PACE People

PACE Directors

Michal Kurlaender

Michal Kurlaender is an Associate Professor at the School of Education at UC Davis. She investigates students’ educational pathways, in particular K-12 and postsecondary alignment, and access to and success in college. Kurlaender has expertise on alternative pathways to college and on college readiness at both community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. In addition to working with national data, she works closely with administrative data from all three of California’s public higher education sectors: the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and the University of California. Kurlaender also studies the impact of socioeconomic and racial and ethnic diversity on student outcomes in both K-12 and higher education settings. She received her doctorate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 2005. She serves on the executive committee of the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, is the UC Davis site director of the UC Educational Evaluation Center, and is a researcher with the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Susanna Loeb

Susanna Loeb is the Barnett Family Professor of Education at Stanford University, faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Analysis, and a director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). She specializes in the economics of education and the relationship between schools and federal, state and local policies. Her research addresses teacher policy, looking specifically at how teachers' preferences affect the distribution of teaching quality across schools, how pre-service coursework requirements affect the quality of teacher candidates, and how reforms affect teachers' career decisions. She also studies school leadership and school finance, for example looking at how the structure of state finance systems affects the level and distribution of resources across schools. Susanna is a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Policy Council of the Association for Policy Analysis and Management, and Co-Editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

Julie Marsh

Julie Marsh is an Associate Professor at the Rossier School of Education at USC. Marsh specializes in research on policy implementation, educational reform, and accountability. Her research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science. Over the past 15 years, her research has examined the implementation and effects of various accountability policies, including studies of the No Child Left Behind Act, school turnaround, teacher evaluation, and charter schools. Marsh has also closely examined school districts as central actors in educational reform, including the roles played by central office administrators in both interpreting and creating policy, as well as the roles of other district actors–school board members, union leaders, citizens, parents, university partners, and community organizations–in advancing system-level reform. Much of this research has focused on decision-making, including the role of data, the democratic nature of these efforts, and the politics of such processes. Her expertise lies in case study methodology and survey development and analysis. Marsh is currently co-PI of two federally funded studies in the Los Angeles Unified School District—one examining district efforts to implement portfolio management and turnaround reforms, and the other analyzing the district’s Teacher Incentive Fund-supported human capital reforms. Prior to coming to USC in July 2010, Marsh was at the RAND Corporation for eight years, where she last served as Senior Policy Researcher. She received a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University.

Executive Director

David Plank

Before joining PACE in January 2007, David N. Plank was a Professor at Michigan State University, where he founded and directed the Education Policy Center. He was previously on the faculties at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he taught courses and conducted research in the areas of educational finance and policy. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1983. Plank is the author or editor of six books, including the AERA Handbook of Education Policy Research. He has published widely in a number of different fields, including economics of education, history of education, and educational policy. His current interests include the role of the State in education, and the relationship between academic research and public policy. In addition to his work in the United States, Plank has extensive international experience. He has served as a consultant to international organizations including the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation, and also to governments in Africa and Latin America.

Executive Director, CORE-PACE Research Partnership

Heather J. Hough is the Executive Director of the research partnership between Policy Analysis for California Education and the CORE Districts, a collaborative of eight California school districts who have developed a robust measurement and accountability system that represents nearly a million students. Before joining PACE, Heather was an improvement adviser with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, helping education system leaders use research and data to support continuous improvement. She has worked as a researcher with the Public Policy Institute of California, the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, and the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. Heather’s area of expertise is in district- and state-level policymaking and implementation, with a particular focus on policy coherence, system improvement, and school and teacher accountability. She holds a Ph.D. in education policy and a B.A. in public policy from Stanford University.

PACE Advisory Board

Mijares was appointed Ora​nge County Superintendent of Schools in August 2012, and prior to that time he served for six years as the Vice President of the College Board where he worked to expand the high school-to-university pipeline, in order to assure the college readiness and success for students, especially the underrepresented.

He joined the College Board after serving as Superintendent of the Santa Ana (CA) Unified School District for more than 11 years. Under his guidance, the district received national recognition for successfully meeting the needs of its diverse student body. Mijares was praised for his innovative curricular reform and for improving reading and math skills.

At the meeting of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) meeting on August 6, 2015, the five-member board voted unanimously to select former State Board of Education member and long-time educator, Dr. Carl A. Cohn, to serve as the first executive director of the recently-formed statewide agency tasked with advising and assisting student achievement across the state via the new Local Control and Accountability Plans.

