Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago schools, will be Obama’s secretary of Education. Duncan was no miracle man in Chicago, as Eduwonkette has pointed out. And he’s not as radical as D.C.’s Michelle Rhee. But he’s faced the biggest problems in education in Chicago — and he’s a personal friend of Barack Obama.
This Week in Education lists Duncan’s strengths and weaknesses.
AP sees Duncan as a compromise choice:
Reform advocates wanted a big-city school superintendent who, like Duncan, has sought accountability for schools and teachers. And teachers’ unions, an influential segment of the party base, wanted an advocate for their members; they have said they believe Duncan is willing to work with them.
“Arne Duncan actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way,” Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, told The Associated Press earlier this month.
Duncan deliberately straddled the factions earlier this year when he signed competing manifestos from each side of the debate.
In analyzing Obama’s options, David Brooks called Duncan the reformers’ best hope.
He has the political skills necessary to build a coalition on behalf of No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Because he is close to both Obamas, he will ensure that education doesn’t fall, as it usually does, into the ranks of the second-tier issues.
Alfie Kohn attacked reformers, such as Duncan, as more-of-the-same traditionalists in the Nation.
Diana Senechal criticized their muddy language on Core Knowledge, taking Kohn’s arguments apart.
Duncan was willing to expose cheating on tests by administrators and teachers, writes Freakonomics:
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.
“Obama has picked a true reformer, a skilled diplomat and a man he trusts implicitly,” writes Carl Cannon.
The Fordhamites like Duncan, if only because he was the favored candidate in Flypaper’s six-week pick-the-secretary poll. Mike Petrilli warns that Duncan is a man for all opinions:
He’s widely (and fairly) seen as the “consensus candidate,” bridging the divides between two camps within the Democratic Party (the reformers and the establishment). But he’s not so much a compromise as a canvas upon which people of various persuasions can paint their hopes and dreams (much like his boss). To the reformers, he’s a crusader for charter schools and merit pay. To the unions he’s a conciliator and peacemaker. To NCLB supporters he’s an accountability hawk. To NCLB detractors he’s a “flexibility” proponent. Which of these things is he really? Time will tell.
A “terrific pick,” writes Checker Finn. But let him pick his own team.
Rep. George Miller, D-California, a liberal who’s been a No Child Left Behind stalwart, likes Duncan.