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Published in Print: May 29, 2002, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Blue Ribbon Schools Unveiled, But Paige Mum on Changes

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced 172 winners of the Blue Ribbon Schools awards last week, and promised to provide more details soon about possible changes to the program.

This year's winners are secondary schools from 35 states, including 145 public, 27 private, and two Department of Defense schools, said David Thomas, a spokesman for the program.

Discussions are under way in the Department of Education about whether to change the program's name, the criteria for winners, and the selection process for Blue Ribbon Schools. ("Ed. Dept. Weighs Changing Blue Ribbon Program," May 22, 2002.)

Mr. Paige has said repeatedly that he wants to change the program to reward schools that improve test scores, especially for minority children. Several prominent education groups have said they would welcome improvements to the program, but oppose drastic changes to a model they say many schools use for intensive self-analysis and improvement.

—Alan Richard

Alexander Claims Primary Lead

Former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander released polling data this month that suggests he has a sizable lead in Tennessee's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

The poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters, commissioned by the Alexander campaign, found that Mr. Alexander leads Rep. Ed Bryant, R-Tenn., statewide by 61 percent to 25 percent. The remaining voters said they were undecided.

Conducted from April 30 to May 2, the poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The poll also suggested that Mr. Alexander—a former Tennessee governor and presidential candidate who served as education secretary in the administration of the first President Bush—leads 47 percent to 41 percent in western Tennessee, Mr. Bryant's home base.

While not disputing that Mr. Alexander is ahead statewide, Mr. Bryant's campaign responded by issuing its own findings for western Tennessee. The Bryant poll found the four-term House member leading 47 percent to 36 percent in the region. Conducted in late April, it surveyed 500 likely voters in the GOP primary and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

The victor in the August Republican primary is expected to face Rep. Bob Clement, an eight-term Democrat from Nashville, in the general election.

—Erik W. Robelen

NASA to Seek Teacher-Astronauts

The United States will launch a program as early as this year to recruit teachers to be astronauts, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said at a May 16 news briefing that he hopes an educator will be in each new class of mission specialists beginning in 2003 or 2004.

Each would go through about three years of training before being assigned to a specific space mission. In addition to having teaching duties, the "educator mission specialists" would be all-around crew members on space flights, able to perform space walks and other operations.

The Department of Education will have a role in recruiting teachers who can meet NASA's rigorous standards of fitness and proficiency, Mr. O'Keefe said. Details about the program, however, have yet to be worked out, officials said.

In April, Mr. O'Keefe announced that Barbara R. Morgan, 50, a former elementary teacher who has completed her basic training as a mission specialist, would probably be scheduled on a shuttle flight for 2004. ("Educator- Astronaut Trained for a New Mission," April 24, 2002.)

—Andrew Trotter

Vol. 21, Issue 38, Page 24

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