Obama doesn't have authority to close and reopen schools himself. That power rests with local school districts and states. But he has an incentive in the economic stimulus law, which requires states to help failing schools improve.
Duncan said that might mean firing an entire staff and bringing in a new one, replacing a principal or turning a school over to a charter school operator. The point, he said, is to take bold action in persistently low-achieving schools.
"Our students have one chance - one chance - to get a quality education," Duncan said in a speech Monday to the Brookings Institution think tank.
"If we turn around just the bottom 1%, the bottom thousand schools per year for the next five years, we could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of under served children," Duncan said.
In particular, the administration wants to fix middle schools and high schools, focusing on "dropout factories" where two in five kids don't make it to graduation.
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Related reading: The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools