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Oral History

Marshall (Mike) Smith Oral History, Under Secretary of Education

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Heininger

This is an interview with Mike Smith, in Palo Alto, California, on April 14, 2008. Tell us about when you first met Edward Kennedy and what your first impressions were.

Smith

It probably would have been in 1977, and I was in HEW [Health, Education, and Welfare], doing education policy. It wasn’t a Senate-confirmed appointment; it was just a political appointment, Schedule C. The meeting probably would have been with Ernie Boyer, doing a courtesy call around the ’78 amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I can remember the room. I sort of remember his office and the people there. I can’t remember who his aide was at that point. We worked mostly with [Claiborne] Pell’s aides, because he was the chair. Kennedy’s visit was a courtesy visit to get him thinking about the issues and knowing about them and so on.

As with most Senators, his knowledge about education programs, even though he knew more than most, was still pretty thin. So I stayed on the surface. I worried more about the distribution of money. He always wanted to distribute it more to the poor. That was the purpose of Title I. He was very respectful but also jealous of anybody getting in the way of Title I, because he saw his brother Robert [Kennedy] as having a huge influence on it. Well, both brothers influenced it, but Robert was a direct influence. I think the Senator saw it as a family legacy, so he was going to protect it. If you look at what he’s done over the last six or seven years, you can see that that’s part of it. He wanted to be involved in that reauthorization, even though it was a reauthorization by a Republican in this case. So I would have seen him then. I would have seen him off and on at hearings and so on, but not one-on-one or two-on-one or whatever.

I remember talking with him about what was called the Youth Act of 1980, which had a couple of people involved in it whom you might want to interview. One of them is Tom Glynn. Tom is a Massachusetts guy. He did some staff work for the [Jimmy] Carter White House. Bill Spring is another Massachusetts guy. The Youth Act of 1980 was Carter’s last attempt to have a serious domestic initiative in education and labor, and it was a joint education and labor proposal. Bert [Bertram] Carp was deputy to [Stuart] Eizenstat, who was the domestic-policy guy. Bert was the number two in that, and he was in charge of basic domestic policy. Spring worked directly for Bert. That was the White House group.

They had orchestrated an initiative that cut across education. There were two parts to it, but there was also considerable overlap. We got it through the House; we got it almost all the way through the Senate; I think we got it through the committee. I’m trying to remember exactly. I think we lost it on the floor. We could have lost it in the committee on this count, but we lost it on the floor because the Republicans threatened it with a youth sub-minimum wage, and labor went nuts. Of course this was all happening while Senator Kennedy was running for the nomination for President against Jimmy Carter, which confounded it politically. So it was a tricky bill to work through the Senate, because you weren’t even sure who the Democratic allies were. But he stayed with it.

I recall meeting with him once or twice around those issues, maybe with somebody from the White House, maybe with Tom Glynn or Bill Spring. Glynn was later the Deputy Secretary of Labor for the first three years of the [William] Clinton administration. He now directs the cluster of joint hospitals: the Mass General, Peter Bent Brigham, the Women’s Hospital, and so on.

Heininger

Does he work with Jim Mongan?

Smith

I don’t know, but he’s the overall mega-director, or maybe he’s the mega-COO [Chief Operating Officer]. Maybe there’s a higher person. Glynn knows Senator Kennedy a lot better than I do. There’s a Massachusetts link, so a lot of people from Massachusetts would travel with him. The administration people would travel with him when he went back to Massachusetts. Tom would do that occasionally, and then Tom Payzant, and then after a while, the person went to Boston. The Senator was a major supporter of his that entire time.

I got to know the Senator a little bit during the Carter days. I didn’t see much of him in the [Ronald] Reagan days. I’m sure there were times when I was in a meeting with him, because I was back in Washington quite a bit. It would have been a big meeting. I remember sitting directly behind him in the White House, at the announcement of America 2000, which was the big [George H. W.] Bush announcement. God only knows how I had been invited, but I sat directly behind him. He looked old at that point. He was tired, I guess. Of course his weight fluctuates enough so that sometimes he looks good and sometimes he doesn’t look so good. During that era, up through the end of Reagan and into Bush, and then during the days of the Bush administration itself, I think I saw him a couple of times. I was on two or three of the committees that had been formed around standards-based reform. I did a lot of the underwriting.

Heininger

You were on the one with Ellen Guiney?

Smith

No.

Heininger

There was a big one.

Smith

There was the Congressional one, which was NCEST, the National Council on Education Standards and Testing. The Senate representative was Jeff Bingaman, from New Mexico.

Heininger

There was another one too.

Smith

Jeff and [Orrin] Hatch, I think, were the two.

Heininger

I can’t remember. There was another nonprofit academic group that was doing assessments of education.

Smith

Oh sure, the Pew Forum. Yes, I started the Pew Forum.

Heininger

I knew you started something with her.

Smith

Bob Schwartz is another guy who knows the Senator pretty well. He is now an associate dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Bob has a long history in Massachusetts, including having lived there most of his life and having gone to Harvard. In fact, he and I were in the same freshman dorm at Harvard. Schwartz, among other things, was Mayor [Kevin] White’s aide for years, education advisor with Barney Frank, who was chief of staff, I guess. Bob was the education aide. He was Governor [Michael] Dukakis’ education aide during the entire time that Dukakis was running, before and into it. Bob had quite a bit to do with the Youth Act. Bob also was the first president of Achieve, Inc., which is a Governors’ and business people’s organization. For a while he was the foundation officer, the program officer at the Pew Foundation. We’re old friends.

He’s also a jazz buff. He knows everybody everywhere. You go to a town with Bob and he knows who’s playing that night, and he knows where he came from, and he knows that they haven’t played together in years. Anyhow, we were watching jazz, having a drink downtown, a basement place on the west side of Washington, talking about what we do. I was the dean here at Stanford, and we decided on something that had to do with standards-based reform. He had been working on it. I’d been writing about it, and the writing had gotten a big play. The writing had been used by the Democrats as their bill in opposition to America 2000. They wrote a bill in the House based on some stuff that I had written. It was passed in the House, it was passed in the Senate, and it too failed after a while. It was probably just as well.

Bob had been doing other work on it, so we decided, “Why don’t we get a forum of people together to talk about this? We have something hot. It’s a significant reform. We ought to get people who are of different minds and who know a lot about this and who think it’s important.” So we did and it was very powerful. It went on for 10 years. I had to stop being the chair when I was no longer in the government. There were people like Al Shanker, Ellen of course, Jack Jennings, a group of people who were connected in some way to the Washington scene, from the outside as well as from the inside. “Checker” [Chester Finn] was on that too.

Heininger

Why did the standards-and-accountability movement come about? Was it catalyzed by A Nation at Risk?

Smith

No. I’ll send you the paper, which was not just me. Other people also claim that it was the piece that brought it all together in people’s heads. A Nation at Risk had an impact because it set up the nation for some serious changes, and it set up the people in Washington for serious change.

Heininger

Another Sputnik.

Smith

Yes. The thing about standards-based reform, it had less accountability than it does now, and it had more emphasis on capacity. The analysis was that the system is chaotic; things aren’t connected to each other in a systematic way. So at one level the idea is simple: You have a good organization, a good business; you have a set of goals; you have your set of resources; you align the resources to the goals; you measure the outcomes; but you also make sure that people have enough resources to do it.

Heininger

That’s Business 101.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

It’s never been applied to education.

Smith

Exactly, so you try to take it to education. Because the Constitution doesn’t mention education, you invest the fundamental responsibilities in the states—that’s basically the Tenth Amendment—and you ask the states to create what are called “standards,” which are expectations about what the kids are going to learn.

Heininger

When it was originally conceived, did you accept that it would have to be state-based rather than nationally based?

Smith

Yes. It would be terrible if it were nationally based. Make one error and you screw up 50 states. [laughter]

Heininger

That’s true.

Smith

And it’s so political. Everybody asks this question, of course, but almost all of the countries that have national standards, number one, they’re relatively small, they’re more like the size of our states. Number two, many of the people who create the standards are homogeneous; and number three, people who create the standards are professionals. Here the people who were creating standards were often politicians.

Heininger

Political.

Smith

Yes. So we get these incredible political compromises or things being left out, such as evolution or whatever.

Heininger

Or as when the first history standards came in the state of Virginia and slaves were called “indentured servants,” that created a bit of a problem.

Smith

Anyhow, so that’s the answer to your first question.

Heininger

So it evolved from a recognition that if there were a chaotic system, and if you simply applied the Business 101 principles—

Smith

We didn’t call it that.

Heininger

I understand, but it’s—

Smith

Right. That’s a big part of it. The other part was, we looked at this as having two sides. One was, what should you aspire to and achieve? The other was, what kinds of resources do you need to get there?

Heininger

There’s a third piece, though. One is setting the standards.

Smith

And then there’s some sort of accountability system that would measure the outcomes.

Heininger

Or assessments?

Smith

Right.

Heininger

It originally was more the first two legs.

Smith

Well, it included assessments.

Heininger

Not the way they are now.

Smith

Right. There are only three: one in fourth grade, one in eighth grade, and one in eleventh grade or so.

Heininger

Basically doing milestones along the way.

