News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Black Colleges Urged To Aid Teacher Push

Secretary of Education Rod Paige urged leaders of the country's historically black colleges and universities last week to help public schools—and President Bush's nationwide school improvement efforts—by supporting teacher-preparation programs on their campuses.

"I need you to be soldiers," Mr. Paige told attendees at a Sept. 16 conference of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, held in Arlington, Va. "Give us teachers who can excel in this noble profession. ... This is one area where historically black colleges and universities can lead the world."

Giving all students access to strong teaching is central to Mr. Bush's major education initiative, the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001. All states must begin reporting this year on the distribution of "highly qualified" teachers in rich and poor schools, and by the end of 2005-06, all teachers in core subjects must meet that same standard.

As defined by the federal government, historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, are higher education institutions established before 1964 whose chief mission is or was the education of black Americans.

And if the college administrators weren't keen on the president's plans for education—which critics have said impose overly strict standards on struggling schools without giving them the resources to improve—they should at least get used to those policies, said Mr. Paige, who offered his audience a political prediction. "George W. Bush is going to be president for another four years," he said, an-ticipating another Bush victory in 2004.

—Sean Cavanagh

Indian Education Office Gets New Director

Victoria Vasques, who has spent years advising elected officials and federal agencies on Native American issues, has been appointed the director of the office of Indian affairs at the Department of Education.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced Ms. Vasques' hiring Sept. 16. She replaces David Beaulieu, who resigned last year.

Victoria Vasques

Ms. Vasques had worked in education and American Indian issues for more than two decades, most recently serving as the director of Indian affairs for the Department of Energy, where she oversaw that agency's relations with tribal nations that live on or near federal facilities. Before then, she held positions as a tribal assistant specialist at the National Congress of American Indians, and as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities. She will continue to hold the latter position, along with her new job, until a new director for the initiative is named.

Her heritage is part Diegueno, of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in California.

The office of Indian education was created in 1972 as part of the Indian Education Act, to support local educators, tribes, colleges, and other entities attempting to help Native American students meet the same standards as their non-Indian peers. It also serves as the federal government's main point of contact with the 32 tribal colleges and universities across the country. Its duties are separate from those of the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, which manages its own, federally financed system of schools.

Part of the office's duties, Ms. Vasques said in an interview last week, are to help schools with Indian populations better understand and meet the requirements of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.

—Sean Cavanagh

Bush Trip Includes Aid For Alexander, Pledge

President Bush convened his own "Secretaries Day" in Tennessee last week.

First, he spent lunch on Sept. 17 raising $1.1 million for former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander's U.S. Senate campaign at a $1,000-a-plate event in downtown Nashville. Then, after a short journey to a local magnet school, the president put his right hand over his heart with current Secretary Rod Paige and a couple of dozen students and teachers. The two men took part in a nationwide recitation by schoolchildren of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Recent polls, as well as Mr. Alexander's swelling campaign coffers, have offered encouragement for a return to Washington by Mr. Alexander, who headed the Department of Education from 1991 to 1993 under the first President Bush. A poll taken Sept. 3-10 by the University of Tennessee and The Knoxville News-Sentinel showed Mr. Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, with 45 percent, and Rep. Bob Clement, his Democratic opponent, with 27 percent.

—Ben Wear

Program Aims to Help Schools With New Law

A new federally financed program has been launched in six states to help educators meet the requirements of the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001.

Called "Following the Leaders," the computerized program provides data and tools intended to help schools develop higher standards and accountability systems.

The Education Leaders Council, a Washington-based organization of state education officials, was chosen by the Department of Education to administer the program. An ELC spokeswoman said the group hopes that pilot states will serve as models for putting the principles of the new law into practice.

"They are giving the schools the tools so they can figure out and track what is going right and wrong," said the spokeswoman, Melissa Hess. "Schools can learn how to report standards-based reform results."

Though 28 states applied to be among the pilot locations, six were chosen. The program began operating last month in selected schools in Alaska, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. Representatives from the ELC are training teachers in those states to use the system.

The program, the ELC hopes, will help teachers design lessons coordinated with state curriculum standards, and track how well students are meeting those standards. The program was developed with a $3.5 million grant from the Education Department.

Ms. Hess said program leaders hope to receive more federal funding to expand the program nationwide.

— Lisa Fine Goldstein

Vol. 22, Issue 4, Page 22

Published in Print: September 25, 2002, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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