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Symposium on Graduation Rates: About the Speakers

Dr. Robert Balfanz

Robert Balfanz is a research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University. He is the associate director of the Talent Development Middle and High School Project, which is currently working with more than fifty high-poverty secondary schools to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive whole-school reforms. His work focuses on translating research findings into effective reforms for high-poverty secondary schools. He has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools. Recent work includes Locating the Dropout Crisis, with coauthor Nettie Legters, in which the number and location of high schools with high dropout rates are identified. Dr. Balfanz is currently the lead investigator on a middle school dropout prevention project in collaboration with the Philadelphia Education Fund, which is supported by the William Penn Foundation. Dr. Balfanz has also been the coauthor of a number of mathematics curriculums, including University of Chicago School Mathematics Project Everyday Mathematics and Big Math for Little Kids.


Dr. Duncan Chaplin

Duncan Chaplin is a senior research methodologist at the Urban Institute. As a specialist in labor economics and econometrics, he focuses on improving the methods used to estimate impacts of various education policies on academic and nonacademic student outcomes. He has worked closely on the graduation rates issue, having published "Tassles on the Cheap," in the journal Education Next, and GEDs for Teenagers: Are There Unintended Consequences? He has coauthored Counting High School Graduates When Graduates Count: Measuring Graduation Rates under the High Stakes of NCLB, with Dr. Christopher Swanson. Dr. Chaplin teaches as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, and in December 2003 he was named to a national expert panel on high school graduation and dropout rates.


Dr. Greg Forster

Greg Forster is a senior research associate at the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office. He is the coauthor of studies evaluating vouchers, charter schools, high-stakes testing, special education funding, and other education issues. He has also published op-ed articles in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and other major newspapers.


Ms. Moira Lenehan

Moira Lenehan is the education and student loan legislative assistant for U.S. Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX). Ms. Lenehan has extensive public policy experience in the field of education as well as in working with nonprofit organizations, including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the National Association for Migrant Education, and the Hispanic Education Coalition. She serves as Congressman Hinojosa's committee liaison on all education and workforce issues. She is also the staff liaison to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In addition to education and labor issues, Ms. Lenehan also covers immigration, welfare reform, child care, and civil rights.


Dr. Robert Lerner

Robert Lerner was appointed on December 26, 2003, by President George W. Bush to serve as commissioner of education statistics. As commissioner, he heads the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. The duties of the center are to collect, report, analyze, and disseminate statistical data related to education in the United States and other nations. Dr. Lerner has been a partner in the statistical research firm Lerner and Nagai Quantitative Consulting, in addition to having conducted research for and been an instructor at several colleges and universities.


Mr. Daniel J. Losen

Daniel J. Losen is a law and policy associate with the Civil Rights Project (CRP) and a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School. His work at CRP concerns the impact of federal, state, and local education law and policy on students of color. His work includes analysis of the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. He most recently coauthored the report Losing Our Future, which was written with Gary Orfield, Johanna Wald, and Chris Swanson and released jointly with the Urban Institute and Advocates for Children of New York. His research on NCLB and related matters culminated in a recent article, "Challenging Racial Disparities: The Promise and Pitfalls of the No Child Left Behind Act's Race-Conscious Accountability," which was published in the Howard Law Journal's "Brown at 50 Special Edition" (Winter 2004). He is also a cowriter of No Child Left Behind: Educational and Advocacy Video Series and Resource Guide.


Mr. Doug Mesecar

Doug Mesecar is the deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education. As a senior advisor to Secretary Rod Paige, he provides strategic guidance, policy recommendations, and research on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and other departmental initiatives and programs. Previously, he was chief of staff for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the department. Prior to joining the department, he was a professional staff member for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where he helped draft NCLB and other legislative initiatives. Before coming to Washington, D.C., he taught fifth grade in the Jefferson County public school system near Denver, Colorado.


Mr. Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer is a partner at Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, DC, where he works on education and government relations matters-providing legal, policy, and advocacy services to education leaders across the nation. Mr. Palmer's focus is on preventive law-helping education leaders understand how to structure their programs in ways that best serve their educational goals and meet federal and state legal requirements, thereby improving education on the front end while reducing the risk of litigation or enforcement on the back end. Mr. Palmer currently works with multiple states, school districts, universities, associations, and other education institutions on issues such as the No Child Left Behind Act, standards reform and testing, services for English language learners, services for students with disabilities, and diversity programs. Mr. Palmer served until January 2001 in the Clinton Administration as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Mr. Palmer previously served as a legal and policy adviser with the President's Initiative on Race in the White House, where he was responsible for education and civil rights issues.


Dr. Christopher B. Swanson

Christopher B. Swanson is a research associate at the Urban Institute's Education Policy Center. Dr. Swanson is currently leading an evaluation sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to examine the implementation and impacts of expanded forms of flexibility over the use of federal education funding authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. Dr. Swanson is also the co-principal investigator of a large five-year evaluation of an extensive high school reform initiative being implemented in the Baltimore City Public School System. During the past several years, much of his research has focused on issues of urban high school reform involving small school restructuring and on the implementation of the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. In particular he has investigated the persistent challenges associated with accurately measuring high school graduation rates, a required performance-based accountability measure under the federal law. Dr. Swanson's research on a variety of educational policy issues-among them standards and accountability, instructional reform, high school dropout and completion, student mobility, and public school choice-has been presented at national conferences and published in leading scholarly journals. Recent works on graduation rates include Who Graduates? Who Doesn't?, published by the Urban Institute, and a new article in the December 2004 edition of Principal Leadership.