Organization and People

Executive Director

Faith Connolly (Ph.D. in Public Policy, University of Maryland) joined BERC as Executive Director in August, 2010, to lead strategic development of expanding the consortium by establishing a lead role in communication raising funds, managing research teams and partnerships, and working with our Executive Committee and Advisory Committee to shape BERC’s future research agendas and priorities. Faith earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, master’s degrees from the University of Hartford and the Johns Hopkins University, and doctorate in public policy from the University of Maryland. Her past professional experiences include being a dropout prevention mathematics teacher, assistant to the chief of accountability for Baltimore City Public Schools (2001-2004), director of accountability for Montgomery County Public Schools (2004-2007), and has served as the vice-president of the American Education Research Association Division H, Research, Evaluation and Assessment in Schools, as well as held leadership roles in the Directors of Research and Evaluation and National Association of Test Directors.

Research Co-directors

Tracy Rone (Ph.D, University of California, Los Angeles ) is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist at the Institute for Urban Research at the Morgan State University. She is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work aims to illuminate issues of narrative and oral history, urban education, child and adolescent health, socialization and indigenous community resources. She has contributed to understanding issues that include education, juvenile justice, obesity and lead exposure in Baltimore. Her publications address issues in narrative, African American academic achievement and strategies for creating civic and intellectual engagement in undergraduate classrooms. Her BERC work has focused on ethnographic studies of schools, communities, and families on attendance, and academic performance.

Rachel Durham (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is a researcher/Assistant Professor with the Baltimore Education Research Consortium.  With a background in sociology and demography, her previous published research was focused on immigrant children’s educational performance, early literacy and school readiness. She worked previously for BERC as a research scientist from 2007 to 2011, conducting longitudinal studies concerning the pathways of Baltimore City Schools students and graduates.  From 2011 to 2013, she was a researcher at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital in Vienna, Austria, where she conducted research on global educational expansion and methods at the intersection of education and demography, highlighting ways that educational metrics can be refined by adjusting for population dynamics.  Currently, her research at BERC is focused on college readiness, differential access to postsecondary education, community schools, and school engagement.


Executive Committee Members from Baltimore City Public Schools

Sonja B. Santelises (Ed.D., Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University, M.A. in education administration from Columbia, and aa Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Brown University)  has spent 27 years focused on building high quality teaching and learning to help students excel, including her tenure as Chief Academic Officer for Baltimore City Public Schools from 2010 – 2013. She returns to City Schools after serving for three years as Vice President for K-12 Policy and Practice at The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focused on closing the achievement gap. Dr. Santelises first came to City Schools from Boston, where she was the Assistant Superintendent for pilot schools. Prior to the pilot schools post, she was Assistant Superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development in Boston. Before joining Boston Public Schools, Dr. Santelises lectured on urban education for two years at Harvard University and spent six years as a senior associate with Focus on Results Inc. Prior to that, she served as Executive Director of the New York City Algebra Project. She began her career as director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America, then served as a teacher and curriculum specialist at Decatur Clearpool School in Brooklyn. She has lived in Baltimore with her husband and three daughters since 2010.

Sean Conley (M.A. in administration and supervision from Notre Dame of Maryland University, and a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh) serves as chief academic officer and oversees the district’s departments of Teaching and Learning, College and Career Readiness, Instructional Leadership, Specialized Services, and Strategy and Compliance. Mr. Conley has 20 years of experience in urban education, and has been deeply involved in classroom teaching, school leadership, and district-level decision making in Baltimore for more than 10 of those years  Mr. Conley previously served two years as an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, most recently overseeing 22 elementary, middle, and high schools serving 11,000 students with an annual budget of $74 million. Prior to joining Philadelphia’s leadership team, he served City Schools as executive director of principal support and accountability from 2011 to 2013, and as school support networks officer from 2013 to 2014. Mr. Conley has also served as an elementary school teacher, professional development facilitator, and principal.  Mr. Conley is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Wilmington. He received a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Notre Dame of Maryland University (then the College of Notre Dame) and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Theresa D. Jones (B.S., American University, MBA, Duke University, M. Ed., Broad Center for the Management of School Systems) is the Chief Achievement and Accountability Officer at Baltimore City Schools.   She previously served as Director of Effectiveness and School Evaluation and Accountability, overseeing implementation of new evaluation tools for staff and schools and the use of data to inform professional development and school improvement. Before joining City Schools, she led teacher and principal evaluation work for Prince George’s County Public Schools. Jones received a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems and holds an MBA from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from American University.


