Wednesday, March 11, 2009

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Public Broadcasting

I just finished watching Arne Duncan on the Charlie Rose show. (March 16 - Added the link to the podcast in case you want to watch)

I had to pinch myself several times during the show, just to make sure I was not dreaming. Here is the nation's highest education official, saying things that I wished every education official had said. Many of these things have been expressed right here in the blog. But there he was, on national TV, saying the right things, popular or not. If a fraction of what he said became reality, we would be in fat city. Here are some highlights of what he articulated:

1. School facilities to be kept open for 12 hours a day or longer.

2. High quality pre school for all

3. Teacher merit pay, and much tougher tenure requirements

4. Removal of ineffective teachers, based on student achievement

5. Higher pay for STEM teachers

6. Start/expand charter schools

7. National standards for core subjects

There is tons more stuff because it is a 1 hour interview with no commercial breaks, but it was a riveting interview. Charlie Rose, the interviewer, is no slouch. He asks very pointed questions, until the guest cries uncle. In other words, you know exactly where the guest stands on every issue. But first, something about Arne Duncan's past, as articulated in the interview, caught my attention. The first thing he has going for him is that he is not an education insider. He was not trained in the education circles to think like a teacher or an administrator. So, he does not have the baggage that comes with someone who is predisposed to defend the status quo. This was quite evident when he unequivocally said the system needs to shed poor teachers, based on student achievement. Second, he said he grew up in a neighborhood where getting to adulthood alive was considered a great accomplishment. His mother ran a tutoring program for disadvantaged kids, and those who stuck with education not only got to live, but some went on to achieve much greater things. Third, he and the president appear to be in lockstep with all the proposals. Lastly, there is an unprecedented amount of money being doled out, $112 billion to be exact, to help implement the ideas. This is the largest spending of our future tax dollars since the GI bill. This is the first instance of such synergy that I have seen, that makes me optimistic.

Do I see pitfalls? Sure. Through the grapevine, I heard the money will be fast-tracked to the state governors, with no rules or accountability clauses spelled out, yet. If the past is any indication, the moment the money hits the states, it gets caught up in local politics, and rarely meets its intended goal. But it is a start. I hope the local citizens will hold their elected representatives accountable for spending that money so it accomplishes its intent.


concerned said...


You should check out the math programs used in Chicago schools under his direction.

Sudhakar Kudva said...

It is a matter of record (and admission by Arne Duncan himself) that the Chicago experiment was not an unqualified success.

I am just giving him credit for what he has been able to accomplish, and for SAYING the right things. It is a start, and as with other politicians, no guarantee that his actions will follow suit.

The way math education is administered in most public schools in this country, we can write off economic leadership for at least another generation. That is, unless Obama approves a couple of million visas for scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. We did that in 1964 to staff NASA, we may have to do it again.

Rashmi said...

I have read about an experiment to tie teacher's evaulation by the student's performance earlier as well, explained in the book - "Freakonomics". I believe they explain in the book that this led to teachers fudging student behaviours and results to ensure that their own performance is reflected well.

Centennial College said...

Education secretary Arne Duncan credits basketball with life assist

broadcasting schools