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Duncan is Obama's Education Secretary Pick


Arne Duncan, the chief executive of the Chicago school system and a basketball buddy of Barack Obama's, is the president-elect's pick for secretary of education, according to sources.

As Chicago schools CEO, Duncan tapped a panel to craft curriculum-based assessments to guide teaching, bolstered spending on anti-violence prevention measures, and tested out a program allowing teachers to evaluate one another.

Duncan supports the basic framework of the No Child Left Behind Act. In testimony before a congressional committee in 2006, he called on lawmakers to "maintain the law's high expectations and accountability" but to amend the law "to give schools, districts, and states the maximum amount of flexibility possible."

Duncan helped get a federal waiver allowing the Chicago school sytem to offer tutoring services mandated for students in struggling schools under the NCLB law, something it was not otherwise eligible to do because the district as a whole had not made adequate progress under Illinois benchmarks.

Duncan may also help the bridge the divide over education in the Democratic Party. He was the recommended choice for education secretary of Democrats for Education Reform and has won praise from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.


Chicago Public school has one of the shortest instructional days in the nation. CPS, instead of investing in developing school teacher leadership and lengthening the daily instructional time, he gets by on the cheap. Arne Duncan is about closing public schools and not investing in regular neighborhood schools that need more support, not less. We are not talking about throwing money at a problem but providing time and resources for a school community to work in sync. PRAXIS. Arne Duncan pays lip service to that. The graduate level schools of education know what is going on but are quiet lest they suffer some retaliation. This is the worst appointment by Obama!

I eagerly await hearing from our new Secretary of Education. But I am not optimistic that he will be any more insightful or effective than those who have preceded him. I fear that he, like other establishment education leaders, will fail to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room: the model of secondary school education that continues to persist in this country (and which increasingly is permeating down to the elementary level) is, as Bill Gates has correctly stated, "obsolete."

Before the change we really need in public education can emerge, we must acknowledge the huge, increasing disconnect that exists between this outdated secondary school model, to which even the best public and private schools cling, and the realities of today’s world. In short, the future of our children – and our nation – depends on the introduction of a genuinely new model of secondary education, designed in and fit for the 21st century.

By many measures much of the rest of the industrialized world has caught or passed by us in secondary education. The good news, however, is that those who are beating us in the education race are doing so with the same old model we use; they too haven’t moved into the 21st century. So, if we act now to take the initiative to create a new, 21st century secondary school model, then our high school graduates can once again become the best educated in the world. Thus, the leadership we need from President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan must include moving us beyond our myopic focus on attempts (noble and otherwise) to fix that which clearly needs replacing.

Alan Shusterman, Founder
School for Tomorrow

Just wondering if you have ever been to Fulton Elementary (a traditional neigborhood school)-one of the turnaround schools in Chicago this year which, after years of low expectations, bad management, a little learning actually has comepetent teachers and an a thoughtful administration doing what they should be doing which is helping kids learn. But you're right, Duncan has done nothing good-closing schools and gutting the staff doesn't work. If we work only on instructional time and teacher development it will definitely fix the massive achievement gap. Also weird that the Chicago New Teacher Center which supports teacher development has thrived under Duncan.

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