Education Week - April 1, 2015 - (Page 16)

Q&A: A View From the Top as the Policy Clock Ticks U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has less than two years left in office with the Obama administration, and a number of big issues still on his plate, including school turnarounds, teacher evaluation tied to student outcomes, and a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act). Education Week Assistant Editor Alyson Klein and Staff Writer Lauren Camera sat down with Mr. Duncan on March 23 for an interview that touched on those issues and others such as testing, nclb waivers, and the Race to the Top competitive-grant program. What follows is an edited and condensed transcript of the conversation. (A few lines have been slightly paraphrased for clarity.) Education Week: The waiver renewals you're working on now will extend beyond your administration, and I know you're hoping for a reauthorization of the law. But are you worried, if that reauthorization doesn't happen, that you have opened the door to the next administration coming in and putting their priorities in place in exchange for getting out of the mandates of No Child Left Behind-for instance, expanding school choice? Arne Duncan: We have tried to put our best thinking forward. ... I know we've done this imperfectly, but I think we've done a really good job. ... We try to, as best we can, have the principles of being very tight on goals, but much looser on how we get there, and we're learning every day how to be a good partner. ... The easiest [thing] to do would have been to not do waivers. And just [to have] lived with a broken law, and our jobs would have all been a lot easier here. But we would have hurt kids, and we came here to help kids, and we feel really proud of what we've done. ... Again, the law needs to be fixed. And if somehow the law isn't, then you hope the next administration builds upon things we did well and corrects some things, does some things better. ... Obviously, during your first term, standardized tests really formed a backbone of your agenda in policies like teacher evaluation and dramatic school turnarounds, and now you're talking about paring back the number of tests. Did you have a change of heart here? I think you're, I want to say, misremembering. A big thing we did in the waivers from the start was to reduce the focus on a single test score. ... What we did was move away from proficiency, we moved to growth and gain, and what you see in so many state accountability systems is going way beyond a test score and looking at improvements in graduation rates and reductions in dropout rates. Some states look at college-going rates. ... And so, I think, we've been actually pretty consistent from day one that assessing kids annually we think is important, but it should be a piece of anything and just a piece, and these longer-term indicators we think are hugely important. But you were the first administration to have a federal mandate to require teacher evaluation through test scores, and so that's obviously taking high-stakes tests to another level. I think, again, you've got to look at the context. We think the goal of great teaching is to have students learn; and to have student learning be a piece of teacher evaluation, I think, actually gives the profession the respect it deserves. ... Anyone who says that student learning shouldn't be a part of teacher evaluation actually demeans the profession. ... And again, different states have done this different ways, so we've never said there is one way to do this but, yes, we have absolutely said that student learning is the goal of great teaching and great teachers, and that that should be a piece of [evaluations]. ... The real point is better support and feedback for teachers. U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ARNE DUNCAN: 'Influence isn't the goal here. The goal here is increased student achievement ... The goal is raising the bar for all kids and seeing those gaps close.' Race to the Top was obviously your signature program in your first term. But in some places it's become a somewhat tarnished brand. Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina have either rethought or changed their standards or tests. And some states are making changes to teacher evaluation, Tennessee being an example. How much influence do you think the administration has in states that got this money, how much influence do you continue to have? Influence isn't the goal here. The goal here is increased student achievement, and you see, what I've said from day one, is that you see as much reform and progress in states that didn't get a nickel as states that got hundreds of millions of dollars. .... The goal is raising the bar for all kids and seeing those gaps close. Last question (asked off the cuff, after the official conclusion of the interview): You going to stick around for the end of the [Obama administration]? (Laughs). Day at a time, baby, day at a time. BLOGS Kline Voicing Hope for Action On ESEA After Easter Recess | POLITICS K-12 | Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, Chairman of the House education