John Bailey, the nation’s top educational technology administrator, has resigned his post to become deputy policy director for President Bush’s reelection campaign.

Bailey’s tenure ended Jan. 30 after two years as director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Deputy Director Susan Patrick took over as acting director of the office Feb. 2.

In an interview with eSchool News, Bailey said he hopes he’ll have the chance to take the promise of educational technology to an even higher level in his new position–the White House.

“I was very content with my job and very excited working with Secretary [of Education Rod] Paige,” Bailey said. “I think this is a great opportunity for me personally and for the issues we’ve been discussing for the last three years. It’s great for education and great for ed tech.”

Bailey said he was most thankful during his tenure to play a role in implementing the new education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “Love it or hate it, it is changing the way people talk about education,” he said.

In speeches and visits to schools across the nation, Bailey consistently emphasized ways in which technology could aid in fulfilling the accountability and achievement requirements of NCLB.

Because the law places a strong value on research-based methods, Bailey helped steer funding to 28 new research projects, worth $54 million, to study technology-related topics such as the effects of one-to-one computing initiatives in schools, virtual schooling, and conditions for using technology effectively in the classroom.

“I’m proud that we’ve launched these research studies. What it means is that schools will have a range of studies coming in the next two to three years,” he said.

But as ED’s educational technology director, Bailey’s most significant task was to oversee the writing of a new national ed-tech plan with the help of students and of state and local education officials from across the country.

Bailey is leaving before the plan is complete, but because of the groundwork he laid, it is sure to have his fingerprint. Unlike previous plans, Bailey made sure the public could submit comments online and that it reflected the needs and opinions of today’s students. As a result, at least 400 people have contributed to the plan’s development online, and more than 210,000 students contributed through the National Speak-Up Day organized by the nonprofit group NetDay.

“He placed such an emphasis on student voices. To listen to that millennial generation is important,” said Irene Spero, vice president of the Consortium for School Networking and director of external relations at NetDay.

Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, also liked the outreach effort that Bailey helped organize. “That’s a real legacy to John: He began asking students what they think,” Knezek said.

With $1 million in ED funding, Bailey also invested in the formation of SETDA, the State Educational Technology Directors Association. “When I was a state ed-tech director [in Pennsylvania] for nearly eight years, we never had a group like that to get together and talk and share. That’s what SETDA does,” Bailey said.

Educators and colleagues alike say they will miss Bailey’s leadership and approachability most of all.

“It’s a sad loss for us because he was a real advocate for us, he was really accessible,” Spero said.

See these related links:

U.S. Department of Education

State Educational Technology Directors Association