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Organization: MDRC
Job title(s): Director K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
Description: The Director will lead two closely aligned policy areas in K-12 and post-secondary education to create or identify better real-world responses to educational needs and develop new projects, partnerships, and opportunities that are impactful across the educational spectrum. The Director will work collaboratively with deputy directors from each area to expand and revise strategic plans, which identify key contributions to the field, desired types of projects, project development strategies, and plans to communicate with the field about MDRC's work. The work includes traditional evaluations, technical assistance, systems change initiatives, and longer-term engagements with partner organizations to produce sustained program and service improvements.

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Director K-12 and Post-Secondary Education
New York, NY


MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the well-being of low-income people, is seeking a dynamic, skilled and committed professional to join its senior leadership team as Director of K-12 and Post-Secondary Education ("The Director"). The Board and leadership of MDRC seek to provide reliable, nonpartisan evidence and the highest-quality technical assistance and advice to its public and private partners. The Director of K-12 and Post-Secondary Education is a key member of the leadership team which is responsible for governing the organization and formulating strategy to build evidence that can improve policy and practice.

From its inception, MDRC has brought its creativity and rigor to a growing range of policy areas and target populations. Once known primarily for evaluations of state welfare-to-work programs, MDRC also studies public school reforms, employment programs for ex-prisoners and people with disabilities, early childhood services and family-strengthening services, and programs to help low-income people succeed in college. The organization is known not only for the high quality, integrity, and rigor of its research, but also for its commitment to building evidence and improving practice in partnership with school districts; community colleges; federal, state, and local governments; foundations; and community-based organizations.

Reporting to the President, the Director will lead two closely aligned areas of MDRC's work in K-12 and post-secondary education. The Director will be a leader with extensive knowledge in education policy and experience in building rigorous evidence that supports and improves outcomes for low-income students. The Director will be skilled in developing a strategic vision for this work and at working with leadership and staff to conceive, fund, design, and manage a broad range of high-quality projects. The Director will be effective at working collaboratively across the organization and integrating seamlessly into a high-functioning team. MDRC seeks an individual who will provide strategic intellectual leadership across the organization's education portfolio, forge and develop new funding from varied and diverse sources, serve as a key communicator with users and funders of its work, provide strong managerial and organizational skills, and provide leadership to inform the ever-changing educational landscape with MDRC's work.

Isaacson Miller, a national executive search firm, has been engaged to assist with this important search. Inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in confidence to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.


Created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization dedicated to learning what works to improve programs and policies that affect the poor. MDRC was founded as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, and in 2003, "MDRC" became the registered corporate identity of the organization, formally adopting the name by which it is best recognized by professional colleagues and the public.
MDRC is known for mounting large-scale demonstrations and evaluations of real-world policies and programs targeted to low-income people. The organization helped pioneer the use of random assignment - the same highly reliable methodology used to test new medicines - in evaluations. Its evaluations continue to apply a range of rigorous methods to conduct impact studies, mixed-methods implementation research, predictive analytics, and other analytic methods to build bodies of evidence that answer the questions of high priority to policymakers, practitioners, and other decision-makers. We also engage in technical assistance and program design, leading to further evidence building. From welfare policy to high school reform, MDRC's work has helped to shape legislation, program design, and operational practices across the country. Working in fields where emotion and ideology often dominate public debates, MDRC is a source of objective, unbiased evidence about cost-effective solutions that can be replicated and expanded to scale.
With an annual budget approaching $100 million and a staff of more than 300 persons in New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles, MDRC is engaged in more than 100 projects clustered in five policy areas: Families and Children; K-12 Education; Post-Secondary Education; Youth Development, Criminal Justice, & Employment; and Low-Wage Workers and Communities. MDRC has worked in nearly every state and most major cities, in Canada, and in the United Kingdom, and is funded by government agencies and some 70 private, family, and corporate foundations. The driving force behind MDRC is a conviction that reliable evidence, well communicated, can make an important difference in social policy.

