Rethinking Accountability: Putting Students and Learning First

June 11, 2014
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, 202-628-2100

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Speaker biographies

Video will be posted the week of June 30, 2014, along with presenter materials.

After a decade of narrowly defined education accountability, how students, teachers, schools, and districts are measured is up for debate. From state waivers of No Child Left Behind Act requirements to new tests associated with the Common Core State Standards, it’s all on the table.

Please join us for a timely and important opportunity to learn how schools, districts, and communities across the nation are charting new paths to student- and learning-focused accountability during this time of transition, and how new approaches are making a difference in improving education.
Educators, policymakers, and business and community leaders at the forefront of this work will talk about how new accountability systems can improve schools and change the way we test students. These are not just dreams, but policies and strategies that already are in play that can inform education policy discussions at the federal, state, and local levels.

The conference will focus on three critical areas of accountability:

  • Creating accountability systems that improve education and foster meaningful learning,
  • The intelligent and equitable use of resources to drive continuous improvement, and
  • Ensuring professional accountability and excellence for teachers and school and district leaders.

The conference will bring together federal and state policymakers; school and district leaders; business, teacher, parent, and civil rights organizations; education foundations; and members of the media.

The conference is sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Sandler Foundation.



Coffee & Registration


Session 1: Why We Need a New Accountability

Linda Darling-Hammond (Welcome and Introductions) 

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Stephan Turnipseed

Zakiyah Ansari


Session 2: Accountability for Meaningful Learning

Barbara Chow (facilitator)

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano

Paul Leather

Gemma Venuti

S. Dallas Dance




Session 3: Professional Capacity and Accountability

Frederick Frelow (facilitator)

Dennis Van Roekel

Leticia Smith-Evans

Marc Tucker

Sara Rebecca Pittard


Session 4: Lunch Plenary

Wade Henderson


Session 5: Resource Accountability

Carmel Martin (facilitator)

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed

John H. Jackson

Thomas A. Saenz

Richard Zeiger

John T. Affeldt




Session 6: Next Steps Toward New Accountability

Linda Darling-Hammond (facilitator)

Richard A. Carranza

Randi Weingarten

Michael Cohen

Phillip Lovell

Confirmed speakers

Jack Reed, Senator, US Senate (RI)

Raul Grijalva, Congressman, US House of Representatives (AZ)

Mark Takano, Congressman, US House of Representatives (CA)

John Affeldt, Managing Attorney, Public Advocates Inc.

Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director,  New York State Alliance for Quality Education  

Richard Carranza, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District

Barbara Chow, Program Director, Education Program, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Michael Cohen, President, Achieve

S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools

Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University Professor and SCOPE Faculty Director

Frederick Frelow, Senior Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Wade Henderson, President & CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund

John Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education

Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Education

Phillip Lovell, Vice President of Federal Advocacy, Alliance for Excellent Education

Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress

Charmaine Mercer, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy–Standards, Assessments, and Deeper Learning, Alliance for Excellent Education

Becky Pittard, Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Math Teacher,  Pine Trail Elementary,  Ormond Beach, Florida

Tom Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Leticia Smith-Evans, Interim Director of the Education Practice,  NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Marc Tucker, President & CEO, National Center on Education and the Economy

Stephan Turnipseed, President Emeritus, LEGO Education North America

Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association

Gemma Venuti,  Student,  New York Performance Standards Consortium

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

Richard Zeiger, Chief Deputy Superintendent, California Department of Education


John Affeldt

John Affeldt is managing attorney of Public Advocates, a nonprofit civil rights law firm in San Francisco. At Public Advocates, Affeldt has focused on educational equity issues, among other matters, serving as a lead counsel on Williams v. California—a landmark challenge to California's failure to provide equal educational opportunities throughout its public schools, which was successfully settled in 2004. Working with grassroots, community-based groups, researchers, and others, Affeldt is a founding member of a collaboration of groups building a statewide grassroots policy advocacy campaign to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income students of color. Affeldt was recognized as a California Attorney of the Year in 2005 by the California Lawyer Magazine for his work on the Williams case, and again by the Recorder legal daily in 2010 for his work on Renee v. Duncan, which struck down a U.S. Dept. of Education regulation allowing teachers in training to be disproportionately assigned to low-income and high-minority schools. Affeldt has also been designated one of the top plaintiffs lawyers in America by LawDragon Magazine. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1990 and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1984. Before coming to Public Advocates, Affeldt clerked for the Hon. William M. Hoeveler in Federal District Court in Miami, assisting with the trial of Manuel Noriega. Recently, Affeldt became a member of the Emery Unified School Board, the district in which he lives and where his son attends school.


