Roberto J. Rodríguez, a 1993 graduate of City and son of a former member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education, was nominated by President Biden in spring 2021 and confirmed by the full U.S. Senate on October 6, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said of Rodríguez that the son of public-school educators and the grandson of immigrants had devoted his career to organizing, supporting, and elevating the voices and vision of educators in the policy-development process. He added: “Roberto is also a fierce advocate for educational equity who will ensure we prioritize, replicate and invest in solutions that work for all students.”
For GRPS Superintendent Dr. Leadriane Roby both the nomination and confirmation are gratifying. “We congratulate Roberto on this significant honor,” she said. “His life of service began in GRPS, and we believe that he stands for the best of what we seek to instill in all our graduates. He excelled at City, went on to earn degrees at Michigan and Harvard and has dedicated his life to making the world a better place through his work in education. In our 150th anniversary year, we celebrate all of our grads who are doing likewise in whatever work they find themselves.”
Rodríguez had been President and CEO of Teach Plus, a national non-profit organization that describes itself as “dedicated to elevating teacher leadership and voice to advance educational equity.”
Prior to that, he led efforts at the White House to shape and implement President Obama’s education agenda, serving on the Domestic Policy Council as Deputy Assistant to the President for the duration of the Obama Administration.
His efforts led to an increase of tens of thousands of additional children enrolled in preschool and child care; new partnerships to better personalize and redesign the high school experience to meet individual needs of students; creation of a new, national focus on excellence in STEM education; and an expansion of the Pell Grant to boost participation in higher education. Under his leadership, support for higher academic standards, enhanced teacher development and advancement, and deeper investment in America’s schools ultimately led to the enactment by the U.S. Congress of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.His career in public service includes senior roles in the White House and the United States Senate.
His biography notes that from 2009 to 2017, as Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama, he developed and led the Administration’s education initiatives to build systemic change and improve opportunity and outcomes across the educational continuum.
He also spent eight years as Senior Education Advisor and later Chief Counsel to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), former Chair of the United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a role that saw him lead bipartisan efforts that resulted in the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and the Head Start Act of 2007.
Rodriquez’s parents were both educators in Grand Rapids. His mother was an educator in Grand Rapids and his father worked in a career technical high school and served as a member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education.