Federal Explainer

John B. King Jr., Tenth U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements

By Education Week Library — August 18, 2017 | Updated: March 08, 2021 3 min read
Education Secretary John B. King Jr. speaks at the White House in Washington in this Sept. 29, 2016 file photo.

Biographical Information: King was born on Jan. 5, 1975, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Orphaned at a young age, King credits his New York City public school teachers at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Twain J.H.S. in Coney Island with saving his life by giving him hope for the future. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree in the teaching of social studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, a law degree from Yale Law School, and a doctorate in educational administrative practice from Teachers College. King joined the Education Department in 2015 as principal senior adviser. He had served as New York State commissioner of education from May 2011 to November 2014. Before that, King worked as a social studies teacher at a Boston charter school, founded the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, and became a member of the Uncommon Schools organization, which creates and manages urban schools for low-income students. He currently heads the Education Trust.

Served Under: President Barack Obama

Dates of Tenure: 2016-2017

Fun Fact: King is the only education secretary who has taught in Puerto Rico.

Achievements in Office:
• During his short tenure, King worked on creating the regulations that support the implementation of the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act. He also focused attention on achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers.

Archives of Note:

Listen: John King, Commissioner of Education for New York State
Learning Matters Producer Cat McGrath met up with Commissioner King in June to talk about the new standards, why New York decided to test them this year, and whether the “common core” is an act of federal intrusion. (Aug. 13, 2013)

School Leaders to Trim Testing, But Keep Yearly Assessments
Amid concerns about too much testing, state schools chiefs and big-city superintendents have vowed to shed redundant tests but stick with annual assessments. (Oct. 21, 2014)

Senior ED Adviser King on NCLB, Race to Top, and Coming In As Things Wind Down
What are John King’s plans and priorities as the Obama administration draws to a close? (Mar. 11, 2015)

Secretary King Emphasizes Civic Mission of Schools
U.S. Secretary of Education John King said that schools must do more to educate students about their role in a democracy. (Oct. 20, 2016)

John B. King Jr. Goes Back to the Classroom, Gets a Lesson From Students
To answer questions about the graduation-rate gap between groups of students, U.S. Secretary of Education John King went straight to the source: high school kids. (Oct. 21, 2016)

Exit Interview: Ed. Sec. John B. King Jr. Talks Legacy and Election Aftermath
King talked about everything from the Obama administration’s imprint on education policy to the bullying and harassment that has happened in schools since the election. (Jan. 13, 2017)

John B. King, Jr. to Lead the Education Trust
King, who served as President Barack Obama’s education secretary, will be only the second leader in the organization’s history, taking over for Kati Haycock, its CEO and founder. (Feb. 2, 2017)

A Conversation With John B. King Jr. (Video)
Former U.S. Secretary of Education and current the Education Trust President John B. King Jr. discusses the direction of federal education policy with Education Week Correspondent Kavitha Cardoza. (Mar. 22, 2017)

Commentaries by John B. King Jr.:

U.S. Secretary of Education: Let’s Educate, Not Incarcerate
The return on investment in education has grown in recent decades, so why does our spending on incarceration outpace aid to education, asks John B. King Jr. (July 26, 2016)

A Dispatch From the Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary
In his final Commentary as education secretary, John B. King Jr. considers the state of American schooling. (Jan. 17, 2017)

‘A National Challenge': How We Can Change the Course for Homeless Students
Homeless students’ graduation rates should be a wake-up call for us all, urge John King and John Bridgeland. (Aug. 27, 2019)

FCC Commissioner and Former Ed. Secretary: We Need a National Policy on Internet Access
We can close the gap in home-internet connectivity for students, but we must act now, urge Jessica Rosenworcel and John B. King Jr. (Aug. 3, 2020)

This Could Be the Moment to Help the Poorest Among Us: Our Nation’s Children
Creating opportunity will take bold legislation, investments, and collaborative action, write Paul Reville and John B. King Jr. (March 5, 2021)

    Additional Resources
    Department of Education A short biography from the Department of Education archives
    The University of Virginia’s Miller Center A brief biography highlighting King’s role in the Obama Administration

    How to Cite This Article
    Education Week Library. (2017, August 18). John B. King Jr., Tenth U.S. Education Secretary: Biography and Achievements. Education Week. Retrieved Month Day, Year from https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/john-b-king-jr-tenth-u-s-education-secretary-biography-and-acheivements/2017/08

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