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John B. King Jr. Talks About His Background and Education Priorities (Video)

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"The best ideas come from classrooms not conference rooms." 
- U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

John B. King Jr., the newly minted U.S. Secretary of Education who was just confirmed by the Senate, spoke last week at Education Week's Leaders To Learn From event in Washington.

In the speech to a room filled with school district leaders, King discussed his early life as a student in New York City. King lost both of his parents at a young age and credits his teachers for putting him on the path to success.

"Teachers could have looked at me and said, 'Here's an African American, Latino male student with a family in crisis, what chance does he have?'"

He also outlined the current challenges facing schools and the opportunities for improving pre-collegiate education presented by the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal K-12 law.

"We have the opportunity with the new law to rethink how we define educational excellence," King said. "We've got to broaden our definition of a quality education."

What other changes does King think ESSA will bring to education? An "intense focus" on equity, more state control over interventions for struggling schools, and better access to high-quality preschool.

And what changes does he see as essential to improving education in this country? "Lifting up" the teaching profession, better teacher preparation, a more diverse teaching force, and making sure students are adequately prepared for college and careers.

After his remarks, King joined Education Week's Editor-in-Chief Virginia B. Edwards for a Q&A.


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