John King, U.S. Secretary of Education under Barack Obama and former New York education commissioner, was named president and CEO of the Education Trust — an organization that aims to narrow the achievement gap by promoting stricter accountability measures and high academic standards.
“The Education Trust’s mission is my life’s mission,” King said in a press release. “I want to help more kids like me — kids for whom schools make all the difference — get the education they need and deserve.”
The new role, announced Thursday afternoon, will allow King to continue shaping education policy across the country, including New York.
Last summer, Education Trust opened a New York branch that immediately began pushing state policymakers to keep hard academic indicators front and center in their implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal law that gives states more flexibility in measuring school performance.
The role also offers King a platform to serve as a watchdog of the federal agency he just left. Ed Trust has publicly opposed Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee, and King said he has “deep concerns” that she doesn’t understand how the department works and may not be “fully committed” to the department’s civil rights responsibilities.
King has deep roots in New York. Orphaned at 12, he has said the public schools he attended in Brooklyn “literally saved my life.”
Later, as the state’s first African-American and Puerto Rican education commissioner, he oversaw a period of dramatic policy change. Fueled by Race to the Top funding, King helped revamp teacher evaluations and promoted Common Core standards that ultimately prompted backlash from teachers unions and parents who have opted their children out of the state’s standardized tests in record numbers.
He also repeatedly clashed with city education officials over the importance of not concentrating high-needs students in troubled schools.
High Achievement New York, a coalition of organizations that promote stricter standards, cheered the announcement in a press release:
“With his experience at the national level, and as a native New Yorker, we look forward to his expertise and commitment to seeing that every child has an equal shot at a successful future and at achieving their dreams – just as he did.”
King is set to assume his new role March 6.
Disclosure: Both Chalkbeat and Ed Trust receive funding from the Gates Foundation.