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Federal File: Tirozzi takes charge

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Gerald N. Tirozzi, the Department of Education's new assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, has two new priorities.

"Over time, we have to make a definite commitment to urban education in this country," Mr. Tirozzi said in a recent interview. "I'd love to develop an urban focus, an urban agenda."

The assistant secretary, who took office four months ago, would also like to focus on early-childhood education.

"Where is it written that school has to start at age five?" he asked.

Mr. Tirozzi praised the Head Start preschool program, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Education Department's Even Start family-literacy program, and suggested an interagency effort.

Early-childhood education is "already the next major equity issue in this country," he said.

Mr. Tirozzi also expressed support for more narrowly targeting Title I compensatory-education money. The Clinton administration proposed funneling more money to the neediest districts during the 1994 reauthorization of the program, and some congressional leaders have recently discussed reworking the formula.

"The administration would definitely be interested in targeting the money," Mr. Tirozzi said.

But he cautioned against expecting immediate results from the revamped Title I.

"I know what's going to happen. Evaluation is going to take a long time, but every year Congress is going to want results," he said. "We need to give them vignettes. We need to give them success stories."

Mr. Tirozzi focused on education policy, leadership issues for local superintendents, and urban education as a professor at the University of Connecticut's department of education leadership before coming to Washington. He has also served as Connecticut's commissioner of education and the superintendent of schools in New Haven.

He said he took the federal post because "I've always enjoyed being in the big arena, the policy arena where you can make a difference for a lot of kids."

He succeeded Thomas W. Payzant, who is now the superintendent of the Boston public schools.

--Mark Pitsch

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