The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) has appointed Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, a former classroom teacher and veteran of the U.S. Department of Education, as its new president and CEO, marking the group’s first turnover in that role since its inception 13 years ago.
Bell-Ellwanger told EdScoop she has spent her career working toward a place like the DQC — a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization focused on providing parents, policymakers and teachers with access to educational data. Not only does she have 25 years of experience working in urban education, but she has a proven past of championing data use and access for teachers, families and students.
“I think that there’s a lot of work to be done [at the DQC], but first I really want to listen and learn about the work that is already underway so we can figure out which direction to take next,” Bell-Ellwanger said.
Bell-Ellwanger started her career as a kindergarten teacher in New York and eventually worked her way up to becoming a senior adviser and executive director for research and policy support at New York City Public Schools, the largest U.S. school district. She has also served as interim chief of staff and chief achievement and accountability officer for Baltimore City Public Schools. And at the federal level, Bell-Ellwanger worked as the director of the Department of Education’s internal think-tank, the Policy and Program Studies Service.
Combined, those experiences made Bell-Ellwanger an attractive candidate to lead the Data Quality Campaign — earlier this month, the Board of Directors unanimously selected her to succeed outgoing president and CEO Aimee Guidera, who has led the DQC since its founding.
Under Guidera’s leadership, the DQC became an organization that started “to change the conversation” around education data and how it can be used to improve outcomes for students, she told EdScoop.
“The goal of the campaign from day one was not to just collect data, but to ensure that we created a culture, created the capacity and created the condition to make it possible to use information to serve every student,” Guidera said. ”I’m really proud that we created an organization that is incredibly effective and focused on impact and outcome and also on growth of individuals within the organization.”
Guidera has decided to move on to consulting, where she will be focusing on problem-solving issues in education from a different standpoint than she did with the DQC.
“I am passionate about the power of education to change lives and to ensure that this country is healthy in all ways,” Guidera said. “I’m absolutely not leaving the education sector by any means and will never stop being a cheerleader for the Data Quality Campaign and the importance of information.”
The greatest challenge Bell-Ellwanger faces in her new role, Guidera said, is changing human behavior around data. With technology, the education sector now has the ability to keep fairly extensive records on every student in the country. That data can be used to personalize the teaching and learning process, to improve education policy and to understand the needs of individuals students, Guidera said, but only if people take the time to understand it and use it properly.
“The real work is focused on that people part of it,” she said. “It’s easier to build the data systems than it is to actually get people to change their actions.”
Bell-Ellwanger acknowledged the scope of work that lays ahead for her but said she is excited to get to started with her new team and focus on the untapped potential of early childhood and post-secondary data.
“I am excited and I am anxious to fill those great shoes of Aimee Guidera as she moves on and I take the helm of the Data Quality Campaign,” Bell-Ellwanger said.