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Overview:

Located within the Department of Education, the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) manages various grant programs, ranging from charter schools to dropout prevention, and coordinates the public school choice and supplemental education services that are provided under the No Child Left Behind Act. In managing these grant programs and implementing new educational reforms, OII attempts to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and prepare the educational system, both technologically and instructionally, for more advanced learning.

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History:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) was established in December 2002 by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who placed it under the leadership of Nina S. Rees, former deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and chief education analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Rees was also one of the architects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which laid the groundwork for the OII, charging it with managing the Act’s funding.

 

Operating with a staff of 100, the OII received an initial budget appropriation of roughly $2 billion, which supported its management of two-dozen competitive grant programs. Among those programs were dropout prevention and charter schools. The OII was also charged with coordinating such NCLB provisions as public school choice and supplemental education services.

 

In 2011, the OII began developing a national database of all charter school authorizers and their schools to provide better insight into the reasons for charter school closures and renewals. Various federal initiatives, including Race to the Top, have triggered an increase in charter schools. But closings have also been on the increase, and both supporters and critics have made note of charter schools’ uneven quality and lack of oversight.

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What it Does:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) was created in order to help manage the spending of money created by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In addition, the OII decides how to distribute the funds of its grant programs (see List of OII Grants and Initiatives, below). When distributing these funds, their main goal is to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and keep the education system up to date. The programs are administered by five of the six offices within the OII:

  • Charter Schools Programs Awards and administers seven grant competitions designed for the charter school community. Disseminates information about charter schools with a proven track record. Funds are made available to replicate and expand successful schools, help them find suitable facilities, and pay for national activities and initiatives that support them.
  • Improvement Programs Provides grants to such organizations as school districts, non-profit arts organizations, and foundations. The grants are to improve schools in the areas of arts education, civics, cultural education, economic education, reading, and gender equity.
  • Investing in Innovation Provides grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices.
  • Office of Non-Public Education Serves as a liaison to the non-public school community for the U.S. Department of Education. (This office does not administer any grant programs.)
  • Office of Parental Options and Information Oversees activities that support alternatives in education, including community and magnet schools, and public school choice. It also supports community organizations to engage parents in their children's education.
  • Teacher Quality Programs Oversees activities that support and test innovations in the field of teacher and principal recruitment preparation, and professional development.

The OII is also responsible for administering earmarks, which are funds allocated by Congress to be spent on predetermined projects.

Education Innovation: What It Is and Why We Need More of It (by OII Director Jim

Shelton, Education Week)

Tricky Road Ahead for Innovation Fund (by Erik W. Robelen, Education Week)

My Experience as a Department of Education Intern (by Angel Brock, U.S. Department of Education)

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Innovation and Improvement

Contact Information

Funding Opportunities

Initiatives and Projects

Program Offices

Publications

Video Highlights

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) spent more than $87.6 million on 135 contractor transactions during the decade since its creation in 2002, according to USAspending.gov. The top five products or services sold during that period were operational systems development ($29,202,363), miscellaneous items ($24,607,774), space track data acquisition ($9,186,145), aero and space tech R&D ($3,852,033), and automated information system services ($3,380,650). The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

 

1. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                            $38,388,509   

2. Reading Is Fundamental Inc.                                             $24,605,499   

3. IBM Corporation                                                                  $3,579,518   

4. Learning Point Associates                                                    $3,523,421   

5. Mosaic ATM Inc.                                                                  $3,502,033

 

List of OII Grants and Initiatives

 

Earmarks

In addition, funds from this department are distributed in the form of earmarks. Earmarks are funds that are allocated to certain projects without having to undergo the legislative process. Every year Congress allocates funds to the OII with a predetermined use. These congressional provisions that are to be spent on specific projects are distributed without decision-making from the OII. In 2005, for example, there were 709 earmarks totaling $289,230,000. In recent years, earmark spending has gone up dramatically, despite criticism. In 2008, a record $2.25 billion was set aside to fund 2,300 educational earmarks at 920 universities. Most of these earmarks are given to the OII or the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE).

 

List of 2005-2010 earmarks:

White House OMB Page

 

Other earmark references:

Study Finds Record Earmarks (by Alan Finder, New York Times)

Colleges’ Earmarks Grow, Amid Criticism (by Jeffrey Brainard and JJ Hermes, Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

Since the educational system is widely considered substandard in the United States, many critics are finding faults in the way the department spends its earmarks. It should be noted, however, that the distribution of earmarks is ultimately a decision made by Congress.

Background

A Good Year for Pell Grants, A Great Year for Earmarks (by Jason Delisle, New America Foundation)

Earmarks: Is it pork or bringing home the bacon? (by Sara Kincaid, Bismarck Tribune)

$35.7M flows to Rochester area as earmarks in 2007-08 (by Jill Terreri, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) (pdf)

 

Against the current use of earmarks

Education Notebook: End Wasteful Education Earmarks (by Dan Lips, Heritage Foundation)

Colleges’ Earmarks Grow, Amid Criticism (by Jeffrey Brainard and JJ Hermes, Chronicle of Higher Education)

The U.S Department of Education: Awash in Earmarks (by Gerald Bracey, Huffington Post)

Pork 101:   How Education Earmarks School Taxpayers (by Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D.)

 

 

Program Spending

Critics also condemn the way in which money is being spent on certain OII grant programs. Many believe that money is being spent unwisely on ineffective programs. Others believe that funds are being cut from the incorrect problems.

 

For example, in 2008, the President had requested $922,018,000, which was an increase from the previous year. However, those funding increases were at the expense of eliminating 15 other programs. The charts below show programs that gained and lost funding between 2006, 2010, and 2013.

