News Column

Top Officials Depart US Education Department

Dec 12, 2012

Lesli A. Maxwell

Russlynn Ali, the hard-charging head of the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, is stepping down from the post. Her last day was Nov. 30.

Her departure raises the question of whether the aggressive stance of her office will stay intact without her leadership.

Ms. Ali, who headed Education Trust West in California, where she championed causes such as requiring a college-level curriculum for all high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, ramped up the OCR's work on school discipline, harassment, and bullying, and opened up new areas of inquiry into students' access to charter schools and graduation rates at community colleges.

Instructional programs for English-language learners received a lot of scrutiny under Ms. Ali, who partnered frequently with civil rights officials at the U.S. Department of Justice to bring even more pressure for change in school districts. The OCR forced a number of changes for English-learners in Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and Arizona. The OCR has also stepped up its reviews of districts where civil rights advocates have complained that ells and their non-English-speaking parents are not provided adequate communications.

Seth Galanter, who has been a deputy assistant secretary in the OCR, has been promoted to replace Ms. Ali.

Other senior officials have also announced their departures from the Education Department in recent weeks. Karen Cator, the director of the office of technology since 2009, announced last month that she will leave her post when a replacement is found. Ms. Cator, a former Apple executive, oversaw early implementation of the first national education technology plan, released in 2010. The plan calls for more infrastructure and hardware for schools, but also more personalized learning, better data, and content tools for teachers.

Also last month, Peter Cunningham, the assistant secretary for communications and outreach, and Justin Hamilton, the press secretary, left their positions.



Source: (c)2012 Education Week (Bethesda, Md.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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