Kristina Podesta

Senior Associate, Policy and Advocacy

As a teacher, one of my favorite phrases was “add yet.” My students learned to say things like “I don’t get it—yet.” It reminded them to keep trying, keep learning. Similarly, we as education leaders must commit to continual improvement, and high-quality data is an essential tool in that pursuit.


As a senior associate for policy and advocacy, Kristina supports state leaders and advocates as they work to ensure that quality data is readily available to decisionmakers across the education landscape—from families and teachers to researchers and policymakers.

Prior to joining DQC, Kristina was a legislative research analyst for the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability. There, Kristina completed policy analysis and program evaluations at the request of the Tennessee General Assembly. Before that, Kristina worked directly with students as the director of a Boys & Girls Club and a sixth grade teacher.

Kristina holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Studio Art from the University of North Carolina, as well as a master’s degree in Intercultural Conflict Management with a focus in Program Evaluation, which she completed in Berlin, Germany. Most recently, she earned a graduate certificate in Data Science from Austin Peay State University.

In her free time, Kristina loves playing beach volleyball and having lively discussions over a good cup of coffee!

Why do you do this work? I do this work so that anyone who advocates on behalf of a student— whether it’s a parent, afterschool program, or education leader—can have the most relevant and timely information possible. We are all just trying to make the best decisions we can with the information we have, so why not work toward improving the quality of that information so all students can meet their full potential.

Tell us a data use story that you love. Over the last decade, Tennessee has implemented several landmark policies (e.g., Tennessee Promise), all with one mission: increase the percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025. This goal, coined “The Drive to 55,” was created after Tennessee analyzed workforce development trends and found that more Tennesseans will need post-high school credentials to meet the labor needs of the future. The Drive to 55 gave stakeholders across the P–20W spectrum a common language and purpose. Their coordination has paid off in higher postsecondary enrollment and attainment rates.

If you could have dinner with three people, who would they be? My grandmother, Rosalie Podesta, and two of her sisters. They grew up in Queens, NY with the real-life men from the movie Goodfellas. They were also part of a new wave of women joining the workforce in the 50’s and 60’s. I never really got to hear them talk about it firsthand, but I imagine their lives to be a mix of Mad Men and The Godfather. Plus, I would love to learn more about my family history.