Curious. Innovative. Independent. The researchers at the Kingsbury Center have a common goal: to investigate strategies for advancing academic student growth and improving our schools. By partnering with diverse educational leaders, our team is helping to revolutionize education research with high quality data that is designed to inform, empower and make a difference.
John’s research interests are wide-ranging, but his recent work has focused on the impact of accountability policies on state standards, equity and the measurement of student growth. In addition to leading the Center and pursuing his own research, John provides consultation related to testing and support to organizations including the Walton Family Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Teach for America and the KIPP foundation. He has broad prior experience in education, serving for 15 years as a high school teacher, coach and school administrator. He also spent nearly 10 years as a consultant to schools in improvement and assessment prior to pursuing his research career. John holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Gonzaga University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from Emory University. John also maintains a website, Northwest Colors, which features his personal photography.
What do you feel is unique about NWEA and how did you come to work here?
I think our history is quite unique. We were the brainchild of educators in Seattle and Portland who were frustrated with the standardized tests used in their districts. So they decided to work together, in the educational equivalent of Steve Job’s garage, to create something different. George Ingebo was the intellectual father of the group, and I’ve never had the privilege of meeting a smarter, nice, and more self-effacing person than George. He wore bolo ties as his signature, and to me his choice symbolizes what we try to be in our work, we’re formal but approachable. Anyway, I like working for an organization where one of the founders wore bolo ties.
I came to work here because I was living and working near Omaha, Nebraska and I heard that Portland was the place where young people come to retire. That was good enough for me.
If you had the authority to make one major national educational policy change, what would it be?
I’d focus on stabilizing educational funding. Particularly in our home state, the boom and bust cycles of educational funding have eroded the quality of programs. We’ve overspent when money is flush, and then cut staffing to the bone and eliminated support for any non-core program (art, music, extracurricular programming). My home school district cut 10% of its certified teaching staff this year, which is beyond nuts. When funding is this unstable from year to year, schools can do little more than respond to the budget conditions of this instant. That’s not good if you want schools to show some constancy of purpose. It’s also not fair to make the quality of education kids receive a function of the part of the economic cycle we happen to be in now.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
I believe it was developing a unifying theory of matter. It’s kind of a shame I didn’t write it down.
What piece of art would you buy if you had no budget?
I’ve always thought that the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro would go well in our living room. We’d have to move a few things.
What was your last great vacation?
You must be referring to the great Orlando death march of Christmas, 2012. Spending fourteen hours a day slogging through the theme parks of Disneyworld during peak tourist season, a bitter cold, blustery January day at the NASA space center (mostly spent outdoors), and the flu to top it off. What could be better than that?