Community Representatives on the Executive Committee

Diane Bell-McKoy is President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Black Charities, a Maryland-based public foundation founded in 1985 focused on closing the health and wealth gaps for citizens of Maryland especially African Americans and thus changing the economic outcomes for the state. Ms. Bell-McKoy considers herself a change agent and has served in many roles seeking changes to benefit families and children in the Baltimore – Washington area over the past 35 years. Some of her previous roles included: senior fellow with the Annie Casey Foundation; School Board Commissioner, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners; Deputy Chief of Staff for former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and former President and CEO of Empower Baltimore Management Corporation.

Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey (Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Pennsylvania State University) is Deputy Commissioner for Youth and Families for the Baltimore City Health Department. Dr. Duval-Harvey is a graduate of Hofstra University in New York. Before joining the City Health Department, she directed the Johns Hopkins Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Community Programs and served on several boards, including the Maryland School-Based Health Center Policy Advisory Council. Duval-Harvey formerly directed the East Baltimore Mental Health Partnership and was a psychiatric therapist in the Johns Hopkins Hospital school-based program.

Mr. J. Howard Henderson has been active in the struggle for civil and human rights for over forty years, most recently as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Baltimore Urban League. Prior to assuming leadership of GBUL in 2000, Mr. Henderson served in various executive and management positions in the NAACP national office for over a decade, including as Director of National Programs. As Director of the West Virginia State Employment and Training Division, he oversaw a budget of $95.5 million for job training and development. Mr. Henderson earned a B.S. in education and an M.A. in educational administration from Marshall University.


University Representatives on the Executive Committee

Glenda M. Prime (Ph.D., University of the West Indies) has 21 years teaching experience in the graduate level preparation of science educators/researchers. Dr. Prime’s publications include numerous articles in refereed journals in science and technology education and 3 book chapters on technology education, mathematics education and science education. Dr. Prime has extensive leadership experience and currently chairs the Department of Advanced Studies, Leadership and Policy at Morgan State University. Where she also leads the graduate programs in mathematics and science education. She has served as Senior Personnel and PI on NSF-funded grants. Her primary research interest is in classroom processes in urban science classrooms. Specifically, Dr. Prime explores the ways in which African American students’ science experiences are influenced by the socio-cultural position which African Americans occupy in American society and the implications of this for the preparation of STEM teachers for urban high schools. A secondary research area is in the doctoral preparation of science education researchers.

Dr. Philip Leaf, (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) is the director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence, co-director of the Center for Prevention and Early Intervention, and the senior associate director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute. Dr. Leaf is a professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health with joint appointments in the Department of Mental Hygiene, the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavior, the School of Nursing, the School of Education, and the School or Arts and Sciences. Dr. Leaf’s research involves research on prevention, treatment, and support services in schools, pre-school programs, and other community-based settings. He also serves as a mayoral appointee to the Family League of Baltimore, Inc. and directs and NIMH-funded pre- and postdoctoral training program in mental health and service systems research.


Ex-officio members

Bonnie S. Legro ( B.A., from St. Lawrence University  in English, M.A.T., Secondary English from Towson University) oversees the Abell Foundation’s education portfolio, with a goal to provide equitable access to a quality education for all City residents, particularly the least advantaged.  In her role as Senior Program Officer of Education, Bonnie collaborates regularly with the public school system, early childhood educators, local colleges, and the education non-profit community. She serves on the Baltimore City New and Charter School Advisory Group, and the boards of Teach for America: Baltimore and The Ingenuity Project. Prior to joining the Abell Foundation, Bonnie taught in a Baltimore City middle school and served as a Director of Marketing for The Rouse Company. Bonnie and her husband are residents of Bolton Hill and her children graduated from Baltimore City Schools, where one has returned as a teacher.

