PACE People

Executive Director

Heather Hough is the Executive Director of PACE. Prior to serving in this role, she led the partnership between PACE and the CORE Districts. Her recent work has focused on using research to strengthen state structures supporting continuous improvement and advance policies that support the whole child. Dr. Hough has worked in a variety of capacities to support policy and practice in education, including as an Improvement Advisor at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California, the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, and the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. Dr. Hough holds a PhD in Education Policy and a BA in Public Policy from Stanford University.

PACE Faculty Directors

Christopher Edley, Jr. brings to PACE an illustrious career supporting educational equity and excellence nationwide. Professor Edley was dean of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) from 2004 to 2013, after 23 years as a Harvard Law professor. He co-founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project with Professor Gary Orfield, now at UCLA. Professor Edley’s academic work is in administrative law, civil rights, education policy, and domestic public policy generally. He has moved between academia and public service, giving him broad academic and practical familiarity with many policy areas. Edley served in the White House under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In Clinton’s OMB, he oversaw budgets and legislative initiatives for five cabinet departments and 40 independent agencies, with budget responsibility totaling in the hundreds of billions of dollars. As senior counsel to Clinton, he directed the government-wide “Mend It, Don’t End It” review of affirmative action programs. Edley held senior positions in five presidential campaigns, including policy director for candidate Michael Dukakis (1988). He was a Senior Economic Adviser to President-Elect Clinton and served on President-elect Obama’s Transition Board, with responsibility for Education, Immigration, and Health. Edley co-chaired the congressionally chartered National Commission on Education Equity and Excellence (2011-13). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, National Academy of Public Administration, Council of Foreign Relations, and a National Associate of the National Research Council. He has served the NRC on many education-related panels and chaired panels on Adult Literacy Standards, NAEP Performance Standards and, currently, Education Equity Indicators. Professor Edley is the president and co-founder of the Opportunity Institute and continues to serve as a Berkeley Professor.

Michal Kurlaender is Professor of Education Policy and Chancellor Fellow at the University of California, Davis.  Her work explores students' educational pathways, more specifically access to and success in college, alignment of public K-12 and postsecondary systems of education, and alternative pathways to college and careers. In addition to working with national data, Kurlaender works closely with administrative data from all three of California’s public higher education sectors–the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community College systems. She is leading a collaborative project with the California Department of Education (funded by the Institute of Education Sciences) to investigate California’s college and career readiness standards in the era of common core assessments. Kurlaender also studies the impact of racial and ethnic diversity on student outcomes and has expertise on persistent inequalities in segregated minority schools, including access to adequate classroom resources and good teachers. Kurlaender sits on several advisory groups for the California Department of Education, including the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, and the College/Career Indicator. At UC Davis she leads the research portfolio of Wheelhouse: The Center for Community College Leadership and Research and is on the advisory committee of the Center for Poverty Research.

Julie Marsh

Julie A. Marsh, PhD, is a Professor of Education Policy at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California and faculty co-director of the USC Rossier Center on Education Policy, Equity and Governance. Marsh specializes in research on K-12 policy and governance, blending perspectives in education, sociology, and political science. Her work has focused on accountability and instructional policy, with particular attention to the process and politics of adoption and implementation, and the ways in which policies shape practice in urban settings. One cross-cutting focus of this work relates to how teachers and administrators use data to inform their practice. A second major strand of her research examines educational governance and efforts to decentralize and democratize decision-making. Marsh is a co-editor of the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Prior to coming to USC in July 2010, she 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, a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley, and B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University.

Cecilia Rios-Aguilar brings to PACE a focus on studying and working to improve the educational and occupational trajectories of underrepresented and marginalized groups of students (e.g., Latinx, immigrant, low-income, and English language learners). Dr. Rios-Aguilar is an Associate Professor of Education at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS). She also serves as Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. She is past Director of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA. Her research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of asset-based conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge, community cultural wealth and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—econometric models, multilevel models, spatial analyses, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of vulnerable students. Dr. Rios-Aguilar obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy from the University of Rochester, her M.S. in Educational Administration from the University of Rochester, and her B.A. in Economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s research interests include critical quantitative research methods, big data, social media, community colleges, and educational policies.

Deborah Stipek has been intimately involved with PACE for many years, as a contributing researcher and also as the dean of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education from 2001-2011. Dr. Stipek brings deep expertise in California policy specifically around early childhood- and elementary education. Dr. Stipek has held many prestigious roles in education policy within California and statewide: She served for five years on the Board on Children, Youth and Families at the National Research Council; she was the Chair of the National Research Council Committee for Increasing High School Students' Engagement and Motivation to Learn, and she directed the MacArthur Foundation Network on Teaching and Learning. She currently serves as the Judy Koch Professor of Education at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, and the Peter E. Haas faculty director of the Haas Center for Public Service.


Jeannie Myung is the Director of Policy Research at PACE.  She was the Managing Director of the research project Getting Down to Facts II: Current Conditions and Paths Forward for California Schools. She was previously a Program Director at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching where her work focused on launching and developing networked improvement communities focused on improving student academic experiences and outcomes.

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. Alix’s expertise is in improving instructional quality and student outcomes.

David Plank

David Plank was the Executive Director of PACE for 11 years, and has recently retired, now serving as a Senior Advisor to PACE. 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.

Benjamin Cottingham is a Policy and Implementation Analyst with PACE. He is currently involved with the research partnership with the CORE districts studying their work as network improvement community to accelerate the achievement of African-American and Latino students in math. Ben is interested in policy issues and systems changes resulting from the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula and co-authored a paper for Getting Down to Facts II, “Building a System of Support for School Improvement”, as a master’s student in Stanford’s Education Policy and Leadership program.

Joe Witte is a Research Data Analyst at PACE. Before joining the PACE team, he worked as a consultant for the Illinois State Board of Education. His work at both organizations has focused on providing high-quality and actionable data in order to inform and support education policymakers and stakeholders. Joe holds a MPP with a concentration in Education Policy from the University of Chicago and a BA in Public Policy Analysis from Pomona College.

Krishna Mamidibathula

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

Chief of Staff
Phone: (650) 576-8484


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