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Our Team

John Rice

John Rice

John Rice is the Director of the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West). Prior to his tenure as REL West Director, he served as Deputy Director and led the Nevada Education Research Alliance for REL West, where he directed collaborative research and analytic technical assistance projects in partnership with Clark County School District and Washoe County School District. In addition, he has led and managed large a number of evaluations at WestEd, including a statewide multi-year, mixed-methods evaluation of California’s Resource and Referral Centers for childcare providers, an evaluation of Michigan's School Improvement Grants that used a regression discontinuity design, and an evaluation of California’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) grant that used student growth modeling. Prior to joining WestEd, he managed evaluations of federal education programs at Institute of Education Sciences. He received a PhD in developmental psychology from the University of California, Irvine.
John Rice: jrice@wested.org


Lenay Dunn

Lenay Dunn

Lenay Dunn is the Deputy Director of the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West), working with the Director to manage REL West’s portfolio in partnership with educators across the region. She also leads a partnership in Arizona focused on improving services and outcomes for English learner students. She has worked extensively with educators to build their capacity to select and use evidence-based policies and practices to improve outcomes. Prior to joining WestEd, she served as the Director of Research and Evaluation for a unit at Arizona State University and as a Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research. She entered the education field as a teacher and spent several years leading programs focused on effective and equitable learning opportunities. She earned a MA in education from Stanford University, a PhD in education policy from Arizona State University, and a certificate in applied project management from Northwestern University.
Lenay Dunn: ldunn@wested.org


BethAnn Berliner

BethAnn Berliner

BethAnn Berliner leads researcher-practitioner partnerships for the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) to strengthen and expand collaborative approaches to improve student academic and health outcomes. This includes co-leading a REL West’ partnership with Washoe County School District to reduce chronic absence and a partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Education to improve outcomes for foster youth. Previously, Berliner led a REL West partnership of rural districts in California’s Central Valley that helped schools and school-based health centers use data and evidence to address school readiness, chronic absence, student health, and behavioral interventions. She uses her expertise in cross-sector collaboration, dropout prevention, and school culture and climate to help build capacity of schools and community-based organizations to improve student outcomes. She brings extensive experience working with highly-mobile students, students in foster care, students with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations. She received an MA in social history from the University of Colorado and an MPA in public policy from San Francisco State University.
BethAnn Berliner: bberlin@wested.org


Vanessa Barrat

Vanessa Barrat

Vanessa Barrat co-leads partnerships with Washoe County School District to reduce chronic absence and the Los Angeles County Office of Education to use data to improve outcomes for foster youth. Barrat has extensive experience conducting quantitative research to improve education policy and practice with a focus on vulnerable student populations. She has expertise in policy and program evaluation, data systems, survey design, applied statistics, and social research methodology. Prior to joining WestEd, she worked as a social policy and research analyst for Acumen, LLC and SRI International. She received a BS in economics and an MS in econometrics from University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and a predoctoral degree in economic analysis and policy from L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociale.
Vanessa Barrat: vbarrat@wested.org


Jason Snipes

Jason Snipes

Jason Snipes co-leads the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) partnership with San Francisco Unified School District focused on reducing racial discipline disparities for Black students through coaching of district and school staff in continuous improvement processes and research to test policies and practices. He also leads the portfolio of Applied Research studies for REL West. His work has emphasized policies, programs, and practices intended to improve the outcomes of Black and Latinx students. He has designed, led, and analyzed data for cluster, student-level, longitudinal, and quick-turnaround RCTs for large- and small-scale education evaluations, including randomized control trials of Reading Apprenticeship program, Elevate, and Career Academies. He has also led studies that examined the relationships among risk factors, student academic mindsets, and the transition to middle and high schools. He received his PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Jason Snipes: jsnipes@wested.org


Dennis Ciancio

Dennis Ciancio

Dennis Ciancio leads the development of the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) toolkit, Supporting Early Reading Comprehension through Teacher Study Groups, which is based on What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Practice Guide, Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. He has directed partnership projects with key stakeholders to improve outcomes for learners, especially underserved populations. Ciancio has authored or co-authored 27 peer-reviewed, applied research studies of education programs, including literacy and early reading programs. He has led or co-led the development of eight innovative English language arts curricula and tools. Further, he has served as principal investigator on two IES Development and Innovation grants to create curricula, assessments, tools, and professional development targeting reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills.
Dennis Ciancio: dcianci@wested.org


Mary Rauner

Mary Rauner

Mary Rauner leads the California Adult College Completion Partnership for the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) to increase the number of former post-secondary students in northern California who return to college and complete their degrees. She has conducted research and coaching for several other cross-sector partnerships in REL West to improve college preparation and attainment. She also directs the College Promise Project (CPP) at WestEd, where she conducts research and evaluation projects and consults with College Promise programs to support their efforts to improve college affordability, access, and completion. She has 25 years of research, evaluation, strategic planning, and teaching/coaching experience in a wide range of organizational settings, including local and federal government and the nonprofit, academic, and private sectors.
Mary Rauner: mrauner@wested.org


