The Legacy of Arne Duncan

2016 begins with a new ESEA and a new Acting Secretary of Education, John B. King, Jr. With ESSA emphasizing state control and education so far taking a back seat in the upcoming election, the future of the U.S. Department of Education is unclear. NBC News, though, took a look back at Arne Duncan’s tenure, his successes and controversies, and how he transformed the Department into a major political player in the Obama administration. 

“By 2010, with little fanfare, Duncan had turned the Department of Education, traditionally a backwater cabinet post since the federal government provides only about 10 percent of the money for K-12 education (states and localities provide the bulk of the spending), into a powerful force helping set policy in nearly every state,” writes Perry Bacon, Jr. for NBC News.

During his time at the Department of Ed., Duncan was able to push through NCLB waivers, oversaw grant programs like Race to the Top, supported the growth of charter schools, and highlighted the importance of community colleges. But according to this article, Duncan will most be remembered for pushing for the Common Core and turning a state initiative into a de facto federal policy. For that he received criticism from both political parties, but he said it was more about how the standards were presented than the actual standards themselves.

“How we talk about these things at the real level, to parents, to students themselves, I think has been mixed," he said in an interview with NBC News. "We all need to continue to communicate clearly, to make mid-course corrections, to make adjustments." 

Read “How Arne Duncan Reshaped American Education and Made Enemies Along the Way,” by Perry Bacon, Jr., NBC News (January 2, 2016)


Education Policy