Smith

Right, but having some accountability there, not as rigid accountability as exists at this point. A lot of attention was paid in the Clinton years—and there are a lot of people who thought this was terrible—to the politics of it in different states, because each state had to put together its own standards system. They did it by 1999, which was five or six years later, after the bill had been passed. A lot of people said, “You’re going much too slowly,” and so on. Some states had to pass legislation. In some states, the legislature met only once every two years, and to pass legislation, if they missed it the first year, it took them four years, boom, just like that. Some states had to overcome all sorts of opposition from people who were afraid that it would punish the rich and help the poor or whatever. There was that kind of fear, particularly among some southern states.

Heininger

Or shame the poor.

Smith

There were a bunch of hurdles to get over, but it did pretty well. To jump way ahead, I think in ’02, when enough data hadn’t come out about the effectiveness, a lot of what happened with both Senator Kennedy and Congressman [George] Miller was a frustration about having worked in these vineyards of trying to help the poor. When did he come to the Senate first?

Heininger

Sixty-three.

Smith

Sixty-three? So he had been going, at that point, 39 years, and he didn’t feel as though he could point to much. He could point to a lot of bills passed, but he couldn’t point to a lot of success.

Heininger

Kids were still poor. Schools were still—

Smith

A big achievement gap.

Heininger

Income and inequality.

Smith

We’ve overcome all of these things: segregation in the South, attempts at moving segregation north. We put all sorts of resources in, Title I resources and so on. Title I, fundamentally, hasn’t had a big effect. It got all tied up with politics, and it didn’t move the needle much.

Heininger

Why? My understanding is that this is part of the process that Kennedy went through as somebody who says, “Identify the problem, and put money toward solving the problem.”

Smith

Right.

Heininger

Having defined the problem as elevating kids who come from poor socioeconomic homes, Title I was an attempt to provide them with a better education, and therefore, in the long run, provide them better opportunities. By the time you get to the late ’80s, there seems to be a recognition that this wasn’t solving the problem.

Smith

Clear recognition. There are a lot of reasons for it. Title I put larger amounts of money into poor schools than into well-to-do schools, but it spread out money across every district in the country. They felt they had to do that because politically that was the only way to get the money through. So big amounts of money were there, but it was pretty spread out. You’d get into some schools, upwards of $700 or $800—and that’s probably a little bit more now—per Title I student, per poor student, extra money, but it too gets spread out a little bit within the school. The money went for, in the first years, a lot of afterschool programs.

I did an evaluation of the first year of Title I in Boston, and the money was going to summer schools and to enrichment programs for poor kids—pretty good programs. But over time, much of the money went to teacher aides rather than to extra teachers. Teacher aides were not trained very well; many of them didn’t speak English very well. The kids they were dealing with needed skilled teachers, and they needed models, people who could speak English clearly and speak it in academic terms, that is, academic for K–8 schools.

The biggest problem that the kids in poor families have, in my view, is that they aren’t exposed to a lot of language, and they don’t get asked to participate in oral communication when they’re very young. If you go to California schools now and you look at the kids, the low-income students, they won’t say more than 10 to 15 words in a day, that is, to a teacher, to an adult. They’ll talk to their classmates a little bit, but they’re never asked to engage in oral communications, kids K–6, K–7. They’re not asked to explain something, unless it’s a rare class.

Heininger

Because the teachers don’t ask them.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

The teachers don’t require it.

Smith

No, they don’t ask them. If the students are asked questions, the teachers want a one-word or one-number answer: “What’s the answer to this math problem?” not—

Heininger

“How did you get there?”

Smith

“That’s a great answer. Tell me how you got there.” That would be a shock to these kids. They just don’t get it. So there’s all sorts of literature on this. These kids come in with far less vocabulary, one-third or one-fourth the size of the vocabulary of middle-income kids. They come in without a lot of different words that are useful in school—their clauses, “if,” “however,” and so on—the words that tie ideas and sentences together, words that create paragraphs, words that create logical arguments, and so on. Those don’t get used by these kids. So the people who were hired were often wonderful people, but they couldn’t give the students the kind of model that they needed. Large percentages of this.

In the early years, there was a little bit of abuse of the federal funds. There was a GAO [General Accounting Office] study, I think, because GAO was one of the other groups. They found a principal in Chicago who had used it to buy gold handles on the bathroom or something. It’s like the military stuff.

Heininger

It’s the $600 toilet seat in the Pentagon.

Smith

Right. They put a series of regulations in, and of course that pretty much forced a prevailing model of what was called pull-outs. If you have Title I kids in your class, you were not allowed to teach on Title I money. You’re not allowed to teach the other kids and the Title I kids simultaneously. You had to pull the kids out and teach them over here. Well, they were often pulled out by people who had fewer credentials. About 70 percent were pulled out at one point in the history of the program. Of the ones pulled out of reading classes, about 70 percent of that 70 percent were pulled out of their regular reading class in order to get this other reading class.

Heininger

By less educated, less skilled—

Smith

Without the models of kids who were more well-to-do, who may have had a different vocabulary, and so on. So over that period of time, there were lots of attempts to fix things. They never could work, in part because of the legacy of the teacher aides; in part because the focus wasn’t on things like language; in part because of something that a lot of people have pointed to over time: a different curriculum was used in many of the poor classes than was used in the well-to-do classes, which guaranteed that you wouldn’t learn as much. Part of this curriculum might have been appropriate for the kids’ level, but on the other hand, you’re locking them into this. So there was a conundrum in ’02. We had argued in ’94 that we had to break out of this curriculum, and we asked whether the standards could break you out of this two-curriculum problem. It did to a certain extent, but in doing so, they locked us into some very rigid curriculum that exists, particularly in reading and math, around the country.

Heininger

In the Clinton years or not until the [George W.] Bush years?

Smith

No, in the Bush years they locked into the government.

Heininger

But not in the Clinton years?

Smith

Not so much in the Clinton years. There was a lot more attention to student work, to how students were doing. There was still the problem of how to bring the kids up fast enough so that they can have the same curriculum. The reason we had created fourth grade and eighth grade assessments was that we didn’t believe that kids could be lockstepped in. They needed a lot of attention to catch up, so that by fourth grade, they were at a decent level of competence in reading. But you weren’t going to see that decent level of competency in kindergarten reading, first-grade reading, second-grade reading, third-grade reading, right? You had to move them.

Heininger

You have to see them over time.

Smith

You can’t see them each year.

Heininger

Annual measurements are not going to be a particularly good measure.

Smith

This is why we used these four, eight benchmarks. We also did it because most other countries did it. They thought through the same problem, and they didn’t have this continuous measurement.

But you can see the frustration in Miller in particular, and then I think Miller basically got Senator Kennedy to go along with him. Bush had an effect, but it was in large part Miller saying, “I’m going to go this way, and I need you. We’re working together on this.”

Heininger

You said something interesting earlier about your interaction with Kennedy during the Carter years, that back then, when education was less on the radar screen than it was later, almost by necessity you had to deal with a surface level of education issues. Is that the same way you saw him later?

Smith

I don’t think he ever got deep into this. There were a bunch of things going on. First of all, there was the health issue. Health was his issue at that point. A lot of us believed that we went in under the radar. We got what was called Goals 2000 and then the ’94 amendments on ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education Act], which was called IASA, Improving America’s Schools Act. Those slipped in. They were not totally without problems, but the health issue, that was the front page; that was driving the questions to the Senators; that was driving the questions to the Congress people. And here comes education slipping in underneath, and it was terrific. We were able to slide right in, to get a decent majority in both Houses on both bills, and then to walk away from it.

Heininger

You mean, sometimes getting reform in is a matter of—

Smith

Luck.

Heininger

Luck and striking when the attention is diverted in a different direction.

Smith

Right. We also had it set up. There was a group of people around the Pew Forum. We had lined up the AFT [American Federation of Teachers], with Al [Shanker] being a pusher for it, and Al and Kennedy were close. They talked together a lot. I don’t know if Gordon Ambach was close, but he thinks he was close, and he talked a lot to Kennedy. He was the president of the Chief State School Officers at the time. He had been the Chief State School Officer in New York, very active. Ellen Guiney, of course, was on it. Jack Jennings, who I think was respected by the Senate as well as by the House, was an advocate of this.

More importantly, Bill Taylor was an advocate. Bill’s been around Washington since 1965, when he was the counsel for the Civil Rights Commission report in 1967. He’s been, at different times, the head of the civil rights groups. He and Kati Haycock basically wrote—and Bill was just as important as Kati in this—the ’02 amendments. They moved mostly through George [Miller], but Bill’s relationship to Kennedy was probably important. I don’t know how close Kati is to Kennedy.

Heininger

How much was Kennedy’s staff involved in the question of superficial versus in-depth understanding?

Smith

That’s a question to ask Payzant or Mike Cohen. Do you know Cohen?

Heininger

We interviewed him for the Clinton Presidential Project.

Smith

I didn’t come to that meeting.

Heininger

That was a big meeting. They had [Richard] Riley.

Smith

Yes, I know. I couldn’t make it. We have all the records of it.

Heininger

I read it. It was very long. It was a 137-page transcript. I read the whole thing—very useful from my standpoint.