Mission and Principles

The mission of MDRC is to create and widely disseminate rigorous, nonpartisan, credible evidence on the effectiveness of policies and programs aimed at improving the lives of low-income families, children, and communities. Government and private agencies, policymakers, and the public have relied on MDRC's research when setting priorities and developing policies and practices. MDRC's use of valid, state-of-the-art methodologies and its tradition of independence combine to ensure its funders of reliable and objective evidence regarding the impact of program and policy innovations. MDRC's solid evidence-based research, serving a broad audience of stakeholders, is guided by principles of high quality, low cost, resourceful project management; diverse, multiple-perspective, project design of the most credible research methods for the questions posed; and policy relevant conclusions reached independently, released in a timely fashion, and published widely.

MDRC Projects and Partnerships

MDRC's research and projects focus on a wide range of important issues facing educators and society. In the K-12 education area, the work focuses on addressing key barriers to student success and implementing and expanding effective interventions. Topic areas have included elementary reading and math instruction; teacher training and curriculum improvement; identifying students who are at risk of failing; secondary school reform; career and technical education; and college access and readiness. Within post-secondary education, MDRC programs help low-income students enroll, progress, and graduate, and issues highlighted have included replicating programs that use academic and social supports to boost graduation rates; the reform of developmental education; financial aid reforms, including performance-based scholarships; and encouraging summer enrollment.

MDRC's projects have also focused on families with children, by studying home visiting for new parents; early care/education and preschool programs; and responsible fatherhood programs. In work, house, and income security, MDRC's work seeks to raise the economic prospects of low-wage workers, people who are experiencing joblessness, and communities where poverty is concentrated. Projects have also examined issues related to criminal justice by building evidence on reforms to reduce incarceration and recidivism.

A sample of specific education-related projects, current and past, includes evaluations of:

- The Building Blocks and High Five Pre-K and Kindergarten Math programs
- Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavior in Elementary Schools
- Response to Intervention (RtI) in Early Grade Reading
- New York City's Small High Schools of Choice
- Career Academies
- College Match
- The City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associates Program (ASAP)
- Performance-Based Scholarships
- Latino Academic Transfer and Institutional Degree Opportunities Project
- College Promise Success Initiative
- Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success

MDRC has worked for many years with key nonprofit organizations to evaluate their programs' models, refine them in response to the evaluations, and replicate and expand them. Our work with Communities in Schools (CIS) illustrates this iterative process. CIS is a dropout-prevention organization whose whole-school model integrates a variety of support services for students in elementary, middle, and high schools. It makes some services available to all students and provides others through case management to those most at risk of dropping out. MDRC's evaluation found that while there were promising results for the whole-school model's impact on elementary grade attendance and high school graduation, the case management component did not affect students' attendance, discipline, or course outcomes. Moderate-risk students and higher-risk students received similar amounts of case management services. CIS had been using a two-tier service-delivery model, but this finding prompted a shift to a three-tier model to provide greater differentiation. MDRC's research also suggested that CIS case management may work best for students if it begins when they enter middle or high school, so CIS has redoubled its efforts to target students during those transitional years.


Gordon Berlin, President

Gordon Berlin was appointed President of MDRC on September 1, 2004. Prior to becoming president, he served as MDRC's Chief Operating Officer, overseeing MDRC's activities in the Work, Community, and Economic Security policy area and in the Education, Children, and Families policy area. Before joining MDRC in 1990, he was Executive Deputy Administrator for Management, Budget, and Policy at the $6-billion, 33,000-person New York City Human Resources Administration. He also worked as a program officer and Deputy Director of the Ford Foundation's Urban Poverty program and as a program analyst and project officer in the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration. Throughout his career, Berlin has developed and managed programs to address problems associated with welfare dependency, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, early childhood development, poverty, health, unemployment, and other issues of concern to low-income families and communities. He founded and, for seven years, served as the Executive Director of the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, a Canadian nonprofit formed at the request of the Canadian government to test innovative employment-focused programs.
Berlin has authored and coauthored numerous publications on employment and social welfare issues, including Poverty and Philanthropy: Strategies for Change; Rewarding the Work of Individuals: A Counterintuitive Approach to Reducing Poverty and Strengthening Families; and What Works in Welfare Reform: Evidence and Lessons to Guide TANF Reauthorization.


