A publication for education leaders from education leaders
The Line is a publication of the Frontline Research & Learning Institute, whose purpose is to offer new ideas and insight and encourage civil discourse on the most significant K-12 issues we face. You’ll see this mission reflected in the stories we tell and how we tell them. We ask questions that get at the crux of how leaders engage with advocates and adversaries alike when the well-being and education of children are at stake.
Engagement and thoughtful debate isn’t a choice but an imperative to bettering public education. Leaders need a forum for the exchange of ideas and information – they’ll find that here. This site comprises a digital version of the print publication along with web-exclusive content and various outlets for civil discourse, like the ability to annotate articles, which we believe will help drive fact-based engagement.
An editorial advisory board of diverse backgrounds, politics and opinions helps guide the development of the publication.
If our efforts influence your work in this regard, please tell us by joining the discussion here or on Twitter.
The Line Editorial Advisory Board On Civil Discourse
In all our activities, we promote, model and support civil discourse. We eschew the hopelessness and permanence in the oft-used expression: “We agree to disagree,” in that it implies we will remain politely silent and immovable.
In our work, we are predisposed to action. We directly seek to sit close to difference and seek to understand opposing viewpoints so that we can help ourselves and others come to the place of intersection like that in a Venn diagram, where new learning begets agreement on action.
The increasingly polarized rhetoric and vocalization of disagreement in our society finds itself squarely in the daily events of public education where the arguments appear to rely more on volume rather than evidence. The Line respects various opinions; however, we anchor all our arguments in evidence and facts. In this environment, it is certainly our responsibility to hear all arguments but it is not, and cannot be, our obligation to weigh all arguments equally.
We believe in public education. We believe that education will and must evolve to meet the needs of our marvelously diverse student population across America and constantly improve to meet the ambitions of us as a people and nation. Within the boundaries of these beliefs there is ample room for both passion and evidence-based discussion. We understand that ideas and opportunities wither without civil discourse and hold at the center of our mission the essential understanding that civil discourse bridges difference rather than strengthens divide.
Get to know our Editorial Advisory Board
New York State Education Department
Superintendent of Public Instruction
North Dakota Schools
Denver Public Schools
Executive Vice President, 50CAN
Senior Visiting Fellow, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Frontline Research & Learning Institute
Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, The Line
Superintendent, Stockton Unified School District
The Danielson Group
Tulsa Public Schools
Fresno Unified School District
Resident Scholar And Director Of Education Policy Studies
American Enterprise Institute
The School District Of Philadelphia
California State Teachers’ Retirement System
Chief Academic Officer
Cato Institute Center for Educational Reform
Chief Education Officer
National Geographic Society
Co-founder & Partner
Senior Vice President, New Market Strategy
Teach Plus, Massachusetts
Hanna Skandera has over two decades of executive leadership experience to a variety of national and state-level private, public and not-for-profit organizations serving rural, suburban and urban settings.
Currently, Skandera is CEO of Mile High Strategies serving as an education and employability entrepreneur, thought leader, senior advisor and executive coach in leadership development and strategy, growing organizational impact, and transforming organizational culture. Skandera is also Editor and Chief of The Line, Founder of Pathway 2 Tomorrow, Chief in Residence with Chiefs for Change, Superintendent in Residence with the Broad Center and a Distinguished Teaching Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Recently, Skandera served as Secretary of Education for the State of New Mexico under Susana Martinez. In this role, Skandera oversaw a budget of $2.7B, created a high-performing team of more than 300 employees, while cutting the agency operating budget by one-third. She realized record-breaking outcomes, including graduation rates reaching an all-time high—up 10 percentage points, AP course enrollment more than doubling, a one-third increase in the number of high-achieving schools and the dramatic reduction of high school graduates’ college remediation rates–down 17 percentage points.
Much of Ms. Skandera’s recent success derived from her systemic yet innovative efforts in large, complex, bureaucratic organizations as well as in the launch of several national, state and local profit and not-for-profit entities. These endeavors capture her clear commitment to realize greater returns on investment, expand choice and competition, transform system incentives and empower the ultimate customer. Her efforts provide a road map for states and organizations to follow in advancing educational progress and employability.
Previously, Skandera served as Undersecretary for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Deputy Commissioner for Governor Jeb Bush and Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor for U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Hanna was also a Research Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Pahara-Aspen Institute fellow. Skandera graduated cum laude with a degree in business from Sonoma State University and graduated Valedictorian from Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Public Policy.
Skandera also currently serves on the Great Cities, Great Schools Advisory Committee, Pepperdine School of Public Policy Advisory Committee, is Chair of the George W. Bush Center Education Advisory Board and former Chair of Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan policy and advocacy organization she launched.
Skandera is recognized for her ability to grow organizational impact, transform organizational culture and deliver results as well as her extensive network that spans private, public, charitable and academic spheres.
