Martin was Education Secretary Arne Duncan's right-hand aide until March, when she left her post as assistant secretary to run the education-research unit at the liberal Center for American Progress. At the department, she oversaw Duncan's major endeavors, including Race to the Top grant applications. At CAP, Martin is a go-to expert on all things K-12. She previously worked for education guru Edward Kennedy in the Senate.
Anyone who can go toe to toe with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel must have some stamina. As president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Lewis has been on the front lines of the city's battles over longer school days, teacher evaluations, and salaries. She led the 2012 teachers union strike, when her members sought a 30 percent pay increase.
Gates is the non-Microsoft face of a philanthropic organization that has revolutionized how education is viewed in the United States. The Gates Foundation bankrolls dozens of groups dedicated to reforming public schools, and is a big supporter and funder of the controversial Common Core State Standards. She is also a prominent force for reducing global poverty.
Rees is an outspoken advocate of school choice and has frequently functioned as a conservative spokeswoman on education. She implemented much of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, and served as an education adviser to Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign.
At the Education Department, Delisle—Arne Duncan's top aide on all matters pertaining to pre-K and K-12—is in charge of approving states' requests for No Child Left Behind waivers. Before joining the department, she was a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education, which partners with schools and districts to create best practices for classrooms.
This article appears in the July 26, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as 25 Women Who Shape National Policy.