of integrated student supports. Prior to joining CIS, Tiffany was the Director of Education Policy at the Center for American Progress. Her work focused on all aspects of school improvement, including federal K-12 policy issues such as School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top, and Investing in Innovation, or i3, grants. She also focused on educational innovation, including expanded learning time and high school reform. Previously, Tiffany served as a senior research associate at Policy Studies Associates, Inc., a company that conducts research in K-12 education and youth development. In that capacity, she managed large, complex evaluations in the areas of expanded learning time, school improvement, and teacher evaluation. Earlier in her career, she worked as a political fundraiser. 


Virginia Gentles

Virginia Gentles serves as a senior advisor for education reform policy & advocacy organizations, including the American Federation for Children and National School Choice Week. Recently, her work has focused on educating Members of Congress and congressional staff on the progress of school choice throughout the nation and federal school choice policy proposals.

Virginia served as a senior political appointee in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement under President George W. Bush. She led the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, managing the state’s scholarship programs and charter school program. While living in Canada, Virginia administered a privately-funded scholarship program for the Fraser Institute and worked for the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Education Finance Branch. Virginia began her career on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant for a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee. She also served as a House Budget Committee budget analyst under then-Chairman John Kasich.

A Florida native, Virginia has a master of public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University. She currently lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her two daughters, who are fortunate to attend their excellent neighborhood public school. 


Aimee Rogstad Guidera is the President and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a national, nonprofit organization leading the effort to empower educators, students, parents, and policymakers with the information they need to make the best decisions to improve student outcomes. Aimee believes that data has the power to transform education to ensure every child in this country is prepared for success in college and careers.

Since it launched in 2005, the education and policy fields have come to rely on DQC’s research and landscape analyses as the only source of information that captures the “state of the states” on effective data use—first with the 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and then with the 10 State Actions to Ensure Effective Data Use. Aimee continues to advocate for better access to and use of data so that educators, parents, and policymakers will have the insights they need to inform better decisions to support student achievement.

A respected thought leader in education, Aimee was named one of TIME’s 12 Education Activists of 2012. She has also been cited as an expert on education policy and the value of education data by publications such as Business Week, NPR, and Education Week. Aimee is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and an alumna of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program. She serves on the board of directors of the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Friends of the Hennepin County (Minnesota) Library.

Before founding DQC, Aimee served as the director of the Washington, DC, office of the National Center for Educational Achievement. She previously served as Vice President of programs for the National Alliance of Business (NAB), worked in the education division of the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, and taught for the Japanese Ministry of Education>

Aimee received her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Aimee and her husband, Bill, are the parents of two school-age daughters. She is an active supporter of her daughters’ public schools and has served as a classroom volunteer, parent-teacher organization leader, and advisory committee member.


Paige Kowalski is Executive Vice President for the Data Quality Campaign. She leads a team of passionate advocates to advance education data policies at the local, state, and federal levels that meet the needs of individuals and improve student outcomes.

Paige was previously DQC’s director of state policy and advocacy and managed DQC’s efforts to support state policymakers and help them understand their roles and responsibilities in encouraging effective data use at all levels. In addition, she led DQC’s work to inform state and national teacher effectiveness policies and supported state efforts to effectively implement data-related provisions of the 2009 federal stimulus act.

Before joining DQC in 2008, Paige managed several national data initiatives for the Council of Chief State School Officers and participated as a managing partner of DQC in its early years. Paige also has significant state and local experience through her tenures with the University of California, the City and County of San Francisco, and Chicago Public Schools.

Paige received her bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of California, Davis, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from The George Washington University, where she focused on education policy.

An active PTA member, she lives in Washington, DC, and is the mother of two boys who attend public schools. On weekends she can be found at her boys’ Little League games or at Nationals Park.


Terry Holliday, Board Chairman, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Terry Holliday is the board chairman of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He comes to the National Board with more than 40 years of classroom teaching and education leadership in district, state and national roles.

Most recently, Dr. Holliday served as the fifth Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education from 2009 through 2015. While leading the Kentucky schools, Dr. Holliday introduced innovative programs, led high student performance and brought national recognition to the state for its education improvement efforts.

During his time serving the State of Kentucky, Dr. Holliday also held leadership roles for national organizations. In December 2010, he was named to the board of directors for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). CCSSO is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions.

In September 2011, Dr. Holliday was appointed to serve a four-year term on the National Assessment Governing Board. The board sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation's Report Card. In June 2013, Dr. Holliday was appointed to serve a three-year term on the Board of Overseers of the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program. The Board of Overseers, which consists of distinguished leaders from all sectors of the U.S. economy, is appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to advise the Department of Commerce on the Baldrige Program.

Before his role in Kentucky, Dr. Holliday previously served as superintendent of the 20,000-student Iredell-Statesville school district, where he earned the 2009 North Carolina Superintendent of the Year Award as well as the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which was created by an act of Congress in 1987 to recognize organizations with long-term improvement in quality and productivity. Dr. Holliday has held many positions in school systems since 1972, including director of accountability, school principal, and band director. He has also served on numerous committees and boards on a local and national level, including the Governor's Task Force for Transforming Education in Kentucky.

Dr. Holliday earned a bachelor's degree from Furman University, a master's degree and education specialist degree from Winthrop University, and a doctorate from the University of South Carolina.

A native of Belton, South Carolina, Dr. Holliday and his wife, Denise, are the parents of two children.


