President Obama has selected Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to replace Arne Duncan. King is a former New York State education commissioner. Mike Groll/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Groll/AP

The man who will succeed Education Secretary Arne Duncan has both an inspirational personal story and a record of controversy in what’s become a national debate over the Common Core learning standards.
At age 40, John King Jr. will become one of the youngest Cabinet members in American history. He’s been deputy U.S. education secretary since January, after serving as education commissioner in New York.
Duncan called him “one of the most passionate, courageous, clear-headed leaders in our field” with a “remarkable personal story.”
King grew up in Brooklyn, the son of two educators. But both parents died by the time he was 12, and King described a chaotic life of bouncing between relatives in this Huffington Post essay. He credited public school teachers, particularly at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain junior high in Coney Island, with helping him stay on track.
Despite being kicked out of a prestigious prep school, King managed to get into Harvard. It was there that he developed a passion for education while volunteering at an afterschool program in a Boston public housing project. He later taught high school social studies in Boston and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and earned degrees from Yale Law School and Columbia University’s Teachers College (a master’s and a doctorate in educational administrative practice).
King became a leader in the charter school movement when, still in law school, he co-founded Boston’s Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. It became the highest-performing urban public school in Massachusetts. From 2005 to 2009, he was managing director of the network Uncommon Schools, which runs charters in New York and Boston. In 2011, King became New York state education commissioner, where he led the transition to the Common Core.
New York was one of the first states to adopt the standards, after winning a federal Race to the Top grant, and implementation made King into a lightning rod. Many parents and teachers criticized the state for rushing the rollout without giving schools enough support. Criticism grew as the state implemented new, more difficult tests aligned to the standards. In 2013, the percentage of students deemed proficient fell to roughly 30 percent statewide, half of what it had been before the Common Core.
King responded by holding …Read More