Ryan J. Smith is currently the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, particularly those of color and living in poverty. Under Ryan’s leadership, the organization continues to expand its work with a specific focus on producing actionable, accessible research and advocacy tools that reach state policymakers and on-the-ground community advocates and education leaders alike. Since taking the helm of Ed Trust–West, Ryan led the team’s development and production of 2015’s Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California, a report championed by the California Legislative Black Caucus, and leveraged by state and local education leaders, students, and other advocates. Ryan also guides the organization’s strategic work to better serve communities fighting for change at the local level, leading to Ed Trust–West’s launch of the inaugural Community Data and Research Hub in Southern California.
Prior to joining The Education Trust–West, Ryan was the Director of Education Programs and Policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles where he was responsible for the education program and policy efforts for the organization. Proactively assessing the needs of local education advocates, Ryan coordinated Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), a Los Angeles-based coalition of civil rights, education and community advocacy groups dedicated to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for students-of-color and students living in poverty.
Ryan also worked for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. In his role as Senior Director of Family and Community Engagement, Ryan led a team that improved parent involvement over 40% and built systems within schools to help support authentic family, school and community partnerships. Ryan founded the Parent College which so far has educated over 5,000 parents across Los Angeles on the “parent three r’s” – their rights, roles and responsibilities.
Prior to joining the Partnership, Ryan was the Director of the Los Angeles Parents Union and managed Public Affairs for Green Dot Public Schools. He has also worked as a youth organizer for Youth United for Community Action’s (YUCA) educational equity campaigns and worked as a volunteer teacher in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Mexico.
A previous Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow, Ryan holds a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA. Ryan has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, Education Week, US News and World Report, and others. He was named by Education Week as one of the “Ten Education Leaders to Watch” nationally and also received the Families in Schools’ “Parent Engagement Leader of the Year Award”.
“I grew up with a single mother who dedicated everything to ensure that I had access to a quality education. Because of her passion, at the age of fifteen, I started community organizing in South LA for educational improvement efforts. I continue to commit to getting results for impoverished communities and communities-of-color by leveraging the intersection between research, advocacy, policy and community engagement.”