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John B. King

John B. King

Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama

Biography

A passionate advocate and inspiring educational leader, former Secretary of Education John B. King considers himself living proof of the transformative power of a great education. According to Dr. King, “New York City public school teachers saved my life and gave me hope.” After losing his mother at age eight, school became the haven of stability, structure and support that sustained him during his father’s struggle and death from Alzheimer’s disease. Parentless at age 12, he continued to immerse himself into a world of learning, theater productions and historical research projects created by caring, inspirational teachers and a safe, supportive school community. To this day, Dr. King never misses an opportunity to celebrate the life-transforming power of educators. When President Obama named him as Secretary of Education at a White House ceremony, Dr. King once again thanked those teachers that had saved his life. He also shared a core belief that has driven him throughout his career: Education is at the very heart of America’s promise of opportunity. Read More >

Dr. King is currently President and Chief Executive of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for high academic achievement for all students, particularly low-income students and students of color. He was named Secretary of Education in January, 2016, succeeding Arne Duncan. Described as “an exceptionally talented educator” by President Obama, the appointment recognized Dr. King’s lifelong dedication to preparing every child for success as a teacher, principal and leader of schools and school systems. As Secretary, Dr. King focused on advancing excellence and equity throughout pre-school, K-12, and higher education, supporting educators and elevating the teaching profession, and improving college access, affordability and completion. He had previously served the department as Delegated Deputy Secretary, overseeing overall operations and all pre-K-12 education policies, programs and strategic initiatives. This included leading the cross-agency work of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, focused on creating pathways to opportunity for boys and young men of color. Dr. King came to the Department of Education after heading the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

During his tenure as New York’s first African-American and Puerto Rican Education Commissioner, the state was a national leader in many facets of education, including investing in high-quality early learning, raising standards for teaching and learning, providing strong professional development and innovative career ladder models for teachers and school leaders, as well as increasing educational opportunities in high-need communities. At NYSED, Dr. King drew upon his extensive experience leading urban schools as Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization and as Co-director of the high-performing Roxbury (Massachusetts) Preparatory Charter School, which he co-founded. Dr. King began his career teaching high school social studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Boston, Massachusetts. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. and Ed.D. from Teachers College of Columbia University, and a J.D. from Yale University.

Bringing a moving personal narrative and experience that ranges from classroom teacher to Secretary of Education, Dr. King is a strong voice for equity and opportunity, elevating the teaching profession, and preparing a diverse, globally competitive workforce. Whether speaking to educators or business leaders, Dr. King leaves audiences feeling invested in the promise of a strong national future built upon high quality education. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Personal Childhood Experience and Every Student Succeed Act

The Importance of Civic Education

Education as a Path to Equality

Investing in Our Students: What Would It Take

Optimism

Education Issues

Speech Topics

Education’s Promise

As Secretary of Education, John B. King embraced and executed upon President Obama’s overarching belief that “the future belongs to the nation that best educates its people.” During his tenure leading the U.S. Department of Education, and previously as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, Dr. King championed education as critical to expanding opportunity, growing a thriving economy, creating an engaged citizenry and ensuring American leadership in the 21st century and beyond. Sharing a vision for both our nation’s schools and our country’s future, John B. King takes a high-level look at some of the most compelling challenging facing education today, including:

  • Investing in quality early education
  • Addressing equity issues
  • Providing a well-rounded education (arts education, school counselors, libraries, etc.)
  • Increasing student achievement and global competitiveness
  • Improving outcomes through assessment and accountability

Supporting Educators & Lifting up the Profession

As the son of lifelong New York City public school educators, a former high school social studies teacher and middle school principal, John B. King understands the power that teachers have to make a difference in students’ lives. Bringing first-hand experience of the challenges that educators face combined with a high-level leadership and policy perspective, Dr. King shares what it truly takes to lift up the profession, attract talented educators and support them throughout their careers. Read More >

Dr. King shares actionable recommendations for: Read Less ^

  • Elevating the teaching profession
  • Strengthening teacher preparation
  • Developing career pathways
  • Creating a pipeline of educators of color
  • Cultivating and supporting school leaders
  • Building a school community that celebrates diversity
  • Recruiting educators of color to majority minority schools

Giving Every Child Opportunity from the Start

According to Dr. John B. King, “It’s not liberty when happenstance of birth binds a child to a life of limited possibilities. True liberty is being able to take our lives as far as our drive and talent allow. Preserving that birthright requires advocates of public education—including teachers, parents, business leaders elected officials to all be a part of the solution.” A passionate believer that education is a ladder that helps people reach places that would otherwise be impossible to climb, Dr. King has made closing achievement and opportunity gaps a lifelong mission. Now, as President of the nonprofit Education Trust, he has made this issue the focus of the latest chapter of his career. Read More >

Dr. King provides insightful, prescriptive recommendations on: Read Less ^

  • Increasing access to higher education, affordability and completion
  • Supporting LGBT youth
  • Closing opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color, English learners and disconnected youth