Jessica Baghian is a proven systems leader committed to ensuring opportunity and achievement for every child, particularly students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. As President of Watershed Advisors, Baghian supports government leaders, advocacy organizations, high-quality vendors, and funders to scale promising ideas in the education sector. She has a deep track record in developing quality measurement systems and implementing early childhood education policies.
Prior to co-founding Watershed Advisors, Baghian served as Assistant State Superintendent and Chief Academic Policy Officer for Louisiana’s Department of Education, an agency serving 700,000+ children. In that role, Baghian developed systems that drove historic improvements for students, including record graduation rates, nationally noteworthy progress on the “nation’s report card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and dramatic increases in higher-education participation and success. She also guided the state’s major expansion of high-quality early childhood opportunities. Her portfolio included statewide assessments, systems of accountability and reporting for all schools, expansion of quality early childhood programming, and all data system functions including privacy and strategic research. Baghian oversaw Louisiana’s development of the nation’s first approved innovative curriculum-aligned humanities assignment, Louisiana’s transition to nationally comparable assessments and the development of LEAP 360, its statewide system of formative assessment tools for teachers and students. She captained the design and implementation of Louisiana’s statewide accountability and performance systems for districts, schools, early childhood providers, and educators.
Baghian has led large, diverse teams to major achievements, and is deeply versed in operations and finance, as well as in instruction. During her tenure, Louisiana students achieved record-high college enrollment rates, graduation rates, TOPS-eligibility (state-funded scholarship) rates, postsecondary credentialing rates, and ACT scores, and Louisiana was the fastest improving state in the country on Advanced Placement. Over the past decade, Louisiana ranked in the top ten for growth among states in all four core subjects of NAEP.
Baghian has been published by U.S. News and World Report and Hechinger Report on early childhood systems, as well as Fordham on assessment and accountability measurement innovations and Education Next on pandemic recovery.
A graduate of Louisiana State University, she went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University. She began her educational career as a middle school math teacher in a small town outside of New Orleans. Baghian resides in Baton Rouge, La., with her husband and her two young sons.