Donna Johnson, Executive Director, Delaware State Board of Education 

Donna Johnson serves as the Executive Director to the Delaware State Board of Education.In her work with the State Board of education, she has been a leader in the development of the first Performance Framework, which established state-wide standards for performance of charter schools in academics, economic viability, and operations and Governance. She served on the 2012 National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) Study Group which published the report on educational technology, Born In Another Time, and has presented multiple times across the country on issues involving Educational Technology and Digital Citizenship. Currently she is serving on a NASBE study group extending that work and developing a report on the 21st Century Learner, which looks at Deeper learning and 21st Century Skills. She was appointed to the Governor’s STEM Council in January 2011 by Governor Jack Markell, where she serves as the leader of the Public Education Advisory Committee She has been involved in several policy issues at the state and national level, including Common Core State Standards Implementation, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, state-wide Educator Accountability, Educational Technology Standards, and STEM Education. Currently she is the President of the National Council of State Boards of Education Executives (NCSBEE).

Prior to joining the Delaware State Board of Education Donna was a District Coordinator for Mathematics and STEM Initiatives in Caroline County, Maryland, and a former high school mathematics teacher at Sussex Technical High School and Caesar Rodney High School in Delaware. She majored in Mathematics at Wake Forest University and then completed a Bachelors of Math Education at Delaware State University. She is completing a Masters in Educational Leadership at Wilmington University.

Donna has experience in classroom instruction, development and delivery of professional development, evaluation of teacher performance, data analysis, development and analysis of high stakes assessment, grant writing, and fostering partnerships in education with both local businesses as well as higher education. She has had the opportunity to lead state wide educational professional associations in both Maryland and Delaware as well as participate in national educational advocacy groups. She has presented at regional, national, and international conferences on curriculum, pedagogy, STEM Education and educational policy.


Lindsay Jones, Vice President, Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer (with Melissa Turner, Senior Manager of State Policy), National Center for Learning Disabilities

Lindsay E. Jones is the vice president, chief policy & advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). She leads a team that designs and implements NCLD’s legislative strategy in Washington, DC, aimed at advancing government policies that support the success of individuals with learning and attention issues in school, at work and in life. She also develops advocacy campaigns and works closely with NCLD’s grassroots network of committed parents.

Before joining NCLD, Lindsay was the senior director for policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), where she led CEC’s federal legislative advocacy and worked with dedicated educator advocates across the country. She was instrumental in developing and pushing forward many policies at CEC that supported classroom teachers in their work with children with disabilities and their families.

Lindsay has a lifelong passion for education. She grew up in a family of advocates committed to working for individuals with disabilities. Prior to her national policy work, she was a partner with the law firm of Gust Rosenfeld in Phoenix. As a practicing attorney, she advised schools and families on special education compliance and litigation. Her practice included Office for Civil Rights investigations, state department of education complaints, IDEA and Section 504 due process hearings and litigation. She is admitted and has litigated before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the federal district courts and state and administrative courts in Arizona.

Lindsay is a frequent speaker at professional conferences on issues of policy, advocacy and special education law. She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Arizona, and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of New Mexico.

Melissa Turner is the Senior Manager for State Policy with the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She is part of the public policy and advocacy team, and supports parent mobilization and advocacy around issues that impact students with learning and attention issues, including policies related to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Melissa also serves as an adjunct instructor of education policy and grant evaluator for American University’s School of Education. Previously, Melissa served in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), analyzing education and disability budget, policy, legislative and regulatory proposals for the US Department of Education, and working closely with the White House and advisers to the President developing the President’s annual budget.

Prior to her role at OMB, Melissa worked in the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, providing technical assistance and monitoring state special education and general education programs to improve results for children with disabilities. Melissa started her career as a parent advocate in New York state, counseling parents of children with disabilities and advocating for them throughout the special education process.

Melissa holds a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching and a BA in American Studies from American University.


Liz King, Senior Policy Analyst and Director of Education Policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Liz King currently serves as a Senior Policy Analyst and Director of Education Policy for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, which builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States.  In these roles she leads the organizations’ policy work around educational equity for all students.  In 2015 she helped to convene a coalition of civil rights organizations and allies including those representing students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, Native American students, women and girls and LGBT students, to inform and influence the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Liz also served as a negotiator on behalf of the civil rights community during the ESSA negotiated rulemaking process.


Prior to her current role, Liz served as a Senior Policy Associate for Education at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a nonprofit child advocacy organization that is particularly focused on the needs of poor children, children of color and children with disabilities.  In that role she worked on school discipline reform and other issues of justice for children.  Before joining CDF, Liz was Legislative Assistant and Legislative Director for Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) where she was primarily responsible for education and health policy.  She assisted in the drafting of key pieces of legislation including the Student Bill of Rights Act and the Fiscal Fairness Act which both sought to address education resource gaps confronting low-income students.  Liz began her education career as a middle school teacher in South Philadelphia and is currently a middle school tutor in Washington, DC and Head Start classroom volunteer in Maryland.  Liz holds a B.A. in Government and Religion from Wesleyan University and an M.S. in Elementary Education from St. Joseph’s University.   


Gisela Ariza, Policy Analyst, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund

Gisela Ariza currently serves as Policy Analyst at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. Her primary role includes supporting state partners in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to ensure strong state plans that drive towards educational equity, including through robust parent and community engagement and consultation, accountability for the achievement of all students, resource equity and accessible and user-friendly data. She regularly engages state partners on federal policy and advises them on how to effectively advocate for educational equity and for civil rights protections for students of color, English learners, girls, LGBTQ youth and students with disabilities. 