committee, and his staff have been spending a lot of time educating members about what his No Child Left Behind Act rewrite bill would-and wouldn't-do, and they hope that with the air cleared, leadership will reschedule the bill for a vote in the coming weeks. "My firm hope is that when we get back from the Easter break we will be able to pick it back up," Kline said March 24 to a group of state schools chiefs during the Council for Chief State School Officer's annual legislative conference. Nearly a month has passed since House leaders pulled Kline's proposal to overhaul the federal K-12 law from the floor as Republican support for the measure waned amid a separate debate over how to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also talked at length about the antiCommon Core State Standards blog post by a conservative blogger that was filled with "a lot of misinformation" that played a role in diminishing Republican support for the bill. "The entire leadership team was diverted from a really excellent piece of legislation," Kline said. "All the debate was complete. So now it's sitting there." On the Senate side, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.-the chairman and ranking member of the education committee, respectively-were 16 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 1, 2015 | still negotiating last week on an nclb law overhaul. But Alexander made it pretty clear in his talk to the state chiefs that Murray, a former preschool teacher, won't be getting her wish to see the federal K-12 law expanded to include early education, at least not without a big fight. His beef with the idea? The federal government already spends about $22 billion annually on various early-education programs, but the money is stuck in unworkable silos, and often ineffective. "In order to deal with early-childhood education, we're going to have to deal with the fragmented $22 billion already being spent," he said. -LAUREN CAMERA In a Course Reverse, Virginia Scraps A-F for Grading Schools | STATE EDWATCH | In a reverse of course, Virginia has scrapped the A-F school accountability system approved by lawmakers in 2013 but never truly implemented. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed the bill March 19. The new law requires the state school board to overhaul the state's School Performance Report Card. Factors that the state board can consider in this redesign include student performance on state assessments, student growth indicators, school safety, and total cost and funding per pupil. Two years ago, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed the original law after a visit to Virginia by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who instituted the nation's first A-F report card for schools during his time leading the Sunshine State. The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a K-12 policy group founded by Bush, has lobbied for states to adopt A-F grading systems for schools. -ANDREW UJIFUSA Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Slams Common Core at Campaign Launch | POLITICS K-12 | U.S. Sen.-turned-presidential candidate Ted Cruz's emerging education platform could be described, in a nutshell, as Not Jeb Bush. (He's the only other Republican, who has, so far, made it clear publicly that he's seriously pursuing the nomination.) Cruz announced last week that he's planning to make a White House run in 2016, while Bush said earlier this year that he's forming an exploratory committee. First and foremost, Cruz, who hasn't introduced any education bills since coming to Congress in 2013, is no fan of the common-core standards. In fact, in announcing his candidacy at Liberty College in Virginia March 23, Cruz said: "Imagine repealing every word of common core." Bush, on the other hand, has vehemently defended the standards even amidst gop backlash. And as a Senate candidate, Cruz said he'd like to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. That's several leaps beyond where Bush would go, though the former Florida governor has made it clear he'd like to put states in the driver's seat on accountability. -ALYSON KLEIN Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP-File

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 1, 2015

K-12 Law’s Legacy Blend of Idealism, Policy Tensions
Testing Security Prompts Scrutiny Of Social Media
Virtual Spec. Ed. Is Evolving Option
Turnover at Top Can Leave Funders Wary
Education Week - April 1, 2015
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Studies Affirm Impact of Board-Certified Teachers
Blogs of the Week
Honored Educator Decries Current Climate for Teaching
‘Opt-Out’ Push Sparks Queries For Guidance
Texas Lawmakers Wrangle A Herd of Education Measures
A View From the Top As the Policy Clock Ticks
Blogs of the Week
TYRONE HOWARD: Decriminalizing School Discipline: Why Black Males Matter
THE ESEA AT 50: Perspectives From the Archives
REBECCA GIVENS ROLLAND: The Ticking Clock of American Education
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
MARILYN BURNS: What Reading Instruction Can Teach Us About Math Instruction

Education Week - April 1, 2015