As reported by Education Week yesterday, Arne Duncan’s first year as Secretary of Education “could place him among the most influential leaders in his department’s 30-year history.” Given oversight of unprecedented amounts of education aid in the economic stimulus package, Secretary Duncan has been able to advance administration priorities such as charter schools, teacher performance pay, common academic standards, and turnarounds of low-performing schools through reform efforts such as the Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation grant programs.
While Department officials have indicated that they plan to implement many of these same reforms through a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this year, there is no guarantee that the law will be passed anytime soon. ESEA was due for reauthorization in 2007, but Congress and the Bush Administration failed to work out differences surrounding accountability and teacher effectiveness based on student achievement. This time around, Secretary Duncan faces critics such as teachers unions and those who believe he is placing too much emphasis on testing.
But Secretary Duncan plans to meet with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the education committees and the subcommittees in both houses of Congress about ESEA soon after the State of the Union Address. “The heart of our strategy is to secure bipartisan support and enthusiasm for this on the very front end,” said communications chief Peter Cunningham. He also plans to meet with teachers unions and the corporate and philanthropic communities.