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.



Joe Willhoft, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Joe Willhoft is the executive director for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, he was assistant superintendent for assessment and student information for Washington state for six years.

Willhoft has a doctorate in educational measurement and statistics from the University of Maryland. He also has a master’s degree in Special Education, and has taught at all grade levels from kindergarten to graduate school.

Willhoft is past president of the Maryland Assessment Group and the Washington Educational Research Association, and was a founding member of the AERA Special Interest Group for Classroom-Based Assessment. He has been involved in several collaborative data and assessment efforts, including the Technical Work Group for a congressionally-mandated evaluation of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and as chair of the NAEP Policy Task Force for the National Assessment Governing Board, a collaborative effort co-sponsored by the Board and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Willhoft has served on the Technical Advisory Committee for several states.

Tony Alpert

Chief Operating Officer

Tony Alpert serves as the chief operating officer for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, where he oversees the fiscal operations of Smarter Balanced, collaborating with Washington as the lead fiscal state; and provides expert guidance on assessment design and technology.

Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, Alpert—who is recognized as a leading expert in statewide computer-based and adaptive testing—served as the director of assessment for the Oregon Department of Education. He 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.

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.

Magda Y. Chia, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, System Design
Director, Support for Under-represented Students

Dr. Chia serves as the deputy director of system design and director of support for under-represented students 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. 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 has worked with OECD, AIR, CAE and state and district assessment agencies. Chia received her master’s degree at New York University.

Shelbi Cole, Ph.D.

Deputy Director, Content

Shelbi Cole serves as the deputy director of content for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Cole is responsible for ensuring that the assessments measure the depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards. She oversees the processes used for item writing, item quality, item alignment, item sensitivity, and bias and data reviews, as well as the production of formative assessment and professional development materials for mathematics and English language arts. Cole served as the director of mathematics for Smarter Balanced prior to stepping into the role as deputy director of content.

Before joining Smarter Balanced, Cole served as a mathematics education consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education, overseeing the development of the state’s high school mathematics assessment and contributing to the state’s transition plan for the Common Core State Standards. Prior to that role, she was a high school mathematics teacher. Cole received her master’s of secondary education and Ph.D. in educational psychology with an emphasis on gifted and talented education from the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

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.

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.

Brandt Redd

Chief Technology Officer

As chief technology officer for Smarter Balanced, Brandt Redd ensures that the assessment system is supported by a robust technology infrastructure. Redd previously served as a senior technology officer for education programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he provided technical guidance for the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), a collaborative project with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and several states. 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.

Nicole Siegel

Communications Specialist

Nicole Siegel serves as communications specialist for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Siegel is responsible for building awareness and support for the Consortium through day-to-day coordination of varying communications functions, including monitoring and updating web content, managing social media presence, and assisting with media relations.

Siegel has spent six years working in the education space, most recently serving as assistant to the faculty chair in the Department of Government at American University’s School of Public Affairs.  In this role, she administered the departmental assessment committee’s review of undergraduate curriculum, contributed to the revision of course learning objectives, and helped redefine the measurement for student success.  Siegel received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in public administration from American University.



Sue Gendron, Ph.D.

Policy Coordinator

Sue Gendron serves as the policy advisor and coordinator for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. She leads the Consortium’s outreach to state education chiefs and acts as a consultant to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), coaching states on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

In 2010, Gendron was named a senior fellow for the International Center for Leadership in Education. As senior fellow, she leads the International Center’s consulting services to local districts and state education departments for development of comprehensive assessment systems and 21st century-based technology plans. Prior to joining Smarter Balanced, Gendron served as the president of CCSSO. She also served as the commissioner of education in Maine from 2003 to 2010.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Ph.D.

Senior Research Advisor

Linda Darling-Hammond serves as a senior research advisor and has contributed to the Consortium’s effort to create a balanced system of assessments. She is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Wallace Foundation and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Education Leadership Advisory Council for the Stuart Foundation, and the Executive Board for the National Academy of Education.

Darling-Hammond has received the McGraw Hill Prize for Innovation in Education, the Friend of the NEA Award from National Education Association, and the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Stanford University School of Education. She is a past president of the American Educational Research Association. Darling-Hammond received her Ed.D. from Temple University.


Regional Senior Advisors

Dianne Bazell, Ph.D.

