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About the National Education Policy Center


The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.


NEPC Fellows have a wide range of expertise bearing on education policy issues. They also have considerable experience speaking with members of the media about their work and about current issues. Please feel free to contact a fellow directly, using the subject-area information we've provided. Or you may contact NEPC Director Kevin Welner at or managing director Bill Mathis at, and they will put you in touch with an appropriate expert.


Our senior academic staff members include nationally recognized education researchers, writers, and practitioners whose experience ensures the quality, timeliness, and value of the work NEPC does. Please feel free to contact staff members about topics of interest to you.  Please feel free to reach out to any of our staff for more information.


Kevin Welner

Kevin Welner, Director

NEPC director Kevin G. Welner is a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, specializing in policy and law. He and Alex Molnar founded NEPC in 2010. Welner has authored or edited 12 books and more than 100 research articles and book chapters concerning education policy and law. His books include Education and the Law (2016, coauthored with Stuart Biegel and Bob Kim); Closing the opportunity gap: What America must do to give every child an even chance (2013, co-edited with Prudence Carter); NeoVouchers: The emergence of tuition tax credits for private schooling (2008); and Legal rights, local wrongs: When community control collides with educational equity (2001). He is an AERA Fellow and has received the AERA’s Early Career Award, its Palmer O. Johnson Award, its Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award, the Horace Mann League’s Outstanding Public Educator Award, the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Residency, and the NAEd/Spencer Post-Doctoral Fellowship. He received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from UCSB and his J.D. and Ph.D. from UCLA.

Alex Molnar

Alex Molnar, Publications Director

NEPC Publications Director Alex Molnar is also Co-Director of the Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU), and Research Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. He and Kevin Welner founded NEPC in 20​10​. Molnar's work has examined curriculum and instruction topics, market-based education reforms, and policy formation. He founded and directed the Center for Education Research, Analysis, and Innovation (CERAI) at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and for six years (1995-2001) was the principal investigator for the research evaluation of Wisconsin’s SAGE class size reduction program. From 2001-2011 he directed the Education Policy Studies Research Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University.  Molnar is an internationally recognized expert on school commercialism; his annual reports on commercializing trends in schools have become standard reference works for experts in the field. His most recent books are Commercialism in education: From democratic ideal to market commodity (2005), Think tank research quality: Lessons for policymakers, the media, and the public (with Kevin Welner, Pat Hinchey and Don Weitzman) (2010), and Sold Out: How Marketing in School Threatens Children's Well-Being and Undermines their Education (with Faith Boninger) (2015). Molnar has a B.A. in history, political science, and education; Masters degrees in history and in social welfare; a Specialist's Certificate in educational administration; and a Ph.D. in urban education.

Bill Mathis

Bill Mathis, Managing Director

William J. Mathis is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder and the former superintendent of schools for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union in Brandon, Vermont. He is a co-recipient of the Horace Mann League’s national Outstanding Public Educator award, was a National Superintendent of the Year finalist and a Vermont Superintendent of the Year. He currently serves as Vice-chair of the Vermont State Board of Education.  He has published or presented research on finance, assessment, accountability, standards, cost-effectiveness, education reform, history, and Constitutional issues. He also serves on various editorial boards and frequently publishes commentaries on educational policy issues.

Michelle Renée

Michelle Renée Valladares, Associate Director

Michelle Renée Valladares is Associate Director of the National Education Policy Center. She leads and partners in a series of projects that aim to increase educational opportunities for all students in our nation’s education systems. This includes serving as PI of a Ford Foundation funded project to create a research hub to support the education justice movement, and as a member of the Schools of Opportunity project leadership and the Education Justice Network. Michelle also supports the development and implementation of equitable education policies by conducting original research on indicator systems, parent and family engagement, school turnaround and education organizing.  Michelle has a PhD in education from the University of California, Los Angeles. She serves on the advisory board of the Family Leadership Design Collaborative, and is a member of AERA’s Exemplary Contributions to Practice Engaged Research Award Committee. Prior to joining NEPC, Michelle was Associate Director and Assistant Clinical Professor at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR). At AISR, she led the Time for Equity Indicators Project, which developed and supports the use of a comprehensive set of indicators that measure how expanded time and learning opportunities can transform the lives of students, the structure of schools, and the power of communities. Michelle was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access and worked as a legislative assistant to then Congressman Tom Udall.

Gene Glass

Gene Glass, Senior Researcher

Gene V Glass is a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and Regents' Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University. Trained originally in statistics, his interests broadened to include psychotherapy research, evaluation methodology, and policy analysis. He was twice (1968, 1970) honored with the Palmer O. Johnson award of the American Educational Research Association; in 1984, he received the Paul Lazarsfeld Award of the American Evaluation Association. He is a recipient of the Cattell Award of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology. His work on meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcomes (with M.L. Smith) was named as one of the Forty Studies that Changed Psychology in the book of the same name by Roger R. Hock (1999). His Ph.D. was awarded by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in educational psychology with a minor in statistics.

Faith Boninger

Faith Boninger, Co-Director, Commercialism in Education Research Unit

Faith Boninger researches and writes about commercial activities in schools. She brings to this work a background in social psychology (Ph.D., Ohio State University), particularly an interest in persuasion and communication processes. For the past several years she has co-authored CERU’s Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends. Additional publications include A National Survey of the Types and Extent of the Marketing of Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value in Schools, with Alex Molnar, David Garcia, and Bruce Merrill (2006) and Policy and Statutory Responses to Advertising and Marketing in Schools, with Alex Molnar and Bill Koski (2010). Her book, Sold Out: How Marketing in School Threatens Children's Well-Being and Undermines their Education, with Alex Molnar, was released in 2015.