 

(In thousands of dollars)

 

2006 Appropriation

2010 Appropriation

2013 Senate Committee Approval

 

National Writing Project

21,533

24,291

-

 

Academies for American history   

    and civics

1,980

1,815

-

 

School leadership

14,731

29,220

29,107

 

Advanced credentialing

16,695

10,649

-

 

School dropout prevention

4,851

0

-

 

Close Up fellowships

1,454

1,942

-

 

Star schools

14,850

0

-

 

Ready to teach

10,890

0

-

 

Exchanges with historic whaling

   and trading partners

8,910

0

-

 

Excellence in economic

   education

1,473

1,147

-

 

Mental health integration in

   schools

4,910

0

-

 

Foundations for learning

982

0

-

 

Arts in education

35,277

14,616 / 15,898*

-

 

Parental information and resource

   centers

39,600

39,254

-

 

Women’s educational equity

2,926

2,423

-

 

           Teacher incentive fund

99,000

0

299,433

           Adjunct teacher corps (proposed

                legislation)

0

 

-

           Advanced Placement

32,175

0

36,027

           FIE programs of national

                significance

11,668

135,461

59,235

Note: Appropriations are in thousands of dollars          

*Noncompetitive

 

Against current program spending

Small Steps Toward Smarter Education Spending (by Krista Kafer and Jonathan Butcher, Heritage Foundation)

 

For current program spending

Good Start, Grow Smart: The Bush Administration's Early Childhood Initiative (White House web site)

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Controversies:

Charter School Lotteries

Critics of charter schools have complained about the spectacle of public lotteries at which some families rejoice and others suffer disappointment when the names of children are announced.

 

Supporters of charter schools have been accused of turning lotteries in showcases intended to inflate the perception of the schools’ popularity.

 

“Public lotteries have become a high-octane way to press an expansionist agenda,” the National Education Association (NEA) wrote. “That’s because at the events in the nation’s largest cities, hundreds if not thousands of students are typically vying for a small percentage of classroom spots.”

 

The NEA cited documents from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools that advise its member schools to “publicize their lotteries to demonstrate the strong popularity of charter schools.”

Exploitative Charter School Lotteries Not Required by Law (NEA Today)

“The Lottery” and Charter School Semiotics (Growing Up In America)

 

Deceptive Pro-Charter Parent Groups

An effort to transform a Los Angeles public school into a charter school came under attack by a leading teachers’ union claiming some of the parents behind the change didn’t have children in the school.

 

Parent Revolution, a pro-charter school organization, led a signature drive to turn McKinley Elementary School over to Celerity Educational Group, which operated four charter schools in Los Angeles.

 

The NEA, the largest teachers’ union in the U.S., said the campaign was a sham. Some signatures belonged to people with no children at the school, while others said they didn’t understand what they were signing, according to the union.

 

In the end, the Compton school board turned down the petition because the number of valid signatures fell below the 50% threshold required under California’s “parent trigger” law that allows residents to petition for a charter school.

 

That didn’t matter to Los Angeles county education officials—they approved the charter and Celerity opened a kindergarten through fifth grade school in the fall of 2011.

Beware Pro-Charter School “Parent” Groups (by Alain Jehlen, NEA Today)

‘Won’t Back Down’: Parent Trigger Gets the Hollywood Treatment (by Tim Walker, NEA Today)

L.A. County Education Officials OK Compton Charter School (by Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times)

 

Inconsistent Quality of Charter Schools

As the number of charter schools continued to increase in many states, some critics, including charter school advocates, called for states to do a better job of enacting, overseeing and enforcing quality and operational standards for the schools.

 

A 2010 study by Stanford University found that students in only 17% of charter schools were outperforming demographically similar student populations at nearby, traditional neighborhood public schools. In 37% of cases, students at the traditional public schools performed at higher levels, and the remainder of the cases showed no statistically significant difference.

 

To help address the problem, the National Charter School Resource Center and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement began developing a national database of all charter schools to better understand reasons for charter school successes and failures.

 

Meanwhile, many state governments considered legislation to improve taxpayer-funded charter school performance.

Educators Urge More Oversight of Charter Schools (by Leslie Brody, North Jersey.com)

States Move to Address Lack of Charter Oversight, Accountability (NEA Today)

Study Finds Charter Schools Avoid At-Risk Students (NEA Today)

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Debate:

Should No Child Left Behind be “left behind”?

Three days into the George W. Bush presidency, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was adopted, becoming a “cornerstone” of the administration.

 

The intent of the law was for all students, regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, or disability, to attain proficiency in reading, math, and science by 2014.

 

The focus of NCLB is standards, testing, accountability measures, and teacher quality. It requires states to set standards and develop assessments and annual measurable benchmarks, and for districts and schools to implement them.

 

Ten years after its implementation, the law has received mixed reviews, with critics decrying an overemphasis on testing that they claim has often proven ineffective and subject to manipulation.

 

In 2010, President Barack Obama proposed a plan to reform the NCLB program. Pending its reauthorization, the Obama administration’s Department of Education in 2011 invited states to apply for waivers from the law.

 

By 2012, the Obama administration had waived 32 states and Washington D.C. from abiding by NCLB rules.

No Child Left Behind: An analysis of the controversy (by Thomas Imms, New Foundations)

A Guide to the No Child Left Behind Act (by Pamela Karwasinski and Katharine Shek, Center for Public Education)

The good and bad of NCLB (Editorial, Washington Times)

Why No Child Left Behind is a Good Law - And How to Use It (by Pete Wright, Wrightslaw)

No Child Left Behind Worsened Education, 48 Percent Of Americans 'Very Familiar' With The Law Say In Gallup Poll (Huffington Post)

No Child Left Behind Waivers Granted To 33 U.S. States, Some With Strings Attached

(by Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post)

The Controversy: Has NCLB Been Successful or Has It Failed? (Carleton.edu)

 

Pro (Keep NCLB):

Supporters of NCLB offer many reasons for why the law should be maintained:

 

  • The law makes sure all children are counted, and that schools are responsible for making sure every child is learning.
  • It provides parents with unprecedented information and new options for their children, which may include free tutoring.
  • Teachers benefit from utilizing assessment data and scientifically based teaching methods to improve classroom instruction.
  • Schools in need of improvement receive extra help and resources to raise student achievement.

