U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is stepping down from his post in December to spend more time with his family, he announced Friday. President Barack Obama has already tapped John King Jr., former New York State education commissioner, to take Duncan's place.
King will serve in an acting capacity, meaning he was able to forgo a formal nomination process in the Senate.
King most famously served as the New York State education commissioner from 2011 until 2014. Last year, he moved over to the Department of Education, where he's currently a senior official.
Here are a few other important things we know about the next acting secretary of education:
1. He Is A Fierce Supporter Of The Common Core
As commissioner, King made it a priority to quickly implement the Common Core State Standards.
These standards, developed by a group of governors, state education chiefs and education experts, are designed to make sure kids around the country are being held to the same rigorous math and literacy benchmarks. The Department of Education incentivized states to adopt the standards via federal grant money. New York adopted them before King's tenure, but he was the one to align the state's classroom curriculum and high-stakes tests with the benchmarks.
2. His Tenure As New York State Education Commissioner Was Riddled With Controversy
As a result of his dedication to the Common Core, King became a polarizing figure in New York.
Standardized tests associated with the Common Core are notably more rigorous than the ones previously given to the state's children. Parents decried the new system as their children's scores plummeted, and shared anecdotes about their newly anxious children. Many complained the state moved too quickly in its implementation of the standards, saying teachers and schools didn't have adequate time to prepare for the switch.
A coalition of education and parent groups called on King to resign. When he spoke to students and parents in forums around the state, thousands poured in and often criticized his policies.
At the time, King said he understood parents' concerns, but stood steadfast in his commitment to the Common Core.
“We understand that implementation of the Common Core and teacher/principal evaluation in a time of limited resources has come with significant challenges,” King wrote in a 2014 letter to state education leaders. “The Board of Regents and I knew we would encounter a good amount of concern in the public forums. We want -- and need -- to hear from teachers, parents, and students as these important changes in practice occur in classrooms, schools, and communities across the State."
3. He Is Committed To Diversity In The Classroom
At a recent National Coalition on School Diversity conference, King emphasized the importance of integrated, racially diverse schools, according to Chalkbeat New York.
“Schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country,” King said.
Under Duncan, the Education Department did not take action to desegregate the nation's increasingly racially segregated schools. But King told Chalkbeat that integration “has a long history and substantial evidence” of success.
4. He Has Experience In The Classroom
King, whose father was the first African-American school principal in Brooklyn, spent three years teaching social studies before he helped start a charter school in Boston. Later, he became one of the founders of Uncommon Schools, a charter school network that now has 24 institutions.
Both of King's parents died by the time King was 12, and he attributes his success to the help of teachers.
"I grew up in Brooklyn, I lost my mom when I was 8, my dad when I was 12," King said Friday at a press conference. "New York City public school teachers are the reason that I am alive."
"John was one of those kids that probably shouldn’t be in a room like this," Duncan said at the press conference.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated an outdated number of schools in the Uncommon Schools charter school network. It now has 44 schools.