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Post-Event Summary

At an AEI event on Thursday, leading school superintendents and education thinkers from across America agreed that proper implementation of the Common Core State Standards will be challenging, but could provide an important opportunity to transform K–12 schooling. David Coleman of the College Board, who played a leading role in the development of the Common Core, began by explaining the importance of holding all teachers accountable for student success. He emphasized that the Common Core creates opportunities for teachers to expand the traditional curriculum and collaborate across state lines. Joanne Weiss of the US Department of Education agreed that implementing the Common Core equips teachers to enact change, but stressed that implementation is only one step toward improving the education system. To best implement the Common Core, Eric Beacoats — superintendent of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina — suggested encouraging teachers to learn from each other in the classroom. Overall, panelists agreed that while the Common Core holds great promise, education leaders would do well to consider the practical elements — such as establishing effective professional development and confronting high costs — of successful implementation. –Daniel Lautzenheiser and Chelsea Straus   Event Description Much discussion about the Common Core State Standards has emphasized the desirability of the enterprise or the minutiae of “implementation.” At this AEI event, prominent superintendents and leading thinkers will instead focus more broadly on what it will take for school systems to adopt the Common Core effectively. In particular, the discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities surrounding talent, learning technology, and federal and state policy. Indeed, when it comes to improving literacy instruction, many superintendents must navigate a thicket of contractual, cultural, and political barriers — a task that may prove even more daunting as states work to implement the Common Core. Please join us for a discussion featuring dynamic superintendents who are tackling these challenges in the nation’s school districts and the leaders supporting them in their efforts. Watch this event live via C-SPAN, at


9:45 AM

10:00 AM
Eric J. Becoats, Superintendent of Durham Public Schools
David Coleman, The College Board
John Deasy, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent of Schools
Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, Douglas County Superintendent of Schools
Joanne Weiss, US Department of Education

Frederick M. Hess, AEI

11:30 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lauren Aronson at [email protected], 202.862.5904

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Eric J. Becoats became the superintendent of North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools in July 2010. Since then, he has galvanized over 4,400 community members through the development of the district’s first strategic plan, “One Vision. One Durham,” which is a design for district-wide improvement in student educational outcomes through transformation, innovation, and strategic business and community partnerships. Before being named superintendent of Durham Public Schools, Becoats served as chief administrative officer for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools, where he was responsible for overseeing district operations in human resources, information technology, accountability and research, and project management. Additionally, Becoats worked in the state’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where he was nationally recognized for developing and overseeing the implementation of one of the most successful student assignment plans in an urban school district. Most recently, Becoats was recognized by the National Alliance of Black School Educators as the Joseph E. Hill Superintendent of the Year.

Elizabeth Celania-Fagen is the superintendent of Douglas County School District (DCSD), Colorado’s third largest school district, serving approximately 60,000 students. Celania-Fagen has broad experience in various educational roles. After holding positions as a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Iowa, she became associate principal, principal, and then executive director of high schools. She then assumed the role of associate superintendent of Des Moines Independent School District. Before moving to Douglas County, Celania-Fagen was the superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz., a district of 56,000 students with 105 schools. In 2011, under Celania-Fagen’s leadership, DCSD launched a strategic plan. As a result, the district has been celebrated as a “beacon” of education reform.

David Coleman is president and CEO of the College Board, a mission-driven, nonprofit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Coleman played a leading role in the development of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. . With a team of educators, Coleman founded the Grow Network, an organization committed to making assessment results useful for teachers, parents, and students. After McGraw-Hill acquired the Grow Network in 2007, Coleman cofounded Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit that assembles educators and researchers to design actions based on evidence to improve student outcomes. As a founding partner, Coleman led Student Achievement Partners’ work with teachers and policymakers to achieve the promise of the Common Core State Standards. Coleman was recognized as one of Time magazine’s “11 Education Activists for 2011” and was recently named one of the NewSchools Venture Fund Change Agents of the Year for 2012. Coleman received a Rhodes Scholarship for his work starting Branch, an innovative community service program in New Haven, Connecticut.

John Deasy is the superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified Public Schools (LAUSD), the second-largest school district in the country. LAUSD serves 800,000 students in over 1,000 school campuses. Previously, Deasy was the deputy superintendent for LAUSD and deputy director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led the national programmatic work on effective teaching. Before joining the foundation, Deasy served as superintendent of Prince George’s County, Maryland, Public Schools and earned a national reputation for his leadership in significantly narrowing the achievement gap between low-income and minority students and their peers. He also launched a pay-for-performance plan there that was approved by the board of education and developed jointly with labor, making the district a national leader in efforts to reward teachers for gains in student achievement.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at AEI. He has authored influential books on education including “The Same Thing Over and Over” (Harvard University Press, 2010), “Education Unbound” (ASCD, 2010), “Common Sense School Reform” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), “Revolution at the Margins” (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), and “Spinning Wheels” (Brookings Institution Press, 1998). He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up. Hess’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, US News & World Report, The Washington Post, and National Review. He has edited widely-cited volumes on education philanthropy, stretching the education dollar, the impact of educational research, education entrepreneurship, and No Child Left Behind. He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education; and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 SCHOOLS, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.

Joanne Weiss is chief of staff to the US secretary of education, Arne Duncan. Weiss joined the Department of Education in 2009 to serve as senior adviser to the secretary and director of the Race to the Top fund, and she led the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, designed to encourage and reward states making systemwide, comprehensive education reforms. Before joining the administration, Weiss was partner and CEO at NewSchools Venture Fund, where she focused on investments and management assistance for various charter management organizations, human-capital solutions providers, and academic tools and systems designers. Before her work at NewSchools, she spent 20 years as CEO, and before that as vice president of curriculum and technology for companies providing technology-based products and services to underserved students in K–12 and higher education.

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