 

Supporters point out that student test scores have increased since NCLB took effect in 2002. Furthermore, test scores of minority students have gone up the most during this time.

 

Additionally, the overall achievement gap between minority and white students has decreased between 1999 and 2004.

 

Other achievements under NCLB include:

 

  • Nearly 450,000 eligible students have received free supplemental educational services (tutoring) or public school choice.
  • Regular testing has allowed schools to identify the individual students in need of additional aid to reach grade level proficiency.
  • Results have shown that the nation is still on track to reach the 2014 deadline for universal grade-level proficiency in math and reading.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education)

No Child Left Behind Act Is Working (U.S. Department of Education)

Summer 2005 Correspondence (Education Next)

The Student Success Act: Reforming Federal Accountability Requirements Under No Child Left Behind (by Lindsey Burke, Heritage Foundation)

 

Con (Do Away with NCLB):

Critics of NCLB offer their own list of reasons for why the law has been a mistake:

 

  • The federal government has consistently failed to provide the amount of funding the program requires.
  • Achievement is measured only by a students’ performance on annual multiple-choice reading and math tests.
  • Teachers are increasingly only teaching “to the test” due to widespread fears that their students will perform poorly resulting in their termination.
  • All students are held to the same achievement standard (as dictated by their state) regardless of their ability level, socioeconomic status and native language. The only students not held to the same achievement standards are those with severe physical or mental disabilities.
  • Due to the intense focus on math and reading proficiency, fewer resources and time are devoted to subjects such as art, physical education, social studies, and science.
  • Analysis of the academic reports by organizations who are unaffiliated with the federal board of education have come to mixed conclusions regarding the success of NCLB in raising math and reading achievement.
  • Many education professionals argue that it is impossible to compare data on a nation-wide scale because each state defines and assesses proficiency differently.

 

In addition, critics point to a Gallup poll showing more Americans think NCLB has made education in the U.S. worse rather than better.

 

Twenty-nine percent believe the law has weakened education in America, while only 16% say it has improved things. Another 38% said NCLB hasn’t made much of a difference.

U.S. Senate Testimony about NCLB (by Edward J. McElroy, American Federation of Teachers)

Testing the NCLB: Study shows that NCLB hasn't significantly impacted national achievement scores or narrowed the racial gaps (Civil Rights Project, Harvard)

Problems with NCLB (University of Michigan website)

The Failure of No Child Left Behind (J.D. Stockman, Yahoo! Contributor Network)

A decade of No Child Left Behind: Lessons from a policy failure (by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post)

50 Ways to leave a Child Behind (by Elizabeth Davidson, Randall Reback, Jonah Rockoff and Heather L. Schwartz, Columbia University)

 

Should the “innovation” approach be used in government programs? 

The Obama administration has been labeled the “innovation administration” due to its propensity for lauding and promoting “innovative” programs and initiatives.

 

President Barack Obama’s stimulus package included more than $100 billion for innovation efforts in school reform, energy research, healthcare, and anti-poverty objectives.

 

First lady Michelle Obama has also been a part of the messaging, speaking at two “innovation events” honoring architects and product designers.

 

The president has discussed how innovation can create jobs and help create new opportunities in other parts of society, especially in the schools.

 

But some observers wonder whether America’s schools really need more “innovative” plans from Washington, given the shortcomings of such efforts.

What's Needed To Make Sure Innovation Is Working? (National Journal)

 

Pro (Keep the Innovation Approach):

Promoters of innovation in education point to how new ideas have invigorated key sectors of American society. The growth of Walmart and the advent of the Internet and the iPod are just three examples in which economic opportunity and job creation came about because of innovative thinking.

 

To foster innovation in education and tackle poverty, the Obama administration promoted the establishment of the Social Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program created by Congress as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

 

The purpose of the fund, according to Michelle Obama, was to “find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their successes in communities around the country. By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented nonprofits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable, and worthy of the public trust.”

 

Administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the fund will award grants between $1 million and $10 million, with a focus on education, health, and economic empowerment.

 

The White House also has set up the Office of Social Innovation, led by former Google executive Sonal Shah, with the goal of helping address joblessness, bad schools, and urban blight.

 

And the U.S. Department of Education is funneling billions of dollars of stimulus money to help local school districts, nonprofits, and colleges enact innovative reforms.

Social Innovation Fund (White House)

Nine Federal Programs Make List of Top 25 Government Innovations (by Josh Hicks, Washington Post)

 

Con (End the Innovation Approach):

Whether the target is education or other social-oriented programs, more innovation efforts aren’t necessarily the answer to improved schooling opportunities for students, critics say.

 

“Social policy is where the innovation agenda gets tricky,” Dana Goldstein wrote in The American Prospect. “The incentives are less clear, the outcomes are more difficult to measure, and the entire endeavor is more open to ideological debate.”

 

Goldstein says Obama has definitely taken the innovation message to heart. “But it’s entirely possible that social innovation is little more than a federal foray into a B-school fad that may be, during an economic crisis, insufficient to addressing the scale of the social problems facing the American public.”

 

The problem with the Social Innovation Fund is the administration’s move to require that each government dollar be matched by the recipient organization, in order to ensure that only nonprofits that are already financially sustainable will win grants. This policy decision could mean the exclusion of many small nonprofits when it comes to accessing the grants.

 

This approach, critics say, means the Social Innovation Fund is only looking for “safe bets.”

 

Sean Stannard-Stockton, founder of the consulting firm Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, said: “We all want innovation. But the Social Innovation Fund is not going to draw up a lot of great nonprofits that nobody has heard of before. It’s going to call attention to what works.”

The Innovation Administration (by Dana Goldstein, American Prospect)

Government Innovation – An Oxymoron? (by Kamal Hassan, Innovation Excellence)

Structuring U.S. Innovation Policy: Creating a White House Office of Innovation Policy (by Stuart Benjamin and Arti Rai, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation)

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Former Directors:

Doug Mesecar

Doug Mesecar was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science Phi Beta Kappa from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. During his time at Hope College, he also played on the school’s basketball team. In 1996, Mesecar pursued graduate studies in education at the University of Denver in Colorado, where he obtained a provisional license to teach. Mesecar went on to teach fifth grade at Witt Elementary in Jefferson County, Colorado, where he beta-tested new district standards and taught special education students.

