Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today that he wasn't sure how much he could accomplish before he came to Washington to serve in President Obama's Cabinet.
"I was hopeful, but I honestly didn't know," he told a crowd at the Washington Ideas Forum. "I was pretty skeptical of Washington. I didn't know what you could accomplish."
Nearly two years later, Duncan said his early concerns have turned out to be unfounded.
"The amount of change we've seen around the country in the last 19 months is more than we've seen in 10 years," he said. "We've come much further, much faster than I thought possible."
The secretary has overseen the department's Race to the Top program, which has incentivized states to reform their education systems in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.
The biggest challenge, Duncan said, isn't knowing what must be done, because most people already know the steps that must be taken to improve the country's educational system.
The biggest problem is a "lack of courage to do what they know is right," he said. "That's what we're trying to challenge."