After gaining 40 years of valuable expertise in the field of education, Valeria A. Ford, PhD, retired from her role as an assessment and accountability specialist for the U.S. Department of Education. In this role, she is responsible for reviewing all state assessments plans and giving approvals to them. Over the years, she gained valuable expertise in the industry as director of testing for District of Columbia Public Schools, testing specialist in Norfolk, Virginia, director of testing at Norfolk State University, and assessment specialist with the Maryland and Virginia State Departments of Education.
Dr. Ford began her work in educational testing assessments because she was concerned with how test results would limit opportunities for Black individuals. Realizing the disparity between test results and opportunities afforded, she pursued a degree at Pennsylvania State University, where she had the honor of studying in a department of diverse individuals. A Jewish chairman and white advisor guided her toward her eventual work with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and she became the first Black woman to complete the ETS.
Dr. Ford had a great, fun and energetic team that she loved, with each member representing a different part of the country. What inspired and motivated her along her professional journey was her experience in college. In high school, she recalls taking the SAT and it was theorized that the exam was constructed to keep Black people from pursuing a substantial career at the time. This led her pursue educational psychology and she was given the chance to be a resident at the Educational Testing Service, which developed the SAT. Her advisor thought it was the perfect fit and Dr. Ford saw that it was very much like being at a college campus.
An expert in her field, Dr. Ford holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Hampton University in Virginia. Subsequently, she received a Master of Arts, as well as a PhD in educational psychology, both from Pennsylvania State University. Driven to remain aware of ongoing educational methodologies, she aligned herself with the Association of Test Directors, Division H of the American Educational Research Association and the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, where she served as president.
A champion of her community, Dr. Ford gave back through the local Girl Scouts of the United States of America. In a career filled with highlights, she is most proud of meeting the staff from the local school district and graduating from Pennsylvania State University. Additionally, she received the Woman of the Year Award through the Michigan Park Church Disciples of Christ in 2010. In the coming years, Dr. Ford intends to continue enjoying her retirement. She attributes her success to tenacity, curiosity, her parents and always wanting to keep pushing. Her mentor throughout her career was Dr. Freeman Robowski.
What separates Dr. Ford from others in her field is the perspective that she brings. There were few African Americans in her area of expertise. She is a people person and having a core group of friends helped her along the way. Dr. Ford’s favorite parts of her career were what data revealed and discovering new things. Her greatest achievement was the whole journey; every opportunity gave her the chance to show who she really is.