Zakiyah Ansari

Zakiyah Ansari is the advocacy director of the New York State Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), the leading statewide organization that has been fighting for educational equity for the last decade. Ansari was one of the few parent advocates appointed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Transition Committee.  Ansari resides in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. She is also the mother of eight children and grandmother of 3. Ansari has been invited to speak before parents, educators, elected officials, and administrators all across the country about the importance of organizing parents and communities in schools. She is one of the parent voices in the film Parent Power, produced by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Ansari is one of the co-initiators on the recently formed national grassroots movement “Journey for Justice,” an emerging alliance currently composed of grassroots community-based organizations from over 20 cities across the United States representing constituencies of youth, parents, and inter-generational organizations who have been impacted by the closing, turnaround, and charter expansion of schools in communities of color. Ansari was interviewed in an article in the February 2013 edition of American Prospect, “Pushing Arne Duncan Fast Forward.” She also appeared in January 2013 on MSNBC’s weekly national program, Melissa Harris-Perry, and was a panelist on the City & State and Schoolbook panel, “On Education,” in November 2012.


Richard A. Carranza

Richard A. Carranza was sworn in as the new superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District on June 27, 2012. Carranza has held the position of deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation, and social justice at the district since 2009. He succeeds Carlos Garcia, who has been at the helm of San Francisco’s public schools for the past five years.

As deputy superintendent, Carranza led the implementation of the district’s equity-focused strategic plan. His responsibilities include the redesign of the district’s central office to better support school sites and the implementation of a core instructional curriculum to achieve more equitable educational results for all students.

Prior to his work with SFUSD, Carranza was Northwest Region Superintendent for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he oversaw 66 schools and over 66,000 students. Under his leadership, the Northwest Region made significant strides toward improving student achievement, including an increase in the number of middle schools and high schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and double-digit reductions in the percentage of special education and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students performing below proficiency levels in mathematics and language arts.

He has also served as a high school principal in Tucson, Arizona, and in Las Vegas, Nevada; high school assistant principal; and a teacher of bilingual social studies and music. Carranza earned a B.A. in Secondary Education from the University of Arizona and a M.Ed., with distinction, in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. He has also completed doctoral coursework through Northern Arizona University and is currently pursuing an Ed.D degree through Nova Southeastern University in Educational Leadership.

Having entered the public school system speaking no English, Carranza has experienced, first-hand, the transformational power of access and equity in providing a rich and rewarding education to all students.


Barbara Chow

Barbara Chow began her term as the Education Program director with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the fall of 2008, coming from the House Budget Committee where she served as policy director. From 2001 to 2007 she was the executive director of the National Geographic Education Foundation and vice president for education and children's programs at National Geographic.

Chow served in both terms of the Clinton administration. From 1993 to 1997, she was a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, acting as White House liaison to Congress on economic, budget, and appropriation matters. From 1997 to 2001, Chow worked in the Office of Management and Budget, where she was the program associate director for education, income maintenance, and labor. Starting in 2000, she kept the OMB position and added the position of deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Earlier in her career, she worked as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, as staff member of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee specializing in energy and natural resource issues, and as a manager of federal budget policy at Price Waterhouse. She also served on two presidential transition teams—in 1992 for President-elect Clinton and in 2008 for President-elect Obama.

Chow served as a member of the board of Grantmakers for Education from 2001 to 2006, the last two years as co-chair and then chairperson; as ex-officio board member of the National Environmental Education Foundation from 2004 to 2006; and as a member of the steering committee of the Geography Education National Implementation Plan from 2001 to 2006.

Raised in Fullerton, California, Chow has a bachelor's degree in government from Pomona College and a master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.


Michael cohen

A nationally recognized leader in education policy and standards-based reform, Michael Cohen became president of Achieve in 2003. He has held several key roles in education during the past 20+ years, including director of education policy at the National Governors Association (1985-1990) and director of planning and policy development at the National Association of State Boards of Education (1983-1985). During the Clinton Administration, he served as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, special assistant to President Clinton for education policy, and senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.

Created in 1996 by the nation’s governors and corporate leaders, Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization based in Washington, D.C. that helps states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability so all students graduate ready for college, work, and citizenship. Under Cohen’s leadership, Achieve launched the American Diploma Project Network, formed the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC)—one of two multi-state consortia developing common assessments—and helped develop the Common Core State Standards.


S. Dallas Dance

Distinguished as a vibrant and driven leader, Superintendent S. Dallas Dance has united Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) students, staff, and the community into Team BCPS, a powerful force committed to deliberate excellence and to producing globally competitive graduates. In collaboration with Team BCPS, Dance spearheaded the development of Blueprint 2.0, a five-year strategic plan focused on improving academics, safety, communication, and organizational effectiveness.