Smith

My views on it are somewhat different from Carey’s [Parker] and not much different from Mike’s. Mike was in the White House a good part of that time. I ran the elementary and secondary part of the transition, and I stayed on when Dick asked me to be Under Secretary. Madeleine Kunin was the Deputy Secretary. When Madeleine left to become Ambassador to Switzerland, I took both jobs. I created the Under Secretary job, so I took the frontal lobes. I took the evaluation office and the budget office. [Thomas] Scully later became—do you know Tom or any of the Scullys?

Heininger

Is there anybody in Washington who doesn’t?

Smith

Well, there are two Tom Scullys. This is the Tom Scully who is at Jamestown [Elementary School, Arlington, VA, where Smith’s wife had been principal], whose child was at Jamestown. He’s still head of the budget office at the Department of Education.

Heininger

OK.

Smith

Anyhow, I was orchestrating the passage of it, and we assigned Mike to work on Goals 2000. When we got Tom [Payzant] in, we had just about finished putting together the IASA internally, clearing it with the White House and so on. So Tom came in, and we immediately got him going on working with the Congress on IASA, because I was working on three or four other things at the same time. Tom carried it through, and Tom was perfect. He was so much better than I was in terms of tolerance, and he brings the credibility of having been a superintendent in three or four places.

Heininger

He’s quite charming.

Smith

Tom is wonderful.

Heininger

Ellen [Payzant] is too.

Smith

Tom was terrific, and he took to it like a duck to water. It was perfect. He worked with Jack and that crowd in the House and then moved over to the Senate. Tom carried it through. The real relationship here with Kennedy wasn’t any of us; it was Dick. I was convinced at the end of that, or during the time there, that having been an elected political person—I mean, elected to a serious office, like a Governor—is a very powerful thing for a Secretary to have, because it puts them on a roughly even status. It puts them on an even keel on the elected side with Senators and Congress people. There’s a bonding that can go on that is easier for them to create, I think, than it is for people who aren’t elected.

Heininger

You’re probably right about that. They see them as one of their own.

Smith

Yes. A lot of the Senators could also see being Governor someday. They could move out of being a Senator and be a Governor. It’s equal status or maybe even a little bit more than equal status. Dick is absolutely completely charming, and he’s the last honest man in Washington, so he had great strength of reputation. When we needed something serious from Kennedy, he would call. It would be his call rather than my call. Whenever we needed something from Kennedy’s staff, I would call. I don’t think that breaks out that way in every department, but in our department, it worked perfectly, beautifully. There was a lot of pushing down of responsibility. Dick would push it to me; I would push it to Assistant Secretaries. I trusted that the person was going to carry through in a good way.

Heininger

Do you have a sense as to where Kennedy was on the standards-based reform?

Smith

I don’t think he knew what was happening.

Heininger

Did his staff?

Smith

Yes, I’m sure they did, because they would have been briefed by Tom.

Heininger

And they had Ellen [Guiney].

Smith

They had Ellen, of course. Ellen was there, right, so Ellen knew completely. Ellen would have briefed him. I’ve never heard him talk about it, and I may be dead wrong on this, but I’ve never heard him explain it or try to explain it in a hearing or wherever. He never asked, “Why would you set it up this way?” or, “What does this mean?” I think he had an idea what standards were. Most people in Washington still believe that there are only two things in standards-based reform. They believe that there are standards and then there is accountability. In fact they call it “standards and accountability,” and sometimes they just call it “accountability.”

Heininger

You mean that they’re missing the funding piece.

Smith

They’re missing the whole idea.

Heininger

Providing the necessary resources.

Smith

But also aligning the resources. I have always thought that the most important thing about this was the concept of the alignment, the concept of coherence, trying to create something that wasn’t just chaotic, with lots of actors doing their thing.

Heininger

I see that the only arena in which Congress plays is the money piece.

Smith

Yes, that’s right. This piece of legislation was a big step.

Heininger

It was huge. It was a sea change.

Smith

So you understand how it worked? [laughs] It was fairly tricky but quite deliberate. We put out Goals 2000, and Goals 2000 said, “Here’s some free money, but in order to take it, you have to commit yourself to creating some standards and assessments.”

Heininger

And it was voluntary.

Smith

Yes, and it wasn’t much money. At the max, it was $600 million across 50 states, and it was distributed by population, so some states were getting $2 million, $3 million. Then along came ESEA. ESEA was money they were already getting.

Heininger

Which is where the big money is.

Smith

Right. In those days it was $8 billion, and now it’s $16 or $17 billion, but $8 billion was still a lot of money. IASA said, “We’re going to ask you to use a set of standards to set out what poor kids, Title I kids, should now be able to do. We want to assess them and so on, but if you were to do this, we want to use the same standards for all kids, because we want these kids to have an equal shot.”

Heininger

That’s tricky.

Smith

So in order to get the Title I money, you had to have a standards system for everybody, without ever saying it.

Heininger

Did the states recognize this?

Smith

No, not for about a year. By the time they recognized it, all but one or two states had gotten on board. They were going to do Montana, I think it was. Iowa was confused. Iowa is very much a locally controlled state, so it was hard for Iowa.

Heininger

Back up a minute. When you put out Goals 2000 and you said, “Here’s some money to develop some standards, and it’s voluntary—”

Smith

There were other things you could do with it too.

Heininger

What percentage of the states participated?

Smith

All but one finally did, I think.

Heininger

So there was receptivity.

Smith

It was 37 the first year, or something like that, two-thirds or three-quarters in the first year, and then the others came in clumps. There was a lot of receptivity to it. IASA came right behind it, but it was happening anyway. There was a sense that this would be a good idea.

Heininger

Do you think that there had already been a recognition among the states that this was in the wind, that this was a direction that the country should move in?

Smith

Yes. The Chief State School Officers were for it. They had voted for it in a plenary session. Gordon was an absolute super advocate of it. Gordon Ambach was the president of the Chief States School Officers. He had been working with them for two years. The paper we wrote was circulated first in ’89/’90, so he had been working with them since ’90 on this. Gordon was also on the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, which was legislatively created. Basically the only thing that came out of America 2000 was the creation of this commission. I was on it. I was a board member, as was Shanker. We had Roy Romer and Carroll Campbell. [William] Goodling was on it, and [Dale] Kildee was on it.

Heininger

How did the Governors Conference fit into this?

Smith

Well, the folks in the NGA [National Governors Association] were for this.

Heininger

Eighty-eight or ’89 was the Governors Conference.

Smith

The Governors Conference was before this. The Governors Conference said, “We have these goals.” They had six goals. Goals 2000 picked up those goals, but Goals 2000 wasn’t about that; it was about standards-based reform. In Dick Riley’s mind, it was more about the goals. I just read an interview he had with them, talking about the goals, how he’d do it differently.

Heininger

It’s an interesting case study of how you bring about major change in something in which the federal government basically has a minimal-to-zero role.

Smith

Right, exactly.

Heininger

I’m probing for—How does it evolve? Where does Congress fit in, and where does Kennedy fit in?

Smith

I’m not sure where Kennedy fits into it, except that he was chair of the committee at that point. Was it Labor at that point?

Heininger

It was the Labor Committee.

Smith

There was a little paper about this by Maris Vinovskis, who is a historian. The idea of standards came up in ’83 in A Nation at Risk. There were different kinds of standards. They were interpreted at that point as being challenging high school courses. Those were the high standards. They weren’t setting them out in a way that the SOLs [Standards of Learning] or others were set out. Then the NCTM, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, created a set of math standards that started in about ’85. I was at Wisconsin. It started at Wisconsin, in my center. I didn’t start it; Tom Romberg did. He pulled together the NCTM people and said, “All right, what should kids know?”

Heininger

Math is easier. Math is tangible.

Smith

Math, yes, right, although controversial at times.

Heininger

Yes, very.

Smith

That has served as a marker, and that was what people thought of with standards. Then along comes the summit. The summit talked about goals. The summit also used the word “standards” in it. Simultaneously, Diane Ravitch, in Lamar Alexander’s department at that point, in Bush I, set out to create voluntary national standards. That was done. Diane was in charge of the research at that point, and she contracted the history standards, and of course she said that they were terrible. I believe she contracted the English standards as well, and she may have contracted the math standards, which went to the National Academy of Sciences. So voluntary standards were being created.

At just about that time, California was creating frameworks, called curriculum frameworks, which were very similar to the standards. People would call them “curriculum frameworks” basically, rather than “standards.” California’s system was a fairly smart system. I think Bill Honig was running it then. He had standards. He had curricula that were aligned with them to some extent. He had a variety of different curricula that the government would approve and that could be used by the states. He was seriously trying to align resources. He’d set into motion the possibility of interesting tests, which then got thrown away in ’95 or ’96.

A graduate student and I started writing a paper around ’88, circulated around ’89, which laid out the whole set of ideas using these examples. That was then picked up by Dale Kildee’s office. It got a lot of pushing around. Schwartz was beginning to work on standards at the time. Marc Tucker was working on the standards at the time. He had started something called the New Standards Project. Do you know of Marc? He’s quite a controversial figure in this field, but he’s one of the imaginative people. He sent me an email. I’ll get you emails on these people. I can do introductions if you want, and you can do a poll too.

Heininger

If I recall, at the same time, the broad political context was that a lot of stuff was coming out about how American students stacked up against students internationally.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

That raised public awareness that American students were not doing well.

