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Independent ESSA State Plan Peer Reviewers

By Elizabeth Cryan Photography with permission from Donnell-Kay Foundation at Rocky Mountain Prep school

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Independent ESSA State Plan Peer Reviewers

Tamara O. Alsace, Ph.D., New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE) President
Dr. Alsace, a retired educator from the Buffalo, New York Public Schools, began her career as a bilingual elementary teacher.  After receiving her Master’s Degree in Bilingual Special Education, she taught ELL/bilingual learners with disabilities.   Tamara was also Program Coordinator at Bilingual Early Childhood Center #36; Bilingual Professional Development Specialist for the Special Education Training and Resource Center; and Director of Multilingual Education.  As Director, she oversaw the Bilingual, ESOL, and World Languages programs and the Language Assessment Center.  She led many initiatives benefitting ELL/bilingual learners and all students, including the expansion of dual language programs and piloting the New York State Seal of Biliteracy.
An active community member, Dr. Alsace has served on several non-profit boards, including AIDS Family Services, Benedict House, and Buffalo State College’s Community Academic Center. She currently serves on the board of Explore and More Children’s Museum, as board Vice-Chairperson for the National Federation for Just Communities, and as Secretary of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York, Inc.  She is a member of the Hispanic Women’s League, NYS TESO, and the National Association for Bilingual Education.
Tamara,  president of the New York State Association for Bilingual Education for the past two terms, views bilingual education as more than a career, but as a calling; more than just a service for students, but as an opportunity and a right; and biliteracy as more than just an aspirational goal, but as a critical skill for success beyond college and for full participation in the global society.
Dr. Alsace, currently works as a private consultant , providing support to local, state, and national educational enterprises through school and district quality reviews, technical assistance and professional development.  She is a member of New York’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Think Tank, a body which has been assisting the State Education Department in developing its new educational accountability plan.
Dr. Alsace, a native and current resident of Buffalo, NY, received her doctoral degree at the State University of New York.  She is the proud mother of two children (now adults), and the proud daughter of Dominican parents.  As the descendant of grandparents born in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Martinique - who all connected in Santo Domingo, she is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the aspects of culture that unite us, while recognizing the unique qualities that define us.


Elliott Asp, Senior Fellow, Policy & Practice, Achieve

Elliott Asp joined Achieve in April of 2016. As Senior Fellow, Policy & Practice, he is responsible for overseeing Achieve’s strategy for working with states to help them develop, enact and sustain college-and career-ready policies and initiatives. This includes working with states to support an integrated, coherent approach to college-and career-ready competency-based pathways and providing guidance to states in developing assessment and accountability systems that support the goal of college-and career-readiness for all students.

Before joining Achieve Dr. Asp served as Interim Commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and was previously Special Assistant to the Commissioner at CDE. Before joining the Department Elliott was an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County and Cherry Creek School Districts in suburban Denver where his areas of responsibility were curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability. His career in education spans 40 years, as a classroom teacher, in traditional and alternative settings, curriculum developer, university professor, and an administrator at the building and district level. Dr. Asp has consulted with school districts and educational agencies in a number of states on standards-based education and assessment design and has made numerous presentations to state and national audiences. He has also served on a variety of state advisory boards and committees including: the Standards and Assessment Implementation Council, the Technical Advisory Committee for the Colorado Student Assessment Program, the Technical Advisory Panel for Longitudinal Growth, and the Governor’s P20 Education Advisory Council.

He holds a B.A. degree in Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado in Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Asp received his Ph.D. from Penn State University in Educational Administration. He lives in suburban Denver with his wife who is an instructional coach and professional developer at a middle school.


Julia Rafal-Baer, Chief Operating Officer, Chiefs for Change

As Chief Operating Officer, Julia Rafal-Baer, Ph.D., develops our organizational capacity for sustained growth, strengthens our decision-making processes and goal-setting, and drives the strategic direction of Chiefs for Change. Prior to joining our team, Julia was Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives under the state’s Race to the Top grant, Teacher Incentive Fund grant, and other state-wide initiatives, managing more than $150 million in federal funds. Julia directed, coordinated, and recommended policies and programs designed to raise the achievement of students and improve the quality and diversity of the education workforce. Previously, Julia served as Manager at New Profit, Inc., where she helped lead the design and implementation of the organization’s city-level initiatives. She began her career as a special education teacher in the Bronx. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Education Policy and a Master’s in Philosophy in Education Research from the University of Cambridge where she was a Marshall Scholar, a dual Master’s from CUNY: Lehman College in Special Education and Childhood Education, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from The George Washington University.


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 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.


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.


Dale Chu, Vice President of Policy & Operations, America Succeeds 

Dale Chu is the Vice President of Policy & Operations at America Succeeds, responsible for leading the organization’s policy initiatives, internal operations, and supporting state affiliates. Previously, Dale served as chief of staff at the Florida Department of Education and as assistant superintendent for innovation and improvement at the Indiana Department 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 nearly 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 Connecticut. 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 Parker, Colorado with his wife, Rapin, and daughter, Kellan.


Barbara Davidson, President, StandardsWork, Inc. & Executive Director, Knowledge Matters Campaign

Barbara is an education industry executive with deep, hands-on experience in K-12 education policy, practice, and operations. She served as President of StandardsWork from 2003-2009 and has recently returned to its helm as part of an organizational commitment to advancing the vital role of strong curriculum, the importance of deep content knowledge in students, and the impact that evidence-based instructional practices can provide teachers.

