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Secretary of Education (2001-2005)
On January 21, 2001, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Rod Paige as the 7th U.S. Secretary of Education. For Paige, the son of a principal and a librarian in public schools, that day was the crowning achievement of a long career in education. Born in 1933 in segregated Monticello, Mississippi, Paige's accomplishments speak of his commitment to education. He earned a bachelor's degree from Jackson State University in his home state. He then earned both a master's and a doctoral degree from Indiana University.
Paige began working with students early in his career as a teacher and a coach. He then served for a decade as dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University (TSU). In this position, Paige worked to ensure that future educators would receive the training and expertise necessary to succeed in the classroom. He also established the university's Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on issues related to instruction and management in urban school systems.
Elected in 1989, Paige was sworn in as a trustee and an officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) in January 1990, in which capacities he served until 1994. In 1994, Paige left TSU to become superintendent of HISD, the nation's seventh largest school district. Inside Houston Magazine named Paige one of "Houston's 25 most powerful people" in guiding the city's growth and prosperity. In 2001, he was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
Paige is the first school superintendent ever to serve as Secretary of Education. His vast experience as a practitioner-from the blackboard to the boardroom-paid off during the long hours of work needed to pass President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
As Secretary, he is led the charge-in partnership with states and districts-to implement these historic reforms. The law will give local districts the tools and resources they need to help every child learn, regardless of the color of their skin or the accent of their speech. States and districts have moved forward, working to improve student achievement, empowering parents with options and information, providing supplemental services such as free tutoring to students in danger of being left behind, and tapping new sources of talented teachers to help students excel in our nation's classrooms. By June 2003-a watershed moment in education-every single state had an approved accountability plan in place to ensure that every single student was learning.
The driving force behind his work as Secretary was his shared belief with President Bush that education is a civil right, just like the right to vote or to be treated equally. Paige believes it is wrong to fight discrimination with discrimination. For that reason, he strongly supports the President's vision of affirmative access that promotes diversity in our nation's colleges and universities through race-neutral alternatives.
As Secretary, Paige held the Department of Education to the same high standards expected of our schools. Upon taking office, he learned of wide-scale criminal fraud, waste, and abuse within the Department that was featured on national network news. In response, he made improving management one of his priorities. Paige rallied the Department to create the Blueprint for Management Excellence in order to build an organization worthy of the taxpayers' trust and the President's vision-a vision grounded in the belief that good government is not only closer to the people, but also more accountable to the people.
The Department-wide implementation of the blueprint streamlined operations, and provided strategic direction, resources and focus for the Department's central mission: ensuring equal access to education and promoting educational excellence throughout the nation.
As a result of this work, the Department received its second clean financial audit in a row in fiscal year 2003, only the third in the 24-year history of the Department. The Department's accomplishment also received the highest praise from the federal Office of Management and Budget.