In 2014, Dance was appointed to the 12-member board of directors for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and was named one of eight eSchool News Tech-Savvy Superintendents. He became one of 10 White House Connected Educator Champions of Change and was recognized by his alma mater as a Virginia Commonwealth University Alumni Star, both in 2013. Dance is highly regarded for his problem-solving, consensus-building, communication, and human relations skills. He believes strongly in the potential of every student and that, with the support of Team BCPS, all students will achieve at the highest levels.

Academic milestones are already evident under Dance’s leadership. Curriculum and infrastructure redesign are underway to fundamentally shift teaching and learning through S.T.A.T.—Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow—equipping each teacher and student with a digital device that will enable personalized learning. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate surged to 86.3% for the Class of 2013, gaining nearly two and half percentage points in a single year with the help of concerted efforts to identify struggling students and provide small-group and online options for completing diploma requirements.

Audits of special education services and the district’s magnet programs are guiding improvements in equity and effectiveness. At the school system's second annual State of the Schools event in April 2014, Dance announced plans to pilot a Grade 4 blended-learning Spanish program in 10 schools, propose an equity policy to ensure fair access to quality learning, expand preschool access, and improve middle school rigor.

Early in his superintendency, Dance restructured administration to ensure more targeted support to the schools that need it most and established a new Office of School Safety and Security. His administration continues to be proactive in initiating preventive measures to promote school safety, including controlled access systems in every building.

Open dialogue with the community—both in-person and digitally—and professional development for all staff members are additional hallmarks of his administration. More stakeholders are engaged with BCPS than ever before through a reinvigorated Education Foundation, new advisory councils, town halls, community forums, and live-streaming of public meetings, as well as a redesigned website and the launch of the BCPS Now mobile app, a blog, and a weekly e-newsletter.

As superintendent of the 26th largest school system in the nation, Dance is responsible for overseeing the instruction of 108,376 students and leading and managing a $1.4 billion budget, 18,783 employees, and 173 schools, centers and programs.

Prior to his appointment in Baltimore County, Dance served as one of three chief school officers responsible for the administration of nearly 300 schools in the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the seventh largest school system in the nation and the largest in Texas. As part of the HISD senior leadership team, Dance played a significant role in numerous milestones, including achieving record high graduation rates and record low dropout rates; record high participation and performance on Advanced Placement (AP) tests; unprecedented double-digit math gains in the district's lowest performing schools (achieved in collaboration with Harvard University's EdLabs); an increase in the number of students at or above grade level in reading and math; and an overall decrease in the achievement gap.

At HISD, Dance spearheaded the launch of several innovations, including a pre-AP English language arts and mathematics curriculum (in partnership with the College Board); two single-gender college preparatory academies with a strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics focus; and the redesign of a school to accelerate at-risk students two grade levels in one year. In addition, Dance assumed a pivotal role in addressing difficult issues, primarily a budget deficit of more than $120 million over a two-year period and school facility efficiencies.

Before his tenure in Houston, Dance served in executive leadership positions in Virginia that leveraged his expertise in curriculum, instruction, assessment, school improvement, and strategic planning. Those positions included director of school improvement for Chesterfield County Public Schools and assistant superintendent for Louisa County Public Schools. While in Virginia, he also worked as a principal and assistant principal at the middle and high school levels, and as a high school English teacher in Henrico County Public Schools.

Dance has served as an adjunct professor at several universities, including the University of Houston, the University of Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth University. It was at Virginia Commonwealth that he received his master's degree in administration and supervision and a doctorate degree in educational leadership. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Virginia Union University.

A resident of Baltimore County, Dance enjoys travel, music, reading, and all sports, especially golf. He is the proud father of one son, Myles Dallas Dance.


Linda Darling-Hammond

Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school reform, teacher quality, and educational equity. From 1994 to 2001, she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching in the United States. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education, and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s 10 most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. In 2008-2009, she headed President Barack Obama’s education policy transition team. In 2011, Darling-Hammond co-chaired Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s transition team, which developed his Blueprint for Great Schools (July 2011), and she serves as vice-chair of the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing.

Among Darling-Hammond’s more than 400 publications are The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (Teachers College Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Education; Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs (Jossey-Bass, 2006); Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do (with John Bransford; Jossey-Bass, 2005), winner of the AACTE Pomeroy Award; Teaching as the Learning Profession (co-edited with Gary Sykes; Jossey-Bass, 1999), which received the National Staff Development Council’s Outstanding Book Award for 2000; and The Right to Learn (Jossey-Bass,1997), recipient of the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award for 1998. Among recent recognitions, she is recipient of the 2011 Brock International Prize in Education, and the 2009 McGraw Hill Prize for Innovation in Education.


