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Margaret Spellings/FAST FACTS

Date of birth: November 30, 1957

Education: University of Austin, bachelor's degree in political science and journalism

First came the workshop. Then came a glimmer of an idea. Next came the goal, which changed everything.

It was Raymond Yeagley who set it all in motion. The Rochester (N.H.) Schools superintendent attended a Quality School Portfolio workshop a few years ago to learn about how the Web-based tool can help in collecting, analyzing and making sense of data. Using what he learned, he prepared a report on reading performance in Rochester's elementary schools.

It's a crisis. Social studies, particularly in the elementary grades, has been pushed to the back burner in schools.

Time is the biggest nemesis. Increased attention to math and language arts under the federal No Child Left Behind law is squeezing out social studies. Many states have standards in social studies so teachers are expected to cover the topic, but without being attached to a high-stakes test, the subject has lost ground.

You probably know the Simon shopping malls for its upscale chain stores, busy food courts and commercial success around the country. You may not know about the brand of public education that's available in a growing number of those malls.

I'm writing this column because I'm embarrassed.

Two recent issues of District Administration have carried columns by Gary Stager that have attacked aspects of the educational proposals/decisions of both presidential candidates.

Giving Construction Curriculum A Chance

With only two employees trying to keep 100 buildings and 700 acres of property looking spiffy, no one sniped when Portland (Ore.) Public Schools' groundskeeping crew fell behind. The question was more what to do about it.