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Education Opinion

Good News Over at NCES

By Rick Hess — July 13, 2010 2 min read
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In a great piece of news, Debra Viadero broke the story yesterday that the Obama administration has finally named a nominee for the vacant post of Commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics. After six months of stutter-stepping since first privately indicating that NYU professor Jack Buckley was its guy, the administration finally went public.

It’s about time, too, after putting him through the crushing paperwork and background checks that we now require of even the most minor presidential appointee. Indeed, Buckley’s nomination was tied up for months by picayune questions related to this stuff.

The announcement itself is terrific news. And given that Jack’s most likely obstacle is the reluctance of the GOP to help move nominations through the bitterly divided and gridlocked Senate, I can cheer this nomination without much worrying that my support might be a handicap.

Senate Republicans would do well to enthusiastically embrace this choice. I can testify from long acquaintance that Jack Buckley is not only a whip smart, incredibly conscientious, painfully deliberate master of statistics and detail, but also a guy with a first-rate temperament whose work reflects the fastidious care of a former CIA analyst and Navy officer. While a stats commissioner may seem like small beans, this is a vital office and one deserving of a talented full-time chief. NCES is responsible for the quality of the data that informs our education debates, oversees NAEP, and determines whether we have the facts we need to discuss issues ranging from school spending to teacher quality.

It’s hard--heck, it’s probably impossible--to imagine the Obama administration nominating an NCES commissioner more likely to play it straight, ably steer this crucial agency, and pursue rigorous data collection without fear or favor. In all this, Jack would be building on the exemplary track record of my pal and colleague Mark Schneider, who garnered kudos for an admirable job of helming NCES during the Bush years before moving on to a vice presidency at AIR and a visiting scholar gig at AEI. Jack is perfectly positioned to do this, given his star turn as Mark’s right-hand and deputy when Mark ran NCES (and, before that, as his doctoral student and then longtime collaborator and coauthor).

Kudos to the Obama administration for a superlative pick. Here’s hoping that the Senate wisely weighs and speedily moves upon this laudable nomination.

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