Smith

That started in ’83 with A Nation at Risk, and then there was a lot more of it. America 2000 also created a stir, even though it didn’t go anywhere, and that brought on board ideas like this. Checker was in the Pew Forum too, so we had Checker, and Jim Coleman, who was a very famous sociologist. We had a number of people in this group who were more to the right. This group started to meet around the beginning of ’91. Simultaneously, a group that was run by Bill Taylor, which was a civil rights group, started. I was on that group as well, and that group was thinking about the ’94 amendments, about what they would be. There was a department group that started at the same time, which had people on it who were interested and who had been involved with the Pew Forum and knew about this stuff.

A staffer for Kildee—Kildee was the head of the subcommittee—wrote a bill, as the Democrats’ substitute for America 2000. There was a CRS [Community Relations Service] write-up of it, and it incorporated our paper almost word for word. Mike Cohen took the paper, and while flying out one day to Arkansas to help Bill Clinton put together a bill for his legislature, he drafted a bill from that paper basically. Cohen, at that point, was with NGA. Let’s see, he was with Tucker. Cohen is a player in this thing. So a lot of things begin to come together. Then coming out of the failed America 2000, coming out of the failed Democratic substitute, was this National Council on Education Standards and Testing, run by two Governors, two Congressmen in it, two Senators on it, including Hatch, who was always seen as a confidant of Kennedy’s.

Heininger

He still is a very close friend.

Smith

They would work together as close friends.

Heininger

Politics notwithstanding.

Smith

Right. So there were a lot of things aligned. The civil rights groups supported it, with Bill Taylor. The chiefs supported it. The Governors were a little bit more confused about it, but we’d tell them that it was a direct offshoot from their summit, so they liked it. The AFT was in love with it. The ADA [Americans for Democratic Action] didn’t know quite what to do with it. There was strong support in those areas by senior staff in both Houses. I mean by Jack and Ellen. We had the cards aligned in a way that I’ve never seen before. I walked onto the transition team because—

Heininger

And then Clinton brings in Dick Riley.

Smith

Dick Riley was on the transition team too. Dick had gotten Terry Peterson to come with him. Terry Peterson had been Dick’s aide. As soon as Terry got there, he called me and said, “You have to come in and help with this.” So I came in and we rumbled around a little bit, and then I became head of the elementary and secondary part. We wrote a 90-page paper that laid out the strategy. Nothing ever happened to it. I have copies of it, but nobody else has copies. As far as I know, nothing happens to these transition papers. Dick hired me as Under Secretary. I walked in and within a week of January 20th, we were deep into the writing. Cohen was writing Goals 2000 at that point; I was writing the IASA bill. We were trying to put them together, always reading each other’s. It was just done.

There’s another hook in this that’s important. Again, it’s not a Kennedy hook, but it’s an important hook. There was a consortium center, the CPRE, which is the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. It was started in 1984 by Susan Fuhrman—who is now the dean of TC [Columbia University’s Teachers College]—by a professor at Rutgers, by me, and by a woman from RAND [Research and Development]. It was a national competition. We took the center away from Stanford. Two years later I went to Stanford, and I brought part of the center to Stanford. So CPRE lasted for 23 years, and it’s a mixture of different universities. It still exists, but it’s Harvard, TC, Penn, Michigan, and Stanford, so that mixture of institutions and the people in them. It mostly contains the most serious policy people in the country and a list of scholars.

CPRE was focusing on state reform, and it was through CPRE that the set of ideas and coherence began to build. I wrote this paper basically as part of the CPRE grant, as part of the CPRE effort. CPRE had put together a mix of scholars, and they bought into it. At that point CPRE wasn’t as broad spread as it is now, but it still had key people in it. You had not just the Washington-based people, but the Washington-based people called up other scholars. They were likely to know about this, and were in support of it. It was nice. I’d never seen anything come together like that before, so it worked well.

Heininger

And then you get a Presidential candidate.

Smith

Then we had a President who was ready to go with the ideas without, again, knowing them deeply. And here’s a man who knows everything deeply. I’m sure he’d read the bill and so on, but not knowing quite how big a deal it was for the federal government to do this, not having a relationship. And he was over his head at that point in health.

Heininger

Well, Riley understood it.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

And Clinton trusted Riley?

Smith

Yes, totally.

Heininger

Good delegation.

Smith

Yes, and Riley trusted Clinton, including right up to that day, three days before the Monica [Lewinsky] thing totally blew up, where Riley stood up in front of the White House. Do you remember that day?

Heininger

Yes.

Smith

When Riley and Janet [Reno] and—

Heininger

Yes, I do.

Smith

I forget who else it was. I said to Dick, “Dick, don’t do this.” I said something about “Human beings are weak. He knew not what he did.” He wouldn’t do it. He would say, “I know he’s right. I know he didn’t do it.” I said, “Dick, you’re too good.” I’ve had two major arguments with Dick. One was over that, and the other was over whether George Bush was a threat. He said, “I know that guy. He’s such a weak-minded jerk.” He didn’t say that; I didn’t say that. [laughs] He said something much gentler, but still.

Heininger

So you had an unusual constellation of the groundwork having been laid by academics, nonprofits, multiple organizations, a coterie of policy experts who were all on the same page.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

You had civil rights groups behind it, which is absolutely critical.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

You get teachers, or at least part of the teachers, behind it.

Smith

The most articulate, strongest voice.

Heininger

Right. You get the state school chiefs, which I would assume would be absolutely instrumental for implementation. Then you get a President who wants to make this an issue and who delegates it to a Secretary who has a history in the area.

Smith

Dick Riley was the chair of the CPRE board.

Heininger

He gives it to the one person who has the credibility, both from the state level and with the groups involved, and the personality. Then what did you have to do to sell it to Congress?

Smith

You don’t have to sell education bills to too many people in Congress.

Heininger

Contrary to the late 1990s, but we’ll get to that. So the stars are aligned.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

What happens? The stars are aligned. The states respond favorably to the voluntary piece in Goals 2000.

Smith

Yes. The stars were aligned, right, and the bill was passed. There were a few bumpy spots but no great problems.

Heininger

And then you use this tricky device to connect Title I money, which is the real big pool of money, with using the same standards for all kids, which they probably didn’t realize.

Smith

Right. Then the money goes out to the states. The implementation lines had been extended by the Congress in the normal way: people complaining that they couldn’t do this that fast for many reasons. And they were right, by and large. I believe in long-term implementation. I don’t think we can get anything done fast.

Heininger

I understood that a lot of the state government departments of education simply didn’t have the capacity.

Smith

They didn’t have the capacity to do it.

Heininger

That had to be built.

Smith

Right. They had to go about business in a different way. We asked them to pull people together from a variety of places in order to put together the standards, and to think about how that had to be a shared responsibility. That may have been a mistake on our part. If we had looked more closely at what other countries were doing, they relied on educational experts to put these things together. We didn’t. For political purposes if nothing else, we wanted to have a broader base of support. The departments didn’t have the time, and it took them time, and it was a different form of business than they had done before. Before they were ready for regulations and their marching orders, they would make sure that people were compliant. This is asking them to do a different thing, asking them to do a state-inspired reform of their entire system.

Heininger

That’s an important distinction. The federal government passes legislation to create whatever. It issues regulations for how this is to be done. It tells the states, “We’re going to give you this money. This is how you are to do it.” The states salute and say, “This is how we’re going to do it,” and then they do it.

Smith

Sometimes they write their own regulations on top of them.

Heininger

Well, that often is the case. But this was different.

Smith

This was very different.

Heininger

This said, “This is what we want you to accomplish. We’re going to give you some money to accomplish it, but it’s up to you.”

Smith

Right. There were no regulations on Goals 2000. There were a few regulations—and there always are—around the accountability provision, a couple of other things, but very few, much less than had existed in most pieces of legislation. That’s right. So they get this stuff. Now they have a set of things to do, and they haven’t done them before, and there are going to be implications for how they go about doing business and what they’re expected to do, how they’re expected to reach out to communities, who they’re expected to reach out to, and so on.

They were expected to do things such as align resources around the focus of their goals, and they had never done anything like that, because they just put the money out as categoricals, which their legislature or the federal legislature told them to do. They’d never had to think about that kind of responsibility before. They had to put together ways of thinking about tests that aligned with the standards. I mean, what does that mean? That’s a complicated problem no matter what you do, and many states did not have the internal capacity. They basically bought their tests off the shelf. They didn’t have the internal capacity to think about what the implications of that were.

We underestimated a lot of it, I believe. There should have been a way to think about pooling together a block of money, which could have been support systems for the states, teams of people that went out. We did a little bit of that throughout the years. Tom tried to put together teams, out of the elementary and secondary education division, that would go to different states. The elementary and secondary education division in the federal government only has 150 people in it for education.

Heininger

Divided by 50 states, that’s two people plus support staff.

Smith

Yes, exactly. It’s nobody. And many of them had been there, at that point, since 1968/’69, when the big hiring went on. They had done things in the same way that we just talked about states doing things. They’d saluted when Congress set it up. They organized teams to put together regulations. They followed the regulations explicitly, and they had written advice on the regulations. So compliance was their mode as well, not support, not—

Heininger

Not support and guidance.

