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NewSchools statement on appointment of Joanne Weiss to lead Race to the Top Fund

NewSchools Venture Fund CEO Ted Mitchell congratulated Education Secretary Arne Duncan Tuesday on his selection of Joanne Weiss to oversee the Race to the Top Fund. The $4.35 billion competitive fund, which is part of the stimulus package, marks a historic level of investment by the federal government in results-oriented school reform efforts.

Duncan, in Washington, D.C., announced Weiss’ appointment Tuesday in a speech delivered by video to the NewSchools Venture Fund annual Summit in Pasadena, Calif. Weiss is a Partner and the Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools, a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that seeks to improve public education.

“We are lucky to have someone of her talent to come and lead our effort,” Duncan said in announcing the selection of Weiss Tuesday.

Mitchell, who is the president of the California Board of Education as well as the CEO of NewSchools, congratulated Duncan on his choice.

“The Race to the Top Fund represents the boldest investment the federal government has ever made in genuine, urgent school reform,” he said. “Joanne brings the integrity, intelligence and energy that this remarkable challenge will require. Arne Duncan could not have made a wiser choice.”

State education chiefs joined in their praise for the choice.

“Joanne Weiss has been an exceptional leader who understands what it takes to close the achievement gap,” said Jack O’Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Secretary Duncan has made an inspired choice.”

“Race to the Top is about bringing much-needed, dramatic improvement to our schools, and Joanne is an excellent choice to lead the effort,” agreed Deborah Gist, the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education. “She is a national leader and a brilliant educator who truly understands what it takes to ensure all children have an outstanding school in their neighborhood.”

The Department of Education, on its website, explains the Race to the Top Fund: “Under the $5 billion in SFSF [State Fiscal Stabilization Funds] reserved for the Secretary of Education to make competitive grants, the Department will conduct a national competition among states for a $4.35 billion state incentive “Race to the Top” fund to improve education quality and results statewide. The Race to the Top fund will help states drive substantial gains in student achievement by supporting states making dramatic progress on the four reform goals described above and effectively using other ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds… Race to the Top grants will be made in two rounds—fall 2009 and spring 2010).”

During her nearly eight years at NewSchools, Weiss focused on investment strategy and management assistance to the firm’s portfolio ventures, led the organization’s research agenda, and oversaw the organization’s operations.

NewSchools is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that has been working since 1998 to transform public education for low-income children. Under its venture philanthropy model, NewSchools provides both funding and management guidance to education entrepreneurs who create nonprofit and for-profit organizations that have the power to catalyze system-wide change. (Essentially, it operates like a venture capital organization, except that the return is typically in the form of social good rather than financial gain.) NewSchools invests in organizations that start and manage public schools, recruit and train teachers and principals, and create essential tools for public schools. Its investments are designed to make a significant systemic impact in some of the nation’s most challenged urban communities, including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California. More information is available at www.newschools.org.

Throughout her career, Weiss has helped to pioneer innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes. Prior to joining NewSchools Venture Fund, Weiss was CEO of Claria Corporation, an e-services recruiting firm that helped emerging-growth companies build their teams quickly and well.

Before her tenure at Claria, Weiss spent twenty years in the design, development, and marketing of technology-based products and services for education. She was Senior Vice President of Product Development at Pensare, an e-learning company that created business innovation programs for the Fortune 500 market. Prior to Pensare, Weiss was co-founder, interim CEO, and Vice President of Products and Technologies at Academic Systems, a company that helps hundreds of thousands of college students prepare for college-level work in mathematics and English

She holds a degree in biochemistry from Princeton University.