Previous to this role, Gisela worked at the College Board as a Government Relations and Policy Associate, advocating on behalf of Advanced Placement, the Khan Academy program and other college access services. In addition, Gisela served as an Educational Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Center, a federal TRIO program in the District of Columbia. In this role, she provided financial aid and career counseling services to over 400 clients each year while managing partnerships with local community organizations, higher education institutions and state government agencies. 

Before the College Board, as a fellow in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Gisela worked as a Policy Analyst for the National Education Association, supporting the development of the “Great Public School Indicators Framework,” a national project to help policymakers, educators and advocates understand how well states and districts address school performance gaps, and in the Office of Representative Chaka Fattah, 2nd District of Pennsylvania, where she supported the agenda on education, specifically K-12 schools, health and family welfare, and federal funding for the member’s signature program: GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). 

Gisela is originally from the San Fernando Valley, California. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from California State University – Northridge, and, she completed her master's degree in Education and School Counseling from the University of Southern California.


Lisa Graham Keegan, Keegan Company

Lisa Graham Keegan has spent 16 years as Principal Partner at the Keegan Company, where she leads numerous projects, writes, and speaks on critical issues and emerging excellence in American education. Keegan's expertise and outspoken nature have made her a sought after education reform expert who has worked with national education leaders, the media, U.S. Congress, state legislative bodies, business groups, policy organizations, community groups, and the education industry. 

She currently serves as a Senior Advisor to National School Choice Week, an annual public awareness campaign to advance excellent choices in education; and as Executive Director of A for Arizona, a joint project of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber that seeks to accelerate the number of A quality public charter and public district schools in Arizona.

Mrs. Keegan spent a decade from 1991 – 2001 serving as an Arizona state official, where she advanced clear and challenging academic standards gauged by publicly transparent assessments, and fought successfully for the implementation of school choice, including Arizona's landmark charter school and tuition tax credit laws. She also led efforts to revise the state’s school finance formulas to reflect a commitment to equal access and choice of excellent schools...a job she considers unfinished.

Mrs. Keegan's leadership in Arizona earned her a national reputation as a strong advocate for student-based education policies. In March of 1999, Drs. Milton and Rose Friedman personally presented Mrs. Keegan with the first Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation Award for Leadership in Educational Choice. In 2000 and 2008, she was education advisor to the John McCain Campaign for President, and in July of 2013 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.


B. Alexander “Sandy” Kress, Akin Gump

B. Alexander “Sandy” Kress’ practice focuses on public law and policy at the state and national levels, with a strong focus on education matters, including policies, reform and accountability.

Mr. Kress formerly served on the Education Commission of the States and as counsel to the Texas Business Leadership Council. In January 2010, Mr. Kress was appointed fellow and director of policy development and outreach at the George W. Bush Institute. Mr. Kress was named a senior fellow of the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership in 2009. He served as senior advisor to President George W. Bush on education with respect to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. He also previously served as president of the board of trustees of the Dallas Public Schools.

In 1991, Mr. Kress was appointed by Texas Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock to the Educational Economic Policy Center. He was later asked to chair the center’s Accountability Committee. This committee produced the public school accountability system that was later adopted into Texas state law and recognized as one of the most advanced accountability systems in the nation. Lt. Gov. Bullock also appointed Mr. Kress to serve in 1994 on the interim committee to study the Texas Education Agency. In December 2007, Mr. Kress was appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to serve on the Select Committee on Public School Accountability, which is tasked with thoroughly reviewing the public school accountability system.

In April 2007, Gov. Perry appointed Mr. Kress to chair the Commission for a College-Ready Texas. This commission issued recommendations to promote greater college/work readiness among Texas high school graduates.

Mr. Kress was also appointed by Gov. Perry, in December 2007, to serve on the Governor’s Competitiveness Council, which was launched to identify obstacles to global competitiveness and to seek recommendations on ways Texas can enhance its economic footing for long-term, sustained success.

Prior to joining Akin Gump, Mr. Kress was a partner in a Dallas law firm. He also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department from 1977 to 1980.

Mr. Kress received his A.B. in 1971 from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his J.D. with honors in 1975 from the University of Texas School of Law, where he served as president of the student government.


Phillip Lovell, Vice President of Policy Development and Government Relations (with Lindsay Dworkin, Director of Policy Development and State Government Relations), Alliance for Excellent Education

Phillip Lovell serves as the Alliance’s vice president of policy development and government relations. He is a passionate advocate for the nation’s underserved children and youth, having spent the past two decades advocating on Capitol Hill in areas such as juvenile justice, homelessness, and education.

At the Alliance, Mr. Lovell is responsible for leading the organization’s efforts on Capitol Hill, with the White House and U.S. Department of Education to advocate for federal policy that will prepare the nation’s students to graduate from high school prepared for college and the workforce. He led the Alliance’s effort to ensure that high schools with low-graduation rates receive comprehensive support and intervention under the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. He also led the Alliance’s effort to increase federal funding for internet access among the nation’s schools and libraries by $1.5 billion annually. Mr. Lovell serves as a frequent spokesperson for the organization and leads Federal Flash, the Alliance’s video series providing education stakeholders nationwide with regular updates on federal education policy.

Mr. Lovell began his career as policy coordinator for the National Crime Prevention Council, best known for its public advertising campaign featuring “McGruff the Crime Dog.” While working for McGruff he worked with colleague organizations to develop and advocate for the Younger Americans Act, legislation designed to create the nation’s first comprehensive federal youth policy. He also cofounded the National Youth Network, a partnership of over twenty national youth organizations with the U.S. Department of Justice that strengthened the voice of young people with regard to juvenile justice during the youth violence epidemic of the late 1990s.