 

After teaching, Mesecar went to Washington D.C., to work on federal education policy in the House of Representative. In 2001, he joined the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to work for Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). In this position, Mesecar was able to oversee the writing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.

 

Mesecar first joined the Department of Education in 2003, becoming chief of staff of the Office of Elementary Secondary Education (OESE). From 2004 to 2005, he served as the deputy chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary. He left the department to become the Director of Government Relations and Policy Advisor to Edison Schools, Inc., a company based in New York that contracts with school districts to design and manage their curricula and programs.

 

Mesecar returned to the Department of Education in 2007, serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (OPEPD) and as Acting Assistant Secretary until Bill Evers’ confirmation in October 2007. OPEPD plays a key role in the Department of Education’s Budget Service, Performance Information Management Service, Policy and Program Studies Service, and Office of Educational Technology. In this position, Mesecar gained a few months’ experience working with the educational budget.

 

On February 19, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that Doug Mesecar would lead the OII as Assistant Deputy Secretary and Mesecar formally took the position on March 2, 2008. He served until the end of the administration of George W. Bush.

Official Biography

 

 

 

Morgan Brown

Morgan Brown became the Assistant Deputy Secretary in July 2006. He was born in Southern California, but grew up in Durham, New Hampshire. His parents were both college professors. Brown graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then moved to Washington D.C. and worked as a research assistant for the National Republican Congressional Committee, where he landed a job as a legislative assistant for Republican Jim Ramstad of Minnesota. Prior to becoming Assistant Deputy Secretary, Brown gained experience working with foreign affair issues, public policy and communications issues, and grant reviewing.

 

From 1999 to 2000, he was the director of the Partnership for Choice in Education, and, from 2001 to 2002 he led the Minnesota Education League. Just prior to serving in the Minnesota Department of Education, Brown became a senior fellow for education policy at the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative Minneapolis think tank.

 

 

 

 

Nina Shokraii Rees               December 2002 – January 2006

Official Biography (The White House)

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Comments

Dana McDermott 6 years ago
I am trying to reach Anna Hinton. I came out to a PIRC conference per her request in the past and need to ask her a question but I do not have her email address. Thanks, Dana McDermott Dana R. McDermott, Ph.D., CFLE Associate Professor DePaul University 14 E. JAckson Chicago, IL 60604 312-362-5111 dmcderm2@depaul.edu

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Founded: December of 2002
Annual Budget: $1.135 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 98 (FY 2012)
Official Website: http://www.ed.gov/oii-news
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Dabby, Nadya Chinoy
Previous Assistant Deputy Secretary

Nadya Chinoy Dabby has led the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement since June, 2013. The office manages grant programs aimed at boosting student success in K-12 schools.

 

Dabby is from Berkeley, California, where her father, Richard Walker, was a professor of geography at the University of California. Dabby attended that school, earning a bachelor’s degree in international development in 1999 and a master’s in urban planning in 2004. She continued her education at UCLA, where she earned an MBA in 2006.

 

After earning her undergraduate degree, Dabby worked, until 2002, as an associate for Harder and Co., which conducts research into issues of social change. Beginning in 2005, she worked briefly for technology company Corporate Executive Board, then the following year signed on with The Broad Foundation. As a director there, Dabby helped manage the foundation’s education-related grants. In 2011, she was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown (D) to a seat on the State Allocation Board, which apportions funds to school districts.

 

Dabby joined Office of Innovation and Improvement in 2011 as an associate assistant deputy secretary. She held that post until accepting leadership of the office in 2013.

 

In 2015, Dabby had to defend the Education Department’s grant of charter school funding to Ohio, which, at $32.5 million, was the largest to date. Investigations have shown that Ohio’s charter school program is one of the most troubled such programs in the country. “Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality and oversight,” Dabby said without providing details. “We believe Ohio has put practices in place, although there’s always room for them to grow.” Later that year, the Education Department put a hold on the funding, saying it hadn’t been aware of all the problems in the Ohio program. 

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

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Shelton, James
Former Assistant Deputy Secretary

 

James H. Shelton III has served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since April 2009, putting him in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. In this position, he oversees the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. President Barack Obama pledged to prohibit government employees from doing business with former employers. However, Shelton was granted a waiver to deal with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which he worked for more than five years prior to joining the Obama administration.
 
Shelton holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Morehouse College (1989), as well as master’s degrees in business administration and education from Stanford University (1993).
 
He began his career developing computer systems before joining McKinsey & Company, a major management consulting firm, in 1993, advising CEOs and other executives on issues related to corporate strategy, business development, organizational design and operational effectiveness. He spent four years with the firm, rising up to senior management consultant.
 
Upon leaving McKinsey, he joined Knowledge Universe, Inc., a huge education conglomerate, founded by Mike and Lowell Milken, that operates everything from pre-schools to online colleges. Shelton was tasked with launching, acquiring and operating education-related businesses.
 
In 1999 Shelton co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools.
 
Shelton then worked with Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, leading the planning for his reform strategy known as Children First.
 
He next served as a partner and the East Coast lead for NewSchools Venture Fund, a non-profit that supports companies in the education industry.
 
Prior to joining the Obama administration, he spent more than five years (2003-2009) as a program director for the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, managing the foundation’s national programs and work in the northeast region of the United States. Among the programs he oversaw were Next Generation Models, School Replication, and College Access and Scholarships.
 
Shelton and his wife, Sonia, have two sons, Justice and Jameson.
 
