Research Council Biographies

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Name: Dr. Amy Heineke

Organization: Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Area(s) of Expertise: English language learners, bilingual education, urban teacher education



Dr. Amy Heineke is the associate professor of Bilingual & Bicultural Education in the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago. She holds a Ph.D. in language and literacy and M.Ed. in elementary education from Arizona State University, where she began developing her expertise and advocacy related to teaching students labeled as English learners (ELs).

Her research focuses on preservice teacher education and in-service teacher learning for ELs. She has published numerous journal articles on preparing teachers to support students' language development in academic outlets, including the Journal of Teacher Education, Action in Teacher Education, Teacher Education and Practice, Urban Education, Improving Schools, and Teacher Education Quarterly. She recently finished a book titled Restrictive Language Policy in Practice: English Learners in Arizona, which will be published in 2016 by Multilingual Matters.

With 15 years of experience in teaching EL and bilingual students and teachers in both Arizona and Illinois, Dr. Heineke teaches courses at Loyola, including Assessment of Bilingual Students, Applied Linguistics for Teachers, and Culturally Relevant Literature for Children and Adolescents. In addition, she facilitates professional development for educators of ELs, including a grant project funded by the Chicago Community Trust focused on building teachers' capacity, expertise, and ability to foster culturally and linguistically diverse students' learning, development, and achievement in Chicago Public Schools. 


Angela Minnici

Name: Dr. Angela Minnici

Organization: Director, Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

Area(s) of Expertise: Assessment of teaching and learning conditions,
school improvement, educator evaluation


Dr. Minnici is a managing researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the director of the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, which is a federally funded program that supports states in their efforts to grow, respect, and support great teachers and leaders.  Her focus usually lies in the areas of evaluation of educators and ways to improve educator effectiveness.

Dr. Minnici received a Ph.D. in administrative and policy studies and a M.Ed. in special education from the University of Pittsburgh.  She also received a B.S. in elementary education from Boston University.

Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Minnici worked as a teacher and in the Georgia Department of Education.  She also has served as a senior researcher at the Center on Education Policy and the associate director of educational issues at the American Federation of Teachers.


Name: Dr. Daniel Duke

Organization: Professor of Educational Leadership, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Area(s) of Expertise: School improvement planning, leadership
for low-performing schools, organizational diagnostics

An internationally recognized expert on turning around low-performing schools and districts,
Dr. Duke has consulted with more than 160 districts, state agencies, legislative bodies, universities, and technical assistance providers.  Dr. Duke helped to develop training programs for school turnaround specialists in Virginia, Texas, Florida, and South Carolina.  His most recent book, Leadership for Low-performing Schools, examines state and district efforts to improve the lowest performing schools.  Other recent books include the best-selling Leadership for Low-Performing Schools, The School Improvement Planning Handbook, and Teachers' Guide to School Turnaround.

Prior to serving on the faculty at the University of Virginia and Stanford University, Dr. Duke was a high school administrator in New York and a social studies teacher in Philadelphia.


Darlene Faster

Name: Darlene Faster

Organization: Chief Operating Officer and Communications Director, National School Climate Center;

Area(s) of Expertise: Social and emotional learning

Darlene Faster is the chief operating officer and communications director of the National School Climate Center (NSCC). Faster has more than a decade of experience working with schools, districts, and states to integrate whole child reform. She leads NSCC's Comprehensive School Climate Inventory work nationwide and directly trains school personnel on interpreting their data to create sustained, actionable improvement plans.

Faster was the project manager for NSCC's five-year collaboration with Iowa's Safe and Supportive Schools grant and directed all technical support in partnership with Iowa's principal investigators for the grant. She provides leadership support on all of NSCC's survey-based research and improvement projects, including its multiyear collaborations with Special Olympics Project UNIFY (nationwide), Minnesota Department of Education, the Capital Regional Education Council in Connecticut (35 districts), and Detroit RESA (50-plus schools). Faster cocreated and launched NSCC's nationwide bully prevention awareness campaign, BullyBust ( and the Upstander Alliance, which provides free, concrete prevention supports to more than 3,600 schools nationwide.

Faster performed preliminary doctoral research in urban schools in Chicago and New York, and worked with the National Center for Learning Disabilities before joining NSCC. Presently, Faster serves on the Research Advisory Committee for Special Olympics Unified Strategy.