Smith

Exactly.

Heininger

Support, guidance, and training.

Smith

And analysis, and thinking about, how do you get around this problem in Nevada? What’s a good way to do this? Well, here’s the way Missouri did this in a similar situation. That mentality didn’t exist.

Heininger

So there wasn’t an approach to this of states sharing experiences with each other so that they could learn from each other.

Smith

Well, there were attempts to do that. Roy Romer is the classic example. Roy had been chair of NCEST, and he was very active also. The NGA was also active in other things. I always forget about the NGA. The NGA had these taskforces that a number of us were on. Roy was part of that; Clinton was part of that, but before. So this is in ’89, ’90, and ’91. Clinton was the head of some taskforce. I remember a meeting with Clinton where we had a dinner together. It was at an Irish pub right near the train station. Do you know the one I’m thinking about?

Heininger

Yes, I do. I don’t remember the name.

Smith

It’s not the Dublin, I don’t think; it’s something else. Anyhow, there’s a hotel there, and the pub is in the back of the hotel. It was at that hotel [Phoenix Park/Dubliner]. We had dinner there. The administration was going for about two weeks—oh, I know what it is. We were presenting to Clinton about what we intended to do and so on. We were sitting around the fireplace in the Oval Office, and [inaudible] punches me and says, “Remember the last time we had that dinner together?” He was all emotional with some story about the dinner. At that point, my mind was blank, and I had no idea.

Anyhow, I marvel. We sent Cohen out. Cohen would go out to different states and try to troubleshoot, because he had been involved with the NGA, and he knew a bunch of people that way because he had worked on Goals 2000. He would sit down with the states and then try to figure things out, but that was it. Roy would pull the western-states people together to try to deal with things, but he couldn’t get the teamwork that he wanted out of them.

There is now an evolving set of ideas around the states working together. There were four New England states, the small states, working together. Roy thought that he could get a bunch of western states to work together, even though he was not a Governor anymore. Southern states have always worked together in their own way. They worked through an organization. Mark Musick was the head of it for a long time, and he knew everybody in the South. It’s the SREB, the Southern Regional Education Board, and they would bring the chiefs together; they’d bring the Governors together at different times around issues. It’s interesting that the southern states would cooperate with all of the other states.

Heininger

Maybe because they all bought their textbooks from Texas.

Smith

No, it isn’t that. It’s that they still see themselves as a little bit different from everybody else. Jim Hunt was important in a lot of this stuff. He was working on the outside, doing things. Hunt and Riley were close, and of course Clinton was involved in that to some extent, not only in the South.

I’m thinking about how we have term limits here, so I’m done at the end of this year, and that’s great. Kristi [Kimball] will be done with her three-year responsibilities in June of next year, so I don’t think I’m going to have another day job. I have too many interesting kinds of offers. I’m running around. I’m saying no to everything. I don’t want to spend five months just thinking about what I’m going to do, but one of the things I’ve thought about doing is writing about the Clinton years. Do you know what a wiki is? It’s where if I started writing something, you could go in and write on top of it, and things could be there, and a whole bunch of people could contribute.

Well, it would be a wiki-like structure, and what I’d do is take a topic like the one we were just talking about, and I’d sketch out the outline of it. Then I’d pick ten key people who saw it from different perspectives—three or four Republicans, six Democrats, inside the White House, outside the White House, Governor or key persons with the Governors, someone like Jennings, someone like Ellen—and try to write the same phenomenon but from different perspectives, and somehow blend it together so that people got a richer picture of it than just—

Heininger

That could be an extremely useful piece.

Smith

I don’t know how to do it, but I have a vision of it. I’m so frustrated by other people’s discussions of what happened. I hear that Joe Califano’s is classic. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at Joe’s.

Heininger

Yes.

Smith

It’s all about Joe. It’s about how Joe saw it from the sixth floor of HEW in those days. That’s useful to some extent, but it might be much more useful to have different perspectives. Then you do it with a bunch of different groups, obviously for different issues. Anyhow, we’re off this topic.

Oh, one other thing. We flew up on Air Force One to announce IASA in Boston, obviously with the Senator and the President and Riley and so on, in the state. Nothing special about what I said or did with the Senator. We flew into Logan. I’m trying to remember whether we were in Boston. I don’t know where we were. Payzant will remember.

Heininger

So you get this thing going. States struggle along, but they come up with standards, and then [Newton] Gingrich comes in.

Smith

OK. Gingrich comes along well before most states set standards. Gingrich came along in ’94. We passed it in the summer of ’94.

Heininger

He comes in six months later, or rather, control shifts in January of ’95.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

You lose Democratic control of the Senate too.

Smith

We lose both Houses.

Heininger

Right.

Smith

So how did that change? Again, we were under the radar. We weren’t the most important players on the block for them.

Heininger

Except that they wanted to get rid of the Department of Education.

Smith

Except as you moved into the December before the—

Heininger

The shutdown?

Smith

Before ’96. December of ’95, and then January and February, the shutdown. It was a terrible miscalculation, an insane miscalculation.

Heininger

It turns out that Americans like government.

Smith

Yes, and they like Dick Riley. They didn’t know Dick Riley, but people who knew him liked him.

Heininger

And they like education.

Smith

Exactly. “What are you doing getting rid of education?” They don’t have any idea. It doesn’t mean very much at the federal level in some ways. But yes, that was a gas. There were four of us, who would come in and man the phones and work the newspapers and work the White House and give them stuff if they wanted it.

Heininger

How did it become evident that shutting down the Department of Education wasn’t going to work? How much of it was using the media?

Smith

A lot of it was using the media.

Heininger

Whose idea was it to use the media, aside from everybody?

Smith

A combination of the White House, us, and Democrats in Congress. It was so easy.

Heininger

Very seldom were these opportunities quite so easy to beat back.

Smith

I know. Exactly. We probably exaggerated: “Oh, we’ll never get our payments out. Teachers will starve,” and so on. We didn’t go quite that far.

Heininger

Well, hyperbole is a tactic in this business, on both sides.

Smith

I always ended up being the one who said, “No, you can’t say that. That’s not accurate at all.” I’d go for a little bit of inaccuracy but not a lot. I never believed it would be a problem. It was pretty clear to me all the way through that this couldn’t happen. They couldn’t possibly do it. The sheer level of difficulty of doing all the things you would have to do to shut the place down would grind them up and stop it from happening.

Heininger

Just on the technical side?

Smith

Yes. You could beat him. Oh, I thought we’d beat him on the other side too.

Heininger

But you felt that the technical side was going to defeat them regardless.

Smith

It was so strong; it was going to defeat him anyway. I think some of them became convinced of that. “Oh my God, we’re talking about 140 programs. We’re talking about services going out to tens of millions of people. There are 50 million kids out there.” You are shutting down payments, and you couldn’t possibly shut down the student-loan systems. Those needed attention, right? Those are well-to-do people who rely on those.

Heininger

I believe a lot of those Republicans had kids in college.

Smith

Yes, exactly.

Heininger

Maybe some of them were getting student loans.

Smith

There were so many different parts to it. It seemed to me to be impossible to do. I don’t remember feeling worried at all.

Heininger

Was anybody worried?

Smith

I don’t think so. Some of the staff may have been a bit worried, but it didn’t take them out of the building. They weren’t being paid. There was some insecurity about that for a while. There were temporary insecurities.

Heininger

Right.

Smith

You could see, in a sense, the tide turning almost immediately. You’d talk to people in the press and they’d say, “Oh, my God, this is so stupid. What are we talking about?”

Heininger

How much of it was that it was kids—always a popular concept—and how much of it was, “We have a problem with how our educational system stacks up internationally, and here we’re doing something about it.”

Smith

And are trying to get rid of it.

Heininger

How much of it was—kids trump almost anything?

Smith

Sure. I think there’s that. I also think that there was no constituency for this. There were some crazies in certain areas of the country who would say, “Let’s get rid of that bureaucracy,” and so on, but it’s not even most Republicans. I mean, they see the problems of doing something like this. On the other hand, there were a lot of constituencies that were avidly for keeping it—the two teachers unions to begin with. Then the AFL-CIO [American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations] comes marching in, because Shanker goes to them, or somebody went to them. The AFL-CIO used to be quite a bit bigger than it is now. So you have people clearly against them doing it, but nobody was rising up for them doing it—maybe the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know if their editorial page had it, but they probably had somebody saying that this was a good idea. Maybe the Washington Times did too.

Heininger

And you have civil rights groups?

Smith

Well, civil rights groups, who do they mobilize?

Heininger

Moral indignation.

Smith

Yes, but they can’t produce the letters. They can’t produce the faxes that go to the Hill and so on. Those were the days of faxes.

Heininger

Some postcards.

Smith

Phone calls.

Heininger

Where was Kennedy on this?

Smith

I don’t know.

Heininger

Let’s put it this way: were there people in Congress who were loudly proclaiming the argument against what Gingrich was trying to do?

Smith

The White House was handling it. This would have been the White House Communications Office, the White House political, the folks who worked the Senate and who would work Kennedy otherwise. I’m sure that it would be easy to dig up something by Kennedy right off the bat, during December and January, attacking it, going home to Massachusetts and attacking it, attacking it on the floor. “This I ridiculous.” Pretty honestly, I don’t remember any Democrats standing out as wanting to close it down. There may have been some in private, but nobody wanted to stand up and say it.

