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Influential People

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The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, with support from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, has conducted a study of the factors that have influenced the educational policy landscape during the past decade.

The 13 individuals who make up the short list of highly influential people span a range of roles, backgrounds, and institutional sectors. The top-ranked person, based on expert ratings, is Bill Gates. Billionaire, founder of Microsoft Corp., and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he has become a leading voice for educational reform. President Bush occupies the second spot on the survey results. Mr. Bush is joined by other political leaders, including Sen. Edward Kennedy, Rep. George Miller, and former President Clinton, as well as former Govs. James B. Hunt Jr. and Richard W. Riley, a former U.S. Secretary of Education.


Many others on the list have ties to the federal government, including Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Reid Lyon, the force behind the Reading First initiative. Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, Mike Smith of the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Chester E. Finn Jr. from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation join Mr. Gates in representing the non-profit sector. The academy is represented throughout the list, but only Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University, has a primary post at a university.


How the influential people rank:

(Click on a name to download an individual influence report in PDF format; a new window will open.)
Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader


1. Bill Gates

2. George W. Bush

3. Kati Haycock

4. G. Reid Lyon

5. Edward Kennedy

6. Bill Clinton

7. (tie) Richard W. Riley

7. (tie)James B. Hunt Jr.

9. Marshall (Mike) Smith


10. (tie) Linda Darling-Hammond

10. (tie) Margaret Spellings


12. George Miller

13. Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Do you think these individuals have been the most influential voices in education over the past decade? Tell us what you think.


5 Comments

It is a shame that the top 10 people have not been influential enough to develop a national education platform. Second, this list happens to be white and millionares and perhaps have no relation and/or understanding to public education from the perspectives of non-white students and their families.

Nicholas Colangelo would have topped my list for
A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students. I predict this compelling compilation of research will become even more profound as the waste of the gifted student's potential under NCLB becomes more publicized. This work is a siren and the consequence of not heeding this signal is a loss of promise to each gifted child who is denied an appropriate education and the nation who will
never know what might have been.

When do we stop bickering. The beginning is to focus and act on the solution not bicker about the problem. Why not add a list of contributors who are not white. Why deminish efforts because the contributors are rich or white. Praise them and thank them and encourage them. Focus on the solution!!!

Someone needs to compile a list of the decisions, people, organization, agencies that most impeded the improvement of education over the past decade. For example, the PT3 Federal Program had the promise to dramatically improve preservice teacher education programs and bring them into the 21st century, yet some individual or group or party terminated the Program just as it was gaining potentially powerful momentum for making a difference in reforming higher education.

It may be interesting to see who is influential. However, the real question is, why should we care? what does it mean? For instance, it tells us nothing about whether the influence has been good or bad. Of course, that would depend on one's goals for education, a topic that is mostly avoided. What is noticable is that, as the report alludes to, rarely does the influence have anything to do with knowledge about education. Some are there becasue in our society, money talks. If you have billions of dollars to thow around, that equals, power, influence and access, regardless of the value of one's ideas. Elected officials at least get their influence in a somewhat democratic fasion. But even there, mostly those listed were not specifically elected or appointed due to their eductional knowledge or expertise. So what it tells me is that educational policy is mostly being influenced by those who who are rich, or are using a more generic public office to influence educational policy.

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Recent Comments

  • Nicholas Meier, Professor of Education: It may be interesting to see who is influential. However, read more
  • Dr. Allen Schmieder, VP for K-20 Education and Technology Futures, JDL Technologies: Someone needs to compile a list of the decisions, people, read more
  • Stephen Webber: When do we stop bickering. The beginning is to focus read more
  • Diane Hanfmann/Teacher/Parent: Nicholas Colangelo would have topped my list for A Nation read more
  • sr: It is a shame that the top 10 people have read more

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