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David Coleman (educator)

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David Coleman (born 1969) is the ninth president of the College Board, a non-profit organization that is best known for designing the SAT exam, the SAT Subject Tests, and the Advanced Placement (AP) exams.[1] He is frequently described in the media as "the architect" of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Early life and education[edit]

Coleman was born in Manhattan to a Jewish family. His father is a psychiatrist; his mother, Elizabeth Coleman, was the president of Bennington College from 1987 to 2013. At the time Coleman was growing up, his mother was Dean of The New School in downtown Manhattan.[2] The family moved to Vermont when David was in college.

Coleman attended PS 41, a public elementary school in New York City's Greenwich Village; the O. Henry Intermediate School (IS 70) on West 17th Street; and the selective Stuyvesant High School. He participated in the Stuyvesant debate team, and, along with his debating partner Hanna Rosin, now a journalist and author, won numerous debates.[3]

Coleman graduated in 1991 with a B.A. in philosophy from Yale University.[4] As an undergraduate at Yale, he participated in the Ulysses S. Grant tutoring program in reading for inner-city New Haven high school students, in conjunction with which he started Branch, a community service program for inner city students. While tutoring predominantly lower-income black and Latino high school students in English poetry, Coleman professed himself surprised that "thirty years after the civil-rights movement, none of these students were close—not even close—to being ready for Yale. They'd had so little practice with commanding difficult text [sic]."[4]

Coleman was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1991 and studied English literature at University College, Oxford.[5] He also studied classical philosophy at Cambridge University.[6] During his stay in England, he met Jason Zimba, a graduate of Williams College and a fellow Rhodes Scholar, who was studying mathematics and physics. The two became good friends and future business partners. Zimba, who would receive his doctorate in Mathematical Physics from Berkeley in 2001, went on to become a professor at Bennington College, of which Coleman's mother was president.[7]


Coleman returned to New York City from Oxford intending to work as a high school English teacher, but, according to Todd Balf of the New York Times Magazine, when he realized he wouldn't find a job in the field, he became a consultant at McKinsey & Company. While there, he did some pro bono work for school districts trying to improve performance.

In partnership with Zimba, Coleman then founded The Grow Network, an internet-based consulting organization that analyzed test scores for states and large school districts. In 2001, The Grow Network negotiated contracts directly with Pennsylvania, California, Nevada, New Mexico and New Jersey as well as New York City and Chicago public school districts. In 2004 McGraw-Hill Education, the digital educational division of The McGraw-Hill Companies financial and publishing conglomerate, purchased the organization for an undisclosed sum and renamed it Grow Network/McGraw-Hill. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.[8]

In 2007 Coleman and Zimba together with educational analyst Sue Pimentel co-founded Student Achievement Partners (SAP), a non-profit organization which researches and develops "achievement based" assessment standards.[9] Funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, SAP played a leading role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy,[10] which focus on "in-depth learning, knowledge across different disciplines, and strong math skills."[11] When Coleman left SAP in October 2012 to head the College Board, Zimba and Pimentel continued to lead the organization, which is now devoted to facilitating the implementation of the Common Core Standards.

Common Core[edit]

In 2009, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers launched an initiative to write Common Core State Standards for elementary through high school English Language Arts and Mathematics. The Common Core State Standards aim to prepare students for college and careers by identifying the skills students should learn from kindergarten through high school.[12] Coleman was on the English Language Arts writing team, which was chaired by SAP co-founder Pimentel. SAP co-founder Zimba was a leader on the Mathematics writing team. As of June 2014, the standards have been adopted by 44 states.[13] Other states have not adopted the standards, or have adopted them temporarily then later backed away from adoption.

Since Coleman's departure to head the College Board, Student Achievement Partners has continued to support implementation of the Common Core standards.[14]

College Board[edit]

On 16 May 2012, College Board chose Coleman as its president for the SAT.[14] Coleman has made it a priority for the College Board to expand access to college for minority and low-income students who have demonstrated college potential.[15] In 2014, Coleman and the College Board announced a redesign of the SAT, implemented in the spring of 2016. Changes included no penalty for incorrect answers, removal of obscure vocabulary words, making the essay optional, and a partnership with the Khan Academy to provide free test prep resources.[16] The College Board's proposed changes to the SAT were discussed in the New York Times Magazine.[17]

Educational reform[edit]

Coleman, Zimba, and Ann-Margaret Michael (Coleman's former assistant and current operations manager for Student Achievement Partners), were the founding board members of Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, a lobbying advocacy organization for "standards driven" educational reform.[18] Coleman left the board when he joined the College Board in October 2012.

