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Education Department Opens Brand-New Office of State Support

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Photo: A workplace move sheet is taped to a desk at the U.S. Department of Education as members of the Office of the Deputy Secretary staff prepare for their transfer to the new the Office of State Support.

--Eric Kruszewski for Education Week

There are a lot of moving boxes at the U.S. Department of Education, which just opened a new office to oversee a range of federal programs, from No Child Left Behind Act waivers and School Improvement Grants to Title III grants for English-language learners and grants to states for teacher quality.

The Office of State Support will be housed within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. It will merge the Office of Student Achievement and School Accountability, which includes Title I and other programs; the Office of School Turnaround, which oversees the School Improvement Grant program; and the Office of the Deputy Secretary's Implementation and Support Unit, which oversees Race to the Top, as well as individual programs from several other offices.

Instead of having one contact person for each of half-a-dozen programs, states will be able to work with a team that will include folks with experience on a range of areas. And each state will have a "lead" on its team, plus a deputy lead, who can serve as the primary points of contact. The idea is to cut down on redundant tasks for state officials, and make federal programs more user-friendly for states. The office officially opened this week, but the transition will go through 2015. Much more in this story.

What's the early reaction? States are optimistic about the change, said Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

CCSSO has advocated more streamlined processes at the department over the years, he said. "This appears to be a positive step in that direction."

But Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate education committee, is less enthusiastic.

"What states need is not centralized support for the new policies and procedures dictated by the National School Board, but freedom from Washington and a return of all the most important decisions about how to best educate 50 million students in 100,000 public schools," he said in a statement.

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