Frederick Frelow

Fred Frelow, senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, works on issues of education and scholarship in the United States. His grant making focuses on improving the quality of teaching in secondary schools serving low-income, minority, and immigrant children.

Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2008, he was director of early-college initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, where he was responsible for managing the development of 14 early-college high schools. Previously, he was associate director in the working communities division of the Rockefeller Foundation, where he oversaw development and implementation of the foundation's school reform program.

He has also served as director of national affairs and associate director of urban initiatives for the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future at Teachers College, Columbia University; director of curriculum for the Nyack, N.Y., public schools; and director of the U.S. Department of Education's Magnet School Assistance Project at Louis Armstrong Middle School in Queens, N.Y.
Fred taught for 12 years in Newton, Mass., public schools. He has an Ed.D. in educational administration and policy analysis from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a master's degree in education and policy analysis from Boston University.


U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Arizona

In his sixth term as a member of Congress, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3) has made the reform and full funding of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act his top education priority for the 113th Congress. He has also been instrumental in enhancing services for English-language learners. As a long-standing member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where he chairs the Education Task Force, Grijalva has worked for comprehensive immigration reform and pushed for fair access to quality education for minority communities. He is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Education Task Force and a member the Education & the Workforce Committee and part of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education


Wade Henderson

Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

The Leadership Conference is the nation's premier civil and human rights 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. Through advocacy and outreach to targeted constituencies, The Leadership Conference works toward the goal of a more open and just society. The Education Fund builds public will for civil and human rights through campaigns that empower and mobilize civil and human rights advocates around the country to push for progressive change.

Henderson is also the Joseph L. Rauh Jr. Professor of Public Interest Law at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia.

Henderson is well-known for his expertise on a wide range of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights issues, and is the author of numerous articles on civil rights and public policy issues. Since taking the helm of The Leadership Conference in June 1996, Henderson has worked diligently to address emerging policy issues of concern to the civil and human rights community and to strengthen the effectiveness of the coalition. Under his stewardship, The Leadership Conference has become one of the nation's most effective advocates for civil and human rights.

Henderson currently serves on the National Quality Forum Board of Directors, which seeks to improve healthcare quality through performance measurement and public reporting; the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, which was created in 2006 to provide the FDIC with advice and recommendations on important initiatives focused on expanding access to banking services by underserved populations; the Board of Directors of the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting homeownership and family wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices; and the Board of Trustees of the Education Testing Service, a private, nonprofit organization devoted to educational measurement and research.

Prior to his role with The Leadership Conference, Henderson was the Washington Bureau director of the NAACP. In that capacity, he directed the government affairs and national legislative program of the NAACP.

Henderson was previously the associate director of the Washington national office of the ACLU, where he began his career as a legislative counsel and advocate on a wide range of civil rights and civil liberties issues. Henderson also served as executive director of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO).

Henderson is a graduate of Howard University and the Rutgers University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar in the District of Columbia, and the United States Supreme Court.

As a tireless civil rights leader and advocate, Henderson has received countless awards and honors, including the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. He holds an honorary Doctorate in Law from Queens College School of Law, City University of New York.


John Jackson

On July 2, 2007, John Jackson became the president and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education. In this role, Jackson leads the foundation’s efforts to ensure a high-quality public education for all students regardless of race or gender. Jackson joined the Schott Foundation after seven productive years in leadership positions at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served as the NAACP chief policy officer and prior to that as the NAACP's national director of education.

Jackson also served as an adjunct professor of race, gender, and public policy at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. In 1999, President William Jefferson Clinton appointed Jackson to serve in his administration as senior policy advisor in the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education.

Jackson possesses a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana; a Master of Education in education policy from the University of Illinois College of Education; and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law. In addition, Jackson received a Master of Education and Doctorate of Education in administration, planning, and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Jackson served on the Obama-Biden transition team as a member of the president’s 13-member Education Policy Transition Work Group.


Paul Leather

Paul Leather was sworn in as the deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education on April 14, 2010. Leather’s background and experience in education, counseling, and administration in New Hampshire spans four decades. Previously, he served as the long-time director of the Division of Career Technology and Adult Learning for the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) and oversaw the administration of Vocational Rehabilitation, Adult Education, Career and Technical Education, Tech-Prep, School Guidance and Counseling, Apprenticeship Programs, and Career Development efforts, including Workforce Investment Act coordination for the NHDOE. In addition, Leather oversees the department’s efforts to transform to a student-centered, personalized, competency education system, through initiatives as the Innovation Lab Network, High School Redesign, Extended Learning Opportunities, and Drop Out Prevention.