Regional Senior Advisor

Dianne Bazell is the regional senior consultant for the Southeastern Smarter Balanced states. She has spent over a decade building cross-sector partnerships, programs, and policies involving postsecondary, K-12, adult education, business, and workforce sectors to increase educational opportunity and attainment. As assistant vice president for Academic Affairs at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, she led several of Kentucky’s P-16 initiatives, including coordinating the state’s 2001-2003 participation as a pilot state for the American Diploma Project. This led to Kentucky’s development of a statewide postsecondary placement policy adopted by all two- and four-year public colleges and universities, as well as several independent institutions. Bazell directed Kentucky’s Title II higher education program and, with the Council of Chief Academic Officers, convened an annual Teacher Quality Summit to bring teacher preparation into alignment with the state’s college readiness expectations. While deputy director of Academic Affairs at the Illinois Board of Higher Education she led Illinois’ participation in the American Diploma Project. Bazell earned her Ph.D. in The Study of Religion at Harvard University and has taught and published in the areas of religious theory and practice.

Cheryl Blanco, Ph.D.

Regional Senior Advisor

Cheryl Blanco provides outreach to public education agencies, systems, and institutions in select Mountain West Smarter Balanced states. Blanco’s career in higher education has focused primarily on higher education policy and research, and the connections between postsecondary and K-12 education. Her 40 years of experience includes positions as vice president at the Southern Regional Education Board, program director for policy analysis and research at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, and educational policy director in Florida’s state higher education agency. At Arecibo Technological University College, University of Puerto Rico, Blanco was a tenured associate professor in the English Department and held administrative positions in academic affairs. She received her Ph.D. in higher education from Florida State University.

Louise Feroe, Ph.D.

Regional Senior Advisor

Louise Feroe serves as the Northeast regional senior advisor for Smarter Balanced. Feroe manages the Common Core Postsecondary Collaborative for the U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDI). This is a project to engage public higher education systems in planning for the postsecondary implications of the Common Core State Standards implementation across the nation’s K-12 systems. Immediately before coming to EDI, Feroe was the vice president for the Connecticut State Universities at the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education. Prior to a reorganization of the state system, she was the senior vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs and acting chancellor for the State University System. Most of her higher education career was spent at Mercy College in New York, where she served as professor of philosophy, manager of off-campus programs in prisons, director of testing and tutoring, academic dean as well as provost and later as president from 2004 to 2008. While at Mercy, she was engaged in increasing degree attainment without limiting access. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the New School University.

Robert Stein, Ph.D.

Regional Senior Advisor

Robert Stein serves as the Midwest regional senior advisor for Smarter Balanced. Stein is an independent consultant with a specialization in educational partnerships after having spent over 43 years in higher education as a faculty member, administrator, and state policymaker. Stein began his career at Wayne State University as an assistant professor. He was a department chair, assistant vice president of academic affairs and interim dean of the college of arts and sciences before becoming a professor emeritus from the University of Northern Colorado. Stein began a second career in Missouri and retired as the state’s commissioner of Higher Education in June 2010. Throughout his career Stein has worked tirelessly to promote a comprehensive P-20 approach to education and economic development. Stein directed a $250,000 FIPSE Grant to build performance funding (1994-97), was awarded the 2012 Distinguished Leader in Higher Education by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., State Celebration Commission of Missouri, and received a proclamation from Governor Nixon commending him for his impact on higher education in the state of Missouri. Stein received his Ph.D. in sociology from Vanderbilt University.

Jane V. Wellman

Regional Senior Advisor

Jane Wellman serves as the Pacific regional senior advisor for the Consortium. She is an independent policy analyst specializing in state and federal policy for higher education, with particular expertise in changing finances, cost analysis and cost management, institutional governance and change management. Wellman has served in a number of roles in higher education, including executive director of the National Association of System Heads, founding director of the Delta Cost Project, senior associate with the Institute for Higher Education Policy, deputy director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission, and staff director of the California Ways and Means Committee. She currently consults with several organizations including the National Association of System Heads, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Association of Governing Boards. Wellman is active in international consulting, and teaches a course in higher education costs and cost management at the University of Pennsylvania. Wellman began her career in the Office of the President at the University of California, and received her master’s degree from University of California, Berkeley.

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