Lesson Plan for Change: Heroes of Education Reform
Meet six inspiring individuals who are working hard to reform schools in America
U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, no small shakes, when he was nominated by his good friend, basketball buddy, and fellow Chicagoan, then President-elect Barack Obama, to be the Secretary of Education, the top job in the American Educational system. He's working with a larger budget than any other secretary of education has ever enjoyed and is positioned to become the most effective education reformist in recent history. Duncan grew up in large part at his mother's after-school program -- the Sue Duncan children's center -- in the South Side of Chicago, tutoring and being tutored by underprivileged kids. So he has seen firsthand the struggle many families face trying to find quality education. In his confirmation hearings, Duncan called education the "civil rights issue of our generation."
He's taken on the onerous task of reforming the No Child Left Behind law. The mission: Develop a common curriculum for the country, but give the states back control on how to implement it. His most well-known initiative thus far, though, has been the $4.35 billion race to the Top grant competition, in which states win stimulus money by proposing educational reforms that better prepare students for college and the workplace, and recruit and retain effective teachers and school officials. Though the program has not been without controversy, Duncan insists that the alternative of only "investing in the status quo" is unacceptable. "For far too long," Duncan told the Mom Congress in his speech about the responsibility parents have to the school system, "we have created schools that are good enough for somebody else's children, but not our own."