Phillip Lovell

Phillip Lovell serves as the Alliance for Excellent Education's vice president of federal advocacy and is responsible for leading the organization's efforts on Capitol Hill to advocate for federal policy in support of the nation's high schools. Lovell has spent his career advocating for children and youth on Capitol Hill, focusing in areas such as youth development, homelessness, and education.

Lovell advocated to improve policies related to juvenile justice and youth violence while serving as policy coordinator for the National Crime Prevention Council, best known for its public service advertising campaign featuring "McGruff the Crime Dog." As director of Public Policy for Camp Fire USA, he led a bipartisan effort to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of federal youth policy by passing the Federal Youth Coordination Act. Most recently, he served as vice president for education, housing, and youth policy at First Focus and America's Promise Alliance, the national organization founded by General Collin Powell to ensure children experience the fundamental resources they need to succeed. Lovell currently serves as co-chairman of the governing board for the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of the nation's leading civil rights organizations.

Lovell is an avid advocate and self-described policy wonk. He has written numerous pieces of legislation on such issues as high school reform, assessments and accountability, dropout recovery, and wraparound services. He has also written a number of publications on issues such as children in the federal budget, homeless children and families, and strengthening federal education policy to more effectively serve high schools. His work has been referenced in media outlets including CNN, USA Today, and Time magazine.

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


Carmel Martin

Carmel Martin is the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress. She manages policy across issue areas and is a key member of CAP’s executive team.

Before joining the Center for American Progress, Martin was the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the Department of Education. In this position, she led the department’s policy and budget development activities and served as a senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Prior to coming to the Department of Education, Martin served as general counsel and deputy staff director for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She also previously worked at American Progress as the Associate Director for Domestic Policy, and in the Senate as chief counsel and senior policy advisor to former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and special counsel to former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD). Through her years in Congress, she worked on legislation related to education, welfare, health care, and other issues of national importance. Early in Martin’s career, she worked as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Educational Opportunities Section at the Department of Justice, as well as in the private sector as a member of Hogan & Hartson’s education practice. There she counseled and represented school districts and institutions of higher education across the country. She graduated with a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. After graduate school, Martin was a law clerk to the Hon. Thomas M. Reavley, judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.


Charmaine mercer

Charmaine Mercer joined the Alliance for Excellent Education in June 2012 as vice president for policy and advocacy—standards, assessments, and deeper learning, and guides the policy, advocacy, and research operations of the organization in those areas. Prior to joining the Alliance, Mercer worked for Communities for Teaching Excellence as the director of policy and research. In that capacity, she was in charge of overseeing the organization’s policy agenda and directing its research agenda.

During the 111th U.S. Congress, Mercer worked for U.S. Congressman George Miller as the co-lead for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor’s K–12 education team focusing on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Mercer previously served as special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), where she supported the assistant secretary in attaining ED’s legislative and budgetary priorities. She also worked for the House Committee on Appropriations’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, handling appropriations for ED. Mercer was also an education policy analyst for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, where she worked on issues surrounding the Federal Pell Grant program, minority-serving institutions, and veterans’ education benefits, among other things.

Mercer graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She went on to earn a master’s degree in American government and a doctoral degree in political science and education policy from the Claremont Graduate University (CA).


Sara Rebecca Pittard

Sara Rebecca Pittard has been a full-time teacher at Pine Trail Elementary School in the Volusia County School District since 1992. She currently teaches fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Pittard pursues excellence in mathematics for herself, her students, and other teachers. She conveys respect for her students' unique identities as young mathematicians and scientists and is skillful at guiding them to increasing degrees of autonomy.

Each year Pittard uses a theme, which for the 2007-2008 school year was the environment and ecology. Throughout the year, students learned the mathematics and science needed to conduct research at a local state natural park. Research presentations and special projects, known as "Inquiries," were used to tie disciplines together. The students actively participated as independent, hands-on researchers, working with local state park rangers and botanists to study the ecological health of Florida's unique ecosystems.

Pittard has educated herself about mathematics education styles from outside the United States, including those used in Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Europe. She incorporates the techniques that she learns into the American standard mathematics that she teaches. Her thirst for knowledge and the opportunity to be part of a professional learning community have led Pittard to engage Pine Trail Elementary School and the Volusia County School District in an early effort to help teachers use Japanese lesson study. As a result of her intense passion for teacher and student learning, Pine Trail Elementary School hosted a national invitational Lesson Study Conference in 2008.

