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Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff

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Education Department

Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff

Weiss has spent her career outside of government, including in Silicon Valley, and she says there are real similarities between entrepreneurship and bureaucracy. "Surprisingly, I credit my experience being an entrepreneur with preparing me for life in a federal bureaucracy. I learned decades ago never to ask, 'Can we do this?' I always ask, 'How can we do this?' That little change in how you think makes a world of difference," she said. She was the chief operating officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, a group seeking philanthropic funding for education entrepreneurs. Before that, she spent 20 years heading companies that provided technology-based education materials for disadvantaged schoolchildren. Weiss, 55, has been central to one of the White House's most successful programs, the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grants designed to entice school districts and states to make dramatic changes to improve their schools. The program has led to virtually all states adopting the Common Core curriculum standards. Weiss says the most pressing goal for any government is to provide universal prekindergarten to close the "rich/poor achievement gap in the earliest years," so that children don't have to scramble to catch up. She oversees all the political hires at the agency and ensures that the policies from pre-K to college are aligned. She grew up in New York City and has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Princeton University.

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