James H. Shelton III (WhoRunsGov, Washington Post)
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Located within the Department of Education, the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) manages various grant programs, ranging from charter schools to dropout prevention, and coordinates the public school choice and supplemental education services that are provided under the No Child Left Behind Act. In managing these grant programs and implementing new educational reforms, OII attempts to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and prepare the educational system, both technologically and instructionally, for more advanced learning.

more
History:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) was established in December 2002 by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who placed it under the leadership of Nina S. Rees, former deputy assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and chief education analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Rees was also one of the architects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which laid the groundwork for the OII, charging it with managing the Act’s funding.

 

Operating with a staff of 100, the OII received an initial budget appropriation of roughly $2 billion, which supported its management of two-dozen competitive grant programs. Among those programs were dropout prevention and charter schools. The OII was also charged with coordinating such NCLB provisions as public school choice and supplemental education services.

 

In 2011, the OII began developing a national database of all charter school authorizers and their schools to provide better insight into the reasons for charter school closures and renewals. Various federal initiatives, including Race to the Top, have triggered an increase in charter schools. But closings have also been on the increase, and both supporters and critics have made note of charter schools’ uneven quality and lack of oversight.

more
What it Does:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) was created in order to help manage the spending of money created by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In addition, the OII decides how to distribute the funds of its grant programs (see List of OII Grants and Initiatives, below). When distributing these funds, their main goal is to improve student achievement, increase parental awareness, and keep the education system up to date. The programs are administered by five of the six offices within the OII:

  • Charter Schools Programs Awards and administers seven grant competitions designed for the charter school community. Disseminates information about charter schools with a proven track record. Funds are made available to replicate and expand successful schools, help them find suitable facilities, and pay for national activities and initiatives that support them.
  • Improvement Programs Provides grants to such organizations as school districts, non-profit arts organizations, and foundations. The grants are to improve schools in the areas of arts education, civics, cultural education, economic education, reading, and gender equity.
  • Investing in Innovation Provides grants to applicants with a record of improving student achievement in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices.
  • Office of Non-Public Education Serves as a liaison to the non-public school community for the U.S. Department of Education. (This office does not administer any grant programs.)
  • Office of Parental Options and Information Oversees activities that support alternatives in education, including community and magnet schools, and public school choice. It also supports community organizations to engage parents in their children's education.
  • Teacher Quality Programs Oversees activities that support and test innovations in the field of teacher and principal recruitment preparation, and professional development.

The OII is also responsible for administering earmarks, which are funds allocated by Congress to be spent on predetermined projects.

Education Innovation: What It Is and Why We Need More of It (by OII Director Jim

Shelton, Education Week)

Tricky Road Ahead for Innovation Fund (by Erik W. Robelen, Education Week)

My Experience as a Department of Education Intern (by Angel Brock, U.S. Department of Education)

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Innovation and Improvement

Contact Information

Funding Opportunities

Initiatives and Projects

Program Offices

Publications

Video Highlights

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) spent more than $87.6 million on 135 contractor transactions during the decade since its creation in 2002, according to USAspending.gov. The top five products or services sold during that period were operational systems development ($29,202,363), miscellaneous items ($24,607,774), space track data acquisition ($9,186,145), aero and space tech R&D ($3,852,033), and automated information system services ($3,380,650). The top five recipients of this contractor spending were:

 

1. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                            $38,388,509   

2. Reading Is Fundamental Inc.                                             $24,605,499   

3. IBM Corporation                                                                  $3,579,518   

4. Learning Point Associates                                                    $3,523,421   

5. Mosaic ATM Inc.                                                                  $3,502,033

 

List of OII Grants and Initiatives

 

Earmarks

In addition, funds from this department are distributed in the form of earmarks. Earmarks are funds that are allocated to certain projects without having to undergo the legislative process. Every year Congress allocates funds to the OII with a predetermined use. These congressional provisions that are to be spent on specific projects are distributed without decision-making from the OII. In 2005, for example, there were 709 earmarks totaling $289,230,000. In recent years, earmark spending has gone up dramatically, despite criticism. In 2008, a record $2.25 billion was set aside to fund 2,300 educational earmarks at 920 universities. Most of these earmarks are given to the OII or the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE).

 

List of 2005-2010 earmarks:

White House OMB Page

 

Other earmark references:

Study Finds Record Earmarks (by Alan Finder, New York Times)

Colleges’ Earmarks Grow, Amid Criticism (by Jeffrey Brainard and JJ Hermes, Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

Since the educational system is widely considered substandard in the United States, many critics are finding faults in the way the department spends its earmarks. It should be noted, however, that the distribution of earmarks is ultimately a decision made by Congress.

Background

A Good Year for Pell Grants, A Great Year for Earmarks (by Jason Delisle, New America Foundation)

Earmarks: Is it pork or bringing home the bacon? (by Sara Kincaid, Bismarck Tribune)

$35.7M flows to Rochester area as earmarks in 2007-08 (by Jill Terreri, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) (pdf)

 

Against the current use of earmarks

Education Notebook: End Wasteful Education Earmarks (by Dan Lips, Heritage Foundation)

Colleges’ Earmarks Grow, Amid Criticism (by Jeffrey Brainard and JJ Hermes, Chronicle of Higher Education)

The U.S Department of Education: Awash in Earmarks (by Gerald Bracey, Huffington Post)

Pork 101:   How Education Earmarks School Taxpayers (by Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D.)

 

 

Program Spending

Critics also condemn the way in which money is being spent on certain OII grant programs. Many believe that money is being spent unwisely on ineffective programs. Others believe that funds are being cut from the incorrect problems.

 

For example, in 2008, the President had requested $922,018,000, which was an increase from the previous year. However, those funding increases were at the expense of eliminating 15 other programs. The charts below show programs that gained and lost funding between 2006, 2010, and 2013.

