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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #19-54
July 15, 2019
Contact: Jonathan Mendick
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Appoints Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga as Co-Chair for Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that he has appointed Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga as the final Co-Chair of his statewide Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative. She will partner with Co-Chairs Ryan Smith, Manufou Liaiga-Anoa’i, and Roseann Torres to lead work aligning with the initiative’s goals, which include addressing ways to close the achievement gap and improving educational outcomes for all California public education students.

“Elisha’s approach to education and research embodies community-first thinking,” said Thurmond. “I know her perspective and expertise will be a huge asset in our work to close gaps faster, and increasing student and parent involvement in this important work.”

Thurmond launched his Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative with a forum in February focusing on schools throughout the state that have shown success in closing the gap for African Americans and other students of color. He followed that up with a second forum in April to address recruitment and retention of teachers of color. Appointing Arrillaga, Torres, Liaiga-Anoa’i, and Smith as Co-Chairs of the initiative is the next step in assuring that these efforts continue with the highest priority and level of expertise.

Dr. Arrillaga currently serves as the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, leading the organization’s work addressing education as a key racial and economic justice issue. Her leadership and expertise is tied to her commitment to actionable, student-centered, and community-centered research and engagement—a topic she has taught and presented on around the country. Raised in a family with deep roots in the Civil Rights Movement, she has a history of guiding initiatives to be transformative through developing solutions in partnership with the communities that are often overlooked as sources of knowledge.

“I’m thrilled to join my fellow co-chairs and serve the Superintendent and the state’s families and students in this way,” she said. “Fighting for equity and justice in education is a continuation of a longstanding movement to align our actions with our values, and I look forward to ensuring those most impacted by this work have a sustained and supported seat at the table.”

Dr. Arrillaga is the author of dozens of publications, including a chapter on alternative schools in a recent book from the Stanford University John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. She holds a Ph.D. in public affairs from Princeton, an M.S. in survey methodology from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a B.A. in mathematics from Smith College. She is the proud mother of a kindergartener.

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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