Name: Dr. Diane August

Organization: Director, Center for English Language Learners at AIR

Area(s) of Expertise: English language learners

Dr. August is a managing researcher and the director of the Center for English Language Learners at AIR.  Her work is focused on English language learners (ELLs) in Grades PK–12 and the development of their science and literacy skills. 

Dr. August has Ph.D. in education and a M.A. in second language education, both from Stanford University. She also has completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychology through Stanford.  In addition, she has a bachelor's degree in Spanish, humanities/English from Wheaton College.

Dr. August currently assists several states with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for ELLs. Prior to her position at AIR, she was a senior research scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics, a senior program officer at the National Academy of Sciences, a grants officer for the Carnegie Corporation, director of education for the Children's Defense Fund, a teacher, a school administrator, and a legislative assistant.


Jonathan Cohen

Name: Dr. Jonathan Cohen

Organization: President and cofounder, National School
Climate Center

Area(s) of Expertise:  Social, emotional, ethical and academic education, positive school climate, school-based mental health

Dr. Jonathan Cohen is the cofounder and president of the National School Climate Center (NSCC), formerly the Center for Social and Emotional Education. In addition to his work with NSCC, Dr. Cohen is an adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the School of Professional Studies, City University of New York. He is the cofounder of the National School Climate Council and a practicing clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst.

Dr. Cohen has published four books and more than 85 papers and chapters. He consults with departments of education at all levels throughout the United States as well as several countries abroad, with an interest in school climate and social, emotional, ethical, and academic education. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the City University of New York, New York, and has been a Diplomat in Clinical Psychology with the American Board of Professional Psychology since June of 1988.

Prior to his work with NSCC, Dr. Cohen has worked as a teacher, program developer, school psychologist, consultant, psycho-educational diagnostician, and mental health provider.

Name: Dr. Lisa Lande

Organization: Executive Director, Teacher Voice and Aspirations International Center

Area(s) of Expertise: State system of support, teacher voice

Dr. Lisa Lande currently serves as the executive director for the Teacher Voice and Aspirations International Center (TVAIC), which works to promote and embed the principles of Self Worth, Engagement, and Purpose in the teaching profession to create a positive school culture for students and teachers alike. More information is available on the center's website at

Dr. Lande received an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Boise State University, where her dissertation focused on developing statewide systems of support for schools and districts that need improvement.

Prior to her work with TVAIC, Dr. Lande served as the Director of Improvement for the Academic Development Institute, where she was the chief architect of Idaho's acclaimed statewide system of support. She has also worked as a history and sheltered instruction teacher in the Boise School District and as a professor at Northwest Nazarene University.

Name: Dr. Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds

Organization: Principal Researcher and Deputy Center Director, National Center on Intensive Intervention

Area(s) of Expertise: Special education, response to intervention, multi-tiered system of support, progress monitoring

Dr. Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds is a principal researcher at AIR in Washington, D.C., where she serves as the project director for an Investing in Innovation and Improvement Development Grant, and as deputy director of the National Center on Intensive Intervention. She previously oversaw services for the Response to Intervention Center at AIR and coordinated the Knowledge Utilization service area of the National Center on Systemic Improvement. She chairs the Professional Development Standards and Ethics Committee of the Council for Exceptional Children's (CEC) Division for Learning Disabilities and is a member of CEC's Division for Research.

Dr. Zumeta Edmonds earned her Ph.D. in special education with a concentration in quantitative research methods from Vanderbilt University, an M.Ed. in special education from the University of Washington, and a B.A. in psychology and politics from Whitman College.  

Prior to AIR, Dr. Zumeta Edmonds worked for the Washington State Department of Special Education, providing technical assistance to support response to intervention (RTI) and alternate assessment implementation. She also worked on randomized controlled trials of elementary mathematics interventions at Vanderbilt University and has extensive experience presenting to researcher, policymaker, and practitioner audiences. She has coauthored several papers, chapters, and essays on RTI, mathematics intervention, special education policy, implementation, and progress monitoring.


Name: Dr. Sam Redding

Organization: Executive Director, Academic Development Institute

Area(s) of Expertise: Social and emotional learning, school climate

Dr. Sam Redding is executive director of the Academic Development Institute, associate director of the Center on School Turnaround, a senior learning specialist with the Center on Innovations in Learning, and a consultant to the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Illinois State University, holds master's degrees in both psychology and English, and is a graduate of Harvard's Institute for Educational Management.

