Former Education Commissioner

Tennessee Watch Video

Penny Schwinn served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education from 2019 to 2023. Prior to that, she was the chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency (TEA). She has also held a number of other senior roles at the state, district, and school levels during her approximately 20 years in education.

Schwinn began her work in education through Teach For America as a high school teacher in Baltimore and a new teacher coach in south Los Angeles. She transitioned into the private sector to develop a deeper capacity for business, supervising work in the finance, operations, marketing, and information departments for a multinational corporation. Later, Schwinn moved to Sacramento, Calif., to begin a Building Excellent Schools (BES) Fellowship while acting as the senior consultant and director of student achievement for the superintendent of St. HOPE Public Schools. Through the BES Fellowship, she founded Capitol Collegiate, which produced exceptional results for traditionally underserved students.

As assistant superintendent of performance management in Sacramento City Unified School District, Schwinn used a community planning process to develop the county’s first districtwide accountability system. In addition, she designed the first localized school choice calculator in the country, ran the Principal Development Program, oversaw district testing, and served as a lead on the CORE waiver. After that, as associate secretary of education in Delaware, Schwinn led multiple departments focused on improving the quality of information provided to schools and oversaw the strategic investment of resources to accelerate student achievement. She managed the statewide Offices of Assessment; Performance Management; School Turnaround; Accountability; and Data Management.

In her role as chief deputy commissioner at TEA, Schwinn was responsible for the statewide assessment system; performance reporting; research and analysis; curriculum; digital and blended learning; instructional materials; the Office of State Board of Education Support; early childhood education; elementary and middle school programs; college, career, and military preparation and career and technical education; special education; English learner and bilingual education; gifted and twice exceptional education; at-risk, highly-mobile, homeless, and foster youth services; monitoring; and special projects.

Schwinn earned her bachelor’s from the University of California, Berkeley, her master’s from Johns Hopkins University, and her Ph.D. in education policy from Claremont Graduate University. She is an alumnus of the third cohort of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs leadership development program, was a fellow with the Broad Academy, and was a senior consultant with America Achieves. She also served as a commissioner for Sacramento County Parks and Recreation. Schwinn was elected as a trustee to the Sacramento County Board of Education and has served on the boards of various other organizations and committees.