Henry L. Johnson, a major addition to the Department of Education during a spate of leadership changes last year, has resigned his position, effective Dec. 31.
The assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, Mr. Johnson said last week that he intends to return to his native North Carolina, but will consult with the federal department for up to six months after his departure. He outlined his plans in a speech at a conference sponsored by the National Association of State Boards of Education in Alexandria, Va.
The former Mississippi state schools chief was one of two high-profile assistant secretaries appointed to their jobs last year at the beginning of President Bush’s second term and the start of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ tenure at the department.
Thomas W. Luce III, who joined the department at the same time as Mr. Johnson, as the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, left the agency earlier this year. Like Mr. Johnson, he left to return to his home state—in his case, Texas—to be closer to family. (“Education Department Is Losing Two High-Ranking Officials,” July 26, 2006.)
Mr. Johnson has served at the Education Department during a period of major changes in the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the nearly 5-year-old law designed to spur increased student achievement.
Shortly before his arrival, Secretary Spellings announced that she would offer states flexibility in carrying out the law’s testing mandate for students in special education and in determining how schools can achieve adequate yearly progress.
Mr. Johnson leaves at a time when the department is preparing proposals to reauthorize the law, which Congress is scheduled to take up next year.
In his Dec. 7 speech, he said he hopes that one of his ideas will be part of that debate. Mr. Johnson has pushed for the law to have lesser penalties for schools and districts that fail to meet achievement targets in one or two demographic categories, saving major interventions for those that are falling short for all students.
Over time, he said, department officials’ attitude “has gone from ‘no way, Jose,’ to … ‘maybe we ought to do this.’ ”
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week