Susan is the CEO and Co-founder of Imagine. Prior to founding Imagine, she was a partner at McKinsey & Company, and led the education practice. Susan also served as the CEO at Stupski Foundation, a founding partner of The Bridgespan Group, and Co-President of the Sustainable Development Sector at Monsanto, where she developed and led businesses throughout the world. Susan serves on the boards of CODE2040 and Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She is a fellow of the inaugural cohort of Pahara-Aspen Education Leaders and a Lecturer at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Graduate School of Education. Susan earned a BA from American University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Christopher Edley, Jr. is the co-president and co-founder of the Opportunity Institute. He founded and continues to be Chair of Partners for Each and Every Child, now a project of the Opportunity Institute.  He co-chaired the congressionally chartered National Commission on Education Equity and Excellence (2011-13), appointed by Secretary Arne Duncan. Edley is the Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, after serving as dean from 2004 through 2013. Before Berkeley, he was a law professor at Harvard for 23 years, where Professor Gary Orfield and he co-founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project. 

Glen Harvey became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WestEd in June 1997 and has led the agency’s transformation to a mission-driven and quality- and impact-focused agency. Under Harvey’s leadership, WestEd emphasizes performing the highest quality research-based work to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. Harvey ensures that WestEd produces significant and positive impact, especially for those children and their families in greatest need.

Scott Hill is Vice-President for the College Board, leading the team that support students, teachers, schools, and higher education institutions in the Western Region.   For over twenty years, he has served in various leadership positions in California, regionally, nationally, and internationally in the areas of standards, assessments, accountability, and organizational management.  Hill started with the College Board in 2013; prior, he was a senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where his portfolio managed the Foundation’s Common Core standards and assessments investments.  He also directed the national education strategy for the nation of Qatar, while living in the Middle East.  He has served in the public and private sectors in California, including government roles as Executive Director of the Academic Standards and Curriculum Commissions, Chief Deputy Superintendent at the California Department of Education, and Undersecretary of Education.

Ted Lempert is the President of Children Now, a national research and advocacy organization based in Oakland, California. He is also a Lecturer in the Political Science Department at UC Berkeley. Previously, Mr. Lempert was the founding CEO and co-founder of EdVoice, a California education reform organization.

Mr. Lempert was a California State Assemblymember representing San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties from 1996 to 2000 and 1988 to 1992. He served as chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and the Select Committees on Education Technology and Coastal Protection, and co-chair of the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education. He had more than 75 bills signed by Governors Deukmejian, Wilson and Davis, including major laws in the areas of education, health care, children and families, tax policy and the environment.

Christy Pichel is the former President of the Stuart Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to supporting improvements in the public education and child welfare systems in California and Washington.  During her tenure the Foundation invested over $200 million and engaged in numerous collaborations in philanthropy and with non-profit and public sector organizations. Her twenty years in philanthropy also included senior management positions at the James Irvine Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California, and the CS Fund.  Her earlier experience in non-profit organizations provided understanding of the potential and challenges of the sector that informed her approach in philanthropy.  Pichel was a founder and executive director of the Summerfield Waldorf School in Sonoma County during its establishment on a permanent site with a bio-dynamic farm and garden.  She was the administrator and board member of the Farallones Institute, an early pioneer in renewable energy and sustainable development.

Jorge A. Aguilar became the twenty-eighth Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District on July 1, 2017. He leads the thirteenth largest school district in California with 46,843 students, more than 4,200 employees and a budget of more than $566.99 million. Aguilar was selected Superintendent by the Board of Education because of his proven track record using data to improve student outcomes.

Superintendent Aguilar has more than twenty years of K-12 and higher education experience with a strong focus and background on issues of equity and student achievement. Prior to his appointment, he served as Associate Superintendent for Equity and Access at Fresno Unified School District. In his career, Superintendent Aguilar has also served as an Associate Vice Chancellor for Educational and Community Partnerships and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at the University of California, Merced; as a Spanish teacher at South Gate High School; and a legislative fellow in the State Capitol.


H. Alix Gallagher

H. Alix Gallagher ( is the Director of Research-Practice Partnerships. In that work, she uses various research methodologies in partnership with practitioners to support ongoing organizational improvement while building knowledge for the field. Before joining PACE, Alix was an Associate Director at the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. There she led large-scale randomized controlled trials and policy studies and was fortunate to be part of two successful long-term research-practice partnerships.

Research Data Analyst

Finance Manager, Stanford University
Phone: (650) 725-8661

Communication Specialist, Stanford University
Phone: (650) 575-3743

Program Manager
Phone: (650) 576-8484


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