Following up on Pete’s collection of praise, I’ll add the NYTimes saying Arne Duncan is known for taking tough steps to improve schools while maintaining respectful ties with unions. And the WaPo that as chief executive of Chicago public schools, Arne Duncan has supported a range of measures to shake up the status quo in urban education, including new charter schools, performance pay and tough accountability for struggling schools.
Duncan is also widely viewed as a creative policy maker.
He backed a proposal in October, for instance, for a high school touted as a haven for gay and bullied youth. Backers later pulled their proposal, saying they wanted to spend another year to finalize their plans.
Duncan himself has heralded his district’s performance, citing better supported mathematics, science and literacy curricula, as well as changes that offered students more opportunities to study in the afternoons, summers and weekends.
He said in a statement posted on the district’s Web site that the goal had been to make Chicago “the premier urban school system in America.”
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has been so pleased with Duncan’s performance that, even before the presidential election, he said he hoped then-candidate Obama would not take Duncan to Washington if he won.
And this from Duncan in October:
“If you look at national studies, you see gay and lesbian students with high dropout rates…Studies show they are disproportionately homeless. I think there is a niche there we need to fill.”
Finally, Freakonomcs fans will remember Duncan from the first chapter. He was the Chicago Public Schools CEO who embraced their data mining finding that teachers were cheating by doctoring standardized tests. Duncan wanted to do something about it. Levitt says there’s no one better for Education Secretary:
With seemingly nothing to gain and much to lose, Arne embraced our results, even allowing us to do audit testing to confirm our hypotheses. Eventually, a handful of teachers were fired.
Since then, I’ve interacted with Arne a few times, and in a variety of settings. I always walk away dazzled. He is smart as hell and his commitment to the kids is remarkable. If you wanted to start from scratch and build a public servant, Arne would be the end product.
About five years ago, I joked with him that he was not even 40 years old and he had the second-best job in education. He had nowhere to go but down, since the only better job would be secretary of education.