Heininger

Well, they also needed a win, having lost on health care.

Smith

Yes, right. Having lost on health care, having lost the House and the Senate. They lost their chairmanships. They lost just about everything.

Heininger

And they lost the votes. They didn’t have the votes to carry. At this point, the Republican votes became critical. In both the House and Senate, what happened with the Republicans?

Smith

My view on this is, hey probably had them for the first week, and then they lost them. This shutdown extended over the holidays.

Heininger

When people are back in their districts or states—

Smith

When people are back in their districts and they start getting asked, “Why are you doing this?” There’s no good answer for that. “Oh, we’re rubbing it in your face,” or “It’s intruding.” “Well, we like the money. It’s paying for my next-door neighbor, and it’s serving my kid.” That can be pretty persuasive. That was interesting. The other point, within a year, year and a half, was that Clinton was up for reelection after being way down. I wasn’t in those settings. I didn’t go to the convention. I stayed home and did a lot of television. Kennedy was always a Democrat first on all of these things. I’m sure he was orchestrating an awful lot of this stuff. I don’t know that he was.

Heininger

Then Clinton left office, and Bush came in.

Smith

Of course we had Monica in the middle of that.

Heininger

We had Monica in the middle, but we need to talk about No Child Left Behind and what happened.

Smith

Right. My view is a little uninformed because I deliberately stayed away from Washington for about three years. It was an interesting configuration of things. ESEA was ready to be reauthorized. We put out a bill in ’99 and in 2000, and it never took off. We couldn’t get it off. It was pretty much the way that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind has been fumbling this year. Last year and this year they couldn’t get it off the ground. The President, at that point, didn’t have the clout to pick it up and say, “This is what I want done.”

Heininger

Were they dealt with by continuing resolutions the same amount as last year?

Smith

No. You didn’t need to do it as appropriations that way. They would extend the authorization. So it’s not a committing resolution; it’s just to extend the authorization for a year or two. Then the appropriations would operate in the normal fashion. So they come in. It’s ready to go; everybody knows it’s ready to go. They want to get it done, and both Kennedy and Miller want to get their bill passed. They themselves don’t have the clout to do it, and they’re not in the majority.

Heininger

Did Hatch want to do it?

Smith

Yes. Everybody wants to continue Title I. It’s just part of the way the government operates.

Heininger

Who was Miller’s counterpart? Was that Goodling?

Smith

Yes, it would have been Goodling. Goodling had left in ’04.

Heininger

On or about there.

Smith

Yes. My view of this is that you had two men who believed they’d committed themselves to civil rights and bettering kids’ opportunities for years, who were intensely frustrated about the effects of the programs that they had sponsored.

Heininger

Miller and Kennedy?

Smith

Yes, and a third man.

Heininger

Frustrated because they weren’t seeing the progress?

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

It was taking too long, or it wasn’t creating the outcome?

Smith

They didn’t believe it was creating the outcome. In fact it was creating the outcome, but they didn’t get—

Heininger

That wasn’t a very long time frame to be making that judgment.

Smith

No, it wasn’t. They wanted it very fast.

Heininger

It takes time.

Smith

We have good data that shows that between ’94 and ’02, the rate of growth in reading scores was far greater than before and far greater than after. Math scores were about the same as they were before ’94 and about the same as they were after ’02.

Heininger

Interesting.

Smith

Yes. The two of them were heavily influenced by Kati Haycock and by Bill Taylor. He had done the Civil Rights Commission. Kati and Bill worked together. These are the civil rights groups now. It’s Bill running the civil rights groups, or being the lead thinker in education in the civil rights groups, and Kati being the basic advocate, both of them believing two things. One is that the answer to the puzzle is to have much stronger accountability than we had before, and that the reason the accountability was so weak was that it took too long to implement the prior amendments.

Heininger

So you get pressure for the accountability piece coming out of the civil rights groups?

Smith

Yes, because the poor kids are on it. And if you force the people to teach them what they should be learning, and if you measure that every year, and if you hold their feet to the fire the entire time, you’re going to cook their toes, and you’re going to get more success. A very simple model of human behavior.

Heininger

It also strikes me, though, that human development doesn’t necessarily go in one-year increments.

Smith

Right. It’s hard to catch the kids up. You have to spend a lot of extra resources. They thought they would get the extra resources. They were promised the extra resources by the President. Of course that’s one of the betrayals in this thing, the fact that he didn’t get the extra resources. I don’t think it would have made much difference personally, but both Kennedy and Miller signed on after personal meetings with the President. There were personal meetings and nicknames being given to them by the President. Did you know that?

Heininger

Yes.

Smith

But see, they were being supported by what they saw as the very strong Left.

Heininger

By their constituency.

Smith

By their civil rights constituencies, their heart constituencies. They may not be the constituencies in Boston so much, but they were the constituencies that they had worked for.

Heininger

For many years.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

It strikes me that there’s an analogy here that escaped these people, and that’s that if you see your child every day, you don’t notice that he’s growing. If somebody sees your child after five years, they say, “Oh, my goodness. Look how tall you’ve grown.”

Smith

Or “Look how smart you are.”

Heininger

“Look at how much more knowledge you have.”

Smith

Right.

Heininger

Is that a fair way of looking at this?

Smith

Yes, for two reasons. One is that it’s a serious amount of time, so you can do well-measured growth, whereas in one year the growth might not be very easy to measure, because the tests, after all, aren’t terribly accurate on many of these dimensions. The second thing is that kids grow at different rates. Anybody who has kids knows that they’re different from each other. The same kid will go through spurts and lapses and so on. It’s only the wizard kids who make it to the top all the time, or the wizard kids whose minds are focused in some ways that other kids’ minds aren’t. But that doesn’t say that, by this point, the other kids haven’t caught up or maybe have well exceeded somebody who stayed in a steady place.

But more so than just the accountability were two ideas. One was that all the kids were going to get exactly the same thing, right? If you give them the same curriculum, you give them the same test at the end of the year. The fact that everybody gets the same thing was going to ensure that opportunity was equally distributed, in effect, because you’re giving them exactly the same thing. It turns out that, of course, if you have a distribution of kids who are ready, if everybody’s going to get the same thing, you’re aiming for the middle, so you’re hurting the top and you’re hurting the bottom. So distribution increased a little bit in some cases around some of these tests. The other part of it was that Kati and Bill were absolutely taken by the idea of No Child Left Behind. I don’t know who thought that up, but every child should reach this particular goal regardless of—

Heininger

But doesn’t that go back to America 2000?

Smith

No, not every child.

Heininger

That wasn’t America 2000? Every child should reach a set goal by a set year?

Smith

No. The goals, for instance, for graduation, were not everybody. It wasn’t a 100 percent graduation rate. I think it was 90 percent or something like that—a challenging goal, but they weren’t set in such a way that they were impossible to reach. It is impossible to reach every child.

Heininger

So No Child Left Behind set a rigid goal that did not take into account special education kids, brand-new immigrants.

Smith

Special education kids, different variations. The kids are walking in the door in eleventh grade. In California we get thousands and thousands of them coming in in tenth grade, ninth grade, from rural schools in Mexico. They don’t know how to speak English. They don’t know anything. They’re given a test in English. Of course California is special. We do these things so badly in so many ways.

All of these things came together. When you work in the Senate, you’re always trying to create coalitions. I think the Senator was taken by Bush, and he thought, Here’s a man I can work with. He trusted him to do whatever the deal was, including the increases.

Heininger

What’s your assessment of how genuine Bush’s commitment was on this issue? Is this an issue that he cares about?

Smith

Texas started its reforms under Ross Perot in week four or week three. Successive Governors stayed the course in Texas—Mark White, Ann Richards.

Heininger

But you get a long history of reform, longer than virtually any other state I know of.

Smith

Right. North Carolina comes close, but that’s right. Up until now, they have 20 years of reform, starting with Perot. Very consistent reform. I remember being there with a review team, and Ann was the Governor. This must have been ’88 or ’89. Five of us spent three days there. We saw the heads of the committees and the leaders of the two Houses, and Ann was there for two out of the four days. It was incredible, an incredible review, lots of focus. “We want to get this done.”

Heininger

And across parties.

Smith

Right.

Heininger

Atypical.

Smith

Yes. It didn’t have anything to do with Bush.

Heininger

Yes, but that’s the environment that he came out of.

Smith

Right. None of us trust the guy anymore, but he probably was honest in that he wanted to get something done in education. He thought he had the magic bullet, and he was sold on more tests, even though Texas didn’t have a lot of tests. He sold a very different reform than what Texas had.

Heininger

Texas didn’t have annual tests?

Smith

It had annual tests, but it had them in three instead of eight grades. They also didn’t have very high standards. So Texas’s strategy for standards was—

Heininger

Set them low and more people will meet them.

Smith

Yes, and in fact you close the gaps. Texas did an interesting thing. They then changed the tests, which upped the standards, upped the level. This is like the training that you would give your kids, right? “OK, let’s reach this standard playing the violin or whatever, and now it’s terrific. Great, you can play in the junior orchestra. Would you be willing to try to play in the honors orchestra?” or whatever, and they say, “Sure, OK, the standard is up here. We’ll have to work at this, but here’s another standard.” So their strategy was deliberately to set the standards a little bit lower so that they’d get success, and then they’d move them up.