Since 2000, Pittard has been involved in the American Federation of Teachers Thinking Mathematics program and currently is a trainer of trainers for this program. She has led countywide and statewide in-service trainings as well as trainings at her school.

Pittard has a B.S. in physical education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an M.S. in elementary education from Nova Southeastern University. She is certified in kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary education and is a National Board Certified Teacher.


U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a former Army Ranger, Reed has led efforts to promote responsible budgets, create jobs, protect consumers, and strengthen the U.S. economy. He serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Armed Services Committee; and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.


Thomas A. Saenz

Thomas A. Saenz is a nationally recognized civil rights attorney and president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Previously, as counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Saenz served on the four-person executive team to the mayor, where he provided legal and policy advice on major initiatives. During his four-year tenure with the City of Los Angeles, Saenz helped to lead the legislative effort to change the governance of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the effect of which has been to take the city a step closer to securing a quality education for all students in Los Angeles. Saenz also served as the lead liaison on labor negotiations, with a goal of addressing serious financial challenges in partnership with the city’s workers. 

Previously, Saenz conducted civil rights litigation at MALDEF for 12 years. During that time, he was a leader in the successful challenge to California’s unconstitutional Proposition 187, and he led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights. Saenz achieved several victories against ordinances unlawfully restricting the rights of day laborers, served as lead counsel in the 2001 challenge to California’s congressional redistricting, and initiated the employment discrimination lawsuit resulting in a $50 million settlement with Abercrombie and Fitch. He served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in two court challenges to Proposition 227, a California English-only education initiative. Saenz was also the lead drafter of the Amicus brief on behalf of Latino organizations supporting affirmative action in the Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger.

Saenz has been recognized on numerous occasions for his work. He was selected as one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s “100 Top Influentials” in October 2009. The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) presented him with the Ohtli Award in 2008. In 2007, Saenz received the Peace and Justice Award from Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California; the Latino Law Students Association of Yale Law School Public Service Award in 2007; and the Mexican American Bar Foundation Professional Achievement Award in 2006.

Saenz was born and raised in Southern California. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University, and he received his law degree from Yale Law School. Saenz served as a law clerk to the Honorable Harry L. Hupp of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. For eight years, Saenz taught Civil Rights Litigation as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern California (USC) Law School. His board service includes the Alliance for Justice (AFJ), Los Angeles County Board of Education, Alliance for Children’s Rights, ENCOMPASS, and the Impact Fund.


Leticia Smith-Evans

Leticia Smith-Evans is interim director of education practice for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), which uses legal, policy and legislative advocacy to ensure access to equal educational opportunities at the pre-K through higher education levels. At LDF, Smith-Evans challenges discriminatory programs that negatively impact students and supports policies designed to promote critical opportunities for all students. Smith-Evans has successfully litigated and mediated complex cases in trial and appellate state and federal courts nationwide. She is a proponent of utilizing multi-stakeholder approaches to close educational opportunity gaps, and frequently speaks and writes on eliminating racial, gender, and other disparities in education.

Prior to joining LDF, Smith-Evans was a litigation associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Dickinson R. Debevoise of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and a policy advisor and agency liaison to former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. She has served as adjunct faculty at a number of educational institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Education. She is also a former public elementary school teacher.

Smith-Evans received her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she was awarded for highest achievement in constitutional law and for her outstanding commitment to equal educational opportunity and social justice. She received her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Smith-Evans received her B.A. from Williams College in history and completed concentrations in African-American and women’s and gender studies. She is a member of the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Board of Visitors, and serves on a number of other nonprofit boards and committees.


U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41).

Mark Takano was a high school teacher for 23 years. Elected to Congress in 2012, he serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee, where he has advocated for a K-12 system that prepares Americans to compete in the global economy through an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education; partnerships with community colleges and industry; and engaging teaching methods.


Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker has been a leader of the standards-driven education reform movement for many years. Tucker created New Standards, a 23-state consortium designed to develop internationally benchmarked student performance standards and matching student examinations. He authored the 1986 Carnegie Report, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, which called for a restructuring of America’s schools based on standards; created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; created the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce and co-authored its report, America’s Choice: high skills or low wages!, which called for a new high school leaving a certificate based on standards; and, was instrumental in creating the National Skill Standards Board and served as the chairman of its committee on standards and assessment policy.

