Staff & Advisors

Smarter Balanced staff and advisors work with member states to develop a balanced assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards that will accurately measure student achievement and growth. To contact Smarter Balanced staff and advisors, please click here.



Tony Alpert

Executive Director
Tony Alpert serves as executive director for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, where he collaborates with Consortium members to ensure that the Smarter Balanced Assessment System meets the needs of their students, parents and policy makers. Prior to assuming the role of executive director, Alpert served as Smarter Balanced chief operating officer, where he provided oversight for the financial, assessment, and technical operations of the Consortium. Previously, Alpert worked at the Oregon Department of Education where he served in several different roles including managing the state’s assessment accountability reporting, managing the allocation of the state’s school fund, and finally as the director of assessment. Alpert also served on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Technical Advisory Committee where he provided technical counsel. Alpert earned his master’s degree at the University of Oregon.

Luci Willits

Deputy Executive Director

Luci HeadshotLuci Willits is the deputy executive director for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. As deputy executive director, she oversees the consortium’s external relations including communications, state services, and partnerships. Willits has more than a decade of state agency and state board of education experience. Prior to joining the Consortium, she served as the Chief of Staff of the Idaho Department of Education for eight years where she ran the day-to-day operations of the 140 person agency and represented the Superintendent at the Idaho Legislature. Willits also worked for the Idaho State Board of Education and as a Communications Director for Congressman Mike Simpson. She grew up in rural Idaho and is a product of Idaho’s public schools, graduating from Idaho State University.


Paisha Allmendinger

Finance and Operations Manager

Paisha Allmendinger serves as the finance and operations manager for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Paisha is responsible for the financial and business operations of Smarter Balanced. Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, Paisha served as Business Manager for UCLA TIES for Families, a program dedicated to children in foster care.

She has experience in diverse aspects of executive leadership, operations management, fiscal management, and strategic planning. Paisha has a great passion for education and volunteers her time with organizations that inspire underserved students to go to college. She received her BA in Economics from UCLA and her MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Jamika Burge, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment Technology Product and Research
Jamika Burge serves as the director of assessment technology product and research for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. She oversees the Smarter App suite of open source software as well as leads efforts to identify, prioritize, and manage system requirements using a user research approach. She is also responsible for developing a strategic vision to sustain and enhance the Smarter Balanced assessment system to better improve teaching and learning among member states.

Burge has served as a technical and research program management professional to a number of educational and government organizations, which is complemented by her teaching experience at the college level. Her research interests lie in human-computer interaction (HCI), specifically in the design of technologies that support a range of communication and interaction needs. She uses a variety of user research methods (attitudinal and behavioral; qualitative and quantitative, etc.) to assess user behavior, needs, and motivations. She is active in computer science education and STEM preparedness efforts, providing expertise for a host of funded programs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Computing Research Association (CRA), including those seeking to broaden participation in computer science. Burge holds a Ph.D. in computer science, with a focus on human-computer interaction (HCI) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.​

Magda Y. Chia, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, System Design
Dr. Chia serves as the deputy director of system design for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Chia leads the Consortium’s efforts to ensure the assessment system is designed to effectively serve the needs of all students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and English language learners with disabilities. Chia also helps identify, prioritize, and manage changes and improvements to the Consortium’s system while helping to ensure that the formative, interim and summative components of the system are aligned. She provides support to Smarter Balanced work groups and advisory committees, and facilitates input from outside experts and stakeholders on assessment development and teacher supports.

Chia received her Ph.D. in education, equity, and cultural diversity at the University of Colorado, Boulder–a program that focuses on English language learners and students with disabilities. Her research addresses validity and fairness in assessments across diverse student populations. She specializes in the relationship between cultural and linguistic diversity and assessment development, implementation, data use, and classroom instruction. In addition to teaching in public schools for a number of years, Chia was a learning specialist at the The Henry and Lucy Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at New York University. Chia has worked with OECD, AIR, CAE and state and district assessment agencies. Chia received her master’s degree at New York University.

Nikki Elliott-Schuman

Director, English Language Arts and Literacy

Nikki Elliott-Schuman is the director of English language arts and literacy for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Elliott-Schuman works to ensure that the assessments effectively measure the depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards in ELA/literacy. She also co-chairs the Performance Task Work Group for Smarter Balanced and is the State Writing Assessment Specialist for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington.

Elliott-Schuman has more than 30 years of expertise in ELA assessment and curriculum as a teacher and administrator. Past roles include District Curriculum Coordinator for K-12 Reading and Writing in Vancouver, Washington, and the State Evaluation Specialist for Nevada Writing at the Nevada State Department of Education. She began her career as a high school English teacher. Elliott-Schuman received her master’s of education in curriculum and instruction at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Charity Flores

Deputy Director, Content

Dr. Flores serves as the deputy director of content for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Flores leads the Consortium’s efforts for item development for English/Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics for the summative, interim, and formative assessment components to ensure alignment to the Common Core State Standards. She provides support to Smarter Balanced members on assessment development and teacher supports.

