John Merrow, President and Founder of Learning Matters

John Merrow began his career as an education reporter with National Public Radio in 1974, with the weekly series, Options in Education. Following the acclaim of that project, Merrow branched out into public television, first as the host of the documentary series The Merrow Report. His varied reporting has continually been on the forefront of education journalism: Merrow is the only reporter to have interviewed every U.S. Secretary of Education, the first to get the inside scoop on the college admission process, and the initial force in exposing the behind-the-scenes financial relationship between CHADD, a child advocacy group, and Ciba-Geigy, the pharmaceutical company that produces the A.D.D. drug Ritalin.

He has also worked with top leaders in shaping public policy — he even ran the historic 1988 meeting in Itasca County, Minnesota that sparked the charter school movement. Merrow’s work has taken him from community colleges to kindergarten classrooms, from the front lines of teacher protests to policy debates on Capitol Hill.

Merrow’s work has been distinguished by the industry’s most prestigious awards. He has received the George Polk Award for Options in Education and George Foster Peabody Awards for both School Sleuth: The Case of An Excellent School (2000) and Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet (2006). He has been honored with three Emmy nominations, four CINE Golden Eagle Awards, numerous awards from the Education Writers Association and more. An occasional contributor to USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Education Week, he is the author of The Influence of Teachers (2011), Choosing Excellence (2001) and co-editor of Declining by Degrees (2005).

Merrow earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1964, an M.A. in American Studies from Indiana University in 1968, and a doctorate in Education and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1973. He received the McGraw Prize in Education in 2012, a Lifetime Achievement Award From the Academy Of Education Arts And Sciences in 2012, the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education in 2000, the HGSE Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education in 2006, The Horace Dutton Taft Medal in 2010, and honorary doctorates from Richard Stockton College (NJ) and Paul Smith’s College (NY). He is a member of the board of the Institute for Educational Leadership, whose mission is to equip leaders to work together across boundaries in order to build effective systems that prepare children and youth for postsecondary education, careers and citizenship.

He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Lonergan, the Head of the Hewitt School.

Esther Wojcicki, Board Chair of Learning Matters

Esther Wojcicki
Esther Wojcicki has been a Journalism/English teacher at Palo Alto High School (CA) for the past 25 years; here, she built the journalism program from a small group of 20 students in 1985 to the largest high school journalism program in the nation, winning major national and international recognition in the process.

Her program is an example of the effectiveness of Project-Based Learning and using journalism as tool to get students engaged in critical thinking skills, writing skills, and Web 2.0 skills. She is working to help other schools adopt similiar programs. The program includes 500 students, four journalism teachers, and five award-winning journalism electives including a newspaper (The Campanile), a news magazine (Verde), an online site, daily television (InFocus), and a sports magazine, Viking. The publications have won Gold and Silver Crowns from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, the PaceMaker Award and Hall of Fame Award from National Scholastic Press, and best in nation from TIME Magazine in 2003. The website was honored with two Webby Awards in 2005. She is V.Chair of the Board of Creative Commons and a strong advocate of Open Education Resources and Creative Commons licensing. She is a 2009 MacArthur Foundation Research Award receipient on the Student Journalism 2.0 project.

She has won multiple awards including California Commission on Teacher Credentialing 2002 California Teacher of the Year, and 2009 Columbia University Scholastic Press Association Gold Key Award. She is a consultant for Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Hewlett Foundation and a blogger for Huffington Post. In 2010, she was awarded a Knight Foundation Grant to create a 21st Century Literacy curriculum that targets ninth-grade classrooms nationwide.

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