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
'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
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
(Laughs). Day at a time, baby, day at a time.
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
"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 | www.edweek.org
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.
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.
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.
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
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