Chief Technology Adviser to Leave Education Department

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Susan D. Patrick, the chief adviser on educational technology to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, will leave the U.S. Department of Education next week to head an organization that promotes online education.

In September, Ms. Patrick, 35, will become the president and chief executive officer of the North American Council for Online Learning, based in Alexandria, Va.

“I believe it is a great opportunity to be part of the quiet revolution transforming education,” she said in an interview July 25 regarding her decision to work for the online learning council.

Education Department officials are looking for a replacement for Ms. Patrick, who was named the director of the office of educational technology in March 2004 by then-Education Secretary Rod Paige. She had come to Washington as the technology office’s deputy director in October 2002, from a background in higher education and distance learning.

Ms. Patrick said her greatest accomplishment in her tenure at the Education Department was writing the nation’s third educational technology plan, a project that put her in touch with educators, business executives, and researchers from across the United States, many of the same individuals and organizations that she will work with in her new position. The educational technology plan, released in January, outlines technology’s potential to promote online learning, help schools make better use of data, and make schooling more interesting to young people and more relevant to the workplaces of the future.

But the plan—the only educational technology plan required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001—was criticized for not defining responsibilities or funding levels for the federal government to support the use of technology in schools.

“I am passionate about how technology can help revolutionize education,” Ms. Patrick said.

Spending Plans

But her influence at the Education Department appears to have been limited, as illustrated in February when President Bush’s budget proposal for fiscal 2006 called for dropping all funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology program, a section of the No Child Left Behind law that authorizes nearly $500 million in federal aid annually for states and school districts to help them use technology in teaching and learning.

After vigorous lobbying on Capitol Hill by education groups, the House and Senate appropriations committees restored to the education spending bills they approved this summer much of the funding identified by the administration for cuts.

Ms. Patrick often sidestepped questions about federal budget cuts as outside her area of responsibility, but she suggested in the interview that educators sometimes make a weak case for the continuation of targeted funds for technology.

“When budget people are trying to determine the effectiveness of a program, they want to see that programs are working,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of progress with technology, but when they’re looking at high school reform and education reform in general, there’s probably a tendency to consolidate, to allow those dollars to be used for broader purposes.”

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