John E. Deasy, Ph.D.
John E. Deasy consults for The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems as superintendent-in-residence, providing executive coaching to Center alumni leading urban public school systems and facilitating professional development sessions for The Broad Academy. Deasy has recently become the CEO of New Day New Year and The Reset Organization. Through this start up organization, he is opening a series of alternative juvenile correction facilities. The promise is to cut recidivism by 50 percent and have all youth return to community substance-free, resilient, employed, and on track to graduate high school or enroll in post-secondary education. Deasy is also the founding partner of Cambiar and the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of The Line. He was also superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, where his “youth first” agenda is credited with raising achievement and graduation rates to record-high levels. Deasy previously served as superintendent in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California and Coventry Public Schools in Rhode Island.
Jaime Aquino, Ph.D.
Jaime Aquino has held top leadership positions in several districts. Most recently, he served as deputy superintendent of instruction for Los Angeles Unified School District, chief academic officer in Denver, and deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Hartford Public Schools. In New York City, Aquino served in many capacities. In addition to being a teacher, he was also a mathematics and science staff developer, a mathematics coordinator, a director of bilingual education programs, a curriculum writer, deputy executive director for the Division of Instructional Support and local instructional superintendent. During his tenure in these four districts, he implemented instructional reform agendas that led to significant gains in student achievement.
Tom Boasberg, J.D.
As superintendent of Denver Public Schools (DPS) since 2009, Tom Boasberg has led the city’s efforts to accelerate the progress of its nearly 92,000 students. Denver has received national recognition during this time for its exceptional leadership development programs for teachers, school leaders and principal supervisors; its school choice program; its collaboration among district-run and charter schools; and its creation of promising new schools. Before DPS, Boasberg worked for eight years at Level 3 Communications, where he was group vice president for corporate development. He also served as legal advisor to Reed Hundt, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Prior to the FCC, he served for three years as chief of staff to Lee Chu-Ming, chairman of Hong Kong’s largest political party. A speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, he also worked as a junior high school English teacher in Hong Kong’s public schools and played semi-professional basketball in Hong Kong. He earned his bachelor’s degree Summa Cum Laude in history from Yale College and J.D. with Distinction from Stanford Law School. At Yale, he was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar.
Derrell Bradford is the executive vice president of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now, and the executive director of its New York branch, NYCAN, with more than fourteen years working in education reform policy and advocacy. In his role, Derrell trains and recruits local leaders across the country to serve as executive directors of state CANs, advocacy fellows and citizen advocates. He leads the National Voices fellowship, and is also a member of the organization’s executive and leadership teams.
Derrell previously served as the executive director at Better Education for Kids. At B4K, Derrell worked to secure passage of the tenure reform legislation TEACH NJ. B4K’s advocacy also led to electoral victories for reform-minded candidates across the state. Prior to B4K, Derrell spent nine years with New Jersey’s Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) as director of communications and then executive director. While there, he also served on the state’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force.
Derrell frequently contributes to education debates in print, digital, radio and TV media. He serves on several boards dedicated to putting the needs of students and families first, including Success Academy Charter Schools, EdBuild and the PIE Network. He is a former board member of We Can Do Better New Jersey and St. Anthony High School in Jersey City.
Charlotte Danielson, a former economist, is an internationally recognized expert in the area of teacher effectiveness, specializing in the design of teacher evaluation systems that, while ensuring teacher quality, also promote professional learning. She advises state education departments and national ministries and departments of education in the United States and overseas. She is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and as a policy consultant to legislatures and administrative bodies. Danielson is a graduate of Cornell University, Oxford University and Rutgers University. She has taught at all levels and has worked as a curriculum director and staff development director, and is the founder of The Danielson Group. Her Framework for Teaching has become the most widely used definition of teaching in the United States, and has been adopted as the single model, or one of several approved models, in more than 20 states. Danielson’s many publications range from defining good teaching, to organizing schools for student success, to teacher leadership, to professional conversations, to numerous practical instruments and training programs to assist practitioners in implementing her ideas.
Deborah A. Gist is the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and a proud graduate of Memorial High School. She holds a bachelor of science in early-childhood education from the University of Oklahoma, a master of arts in elementary education and curriculum from the University of South Florida, a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a doctoral degree in education leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to returning home to lead Tulsa Public Schools, Deborah served as commissioner of education for the State of Rhode Island where student achievement reached historical highs, and graduation rates increased significantly.
Deborah started her career in education in 1988 as an elementary school teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. She moved from the classroom to education administration in 1996, designing and implementing a literacy program serving families in 108 elementary schools in the Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida. Deborah continued her work to advance student achievement through access to education as a Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. Department of Education and as the Washington, D.C. State Education Officer. In 2007, she became the first State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia; overseeing early childhood, elementary, secondary, adult, and higher education.