Subsequently, as director of public policy for Camp Fire USA, Mr. Lovell represented nearly 750,000 children and youth, advancing issues such as childcare and afterschool programs and leading Camp Fire USA’s efforts to secure federal funds to expand positive youth development programs.

Most recently, he served as vice president for education, housing, and youth policy at First Focus and America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Ret. General Colin Powell. Mr. Lovell represented the organization on Capitol Hill and in the media, raising the visibility of the impact of the “Great Recession” on children, and leading legislation to address the academic and nonacademic needs facing underserved students and high school dropouts. While at America’s Promise Alliance, he led the advocacy effort to pass the Federal Youth Coordination Act, legislation designed to improve coordination and communication among federal agencies serving young people. He also led the advocacy effort to double federal funding for homeless students in the economic stimulus package passed in 2009.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Lovell has written a number of publications on issues such as children in the federal budget, homeless children and families, and disconnected youth. His work has been referenced in media outlets including CNN, USA Today, C-span, and Time magazine. Mr. Lovell is frequently called upon by Congressional aides to provide assistance in the development of legislation to strengthen education policy for underserved students.

Mr. Lovell has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in international politics. He and his wife, Beth, have two daughters and a son.

Lindsay Dworkin joined the Alliance in February 2017 as director of policy development and state government relations, where she supports states in their work to close achievement gaps and ensure that all children get the education they deserve and graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Ms. Dworkin is particularly focused on helping states understand the opportunities presented by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and implement the new law in ways that advance educational equity and excellence for all of students while reflecting local needs and priorities.

Prior to joining the Alliance, Ms. Dworkin served as deputy assistant secretary for outreach in the office of communications and outreach at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), where she led ED’s stakeholder engagement efforts and worked on the senior leadership team implementing ESSA. Before coming to Washington, DC, she was education policy advisor and legal counsel to Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D). In that role, she led efforts to develop and implement policies to improve the state’s education system from early childhood through postsecondary, including expanding access to college, reimagining leadership opportunities and compensation structures for educators, improving teacher preparation programs, and creating new career pathways in high schools throughout the state. Ms. Dworkin also oversaw legislative and stakeholder relations and coordinated the policy and communications teams at the Delaware Department of Education. Her skills in communicating simply and effectively about education policy are enhanced by her strong legal background, which has allowed her to effectively draft and analyze legislation and understand the best way for policymakers to approach issues.

Prior to working in Gov. Markell’s office, Ms. Dworkin was associate counsel at the University of Delaware and clerked for the Honorable Thomas Ambro on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She has a JD degree from the University of California, Berkeley; an MPA degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University; an MPhil in international relations from Oxford University; and a BA degree in economics and political science from the University of California, Davis.


Lillian Lowery, Vice President for P-12 Policy and Practice (with Natasha Ushomirsky, Director of P-12 Policy Development), The Education Trust

Lillian M. Lowery, Ph.D. serves as Ed Trust’s vice president for preK-12 policy, research, and practice, leading Ed Trust ambitious agenda to focus national attention on inequities in public education as well as the actions necessary to close gaps in opportunity and raise achievement.

Most recently, she served as president and CEO of FutureReady Columbus, where she led a commission of representatives from across the Columbus, Ohio, region to focus on college and workforce readiness. Prior to her time in Ohio, she served as the education lead for two states, both as the state superintendent of schools for the Maryland State Board of Education and as the secretary of education for the State of Delaware.

Additionally, she served as superintendent of the Christina School District in New Castle County, Delaware; assistant superintendent in Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax County, Virginia; and area administrator for Fort Wayne Community Schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She also has school-level experience, having been a high school principal and assistant principal, a minority student achievement mentor, and a secondary English teacher.

Lowery served on several organizational boards, including Delaware State University,, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Lowery holds a doctorate in education and educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a master’s degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina, and a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from North Carolina Central University.

Natasha Ushomirsky leads development of Ed Trust’s policy agenda on issues critical to promoting equity and achievement in the P-12 system, including standards, assessments, accountability, educator quality, and funding fairness. She previously served as the organization’s senior data and policy analyst, where she focused on using data to better understand the gaps in opportunity and achievement in our education system.

Natasha joined The Education Trust after completing her master’s in education policy and management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before graduate school, she spent three years as a research assistant and associate analyst at Abt Associates, a research and consulting firm. At Abt, Natasha worked on a variety of research and analysis projects, including economic analyses of environmental regulations and market studies. She holds a bachelor’s in economics and Spanish language and literature from Brandeis University.


Tom Luna, Senior Vice President and Chief Governmental Relations Officer, Project Lead the Way

Tom Luna is a passionate education leader who served two terms as the state superintendent of public instruction in Idaho. He championed several STEM initiatives, including policies that allowed students to apply STEM courses like engineering and computer science to their core graduation requirements, and provided funding to local districts to attract and retain more hard-to-fill STEM positions.  

Prior to serving as state superintendent, Tom served on the local Nampa, Idaho, school board for seven years and led the Idaho Achievement Standards Commission and Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission. He also worked for the U.S. Department of Education from 2003-05 as a senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Tom is former member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which manages the Nation’s Report Card.  

At PLTW, Tom oversees the Government Relations Team, which focuses on advancing federal, state, and local policies that expand high-quality educational opportunities for our country’s students. 


