About TDS

Our Team

TDS Staff

Our organization is a learning organization that values collaboration. We work to co-create systems and protocols that dismantle systemic, institutional, and historical barriers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities with our clients. Our staff’s deep and varied expertise paired with collaborative organizational structure leads to our ability to deliver high quality, customized support for our clients. Our staff members have deep expertise in instruction, assessment, school redesign, facilitation, coaching, mental health, research and evidence-based practices and organizational change. Each TDS staff member has worked in schools serving students living in areas of concentrated poverty and engaged in high school redesign. Our staff draws on those experiences as we listen, learn and design with those we serve. These experiences allow us to connect with our clients, demonstrate credibility and help them increase their capacity. Our team has engaged in professional learning to become effective facilitators of professional learning, convenings and meetings. We also model and share these skills with those we serve. Our organization and model was created at Johns Hopkins University over 20 years ago and we continue to be steeped in research and evidence based practices. TDS is the only organization licensed to provide technical assistance on the research, tools and resources developed at JHU.

Tara Madden

Tara serves on the GRAD Partnership leadership team while leading the TDS team of experts as they provide high quality technical assistance and resources to schools engaged in Student Success System Coordinator certification from Johns Hopkins University. With over 25 years in public education, Tara Madden has served as secondary school teacher, athletic and instructional coach, school leader, facilitator, and Chief Program Officer. Ms. Madden contributed to tools, research, and resources to support continuously improving student success systems with a focus on addressing chronic absenteeism. She is passionate about designing structures for representative student voice and leadership.

Sheena Lall

Sheena provides voice, vision and guidance to the instructional design and delivery of TDS consultancies, resources, and professional learning programs. Her experience as a teacher, administrator, and IEP counselor, paired with her degrees in Education and Mental Health has developed her expertise and unique vision in many areas of school support. She works collaboratively with staff and clients to create programming for the whole person-including student, teacher, district, intermediary or state plans. Social emotional competency (for adults and students) as well as trending topics in education and mental health are some of the areas Sheena supports.

Raphael Curtis

Raphael manages partnerships with schools, partners, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University. He brings over two decades of education policy, nonprofit and instructional experience to TDS. After being recognized as a Master Teacher and serving as a Geaux Teach Mentor for the University of Louisiana, Raphael successfully advocated for equitable access to AP programs in Louisiana as the Director of State and District Partnerships with the College Board. At the Louisiana Department of Education Raphael led school improvement and high school redesign. Raphael earned his B.S. in Secondary Education and M.S. in Mathematics from Southern University A&M in Baton Rouge.

Advisory Board

Robert Balfanz, Ph.D.,
Advisory Board Chair

Robert Balfanz is a senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, where he is Director of the Everyone Graduates Center and Co-Director of the Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS). He served as a leading pioneer of the Talent Development Secondary model at CSOS, and then positioned Talent Development Secondary as a lead partner when co-founding Diplomas Now, the proven strategy for turning around some of America’s most challenging secondary schools and winner of a prestigious $30 million federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant. He has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, early warning systems and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools. He is also a frequent speaker on dropout prevention and early warning indicators as a strategy to help students most at risk of failing. Through his research, advocacy and practice he has established himself as the nation’s trusted broker of evidence and information when dealing with the nation’s most challenged schools and vulnerable students. He is often referred to as a national expert on dropout prevention and has built his reputation on translating research findings into effective school improvement strategies and models.

Dr. Balfanz was asked to assist the Obama Administration with its national initiative on addressing and eliminating chronic absenteeism in public schools. His research into chronic absenteeism underpins the My Brother’s Keeper School Success Mentors Initiative, and many other chronic absenteeism prevention programs across the country.

Dr. Balfanz is the first recipient of the Alliance For Excellent Education’s Everyone a Graduate Award and he was awarded the White House Champion of Change for commitment to education of African American students in 2013. He holds a B.A. in history from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Chicago.

Jean-Claude Brizard

Jean-Claude Brizard is a Senior Advisor, P-16 Community Investment Team, Office of the President, US Programs and Deputy Director, Washington State Strategy, Pacific Northwest, US Programs where he is focused on supporting the execution of a local proof point to close the achievement and opportunity gaps in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States as well as advising the K-12 team on their new strategy. He is Partner on leave at FourPoint Education Group where he focused on two practice areas – a unique collaborative structure that supports the work of many state departments of education and public school districts as they seek to turnaround chronically failing school systems as well as a practice area focused on education to career.

Mr. Brizard spent the 2013 calendar year as an advisor to the leadership of College Board developing the organization’s career readiness initiative. This engagement culminated in a strategic plan for integrating career readiness into the College Board’s mission and a special supplement that was published as part of the 45th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. He is the former Chief Executive of Chicago Public Schools. Prior to his appointment in Chicago, he was Superintendent of Schools for the Rochester, NY School District.

Under Mr. Brizard’s leadership, both the Chicago Public Schools and the Rochester City School District saw substantial improvements in student performance. He introduced a comprehensive change agenda across the Chicago Public Schools, including closing a significant budget gap of more than $1.3B over two fiscal years while preserving core reforms and investing in classrooms. He developed a new framework for teaching and the system saw record increases in student achievement, graduation rates and on college readiness benchmarks. He created a Blueprint for reform that will continue to serve as roadmap for years to come.

