Board of Directors

Leslye A. Arsht, Co-Founder and Board Chair, StandardsWork, Inc.

Leslye Arsht’s career in communications and education policy has spanned over thirty years. She co-founded and served eleven years as StandardsWork’s President, during which time, StandardsWork established itself as a versatile organization that created breakthrough solutions and advanced best practices in standards-driven reform policy and implementation. In recent years, Leslye has been developing a digital learning game, The Mars Game, which through research studies is establishing that students can learn domain knowledge (in this case, math and programming) while engaged in a fun-to- play game.

In July 2003, Leslye was recruited to be Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education in Iraq. She was instrumental in reestablishing the k-12 Education Ministry and developing Master Teacher Training that re-introduced exemplary instructional practices being implemented by high performing nations. That work led to a deeper relationship with the Department of Defense and from 2006-2008, Leslye served as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, having responsibility for policy, advocacy and oversight of quality of life programs for service members and their families.

Leslye was a counselor to now U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) during his term as U.S. Secretary of Education. Before working at the U.S. Department of Education, she was the associate vice chancellor at Vanderbilt University. She also served as a deputy press secretary and deputy assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1986 to 1988. Leslye is a member of the Board of Trustees of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire who awarded her an Honorary Degree, a long-serving Board member of the Boston-based Achievement Network (ANet), and is a Special Advisor to A graduate of The University of Houston, Leslye has been Chairman of StandardsWork’s Board since 2003, following the retirement of Founding Board Chair Ed Donley.

John Danielson, Chairman and Managing Director, Chartwell Hamilton Group, LLC

John Danielson is an accomplished nationally and internationally respected executive who believed early in his 25-year career that the private sector, working closely with the public entities, had an important role to play in the creation of improved education systems and technologies for all children. Along with former United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige, John co-founded the Chartwell Education Group, LLC, an international education-consulting firm headquartered in New York City with offices in Washington, D.C. and London. Chartwell has successfully executed a variety of global education projects in Europe, India and South America with a particular expertise in Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan where John has worked extensively. In 2009 Chartwell was restructured into the Chartwell Hamilton Group LLC; John serves as its Chairman and Managing Director.

Currently John provides thought-leadership, advice and counsel across the domestic and international education sector through targeted consulting assignments and board service to a range of companies including EDMC, Declara, Vatterott Educational Centers, and The University of the Potomac. He is a Senior Advisor to American Prison Data Systems, Ayata and Speakaboos.

John’s K-12 education experience began when he served in several different senior roles for former United States Secretary of Education and current United States Senator Lamar Alexander (1990-1995). He was appointed Chief of Staff at the United States Department of Education by President George W. Bush in 2001 and earned a reputation for his ability to adapt innovative business strategies and tactics to resolve issues faced by the public education sector as well as playing a lead role in expanding the Department’s international profile. He later returned to help U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan by serving as a peer reviewer in all four of the landmark Race to the Top state and district competitions.

John is a native of Houston, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in business. He has three children and resides in Washington, DC.

Barbara Davidson, President, StandardsWork, Inc. & Executive Director, Knowledge Matters Campaign

Barbara is an education industry executive with deep, hands-on experience in K-12 education policy, practice, and operations. She served as President of StandardsWork from 2003-2009 and has recently returned to its helm as part of an organizational commitment to advancing the vital role of strong curriculum, the importance of deep content knowledge in students, and the impact that evidence-based instructional practices can provide teachers.

Barbara’s talent is in leading collaborative work. During her seven years away from StandardsWork she served as Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and Deputy Director of Great Minds (formerly Common Core, Inc.). At NCTQ she led the teacher preparation group in rethinking both its district-facing work and its biennial review of teacher preparation programs at over 1400 colleges and universities. At Great Minds, a non-profit organization that creates content-rich curriculum in the full range of the liberal arts and sciences, Barbara ran operations during a period of dramatic growth due to the successful authorship and market launch of Eureka Math (aka EngageNY Math). In addition to overseeing the research and development of a compatible English language arts product, Barbara spearheaded the design, development, and high quality execution of Great Mind’s online and site-based professional development offerings.