Barbara’s talent is in leading collaborative work. During her seven years away from StandardsWork she served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and Deputy Director of Great Minds (formerly Common Core, Inc.). At NCTQ she led the teacher preparation group in rethinking both its district-facing work and its biennial review of teacher preparation programs at over 1400 colleges and universities. At Great Minds, a non-profit organization that creates content-rich curriculum in the full range of the liberal arts and sciences, Barbara ran operations during a period of dramatic growth due to the successful authorship and market launch of Eureka Math (aka EngageNY Math). In addition to overseeing the research and development of a compatible English language arts product, Barbara spearheaded the design, development, and high quality execution of Great Mind’s online and site-based professional development offerings.

Barbara started her career in education as a teacher of learning disabled students in Norfolk, Virginia and has trained teachers on behalf of two educational publishing companies. She has served in key leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Education under two secretaries of education: Bill Bennett and Lamar Alexander.

During Barbara’s leadership at StandardsWork, the organization executed many high-profile projects on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Assessment Governing Board, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, the Indiana Higher Education Commission, the District of Columbia Public Schools, National Endowment for the Humanities, Texas Education Agency, the Center for Education Reform, and others.

A fearless champion of classroom-based education reform generally, and content-rich curriculum in particular, Barbara is a tactical leader with a keen ability to translate strategic initiatives into desired results. Her degree is in elementary and special education from the University of Iowa. She lives in Barnesville, MD with her son, husband, two Arabian horses, and dog Eeve.


Eric Guckian, Vice President, Alliances, Leadership for Educational Equity

Before joining LEE in August 2015, Eric served as Senior Advisor on Education for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. In that role, he spearheaded efforts to raise teacher salaries and implement standards that align education with workforce needs. Prior to joining the McCrory administration, Eric served as the Founding Executive Director of New Leaders Charlotte from 2009-2013. Eric led the design and implementation of the Aspiring Principals and Emerging Leaders Programs, creating a community of high-quality principals and teacher leaders in Charlotte schools. Eric previously served as Executive Director of Teach for America (TFA) – North Carolina, where he led the expansion of TFA into Charlotte. Eric began his career as an elementary science teacher and TFA corps member in the South Bronx. He has also taught in public schools in North Carolina and Massachusetts. Eric is a proud product of the public school system and a first-generation college student. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in English at Colgate University and received a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University.


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.


Claire Voorhees, Director for K-12 Reform, 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.


Lindsay Jones, Vice President, Chief Policy & Advocacy Officer, 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.


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.



Phillip Lovell, Vice President of Policy Development and 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.


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.


Charmaine Mercer, Senior Researcher, Learning Policy Institute

Charmaine Mercer co-leads LPI’s Policy and Deeper Learning teams, and she is a co-author of two of LPI’s reports on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Equity and ESSA: Leveraging Educational Opportunity Through the Every Student Succeeds Act and Pathways to New Accountability Through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Previously, Mercer worked at the Alliance for Excellent Education as the Vice President for policy and advocacy in standards, assessments, and deeper learning and as the Director of policy and research for Communities for Teaching Excellence.

Mercer also served in the federal government, including as the special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education and as an analyst for the Congressional Research Service. She was a legislative staffer on the House Committee on Appropriations, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee and on the House Committee on Education and Labor’s k–12 education team.

Mercer received a Ph.D. in Political Science and Education Policy and an M.A. in American Government from Claremont Graduate University in California and a B.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University.


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.


Kerry Moll, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Stand for Children

Dr. Kerry Ann Moll currently serves as the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Stand for Children, a national non-profit that advocates for effective local, state and national education policies, and ensures the policies and funding we advocate for reach the classroom.  Her current work focuses on researching and designing effective local and state education policy that positively impacts students, parents, teachers, and community members.  Kerry is also the founder of Intersection Education, an independent consulting group where work supports teacher and leader policy, organizational strategic planning, and professional development for non-profits, foundations and state agencies.

In the past, Kerry served as the director for the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University.  As the director of AREL, Kerry spent time working with thought leaders across the country and doing research on improving how principals are prepared and supported throughout their careers. Prior to that, she served as a partner for TNTP where she oversaw their Texas initiatives working in collaboration with districts in El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

In her early career, Kerry spent ten years working as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator in public schools across Texas. She holds a BS in English Education from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a M.Ed. from Texas State University. A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin’s Cooperative Superintendency Program, she received her doctorate in 2009, was named a UT College of Education emerging leader in 2010, and was honored as a 2015 Austin Under 40 Finalist. Kerry lives with her husband Andy and their three young daughters, and volunteers with her local school district, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, KIPP Austin, and the Girl Scouts of Central Texas.


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.


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.


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.


Martha Thurlow, Director, National Center on Educational Outcomes

Martha Thurlow is the Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes. In this position, she addresses the implications of contemporary U.S. policy and practice for students with disabilities and English Language Learners, including national and statewide assessment policies and practices, standards-setting efforts, and graduation requirements. Dr. Thurlow has conducted research for the past 35 years in a variety of areas, including assessment and decision making, learning disabilities, early childhood education, dropout prevention, effective classroom instruction, and integration of students with disabilities in general education settings.

Dr. Thurlow has published extensively on all of these topics, authoring numerous books and book chapters, and publishing more than 200 articles and reports. In 2003, she completed her 8-year term as co-Editor of Exceptional Children, the research journal of the Council for Exceptional Children, and is currently associate editor for numerous journals


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.