Jonathon Rondeau (M.A., in nonprofit management from Notre Dame University of Maryland and a B.S. in rehabilitation counseling and disability studies from Springfield College.) has been the President and CEO of Family League of Baltimore since 2013. Under Jonathon’s leadership, Family League of Baltimore has served as an architect of change in Baltimore by promoting data-driven, collaborative initiatives and aligning resources to create lasting outcomes for children, families and communities. He has led the effort to increase diversity within the organization and those it serves. The number of Family League funded partners has doubled and the organization’s revenue has increased by more than 25 percent in the past three years. Jonathon led the development of Family League’s bold strategic plan to increase the organization’s impact and reach more families in Baltimore.  Previous positions include Chief Program Officer at Melwood and The League for People with Disabilities where he oversaw recreational and support programs.  Jonathon, a resident of Baltimore City and member of the United Way of Central Maryland, Baltimore City Partnership Board, and The John Hopkins University Urban Health Institute Community-University Advisory Board and numerous other boards and committees.  Jonathon’s past community involvement includes Human Services Coalition of Prince George’s County as Vice Chair Board of Directors, Arc of Maryland Board of Directors, Past-President of the American Camp Association Chesapeake Section.


Affiliated Faculty and Staff

Robert Balfanz is a Co-Director of the Everyone Graduates Center and research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University. He is the Co-Director of the Talent Development Middle and High School Project, which is currently working with more than 100 high-poverty secondary schools to develop, implement and evaluate comprehensive whole school reforms. He is also co-operator of the Baltimore Talent Development High School, an Innovation High School run in partnership with the Baltimore City Public School System. He has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, early warning systems and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools. Recent work includes Locating the Dropout Crisis, with co-author Nettie Legters, in which they identify the number and location of high schools with high dropout rates and What Your Community Can Do to End its Dropout Crisis. He is also co-author of Graduation Nation Guidebook. Dr. Balfanz is the first recipient of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Everyone a Graduate Award.

Amie Bettencourt (Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University) is a Project Director at the Fund for Educational Excellence in partnership with the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing where she oversees a longitudinal study examining the impact of parents’ participation in the Chicago Parent Program in Baltimore City Schools on children’s school readiness and attendance in kindergarten and subsequent special education and remedial service use through third grade.  She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Mental Health within the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Previously, Dr. Bettencourt served as a Program Evaluator in the Office of Achievement and Accountability for Baltimore City Schools where she directed administration and analyses of the district’s School Survey as well as conducted evaluations of district initiatives (e.g., summer learning).  Amie’s research interests focus on the prevention of problem behaviors in youth, with a particular focus on identifying malleable risk and protective factors associated with the development of problem behaviors, and examining the impact of evidence-based interventions on reducing or preventing the development of such behaviors within low-income populations.

Thurman L. Bridges (Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park) is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Morgan State University.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Teaching degree from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park in Curriculum and Instruction within the Minority and Urban Education graduate program.  His research explores the social context of urban education, Black male teacher identity and teacher education reform.  His recent work analyzes the social, educational and cultural experiences of Black male K–12 teachers who have been effective in addressing the academic and social needs of Black male youth, and how the practices and pedagogy translate to all teachers meeting the needs of vulnerable populations of students.  His publications address the motivations, beliefs and pedagogies of teachers of color, particularly in urban school settings, and seeks conceptualize and foreground teaching and learning practices that improve student engagement and performance in school.

Celeste Chavis (Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Transportation and Urban Infrastructure Studies at Morgan State University.  She is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Maryland and serves on Baltimore City’s Technical Advisory Board for Bikeshare.  Her research explores the intersection of transportation operations and planning, and equity in the United States and abroad. Recent work focuses on the impact of transit design and operation on student accessibility and absenteeism.  She has worked with several agencies including Baltimore City Department of Transportation, District Department of Transportation, IBM Africa and the Tanzanian government.  Dr. Chavis is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and is a Secretary of the Paratransit Committee of the Transportation Research Board.

Marcia Davis is an associate research professor at the Center for Social Organization of Schools and has been with the center since 2006. She has a doctorate in Educational Psychology and a master’s degree in Educational Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation from the University of Maryland. She has been a Co-principal investigator on several large Institute of Education Sciences studies related to dropout prevention, adolescent literacy, and reading motivation. One of her recent projects, in collaboration with a team of research scientists and professors from University of Kansas and Northern Illinois University, is focused on the development of a computer adapted measure of adolescent reading motivation. Another recent project, also funded by the department of education, is examining the use of early warning indicator systems to locate and provide interventions for ninth grade students at risk for dropping out of high school.  Her BERC work has focused on examining the use of school libraries which aligns with her interest in reading motivation and comprehension.