Barbara started her career in education as a teacher of learning disabled students in Norfolk, Virginia and has trained teachers on behalf of two educational publishing companies. She has served in key leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Education under two secretaries of education: Bill Bennett and Lamar Alexander.

During Barbara’s leadership at StandardsWork, the organization executed many high-profile projects on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Assessment Governing Board, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, the Indiana Higher Education Commission, the District of Columbia Public Schools, National Endowment for the Humanities, Texas Education Agency, the Center for Education Reform, and others.

A fearless champion of classroom-based education reform generally, and content-rich curriculum in particular, Barbara is a tactical leader with a keen ability to translate strategic initiatives into desired results. Her degree is in elementary and special education from the University of Iowa. She lives in Barnesville, MD with her son, husband, two Arabian horses, and dog Eevee.

Thomas L. Howard, Board Secretary/Treasurer, Attorney

Tom Howard, an experienced tax attorney, has been StandardsWork’s Secretary/Treasurer since the organization’s founding in 1992. Specializing in estate planning, estate taxation, and tax exempt entities, Tom has had an abiding interest in improving K-12 education throughout much of his professional life. He is a former attorney in the Chief Counsel’s Office of the Internal Revenue Service and has been a partner at several large law firms, including Baker Donelson Bearman and Caldwell and Ballard Spahr. Tom is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and holds a Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt Law School and an LLM in taxation from the Georgetown Law Center.

Jim Nelson, Education Consultant

A former state and district education chief, Jim Nelson currently provides advice and counsel to the Texas-based law firm of Thompson & Horton LLP, supporting clients ranging from Texas Instruments, AVID, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the Texas Association of School Boards. Jim’s legal background, deep knowledge of K-12 education policy and leadership, and his success – over many years – navigating the politics of school reform, provide a unique and vital perspective on StandardsWork’s Board.

Jim’s career in K-12 education began when he was board member at Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas in 1984. This lead to serving as the president of the Texas Association of School Boards, being appointed by then-Governor George W. Bush to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), and finally being appointed Texas Commissioner of Education by Governor Bush in 1999.

One of the largest state education agencies in the country, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has over 800 employees who worked to implement policy for some 1,100 school districts. Jim was Commissioner during a period of major changes in the state’s school accountability system, including the development of new assessments for grades 3-11.

Jim’s deep work in K-12 education didn’t stop with being a state chief. He went on to serve as a Senior Vice President at Voyager Expanded Learning Systems; did a tour in Baghdad Iraq at the request of the White House and Department of Defense, serving as Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Education to assist with the rebuilding of the Iraqi school system in 2003; was Superintendent of the Richardson Independent School District; and, perhaps most significantly, served seven years as Chief Executive Officer of AVID, a global nonprofit that helps prepare students for postsecondary education and is one of the leading providers of professional development for educators in the US. AVID grew significantly in scope and impact during Jim’s tenure.

Jim earned a degree of Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington and a JD from the Texas Tech University School of Law. He and his wife Karen have three adult sons, six grandsons, and one beautiful granddaughter whom they happily babysit whenever possible.

Susan Pimentel, Co-Founder, StandardsWork, Inc.

A K-12 education industry icon who almost doesn’t need an introduction, Susan Pimentel is best known for her work leading development of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Highly regarded across the country for her success at facilitating complex conversations around standards and their implementation, Susan has a deep commitment to producing high quality results characterized by stakeholder buy-in. She has a gift for making this happen.

A founding partner of Student Achievement Partners, Susan now works tirelessly to support curriculum, assessment, and professional development efforts to ensure full implementation in states and districts that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (or their near equivalent). She was a co-founder of StandardsWork and executed many of the organization’s most important projects. Susan was chief architect of the American Diploma Project Benchmarks, precursors to the Common Core State Standards that were designed to close the gap between high school demands and postsecondary expectations.

For over a decade, Susan has been a lead consultant, content developer, coach, and trainer for seminal federal adult education initiatives, including the Adult Education Content Standards Project: Standards-in-Action that led to the current StandardsWork project, Promoting Common and Career Ready Standards in Adult Basic Education.

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