Some other states started so high that it was impossible to get there. He didn’t know that. He didn’t have any of the subtleties of it. He just had to come up with the brute strength of it, testing must be good. Then he brought in Sandy Kress, I guess, the guy who did the selling at that point. Kress had worked in the state Department of Education, I think, or maybe it had been the Governor’s office. Anyhow he was a key person, and they brought him into the White House to orchestrate that.

Heininger

Did he understand the subtleties?

Smith

I don’t think so, but I don’t know. They settled pretty quickly. I need to go back and take a look. I don’t know where all the tests came from. All the tests may have come from Taylor and Kati. I know how to find out, but I don’t recall.

Heininger

So the constellation here is considerably different. You get frustration with what’s been in place for eight years. It’s not been in place. It came in proposed. It took a while, but it gets implemented.

Smith

Right. Immediate frustration with that—long-term frustration with what had happened for 40 years.

Heininger

And maybe the center wasn’t going fast enough, and not having the data yet. The data may have been out there, but it hadn’t been gotten.

Smith

The data. There was a 2002 national assessment of scores—

Heininger

They started too early.

Smith

—which was released in the fall of 2002, early winter of 2003. So it was right.

Heininger

Both principal Democrats were frustrated at what they saw as insufficient progress—a natural constituency, not necessarily state but the emotional constituency for them. Civil rights are pressuring hard for annual assessments and accountability, holding people’s feet to the fire.

Smith

And the every-child concept.

Heininger

And the 30-second sound bite, No Child Left Behind, which sounds good, but it doesn’t allow for flexibility and for different starting points, and a President who comes out of a state with 15 years of reform—not necessarily steeped in the subtleties of what the history of that reform was—who buys into this concept, and you get No Child Left Behind enacted. Where is the money?

Smith

The money is the same old money. It’s Title I money.

Heininger

But is it aligned? Is it enough? Is it what needs to be done?

Smith

Well, that was part of the deal.

Heininger

Was more being promised?

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

Because if you’re going from three assessments to eight annual assessments, that costs a lot.

Smith

Testing doesn’t cost that much.

Heininger

But the standards have to be developed for each of those other five and in each state.

Smith

Yes. That’s a rush to do all of that, a rush to get the tests. There were a number of states with very interesting tests: mixtures of multiple choice and production, tests where you actually do work, which were in place and had to be pulled out because they couldn’t do this. They didn’t want to spend the money to do it at every one of the grade levels, so they just bought tests off the shelf basically. Then they were modified with a few items in order to align themselves with the state. So you had a degrading of the quality of the assessments coming in.

As you say, they didn’t have the standards for every grade, and they had to put them in. So there was a lot of activity. Those are relatively minor costs compared to the total cost of education in pretty much every state, except for the ones with small populations. But the money was promised because the civil rights people and the two Democratic leaders believed they needed to put more money into Title I. I think they saw this as a way of leveraging it, as a way of getting that extra money.

I have to go back and look, because I remember Kress—a big part of the bill was written by Taylor. I think Kress put out a series of guidelines for what they wanted. I think the White House sold to Miller and Kennedy an outline or a set of guidelines. Then Taylor took the ’94 amendments and modified them. It wasn’t a brand-new bill in that regard. It was a reauthorization. It kept the standards, kept the basic stuff. It kept some language on accountability, but then they added language in places. I think that was Taylor.

Heininger

Did people see potential problems with the approach that they were taking?

Smith

Yes, some people did. There was a lot of concern by Boston. Ask Tom that question.

Heininger

Tom Payzant was there at the time. He was the Boston superintendent then.

Smith

Yes, right, so ask Tom. Ask Ellen. There were a lot of attempts to get Tom to Kennedy—I’m sure he did get to him some—and Ellen to get to the people on the staff, and the Harvard people to get to the Senator. There were people from here who tried to get to George—well, not from this place but—

Heininger

Where is his district?

Smith

Across the bay and inland a little bit.

Heininger

Like Pleasanton?

Smith: In between here and Sacramento, a little bit south of whatever it is. There’s a big George Miller bridge if you go down. This is Route 5.

Heininger

Did you have any dealings with Danica Petroshius, who was Kennedy’s staffer?

Smith

Yes. I forgot Danica. How could I forget her? She worked for me for a year and a half. I sent her over to Kennedy as an aide. She was detailed from the department for me. She went over as an aide and caught on, and she rose pretty rapidly. It was a Nick [Littleton] request for somebody, and that’s one way to get the Senate offices staffed up a little bit more. I was happy to do that, because you can always put people in those positions.

Heininger

Did she foresee problems with this?

Smith

Danica had great strengths in a number of areas. Thinking the policy through was not a great strength. I don’t think she spent a lot of time doing that. She was plenty bright enough to do it, but she saw her job as getting done what she felt the Senator wanted to have done, and not as trying to look through the details and things like that. At least that’s how she behaved in the department and how she behaved on some of the things that went on in the White House and in the Senate, I’m sure. Danica would have been there, starting in ’95?

Heininger

I think it was ’95. She took over when Ellen Guiney left.

Smith

I think she came there in ’94 or ’95.

Heininger

I think it was ’95, because Clayton Spencer didn’t leave. Clayton Spencer stayed through the higher-ed amendment’s reauthorization in ’97.

Smith

Right, and Danica and Ellen left. What’s going to happen this year?

Heininger

Do you have a sense as to where Kennedy is now, in terms of how satisfied he is with what was put in place?

Smith

No, I think he’s not. Everything I hear is that he’s not. I don’t have a personal statement from him about that, but that’s my understanding, that he’s very unsettled about it, confused to some extent. Miller is a little more adamant about sticking to the course.

Heininger

Really?

Smith

Yes. People like Tom probably got to him over time.

Heininger

And perhaps Ellen too. I know she’s still there. There’s a phrase with the Kennedy staff: “Always on staff, regardless of payroll.”

Smith

Yes, right.

Heininger

What will happen this year?

Smith

Oh, nothing’s going to happen this year. It’s next year, or in November, I mean.

Heininger

It depends on who is elected. It depends on who cares about education.

Smith

Yes. It’s interesting. This seven years scared the hell out of him in terms of having a heavy-handed federal law. All of this talk about federal standards or national standards, but not federal, but they would be funded by the federal government and so on—I had the sense that it’s so political, that if the federal government makes a big error, it would affect 50 states.

Heininger

Who should we be talking to for a White House perspective on No Child Left Behind? Has Margaret Spellings been involved?

Smith

Sure. She was involved in the beginning. You should talk to her, absolutely. You should talk to Sandy Kress.

Heininger

Is he still there?

Smith

No. He’s in Texas, but he gets to Washington. I think he’s a lobbyist.

Heininger

Anybody else? Who are the players who we need to get on the record on this? It sounds like we should talk to George Miller.

Smith

Oh yes, absolutely, very close in that working relationship.

Heininger

Would he be able to comment on Kennedy?

Smith

Well, yes, if he would. He would know more than just about anybody, except for the closest Kennedy staffers, because he would have been making the deals with him, sitting down privately with him.

Heininger

It’s unusual that you get key players in the House and Senate organizing something like this. My sense is that this is in fact what made this thing go through.

Smith

Yes, I think that’s right. You could see that the relationship tried to work that way for a while last year. I think Miller was pushing it more than Kennedy was, and Kennedy was stalling, but I don’t know that for sure. Who else at the White House?

Heininger

We need to get a clearer picture. It sounds like we should talk to Bill Taylor too.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

He’s in Washington?

Smith

Yes. Then send me these names and get the numbers and e-mails. You should talk to Kati Haycock.

Heininger

She’s in D.C., isn’t she?

Smith

Yes. I’ll send you my paper. [laughs]

Heininger

Please do.

Smith

I thought about publishing it. Now it’s just changing the date.

Heininger

Why not?

Smith

No, it was published. Changing the date and updating a couple of references.

Heininger

In this time period, from the Clinton administration’s standpoint, who dealt with higher education? Did you do it?

Smith

I did it. But again, I would delegate to some extent. There were three things that went on, and one was the direct lending. That was a big one. Maybe there were four things, depending on whether he got involved with it or not. On the administrative side, there were two or three things. There was the closure of a lot of schools early on.

Heininger

Mostly the proprietary trade schools to deal with the default rate.

Smith

Yes. I don’t know whether the Senator got involved in that. That would have been handled mostly by Kay, our legislative affairs person.

Heininger

Kay Casstevens.

Smith

Yes, right. So if there was anything hot, Kennedy would have called Riley, and Riley probably would have talked to me. If I hadn’t been around, he would have talked to David Longanecker, who was our Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education.

There was a second big administrative thing, and that was a set of issues around the management of the lending programs. A lot of this grew out of the battle between the direct-lending program and the other in the private lenders, the guaranteed student-loan program. It was an old system that we had to keep things going on, an old computer system that would fail too often and transfer rates over to Treasury. What a mess. We took that on. After Madeleine left, I ended up taking it on and trying to put in new stuff. That all got superseded by the Y2K stuff, and then we had to replace everything, so it was in constant battle with the Republicans in Congress. They were trying to beat up on us, and we finally won that battle.