Honors and financial awards[edit]

Coleman was in the 2013 Time 100, Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The encomium was announced in the magazine in an article written by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a prominent supporter of the Common Core State Standards.[19][20] Coleman was also honored by NewSchools Venture Fund, which invests in charter schools, as one of its "Change Agents of the Year for 2012".[21]


  1. ^ Adams, Caralee (11 February 2014). "High School Students' Participation in Advanced Placement Continues to Grow". Education Week. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  2. ^ Dana Goldstein, "The Schoolmaster", The Atlantic, September 19, 2012.
  3. ^ "David Coleman, "Introduction to the Common Core State Standards, Part 2: Bringing the Common Core to Life", April 28, 2011" (PDF).
  4. ^ a b Dana Goldstein, "The Schoolmaster", The Atlantic, September 19, 2012.
  5. ^ (AP) "Rhodes Scholars Selected for 1991", New York Times, December 10, 1990
  6. ^ Dana Goldstein, "The Schoolmaster", The Atlantic, September 19, 2012. Coleman told Todd Balf, of the New York Times Magazine, that by 1994 he had accumulated an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale; the equivalent of a B.A. in English from Oxford; and a master's in ancient philosophy from Cambridge University – "three degrees that entitled you to zero jobs", as Coleman put it (quoted in Todd Balf, "The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul" New York Times Magazine, March 6, 2014).
  7. ^ Joy Resmovits, "David Coleman, the Most Influential Education Figure You've Never Heard Of: Common Core Author Is Redesigning the SATs and AP Program", Jewish Daily Forward, August 25, 2013.
  8. ^ Olsen, Lynn (26 May 2004). "User-Friendly Reports on Student Test Scores Help Guide Instruction". Education Week. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  9. ^ Joy Resmovits, "David Coleman, the Most Influential Education Figure You've Never Heard Of: Common Core Author Is Redesigning the SATs and AP Program", Jewish Daily Forward, August 25, 2013.
  10. ^ Anthony Cody, "The Secret Sixty Prepare to Write Standards for 50 Million", Education Week, July 6, 2009.
  11. ^ Polichetti, Barbara (3 May 2014). "Rhode Island school committees get a first lesson on Common Core". Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  12. ^ Nelson, Libby (21 April 2014). "What is the Common Core?". Vox Media. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  13. ^ See Motoko Rich, "Two States Repeal Education Standards", New York Times, June 7, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Newsroom". The College Board.
  15. ^ Leonhardt, David (29 March 2013). "A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  16. ^ "Key shifts of the SAT redesign". The Washington Post. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  17. ^ Todd Balf, "The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul", New York Times Magazine, March 6, 2014.
  18. ^ Stephen Sawchuck, "Common-Core Architect Helped Launch Rhee Advocacy Group", Education Week, May 29, 2012.
  19. ^ Dunkelberger, Lloyd (17 October 2013). "Jeb Bush defends Common Core". Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  20. ^ Andrew J. Rotherham, "David Coleman: The Architect", Time, 6 January 2011. Rotherman calls Coleman a classicist, although Coleman's field of study was Ancient philosophy and English literature.
  21. ^ Ventura, Joe (8 May 2012). "Social Entrepreneurs Honored for Contributions to Public Education". NewSchools Venture Fund.

Further reading[edit]

  • David Coleman, "What Must Be Done." Transcription of David Coleman's keynote speech delivered at the 2011 Senior Leadership Meeting of the Institute for Learning, a think tank developed to promote "standards-based learning" that is part of the Learning Research and Development Center located at the University of Pittsburgh. A video of the speech is available on Vimeo.
  • David Coleman, “Cultivating Wonder,”2013. Essay written by David Coleman about careful reading that analyses five questions about five different texts.
  • David Coleman, Delivering Opportunity, 2014. Transcription and video from David Coleman's speech delivered at the 2014 announcement of the renewed mission of the College Board and the changes coming to the SAT test in 2016.

External links[edit]