Deborah is a member of the 2008 cohort of Broad Superintendents Academy Fellows and a 2013 Pahara-Aspen Fellow through the Aspen Institute. In 2010, she was one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and one of The Atlantic’s Brave Thinkers, whom the magazine recognizes for “the year’s most intrepid and original thinking.” Deborah is a founding member of Chiefs for Change and serves on the boards of the Tulsa Area United Way, Junior Achievement of Oklahoma and the Boy Scouts of America Indian Nations Council.
Mimi Gurbst worked at ABC News for 30 years. For most of that time she was vice president of news, supervising the daily coverage of news and managing all of the personnel in the ABC News bureaus worldwide. She also served as senior producer for World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson and with Diane Sawyer. In 2010, Grubst left ABC News to pursue a lifelong interest in education. She attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she received her master’s degree and served part time as teaching fellow. Gurbst currently works as a consultant and a coach for school superintendents and principals, cultivating and improving their communication strategies and skills. She has worked with school leaders across the country conducting large workshops, small group training sessions and individual coaching meetings. Her clients include The Lynch Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Boston Public School’s leadership team, Oakland Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia, San Francisco Unified School District, San Rafael Unified School District and The Broad Academy. Gurbst received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University.
Michael Hanson has been serving the Fresno Unified School District as superintendent since 2005. He is responsible for leading California’s fourth largest school district and overseeing the academic improvement of almost 74,000 students at 100 schools. He is also responsible for investing a $1 billion budget over the past eleven years. During his tenure, the district has dramatically improved graduation and college-going rates. Hanson currently serves as the president of the board for the CORE Districts, a non-profit organization consisting of eight districts serving over one million students in California. The CORE Districts work to be innovative, collaborative and uncommonly productive on behalf of their diverse students. Among other activities, Hanson serves on the board of directors for Valley Children’s Hospital. Hanson is a proud alumnus of UCLA as well as Harvard Graduate School of Education and Syracuse University’s School of Education.
Frederick M. Hess, Ph.D.
Frederick M. Hess is an educator, political scientist and author. His books include “The Cage-Busting Teacher,” “Cage-Busting Leadership,” “Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age,” “The Same Thing Over and Over,” “Education Unbound,” “Common Sense School Reform,” “Revolution at the Margins,” and “Spinning Wheels.” Hess’s work has appeared in numerous scholarly and popular outlets. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind. Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review board for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in government, as well as an M.Ed. in teaching and curriculum, from Harvard University.
William R. Hite Jr., Ed.D.
With a focus on equity, innovation and quality, William R. Hite serves as superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. Since 2012, Hite has worked to improve academics in The School District of Philadelphia while navigating a series of financial challenges. The school district’s vision is to create a system of great schools in every neighborhood. Under his leadership, the school district has opened new innovative high schools, expanded successful school models, launched in-district turnarounds, and redesigned schools in partnership with communities. His overall focus remains on strengthening all elementary and secondary school offerings. Hite has served at every level of kindergarten through 12th grade education, including teacher, principal and central office administrator in Maryland, Virginia and Georgia school districts. One of Hite’s frequent sayings is “Smart is something you become,” which speaks to his belief in the potential of all students to achieve the highest standards with access to the right teachers, coursework and opportunities.
Harry Keiley currently serves as the chairman of the Investment Committee for the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). He was first elected to the CalSTRS Board in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and 2015. CalSTRS, with more than $189 billion in assets under management and more than 800,000 active and retired educators, is the largest teacher pension fund in the world. In addition to his work inside the CalSTRS Board Room, Keiley has completed the UCLA Anderson School of Business program for trustees, the board effectiveness program at the University of Toronto, CalPARS Trustee forums and participated in numerous industry conferences, including the infrastructure panels at the Clinton Global Initiative. Keiley began his career as a U.S. government and economics teacher, where he was recognized as the Most Inspirational Teacher in 1999. He earned his bachelor’s degree in U.S. Government from St. Joseph’s College and master’s degrees from both Loyola Marymount University and California State University Northridge. Keiley mentors student athletes at Santa Monica High School and serves as a board member at Step Up on Second Street, a nonprofit committed to ending homelessness for chronically mentally ill individuals.
Sherry King, Ed.D.
Sherry King is currently working on a new professional development platform and supporting a new charter school in New York City. She has been a high school English teacher, high school assistant principal, principal and K-12 superintendent. She served as vice president for field services of America’s Choice, and vice president of the Pearson System of Courses, a digital curriculum for math and English language arts. She was responsible for leading the K-12 English language arts development including state adoption, field trials for both math and English language arts, first implementation in five districts, and the creation of professional development to support teachers implementing the curriculum.
Vicki Phillips, Ed.D.