With a full-time staff of about 300, MDRC research staff are affiliated with one of its five policy areas (each with about 40 individuals) or with the Center for Behavioral Insights or the Center for Data Insights. As part of the senior leadership team, the Director of Education oversees the Deputy Director of K-12 Education, the Deputy Director of Post-Secondary Education, and a number of dedicated staff who bridge both areas. Operationally, a core administrative services staff of 75 works closely with MDRC's research staff to run finance, human resources, grant facilitation, and other key functions.

MDRC's has a well-defined, established culture and much-talented long-serving staff. MDRC, like many organizations today, anticipates a generational shift over the next several years and has begun comprehensive succession planning to provide opportunities for advancement at all levels of the organization.


Reporting directly to the President, the Director of K-12 and Post-Secondary Education is a key member of the executive leadership council, which is responsible for governing the organization, formulating strategy, and determining overarching goals for policy areas. MDRC and executive leadership bring extensive content expertise and intellectual rigor to decision making in a highly collaborative, consensus-driven environment. The new director will join an organization that welcomes and expects participatory and engaged leadership that bridges policy areas.

The Director will lead two closely aligned policy areas in K-12 and post-secondary education to create or identify better real-world responses to educational needs that span the education pipeline and to develop new projects, partnerships, and opportunities that are impactful across the educational spectrum. The Director will work collaboratively with deputy directors from each area to expand and revise strategic plans, which identify key contributions to the field, desired types of projects, project development strategies, and plans to communicate with the field about MDRC's work. The work includes traditional evaluations, technical assistance, systems change initiatives, and longer-term engagements with partner organizations to produce sustained program and service improvements.

In both areas, topics include instructional, student support, and organizational reforms, as well as new approaches resting on insights from behavioral science, data sciences, and the use of technology. The Director will work to ensure that MDRC remains at the cutting edge of efforts to develop new methods to study program implementation and the impact of work with schools, colleges, and nonprofit service providers to improve program success through a cycle of evaluation, refinement, and experimentation.

This body of work places MDRC at the forefront of research on reforms to improve K-12 and post-secondary outcomes for low-income children, young adults, and first-generation college students. MDRC's extensive body of work, spanning kindergarten through post-secondary education, concentrated focus on key, high-stakes issues for low-income families, and the unusual reliability of MDRC's evaluations, uniquely positions the Director of Education to inform domestic education policy and practice.


The overarching goal for the new Director of K-12 and Post-Secondary Education is to coordinate and strategically lead two policy areas with varied funding mechanisms, to support growth and innovation across the educational spectrum.

Provide intellectual leadership across MDRC's education portfolio, inspire new ideas and projects, and help to define its future direction

The Director will work collaboratively with the K-12 and Post-Secondary deputies, staff and others to update and revise the area Strategic Plans, which identify key contributions to the field, desired types of projects, project development strategies, and ways to communicate findings with key stakeholders. The Director will develop ideas for new projects and build a funding collaborative of public and private funders. This individual will drive innovation by overseeing major education projects, including design, work plan development, site recruitment, supervision of staff, production of deliverables, communication of findings, and funder relations.

Intentionally link the work of K-12 and post-secondary project areas to improve collaboration and understanding

The Director will seek ways to strengthen connections between the K-12 and post-secondary areas, their research projects, and their staffs. As states seek to build robust linkages between K-12 and post-secondary education to support student achievement, MDRC can inform policy discussions to better understand education pathways, identify practices and programs to help prepare students for college success, and inform decision-making by state leaders.

Forge and develop new funding from varied and diverse sources

The Director will build new funding sources to support existing and new research opportunities for MDRC and bring experience and skills in securing federal contracts and grants and foundation funding, while creating and nurturing relationships to generate new business opportunities. The Director will bring a deep understanding of the differing funders and funding mechanisms for K-12 and post-secondary education and will bring strong existing relationships with funders. Expanding relationships with foundations will be an important component of the role.

Serve as a key communicator with the users and funders of MDRC's education work

The Director will use a variety of approaches to communicating the value and impact of MDRC's studies to a wide range of funders, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The new Director is expected to be an effective communicator and bring demonstrated relationship-building experience.

