President-elect Barack Obama made waves in education this week when he announced his pick of Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to be the next Secretary of Education.

Duncan is one of Obama’s last announcements for his cabinet and ends a debate within the education community over what direction he would go with this pick. Once again Obama seems to have gone with a safe, down the middle choice. There is a litany of articles in the press covering this so I won’t recap the points here.

An unanswered question is what does Duncan’s appointment mean for the vision we articulate in Disrupting Class. I don’t think we know at this point, but, as referenced in a July 2008 blog post, Chicago has had success using online learning to help minority students succeed in schools.

Second, like Obama, Duncan recognizes the importance of early childhood on future learning. Obama’s $10 billion pledge for early childhood education holds much promise. The cautionary note is the one we put forth in the book. Many if not most of the existing early childhood programs do not address the root causes for why children struggle to learn and therefore amount to money not well spent. We hope that Duncan and Obama recognize this and allocate the money to attack the root causes of why children struggle rather than just replicate well-meaning but ineffective programs.

Lastly, Duncan has embraced and run a portfolio of different school types within Chicago—akin to deploying the heavyweight teams we talk about in the book in effective manner. This work is encouraging and portends good things for the next Secretary of Education.

–  Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.