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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.


Arne Duncan New Commissioner

What a relief to find a leader who rejects the false dichotomies that have characterized the politics of our field. Are early education and care programs for children or are they for parents? Duh.. How could they not be for both? Are they for poor children or are they for all children? That one has resulted in years of helping children be poor and remain poor. Povery harms children. Parents at the median income are often both working to rescue their children from poverty. They have this economic opportunity when their children are school-age, and the schools care for children has been a mainstay of our economy. But in early care and education policy elligibility for this care is often tied to income, so that if parents succeed, we will not help them with child care. And of course schools are not baby-sitters, we have heard for many years. They only educate. They do not care. Let's reject all false dichomies and try to meet needs that families and children have, at a price they can afford.

Arne Duncan, look a little deeper

One only need look at the record of Arne Duncan and the Chicago Public Schools literacy rate for the past 7 years. Actually the literacy rate has gone down to a stunning 17%. Duncan as a "champion" for education, I don't think so. It's more like business as usual.