Thanks, Arne

Readers of this blog have probably already heard the news that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will step down from his post in December. After seven years with the Obama administration, Arne will return home to Chicago.

We always say we want our leaders to work for the common good: to speak for the little guy rather than special interests, to have strong principles and stick to them, regardless of the politics. We’re almost always disappointed. 

But Arne Duncan lives up to those high ideals. The policies for which he advocates are roundly considered to be bad politics, but they are good ideas: high expectations for kids, equity of opportunity, higher quality teaching and school leadership, and honest acknowledgement of the impact of race and racism on our policies and practices. He has the courage and tenacity to put kids’ futures over politics.

And he takes that commitment beyond just proposals and speeches: As Secretary, he has been extraordinarily creative and adept at getting things done. Most notably, a relatively small federal investment produced a tidal wave of new laws, policies, and practices around learning standards, educator effectiveness, student discipline, and student loans. 

As much as I and so many others will miss Arne’s leadership, I’m thrilled that President Obama has asked John King—a lifelong educator, former New York Education Commissioner, and currently Arne’s deputy—to serve as acting secretary for the remainder of the term. John has dedicated his entire life to ensuring every child has a fair shot at a quality education. This work is personal for him, because his own childhood showed him the power of nurturing teachers and great schools. The President couldn’t have picked anyone better to build on the work Arne started.

There will be plenty of time to reflect on Arne’s legacy in more detail—largely because the policy changes he helped usher in will be creating ripples of opportunity for kids for years to come. For now, I hope everyone, whether you agreed with his policy agenda or not, can appreciate him as one of the most principled and effective cabinet secretaries of our era.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

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Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

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