 

(In thousands of dollars)

 

2006 Appropriation

2010 Appropriation

2013 Senate Committee Approval

 

National Writing Project

21,533

24,291

-

 

Academies for American history   

    and civics

1,980

1,815

-

 

School leadership

14,731

29,220

29,107

 

Advanced credentialing

16,695

10,649

-

 

School dropout prevention

4,851

0

-

 

Close Up fellowships

1,454

1,942

-

 

Star schools

14,850

0

-

 

Ready to teach

10,890

0

-

 

Exchanges with historic whaling

   and trading partners

8,910

0

-

 

Excellence in economic

   education

1,473

1,147

-

 

Mental health integration in

   schools

4,910

0

-

 

Foundations for learning

982

0

-

 

Arts in education

35,277

14,616 / 15,898*

-

 

Parental information and resource

   centers

39,600

39,254

-

 

Women’s educational equity

2,926

2,423

-

 

           Teacher incentive fund

99,000

0

299,433

           Adjunct teacher corps (proposed

                legislation)

0

 

-

           Advanced Placement

32,175

0

36,027

           FIE programs of national

                significance

11,668

135,461

59,235

Note: Appropriations are in thousands of dollars          

*Noncompetitive

 

Against current program spending

Small Steps Toward Smarter Education Spending (by Krista Kafer and Jonathan Butcher, Heritage Foundation)

 

For current program spending

Good Start, Grow Smart: The Bush Administration's Early Childhood Initiative (White House web site)

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Controversies:

Charter School Lotteries

Critics of charter schools have complained about the spectacle of public lotteries at which some families rejoice and others suffer disappointment when the names of children are announced.

 

Supporters of charter schools have been accused of turning lotteries in showcases intended to inflate the perception of the schools’ popularity.

 

“Public lotteries have become a high-octane way to press an expansionist agenda,” the National Education Association (NEA) wrote. “That’s because at the events in the nation’s largest cities, hundreds if not thousands of students are typically vying for a small percentage of classroom spots.”

 

The NEA cited documents from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools that advise its member schools to “publicize their lotteries to demonstrate the strong popularity of charter schools.”

Exploitative Charter School Lotteries Not Required by Law (NEA Today)

“The Lottery” and Charter School Semiotics (Growing Up In America)

 

Deceptive Pro-Charter Parent Groups

An effort to transform a Los Angeles public school into a charter school came under attack by a leading teachers’ union claiming some of the parents behind the change didn’t have children in the school.

 

Parent Revolution, a pro-charter school organization, led a signature drive to turn McKinley Elementary School over to Celerity Educational Group, which operated four charter schools in Los Angeles.

 

The NEA, the largest teachers’ union in the U.S., said the campaign was a sham. Some signatures belonged to people with no children at the school, while others said they didn’t understand what they were signing, according to the union.

 

In the end, the Compton school board turned down the petition because the number of valid signatures fell below the 50% threshold required under California’s “parent trigger” law that allows residents to petition for a charter school.

 

That didn’t matter to Los Angeles county education officials—they approved the charter and Celerity opened a kindergarten through fifth grade school in the fall of 2011.

Beware Pro-Charter School “Parent” Groups (by Alain Jehlen, NEA Today)

‘Won’t Back Down’: Parent Trigger Gets the Hollywood Treatment (by Tim Walker, NEA Today)

L.A. County Education Officials OK Compton Charter School (by Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times)

 

Inconsistent Quality of Charter Schools

As the number of charter schools continued to increase in many states, some critics, including charter school advocates, called for states to do a better job of enacting, overseeing and enforcing quality and operational standards for the schools.

 

A 2010 study by Stanford University found that students in only 17% of charter schools were outperforming demographically similar student populations at nearby, traditional neighborhood public schools. In 37% of cases, students at the traditional public schools performed at higher levels, and the remainder of the cases showed no statistically significant difference.

 

To help address the problem, the National Charter School Resource Center and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement began developing a national database of all charter schools to better understand reasons for charter school successes and failures.

 

Meanwhile, many state governments considered legislation to improve taxpayer-funded charter school performance.

Educators Urge More Oversight of Charter Schools (by Leslie Brody, North Jersey.com)

States Move to Address Lack of Charter Oversight, Accountability (NEA Today)

Study Finds Charter Schools Avoid At-Risk Students (NEA Today)

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Debate:

Should No Child Left Behind be “left behind”?

Three days into the George W. Bush presidency, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was adopted, becoming a “cornerstone” of the administration.

 

The intent of the law was for all students, regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, or disability, to attain proficiency in reading, math, and science by 2014.

 

The focus of NCLB is standards, testing, accountability measures, and teacher quality. It requires states to set standards and develop assessments and annual measurable benchmarks, and for districts and schools to implement them.

 

Ten years after its implementation, the law has received mixed reviews, with critics decrying an overemphasis on testing that they claim has often proven ineffective and subject to manipulation.

 

In 2010, President Barack Obama proposed a plan to reform the NCLB program. Pending its reauthorization, the Obama administration’s Department of Education in 2011 invited states to apply for waivers from the law.

 

By 2012, the Obama administration had waived 32 states and Washington D.C. from abiding by NCLB rules.

No Child Left Behind: An analysis of the controversy (by Thomas Imms, New Foundations)

A Guide to the No Child Left Behind Act (by Pamela Karwasinski and Katharine Shek, Center for Public Education)

The good and bad of NCLB (Editorial, Washington Times)

Why No Child Left Behind is a Good Law - And How to Use It (by Pete Wright, Wrightslaw)

No Child Left Behind Worsened Education, 48 Percent Of Americans 'Very Familiar' With The Law Say In Gallup Poll (Huffington Post)

No Child Left Behind Waivers Granted To 33 U.S. States, Some With Strings Attached

(by Joy Resmovits, Huffington Post)

The Controversy: Has NCLB Been Successful or Has It Failed? (Carleton.edu)

 

Pro (Keep NCLB):

Supporters of NCLB offer many reasons for why the law should be maintained:

 

  • The law makes sure all children are counted, and that schools are responsible for making sure every child is learning.
  • It provides parents with unprecedented information and new options for their children, which may include free tutoring.
  • Teachers benefit from utilizing assessment data and scientifically based teaching methods to improve classroom instruction.
  • Schools in need of improvement receive extra help and resources to raise student achievement.