Kim Austin

Kim Austin

Kim Austin is a Senior Program Associate and co-leads REL West’s Sacramento County Partnership for Joyful Early Literacy in Preschool through First Grade. She develops evidence-based professional learning resources that support educators to improve their practice. A qualitative researcher by training, Austin has experience in technical assistance, evaluation, the design of learning experiences, and video production. She led dissemination for REL West and managed research and dissemination for an i3-funded project focused on supporting English learner instruction. Austin has an EdM from Harvard University and a PhD in educational psychology from Stanford University.
Kim Austin: kaustin@wested.org


Anna Nicotera

Anna Nicotera

Anna Nicotera is a Senior Researcher at Basis Policy Research and co-leads the Maricopa County Teacher Retention Partnership. Nicotera specializes in quantitative and qualitative applied research methods to evaluate the impact and implementation of policies, programs, and governance structures on educational opportunities and outcomes. She has over 15 years of experience researching and evaluating education reform initiatives. Her recent projects include assessing the implementation and impact of an educator human capital management system on student and teacher outcomes, examining the impact of a statewide teacher residency program, evaluating an initiative that uses student-centered coaching to accelerate student learning, and examining the impact of school choice reform efforts on student outcomes. She has successfully led several multi-year, federally funded research and program evaluations. She holds a PhD in education policy and research from Vanderbilt University and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago.
Anna Nicotera: acnicotera@basispolicyresearch.org


Reino Makkonen

Reino Makkonen

Reino Makkonen is the Partnership Development and Maintenance Lead for REL West. He also leads the Utah Early Career Teacher Retention Partnership. Dr. Makkonen is a senior researcher with two decades of experience studying teacher workforce issues and school and district leadership across Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. His work has involved validating interview, survey, and observation instruments and evaluating educator development programs via mixed methods. His recent technical assistance efforts with state and district leaders have focused on developing theories of change for new educator support initiatives, designing implementation and formative evaluation plans to monitor early indicators, and expanding the use and application of research evidence. He holds a master’s degree in educational policy analysis from Harvard University and a doctorate in educational measurement and evaluation from the University of California, Berkeley.

Alicia Okpareke

Alicia Okpareke

Alicia Okpareke is a Senior Research Associate and leads the Maricopa County Teacher Retention Partnership for REL West. Her work over the past decade has focused on collaborations with districts, schools, and community organizations on technical assistance and research projects that address teacher workforce issues. She has also led or partnered on projects that include equity-based teacher professional learning, accessibility and inclusivity in special education, and elementary literacy. Okpareke was formerly a faculty member and assessment coordinator in a teacher preparation program and began her career as a middle grades teacher in Chicago Public Schools. She earned her BA in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and her PhD in special education from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She also holds a graduate certificate in measurement, evaluation, statistics, and assessment from UIC.
Alicia Okpareke: aokpareke@wested.org


Rebecca Lindgren

Rebecca Lindgren

Rebecca Lindgren is the Dissemination Lead for REL West. She is a Senior Communications Strategist with WestEd and has more than 20 years in developing communications strategies for educational advocacy and philanthropic organizations. Her experience is in developing external communications strategies and campaigns to support education research, policy, and grantmaking activities in the areas of early childhood education, K–12 standards and assessments, and postsecondary completion. Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree from Arizona State University.

Tran Keys

Tran Keys

Tran Keys is a Senior Research Associate and co-leads the Partnership for Improving Expanded Learning Programs to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism in Middle and High Schools for the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West). She supports the development and dissemination of research-based, user-friendly products and events for policymakers and practitioners to help them understand the evidence to inform decisionmaking and education practices. Dr. Keys also provides analytic technical assistance and coaching to state education agencies and other key stakeholders in state- or region-specific projects, supporting improved education and student outcomes through research. She brings extensive experience as a professional development provider for district and state leaders and more than 20 years of experience working with school districts and educational organizations, including her previous position as Executive Director of Research and Evaluation for the Santa Ana Unified School District in California. Dr. Keys received her PhD in education from the University of California, Irvine.

Ryan Lewis

Ryan Lewis

Ryan Lewis is a Senior Research Associate and co-leads the Partnership for Improving Expanded Learning Programs to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism in Middle and High Schools for the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West). He is an interdisciplinary education researcher with a background in nonprofit education programming, advanced training in quantitative methods and quasi-experimental research design, and experience with quantitative, qualitative, and applied research projects. Dr. Lewis has studied the impacts of programmatic, curricular, and policy interventions within K–12 settings; after-school and out-of-school-time learning; course placement and tracking policies; educators’ sense-making practices; and issues related to English learner students. He was formerly the Director of Research and Evaluation for 826 National, a network of nonprofit tutoring and writing centers serving over 30,000 students across eight cities. He received an MA and PhD in education from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master of Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service.

Sarah Lundy

Sarah Lundy

Sarah Lundy leads the Training, Coaching, and Technical Support work for Regional Educational Laboratory West. In that role, she collaborates with REL West staff to provide analytic and technical support at the state, district, and school levels by using data and research to inform policy and practice. Her work focuses on providing coaching and training to school and district staff to shift adult beliefs and actions as the primary driver for improving and sustaining equitable student outcomes. Prior to joining REL West, she served as the Director of Leadership Development for the Sonoma County Office of Education in California, where she provided technical assistance and data support for district and school improvement teams to address high-leverage equity challenges. She holds an EdD in Educational Leadership & Policy from Portland State University.
Sarah Lundy: slundy@wested.org


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