Assessing Arne

Edusphere buzzes with praise, ridicule

The edusphere has buzzed for weeks about the various candidates rumored to be in line for Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, with hometown pick Arne Duncan garnering both praise and ridicule.

“I can’t believe this guy is still standing,” Alexander Russo wrote on Monday at District299 blog.

Not only still standing, but now at the head of the class. But the light praise of Duncan as a “reformer” in most press reports belies concerns in the field.

Eduwonkette, a blogger fo Education Week, has noted that racial achievement gaps in Chicago public schools actually grew under Duncan.

Alfie Kohn, in The Nation, has written that “Duncan, a basketball buddy of Obama's, has been called a ‘budding hero in the education business’ by Bush's former Education secretary, Rod Paige. Just as the test-crazy nightmare of Paige's Houston served as a national model (when it should have been a cautionary tale) in 2001, so Duncan would bring to Washington an agenda based on Renaissance 2010, which Chicago education activist Michael Klonsky describes as a blend of ‘more standardized testing, closing neighborhood schools, militarization, and the privatization of school management’.”

Klonsky, in fact, writes today that “you can’t win ‘em all . . . Up until yesterday, I thought that the fallout over Blagojovich might reach all the way to City Hall, thereby making a Chicago pick for SOE too risky. But then I came to my senses.”

Duncan was the heavy favorite all along, though, on Flypaper’s daily tracking poll of 10 “Washington insiders."

Flypaper today says:

“[Duncan is] widely (and fairly) seen as the ‘consensus candidate,’ bridging the divides between two camps within the Democratic Party (the reformers and the establishment). But he’s not so much a compromise as a canvas upon which people of various persuasions can paint their hopes and dreams (much like his boss).”

But also that “Unfortunately, Duncan doesn’t know, from personal experience, what good state policy looks like. Illinois is, for the most part, a big mess on the policy front.”

But he has seen Obama’s jump shot. And that likely didn’t hurt.

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