 

Supporters point out that student test scores have increased since NCLB took effect in 2002. Furthermore, test scores of minority students have gone up the most during this time.

 

Additionally, the overall achievement gap between minority and white students has decreased between 1999 and 2004.

 

Other achievements under NCLB include:

 

  • Nearly 450,000 eligible students have received free supplemental educational services (tutoring) or public school choice.
  • Regular testing has allowed schools to identify the individual students in need of additional aid to reach grade level proficiency.
  • Results have shown that the nation is still on track to reach the 2014 deadline for universal grade-level proficiency in math and reading.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education)

No Child Left Behind Act Is Working (U.S. Department of Education)

Summer 2005 Correspondence (Education Next)

The Student Success Act: Reforming Federal Accountability Requirements Under No Child Left Behind (by Lindsey Burke, Heritage Foundation)

 

Con (Do Away with NCLB):

Critics of NCLB offer their own list of reasons for why the law has been a mistake:

 

  • The federal government has consistently failed to provide the amount of funding the program requires.
  • Achievement is measured only by a students’ performance on annual multiple-choice reading and math tests.
  • Teachers are increasingly only teaching “to the test” due to widespread fears that their students will perform poorly resulting in their termination.
  • All students are held to the same achievement standard (as dictated by their state) regardless of their ability level, socioeconomic status and native language. The only students not held to the same achievement standards are those with severe physical or mental disabilities.
  • Due to the intense focus on math and reading proficiency, fewer resources and time are devoted to subjects such as art, physical education, social studies, and science.
  • Analysis of the academic reports by organizations who are unaffiliated with the federal board of education have come to mixed conclusions regarding the success of NCLB in raising math and reading achievement.
  • Many education professionals argue that it is impossible to compare data on a nation-wide scale because each state defines and assesses proficiency differently.

 

In addition, critics point to a Gallup poll showing more Americans think NCLB has made education in the U.S. worse rather than better.

 

Twenty-nine percent believe the law has weakened education in America, while only 16% say it has improved things. Another 38% said NCLB hasn’t made much of a difference.

U.S. Senate Testimony about NCLB (by Edward J. McElroy, American Federation of Teachers)

Testing the NCLB: Study shows that NCLB hasn't significantly impacted national achievement scores or narrowed the racial gaps (Civil Rights Project, Harvard)

Problems with NCLB (University of Michigan website)

The Failure of No Child Left Behind (J.D. Stockman, Yahoo! Contributor Network)

A decade of No Child Left Behind: Lessons from a policy failure (by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post)

50 Ways to leave a Child Behind (by Elizabeth Davidson, Randall Reback, Jonah Rockoff and Heather L. Schwartz, Columbia University)

 

Should the “innovation” approach be used in government programs? 

The Obama administration has been labeled the “innovation administration” due to its propensity for lauding and promoting “innovative” programs and initiatives.

 

President Barack Obama’s stimulus package included more than $100 billion for innovation efforts in school reform, energy research, healthcare, and anti-poverty objectives.

 

First lady Michelle Obama has also been a part of the messaging, speaking at two “innovation events” honoring architects and product designers.

 

The president has discussed how innovation can create jobs and help create new opportunities in other parts of society, especially in the schools.

 

But some observers wonder whether America’s schools really need more “innovative” plans from Washington, given the shortcomings of such efforts.

What's Needed To Make Sure Innovation Is Working? (National Journal)

 

Pro (Keep the Innovation Approach):

Promoters of innovation in education point to how new ideas have invigorated key sectors of American society. The growth of Walmart and the advent of the Internet and the iPod are just three examples in which economic opportunity and job creation came about because of innovative thinking.

 

To foster innovation in education and tackle poverty, the Obama administration promoted the establishment of the Social Innovation Fund, a competitive grant program created by Congress as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

 

The purpose of the fund, according to Michelle Obama, was to “find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their successes in communities around the country. By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented nonprofits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable, and worthy of the public trust.”

 

Administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the fund will award grants between $1 million and $10 million, with a focus on education, health, and economic empowerment.

 

The White House also has set up the Office of Social Innovation, led by former Google executive Sonal Shah, with the goal of helping address joblessness, bad schools, and urban blight.

 

And the U.S. Department of Education is funneling billions of dollars of stimulus money to help local school districts, nonprofits, and colleges enact innovative reforms.

Social Innovation Fund (White House)

Nine Federal Programs Make List of Top 25 Government Innovations (by Josh Hicks, Washington Post)

 

Con (End the Innovation Approach):

Whether the target is education or other social-oriented programs, more innovation efforts aren’t necessarily the answer to improved schooling opportunities for students, critics say.

 

“Social policy is where the innovation agenda gets tricky,” Dana Goldstein wrote in The American Prospect. “The incentives are less clear, the outcomes are more difficult to measure, and the entire endeavor is more open to ideological debate.”

 

Goldstein says Obama has definitely taken the innovation message to heart. “But it’s entirely possible that social innovation is little more than a federal foray into a B-school fad that may be, during an economic crisis, insufficient to addressing the scale of the social problems facing the American public.”

 

The problem with the Social Innovation Fund is the administration’s move to require that each government dollar be matched by the recipient organization, in order to ensure that only nonprofits that are already financially sustainable will win grants. This policy decision could mean the exclusion of many small nonprofits when it comes to accessing the grants.

 

This approach, critics say, means the Social Innovation Fund is only looking for “safe bets.”

 

Sean Stannard-Stockton, founder of the consulting firm Tactical Philanthropy Advisors, said: “We all want innovation. But the Social Innovation Fund is not going to draw up a lot of great nonprofits that nobody has heard of before. It’s going to call attention to what works.”

