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Posts Tagged ‘Education’

As of today, Barack Obama has officially unveiled more than half of his cabinet-elect (along with a few leaked members), but a few glaring omissions remain – particularly at the Department of Education. This is a story that we here at BTG will follow eagerly over the coming days and weeks, beginning with this list of 3 prominent candidates:

Joel Klein

Current Job – Chancellor of New York City Department of Education

Prospects: Klein has been a controversial figure during his tenure in New York, angering parents, community groups, and teachers at various times. At the same time, he is an old Washington hand and attorney (who led the anti-trust battle against Microsoft). Klein has won wide support from the philanthropic and corporate communities, as evidenced by the amount of private money used to support pilot initiatives in New York, though a New York Magazine feature details his complicated relationship with teachers’ unions. Smart money says that Klein elects to stay in New York, where his boss is seeking a 3rd term. At the same time, Klein’s reputation as a results-oriented pragmatist might appeal to Obama’s desire to address inequities in education.

Linda Darling-Hammond

Current Job – Professor at Stanford University School of Education

Prospects: Obama recently tapped Professor Darling-Hammond to serve as the chair of his education policy working group. Her expertise is in the area of merit pay, and she has been a consistent and principled opponent of NCLB. In a 2007 piece for The Nation she called for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would broaden the criteria for school evaluation, and introduce a new Marshall Plan for teaching to improve recruitment, training, and retention. Darling-Hammond is especially interested in rectifying our educational debt (rather than achievement gap) by making federal funding to states contingent on the demonstration of progress towards equal access to educational resources and opportunities. Darling-Hammond has made waves by criticizing Teach For America, saying “If one takes the lowest possible standard and accepts that as a goal, then Teach for America is great.” At this point in the game, I think it’s fair to say Darling-Hammond would represent the premiere academic choice for Obama. Her qualifications as a researcher is unparalleled, and her emphasis on teacher development might appeal to Obama, who has gone so far as to suggest his support for merit pay.

Arne Duncan

Current Job: CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Prospects: What’s not to like? Duncan is from Chicago (Obama’s Hyde Park, even), runs the Chicago Public Schools, and had a career in professional basketball. He has championed small neighborhood schools, early childhood education, and “clean slating” failing schools by dismissing staff. Will it matter that Richard Daley wants Duncan to stay in Chicago? Duncan has introduced merit pay in Chicago, a sign of his willingness to challenge certain liberal orthodoxies. Over at the daily tracking poll at EdExcellence’s Flypaper, Duncan remains the odds-on favorite for the appointment. Duncan was the only prominent educator to sign the manifestos advanced by both the Bigger, Bolder Approach to Education camp and the Education Equality Project. A Duncan choice would demonstrate the kind of broad, pluralistic vision that Obama might want in his cabinet.

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