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Alison Yoshimoto-Towery Selected to Lead the UC-CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning

By Staff

Former LAUSD chief academic officer to oversee statewide efforts to improve academic and personal success for neurodiverse and underrepresented students.

Alison Yoshimoto-Towery (M.A. Education, UCLA, 2004) has been selected as executive director of the UC-CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning. In this role, she will oversee and coordinate a statewide hub of activities and resources developed by leading researchers, UC and CSU teacher education programs, and partnering districts and schools to advance learning for neurodiverse students, which will ultimately support better educational opportunities for all children. Most recently, Yoshimoto-Towery has served as chief academic officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

The UC-CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning expands the work of an existing partnership between the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU), which was initially established in June 2019 by Assembly Bill AB 1703 and represents a historic and critical investment in the state’s children with dyslexia and other literacy challenges. The Collaborative is unique in bringing together top experts from the University of California and the California State University to reimagine teacher education to better focus on the science of reading, with the shared goal of exponentially increasing academic language development and literacy for the next generation. The co-directors are Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, and Sue Sears, professor in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at California State University, Northridge. Additional investment by the state has provided the exceptional opportunity to further develop the work and examine neurodiversity and learning more broadly.  

As executive director, Yoshimoto-Towery will bring together educators, faculty directors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate student researchers to explore and implement evidence-based practices that lead to academic and personal success for neurodiverse and other underserved students. The Collaborative will address learning challenges associated with dyslexia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, trauma, and other learning complexities using educational, psychological, and neuroscience research that centers equity and inclusivity, and advances practice and policy. 

“Three decades as an educator have taught me that a child’s sense of well-being, confidence, and readiness for life correlate directly with opportunities provided at school,” says Yoshimoto-Towery. “I believe that creating a hub of evidence-based practices focused on addressing student needs and assets will enable the Collaborative to enrich and expand those opportunities, as well as uplift and accelerate innovations already under way in educational systems across California.”

A native of Southern California, Yoshimoto-Towery has served LAUSD as a paraprofessional, teacher, principal, director, and top administrator, representing the Los Angeles community on numerous local, state, and national working groups. As LAUSD’s chief academic officer, Yoshimoto-Towery has overseen a myriad of specialized programs in birth to adult education for more than 550,000 students, in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse school districts. Programs under her supervision included specialized programs for English learners, standard English learners, gifted learners, arts education, athletics, instructional technology, A-G completion, academic counseling, guiding post-secondary success, advanced placement programs, Linked Learning and career technical education. In collaboration with the Division of Special Education, Yoshimoto-Towery has supported educator development focused on co-teaching and inclusive practices, equitable grading, and growth mindsets that benefit of both typical and neurodiverse learners. 

The great-granddaughter of Japanese-American migrant farmworkers, Yoshimoto-Towery learned the values of hard work and perseverance growing up in Boyle Heights and Monterey Park. As a parent of adolescent twins, she understands the importance of family communication and engagement, and is committed to ensuring that students develop social-emotional competencies, a strong sense of self and community, and media literacy skills.

Yoshimoto-Towery earned her bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine, a master’s degree in education and reading specialist credential from California State University, Los Angeles, and a second master’s in Education from UCLA in 2004. In 2020, she was named the Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year by the Association of California Administrators, Region 16. She was an active member of a statewide literacy task force led by California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond in 2022 and was recently appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Newsom. Currently, Yoshimoto-Towery is a student in the UCLA Educational Leadership Program and looks forward to earning her Ed.D. in 2024. 

The UC-CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning is a part of a wide range of projects and initiatives housed at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies focused on neurodiversity and education. These include the UCLA Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners and Social Justice; the Bench to School Initiative; Kasari Autism Research Lab at UCLA, headed by Connie Kasari, Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Psychology; the work of Jeffrey Wood, a UCLA professor with joint appointments in the Division of Child Psychiatry and the Division of Human Development and Psychology; and partnerships with UCLA Lab School, UCLA Community School, and Mann UCLA Community School, UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Photo courtesy of Alison Yoshimoto-Towery