Flores received her Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Supervision from Ball State University. Her academic career focused on educational administration to attain licensure as a building administrator and district superintendent. She began as a classroom mathematics teacher and transitioned to the Indiana Department of Education’s Office of Student Assessment during a time that the state implemented the Common Core State Standards. She worked at McGraw Hill Education as Senior Program Manager overseeing the item development for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium contracts 14, and 16/17. Her dissertation focused on the linguistic complexity of test items and student performance to better understand how linguistic domains impact how students perform on assessment items.


Kelli Gauthier

Director of Policy Analysis and Communications

Kelli Gauthier serves as Director of Policy Analysis and Communication for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Gauthier’s primary role is to support states in their communication efforts as well as serve as the Smarter Balanced spokesperson. Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, Gauthier served as the communications director for the Tennessee Department of Education. During her tenure in Tennessee, she built a robust communications team with a focus on proactive communication and messaging, professional branding and quality promotional materials, while leading the state agency through a complete rebranding. Before working in state government, Gauthier wrote about K-12 education for five years as a reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. She also briefly taught high school and middle school English. Gauthier has a degree in print journalism from Southern Adventist University.

Abbie Genzink

Administrative Specialist

Abbie Genzink serves as administrative specialist for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Genzink is responsible for oversight and coordination of operational functions for Smarter Balanced. Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, Genzink worked for Invitation Homes, a major residential real estate company, managing administrative functions of the Rehab team and inter-departmental communications. Past experience also includes teaching English as a foreign language in Spain as well as providing administrative support, coordinating events and training students and professionals in the art of conflict resolution. Genzink received her bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal & Organizational Communications from Azusa Pacific University.

Judy Hickman

Director of Mathematics
Judy Hickman serves as the director of mathematics for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Hickman will oversee the Consortium’s efforts to offer high quality mathematics assessments and other resources to its member states. In her role as director of mathematics, she will work directly with state level content staff, national experts, and educators on the development and review of items, tasks, and digital library resources.

Hickman has over 35 years of experience in mathematics education and large-scale assessment. Hickman began her career as a mathematics teacher; a job she enjoyed for over 20 years, working at both the high school and college levels. She then spent 6 years at the Florida Department of Education where she served as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) Mathematics Coordinator. Hickman joined Educational Testing Service (ETS) in 2005 and led the development of the original Smarter Balanced Item and Task Specifications in Mathematics. She transitioned to CTB in 2013 where she provided oversight to multiple components of Smarter Balanced contract 16/17, which included one of the largest mathematics item and task development and scoring efforts in history. Hickman is a graduate of Florida State University.

Hillary Hunter

Administrative Specialist

Hillary Hunter serves as executive assistant to Tony Alpert for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. As well as administrative support, Hunter is also responsible for coordinating the operational functions of the center, coordinating in-person meetings including managing meeting budgets, and cultivating relationships with service providers and key consortium partners.

She has previously spent the last two years as Shared Services Coordinator and Data Manager for one of the largest residential companies in the US, and has over six years administrative support in variety of company backgrounds, including QSP Fundraising for Los Angeles grade schools.Hillary received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. She has a passion for child development and looks forward to furthering her education in Developmental Psychology.

Rachel Kachchaf, Ph.D.

Director of Supports for Students

Rachel  Kachchaf serves as the director of supports for students for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Kachchaf oversees the Consortium’s efforts to consider the needs of diverse learners, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and English learners with disabilities throughout the development of the full assessment system. She provides support to Smarter Balanced work groups, advisory committees, advocacy groups, and assessment experts to improve assessments for diverse learners.

Kachchaf received her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder from the educational equity and cultural diversity program which addresses the educational needs of English learners and students with disabilities. Her research interests have centered on improving large-scale assessment for diverse learners. She utilizes mixed methods to address ways in which testing practices in large-scale assessment can be improved to attain validity for all students. She has conducted research for the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences, in addition to having experience teaching in public schools. Kachchaf earned a Masters degree in Spanish language and linguistics from New York University.

Jacqueline E. King, Ph.D.

Director, Higher Education Collaboration

Jacqueline King serves as the director of higher education collaboration for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. As an expert in higher education access, student financial aid, and alignment with K-12, King helps ensure that Smarter Balanced meets the needs of postsecondary institutions for determining student readiness for entry-level credit-bearing courses in English language arts/literacy and math.

King spent 15 years at the American Council on Education, serving most recently as assistant vice president and policy research advisor. At ACE, she founded the Center for Policy Analysis and led the K–16 alignment agenda, including efforts to ensure that higher education faculty had direct input on the Common Core State Standards. King received a doctorate in higher education from the University of Maryland, College Park. She also holds a master’s degree in student personnel administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.­

Marty McCall, Ph.D.