With Ray Marshall, Tucker co-authored Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations, selected by Business Week as one of the 10 best business books of 1992; with Judy Codding, co-authored Standards for Our Schools: How to Set Them, Measure Them, and Reach Them, published in 1998; and co-edited The Principal Challenge, 2002. Tucker created the National Institute of School Leadership, a state-of-the-art executive development program for school leaders. Tucker was the lead author of Tough Choices or Tough Times, the report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Tucker currently has an appointment as a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Stephan Turnipseed

Stephan Turnipseed is president emeritus of LEGO Education, North America,  executive director of strategic partnerships for LEGO Education, chair of the strategic council for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. LEGO Education has a 30-year history in developing educational resources and solutions that make learning engaging, challenging, and fun for all learners. Turnipseed led LEGO Education North America for 16 years. During this time, he was responsible for helping to transform LEGO Education from a product sales company to an educational resource leader, working with educators, industry experts, and academia to help inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. Turnipseed is passionate about inspiring children through education and is a proponent of hands-on learning.

As part of the global LEGO Education team, he helps to establish the strategic direction for the company, leads advocacy and outreach efforts, and is responsible for strategic relationships. He is the Chairman for The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. He is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative founded by President Clinton and the Global Business Coalition for Education founded by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Turnipseed is the past president of the Tourette Syndrome Association, a nonprofit dealing with research, advocacy, and policy for those, like himself, affected by Tourette Syndrome, a neurologic movement disorder.

Before joining LEGO Education, Turnipseed owned his own leadership consultancy practice, focused on strategic and tactical planning and leadership skills development. He also previously managed business units for Schlumberger Limited, an oil field service company.

Turnipseed is a veteran of the United States Air Force and is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in electrical engineering. He is the author of two books and numerous published articles. He holds two patents for the design of the Tetrix robotic system.

He resides in Pike Road, Alabama, with his wife, Joyce, and is the proud father to one adult son. When not working with educators, Turnipseed enjoys pursuing his and his wife’s dream of expanding a green space they created on his ancestral land for children to appreciate the importance of agriculture and the environment.


Dennis Van Roekel

Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million public school employees. As NEA president, he leads the nation’s largest labor union and advocate for quality public schools.

Van Roekel is committed to improving student learning and enhancing the professionalism of education employees, which he believes go hand-in-hand. In 2010, he established the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, a national, independent panel that examined policies and practices governing the teaching profession. With the commission’s input, NEA unveiled its “Leading the Profession” three-point plan in December 2011. The bold agenda incorporates proven best practices from thousands of leading teachers from around the country—its main components are raising the bar for entry, teachers ensuring teacher quality, and union leadership to transform the profession.

In leading the association, Van Roekel is guided by NEA’s mission: to fulfill the promise of public education and ensure that every child in America, regardless of family income or place of residence, receives a quality education. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which is tasked with studying, and recommending solutions to, inequitable school finance systems and their effect on student achievement.

A recognized leader on education issues, he has testified before Congress on ESEA reauthorization and federal education policy, ensuring the voices of educators are at the forefront of critical decision-making. He serves as vice president of Education International for North America and the Caribbean, pursuing a common course of action on issues like collective bargaining, raising student achievement, and adequate funding that resonate around the world. He also serves on leading boards, including the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Executive Committee and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Executive Board.

Van Roekel has been the invited speaker at numerous forums and national summits sponsored by the Coalition for Community Schools, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and a frequent invited guest at the White House. He has discussed education issues with leading publications and networks, including C-Span, MSNBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Education Week, and TIME.

A longtime activist for children and public education, Van Roekel taught high school mathematics in Phoenix for 23 years. He served two terms as NEA vice president and secretary-treasurer, and has held key positions in all levels of the association, including Arizona Education Association president and Paradise Valley Education Association president.

Van Roekel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in Iowa City and a master’s degree in math education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.


Gemma Venuti

Gemma Venuti is a graduating senior at Urban Academy Laboratory High School; the school is a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a coalition of nearly 50 public schools that uses a system of performance-based assessment in lieu of high stakes tests. To graduate, Venuti was required to demonstrate proficiency in eight required areas. In September, she will attend College of the Atlantic with a major in human ecology.


Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state, and federal government employees; and early childhood educators. The AFT champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare, and public services for students, their families, and communities. The AFT and its members advance these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through members’ work.

Prior to her election as AFT president in 2008, Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, representing approximately 200,000 educators in the New York City public school system, as well as home child care providers and other workers in health, law, and education. In 2013, the New York Observer named Weingarten one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past 25 years. Washington Life magazine included Weingarten on its 2013 Power 100 list of influential leaders.