The Innovation Administration (by Dana Goldstein, American Prospect)

Government Innovation – An Oxymoron? (by Kamal Hassan, Innovation Excellence)

Structuring U.S. Innovation Policy: Creating a White House Office of Innovation Policy (by Stuart Benjamin and Arti Rai, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation)

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Former Directors:

Doug Mesecar

Doug Mesecar was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science Phi Beta Kappa from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. During his time at Hope College, he also played on the school’s basketball team. In 1996, Mesecar pursued graduate studies in education at the University of Denver in Colorado, where he obtained a provisional license to teach. Mesecar went on to teach fifth grade at Witt Elementary in Jefferson County, Colorado, where he beta-tested new district standards and taught special education students.

 

After teaching, Mesecar went to Washington D.C., to work on federal education policy in the House of Representative. In 2001, he joined the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to work for Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). In this position, Mesecar was able to oversee the writing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002.

 

Mesecar first joined the Department of Education in 2003, becoming chief of staff of the Office of Elementary Secondary Education (OESE). From 2004 to 2005, he served as the deputy chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary. He left the department to become the Director of Government Relations and Policy Advisor to Edison Schools, Inc., a company based in New York that contracts with school districts to design and manage their curricula and programs.

 

Mesecar returned to the Department of Education in 2007, serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (OPEPD) and as Acting Assistant Secretary until Bill Evers’ confirmation in October 2007. OPEPD plays a key role in the Department of Education’s Budget Service, Performance Information Management Service, Policy and Program Studies Service, and Office of Educational Technology. In this position, Mesecar gained a few months’ experience working with the educational budget.

 

On February 19, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced that Doug Mesecar would lead the OII as Assistant Deputy Secretary and Mesecar formally took the position on March 2, 2008. He served until the end of the administration of George W. Bush.

Official Biography

 

 

 

Morgan Brown

Morgan Brown became the Assistant Deputy Secretary in July 2006. He was born in Southern California, but grew up in Durham, New Hampshire. His parents were both college professors. Brown graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then moved to Washington D.C. and worked as a research assistant for the National Republican Congressional Committee, where he landed a job as a legislative assistant for Republican Jim Ramstad of Minnesota. Prior to becoming Assistant Deputy Secretary, Brown gained experience working with foreign affair issues, public policy and communications issues, and grant reviewing.

 

From 1999 to 2000, he was the director of the Partnership for Choice in Education, and, from 2001 to 2002 he led the Minnesota Education League. Just prior to serving in the Minnesota Department of Education, Brown became a senior fellow for education policy at the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative Minneapolis think tank.

 

 

 

 

Nina Shokraii Rees               December 2002 – January 2006

Official Biography (The White House)

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Dana McDermott 6 years ago
I am trying to reach Anna Hinton. I came out to a PIRC conference per her request in the past and need to ask her a question but I do not have her email address. Thanks, Dana McDermott Dana R. McDermott, Ph.D., CFLE Associate Professor DePaul University 14 E. JAckson Chicago, IL 60604 312-362-5111 dmcderm2@depaul.edu

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Founded: December of 2002
Annual Budget: $1.135 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 98 (FY 2012)
Official Website: http://www.ed.gov/oii-news
Office of Innovation and Improvement
Dabby, Nadya Chinoy
Previous Assistant Deputy Secretary

Nadya Chinoy Dabby has led the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement since June, 2013. The office manages grant programs aimed at boosting student success in K-12 schools.

 

Dabby is from Berkeley, California, where her father, Richard Walker, was a professor of geography at the University of California. Dabby attended that school, earning a bachelor’s degree in international development in 1999 and a master’s in urban planning in 2004. She continued her education at UCLA, where she earned an MBA in 2006.

 

After earning her undergraduate degree, Dabby worked, until 2002, as an associate for Harder and Co., which conducts research into issues of social change. Beginning in 2005, she worked briefly for technology company Corporate Executive Board, then the following year signed on with The Broad Foundation. As a director there, Dabby helped manage the foundation’s education-related grants. In 2011, she was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown (D) to a seat on the State Allocation Board, which apportions funds to school districts.

 

Dabby joined Office of Innovation and Improvement in 2011 as an associate assistant deputy secretary. She held that post until accepting leadership of the office in 2013.

 

In 2015, Dabby had to defend the Education Department’s grant of charter school funding to Ohio, which, at $32.5 million, was the largest to date. Investigations have shown that Ohio’s charter school program is one of the most troubled such programs in the country. “Ohio has a pretty good mechanism in place to improve overall quality and oversight,” Dabby said without providing details. “We believe Ohio has put practices in place, although there’s always room for them to grow.” Later that year, the Education Department put a hold on the funding, saying it hadn’t been aware of all the problems in the Ohio program. 

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

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Shelton, James
Former Assistant Deputy Secretary

 

James H. Shelton III has served as assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement since April 2009, putting him in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. In this position, he oversees the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund. President Barack Obama pledged to prohibit government employees from doing business with former employers. However, Shelton was granted a waiver to deal with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for which he worked for more than five years prior to joining the Obama administration.
 
Shelton holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Morehouse College (1989), as well as master’s degrees in business administration and education from Stanford University (1993).
 
He began his career developing computer systems before joining McKinsey & Company, a major management consulting firm, in 1993, advising CEOs and other executives on issues related to corporate strategy, business development, organizational design and operational effectiveness. He spent four years with the firm, rising up to senior management consultant.
 
Upon leaving McKinsey, he joined Knowledge Universe, Inc., a huge education conglomerate, founded by Mike and Lowell Milken, that operates everything from pre-schools to online colleges. Shelton was tasked with launching, acquiring and operating education-related businesses.
 
In 1999 Shelton co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools.
 
Shelton then worked with Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, leading the planning for his reform strategy known as Children First.
 
He next served as a partner and the East Coast lead for NewSchools Venture Fund, a non-profit that supports companies in the education industry.
 
Prior to joining the Obama administration, he spent more than five years (2003-2009) as a program director for the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, managing the foundation’s national programs and work in the northeast region of the United States. Among the programs he oversaw were Next Generation Models, School Replication, and College Access and Scholarships.
 
Shelton and his wife, Sonia, have two sons, Justice and Jameson.
 
James H. Shelton III (WhoRunsGov, Washington Post)
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