Outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had ambitious, controversial reach

October 02, 2015

By Larry Gordon, Joy Resmovits and Howard Blume

U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Friday that he would leave the Obama Cabinet in December after nearly seven years of attempting to reshape and bring more accountability to public schools and universities.

Duncan's emphasis proved controversial on standardized testing, teacher evaluation and the value of a college degree.

Duncan had a sometimes stormy relationship with California, despite its status as a stronghold of support for Democrats and the Obama administration. Early conflicts centered on Duncan's signature Race to the Top competitive grant program. States had to agree to a teacher evaluation system that partly used student test scores, angering unions and others.


Congress "essentially ceded power to the executive branch," said Thomas Dee, professor of education and director of the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. "This created a lot of innovation in the field that we could study and learn from, but it also was the beginning of the sense that top-down reforms are sometimes not what people want. I really admire his commitment, but the jury is still out on his legacy."