Weingarten has launched major efforts to place real education reform high on the nation’s and her union’s agendas. She created the AFT Innovation Fund, a groundbreaking initiative to support sustainable, innovative, and collaborative education reform projects developed by members and their local unions. At Weingarten’s direction, the AFT developed a model to transform teacher evaluations from a way of simply rating teachers to a tool for continuous improvement and feedback, and is using this model to align tenure and due process so that tenure serves as a guarantee of fairness, not of a job for life. Weingarten led an AFT committee that called for all prospective teachers to meet a high entry standard—as in medicine or law—so that they’re prepared from the day they enter the classroom.

Weingarten oversaw the development of the AFT’s Quality Education Agenda, which advocates for reforms grounded in evidence, equity, scalability, and sustainability. She promotes what she calls “solution-driven unionism”—an approach to collective bargaining and collective action that unites the interests of union members and those they serve in the pursuit of solutions that benefit students, schools, and communities.

The AFT and a broad array of parent and community partners have collaborated on events across the country to advance a community- and educator-driven agenda for public school reform. Parents and many others have joined the AFT’s efforts to end the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and to fix—not close—struggling schools, something Weingarten has advocated since her involvement in the creation of New York City’s Chancellor’s District, which dramatically improved achievement in what had been some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

Weingarten spearheaded the development by the AFT and British partner TES Connect of Share My Lesson, the United States’ largest free collection of educational resources created by teachers, for teachers, with an emphasis on resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Weingarten and the AFT were asked to lead a partnership to transform McDowell County, W.Va., one of the poorest counties in the United States. The AFT has assembled close to 100 partners not only to improve the quality of education provided to children in the county, but also to focus on jobs, transportation, recreation, housing, healthcare, and social services. The AFT also has developed a partnership with First Book to provide free and reduced-price books to children, with a goal of distributing 5 million books in one year.

Under Weingarten’s leadership, the AFT continues to grow and expand its voice as a union of professionals. In 2013, the National Federation of Nurses, representing 34,000 nurses, voted to affiliate, making the AFT the second-largest union of nurses in the country. The AFT has also expanded its higher education and public employee membership as well as building strength in the South and Southwest.

In 2012-2013, Weingarten served on an education reform commission convened by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which made a series of recommendations to improve teaching and learning. She was appointed to the Equity and Excellence Commission, a federal advisory committee chartered by Congress to examine and make recommendations concerning the disparities in educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap.

For 10 years, while president of the UFT, Weingarten chaired New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for the city’s 100-plus public sector unions, including those representing higher education and other public service employees. As chair of the MLC, she coordinated labor negotiations and bargaining for benefits on behalf of the MLC unions’ 365,000 members.

From 1986 to 1998, Weingarten served as counsel to UFT president Sandra Feldman, taking a lead role in contract negotiations and enforcement, and in lawsuits in which the union fought for adequate school funding and building conditions. A teacher of history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood from 1991 to 1997, Weingarten helped her students win several state and national awards debating constitutional issues.

Elected as the local union’s assistant secretary in 1995 and as treasurer two years later, she became UFT president after Feldman became president of the AFT. Weingarten was elected to her first full term as UFT president in 1998 and was re-elected three times.

Weingarten’s column “What Matters Most” appears in the New York Times’ Sunday Review the third Sunday of each month. You can follow her on Twitter at @rweingarten or on Facebook.

Weingarten holds degrees from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cardozo School of Law. She worked as a lawyer for the Wall Street firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan from 1983 to 1986. She is an active member of the Democratic National Committee and numerous professional, civic, and philanthropic organizations. Born in 1957 and raised in Rockland County, N.Y., Weingarten now resides on Long Island and in Washington, D.C.


Richard Zeiger

Richard Zeiger serves as the chief deputy superintendent to California State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Tom Torlakson. Zeiger is responsible for managing and coordinating all functions of the California Department of Education (CDE). He provides direction for the development and implementation of statewide educational strategies and oversees program and policy operations.

Zeiger represents the SSPI with a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the California Legislature, other state boards and commissions, county offices of education, and local school districts.

Prior to joining CDE, Zeiger worked for the state Legislature for 14 years. Most recently, he was chief of staff to Torlakson when Torlakson was a member of the state Senate and state Assembly. He has also served as a principal consultant and chief of staff to both Assembly and Senate leaders.

Before entering state service, Zeiger was a journalist. He was editor of the California Journal and Sacramento correspondent for the Riverside Press Enterprise. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Riverside, where he earned a degree in political science.

Zeiger and his wife, Jane, have been married for more than 40 years. They have two children, Sarah and Benjamin. Everyone in the Zeiger family went to California public schools, and both children are graduates of the University of California.

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