Attend to the professional development of MDRC's education staff

The Director will support the professional development of MDRC's education staff to help them take on new responsibilities and broaden their roles in projects, providing mentorship and opportunities for advancement within the organization. MDRC has benefited from a talented long-term workforce. Over the next several years, new opportunities for leadership advancement will arise. The new Director will develop the next generation of leadership within the two policy areas.

Foster an organization and community that values diversity and inclusion

An organization with a strongly defined mission, MDRC embraces a focus on improving the lives of low-income children, often from underserved backgrounds. The Director will bring an understanding and a passion for MDRC's mission and will value and foster diversity and inclusion in all respects. The Director must appreciate diversity within the organization and its staff at all levels.

Provide leadership to address the changing educational landscape, and defining MDRC's role within it

The Director will lead MDRC in a world and a field that is rapidly changing. This individual will understand the policy environment and its implications and embrace a culture that values rigorous research. The Director serves on MDRC's Strategy Group and will help build a program strategy that defines how MDRC addresses the most pressing problems in education and social policy.


The Director will be a leader in K-12 and post-secondary education, with experience in creating and applying rigorous evidence on program implementation and effectiveness to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. The ideal candidate will have a track record of developing a strategic vision for this work; ability to work with skilled deputies and other staff to conceive, fund, and manage a broad range of projects; and the skills and experience needed to assure the work is high quality, timely, and produced within available funding. The Director must have a track record of working collaboratively across an organization, have experience working well as part of a team, and be comfortable in a mission-driven research organization that values data and evidence-based decision making in service of improving the lives of low-income families and communities. The evidence that MDRC builds provides a powerful platform from which to inform reform agendas. An effective Director will have the skills, experience, and credibility to represent and position these findings in the local, state and national discussion of school improvements in the 21st century.

The Director is expected to be goal-oriented, efficiency-minded, and able to execute effectively. He or she must be able to fit into the organization's culture and work closely with the President, the Board, the senior leadership team, and other program staff in a supportive and direct manner. The candidate must have strong interpersonal skills, excellent written and oral communication skills, a hands-on management style, and the ability to identify and address problems or issues that arise not just in his or her immediate department but across the organization. In addition, he or she should be diplomatic, have the highest integrity, and possess sound judgment as well as a sense of humor.

While no one candidate will embody every quality, the successful candidate will bring many if not all of the following professional qualifications and personal attributes:

- Graduate training in a relevant discipline (education, economics, sociology, public policy, etc.) and an in-depth knowledge of the methods used to conduct program evaluations and provide technical assistance;
- An in-depth understanding of education policy issues, preferably in both K-12 and post-secondary areas, and an interest in conducting rigorous research and applying its findings to inform the choices of policymakers and practitioners and improve our educational system;
- Extensive experience working with education organizations as partners in evidence building and program improvement;
- Substantial and successful experience in designing, managing and conducting large-scale, complex program evaluations addressing questions of program implementation and impacts, and using many different data sources;
- Substantial and successful experience managing demonstration projects that develop, field, and evaluate promising new strategies to improve academic outcomes for low-income children;
- Extensive, successful experience managing teams of skilled researchers in a collegial environment;
- A track record of supporting the development of staff members' skills to undertake increasing responsibilities;
- A visionary and collaborative leadership style, characterized by participatory decision making, flexibility, and the ability to see and set direction on a large scale;
- An effective communicator with outstanding written and verbal communication skills;
- An appreciation of the unique, mission-driven culture of MDRC;
- Strong interpersonal and relationship building skills.


MDRC has retained Isaacson, Miller to assist in this search. Please direct all inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications in strict confidence to:

Daniel Rodas, Vice President
Liz Vago, Managing Associate
Gregg Glover, Senior Associate

Phone: (617) 262-6500

Electronic submission is strongly encouraged.

MDRC is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. MDRC does not discriminate, and all qualified applications will receive consideration without regard to race; color; national origin; religion; creed; sex or gender (including sex stereotyping and gender identity or expression); sexual orientation; citizenship status; pregnancy; disability; age; military or veteran status; marital or partnership status; genetic information, genetic predisposition, or carrier status; prior unemployment status; consumer credit history; status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking; or any other category protected by applicable federal, state, or local laws. Legal work authorization is required.


Post date: 2018-10-22 10:20:39 AM | #10676 | Report an Issue
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