Below are excerpts from a recent interview the new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings did with the Ft. Worth Star Telegram (TX):
Q: How does the fact that youre a working mom help you in running the Education Department?
A: "I think I have some appreciation of how parents feel intimidated about going to their (childrens) school. They dont know what to ask for. Theres a lot of jargon. The jargon in Texas is different from the jargon in Virginia. You have to take off work to go see about your childs education. I think we talk about how to engage parents, but Im sure anxious to talk to parents about how they think we ought to do that more effectively."
Q: Do you plan to use your down-to-earth style to make the Department of Education more approachable?
A: "We always work at being more customer friendly, but that is one thing that I want to talk with state leaders and [with] local school district people about: how we can do better at that, what they want us to do that were not doing? How can we help them do their job? Theyre the ones that are going to make sure high school kids get out with a diploma that means something in the 21st century, not us. And, so, we need to figure out how we can help them do that better."
Q: What has kept you engaged in the education field for so long? (Spellings was a former education lobbyist in Austin and has helped influence state and federal education policy for more than two decades.)
A: "Like all these things, it kind of chooses you, and it chose me, and I love it. Its such a populist issue. Everybody has been to school, has kids in school, [and] hires people whove gone to school. Everybodys an expert on public education, people know what youre talking about. Its not like, you know, particulate matter or something like that. And it deals with your kids and your tax dollars, two things near and dear to our hearts."
Q: When you leave, what would you like to look back on as your biggest accomplishment?
A: "From a policy perspective, I would want No Child Left Behind to be so ingrained and embedded and stabilized, and systemized that it is a way of life for everybody. And that includes from elementary school into high school. That would be a huge accomplishment, and I will think I have done my job. I would like to think that we will have made -- and Im confident that we will, all the trends are going in the right direction -- that we will have made major progress in closing the achievement gap. That well be educating a lot more poor kids, Hispanic kids, African-American kids than ever before in the history of our country."
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