From the Washington Post;
RICHMOND — Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) has named Aimee Rogstad Guidera as his choice for Virginia education secretary, the first appointment he has announced for the administration that will take office Jan. 15.
Guidera is a consultant and national expert on the use of data in education policy. She is the head of the Guidera Strategy consulting firm and the former founder and leader of the Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit that advocates for using data to shape education.
On its website, the Data Quality Campaign describes its mission as pursuing “a world where data is used to drive systemic change, economic mobility, and student success. To make this a reality, families, educators, communities, and policymakers must have the information they need to foster successful journeys through education and the workforce.”
Youngkin said in a news release that Guidera “will be a critical partner in restoring expectations of excellence; overseeing a record education budget to invest in teachers, facilities and special education; rolling out innovation lab and charter schools; and standing for a curriculum that prepares Virginia’s children for a dynamic future and removes politics from the classroom.”
He praised Guidera for a career spent “advocating for innovation and choice, data-driven reform, and high standards.”
Youngkin turbocharged his campaign for governor by tapping into conservative anger at local school boards over issues such as teaching racial history, policies regarding transgender students and reviewing books that some might find objectionable. He drew huge applause at campaign rallies by promising to ban the teaching of “critical race theory,” an academic concept about the role of systemic racism in American history that is not included in Virginia’s K-12 curriculum.
Youngkin also promised to fund charter schools, and said an education secretary would be his first appointment — something he had promised to do several weeks ago but said he delayed because of a flood of applications.
Guidera is a Maryland native, according to Youngkin’s news release, but moved to Fairfax in 1995 and had a daughter who attended public schools in the county. She has also worked as director of the D.C. office of the National Center for Educational Achievement and began her career working on education policy at the National Governors Association, according to the release.
Records indicate that Guidera and her husband have lived in Minnesota for the past several years. A spokesman for Youngkin said she intends to move to Virginia for the job. The spokesman said she was not available for an interview.
People who have worked with Guidera say they think of her as a traditional
conservative Republican, more interested in accountability reforms aimed at improving academic performance than culture wars that have dominated education politics in Virginia and beyond.
“She’s a principled conservative who is interested in solving problems and empowering parents and making sure schools are accountable and transparent and promoting rigor,” said Frederick Hess, director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, who has known Guidera for many years.
But Hess said he expects Guidera to stand up to opponents on questions of race, including those who push schools to see too much in education through the lens of race.
“I don’t think this is something that given her druthers she would prefer to focus on, but she refuses to bullied,” he said. “Aimee is somebody who has never been interested in culture war for its own sake but as a principled conservative, when push comes to shove and it’s a question of whether kids are being taught whether American history and the world should be understood through the lens of race, I think she finds this to be problematic just as Youngkin does.”
Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, predicted that parents who are angry about schools’ focus on issues of race “will have a sympathetic ear in the Virginia Department of Education.”
“I don’t think you’ll see more missives saying high schools shouldn’t teach advanced math because that somehow doesn’t fit with the cause of equity,” he said, a reference to concerns that White students are much more likely to be placed in advanced courses than Black and Hispanic students are.
In the debates that once raged over high-stakes testing and school accountability, Guidera was firmly on the accountability side, advocating the use of testing to evaluate schools. She is best known for pushing schools to make better use of student data and, as founder of the Data Quality Campaign, she spent much of her career focused on this issue.
“The major backlash against student testing is because teachers and families are getting little value out of it. If a test is to be worthwhile, it needs to be producing information that’s useful in classrooms and at kitchen tables,” she wrote in a 2014 column published by the HuffPost. “Good tests can demonstrate what’s working and what’s not for teachers and kids.”
“This is a great sign to me that Youngkin intends to push a serious education reform agenda, not just fight a culture war,” Petrilli said. “She’s always talking about using [data] as a flashlight — to understand what’s going on and improve teaching and learning, not just in this punitive way that people always associate with.”
Guidera has not been a major player on questions of school choice, such as promoting charter schools and private school vouchers. But Jeanne Allen, chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, which promotes school choice, said she is an excellent choice for the job.
“Aimee knows a ton about education,” she said. “She is smart, data-driven, thoughtful, substantial, incredibly objective and able to get along with people across the political and education spectrums. Definitely not a usual suspect for left or right.”
Youngkin made no mention of critical race theory in his announcement, but said Guidera’s expertise would help “ensure Virginia kids are the best prepared in the country to succeed, and that they are taught how to think, not what to think. She will help us recharge a system that has settled for too long.”