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Get to Know Donald Trump’s Education Transition Team

By Alyson Klein — November 21, 2016 3 min read
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The folks on President-elect Donald Trump’s education transition team will help set the policy course—and likely, even appoint key personnel—for the new administration. Their backgrounds could provide clues on the direction the Trump administration wants to go on K-12. Here’s a look:

James Manning

Trump’s transition team told reporters Monday that Manning will be a part of the “landing team” at the U.S. Department of Education; the transition team said his name would be sent to President Barack Obama’s administration at noon on Monday.

Manning worked on higher education issues at the department under President George W. Bush. Read testimony Manning gave to the House foreign affairs committee in 2007 about postsecondary issues here. “America must remain the primary destination for international students. We must work together to make sure our nation’s institutions of higher education continue to be open to students from around the globe,” Manning said.

Williamson “Bill” Evers

Evers’ name is probably familiar with long-time Education Week readers, in fact we profiled him back in 2007. He served as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development under President George W. Bush.

He was a veteran of the so-called “math wars” in California. In helping to write standards and curriculum for the state, he championed a strong foundation of core content, particularly in the early grades. He’s also no fan of the Common Core State Standards. In fact, he wrote a commentary opposing the standards for Education Week, which you can read here.

And as a school board member in Santa Clara County Calif., Evers supported a ballot resolution that would have made it easier to fire tenured teachers.

Evers also served as an education adviser to President Bush in Iraq, and sought to ensure that standardized testing could continue despite widespread violence after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

“Iraqi parents love standardized testing and were fervently concerned not to let either the war in March and April [2003], or the subsequent guerrilla skirmishes, interfere with the nationwide testing program,” Evers wrote in a 2004 essay published in the Wall Street Journal.

And also relevant to current education debates, Evers is skeptical of “dashboards” that get at students’ opportunity to learn. (More in this Education Week commentary he wrote with Ze’ev Wurman, another one-time Bush advisor.) He’s a fan of holding schools accountable for a single data point. But that’s exactly what some states, including California, want to avoid under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Gerard Robinson

Robinson is the former state chief in Virginia and Florida, and was a member of the “education reform” group Chiefs for Change. CLARIFICATION: In Virginia, Robinson was secretary of education under GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, a cabinet position—the state superintendent during Robinson’s time in that post was Pat Wright.

He only served for a short time as state chief in the Florida, working for just one year and leaving in 2014. Right before he left, the state rushed to change the passing score on the state’s writing test because so many students had performed poorly. That was partly because, before Robinson took office, the state legislature directed the department to come up with tougher standards. And Robinson sought to respond to the score drop, launching a townhall type tour reassure parents, and devoting a section of the state department’s website to parent outreach. More in this story from the Andrew half.

Robinson also faced criticism for how he factored English-language learners into Florida’s A-F school grades.

Townsend McNitt

Other transition staffers include Townsend McNitt, another Education Department official under Bush who served as deputy chief of staff there from 2005 to 2007. In that role, she helped implement the No Child Left Behind Act, according to this bio from the Center for Public Justice, a Christian think tank. Before working at the department, McNitt was the staff director of the Senate education committee. Since 2007, McNitt has been working as a “strategic consultant” according to this online resume.

One Republican and former Education Department official described McNitt as a strong behind-the-scenes player. She’s “serious, capable, diligent, gets done stuff done,” the official said.

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