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Showing posts with label US Secretary of Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US Secretary of Education. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obama Picks Duncan for Education Secretary

In selecting Chicago's schools chief Arne Duncan to be the ninth United States Secretary of Education, the President-elect has made a good choice, relative to some of the alternatives.

Duncan, unlike South Carolina's Inez Tenenbaum, has actually focused his efforts on results, not on mere compliance with the rules and regulations. He is a proponent of charter schools, alternative schools, public school choice, and has not hesitated to close schools that failed. According to the website of the Chicago Public Schools:
  • Elementary test scores hit an all time high with more than 65% of students meeting or exceeding state standards – our seventh consecutive gain.
  • Over the past five years, our high school students have gained twice as much as the state and three times as much as the nation on the ACT test.
  • Over the past five years, the number of CPS high school students taking advanced placement classes has more than doubled.
  • The graduating class of 2008 received a record $157 million in competitive college scholarships.
  • The number of teacher vacancies at the start of the school year hit an all-time low of 3%.
  • All time high first-day attendance of more than 93%.
  • A record 34 new school openings.

Mr. Duncan appears to bridge two factions of education policy within the Democrat Party -- the labor union faction concerned with ensuring teachers have the best compensation and job security with the least amount of accountability for results, and a new network of urban reformers headed by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. Klein's Education Equality Project has challenged "entrenched impediments to real reform, focusing on teacher quality and pay; accountability for results; and maximizing parents' options."

Unfortunately, the
U. S. Secretary of Education has no authority to effect change at the state and district level except by using federal funds as a carrot and a stick. This has resulted in the current administration opting to throw even more money at education than did the Clinton administration, with little to nothing to show for the "investment."

As a Democrat with close personal ties to the President, a record of accomplishment in a large urban district, and with the opportunity to soon preside over the reauthorization of The No Child Left Behind Act -- or whatever the next mutation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 will be called -- Mr. Duncan could do what a Republican Secretary has not -- bring about fundamental, systemic education reform through moral suasion from the bully pulpit he will soon occupy. If he does that he will far exceed his eight predecessors in the job and make an enormous change for the better in the nation.