Sandy Kress isn't working for President Bush any longer, but the
Texas lawyer who helped shape the new federal education law now finds
himself often traveling the country to talk about it.
"I guess I'm a singing minstrel for reform," he quipped last week.
Later this month, for instance, he'll deliver the keynote address for Michigan's 8th annual Governor's Education Summit in Lansing.
Mr. Kress still calls Austin home, working for the legal powerhouse Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. He took some time away from that job last year to serve temporarily as the president's chief education adviser. At the White House, he played a critical role in working with Congress to craft the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Kress now finds himself especially in demand on education matters. While the Akin, Gump Web site lists his practice areas broadly as 1) public law and policy, and 2) telecommunications and information technology, he said he spends about three-fourths of his time on "various school reform activities."
Most of that work comes through consulting with the Business Roundtable and other business groups involved with improving education, as well as the University of Texas at Austin.
Asked whether the No Child Left Behind Act is working out as he had hoped, Mr. Kress said he's generally pleased.
"I think there's a lot of seriousness about the act," he said, "a commitment to try to do it."
Many educators around the country have expressed concerns about the ambitious law, including its prescriptive requirements on how states should set targets for making "adequate yearly progress" on test scores. Critics worry that an unrealistic number of schools may not pass muster.
"There's no secret about how difficult it was to wrestle with [writing the AYP requirements]," Mr. Kress said. "I think it continues to be the brain twister of the act."
But Mr. Kress said he's not playing the Monday-morning quarterback.
"I don't know that I have a magical alternative," he said. "Now the question is, how can we best make it work for a whole variety of states. ... I just want to help."
—Erik W. Robelen
Vol. 22, Issue 3, Page 22Published in Print: September 18, 2002, as Federal File