David Mansouri, President (with Indira Dammu, Senior Policy and Research Analyst), Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

David Mansouri leads the day-to-day implementation of SCORE’s strategic plan, directing all programs and initiatives, as well as overseeing the organization’s financial and operational efforts. In his previous role as Executive Vice President, David led SCORE’s advocacy, communications, outreach, policy, and research work. Prior to joining SCORE in 2010, he worked in public relations and political consulting, providing clients and candidates with campaign consulting, issue advocacy support, and public affairs and communications strategy. Earlier, David worked for the late US Senator Fred Thompson and at the Tennessee Republican Party.

Besides his work at SCORE, David serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Nashville Classical Charter School, a public elementary school in East Nashville whose mission is to prepare every child — no matter his or her starting point — for college. David also serves on the Board of Directors of United Ways of Tennessee, on the Steering Committee of Complete Tennessee, and is a member of the 2016-17 cohort of Leadership Tennessee.

A Tennessee native, David is a graduate of Rice University and received an MBA with honors from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

Indira Dammu provides policy and research analysis that advances a more effective public education system in Tennessee. Prior to joining SCORE, she worked as a policy analyst at North Carolina New Schools in Raleigh, providing research support on competency-based education. Originally from India, she earned her Master of Public Policy degree from Duke University and her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. Indira was a middle school math teacher in Baton Rouge and a high school college readiness teacher in New Haven.


Erika McConduit, President and CEO, Urban League of Louisiana

Erika McConduit, Esq. currently serves as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. In her role, she oversees growth, operations, strategic planning, partnership development, and policy initiatives of the agency, whose mission is to Empower Communities and Change Lives. Dedicated to ensuring economic equity, Ms. McConduit works deeply in workforce and economic development, and has served as a member of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ economic development transition team. Ms. McConduit is also heavily engaged in education, providing direct service and advocacy in quality early learning, K-12, and post-secondary opportunities. In this capacity, she was appointed to the Board of Supervisors for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and has served on numerous committees including Mayor Landrieu’s Education Task Force, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White’s Student Task Force as co-chair, the LDOE Alternative Education Committee, and the Recovery School District’s Charter Application Task Force.  Additionally, Ms. McConduit served as Co-Chair of the National Urban League’s Education Task Force.  

Committed to education, Ms. McConduit has served as an adjunct faculty member of Dillard University and Monroe College in New York, instructing courses such as Criminal Law, Introduction to the American Legal System, Public Health Law and Media Law.  

Prior to joining the Urban League, Ms. McConduit was the Chief Operating Officer of the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, New York. Due to her unyielding commitment to social justice and racial equity, she was selected as the delegate for the northeast region of YWCAs at the World Council meeting in Kenya, Africa, and has served as a National Urban League delegate on a friendship mission to China and as a fellow for the American Israel Education Fund on a trip to Israel.  

A pioneering and committed civic leader, Ms. McConduit’s current and past service extends to serving on the governing boards of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, The New Orleans Advocate, New Schools New Orleans, NOCCA Institute, KID smART, the New Orleans Kids Partnership as Vice Chair, African American Women of Purpose and Power as Vice Chair, Orleans Public Education Network, the New Orleans Crime Coalition, the Opportunity Youth Coalition, United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, the EMPLOY Collaborative Leadership Team, and she is a member of the Crescent City Chapter of Links, Inc.  

An avid supporter of professional and leadership development, Ms. McConduit has completed the National Urban League’s Emerging Leader Institute, New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum, and the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute. She is currently a Pahara-Aspen Institute fellow.

Ms. McConduit is a mother of three children, a New Orleans native and a Louisiana licensed attorney.  She holds a valuable private sector background through her work with Frilot, Partridge, Kohnke & Clements, L.C. law firm, MTV Networks, Nickelodeon and VH1.  Ms. McConduit graduated summa cum laude from Howard University, and cum laude from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Doug Mesecar, Lexington Institute

Doug Mesecar has served in senior roles at the U.S. Department of Education and in Congress, as well as education companies. At the U.S. Department of Education, Mesecar served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Department, Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. In Congress, Mesecar was a senior professional staff member on the House Education and Workforce Committee. More recently, in the private sector, Doug has been an executive with established companies and startups. Mesecar is also an adjunct scholar at the Lexington Institute.


Rashidah Lopez Morgan, Senior Consultant, Education First

Rashidah Lopez Morgan works with K-12 education leaders to create and implement organizational strategies and talent management solutions that meet the needs of all students. She has worked with many state and local education agencies, including Achievement School District in Tennessee, Denver Public Schools and the New York State Department of Education, and she also has worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

Rashidah credits a quality education with positively impacting the trajectory of her life and she holds this hope for every child in America. She focused her career on improving the conditions of K-12 education when she began to observe alarming statistics on the academic success of children of color. Prior to Education First, Rashidah worked for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, as a Broad Resident, where she led talent management and principal pipeline initiatives. She also worked at Wells Fargo, Microsoft, American Express and Accenture.

Rashidah obtained her BA in Psychology at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and her MBA in Marketing/Strategy at University of Michigan Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. She enjoys salsa dancing, karaoke and great stories.


Gavin Payne, GPC Advisors

With broad expertise in substantive education policy issues, Gavin Payne’s consultancy serves major national foundations, policy institutes, other organizations and collaboratives. His work embraces state agency and school district improvement, standards and assessment implementation, charter school advancement, transformational systems reform, and government/community engagement.

