The Office of Educational Research and Improvement
It was about this time, early in the second Reagan administration in Washington and fairly soon after I left Abt Associates, that I was approached by the United States Office of Education to consider going to work for them as Director of the Office of Research in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement. You may recall that I’d served, about a decade earlier, as Project Director for Abt Associates’ evaluation of Follow Through, a huge project of their predecessor outfits in the Government. And perhaps even that the results of our research had been very controversial. I’ve noted earlier in this account that I was puzzled to find myself under consideration for further involvement in this area of policy concern: inasmuch as they really didn’t like what we’d learned for them, why would they be interested in me for this job? As I noted earlier, their point of view had evolved.
So, at their request, I wrote up the following Forresterian “think-piece” and sent it to provide an idea of the (rather deviant) sorts of educational-policy research I’d be inclined to promote, were they to hire me. Hadn’t really followed developments in educational policy research, since those dramatic days, but would have been far more interested in the post if their responses had reflected parallel inclinations. Can’t say I recall any substantive reactions at all, but they did invite me back to D.C. for a day of interviews.
Grabbed the shuttle to Reagan International, where Checker (Chester E) Finn, an old Ed.D classmate at HGSE, whisked me away in a fancy limousine to talk at some length with several officials of the sort we’d worked with extensively, back in Follow Through days. Didn’t get to meet Secretary Bill Bennett (which I would have relished), nor did I detect among all those earnest educators any particular tendencies toward the sorts of projects that might have moved me so to distort my family’s circumstances as a move to the vicinity of the Chesapeake would surely have done. Cyndi (by this time very firmly thus spelled) said, “Sure, you can move to Washington. Then I’ll walk back to Arlington High School.” Erik’s drama had peaked, as well; he had been through a residential interlude at the McLean Hospital in Belmont (where, irrelevantly, our brilliant cousin Frederick Law Olmsted had ended his days). A move from Timbaloo wasn’t really in the cards.

Checker’s follow-up letter, included after the think-piece, closed the loop in a friendly fashion.
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