The Obama administration’s selection of Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan as education secretary signals an intent to maintain a rigorous system of standardized tests in public schools, while experimenting with reforms disliked by unions, such as teacher merit pay.
In announcing the appointment Tuesday at a Chicago news conference, President-elect Barack Obama said he and Mr. Duncan share a “deep pragmatism” and a willingness to tap ideas often associated with conservatives. “Let’s not be clouded by ideology when it comes to figuring out what helps our kids,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Duncan’s “strength is really his openness to ideas and a real interest in data and how things are working,” said John Easton, executive director of the Consortium of Chicago School Research, a University of Chicago program that has studied the city’s schools.
One of Mr. Duncan’s first tasks will be deciding what to do about the federal No Child Left Behind law, enacted in 2002, and now due for reauthorization. The statute, which has divided educators, requires all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Schools that don’t make adequate progress on tests measuring student achievement face sanctions.