Vicki Phillips

Director of Education, College Ready of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

United States of America

Vicki Phillips serves as Director of Education, College Ready for the foundation. Phillips oversees work to ensure U.S. high school students graduate ready to succeed, and to improve access to college.

Phillips has built a strong education reform record throughout her career, at all levels – from neighborhood schools to the federal government.  For nearly three decades, she has endeavored to improve education – as a teacher, state-level policymaker, leader of a nonprofit education foundation, superintendent of a large urban school district and now as the director of education for the foundation.  

Prior to joining the foundation, she was superintendent of Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. Earlier, Phillips served as Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s appointed secretary of education and that state’s chief state school officer. She previously served at the state level in her home state of Kentucky, helping to implement the sweeping changes demanded by the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Phillips has worked with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and has been a middle and high school teacher.

Born in Kentucky and raised on a small farm, Phillips was the first in her family to go to college, and earned first a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education and a master’s degree in school psychology from Western Kentucky University.  She also holds a doctorate in educational leadership and management from the University of Lincoln in England, and served as a founding member of the governing council for England’s National College for School Leadership.