Mixed Reviews for Obama Education Pick

crossposted at blogher.com

Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools chief, is President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for Secretary of Education and it’s raising more than a few eyebrows.

I’ll be honest, I had no idea who the guy was until his name came up as the architect behind Chicago’s LGBT High School proposal. An interesting concept that garnered much discussion here at BlogHer.

Apparently Duncan is also known for championing Charter schools.

Now I’m really listening, this time as the parent of a charter school student.

Dr. Susan Neuman writes at the Huffington Post, “Duncan has a track-record of educational reform successes and he’ll use whatever it takes–innovative charters, teacher reforms, early childhood programs–to ensure higher achievement. Way back when I was Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, and at the initial stages of implementing No Child Left Behind, Duncan was trying to make sense of the law to the benefit of kids in Chicago. He pushed every button he could but, as we now as we know so clearly, the administration wouldn’t budge from its ideological perch.”

But Madison at BlackVoices disagrees,

“Now I don’t know if this is Chicago machine politics at work here, but I’ve gotta question Obama choosing a bureaucrat who actually oversaw the closings of about 18 public schools in poor neighborhoods, all in the name of supposedly providing children with a better education, as well as fire 300 teachers. In fact, here at BlackVoices, we blogged about this very subject, and you Chicago readers responded fervently. Maybe it’s me, but I never thought of closing a school as a benefit for children. …”

A mixed bag of reaction for sure.

Over at MotherTalkers the comments show uncertainty and praise for the pick,

CascadingWaters isn’t happy, “As a teacher, and moreover, as a parent who’s pulled my daughter out of MA public schools because of their overreliance and overemphasis on MCAS (our standardized test), I feel completely let down by this. He had Linda Darling-Hammond, one of the best thinkers in the country, advising him. I can only imagine he ignored her. Added to the other Clinton-era choices, this one confirms for me that we’re getting pretty far away from ‘change we can believe in.’ I ain’t believing.”

While parentalunit1 is pleased,

“1. this choice comes with a clear record of impressive success. and someone who clearly shares obama’s style of consensus. you can’t be successful without working within the NCLB infrastructure. but i am not so sure Duncan is a real supporter of NCLB. 2. Duncan is willing to try anything to see if it works. cash for grades as an example. i like obama’s positioning here as with other issues…ideology does not reign supreme. they are both open to ideas to see if they ‘work’.”

On the one hand I applaud Duncan for attempting to think out-of-the-box on issues and on the other I remain unconvinced of “successes” in the Chicago public school system under his tenure.

One thing is for sure, Duncan will have a hell of a job ahead of him as he attempts to overhaul our public education system.

Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain blog


  1. I just came across your blog while searching for Charter School blogs. This is a very interesting and helpful blog entry. Thanks for taking the time to set out this information. I think we are in a wait and see situation. In our “neck of the woods” it is going to be very interesting to see how a traditionally anti-charter party is going to handle being lead by a charter-tolerant (that is as far as I can go for now) President. Hmm. This would be fun if it were not so serious! (I am also a charter school parent.)

  2. I’m still really torn on him, there are so many pros and cons being tossed around it”s hard for me to get a good feel. I’ve read that he’s rather hands-off on homeschooling, which I like. But I’d love to see NCLB being tossed out like dirty bathwater. I don’t know, my educational views are more along the lines of tea the whole thing down and stat again at the beginning, so I suspect I’m going be on the more radical edge than almost anyone picked.

  3. That’s the best awsner of all time! JMHO

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