Mr. Brizard’s experience also includes a 21-year career as an educator and administrator with the NYC Department of Education. He served as a Regional Superintendent, supervising more than 100 schools in the Borough of Brooklyn and he also served as the system’s Executive Director for secondary schools. Jean-Claude serves as a National Trustee of the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, serves on the board of Education Forward DC, National Council on Teacher Quality, Rocketship Public Schools, and founding Board Chair of Anseye Pou Ayiti/Teach for Haiti. He is a Fellow of the Broad Center, a Fellow of the third class of the Pahara-Aspen Institute Education Fellowship, and a member of the Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network.

A licensed commercial pilot, Mr. Brizard credits his parents—both of whom were educators—with inspiring him to pursue a career in education. He holds a master’s degree with honors in School Administration & Supervision from The City University of New York/City College of New York and a master’s degree in Science Education from Queens College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Queens College.

He is married to Dr. K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard and is the proud father of four beautiful children.

Dr. Margarita Espino Calderón

Dr. Margarita Espino Calderón, Professor Emerita, Johns Hopkins University has worked on numerous research projects from 1990 to 2010 for JHU’s Center for Research on Education of Students Placed at Risk, Center for Data-Driven Reform, and Success for All Foundation.

She was Co-Principal Investigator with Robert Slavin on the 5-year randomized evaluation of English immersion, transitional bilingual, and two-way bilingual elementary programs funded by the Institute for Education Sciences/U.S. Dept. of Education. She developed the Bilingual Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (BCIRC) program which is included in the What Works Clearinghouse.

She was principal investigator in a 5-year study in middle and high schools called Expediting Comprehension for English Language Learners (ExC-ELLTM) funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York that developed a program to train math, science, social studies, and language arts teachers on integrating academic language, reading comprehension, writing skills and content knowledge to help ELs and their non-EL peers achieve in the mainstream classrooms. Her program Reading Instructional Goals for Older Readers (RIGOR) was developed for Newcomers with Interrupted Formal Education.

As President and CEO of Margarita Calderón & Associates, Inc., Dr. Calderón and her team continue to implement ExC-ELL in many schools, districts, and state-wide Institutes throughout the country.

Currently, Dr. Calderón and faculty from the Graduate School of Education, George Washington University are recipients of a USDOE-OELA Title III five-year grant to implement and further study “A Whole-School Approach to Professional Development with ExC-ELL” in Virginia schools.

Other research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, National Institutes of Health, and Texas Education Agency, several school districts, and State Departments of Education. She collaborated on longitudinal studies with Diane August, Maria Carlo and Catherine Snow on the National Study of Students Reading in Spanish.

She has over 100 publications, is an international speaker, is invited to do keynote speeches at major conferences, and conducts comprehensive professional development programs throughout the country and abroad.

Jeff Livingston

Jeff Livingston spent more than a decade as a senior executive at McGraw-Hill Education. Most recently, he was Senior Vice President of Education Policy and Strategic Alliances. During Jeff’s time at McGraw-Hill, he variously held general management responsibility for Intervention, Career and Technical Education, Supplemental Publishing, Advanced Placement, Adult Basic Education, Workforce Training, Fine Arts and College Readiness. Before being promoted to lead businesses, Jeff served as Vice President of Marketing for the McGraw-Hill Learning Group. Jeff also previously served as the Vice President of Urban Markets, Database Marketing and Inside Sales.

Before joining McGraw-Hill Education in 2004, Jeff was a successful entrepreneur with specialties in instructional technology and marketing to urban school systems. As Co-Founder, of Achieva.com, Jeff helped to build the largest provider of online test prep and college prep for American high schools. Achieva.com was sold to the Kaplan K-12 Learning Solutions, a division of the Washington Post Company, in 2001.

In July of 2015, Jeff left McGraw-Hill Education to begin a sabbatical focused on finding creative solutions to important educational problems. His explorations took him to universities in Brazil, after school programs in Colombia and South Africa, universal Pre-K implementations in several American cities, Early College High Schools in New York and California and to Historically Black Colleges and Universities looking to reinvent themselves for 21st century relevance. Emerging from his sabbatical, Jeff formed EdSolutions, Inc. as a vehicle for focusing education innovation and philanthropy on underserved students, increasing the diversity of education leadership and scaling proven innovations to reach the students who will benefit most from them.

Jeff holds a baccalaureate degree in Government from Harvard University. He has served as a director of the Association of Educational Publishers, the Association of American Publishers- Education Division, the Software and Information Industry Association and the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. Jeff currently lives in New York City with his wife, Sahily Artiles.


Sonia Urban

Sonia serves to develop strategic partnerships with intermediary organizations and districts with the GRAD Partnership, facilitating design thinking experiences and integration of implementation and improvement strategies within the Talent Development Secondary portfolio of resources. She values curiosity and is passionate about customizing and co-creating opportunities to learn from and empower students, families, and systems, specifically in representative student voice and leadership and systems change.  Her experience spans over two decades in the public school system. Sonia is a licensed clinical social worker and holds a Masters in Social Work and Master of Divinity degrees. She also earned an Implementation Support Specialist, level 1 certification through The Center for Implementation.