Joe Siedlecki, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

TITLE: Program & Policy Officer, US Education

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education improvement

CONTACT: Joe.Siedlecki@msdf.org, 512-600-5501

IP TAKE: It's difficult to tell where Siedlecki stands on education reform, but it seems to be somewhere in between policy reform and supporting teachers. It isn't that he is necessarily on the fence; he just seems to toggle between the two sides.

PROFILE: Joe Siedlecki is "the point person for the foundation's federal policy activities" at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and runs its Quality School Options Portfolio. The idea behind the initiative is to procure better data on what goes on in the public school classroom, and use it to devise better and more responsible methods of teaching that benefit students, teachers and the school system at large. Siedlecki also runs point for the foundation’s program activities in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

Data, Dell believes, can not only improve student performance, but it can also help district administrators and school principals make more informed decisions when evaluating teachers and allocating resources. It could, for example, provide them with a "user-friendly, flexible ‘dashboard’ view of information that can spotlight a student, a subject, a class, a grade or even the entire district," according to a 2008 press release from the foundation.

Dell poached Siedlecki from the public sector in 2007. He was working for the Office of Management and Budget's Education, Income Maintenance and Labor Division in the White House. Siedlecki also has research and consulting experience from his signficant stints at the Ray Marshall Center and Deloitte Consulting. He received a bachelor's degree in business and economics from Wharton (UPenn's business school), where he made headlines several times as a lacrosse player. Siedlecki then followed it with master's in public policy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Siedlecki has contributed semi-regularly to Dell's blog since 2011. He discusses a variety of issues pertinent to teaching and education, providing commentary on relevant reports, legislation, and high-profile decision-making that transpires in major U.S. cities. His posts show that he is a solid proponent of charter schools (he's been on the National Advisory Board of The National Association of Charter School Authorizers since 2012) and the growing but sometimes controversial trend towards school portfolio management. His bottom line is quality: accounting for it and replicating it.

It’s not unreasonable to think that his blogging acts to some extent as a divining rod to predict where Dell is likely invest money in the future. A month after Siedlecki uploaded a blog post entitled "We need a systemic approach to building educator data skills" in June of 2011, the KIPP Foundation found itself sitting on a formidable grant of $3.5 million from Dell for the purpose of bolstering their "Data Collection, Reporting and Usage Training, and School and Regional Reviews."  In December 2013, San Antonio was granted $2.25 million by Dell for its Choose to Succeed program, which aims to replicate quality public schools in the area, and ensure that all local school children have access to all of their options-- a point of view very much in sync with Siedlecki's thoughts on the blog as well.

Other recent grants out of Siedlecki's program include nearly $2 million for the College Board to expand its Advanced Placement curriculum programming, particularly in low-income student settings, as well as $1 to the Data Quality Campaign to support that organization's efforts to the the "national expert" on student data while also ensuring privacy, security, and confidentiality.