Denver Post: Sen. Bennet praised as education reformer

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of Denver Public Schools appointed to his seat last year, has been hailed by both President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as one of the champions for education reform in Congress.

When given the microphone for Senate committee meetings on education, Bennet stops the proceedings and asks everybody to look around the room.

Pretend the 100 gathered suits are eighth-graders in an urban middle school — only 15 would be proficient in math. If they were ninth-graders, only nine would graduate from college, Bennet says. Don’t bother speaking up, the Colorado Democrat warns the crowd, unless the testimony will help “materially change those odds.”

Bennet’s wife, Susan Daggett, says none of his high-powered jobs — including running for senator in a Republican year — made him nearly as anxious as the responsibility he felt as DPS superintendent.

“I never had a hard time keeping going in that job,” Bennet said. “It’s fundamental to who we are as Americans that the ZIP code you’re born into is not the place you end up if you work hard and behave responsibly.”

Bennet went from a public education “zero” in 2005 to second choice for federal secretary of education in three and a half years, based on a reform push as DPS chief that attracted national laurels. But his core school turf in Denver showed little measurable improvement in his time or since, a fact that frustrates Bennet still.

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