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What Does Effective Use of Data in Education Really Look Like?


August 3, 2018
Victor Rivero
EdTech Digest

Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger has dedicated her career to ensuring that families and educators can access and use data in support of student learning and success. She has spent more than two decades leading efforts in some of the nation’s largest school districts to make data work for students.

A great place to start

Bell-Ellwanger’s career began as a kindergarten and first grade teacher in New York City’s public schools. Following her time in the classroom, Bell-Ellwanger served as a senior advisor to the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and executive director of research and policy support.

In 2012, she joined Baltimore City Schools as chief achievement and accountability officer, where she led efforts to advance the district’s use of data to improve student outcomes before being named interim chief of staff during the 2013-14 school year.

In 2015, she joined the U.S. Department of Education where she served as director of Policy and Program Studies Service and later as acting assistant secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, leading efforts to make data more useful, reliable, and accessible to families across the nation. In 2016, her success at the department was highlighted as she received the Secretary’s Executive Leadership Award.

Ready for data

With more than 25 years’ experience teaching and leading at the classroom, district, state, and federal level, Bell-Ellwanger’s expertise in education data led her to her new role as the president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign in April 2018.

As the head of the nation’s leading voice on education data policy and use, Bell-Ellwanger is committed to the safe use of data and believes that when parents, educators, and policymakers have the right information to make decisions, students excel.

It’s a pleasure speaking with Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger today. Jennifer, as a lifelong educator, former classroom teacher, and experienced executive, what prompted you to get into education? What’s inspired your work?

Jennifer: I didn’t set out to be an educator. It was late in college when I decided to double major in psychology and education, that I became interested in teaching. My first teaching role was as a kindergarten teacher in the New York City Public Schools in the Bronx.

I thought I was just going to be there for a little while, but the minute I saw those faces – faces of kindergarteners who came to school with such joy and excitement every day – I was hooked. I knew it was the path for me.

Still today, my inspiration is drawn from those children and families that I worked with during my very first years as a teacher. As I’ve continued on in my career, with stops at the New York City Department of Education, Baltimore City Schools, the U.S. Department of Education, and now the Data Quality Campaign, it’s still those faces that inspire me and bring me to work every day.