He served for three years as the Director of U.S. Policy, Advocacy, & Communications for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he managed a team with a portfolio of grants driving to significantly improve state and national education delivery systems over the entire spectrum of preschool-through-college success.

He previously served as California’s Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for seven years and as Chief of Staff to the California Senate Majority Caucus Chair for over a decade.

Mr. Payne has served on the Boards of the California Teachers Retirement System, the Newt Elder Education Foundation, WestEd, and Heath House.

At home, he devotes his time to his wife, energy/environmental consultant Susan Strachan, and his two daughters, public school students Zoë & Fiona.


Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year

Shanna Peeples was named USA 2015 National Teacher of the Year on April 27, 2015 and was presented with her award by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

She took a circuitous route to the classroom. She worked as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist before teaching, as she says, chose her. Peeples now teaches at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, where she spends half of her day as a high school English teacher and the other half mentoring, coaching and challenging her colleagues to grow in the teaching profession. 

At Palo Duro High School, her students come from many different backgrounds. Amarillo is one of several cities in the United States that helps refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources. As a result, Peeples works with many students who speak English as a second language or recently entered the United States from another country.

Shanna has taught for the past 12 years, four of them in her current role. She earned an Associate’s degree from Amarillo College, a Bachelor of Arts from West Texas A&M University and a Master of Education from the University of Texas at Arlington.


Ryan Reyna, Senior Associate, Education Strategy Group

Ryan Reyna is a Senior Associate at Education Strategy Group (ESG), a research and consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. area. Ryan joined ESG in 2016 to support the group's overall college and career readiness strategy.  He leads the organization's efforts to help states bring stronger, more impactful college- and career-ready indicators into their K-12 accountability systems to ensure that those systems measure and value students' readiness for the 21st century world of work.


Prior to joining ESG, Ryan served as Director of the Office of Accountability and Data Management at the Delaware Department of Education. In that role, he led the state’s efforts to develop a new multi-measure accountability system, transition to a new value added model for growth in school accountability, centralize the data reporting and analysis functions within the Department, develop its ESEA Flexibility Waiver renewal application, and annually report on Pre-K through higher education outcomes.  


Previously, Ryan served as a Program Director in the Education Division at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).  At the NGA Center, Ryan led the division’s support of governors’ offices on numerous issues, including college and career ready standards, assessment, accountability, and transitions into postsecondary education and training. He also held Senior Policy Analyst and Policy Analyst positions at the NGA Center and worked as a Research Associate at the Data Quality Campaign.


Ryan earned a Masters of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a Bachelor’s degree in American Politics from the University of Virginia. Ryan currently resides in Alexandria, VA with his wife and two daughters.


Gerard Robinson, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and private schools, regulatory development and implementation of K-12 laws, the role of for-profit institutions in education, prison education and reentry, rural education, and the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in adult advancement.

Before joining AEI, Robinson served as commissioner of education for the State of Florida and secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. As president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), Robinson worked to ensure that children in low-income and working-class black families in several states and the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to attend good schools. Throughout his career he has evaluated the effects of reform initiatives on parental choice and student achievement, advocated for laws to improve delivery of teaching and learning, and published essays on how to make good policy to give all children a chance at a good job and future.

A proponent of the importance of education to civil society, Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States, in China, and in the United Kingdom. Robinson started his career by teaching fifth grade in a private, inner-city school. He is a member of many education-related boards. His issue brief for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools was cited in an amicus brief presented before the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2013.

Robinson has a master of education degree from Harvard University, a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Howard University, and an associate of arts degree from El Camino College.


Diane Stark Rentner, Deputy Director, Center on Education Policy

Ms. Rentner has been with the Center on Education Policy since its founding in January 1995. She has led CEP’s research on the No Child Left Behind Act, the Common Core State Standards, and CEP’s 2016 national teacher survey.  From 1988 to 1994, Ms. Rentner served as a legislative associate for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and Labor, where she worked on the reauthorization of several education programs including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the National School Lunch Act, the Child Nutrition Act, and the authorization of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Ms. Rentner also worked for the National PTA and for the Council of Chief State School Officers in their government relations offices. She holds a B.S. from the University of Utah.


Scott Sargrad, Managing Director, K-12 Education Policy, Center for American Progress

Scott Sargrad is the Managing Director of the K-12 Education Policy team at American Progress. In this role, he focuses on the areas of standards, assessments, school and district accountability systems, and school improvement.

Prior to joining American Progress, Sargrad served as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic initiatives in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, where he had the primary responsibility for key K-12 education programs and initiatives, including the Title I program, Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility, and School Improvement Grants. He joined the department in 2009 as a presidential management fellow in the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and also worked as a senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. Previously, Sargrad taught mathematics, coached cross country and track and field, and was a special-education instructional assistant. He also worked on disability policy and taught English in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Sargrad received his undergraduate degree in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Haverford College and a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Javaid Siddiqi, Executive Director and CEO, The Hunt Institute

Former Virginia Secretary of Education, Dr. Javaid Siddiqi is the Executive Director and CEO of The Hunt Institute. Most recently, he served as the Director of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows, which partners with senior-level political leaders who have the knowledge, skill, and will to be effective, reform-minded education policymakers at the state level. Under his leadership, the national, nonpartisan Fellowship has garnered praise from former governors and generous financial support from major funders across the country.

