Mike Smith, one of the nation’s most respected education policymakers, was feted this week during a farewell gathering in Washington, D.C. The event brought together current and former colleagues who praised Smith’s many accomplishments as they wished him well in his third and perhaps final retirement.
At the May 24 reception at ED headquarters, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called Smith a “legendary figure” with tremendous insight, commitment, integrity and humility, calling him “the mayor of the Department of Education.” Arne thanked Smith for his many contributions to the nation, referring to his “huge heart” and devotion to kids and education. Duncan also read a letter of thanks from President Obama.
Smith, until June 1 the Department of Education’s director of international affairs and a senior counselor to Secretary Duncan, has had a remarkable career that includes significant contributions to academia, policymaking, educational research and evaluation, and has authored and made contributions to seminal reports and studies on education. Smith’s areas of expertise include standards and assessments, educational research and evaluation, use of technology in education, and early childhood education.
Smith served as a key advisor at the Department of Education during three administrations and was selected as one of the top ten most influential people in education policy (by Education Week) during the decade that spanned 1995-2005. With a broad base of expertise and experience, Smith was one of the first education officials to work at ED during the Obama administration. Speakers at this week’s reception praised Smith for helping the new administration to navigate the transition, especially after ED received nearly $100 billion as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Prior to serving President Obama and Secretary Duncan, Smith was both acting deputy secretary and under secretary under Secretary Richard Riley during the Clinton Administration. He was chief of staff to the first secretary of education, Shirley Hufstedler, and also served as the assistant commissioner for policy studies in the Office of Education, in the former Department of Health, Education in the Carter Administration. Before that, Smith helped lead the National Institute of Education’s work in education research and development. While in federal government, Smith oversaw the development and passage of several major education laws.
Just before his most recent stint in Washington, Smith was program director for education at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park, Calif. Outside of government; he was at different times an associate professor at Harvard, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University, and also dean of Stanford’s school of education. A member of the National Academy of Education and former chairman of the board of the American Institutes of Research and throughout his career, Smith authored publications on numerous topics, including school effectiveness and standards-based reform. He has lent his expertise to many foundations and boards by serving as a consultant.
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Smith has committed to helping the government of Pakistan revamp its education system—so look for Smith on an overseas flight in the days ahead.
Among those at this week’s reception who made remarks praising Smith’s achievements were Chief of Staff Margot Rogers; Deputy Assistant Secretary Judy Wurtzel; Sandy Rinck, who represented Secretary Riley, and many others.
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