In an important move for the higher education community, it looks like Ted Mitchell, the CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, will become the under secretary nominee at the U.S. Department of Education, several sources told Politics K-12. He would replace Martha Kanter as the top higher education official at the department and likely become a member of Secretary Arne Duncan’s inner circle of advisers. The position requires Senate confirmation. UPDATE: The nomination was made official on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Mitchell, who has a major interest in reforming schools of education, wouldn’t be the first NewSchools talent to come to the department. Duncan hired the fund’s Joanne Weiss to launch and run Race to the Top. Weiss, who left the department in July, eventually became his chief of staff. In January, the department hired Jonathan Schorr of NewSchools for its communications team.
As a former state board of education president in California, Mitchell may also help improve federal relationships with the state, which has lost out on most federal competitive grants and a state-level No Child Left Behind waiver. In the state, Mitchell was a big proponent of getting kids to take Algebra in 8th grade. UPDATE, 2:25 P.M.: And as one Politics K-12 reader reminded me, Mitchell also was president of Occidental College--whose most famous attendee is none other than Barack Obama.
NewSchools is a nonprofit venture-philanthropy firm that funds education. Before the 2008 election, Mitchell penned a piece for Education Week about the federal role in innovation, which may offer some insights into how he might approach his new role.
Along with Schorr, the two wrote: "...the long-troubled relationship between the federal government and educational innovation teaches us that the president who takes office in January will need to make some savvy moves to avoid the mistakes of the past.”