Federal

K-12 Chief Susan Neuman Leaves Ed. Dept.

January 22, 2003 4 min read

Susan B. Neuman, the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, has resigned her post, effective Jan. 31.

Susan B. Neuman

Assistant Secretary Susan B. Nueman, shown here at a March 2002 negotiation session on proposed federal regulations, resigned her Department of Education post last week
—File photo by James W. Prichard/Education Week

She said she wanted to return to her research on reading.

Her resignation came as little surprise to some in Washington who deal with federal education policy. Indeed, there was considerable speculation that other reasons may have played a significant part in her decision, and that she likely was encouraged to leave by the department.

Ms. Neuman was not available for interviews, a department spokeswoman said.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to have been a part of the administration, and the implementation of [the] No Child Left Behind [Act],” Ms. Neuman said in a department press release issued Jan. 14. “However, it is now time for me to return to the academy and resume my research in reading.”

Ms. Neuman has had a distinguished career in reading research. Before joining the federal agency in 2001 as a Bush appointee, she was a professor at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and the director of the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement. She previously taught at several other universities.

At the department, she has played a key role in the implementation of the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001.

Several observers suggested that while Ms. Neuman is a skilled academic, she was not up to the political challenges of running the department’s office of elementary and secondary education, and of dealing with the sensitive issues around the far-reaching education law, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“It’s been clear for a long time that her colleagues didn’t think she was doing a good job,” said one person familiar with the department’s inner workings, who asked not to be named. “It’s seemed for months that her days were numbered. ... She’s not a good public administrator, not politically very deft. ... She’s a good researcher, but was the wrong choice in that role.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that she was in over her head,” said Jack Jennings, the director of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy and a former Democratic aide to the House education committee. “In my opinion, she did not have the background for that position.”

That said, Mr. Jennings pointed out that the length of her tenure was not unusual for Washington: Most assistant secretaries, he said, last only about 18 months.

Ms. Neuman was nominated by President Bush in March 2001, and was confirmed by the Senate in July of that year.

‘Not an Easy Job’

Some in the Washington education community, however, offered a different view.

“We were very satisfied with how she conducted the office,” said Jeff Simering, the legislative director of the Council of the Great City Schools. He praised, for example, her efforts in heading up the negotiated rulemaking process last year on Title I regulations.

“We do have some problems with the last set of regulations, but I think that was a joint effort by a variety of offices,” Mr. Simering said.

“It’s not an easy job,” said Patricia F. Sullivan, a deputy executive director at the Council of Chief State School Officers, another Washington-based group. “I think that at the very beginning, some of the messages that came out of her office were confusing to states, but the longer we worked with them, and they with us, that experience changed,” she said. “I think that she did a very good job of jumping in and implementing a very complicated bill.”

In a press release, Secretary of Education Rod Paige thanked Ms. Neuman for her work.

“Susan Neuman has been part of a team that’s worked hard to make sure we have a swift and smooth implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act,” he said. “It has been a very busy and intense two years, and I thank Susan for [her] efforts and for her service to the American people. I wish her well in her future pursuits.”

The tone of those remarks was noteworthy to Norman J. Ornstein, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

“That is, at best, a lukewarm statement,” he said. “It’s lacking any of the effusive praise that would normally come to an assistant secretary.”

The administration was expected to name an acting assistant secretary within days.

Kati Haycock, the executive director of the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group here, said she hoped the department would move quickly to find a permanent replacement. The K-12 assistant secretary is a “critical link” between the department and the states, she noted.

“We hope they’ll choose wisely, but choose quickly,” Ms. Haycock said. “This is certainly not a time when you want that position empty.”

Department spokesman Daniel Langan stressed that the departure would not impede efforts to implement the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We will not miss a beat,” Mr. Langan said.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Biden Team: Schools Can Go Beyond Trump Rules in Response to Alleged Sexual Misconduct
The Education Department's guidance, released July 20, states that Title IX rules from 2020 lay out "minimum steps" for educators.
3 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Fact Check: After Furor Over 1619 Project, Feds Adjust History and Civics Grant Plans
A previously obscure history and civics program has weathered a political storm, but what exactly has changed?
4 min read
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP
Federal 'Stop CRT' Bill, Votes in Congress Add to Political Drama Over Critical Race Theory
Sen. Tom Cotton's legislation and votes about critical race theory in the House underscore the issue's potency in Washington.
5 min read
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing to examine United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill March 25 in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Senators Grill Civil Rights Nominee on Transgender Students, Sexual Assault Investigations
If confirmed as assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine Lhamon will handle some of the Education Department's most sensitive issues.
6 min read
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the education secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP