James Kvaal to be Deputy Undersecretary of Education

Inside Higher Ed reports that James Kvaal, currently a special assistant at the National Economic Council, will fill Robert Shireman’s soon-to-be-vacated job as Deputy Undersecretary of Education working on higher ed policies. Before going to the NEC, Kvaal was a colleague at CAP and a prolific contributor to the Wonk Room. His posts largely focused on issues that were hot in the presidential campaign (i.e., not higher education) but this one he did back in December 2008 remains a classic:

The rapid increases in schooling were impressive. In only 30 years — between 1910 and 1940 — the number of 18-year-olds with high school diplomas increased from 9 percent to 50 percent. And 30 years later, about half of American students were attending at least some college — leading the world.

But since the 1970s, the U.S. educational system has rested on its laurels, and we are losing ground. Educational achievement among young workers (between the ages of 25 and 34) has slipped to tenth in the world, according to new analysis from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Most people don’t realize this skill-slowdown is occurring in the United States or that it’s not occurring elsewhere. And in the aggregate we’re still near the top since our old people are much better-educated than anyone else’s old people. But it’s a worrying trend, and the American tendency toward insularity tends to blind people to the fact that it’s happening.