Dr. Siddiqi’s career spans more than 15 years in education and education reform and policy. He began his profession as a high school teacher, assistant principal, and as a principal in Chesterfield, VA, where he led the implementation of Expeditionary Learning - a nationally recognized school reform model. As a member of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Cabinet, Dr. Siddiqi assisted in the development and implementation of the state’s education policy; and provided guidance to 16 public universities, the Virginia Community College System, five higher education and research centers, the Department of Education, and the state-supported museums. Prior to his appointment, he served as deputy secretary of education where he focused his efforts on teacher quality and improving educational outcomes for all students.

In addition to an extensive history of leadership service, Dr. Siddiqi continues to actively serve his community and state. He was appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to serve on the Radford University Board of Visitors and was elected to the Chesterfield County School Board as the Midlothian Representative. Dr. Siddiqi holds an undergraduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and received his master’s degree from Virginia State University. He completed his doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. 


Hal Smith, Senior Vice President, Education, Youth Development & Health, National Urban League

Hal Smith serves as the Senior Vice President for Education, Youth Development and Health with the National Urban League, leading the organization’s program, advocacy, policy and research work in those areas. For most of his career Hal as focused on issues of educational equity & excellence, access, institution building and increased opportunity and quality for historically underserved communities.

Prior to joining the National Urban League in 2008, Hal held teaching, research, administrative, policy, engagement and advocacy positions focused on P-16 education with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), the Annenberg Institute for School Reform @ Brown University, the City College of New York, the College of the Holy Cross, Northern Illinois University, Lesley University and Harvard University.

Hal holds a B.B.A. in Human Resource Administration from Temple University, an M.A. in Africana studies from the State University of New York at Albany and an Ed.M. and Ed.D. in Community Education and Lifelong Learning from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Lorén Trull, Senior Policy Advisor, UnidosUS

Lorén currently serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for the Education Policy Project at UnidosUS (formerly NCLR).  The current centerpiece of the Education Policy Project’s work is lending a civil rights voice for Latino parents and kids, and English Learners, through rigorous policy analysis, recommendations, and advocacy during the implementation of Every Student Succeeds Act. Prior to joining UnidosUS, Lorén was a program examiner at the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Obama Administration.  In this role, her portfolio included many of federal Department of Education’s programs that serve our most vulnerable students.   Lorén also served as a research associate at the Southern Regional Education Board where her focus was teacher evaluation systems and equity.  Lorén’s research has focused primarily on equity in education on a broad range of issues including school segregation, resource equity, access and participation in STEM, school reform movements and the analysis of federal law to state and local education agencies. She holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law.


Leslie Villegas, Associate Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute

Leslie Villegas is an Associate Policy Analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, where she works with the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy on K-12 education issues affecting immigrant children and their families. She is conducting research on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and working with a network of organizations in seven states that ensure English Learners are provided with equitable and accountable public education services. 

Previously, Ms. Villegas worked for the California Legislature in various capacities, including public policy researcher, analyst, and advisor, as well as government relations and community outreach representative for various elected officials. While studying in Scotland, she consulted on a project to create a Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business, where she assisted with the creation of a Leadership Group of Scottish businesses and the Scottish government. Through this project she conducted research for her master’s dissertation on public-private partnership best practice and how to utilize the private sector as a tool for poverty eradication.

She holds a master’s degree in international development from the University of Edinburgh, and a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science from California State University, Sacramento.


Claire Voorhees, National Policy Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education

Claire is the Director for K-12 Reform at the Foundation.  Previously, Claire worked at HCM Strategists where she provided clients with strategic advice on new approaches to education reform.  Claire was also an instructor at Koç University in Istanbul, teaching a comparative course on education rights and policies in the U.S. and Turkey. Before spending time in Turkey, Claire was an associate at Hogan Lovells law firm and served as an associate director in the White House Domestic Policy Council where she assisted senior staff in shaping the Administration’s education policies.  Claire began her career as a fourth grade teacher at P.S. 43 in the South Bronx, New York.

A native of Washington, D.C., Claire earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, a master of science in elementary education from Mercy College, a master of public policy from Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.


Gini Pupo-Walker, Senior Director of Education Policy and Strategic Growth, Conexión Américas

Gini Pupo-Walker has been an educator for over twenty years. She works at Conexión Américas as the Senior Director of Education Policy and Strategic Growth, and also leads the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition. Her tasks include identifying, convening, and building coalitions with other key groups, locally and statewide, to develop a common education policy agenda that improves outcomes students of color across Tennessee. Prior to taking this position she was the Executive Director of Family and Community Partnerships for Metro Nashville Public Schools where she worked with families, community organizations, governmental entities and foundations in order to improve education in Nashville. She also worked as a teacher at the high school and college level for over 10 years, in Seattle, San Diego and Nashville. Ms. Pupo-Walker serves on the Executive Board of Trust of the Memorial Foundation, on the Board of Directors of the YWCA, and on the board of FUTURO. She also serves on Family and Children’s Services Advisory Board, the Frist Center Community Outreach Council, the Community Advisory Board for Nashville Public Television, and the Youth Committee of the Middle Tennessee Workforce Development Board. She is a Master Fellow for NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders and she was in the Leadership Nashville class of 2012.


Joanne Weiss, Weiss Associates LLC

Joanne Weiss is an independent consultant to organizations on education programs, technologies, and policy. For the past fifteen years, she has focused on driving systems-level education change through high-impact grantmaking, investing, and policymaking. From 2010-2013, she served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  She joined the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 to design and lead the Race to the Top program, the Department’s $4.35B program designed to encourage and reward states making system-wide, comprehensive education reforms. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Joanne was a Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, where she focused on investing in and supporting a variety of charter management organizations, human capital solutions providers, and academic tools and systems designers. Prior to NewSchools, Joanne spent twenty years pioneering ways to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning – first by leading curriculum development, then as CEO – for companies providing technology-based products and services to underserved students in K-12 and higher education. She has a degree in biochemistry from Princeton University and lives in Washington, D.C.


