Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows: Cohort Nine December Convening

December 19, 2022

On Wednesday, December 7 – Friday, December 9, 2022, The Hunt Institute hosted the first meeting of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows’ ninth cohort at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program – unlike any other Fellowship in the nation – provides political leaders from across the country with the knowledge they need to cultivate smart and effective education agendas. The ninth cohort includes 31 policymakers from across the nation, all equity-minded, state-level policymakers committed to uplifting education issues in their states.  

Over three days, we heard from national resource experts on topics of early learning and K-12 policy.  

To open the week, Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan set the stage for the week’s conversations by giving an overview of the state of the United States’ K-12 education system including the outcomes policymakers can work towards, how to design systems to achieve those outcomes, and what policies accelerate or hinder progress towards those goals. Program Director of Education at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Kent McGuire moderated the session.  

The first afternoon session was moderated by Senior Director Dr. Dana Nunn of the Valhalla Foundation. In this session, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood Dr. Lisa Roy and Strategic Advisor for Early Education Policy and Practice Jeana Ross of the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation discussed the importance of a strong early childhood governance structure and innovative approaches for creating robust systems for young children and their families.


After a short break, our Senior Director of Early Learning Dr. Dan Wuori sat down with Families and Work Institute co-founder and President Ellen Galinsky for a conversation for Cohort 9 Fellows on what brain science tells us about the early years of learning and how policymakers can use that data to inform sound policy. 

While this presentation took place, attending Fellows staff members divided into small groups to engage with each other, resource experts, and The Hunt Institute staff to discuss their state’s early care and education landscape. 

Next up, Pritzker Children’s Initiative Project Officer Kathy Stohr moderated a discussion on child care’s impact on the American workforce and the needs of its own works. Resource experts for this session included CEO of Council for Professional Recognition Dr. Calvin Moore, Jr., and Founder and CEO of the Center on Child and Family Policy Dr. Katharine B. Stevens.

We brought Day One to a close with a sightseeing cruise on the Potomac River. It was a great day to continue the first day’s networking conversations and experiencing D.C. at its finest.  

To kick off Day Two, Cohort 9 took a field trip to Rocketship Legacy Prep School for a site visit and tour. It was a great way to anchor the week’s conversations and interact with educators and students on-site. We are grateful to the teachers and administrators at Rocketship for welcoming us to their campus! 

While Fellows visited the school, their staff met with our Hunt Institute staff to discuss the various programs and supports provided to Fellows. The Hunt Institute staff also learned more about Fellows’ education policy interests and how The Institute can support them.  

The next session was led by Dr. Jasmine Jenkins, a Senior Program Officer of Education and Advocacy at Bloomberg Philanthropies and focused on school choice. In this session, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Nina Rees, and Senior Fellow Robert Pondiscio of the American Enterprise Institute explored the types of school choice, evidence of the effectiveness of school choice policies, and how policymakers and stakeholders can ensure transparency, accountability, and equity in choice systems.

After a networking lunch, Fellows reconvened for a policy discussion on curriculum, standards, and assessment. The Education Trust’s CEO Denise Forte moderated this session which featured Dr. Peggy Carr, Commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, and The Honorable Kirsten Baesler of North Dakota.

During this session, Fellows’ staff members engaged with each other, resource experts, and The Hunt Institute staff as they examined their student success data to understand how learning was impacted by the pandemic and strategies for recovery. 

Next up, President of Thaddeus Stephens College and Hunt Board Member Pedro Rivera moderated a discussion on the various components of measuring effectiveness and student success, and strategies for improving district, school, and student outcomes. The Honorable Jillian Balow of Virginia and President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute Michael Petrilli led the conversation, while Fellows’ staff members connected with Senior Associate of the Center for Assessment Juan D’Brot on state accountability models.  

For Day Two’s final session, Bibb Hubbard, the Founder and President of Learning Heroes, sat down with The Wallace Foundation’s Senior Consultant and Hunt Board Member Andy Cole and New Leaders for New Schools’ CEO Jean Desravines to examine the role of school leaders, how school leaders are recruited and developed, and concerns around equitable gender and racial representation in school leadership positions. 

Day Two closed out with a special dinner at The Nationals Park and an enchanting walk around D.C.’s Enchant Christmas light’s tour! 

Our final day of Cohort 9’s first convening began with an important conversation on school funding, featuring Georgetown University’s Economist and Professor Dr. Nora Gordon. This session provided Fellows with the opportunity to discuss how schools are funded, where dollars are allocated, and how state policymakers can ensure equitable funding levels between districts.  


Cohort 9’s final session was with Hunt Advisory Board members and former governors in an interactive conversation about the challenges of being their states’ education leaders. Fellows heard from Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont, Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland, Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois, and Governor Chet Culver of Iowa. It was, as always, the perfect way to bring our Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows convening to a close, and we were honored to host these education leaders and benefit from their expertise. We were especially honored to host Governor Tom Kean, who inspired this program’s inception alongside our Institute’s namesake Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina.  

We are so grateful for Cohort 9’s commitment to this program, and we look forward to seeing where this week’s conversations lead them and their states. To all the resource experts, former Fellows, Fellows staff, and Hunt team members who made this week possible: thank you. We can’t wait to convene again next August with Cohort 9! 

As Governor Kean said, “The idea that the youngest and best leaders would come together across party lines and discuss what’s best for kids was a vision; I don’t know if myself or Gov. Hunt ever thought it would happen. But it did. You are here.” 

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