Education Trust–West’s Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga Appointed as Co-Chair of California “Closing the Achievement Gap” Initiative


Source: Los Angeles Sentinel

Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West (ETW), has been appointed as co-chair of the statewide Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond. Dr. Smith Arrillaga leads ETW’s work advancing educational justice and advocating for policies and strategies that allow schools and colleges to better serve students of color, English learners, and low-income students. In her new role, Dr. Smith Arrillaga will apply her extensive experience toward the Initiative’s goals, which include addressing ways to close the achievement gap and improving educational outcomes for all California public school students. She joins co-Chairs Ryan Smith, Manufou Liaiga-Anoa’i, and Roseann Torres. State Superintendent Thurmond’s announcement can be found here.

“I’m thrilled to join my fellow co-chairs and serve the Superintendent and the state’s families and students in this way,” she said. “Fighting for equity and justice in education is a continuation of a longstanding movement to align our actions with our values, and I look forward to ensuring those most impacted by this work have a sustained and supported seat at the table.”

Dr. Smith Arrillaga has more than 20 years of experience advocating for educational justice and supporting the high achievement of all students, particularly those from underserved and marginalized communities. A former teacher of statistics and research, she has first-hand experience with the realities of classroom teaching. Raised in a family with deep roots in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Smith Arrillaga has served and partnered with a variety of advocacy and community-centered organizations throughout the state.

Dr. Smith Arrillaga earned a Ph.D. in Public Affairs at Princeton, a master’s degree in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland at College Park and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Smith College. She is available for media interviews on a wide range of education and equity issues.

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.