April 29, 2020
By Governor Jim Hunt and Dr. Javaid Siddiqi
When The Hunt Institute was established in 2001, the bench of thought leaders fighting for rigorous academic standards that prepared students for life after high school was relatively short. In those early days it often felt as though we were fighting against the tide, desperately trying to combat “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” It is remarkable to reflect on that time from the present day, now that college- and career-readiness has been established as an essential cornerstone of efforts to help students succeed – and to narrow equity gaps. Michael Cohen deserves an immense amount of credit for sparking this transformation through his groundbreaking leadership of Achieve over the last 24 years.
We are proud to have worked alongside Michael in this fight over many years, and we commend him for making the undoubtably difficult decision to entrust Achieve’s mission to his friends and partners in the field. We often hear of leaders who say that their organization’s mission is to put itself out of business – in other words to advocate so successfully for its cause that it becomes widely accepted as a necessary truth. Michael has accomplished this with Achieve, and his decision to pass the torch is a testament to his clear-eyed leadership.
Despite the incredible progress that has been made on raising standards and helping students rise to meet them, The Hunt Institute will not stop preaching the lessons that Michael instilled in all of us. Every year, we convene a new cohort of rising state leaders for the opening meeting of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program. Every year, one of the very first policy discussions they engage in focuses on the importance of strong standards. That session will not be coming off of the agenda anytime soon.
Michael’s guidance and friendship have been invaluable components of The Hunt Institute’s success. We are proud to be a part of the community that will carry his mission forward for new generations of state leadership.