Gerard Robinson is the executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO), a Washington, D.C.-based research and education initiative created by a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Charles Koch Foundation, and Koch Industries. The mission of CAO is to develop evidence-based solutions to the most pressing education, criminal justice, and economic mobility issues in fragile communities throughout the United States by working with faculty and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other postsecondary institutions.
Prior to CAO, Robinson worked as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. Robinson’s research areas included school choice in the public and private sectors; prison education and reentry programs; regulatory development and implementation of K-12 policy; the role of for-profit institutions in education; and, the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in adult advancement. Robinson co-edited a book titled Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), and authored a law review article titled “The Federal Role in Education: Encouragement as a Guiding Philosophy for the Advancement of Learning in America” (2016). He is currently co-editing a book titled Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prison (in progress). Robinson maintains an affiliation with AEI as an adjunct fellow. Before joining AEI, Robinson was Vice President of Partnerships at UniversityNow, Inc., a social venture based in San Francisco that expands access to higher education options through campus and online programs at Patten University, where he serves as trustee.
Before his work with UniversityNow, Inc., Robinson served as Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida from 2011 to 2012 where he managed several divisions with 3,000 employees. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Governor Rick Scott, Robinson assisted in the development of a $16 billion education budget, and instituted for the first time in 10 years new achievement level scores for grades 3-10 in reading and grades 3-8 in mathematics. He also chaired a task force to improve opportunities for English learners and students with special needs, adopted new competency and skill standards for STEM teacher certification, developed new pre- and post-assessment measures for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, and approved several new degree programs for Florida’s colleges. Robinson also managed several federal programs, and partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Council of 100 to strengthen career and college readiness.
Prior to Florida, Robinson served as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Governor Bob McDonnell, he provided guidance to 16 public universities, the community college system, five higher education and research centers, the department of education, and state-supported museums. Robinson managed the governor’s Opportunity to Learn agenda in 2010, which produced new laws for traditional public schools, virtual education, charter schools, and college laboratory schools. He directed the Top Jobs for the 21st Century agenda in 2011, which produced the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act that invested an additional $100 million into postsecondary education to support the conferral of 100,000 additional degrees by 2025. Robinson also partnered with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s nationwide pilot to provide military families in active service with access to high-quality education programs.
Before working in Virginia, Robinson was President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase access to high-quality educational options for black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low-income and working-class black families. A former legislative aide in the California and Virginia legislatures, he also served as a Senior Research Associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Education Policy at The City University of New York. Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States as well as at Oxford University in England and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Robinson’s international education tours include travel to China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Israel, and Senegal.
Robinson earned an Ed.M. from Harvard University, a B.A. from Howard University, and an A.A. from El Camino Community College. In 2011, Bluefield College awarded him an honorary doctorate for his work to improve learning opportunities for students at all levels. He is married and has three daughters.