Lisa Towne
Principal

Lisa Towne has been a leader at Education First for more than a decade. During that time, she has worked with states, districts, foundations and advocacy organizations to help improve college and career readiness, teacher preparation and social and emotional learning, all with a focus on lifting up students furthest from opportunity. She has deep expertise in effective grantmaking, including strategy development, implementation support, peer learning structures (among funders and grantees) and evidence-driven grantmaking. She has served as Senior Consultant, Principal, Research Director and Director of Organizational Knowledge, and currently helps lead the Effective Organizations & Investments team as Principal for Talent and Quality Delivery.

Lisa is driven by a belief that America’s schools are the lynchpin of our democracy, and that every single child deserves and needs an excellent education. She started her career crunching numbers because she was good at math, and eventually found her way to public policy school where she realized she could apply her quant skills to helping kids get the same opportunities she had to succeed.

Prior to joining Education First, Lisa worked at the National Academy of Sciences, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Education. She also taught quantitative methods to graduate public policy students at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins. Lisa previously served on the board of the Portland Village Charter School and is currently a board member for Beyond Differences, a student-led organization dedicated to ending social isolation in middle schools.

Lisa earned her master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown and her bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Vermont. She resides in Portland, Oregon, and has two teenage sons. She loves Portland and her kids, so that works out.

Lisa's expertise

  • Knowledge Management
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Assessments for Learning
  • Grantmaking Strategy & Effectiveness

Recent clients

  • Achieve
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Chalkboard Project
  • Thomas B. Fordham Institute
  • William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

Lisa's Notable Recognitions

  • Presidential Management Fellow
  • Georgetown Public Policy Institute Outstanding Faculty Member
  • Windham Cooperative Kindergarten Diploma (Bachelor of Rhymes)

Lisa likes


  • I’m a card-carrying member of the Red Sox Nation.

  • Exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest—where else can you jump into snowmelt from an 11,000+ foot peak at the bottom of a waterfall? (Yes, it was cold. And yes, my shoes were really soggy on the hike back out.)