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Education Takeaways from the Bush Institute in Chicago

April 21, 2015 by Tracy Young

In Chicago last week, Diana Rauner, the First Lady of Illinois, interviewed Margaret Spellings, President of the George W. Bush Presidential Center and former U.S. Secretary of Education. The pair discussed the future of education during a session at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. 

Principal Leadership

*Quote of the Day: "Fight with army you have. Not the army you want to have." –Diana Rauner

*Principal preparation matters, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

*Schools can learn from the private sector how to do talent management.

*Principals are instructional leaders of their communities.

*It’s now about going beyond compliance to thinking about outcomes – it’s about accountability.


*Teachers say: “Tell us what to do and we'll do it.”  We owe teachers our best thinking about what works.

Middle Schools

*Middle schools matter because it’s the last time to capture students who may be headed off-course.

*Middle school is the place to look for the early warning indicators and target them with interventions.


*Quote of the Day: "In God we trust, all others bring data." – Margaret Spellings

*Accountability shines the light on where we need interventions.

*Holding schools accountable for their work, providing quality early childhood education, and making sure middle schools prepare their students for high school all matter as well.

*It’s easy to change the behavior of kids. We need to change the behavior of leaders.

Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind

*Accountability and system-building are two things that can be done well at the federal level in early childhood and beyond.

*Education is a state-level activity, but the federal law can help states build a real system for a continuum of learning from pre-K and beyond.

*No Child Left Behind succeeded in creating annual, independent exams in core grades in every state across the country, breaking apart the results from those tests for all to see, and focusing on graduation rates.

*The reauthorization of the current legislation in Washington has been bipartisan – which is great.

*With reauthorization, the pendulum now is going the other way. States can do anything or nothing. Without someone requiring a meaningful change to do something different, we don’t pay attention to poor and minority kids.

*Common Core, created by the National Governors Association and the states, has become a distraction. It is only half the equation. You need standards, but you also need to measure how many students get over the bar.

Staying Vigilant for Student Achievement

*This is a worrisome time. Those pushing for raising standards, measuring whether students grasp them, and holding schools accountable for the results are on our heels. Hope the retreat doesn’t show up in bad legislation.

*Yes, there’s too much testing, but that’s because local districts start putting them in place too frequently. No Child only requires one state test in grades three through eight and once in high school.

*The frequency of exams is killing testing. We can hope that data systems and technology catch up soon because they will give us a better, deeper, and faster sense of how kids are doing.

Helping Parents Engage

*We’ve underserved parents in telling them how to get involved.

*Early childhood has a lot to offer the K-12 system as it relates to getting parents involved. 

*It’s important for school leaders to help parents navigate the system on behalf of their child.

Tracy Young is Director of the Bush Institute's education initiative.


Tracy Young
Tracy Young

Tracy Young serves as senior advisor for the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, a restricted fund at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  She first joined the George W. Bush Institute in November 2014 as the Director of Education Reform. Before joining the Bush Institute, she served as the Vice President of Public & Government Affairs at the Texas Charter Schools Association. Prior to her non-profit work, Tracy served as Director of Communications for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus from 2009 - 2012.

During the last year of the George W. Bush Administration, she was Deputy Regional Representative for Secretary Spellings, based in Texas. Tracy worked as Special Assistant for Education at the White House during the 2007 No Child Left Behind reauthorization efforts. In 2005, she was named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education where she directed the Strategic Communications team and the press office. Prior to her work at the U.S. Department of Education, Tracy served as the Associate Director of Communications at the White House, focused on the Domestic Policy Council. At the start of the George W. Bush Administration, Tracy worked on Communications media events on the White House grounds, including her favorite events of the year – Tee Ball on the South Lawn. Before the start of her public service, Tracy worked with the N.R.C.C. on behalf of congressional candidates across the country. She also worked in the non-profit sector with college students, university and community leaders to increase awareness and participation in volunteer service. Tracy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in psychology from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, and is a native of Euless, Texas.

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