Federal Explainer

Rod Paige, Seventh U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements

By Education Week Library — August 18, 2017 3 min read
President Bush's Secretary of Education Rod Paige, 67, smiles after his swearing in ceremony at the Department of Education in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2001.

Biographical Information: Born Roderick R. Paige in Monticello, Miss., on June 17, 1933, he is the son of public school educators. Paige earned a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University and a master’s degree and a doctorate in physical education from Indiana University. Before beginning his career in education administration, he was a college football coach for two decades. Paige became superintendent of the Houston Independent School District in 1994 and was known for his successful leadership and innovative reforms as head of the large district. He also served as the dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University. He was the first African-American and the first school superintendent to serve as education secretary. After leaving the Education Department, he became a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He recently served as the interim president of his alma mater, Jackson State University.

Served Under: President George W. Bush

Dates of Tenure: 2001-2005

Fun Fact: In 1967, while football coach at historically black Jackson State University, his team played in a game that broke the color barrier at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss.

Highlights of Tenure:

  • Paige helped create the No Child Left Behind Act, which was based in part on his work as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. After the measure was signed into law in January 2002, Paige oversaw the new law’s implementation.

Archives of Note:

Houston’s Paige Becomes Top-Paid Superintendent
Rod Paige of Houston has become the nation’s highest-paid superintendent, after a school board vote there raised his salary to $275,000 a year. (May 17, 2000)

Paige’s Nomination Applauded By Unions, Conservatives Alike
Houston schools Superintendent Rod Paige appears to have widespread support in Washington as President-elect Bush’s pick for secretary of education. (Jan. 10, 2001)

Paige Hits the Ground Running In New Post
The new secretary of education’s first week on the job was a whirlwind, with President Bush declaring Jan. 22-26 to be “Education Week” and aggressively promoting his “No Child Left Behind” education plan. (Jan. 31, 2001)

Paige on Paige: A Talk With the Secretary
Secretary of Education Rod Paige, the superintendent of schools in Houston before he was tapped by President Bush to head the Department of Education, will complete his first six months on the job later this month. (July 11, 2001)

Paige, Bush Upbeat On Making ESEA Work
Top Department of Education officials offered a generally optimistic outlook last week on how the new federal education law is playing out in states and school districts. (Sept. 11, 2002)

Furor Lingers Over Paige’s Union Remark
Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s reference last week to the National Education Association as a “terrorist organization” prompted calls by the union—and some others—for his resignation, though the White House made clear that no such action would be forthcoming. (Mar. 3, 2004)

Paige: It’s Not Too Early to Call School Law a Success
Secretary of Education Rod Paige is declaring the No Child Left Behind Act a success, arguing that there is ample evidence the law is improving student achievement. But linking test scores directly to federal policy is a risky business, and some say the Bush administration is getting way ahead of itself. (Oct. 8, 2004)

President Accepts Paige’s Resignation
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who has made promoting and carrying out the No Child Left Behind Act the focus of his tenure as the nation’s top education official, has resigned, pending the confirmation of a successor. (Nov. 15, 2004)

Unlikely Allies Call for Shifting Spending from Prisons to Schools
The NAACP, along with leaders of fiscally conservative groups and former Education Secretary Rod Paige, say lawmakers ought to be spending more on education and less on their prison systems. (Apr. 08, 2011)

Commentaries by Rod Paige

No Simple Answer
Houston schools Superintendent Rod Paige discusses a holistic approach to school reform—and how it paid off for Houston. (Nov. 8, 2000)

Putting Arts Education Front and Center
As a nation, we must develop children who are productive and happy, not kids who can just pass a test and get through school, say Rod Paige and Mike Huckabee. (Jan. 26, 2005)

Learning From Success
Change is inevitable, and school leaders need to imitate others’ success, Robert Maranto and Rod Paige write. (Sept. 19, 2012)

    Additional Resources
    Department of Education A brief biography from the Department of Education archives
    Papers of Dr. Rod R. Paige Collection of Paige’s professional and personal papers from 1994-2004 (includes biographical sketch)

    How to Cite This Article
    Education Week Library. (2017, August 18). Rod Paige, Seventh U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/rod-paige-seventh-u-s-education-secretary-biography-and-acheivements/2017/08

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