Julia Rafal-Baer

Dr. Rafal-Baer is the co-founder and CEO of ILO Group, a women-owned, leadership-focused education policy and strategy firm. She is also the founder of Women Leading Ed, a national network of women education leaders. She is a trusted confidante to the nation’s most effective state education leaders and superintendents, directly coaching more than 50 leaders into the superintendent and state commissioner roles. Dr. Rafal-Baer frequently speaks and writes on the need to advance women leaders in senior roles.

Previously, Dr. Rafal-Baer served as the chief operating officer at Chiefs for Change, a nationwide network of district and state education leaders, where she helped transform the organization into a high-impact national nonprofit. She raised over $100M and led teams to execute on 100% of grant commitments. Dr. Rafal-Baer launched the leadership development programs Future Chiefs and the affinity group, Women in Leadership (co-founded by Hanna Skandera, Dr. Lillian Lowery and Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer). There, she directly mentored more than 50 leaders in the Future Chiefs program, more than half of whom became superintendents and commissioners.

Dr. Rafal-Baer began her long career in education nearly twenty years ago as a special education teacher in Bronx, NY. She previously served as Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Education Department under Dr. John B King, Jr where she was responsible for the strategy, management, and implementation of teacher and leader initiatives under the state’s Race to the Top and Teacher Incentive Fund grants, as well as other statewide initiatives, managing more than $150 million in federal funds. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rafal-Baer served as a top education advisor to school districts and state education agencies across the country and as an expert advisor to the COVID Collaborative. She also supported a national effort to safely reopen schools, accelerate learning and strengthen critical supports for students. In 2020, Dr. Rafal-Baer was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Education to a four-year term to the National Assessment Governing Board. In 2022, Dr. Rafal-Baer was named a Pahara Institute Fellow.


Julia earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The George Washington University, a master’s degree in special education from Lehman College, and a doctorate in education policy from the University of Cambridge where she was a Marshall Scholar.