CEP Staff and Founder
Center on Education Policy Newsletter
Maria Voles Ferguson, Executive Director
Maria Voles Ferguson joined the Center on Education Policy (CEP) in June 2012 as the Executive Director. Before coming to the CEP, Maria served as the Vice President for Policy at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization in Washington, DC. In that capacity, Ms. Ferguson directed and managed the organization’s policy agenda, which provides leadership and information regarding the unique needs of high schools students to Congress, the Administration, business leaders and communities nationwide and advocates for increased support for the nation’s secondary schools.
Before joining the Alliance, Ms. Ferguson served as Director of the National School Boards Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works in conjunction with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to strengthen and support school board leadership in local communities. Ms. Ferguson directed the Foundation’s operations, managed the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, directed fundraising, and served as a liaison with NSBA.
Ms. Ferguson also worked as an independent consultant specializing in research, communications, and strategic planning. Ms. Ferguson worked with a wide range of clients, including Target Corporation, The Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education’s Regional Education Laboratories, and Sidwell Friends School.
Ms. Ferguson served for three years as the Director of Field Operations for New American Schools. In that capacity, she directed a nationwide effort to assist schools and school districts as they implemented exemplary models that comprehensively focus school resources on effective teaching and greater student achievement.
Before joining New American Schools, Ms. Ferguson was a political appointee for the Clinton administration at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as the Director of Communication and Outreach Services for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Ms. Ferguson began her career as a journalist, working for Cox Newspapers, the Associated Press, and U.S. News & World Report magazine. She lives in Chevy Chase, MD with her husband and two children.
Diane Stark Rentner, Deputy Director
Ms. Rentner has been with the Center on Education Policy since its founding in January 1995. From 1988 to 1994, she served as a legislative associate for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and Labor, where she worked on the reauthorization of several major education programs including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act, the National School Lunch Act, the Child Nutrition Act, and the authorization of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Ms. Rentner also worked for the National PTA and the Council of Chief State School Officers in their government relations offices. She holds a B.S. from the University of Utah.
Nancy Kober, Editor
Nancy Kober is an editorial consultant for The George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) and the Center on Education Policy. Before taking this position in 2014, she was a longtime independent consultant with CEP, the National Academies, and other clients, and also taught seminars in effective writing for federal government executives. Ms. Kober has written or coauthored numerous publications for CEP on federal education programs, testing, student motivation, and many other topics. In her work with GSEHD, she edits and writes articles and other documents for the dean and faculty. For the first 12 years of her career, Ms. Kober was a legislative specialist for a subcommittee of House Committee on Education and Labor, where she had major staff responsibility for legislation affecting elementary, secondary, and vocational education. Ms. Kober has a B.A. in English from Cornell University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Virginia. Outside of work, she enjoys designing and printing broadsides and artists’ books on an antique letterpress as a member of the Virginia Arts of the Book Center.
Mr. Jennings (known formally as John F. Jennings) founded the Center on Education Policy in January 1995. From 1967 to 1994, he served as subcommittee staff director and then as a general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and Labor. In these positions, he was involved in nearly every major education debate held at the national level, including the re-authorizations of such important legislation as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Vocational Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Higher Education Act, and the National School Lunch Act.
Mr. Jennings has served on the board of trustees of the Educational Testing Service, the Title I Independent Review Panel, the Pew Forum on Standards-Based Reform, the Maryland Academic Intervention Steering Committee, and the Maryland Visionary Panel. Mr. Jennings is currently a member of the National Academy of Education, and serves as a member of the board of directors of the Phi Delta Kappa foundation.
Over the years, he has received awards from dozens of organizations, and recently was the recipient of awards for distinguished public service from the American Educational Research Association and from Phi Delta Kappa. Even more recently, he has been honored with the Education Visionary Award by the Learning First Alliance (a coalition of the country's major national public education organizations), the Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League, and the Meritorious Service Award from the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators.
In March 2015, a book written by Mr. Jennings was released: Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools (Harvard Education Press). Earlier, he wrote a book on the politics of national education standards, edited four volumes on federal education policy, and currently writes a blog for the Huffington Post. He has also written numerous articles, including 12 for the Kappan, more than any other single contributor for that prestigious magazine. He is also one of the authorities on education most cited in the news media. For example, he has been quoted in Education Week more than 500 times from 1995 to 2011.
He holds an A.B. from Loyola University and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, and was a member of several legal bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court.