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U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Lauds ‘Courage’ Of Tennessee Amid Reform Pushback

At multiple stops in Nashville Tuesday, President Barack Obama’s top education official showered Tennessee with praise for “controversial but common-sense decisions” he contends are having a profound effect on achievement.

In doing so, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded state officials for taking on what he coined a “courage gap” prevalent in public education today, pointing to reforms this state embraced despite fierce pushback.

“There’s so much this room and this state should be collectively proud of,” Duncan said during a panel discussion moderated by Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, an ally, at Brick Church College Prep, a Nashville middle school overseen by the state and operated by a charter school organization.

Duncan was in Nashville to serve as the keynote speaker at the annual Education Writers Association conference, held at Vanderbilt University. He used the occasion, not surprisingly, to highlight Tennessee’s historic gains in reading and math last year on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in fourth and eighth grades.

Duncan has routinely shown a fondness for Tennessee — one of the first two states to which his administration awarded federal Race to the Top funds when it unveiled the program in 2010, making it a model of Obama’s education agenda.