Current job: Chief executive of Chicago public schools.
Credentials: From 1992 to 1998, Duncan was director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program to help create educational opportunities for South Side children. He then became deputy chief of staff for the nation's third-largest school system and in 2001 was named its chief executive. Duncan played professional basketball in Australia from 1987 to 1991.
What he offers: Duncan, 44, has drawn praise for his seven-year tenure. His Chicago connections presumably would help give him access to Obama, and he would have clout among educators who, like him, have carried out the No Child Left Behind Act as Congress considers revising it.
Vetting: Duncan supported a plan this fall to start a "gay-friendly" high school, but the idea was recently postponed.
Quote: "The only reason I do this job is I want Chicago to become the best big-city school district in America," he said in 2005. "I'm absolutely convinced we have a real chance to do that in the years ahead by continuing to challenge people's expectations -- students, teachers, parents -- not accept mediocrity and push for the best."