Checker Finn gives Three Cheers for Rod Paige. As Education secretary, Paige was limited by the Bush administration, Finn writes:
Paige had limited authority to pick his team and less to pick his policy targets.
He is, for example, a stalwart believer in the power of school choice, both to create opportunities for children and to put transformative pressure on “the system.” But (save for the new D.C. voucher project and the valiant efforts of the Department’s small “innovation and improvement” office) this has not been a choice-minded administration. Indeed, the person named yesterday to be Paige’s successor, White House policy maestro Margaret Spellings, is a standards-testing-accountability booster who can be counted upon to defend and extend the No Child Left Behind act, but who has signaled that the only way to fix American K-12 education is to lean on “the system” from above, not to empower its clients.
Paige did his best to reform teacher training and certification and special education, writes Finn.
He invested the Education Department’s skimpy discretionary dollars in boldly reformist initiatives, such as the American Board for Certification of Teaching Excellence. He oversaw a wholesale revamp of the Department’s research and evaluation functions, including wider use of experimental designs (even control groups!) in most federal studies.