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Brooks Nominates Duncan for Secretary

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From guest blogger David J. Hoff:

David Brooks writes today about the fight between the self-proclaimed "reformers" against their rivals in the teachers' unions and the rest of education establishment. After fighting over policy priorities during the presidential campaign, the two sides are now trying to influence President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be secretary of education.

Reformers want an aggressive change agent (think Joel I. Klein of New York City or Michelle Rhee of D.C.). The Washington Post editorial board agrees with them.

Unions and others are pushing for someone whose work centers around improving the current system from within (one of their allies—Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond—is leading the policy review for the transition). Brooks also says Obama could pick a governor and make Darling-Hammond the deputy secretary—something he says "might be the biggest setback for reform" because Darling-Hammond would be in charge of policy.

The solution, Brooks suggests, is to pick Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. His accomplishments match those of Klein and Rhee, but his policies would be acceptable with their detractors.

It all makes sense. I've written something like that myself. See here and here.

But I'm beginning to wonder if Duncan will be the choice. He has been the front runner for the job. But it's a month after the election, and there's no indication that he'll get the job. By comparison, Tom Daschle was considered a natural pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. His selection has been widely reported for two weeks and he's doing high-profile events on behalf of the transition.

If Arne Duncan were the choice to be education secretary, he'd be doing something other than having coffee with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and planning events related to his current job.

Duncan still may be Obama's pick for education secretary. But I'm prepared to be surprised.

2 Comments

I don't think it's quite fair to assume that a former governor as Ed Secretary would be just a figurehead making pronouncements. It's possible that this whispering refers to former NC governor Jim Hunt, who may actually know what he's talking about.


Despite six years of the Klein administration’s misinformation to the public, there is sufficient data to prove that his reforms have been basically ineffectual and have produced no significant improvement in student achievement.

The Klein administration claims of a 12 percent increase in Reading and a 19 percent increase in Math scores on the New York State Assessments are inflated. These results include the scores obtained in 2002-2003 well before the implementation of Klein’s reforms. Without the 6 percent increase in Reading and the 15 percent in Math in 2002 - 2003, the figures read a dismal 6.4 percent rise in Reading and only 4.2 percent in Mathematics.

The only independent check on student achievement in New York City also shows a completely different picture from that claimed by Klein. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress administered by the US Department of Education, considered the gold standard in testing, show that student achievement in New York City has stagnated since 2003 with virtually no improvements for Black, Hispanic and low income students. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/dst2007/2008455.pdf

We need real accountability and transparency, not Klein’s version of it. Mr. Klein’s public relations team has made sure assessment information is not accurately presented to the public. The failure of Klein’s reforms become all the more evident when we consider all assessment measures – declining SAT and High Schools Advanced Placement Subject Tests, one of the worst graduation rates in the country (43rd out of 50 large US cities), a 50 percent drop in students attending gifted programs in NYC, etc.

Please carefully check the facts.

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