Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, former head of federal education research, has been asked to step down as director of the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.
While he’s still on the masthead, Whitehurst confirmed that Darrell M. West, Brookings’ vice president and director of governance studies, asked him to leave the directorship earlier this year. While Whitehurst is still a Brookings senior fellow, it is not clear whether he will ultimately stay with the institute.
“I did not step down voluntarily,” he said. “From my perspective, the Brown Center was doing extraordinarily well on all objective criteria.”
[UPDATE (March 26): Brookings spokeswoman Christine Jacobs said Brookings would not comment on a personnel matter, but she confirmed that Whitehurst remains a senior fellow, and said, “We value the work of the Brown Center and think it makes a valuable contribution in the field of education.”]
Whitehurst took the reins of the Brown Center in 2010, after leaving the federal Institute of Education Science at the U.S. Department of Education, an agency he led throughout the Bush administration. During his tenure as head of Brown, the center expanded rapidly and took a clear quantitative approach to examining education research policies—most recently with a detailed look at how education advocacy groups influence education law.
“I’m proud of the niche we’ve filled, being quantitative social scientists but on a time frame that was relevant to policymakers,” Whitehurst told me, noting the center’s recent work on hot education topics, such as early childhood education, teacher evaluation, and others. “Unlike most policy shops who just have analysis, we had numbers, and unlike most academics who have numbers four years later, we had numbers within the month.”
“It’s a damn shame to see him step down,” eagle-eyed Chester E. Finn Jr. of the Fordham Institute concluded in the Flypaper after he spotted Brookings’ want ad. “Maybe he was exhausted. Or maybe the Brookings leadership has lost its marbles. They’ll be hard-pressed to find his equal.”
Whitehurst rejected the notion that he had grown tired of the Washington education research game. “I certainly wasn’t exhausted; I enjoyed what I was doing and I think it’s really unfortunate,” he told me. “I’d wanted Brookings to be my last job and to leave feeling really good about the place.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.