Simone Gibson ( Ph.D., University of Maryland College Park,in Curriculum and Instruction) has served as both a k-12 teacher and administrator as well as a teacher educator for the past 12 years.  Her recent research has focused on understanding ways of creating learning bridges between those non-dominant literacy habits (for students from historically marginalized communities) and those formal literacy practices emphasized in schools.  Additionally, she has focused on the preparation of pre-service teachers from Historically Black Colleges and Institutions.

Jeffrey Grigg (Ph.D., in Sociology and M.S. in Sociology and Educational Leadership & Policy Analysisis from the University of Wisconsin) is an Assistant Professor affiliated with the Center for Social Organization of School and the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.  He recently completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship with the BERC and the Science Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES) project.  Jeff’s research interests include student mobility and transitions, intergenerational inequality, student non-cognitive skills, teacher professional development, and causal inference in real-world settings.  His professional experiences include operating a summer and afterschool academic enrichment program in New Haven, CT as well as teaching middle and high school English in New Haven, CT and London, England. His recent work has been published in Sociology of Education, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Journal of Educational Psychology.

Deborah Gross (DNSc, RN, Rush University) is the Leonard and Helen Stulman Endowed Professor in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and holds joint appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine, and the Department of Mental Health in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Prior to this, she was the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at Rush University College of Nursing where she and her colleagues developed the Chicago Parent Program, a 12-session video-guided group-based parenting program developed in collaboration with African American and Latino families. Her research focuses on promoting positive parent-child relationships and preventing behavior problems in preschool children from low-income communities, and she has published more than 100 articles, book chapters, and abstracts in this area. Currently, Dr. Gross is the principal investigator of a study focused on implementing the Chicago Parent Program in pre-kindergarten programs in Baltimore City Schools and examining the impact of parent participation in the Chicago Parent Program on children’s school readiness and attendance in kindergarten, and use of special education and remedial services through third grade.

Doug Mac Iver (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is a Principal Research Scientist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools, and author of more than 40 research articles, chapters, books, and monographs on student disengagement, motivation, learning and achievement in early adolescence and on comprehensive and district-wide approaches to improving low-performing schools. Mac Iver directs the Talent Development Middle Grades program (TDMG), a research and development team that helps middle schools in high poverty neighborhoods to engage students with rigorous curriculum and instruction, provides teachers with the support they need to develop deep content knowledge and effective instructional practices, and develops safe, nurturing and challenging learning environments. The TDMG model has been successfully implemented in scores of middle schools nationally and is recognized for publishing high-quality curriculum materials. Mac Iver has won awards for his applied research and development including a Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Community Service from Johns Hopkins University and a Human Development Research Award from the American Educational Research Association.

Martha Abele Mac Iver (Ph.D. in political science, University of Michigan) is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University and a Research Scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools. She has focused her recent research on the effectiveness of numerous school and district educational interventions designed to improve student achievement and has more than two decades experience conducting mixed methods studies.  She has conducted numerous studies related to the Baltimore City Schools since 1996.  In pending proposals she is seeking to conduct research on engaging families in the transition from middle to high school and on professional development for teachers aimed at increasing high school student motivation and reducing ninth grade failure.  From 2009-11 she held a Senior Urban Education Research Fellowship from the Council of the Great City Schools, focusing on predictors of high school outcomes in Baltimore City.  She served as co-investigator on National Science Foundation ROLE grant to study the achievement effects of a decade of educational reforms in Philadelphia, and principal investigator on an analytical effort to provide useful information for data informed decision-making on the part of Colorado districts participating in an initiative aimed at cutting Colorado’s dropout rate.

Tami Kopischke Smith (Ph.D. in educational psychology, University of Virginia) is an Associate Professor in Goucher College’s Education Department. Her recent research on data-based decision making has focused on the ways in which teachers use multiple sources of data to inform instruction, how these practices are supported by district resources and structures, and which practices may contribute to improved student achievement in Title I schools. Previously, she was the Education Research Program Manager at the University of Maryland’s Center for Quality and Productivity where she worked with nine Maryland School District Superintendents. Her research (funded by the U.S. Department of Education) on the proficiency of their district- and school-level integrated management systems was used to provide recommendations to the districts and compared with student achievement outcomes and organizational values. As a teacher-researcher she has also studied the ways in which undergraduate student gain intercultural awareness and skills through campus life, course work, community-based learning, and study abroad experiences.

