Arne Duncan Out, John King In, on an Acting Basis for the Remainder of the Obama Administration: Has King Learned from His Disastrous New York State Experience?

From AP,

AP sources: Education Secretary Arne Duncan stepping down.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Education Secretary Arne Duncan is stepping down in December after 7 years in the Obama administration.

Duncan will be replaced by former NYS Ed Commissioner John King, who will take over in an acting capacity, the president, reports say, will not seek formal approval by the Senate, avoiding a contentious battle. King is filling out the position until the end of the Obama administration.

Read full story here.

In his seven years as commissioner Arne Duncan has moved education from an occasional article buried in the print media to an “above the fold” toxic topic that both angers, motivates, scares the public across the political spectrum.

The testing establishment has pocketed billions from the “test and punish” accountability world without any indication that we are entering the world of Lake Woebegone where all children are above average. Slowly but surely Duncan lost the support of teachers and parents, while his intentions were pure we all know where the road of good intentions leads.

Duncan’s influence over Obama was Svengali-like. Duncan was geppetto pulling the Obama strings on educational issues. From let’s get rid of the true source of poor schools, incompetent teachers, to forcing English language learners and Student with Disabilities to take federally required state tests which they had absolutely no chance of passing.

The $4.4 billion in Race to the Top allowed Duncan to impose his vision of education in every school, a vision which not only did not move the needle, it is a perverse vision.

Obviously I could go on and on … the culprit is the president. He appointed a close friend who gave him bad advice and firmly supported his friend every step along the path.

We now have a national education agenda in shambles, attacks from the left, attacks from the right, ironically teachers in the middle defending public education with the support of parents.

The announcement that John King would replace Duncan as acting secretary for the remaining year of the president’s term seems fitting. John, although well-intentioned, left New York State in disarray.

What was it, three or four years ago that Randi Weingarten was the keynote speaker at the ABNY breakfast? Each year the Association for a Better New York hosts a major speech with the audience filled with the glitterati, the movers and shakers in the city.

Randi was the keynote speaker and John King was in the audience. Randi implored King to declare a moratorium on the impact of Common Core testing. Allow a couple of years for teachers and school communities to prepare for a sea change in instructional practice and allow time for the test-makers to create appropriate items.

Nope – John chose the end-of-the-diving board approach, not only move directly into Common Core testing John also chose to set high cut scores. It was no surprise when the scores moved from 2/3 passing to 2/3 failing. Keep in mind, no one actually “passes” or “fails” the tests – the tests are only used to assess progress of schools, school districts, cities and states; the test has no impact on the children. Duncan/King changed the landscape by making teachers/principals responsible for the test score results; alienating the very people in schools and classrooms. branding the folks in trenches with badges of dishonor.

Obama/Duncan/King all pointed to those “bad” teachers who were dragging down our schools and our students. The Race to the Top dollars enticed New York State to create a teacher evaluation system with a component utilizing student grow data – test scores. The result: one percent of teachers ineffective…

Were the algorithms flawed? Why didn’t the system fire five or ten or fifteen percent of “bad” teachers? Could it be that careful hiring and three year probationary periods and high attrition rates actually guaranteed a highly competent teaching force?

The one lingering impact of King’s year in New York State is the opt-out movement. Two hundred thousand kids opted out of state tests – one in five students and the movement shows no sign of abating. A year from now the 150 members of the Assembly and 63 members of the Senate are up for election with an angry mass of parents, not attached to any party, asking for a remedy.

John King enters the office of Secretary of Education with a ticking clock. The presidential campaign, so far, has had little to say about education; with the resignation of Speaker John Boehner the future of a Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind is unclear. The current budget process will not be kind to the Department of Education, expect sharp cuts.

In his role as commissioner in NYS King formally requested that the USDOE ease the testing requirements for English language learners and Students with Disabilities (SWD). King asked the feds not to require full testing after one year in the country – to move testing to perhaps three years or create a phase-in over a number of years and exclude cohorts of SWDs whose disability guaranteed poor performance on the tests.

Perhaps King can approve in his new role what he requested in his old role.

The US education system is not broken, it never was broken, and the so-called fixes, i.e., school choice aka charter schools and teacher accountability and the Common Core, are neither “fixes” nor sensible ideas.

Well-funded school districts usually found in affluent suburbs support schools that are perfectly acceptable to parents and tax payers.

Rural and inner city schools struggle, a lack of funding and a tangled web of complex societal issues.

For seven years Obama/Duncan fought the wrong wars, you can’t jam “reform,” whatever that means, down the throats of parents and teachers.

John King has a year to revive a tarnished reputation. Maybe he has learned from his stumbles in New York State, Maybe he will reach out to Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, to members of Congress, to Mayors, not to garner headlines, but to remove obstacles to creating better schools.

Learning from mistakes, from missteps is a sign of maturity, let’s hope John has matured.


3 responses to “Arne Duncan Out, John King In, on an Acting Basis for the Remainder of the Obama Administration: Has King Learned from His Disastrous New York State Experience?

  1. It seems to me that I remember being told that one learns from the rewards that come from success better than the punishments that come from failure. If John King sees his move from New York to Washington as a promotion (not merely getting out of town before they came for him with the tar and feathers), then he has no reason to reevaluate his tenure here or learn from those mistakes. I suspect that this is the more likely scenario, men like KIng and Duncan do not accept that they have made mistakes,. They deflect their errors onto others (eg. Duncan’s remarks on parents).


  2. “while his (Duncan’s) intentions were pure we all know where the road of good intentions leads”

    Sorry, but I can not agree. Duncan was put there with an agenda and his intentions were not pure. They were evil.

    Power corrupts
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely\

    And this corruption started long before Duncan became a warrior in the corrupt and fraudulent army of the corporate educatoin reformers. For sure, the first barrage was in 1983 under President Ray-Gun the 1st, when the fraud of A Nation at Risk was published. I think that study was deliberate and the authors knew it was fake. The neo-libs and neo-cons planted that study just like the LBJ administration faked the Tonkin Gulf Incident to go to war in Vietnam and GW Bush faked WMD’s in Iraq to go to war there.

    I’m sure if we look longer we’ll find all kinds of planted fraudulent crap that has been used to destroy the labor unions, the middle class, Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare—the list is endless and it always boils down to profit, profit, profit for the 1%.


  3. Milagros Solomon

    Yes it’s all boils down to the bottom line Money! It sad that education has become big business with everyone wanting a slice of the pie. The kids who should get the first slice end up with the crumbs. Sad but nothing well change.


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