Warren Simmons thumbnail

Warren Simmons, Senior Policy Advisor

Dr. Warren Simmons is a Senior Policy Advisor at the National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado, Boulder. Dr. Simmons received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Cornell University and a B.A. in Psychology from Macalester College. He is an accomplished senior executive, education advocate, and scholar. Dr. Simmons was a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and served for 16 years as the Institute’s Executive Director. 

Dr. Simmons has built an impressive record of technical and executive leadership excellence in organizations committed to raising education standards and performance, increasing learning options and expanding opportunities for students of color and those living in underserved communities. Before leading the Annenberg Institute, he founded the Philadelphia Education Fund, an organization that helped the School District of Philadelphia fund, develop, and implement comprehensive school reform.

An expert in mobilizing partnerships and resources to support underserved communities, Dr. Simmons has been recognized for his service and sought out as an advisor. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the National Governors Association and a veteran of prominent nonprofit and corporate boards, including the National Center on Education and the Economy, FHI360, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the Merck Institute for Science Education, the College Crusade of Rhode Island, and the Campaign for Educational Equity. Dr. Simmons also served as a co-chair and senior advisor to the Aspen Urban Superintendents Network for ten years. At present, he plays a senior role in supporting the Partnership for the Future of Learning and the Education Justice Network

As a Senior Policy Advisor for NEPC, Dr. Simmons will support the development of the Schools of Opportunity Network and several new initiatives that are under development.

Adam York

Adam York, Research Associate

Adam York is a Research Associate with the National Education Policy Center.  He serves as project manager for the Schools of Opportunity project and contributes to several other NEPC public scholarship projects.  His research interests include civic learning and human development, critical media literacies, and creative opportunities for young people.  He earned his PhD in education and learning sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder.  In addition to working at NEPC he teachers undergraduate level courses for the CU Boulder School of Education.  Prior to NEPC he worked in the nonprofit sector as a program director and grant writer.  He was also an instructor at University of Colorado Denver, teaching masters level courses in educational foundations and policy, human development, and research methods.  His research experience includes work with Dr. Ben Kirshner, Dr. Shelley Zion, and Dr. Carlos Hipolito-Delgado on the Critical Civic Inquiry project and with Dr. William Penuel on the Longitudinal Study of Connected Learning.

Elaine Duggan

Elaine Duggan, Communications Assistant

Elaine Duggan is NEPC’s production coordinator and website consultant. 

She has a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Clinical Social Work from Loyola University of Chicago. She has worked in editing and graphic design for over 20 years.

Julia Daniel

Julia Daniel, Doctoral Student Researcher

Julia Daniel is a PhD student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is committed to community organizing, having worked in organizing Florida around issues of racial, gender and economic justice. Most of this work centered on ending the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline for Black and Latino students in Miami by working with impacted young people in demanding alternatives such as restorative justice. She holds an B.A. in Sociology from New College of Florida and an M.A. in Urban Education Policy from Brown University.

Sarah LaCour

Sarah LaCour, Doctoral Student Researcher

Sarah is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a B.A. in Biological Sciences and French from the University of Southern California, a J.D. from Baylor University, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College - Columbia University. Her research interests lie in policies surrounding parent and student choice. As a graduate research assistant Sarah has also worked on an evaluation of the effects of Denver's Professional Compensation system on teacher retention and an investigation of the use of student learning objectives in a Southeastern school district. Sarah draws upon experiences both as a classroom teacher and as a practicing litigator in her approach to policy.

chris saldana

Chris Saldaña, Doctoral Student Researcher

Chris Saldaña is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Chris currently serves as a graduate student researcher for two of NEPC’s research projects, the Price of Opportunity project and the Commercialism in Schools Research Unit’s (CERU) research brief. Chris holds a Bachelors Degree in Economics from the University of California, San Diego and a Masters Degree in Economics from California State University, Fullerton. Prior to starting his doctoral program, Chris worked as an economist for an economic research firm in Los Angeles, California. His work focused on issues involving economics and law. Currently, his research interests lie at the intersection of education policy, economics, and law. 

matt garcia

Matt Garcia, Doctoral Student Researcher

Matt Garcia is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is a Graduate Research Assistant for the National Education Policy Center working on the Schools of Opportunity Recognition Program. Matt holds a M.P.A. in Public Management and a B.A. in English, both from the University of New Mexico. Prior to graduate school, Matt oversaw private scholarships and internal grants at a community college foundation. His research interests lay at the intersection of social justice, policy, and market-based education reform.

Anna Deese

Anna Deese, Doctoral Student Researcher

 Anna Deese is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a Graduate Research Assistant for the National Education Policy Center working on the Schools of Opportunity Recognition Program. Anna holds a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana and a B.S in Biology from Indiana University. Prior to starting her doctoral program, Anna was director of a professional development company, a National Board Certified science teacher, and served as an elected school board trustee. Her research interests focus on how school boards impact educational reform and rural school leadership. 

Kate Somerville

Kate Somerville, Doctoral Student Researcher

Kate Somerville is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. She works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the National Education Policy Center for the Schools of Opportunity project and for the Research Hub for Youth Organizing and Education Policy. Kate holds a M.A. in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Public Policy Studies and Political Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Prior to starting at CU Boulder, Kate taught 2nd grade in Baltimore City. Her research interests center around causes of student trauma and access to trauma-informed mental health support in segregated school environments.