Marc L. Stein (PhD, Leadership and Policy Studies, Vanderbilt University) is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Stein is also an Affiliated Researcher with the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) and a Faculty Affiliate with the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS). Dr. Stein has conducted quasi-experimental and mixed-methods research on school choice that has investigated the instructional conditions of charter public schools, parent involvement in charter public schools, and the effect of choice on student sorting by race and academic achievement. Other areas of research interest include neighborhood and school effects on student academic achievement, chronic absenteeism, and summer learning loss. Currently Stein is working on an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funded randomized control trial that is investigating the efficacy of a ninth grade Early Warning Indicator intervention in sample of high schools in a southern state, projects investigating summer learning loss in Baltimore City and a project investigating the relationship between commuting to school using public transportation and student tardiness and absenteeism.

Laura Owen (Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision, Oregon State University) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University.  Prior to finishing her Ph.D. (2012), Laura was a high school counselor, district school counseling supervisor, and a writer and co-principal investigator on two US Department of Education Elementary and Secondary School Counseling grants.  Laura’s dissertation (funded by the Gates Foundation) was a joint project with Stanford and Harvard Universities and looked at the U.S. Department of Education FAFSA Completion Pilot Project to examine the influence of school counselor outreach on FAFSA completion and college enrollment.  In 2012, she worked with several large urban school districts across the US to evaluate the impact of individualized outreach from professional school counseling staff (who offered support on summer-specific college-going tasks) on student’s on time college matriculation.  Her current research looks at the influence of customized and personalized text messages on FAFSA completion and college enrollment decisions. She is a passionate advocate for increasing equity and access for all students and is a sought after speaker for regional and national school counseling groups. Laura is the current president of the Maryland School Counselor Association and serves as a reviewer for the American School Counselor Association Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) awards.

Jessica Shiller (PhD, Urban Education, New York University) is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Towson University where she has been a graduate program advisor for the program in instructional leadership and is now assisting with the implementation of urban education initiatives. Her research and teaching has been focused on urban school reform policy and practice, culturally relevant instruction, teacher student relationship-building practices, and civic education. She is the author of many publications, but her most recent is a book on how the demographics of suburban schools are changing to resemble those of urban schools, The New Reality for Suburban Schools (Peter Lang, 2015). Currently, she is engaged with the community schools initiative in Baltimore as a supervisor to student interns and as a consultant to schools implementing restorative practices through the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She serves on the advisory board of Loyola University’s Center for Innovation in Urban Education, the steering committee for Forest Park High School, and is working with a state-wide advocacy group to see community schools expand statewide. Prior to coming to Towson, she worked in New York City as a high school teacher, a coach to new teachers, and as a university professor at the City University of New York.

Dr. Steven Sheldon (Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, Michigan State University) is a Research Scientist with the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and an Associate Professor in The Johns Hopkins University School of Education.  His research focuses on the predictors and impact of family involvement in children’s motivation and achievement, as well as the development and impact of family and community involvement programs in schools.  He is co-author of the books, Principals Matter: A Guide to School, Family, and Community Partnerships (Sanders & Sheldon, 2009) and School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action (Epstein, et al., 2009). He teaches and coordinates the School of Education’s graduate certificate program for Leadership on School, Family, and Community Collaborations.

 

Founding Faculty

Stephen Plank (Ph.D. in sociology, University of Chicago), is the Director of Research & Evaluation at the Corporation for National & Community Service, and is also affiliated with the Center for Social Organization of Schools. Plank received a bachelor’s degree in mathematical methods in the social sciences, and sociology, from Northwestern University (1990). His published education research includes Finding One’s Place: Teaching Styles and Peer Relations in Diverse Classrooms (Teachers College Press, 2000), and articles in the American Educational Research JournalTeachers College Record, Journal of Vocational Education ResearchSociology of Education, and American Journal of Education. Much of his past and current research focuses on solutions to the problem of high school dropout (including associations with career and technical education), predictors of successful transitions to college, and school climate.