A former high school teacher, college dean, and senior research associate at the Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University, Dr. Redding was director of the Center on Innovation & Improvement from 2005 to 2012. He has been executive editor of the School Community Journal since 1991. He has published books, chapters, and articles on family-school relationships, school improvement, statewide systems of support, personalized learning, innovations in learning, performance management, and school turnaround. 

Dr. Redding has served on a variety of state committees, including the standards-writing committee for the Illinois State Board of Education; the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports Leadership Team and the Illinois State Board of Education Parent Leadership Team; and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. He has served on various civic boards, as well as the boards of the Effective Schools Institute and Superintendency Institute. Dr. Redding has been a member of technical working groups for three regional educational laboratories and two research groups. He serves on the Research Council of the Illinois Center for School Improvement.

Dr. Redding served on the Institute of Education Sciences expert panel on school turnarounds and coauthored its 2008 report, Turning Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools. In 2012, he was a member of the U.S. contingent to Korea for an exchange on turnaround methods in the two countries. He was the founding leader of Council of Chief State School Officers' State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) on state supports and interventions in 2013. Dr. Redding has consulted with more than 30 state education agencies on strategic performance management, systems of support, and school turnaround.  

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Name: Dr. Sharon McNeely

Organization: Adjunct Professor, National Louis University;
Argosy University

Area(s) of Expertise: Assessment, strategic analysis, statistics



Dr. McNeely is an adjunct instructor at National Louis University and Argosy University and a retired professor at Northeastern Illinois University.  She also is an education, assessment, strategic analysis, and statistic consultant in the Chicago area.

Dr. McNeely received a doctorate in educational psychology and master's and bachelor's degrees in special education/rehabilitation from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  She is a licensed psychologist and was previously the executive director of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association.

Name: Steve Leinwand

Organization: Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research

Area(s) of Expertise: Mathematics, curriculum, instruction, assessment

Leinwand is a principal researcher at AIR, where he serves as a mathematics expert on many AIR programs.  While working with AIR's assessment program, he has overseen the development of items for AIR's contracts with Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Hawaii, and Delaware. More recently, Leinwand has supported school turnaround projects in Virginia, New York, and Illinois.

Prior to joining AIR, Leinwand was a mathematics consultant with the Connecticut Department of Education, where he oversaw the development of statewide programs of activities in K–12 mathematics education.  He also has served as president of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and served on the Board of Directors for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  He has many publications to his name on mathematics instruction and program evaluation.


Name: Dr. Timothy Shanahan

Organization: Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago

Area(s) of Expertise: Literacy

Dr. Timothy Shanahan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he was Founding Director of the Center for Literacy and chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He is principal investigator of the National Title I Study of Implementation and Outcomes: Early Childhood Language Development. Dr. Shanahan was director of reading for Chicago Public Schools.

Dr. Shanahan's research emphasizes reading-writing relationships, reading assessment, and improving reading achievement. He is past president of the International Reading Association. In 2006, he received a presidential appointment to serve on the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Literacy. He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007. He is a former first-grade teacher.


Name: Dr. Tom Keller

Organization: Senior Research Scientist, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance

Area(s) of Expertise: Fluent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and Next Generation Science Standards; conversational in computer science education

Dr. Tom Keller is a senior research scientist at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA).  His focus is on STEM education, especially science. MMSA is a nonprofit educational research and professional development organization that was established in 1991.

Dr. Keller received an Ed.D. in science education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a B.S. in zoology from Texas A&M University. 

Prior to working with MMSA, he was a science teacher, the state science supervisor for the Maine Department of Education, director of instruction at a high school—all in Maine—and vice president of education at the Biotechnology Institute and a senior program officer with the National Research Council, Board on Science Education in Washington, D.C.  He has served as president of the National Council of State Science Supervisors and a board member of the National Science Education Leadership Association and the National Science Teachers Association.

His three main projects (June 2016) are as executive director of the Maine STEM Council
(a 16-member governor-appointed blue ribbon commission), principal investigator on a National Science Foundation STEM+C grant titled Building Capacity for CS Teaching in a Rural State, and codirector of the Reach Center (a privately funded initiative designed to increase STEM opportunities for youth ages 10 to 18 outside of school in Maine).

Dr. Keller is known for asking hard questions, having high expectations, doing as he says he will do, supporting his colleagues, and wearing Hawai'ian shirts all year.​