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Arne Duncan Staying on as Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan

by Christopher Paslay

President Obama’s Chicago basketball buddy will continue setting policy for America’s public schools.

According to the Huffington Post:

An Education Department official says Secretary Arne Duncan will remain in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet into a second term.

The official disclosed the decision Monday on the condition of anonymity because a public announcement has not been made.

Duncan, a former head of Chicago public schools, was widely expected to stick around. He is a former college basketball player who often joins Obama on the court.

Besides shooting hoops with President Obama, Duncan has fought to:

  • Increase the use of data and standardized tests to define student achievement and teacher effectiveness.
  • Use performance pay to compensate teachers based on student performance on standardized tests.
  • End teacher seniority to give principals the autonomy to pick their own staffs.
  • Turn “failing” schools into charters.
  • Overhaul entire staffs of teachers and principals at failing schools.
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions to deal with unruly and disruptive students.

Duncan knows what it takes to reform public schools not because he has a degree in education (he has a bachelor’s degree in sociology) or because he has experience as a teacher (he never taught a day in a K-12 classroom) but because when he was a little kid, Duncan and his brother and his sister all went to his mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago.

“From the time we were born, my brother, my sister, and I all went to my mother’s after-school program every day on the South Side of Chicago,” Duncan said in a speech last February at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Duncan also said in the speech that when he was little, the older students tutored the younger kids, and as he grew up, he tutored the younger kids.  He said his mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time:

“When we were little, the older students tutored the younger kids.  As we grew up, we tutored the younger students. My mom always tried to have students teach and be taught at the same time.”

After Duncan was done his studies and chores, he said, he played basketball:

“After we were done our studies and chores, we played basketball.”

At Harvard, where he earned his sociology degree, Duncan co-captained the varsity basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American, after all.  He also participated in the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game, scoring 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing-out five assists.


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