This is hard; this is good.
Using data to have transformative conversations.
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM | Thursday, March 5th
Pinot Noir A
Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga – Executive Director, The Education Trust–West
Sonya Heisters – Director of Partnerships, YouthTruth
About the session
In the words of Education Trust West’s Executive Director, Dr. Elisha Smith-Arrillaga, “The most dangerous conversations about race, is the one that we do not have.” In this session, we’ll talk about race – and we’ll also talk about gender identity, sexual orientation, achievement gaps and perception gaps. Leaders from the two most prominent California education organizations for equity and student voice will share best practices for engaging in transformative conversations, leading participants through protocols for using high-quality data to facilitate productive action.
The Education Trust-West and YouthTruth have 30 years of combined experience supporting educational justice and high academic achievement through data, coaching, and insight to close opportunity, perception, and achievement gaps. Through hands-on exercises and small-group discussion, participants will be challenged, inspired, and will leave the session more equipped and empowered to use data to drive change.
About the speakers
Elisha Smith-Arrillaga, Ph.D.
Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga serves as the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and supporting the high achievement of all California students, with a particular focus on underserved students of color, low-income students, and English learners. Dr. Smith Arrillaga leads the organization’s work centering education as a key racial and economic justice issue and has extensive expertise in leading initiatives using multiple strategies for impacting state policy – leveraging direct action, research, media, and policymaker engagement. She has more than twenty years’ experience working in and partnering with education and workforce policy, research, and advocacy organizations, including the Career Ladders Project, First 5 LA, College Bound, the Hewlett Foundation, Mathematica Policy Research, and high schools and community colleges across the state of California.
Raised in a family with deep roots in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Smith Arrillaga comes from a long line of educators and has taught at both the K-12 and higher education levels. Her teaching experience focused on subjects including statistics, writing and research methods, and community-based participatory research. Her approach to research design and policy development is grounded in a firm commitment to actionable, student and community-centered research and engagement.
Dr. Smith Arrillaga has presented in numerous national and state venues on the topic of of creating educational opportunities for all students, and is a current member of the California Advisory Task Force on Alternative Schools. She was also selected in the inaugural cohort of the California Education Policy Fellowship, a program that aims to strengthen education policymaking in California. She has also authored dozens of publications, including a chapter on alternative schools in a forthcoming book from the Stanford University John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. Dr. Smith Arrillaga 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 rising kindergartener.
Like many educators, Sonya’s love for teaching and learning is in her DNA. Her grandmother was a principal, her mother, a High School teacher, and her brother is a celebrated middle school special education teacher. In her work at YouthTruth, Sonya supports education leaders across the country in using data to drive change.
Prior to joining YouthTruth, Sonya served as a director at the Presidio Graduate School. Her experience in K-12 education includes work as director of university tutoring in Seattle, as the tutoring program manager for Score!/Kaplan for the Northern California region, and as the site director of a K-5 program in rural California.
Sonya graduated from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA with degrees in English and Non-Profit Management of Education Programs and studied sustainable leadership in Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. Sonya completed her Student Teaching practicum at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and hopes to someday return to her first love in education: teaching literature to teenagers. As a group facilitator and public speaker, Sonya has led workshops at schools, districts, colleges and conferences across the country, for audiences from 5 to 500.