Vicki Phillips currently serves as an education strategist, working with organizations and ed-tech companies devoted to the engagement and professional learning of teachers. Phillips most recently served as director of education, College Ready, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she was superintendent of Portland Public Schools in Portland, Ore. Earlier, Phillips served as Pennsylvania secretary of education and chief state school officer, and as superintendent in the School District of Lancaster, Penn. She previously served at the state level in her home state of Kentucky, helping to implement the sweeping changes demanded by the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Phillips has worked with the U.S. Department of Education and has been a middle and high school teacher. Phillips holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education and a master’s degree in school psychology from Western Kentucky University. She holds a doctorate in international leadership and management from the University of Lincoln in England, and served as a founding member of the governing council for England’s National College for School Leadership. Phillips also holds three honorary doctorates and currently serves as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Andrew J. Rotherham
Andrew J. Rotherham is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit organization working to support educational innovation and improve educational outcomes for underserved students. Rotherham leads Bellwether’s policy analysis and thought leadership work. He is also executive editor of Real Clear Education, a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report, writes the blog Eduwonk.com, teaches at The University of Virginia and is a senior advisor at Whiteboard Advisors. Among previous roles, Rotherham served at The White House as special assistant to the president for domestic policy during the Clinton administration, on the Virginia board of education, and was education columnist for TIME. Rotherham is author or editor of four books and numerous articles on educational policy. He serves on the board of directors for the Curry School of Education Foundation at the University of Virginia, The 74, and the international board of directors for Classroom Champions as well as advisory boards for a variety of organizations including Education Pioneers, the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, the Center for Reinventing Public Education and The National Young Farmers Coalition. Rotherham is a fellow and moderator in the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Sarah Silverman, Ph.D
Sarah leads Whiteboard Advisors’ strategy services, including long-term planning, market alignment research, and implementation advisory for businesses and organizations. She is the author of numerous white papers and articles focused on early childhood and K-12 education. Sarah previously led policy advisory and implementation support for state leaders and was a teacher and researcher. She holds a doctorate in educational policy and leadership from The Ohio State University.
Paul Toner, J.D.
Paul F. Toner is currently the executive director of Teach Plus Massachusetts, where he works to engage and elevate the voices of teachers in local, state and national education policy. Prior to Teach Plus, Toner served as vice president and president of the 113,000 member Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) from 2006 to 2014 after serving as president of the Cambridge Teachers Association (CTA) from 2001 to 2006. As leader of the MTA and CTA, he was a strong advocate for educators and students while working with district and state leaders to focus on improving student achievement through labor-management collaboration. During his tenure, he worked to make the union the voice of the education profession and an integral partner in shaping education policy and legislation. He also helped to create and launch the Massachusetts Education Partnership, a labor-management support organization focused on improving student achievement. Toner is a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and has served on numerous state and national education committees and task forces. He is also a Pahara-Aspen Teacher Leader Fellow and member of the Broad Academy class of 2017.
Kirsten Baesler is the elected state superintendent of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. She was re-elected to her third term in November, 2020.
Before assuming her elected state position, Superintendent Baesler had a 24-year career with the Bismarck public schools, which is North Dakota’s largest school district. Ms. Baesler served as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher and instructional assistant.
Superintendent Baesler served on the school board in Mandan, N.D., for nine years, including seven years as its president.
She holds two associates’ degrees from Bismarck (N.D.) State College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State (N.D.) University, and a master’s degree in education and library information technology from Valley City (N.D.) State University. She completed the Harvard Graduate School Educational Leadership Program.
Superintendent Baesler serves on more than a dozen boards, including the Education Standards and Practices Board, the North Dakota Children’s Cabinet, the K-12 Education Coordination Council, the Generation Citizen Political Advisory Council, the Board for Career and Technical Education, and the Board of University and School Lands, which manages state land holdings and oversees a $4.46 billion trust fund (as of March 30, 2020) that benefits North Dakota’s public schools.
Superintendent Baesler is one of the nine directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education organizations across the nation. CCSSO provides leadership, technical assistance and advocacy on major educational issues. The superintendent was first elected to the national board in January 2019.
Superintendent Baesler is a native of Flasher, N.D. She lives in neighboring Mandan, N.D., and has three adult sons.
Neal McCluskey is the director of Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom. He is the author of the book Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education and is co-editor of Educational Freedom: Remembering Andrew Coulson, Debating His Ideas. He also maintains Cato’s Public Schooling Battle Map, an interactive database of values and identity-based conflicts in public schools. His writings have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Forbes. In addition to his written work, McCluskey has appeared on PBS, CNN, the Fox News Channel, and numerous radio programs.
McCluskey holds an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, where he double-majored in government and English, has a master’s degree in political science from Rutgers University, Newark, and holds a PhD in public policy from George Mason University.