Lead Psychometrician

Marty McCall is the lead psychometrician for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. McCall is responsible for managing test development activities and psychometric and statistical analysis projects; providing technical assistance; monitoring procedures for item writing; monitoring test construction, test review, scoring and reporting; developing interpretive documents; and providing technical documentation related to projects and activities.

Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, McCall was with Northwest Evaluation Association, where she led the development of multiple facets of computer adaptive test design. She also worked as a psychometrician for the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). McCall is also a former teacher, and throughout her career she has authored more than a dozen academic papers and has presented to conferences across the country. McCall received her Ph.D. in Systems Science from Portland State University.

Chrystyna V. Mursky, Ph.D.

Director, Professional Learning

Chrystyna Mursky is the director of professional learning for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Mursky oversees the Consortium’s development of formative assessment strategies and professional development opportunities for teachers. With more than 30 years of education experience, Mursky has taught or served as an administrator at every level, from K-12 to higher education.

Mursky most recently served as the statewide program director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, where she oversaw reforms designed to improve equity and student performance. Mursky also designed and implemented professional development activities on educator effectiveness, curriculum development, effective instructional strategies, balanced assessment systems, response to intervention, and the Common Core State Standards. She received her Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership from Marquette University.


Gail Pagano

Deputy Director,  Member Services

Gail Pagano is the Deputy Director of Member Services for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and has over 40 years of experience in public education. In her current position, she is responsible for providing support to state department of education agencies in Smarter Balanced member states, and assisting them in better understanding how Smarter Balanced assessments can improve teaching and learning. She recently retired from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) where she was responsible for the development and oversight of the mathematics portion of Connecticut’s state-wide assessment system, including the transition to new assessments aligned to the Connecticut Core Standards. While at CSDE, Gail served as an active member of the Smarter Balanced Item Development Work Group beginning in January 2011. In July 2012, she assumed the role of Co-chair of the Item Development/Performance Task Work Group. She also served as Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced K-12 State Lead from November 2012 through August 2015 and was elected to serve as a member of the Smarter Balanced Executive Committee from August 2014 – August 2015. Prior to joining the CSDE, Gail was a mathematics and science teacher at Cromwell Middle School, Cromwell, CT for 31 years. She also served the district as the K-8 Mathematics Coordinator.


Vivian Penet

Principal Data Steward

Vivian Penet serves as the principal data steward for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Penet is responsible for on-going oversight and management of all data elements and systems for the Consortium. As a member of the Systems Design team, she will develop processes and guidelines for data capture and transfer to ensure compliance with the Consortium’s policy and regulatory obligations.

Penet has extensive experience in education data research and management. Most recently, Penet was a Senior Statistician with CRESST at UCLA, focused on education evaluation and game data curation, management, and analysis. Penet’s prior experience also includes working for a charter management organization, where she held dual roles as knowledge manager and technology lead with The College Ready Promise (TCRP). As an Education Pioneers fellow, Penet worked on the development of LAUSD’s MyData student information system and performance management. Penet received her bachelor’s degree from Wellelsey College and a master’s degree in Public Policy from UCLA.


Brandt Redd

Chief Information Officer/CTO

As Chief Information Officer / CTO for Smarter Balanced, Brandt Redd ensures that the consortium is supported by a robust information and technology infrastructure. Redd previously served as Senior Technology Officer for education programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Redd has three decades of experience in the information technology sector. He co-founded Folio Corporation, an innovator in electronic publishing software, and Agilix Labs, a developer of learning solutions. In a diverse career, he has served as a software engineer, project manager, database administrator, chief scientist, and chief technology officer for companies like Redd received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA from Brigham Young University.


Mark Valderrama

Project Coordinator

Mark Valderrama serves as project coordinator for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. He is responsible for managing and coordinating activities and resources in support of Consortium operations. Valderrama has spent more than a decade in the field of education, most recently at the Center for Research, Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. At CRESST, he worked on the development, validation, and administration of assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Prior to UCLA, Valderrama managed the development of online professional development modules at Pearson Education. Valderrama received a bachelor’s degree in physics from California State University, Los Angeles.


Russ Wegfehrt

Director, Strategic Planning

RussRuss Wegfehrt serves as the director of strategic planning for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Wegfehrt is responsible for building and maintaining a focused and sustainable program roadmap that will best serve the students,  educators, and administrators of the Consortium’s member states. He is also responsible for the oversight of the system of tools and processes that provide the structure of project management for the Consortium. He has over sixteen years of experience in educational publishing, with skills ranging from content development to operations management. Most recently, he worked at McGraw Hill Education as a Senior Project Manager overseeing the operations side of item development for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s pilot, field, and operational assessments. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Kent State University, and earned his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in 2011.


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