In the meantime, [Albert, Jr.] Gore had a big efficiency effort, and he wanted to spin off certain parts of the government into quasi-governmental organizations. We ended up doing that, based in part on our recommendations and in part on a bill that never got passed with the old Congress’s interest. We created a separate organizational structure to manage the loan programs. I don’t think Kennedy got involved with that much at all, as much as the House was pushing it, and that would be the Congressman from—

Heininger

It must have been the banking committees that were most upset about this stuff.

Smith

Well, it was the banking committees. It was people who were jointly on the Banking Committee and the Education Committee. Anyhow, that was a second big issue.

Heininger

What was the administration trying to do to help families save for college?

Smith

The tax credits for the—

Heininger

Is that the Hope Tax Credit?

Smith

Yes. There were two of them.

Heininger

The Lifelong Learning Tax Credit?

Smith

Yes. The Lifelong Learning Tax Credit and the Hope Tax Credit. These were both crafted in ’95, as part of the strategy to get Clinton elected. With the polling, who’s the guy who Hillary [Clinton] just fired?

Heininger

Mark Penn?

Smith

Mark Penn, and Dick Morris. They used to come over occasionally, and we’d sit in Dick Riley’s office. It was Morris’ idea to have the Hope Credit based on the average community college’s tuition. The argument would be that anybody can go to college. We’ll give anybody the tuition to go to college. It was $1,400. One was two years of $1,400 for going to community college, and then there was the Lifelong Credit. But I forget. It probably wasn’t as much.

Heininger

Was that for people to go back to school?

Smith

Yes, or to school if you had never been to school.

Heininger

Adult education of some sort.

Smith

Yes. Or you could use it at a college, and you could use it any time you wanted to. That was interesting. There was something called a refundable tax credit, so that people who hadn’t paid taxes could get it, and then there were the Pell Grants. I was in the Chief of Staff’s office, the financier who was Chief of Staff, in ’95.

Heininger

Before John Podesta.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

Not the Congressman?

Smith

No, that’s [Leon] Panetta.

Heininger

Erskine Bowles.

Smith

Yes, Anyhow, we’re sitting there with [Robert] Rubin, Larry Summers, Dick, Gene Sperling, Erskine Bowles, and me. First I argued that we should do it as a refundable tax credit. “Oh, we can’t do that. It will cost too much, and it’s too complicated,” and so on. “Besides, it probably won’t get passed.” Then I argued, “We should do a Pell Grant because it’s up front, and the tax credits are in the back. It’s not going to serve as an incentive to go.” There is some data now that supports this, but it doesn’t have very much incentive functions to do it as a tax credit. Tax credits don’t give you much incentive to go, because you get it later.

Heininger

I’d call that a duh.

Smith

Yes. So I was fighting away, and in walks George Stephanopoulos, and he sits and listens there for a while, and he stays—but not for very long. He said, “Damn it, there goes another damn liberal arguing to turn a tax cut into a spending program.” [laughter] End of game. It was a great line.

Heininger

Yes.

Smith

And absolutely right in that regard.

Heininger

That 30-second sound bite.

Smith

So I lost. Did Kennedy have anything to do with that? I don’t know. It goes through so many different other committees. It had to go through his committee, but he wasn’t the chair or anything of his committee. Of course it was a White House combust. It was a tax cut.

Heininger

Which means it would have to go through Finance and Ways and Means.

Smith

Yes, right, but they would send it for comment, I think, to substantive committees.

Heininger

But he had been active a long time in trying to find ways to help families afford college, and he is a believer in lifelong learning.

Smith

Right. So again, I don’t imagine that he didn’t support it.

Heininger

And this was in the wake of the creation of the 529s and the Roth IRAs [Individual Retirement Accounts] and stuff, so it was a continuation of the pattern.

Smith

Yes. And then there was the reauthorization of the higher ed in ’97, ’98, ’99?

Heininger

I want to say ’97, but it could have carried over into ’98. Did you have any dealings with Clayton Spencer on it?

Smith

Oh, sure. There wasn’t anything big on this one. Cleaning up a lot of stuff. We weren’t breaking any new ground.

Heininger

Was the student-loan-default problem pretty much solved by that point?

Smith

Yes. We got the default rates down. By ’97 the average across the country was down to seven or eight percent.

Heininger

From a high of 22.

Smith

Right. It’s only a one-year default rate, but it was at 22. The biggest effect, of course, was getting rid of the proprietaries. But then it was a steady effort for the rest of it. It would go down every year as wonderful. We did everything else that worked so beautifully. [laughter] We always know, “Oh, it’s time for that indicator. I’ve heard news blasts. Get it out to everybody.”

Heininger

“News flash!”

Smith

Right, exactly.

Heininger

“Down again.”

Smith

“Down from 7.2 to 7.13.”

Heininger

All right. One last thing, and that is GEAR UP [Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs]. What was GEAR UP? Who did GEAR UP?

Smith

Kennedy had a lot to do with GEAR UP. Kennedy also had a lot to do with what is now called SCHIP [State Children’s Health Insurance Program]. Was it called SCHIP then? In fact, I remember being in his office, in a skull session, with about six or seven people, talking about the best way to get people signed up. This was the implementation of it. He was very committed to making that work. I did not handle GEAR UP. David Longanecker handled GEAR UP. David is the president of an organization called WICHE [Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education], which is in Boulder.

Heininger

OK. But GEAR UP was basically the program that helped prepare minority students to think about—

Smith

Yes, think about colleges, and it used college kids and the students to help. It was very popular on college campuses.

Heininger

Is it a good program?

Smith

Yes, as social programs go. It did multiple things.

Heininger

Meaning, is it paying off, though? Outcome.

Smith

I don’t know. I doubt it. See, the Department of Education threw out all of the evaluations, because they didn’t believe that you could get evidence unless you did a randomized experiment. These programs weren’t evaluated, literally.

Heininger

A randomized experiment, why?

Smith

Because that’s what the gospel is there. These people are very absolute. It’s all randomized experiments, the only way you can get good evidence.

Heininger

I’m sorry, that’s medical research. Randomized trials, but not—

Smith

None of those programs have been evaluated. We don’t know how they work. We don’t know whether they’re working the way we expected them to work, whether the inner workings—forget the end product for the moment. We don’t know. The higher-ed office would have reports from them, which would all be hundreds of local reports, because nobody had any time to put it together.

Heininger

I should probably let you go. And you thought I wouldn’t have any questions.

Smith

What’s the last question? You didn’t give me one last question.

Heininger

How adequately did Congress fund Clinton’s education reforms and No Child Left Behind?

Smith

Not very well.

Heininger

Better on Clinton?

Smith

No, I think better on Bush. I remember who was funding them. The Republicans were funding them up until now, all of them.

Heininger

Oh, right.

Smith

So it was a struggle on Goals 2000 to get—

Heininger

You’re right. I hadn’t thought about that. There were a couple of years under Clinton that didn’t start.

Smith

But our program didn’t exist.

Heininger

Until now, right?

[BREAK]

M. S. Smith, 4/14/08, File 1 of 2 13

Heininger

This is resuming the interview with Marshall Smith.

Smith

I came to California in 1986 and was a dean of school education and a professor as well. There are great things about being in California. One of the great things used to be that the New York Times was delivered to your home at 9:30 at night, the night before. So you could take your New York Times and have a brandy, read the New York Times, get up in the morning, and go to work having read the New York Times. Now, of course, we can do it over the computer, so it’s not a problem, but it’s printed up here. The other great thing is that C-SPAN [Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network] is on in the House and Senate when the House and Senate are in session, and it’s live. If you come home at 6:00 and there is a big issue going on, it’s 9:00 back east. You get a wonderful panorama of the Senate and of Ted Kennedy.

Pat [Thomas Patrick] Moynihan was a very close friend of mine. We worked together. His office was next door to mine. I was working with him for about three years. We were very close then. We weren’t very close later. We were close but not brothers. Anyhow, Pat would be pontificating one way or another, probably in the cups, but brilliant nonetheless. Ted Kennedy would be talking about values. This was during the Republican years, the Reagan years, the Bush years. “We need to have a Democratic society that values everybody in the country.” He would be a lonely voice speaking for these deep social values that I believe in. It was extraordinary. I don’t know whether you listened to him at that time, but he was quite amazing in that stretch of six or seven years. He was the voice; he was the guy.

Heininger

He was the guy trying to push back.

Smith

Yes.

Heininger

And fight against all the cuts.

Smith

It wasn’t just the cuts; it was what the cuts were doing, what the cuts signaled, how they were symbolic. I don’t know who we have left in the Senate after him. He’s going to go at some point—soon, I suspect.

Heininger

Kennedy?

Smith

Well, he’ll stay as long as he can, but we all have to go sooner or later.

Heininger

He’s only 75. He may have just turned 76 this month. Is his birthday in April or in May?

Smith

Class of ’52.

Heininger

He turned 75 last year. So no, by Senate terms, he has a long way to go.

Smith

He’s a child, right.

Heininger

He’s a mere babe in arms. He may have been there longer than almost anybody else, but still, many years to go.

Smith

Robert Byrd is still there.

Heininger

He is indeed.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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