Kristen Harper

Kristen Harper

Director for Policy Development, Bethesda, MD

Areas Of Expertise

Education & Certification

Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education

Kristen Harper brings to Child Trends a wealth of expertise in how to utilize research to drive policy decision-making and promote better outcomes for youth. In addition to serving as a strategic advisor to existing Child Trends work to help improve the policy relevance of our products, she looks forward to building a portfolio of work around racial and ethnic disparities in education, special education, supportive school climates, school discipline, school-based interactions with law enforcement, and juvenile justice. 

Kristen comes to Child Trends after serving seven years in the U.S. Department of Education, where she was a chief architect of the agency’s efforts to improve conditions for learning. Most recently, Kristen was Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, working to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the identification, placement, and discipline of children with disabilities. In this role, Kristen also directed the Department’s efforts to promote alternatives to suspension under the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a partnership launched in 2011 between the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to address exclusionary discipline. Her leadership in addressing school discipline continued under the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a taskforce launched in 2014 to improve outcomes for young men and boys of color. Prior to her service in the Department’s special education office, Kristen also worked for 4 years in the agency’s elementary and secondary education offices.

Her policy accomplishments include: the establishment of the Department’s first grant program, in 2010, to support the use of survey measurement to improve school climate programming; a rewrite of the 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund program to strengthen the agency’s $300 million investment in local human capital management systems; the 2014 School Discipline Guidance Package, which outlined the legal implications and practical consequences of exclusionary discipline practices; the 2015 Correctional Education Guidance Package, which encouraged improved services to youth in confinement; and, in 2016, the agency’s proposed rule to promote greater racial equity in the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Prior to her work in federal education policy, Kristen provided consultation to an after school volunteer organization in Cambridge, MD and data support for a character education program for middle and high school girls in Washington, D.C. 

Kristen has an undergraduate degree in political science from Loyola College in Maryland, and a masters’ degree in education policy and administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


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