Anne Wicks, Director, Education Reform, George W. Bush Institute

Before joining the George W. Bush Institute, Anne served for five years as Associate Dean for External Relations at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education.  In addition to leading a team with revenue, communications, and engagement goals, she supported Dean Karen Symms Gallagher on a variety of special projects including the launch and early growth of Ednovate Charter Schools.  Over her career, she has held management and resource development roles at organizations including Teach for America, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, and Stanford University. Anne holds a B.A in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University (during which she taught 8th grade social studies), as well as a M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. A former captain of Stanford's women's volleyball team, Anne was part of three national championship teams, two as a player and one as an assistant coach.


Conor P. Williams, Founding Director, Dual Language Learners National Work Group, New America

Conor P. Williams is the founding director of the Dual Language Learners National Work Group at New America. He is also a senior researcher in New America's Education Policy program. His work addresses policies and practices related to educational equity, dual language learners, immigration, and school choice. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Daily Beast,, The Atlantic, U.S. News and World Report, Talking Points Memo, The New York Daily News, The 74 Million, and elsewhere. Before joining New America, Williams taught first grade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Williams holds a PhD and MA in government from Georgetown University, an MS in teaching from Pace University, and a BA in government and Spanish from Bowdoin College. Williams and his wife are public school parents in Washington, D.C.


Christy Wolfe, Senior Policy Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Christy Wolfe is the senior policy adviser for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She has more than 18 years of experience working on federal education policy, most recently as an independent consultant developing policy and writing for national education reform organizations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She visited her first charter school in 1998 as a congressional staffer and has been a strong advocate of charter schools ever since. Christy spent eight years at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as the associate deputy secretary for policy. In this role, she managed policy development and implemented regulations for all federal elementary, secondary, and special education programs. Christy was also a professional staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce, where she worked on major education legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American government from the University of Virginia. Christy enjoys spending time with her husband, Paul, and their three children. When she has free time she enjoys cycling, cooking, and playing her violin.


Margie Yeager, Director of Advocacy and Policy, Chiefs for Change

As Director of Advocacy and Policy at Chiefs for Change, Margie Yeager leads policy analysis and support for CFC members and workgroups. Prior to joining the team, Margie was the Chief of Staff to the DC Deputy Mayor for Education. In this role, she supported education policy from birth to career including early childhood centers, DC Public Schools and charter schools, and higher education. Margie was previously a Senior Policy Advisor at Education Counsel, an affiliate of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. In this capacity, she provided assistance to clients at state education agencies and other entities to inform, guide, and facilitate the process of policy change around Race to the Top priority areas. Prior to this, she was Special Assistant to the Chancellor at DC Public Schools where she managed student recruitment and enrollment, intra-district school choice, and school closures. Margie also completed a Presidential Management Fellowship at the U.S. Department of Education where she oversaw evaluations of various programs under No Child Left Behind, including alternative teacher certification, state and local flexibility provisions, and out-of-school-time programs. Margie began her career as a second grade teacher in Washington, DC, with Teach For America. She received a Bachelor’s from Tufts University summa cum laude and an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School with thesis honors.


Michael Yudin, Principal, The Raben Group

Michael K. Yudin brings the expertise of a career spent advocating for equitable opportunities for educationally disadvantaged children and youth to his role as Principal at The Raben Group. Prior to joining the firm, Michael worked on behalf of the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Education for six years, serving the Secretary in a number of capacities, including Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.

In his capacity as Assistant Secretary, Michael led the Department’s efforts to effectively administer twenty-two federal disability grant programs, totaling approximately $15 billion, designed to improve the educational and employment outcomes of infants, toddlers, children, youth, and adults with disabilities. Working with the Secretary and other senior leaders across the Department of Education, Members of Congress, the White House, and other federal agencies, he helped guide the formulation, development, and implementation of policy designed to ensure equal opportunity and access to, and excellence in, education and employment for individuals with disabilities.

In particular, Michael worked to ensure students with disabilities were held to the highest standards and expectations, improve postsecondary education and employment opportunities, and address issues of racial and ethnic disparities in special education. He also helped the Department with implementation of the newly reauthorized ESEA. Michael also took a leadership role in the Department’s efforts to Rethink Discipline, promoting alternatives to exclusionary discipline policies that disproportionately exclude students of color and students with disabilities from the classroom.

Additionally, Michael served on a number of interagency boards and committees, including as a member of the Early Childhood Interagency Policy Board, co-chair of the Federal Partners in Transition, and as chair of the U.S. Access Board. As Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, he oversaw a number of the Secretary’s critical priorities, including ESEA flexibility and initiatives to turn around low- performing schools and improve teacher and leader effectiveness.

Prior to joining the Department, Michael served nine years as a U.S. Senate staffer, serving as the legislative director for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, senior counsel to Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and HELP Committee counsel to Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont.

Working for senior members of the HELP Committee, Michael helped draft, negotiate, and pass various pieces of legislation, including the No Child Left Behind Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and reauthorization of the Head Start Act.

Before joining the Senate, Michael served as an attorney at the Social Security Administration and at the U.S. Department of Labor for nearly 10 years.