Arne Duncan a good choice to bridge education differences

Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr., Tuesday, hailed President-elect Barack Obama's pick for education secretary.

Obama tapped Arne Duncan, who has headed the Chicago school system for the last seven years. Duncan, 44, earned a reputation for pushing hard for better schools, including charter schools, in Chicago while at the same time reaching out to teachers, parents, and the business community (see here).

"Arne Duncan is a terrific pick, and not just because he's close to the President-elect and speaks Chicago-ese. He's a proven and committed and inventive education reformer, not tethered to the public-school establishment and its infinite interest groups, nor bedazzled by blandishments and commands from Washington," Finn said (see here).

Duncan will need all his experience to resolve the disagreements among education advocates, teachers unions, and civil rights groups concerning improving America schools (see here).

The Gadfly likes many of Duncan's initiatives. Under his leadership, charter schools in the nation's third-largest school district were expanded (while also held accountable for results) and performance-pay was introduced. He also supports recruiting people as teachers who have little classroom experience but solid academic backgrounds. In 2006, he called on Congress to substantially boost funding for the No Child Left Behind Act. Under Duncan, more Chicago students are taking challenging courses and student results on the Illinois state achievement tests have gone up.

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