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Education Dean Smith named to Clinton administration as undersecretary of education
STANFORD -- Marshall S. Smith, dean of Stanford University's School of Education, was nominated Tuesday, March 9, by President Clinton to be undersecretary of education.
Upon Senate confirmation, "Mike" Smith would join Secretary Richard W. Riley, former governor of South Carolina, and Deputy Secretary Madeleine M. Kunin, former governor of Vermont, in leading the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Stanford education Professor Michael Kirst, a former president of the California State Board of Education and Washington policymaker, Smith's position was restructured "for Smith's specific strengths and experience. It's now a job that combines budget and policy management with administrative duties in a way that's different.
"Smith knows the 'inside' very well. He'll be at a key control point in internal administration as well as having budget responsibilities," Kirst said.
American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker hailed Smith's selection as "good news for American education."
"He's a great choice - he's certainly going to strengthen the team," Shanker said. "I don't know of anyone who knows more about education and what's wrong with it. I know of no one who's got better judgment about what needs to be done."
Smith, 55, was one of five "task force team leaders" in Clinton's Department of Education transition staff, and was in charge of the 11-member K-12 education group, which also included Stanford education Professor Kenji Hakuta. Smith studied federal education agencies, met with Bush administration officials and prepared a "snapshot" report for the incoming secretary of education.
Smith continued his work after the December report, advising Riley on the $30-billion part of the education budget dealing with higher education, as well as on K-12 education. He also helped Riley select sub-Cabinet officials and develop policies to implement Clinton's campaign promises.
Clinton and Smith have worked together before on education issues. Smith - who has written about the need for high, challenging standards for all students and an infrastructure to support such standards - advised then-Gov. Clinton on national education goals. He worked closely with Clinton in 1990 and 1991 on the National Governors' Association Conference on Education.
"I believe Mike was one of the major advisers on education during the campaign, along with Dick Riley and Michael Cohen [of the National Center for Education and the Economy]," Hakuta said.
In 1980, Smith was chief of staff and executive assistant to Shirley Hufstedler, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, he was assistant commissioner for policy studies in the U.S. Office of Education, where he developed legislative proposals, regulations, program plans and administrative actions for all aspects of federal involvement in education.
He has been an adviser to the congressionally mandated National Education Goals Panel and was a member of the National Council of Education Standards and Testing.
Kirst said that Smith is "the architect of systemic education reform," the key component of which is the establishment of challenging curricular standards, supported by a coherent system of textbooks and other classroom materials, professional teacher development, and student assessment designed to bring all students to these high standards.
"He will have an important role in putting those pieces together," Kirst said.
The capacity of the Department of Education had been severely eroded during the administrations of President Reagan, who wished to abolish it, and his successor, President Bush, Kirst said.
"Smith's major role, his major challenge will be to restore and upgrade the capacity of the Department of Education," Kirst said.
Hakuta said Smith is the right man for the job.
"Mike is the guy who really knows the programs and the history of the programs - he was there during the last Democratic administration," Hakuta said. "I imagine it's a little like visiting home after 12 years of Republican administrations. The programs haven't changed, the people haven't changed, and by Washington standards, education is a small department. So it's amazing how many people he still knows."
Hakuta added that Smith has "been fanning the flames of reform" with his writings, his current work as chair of the Pew Forum for Educational Forum and his earlier work at the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research, where he served as director before becoming dean of the Stanford School of Education in 1986. He also is a member of the National Academy of Education.
During the 1992-93 academic year, Smith had been taking a sabbatical as a fellow at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, where he was writing about education reform and policymaking. In the past, he has written about a variety of policy issues, including desegregation, early childhood programs, effective schools and the effect of federal policies on state and local practice.
Smith is currently on leave from the university until September 1993 to carry out his responsibilities on Clinton's transition team. If confirmed as undersecretary, Smith said he will resign as dean of the School of Education and take a leave of absence from the school's faculty.
Since his sabbatical at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences began last September, Nel Noddings, Lee L. Jacks Professor of Child Education, has been acting dean. She has agreed to continue as acting dean through the academic year that ends Aug. 31, 1994.
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