Team Member

Denise Forte
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Denise Forte

President and CEO

Denise Forte (pronounced “fort”) is the president and CEO at The Education Trust. Named one of the Washingtonian‘s 500 Most Influential People two years running, she is one of the country’s leading voices on education equity, Denise is a fierce advocate for employing evidence-based strategies to create high achieving learning environments that turn barriers and gaps into bridges and pipelines for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Denise joined Ed Trust in 2019 as senior vice president for Partnerships and Engagement, guiding the organization’s expansion by developing robust working relationships with legislators, education advocates, traditional and emerging civil rights groups, parents, students, and the business community. She was named president and CEO in January 2023.

A mom of two school-aged boys, Denise understands the importance of teacher diversity, resource equity, and parent engagement. “Everything I’ve done in the past has led me to Ed Trust,” she said.

Prior to Ed Trust, Denise was a senior fellow and director of public affairs for The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. She also has served as the Vice President for Policy Leadership at Leadership for Educational Equity, a nonprofit organization supporting current and former teachers in public leadership.

Her lifetime of public service includes 20 years in senior congressional staff roles on Capitol Hill, and a stint in the executive branch, serving in the Obama administration as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the Department of Education.

Denise holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Duke University, and an M.A. in Women’s Studies from the George Washington University. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.

Meet Denise

2023 BARR National Conference Keynote Address

Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast (interview)

Advocating for an Accurate, Well-Rounded Curriculum (The Center for Family Engagement)

Denise Forte Testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability

On Tuesday, January 30, Denise Forte testified in front of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Accountability’s Health Care and Financial Services Subcommittee for a hearing called “America’s Report Card: Oversight of K-12 Public Education.” Here, she raised concerns about the looming deadline of the end of ESSER relief funds, pushed for more culturally representative and supportive learning environments, and stressed the need for evidenced-based strategies to address unfinished learning.

Favorite Sports Team

Duke Blue Devils basketball

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Listening to Broadway show tunes, gardening, and biking

What drew you to education?

We know what works to improve educational achievement for underserved students, but our leaders often lack the political will to make it happen. I wanted to participate in developing the strategies that builds that political will on behalf of children.

Why are you passionate about working at Ed Trust?

Ed Trust is mission driven: we believe Black and Latino students, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English learners deserve a quality education, because it is their best opportunity to thrive. I am thrilled to be a part of that work with my colleagues.

External writing and appearances:

OP-ED: What Districts Need When Investing Their Funds (

ESSAY: The Future Depends on Students and Families (Opportunity America)

VIDEO: Unlocking the Future: Toward a New Reform Agenda for K-12 America (Opportunity America)


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