The First Year

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan host a group discussion with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., in September.By Lawrence Hardy

Bill Clinton created Goals 2000. George W. Bush launched No Child Left Behind. Now, nearly one year into his first term as president, Barack Obama is embarking on perhaps the biggest expansion ever of the federal role in public schools.

Led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the administration is asking states and school districts to experiment, to challenge long-held assumptions about teaching and learning, and to innovate -- and it is putting up nearly $5 billion in “Race to the Top” (RTT) funds and other incentives to prod them to do it.

Will they be successful? This month, ASBJ puts that question, and several others, to seven authorities in the field of public education. The participants:

Anne Bryant, executive director, National School Boards Association

Beverly L. Hall, superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools and 2009 National Superintendent of the Year

Eric Hanushek, senior fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Frederick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policy studies, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Jack Jennings, author, president and CEO, Center on Education Policy

Diane Ravitch, education research professor, New York University, and senior fellow, Brookings Institution. She is also author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, to be published in March.

Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder, Education Sector

Here is what they had to say. Answers, in some cases, are edited for length.

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