The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Ted Mitchell, the chief executive of a nonprofit educational-venture fund and a former president of Occidental College, as the Education Department’s top higher-education official. President Obama nominated Mr. Mitchell for the job in October 2013.
As under secretary of education, Mr. Mitchell will replace Martha J. Kanter, a former community-college chancellor who was named to the post five years ago and who announced in August 2013 that she would step down to return to academe.
Following the Senate’s unanimous confirmation vote, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a written statement that Mr. Mitchell’s experience as a college president and administrator, and his "unwavering commitment to equity for every student, makes him uniquely suited for this role."
Although Mr. Mitchell is a former college president, his recent work as the leader of the San Francisco-based NewSchools Venture Fund has focused on reforming elementary and secondary education through charter schools and new technologies. He also has experience in teacher-training reform, a recent focus for the department. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded NewSchools more than $82-million in grants since 2003, including $3.2-million in the 2013 fiscal year to "support the development of new teacher-preparation programs," according to the foundation’s grants database.
During his time at NewSchools, Mr. Mitchell "has worked to foster innovation that benefits all students, especially those in underserved communities," Mr. Duncan said.
Mr. Mitchell will follow two other NewSchools veterans who have worked at the Education Department under Mr. Duncan: Joanne Weiss, a former chief operating officer of NewSchools, was Mr. Duncan’s chief of staff, and Jonathan Schorr, of NewSchools’ external communications, is on the department’s press team.
Along with serving as Occidental College’s president, Mr. Mitchell was vice chancellor and dean of the School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, and professor and chair of the department of education at Dartmouth College. After taking the helm at NewSchools, in 2005, he also served as president of the California State Board of Education, from 2008 to 2010.