Arne Duncan Nominated as Secretary of Education: Good News for Early Education
This morning, President-elect Barack Obama will announce that he is nominating Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan is a great choice on several fronts. First, he's been a good superindendent in Chicago, where fourth grade student student achievement in reading and math has improved under his watch, and low-income students are narrowing the gap in fourth-grade reading. Second, Duncan has earned the respect of various, sometimes clashing constituencies within the Chicago and national education communities. As a result, he is viewed as someone who can potentially bridge the divide between civil rights groups and education reformers, on the one hand, and teachers unions and established education groups on the other--a necessity for any secretary who aspires to oversee the next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or NCLB.
Finally, and of particular interest to this blog, Duncan is a good choice for early education. Chicago has a long-standing record of high-quality Pk-3 early education programs, dating back to the 1967 establishment of the seminal Chicago Child-Parent Centers. During his tenure as superintendent, Duncan oversaw the expansion of public pre-k programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in Chicago, working with Chief Early Childhood Education Officer Barbara Bowman to do so. And Chicago has been a national leader in developing aligned programs of high-quality Pk-3 education for disadvantaged youngsters.
Duncan's experience with early education in Chicago should prepare him well to shepherd the enactment and implementation of the Obama administration's early education agenda, which, judging by campaign proposals, will likely be strongly influence by what has happened on early education in Chicago and Illinois. Equally important, Duncan's experience with the Chicago Child-Parent Centers and Pk-3 efforts in Chicago should give him a strong understanding of the importance of integrating the administration's early education investments into their broader education reform agenda. And his reputation as someone who can bring together and work with diverse interests should be valuable in implementing new early education investments and working to improve coordination among new and existing early childhood programs.
Early Ed Watch congratulates Arne Duncan on his nomination and looks forward to continuing to cover his early education work as Secretary of Education.