Arne Duncan Introduction

On May 16, 2011 Jonathan Fanton introduced Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a talk at the Roosevelt House.

Arne Duncan on Education

Jonathan Fanton Q&A with Arne Duncan, Part I

Hunter Students and Faculty Q&A with Arne Duncan, Part II

MAY 16, 2011

It is my great pleasure to introduce my friend Secretary Arne Duncan with whom I had the privilege of making common cause as he made Chicago a model for urban school improvement.

The MacArthur Foundation has had a long commitment to school reform in Chicago but the high point of a quarter century of our engagement occurred when Arne Duncan was C.E.O.

Chicago and education are deep in Arne Duncan’s DNA.  His father was a professor at the University of Chicago, his mother runs a tutoring program on Chicago’s South Side where he worked, and before coming to the school system he helped start the Ariel Community Academy, an elementary school built around a financial literary curriculum.  And The Academy was part of Eugene Lang’s, I Have a Dream program which provided scholarships to students who stayed the course and entered college.  It is a great pleasure to have Gene Lang with us today.

Arne Duncan became CEO of Chicago Schools in 2001 and when President Obama asked him to become Secretary of Education he was the longest serving major city schools superintendent.  In the United States.

Arne Duncan is a patient visionary or perhaps a romantic realist.  He does not let the stubborn reality of urban school problems dampen his spirits or his ambitions to move our schools up the critical path to a better future for our country and our children.  He challenges us to take the “road less traveled”.

Hear his words at his confirmation hearing as Secretary, when he said education is “the most pressing issue facing America…. Preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society but also an economic imperative…  Education is also the civil rights issue of our generation… the only sure path out of poverty and the only way to achieve a more equal and just society.”

America’s core values so eloquently expressed, so deeply felt, so inspiring for all of us.

But words are easy.  Doing is difficult.  No Secretary of Education has gone to the post better prepared than Arne Duncan who led a renaissance of Chicago’s public schools.  Here is just a sample of what he did!

Started 100 new schools and had the courage to close under-performing schools.

The average ACT college entrance scores increased 3 times the national rate.

A record 66% of elementary school students met or exceeded state reading standards, 70% for math standards.

The number of teachers achieving National Board Certification increased from 11 to 1,200, the fastest growing rate among the nation’s big city systems.

The number of applicants to teach in Chicago tripled to 10 for every opening.

And that is just a sample.

I saw firsthand how hard he worked, how much he cared, how skillful he was at building coalitions with the business community, universities and the teachers union.  His story is a model of how clear vision, competence, commitment, compassion and courage come together to compel a system to reform and thus change thousands of lives.

He will now talk to us about how he is putting that experience to work at the national level, through a challenge to states to race to the top, a reform initiative that requires adopting rigorous standards and assessments, building data systems to measure student achievement, so policy is based on evidence, and recruiting and training top teachers and principals to turn around the lowest achieving schools.

He has put together an outstanding leadership team, infused a spirit of innovation in the department, and created a culture which documents success and learns from disappointment.  He is an empirical evangelist.

We have welcomed many policy makers to Roosevelt House but none plays a more important role in the future of our country and our democracy than Arne Duncan.

After his opening remarks we will have a conversation and include your questions and comments