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Secretary Arne Duncan Addresses the Fourth Annual IES Research Conference


Highlights:

  • Data gives us the roadmap to reform.

  • Over $100 billion in new resources is coming to education.

  • We need robust data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

  • we will ask thousands of communities across America to close and reopen schools based on data

  • We will ask millions of teachers to use student achievement and annual growth to drive instruction and evaluation.

  • Data may not tell us the whole truth, but it certainly doesn't lie.

  • [NCLB]let every state set its own bar and we now have 50 states, 50 different states all measuring success differently and that's starting to change. We want to flip that. We want to set a high bar for the entire country against states' and districts' ability to create and hit that higher bar, give them the chance to innovate and whole them accountable for results.

  • Through the Council of Chief State School Officers, 46 states and three territories have agreed to work on a common core of internationally benchmark standards.

  • We're competing with children from around the globe for jobs of the future.

  • Many teachers are hungering for data to inform what they do.

  • to somehow suggest that we should not link student achievement and teacher effectiveness, it's like suggesting we judge a sports team without looking at the box score.

  • It's too early to see real results about performance-pay initiatives. There aren't a lot of studies showing it boosts student achievement, but there is plenty of evidence that it boosts worker productivity in other industries so why shouldn't we try it?

  • And hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career. We must track high-growth children in classrooms to their great teachers and great teachers to their schools of education.

    Which schools of education are producing the teachers that produce the students that improve the most year after year? We need to know that answer.

  • I think our children today are at a disadvantage. Children in India and China go to school al to more time than our children do. I think we're setting our children up for long-term failure.

  • We have these large pots of money.


  • For Ohanian's rebuttal to this kind of data worship, see Accountability and the Slippery Language of Public Relations.


    FOR RELEASE:
    June 8, 2009

    Secretary Duncan: Good morning, and thank you, Stuart, so much for that nice introduction.

    I also want to say thank you to Sue Betka for her leadership at IES, as well as the entire career staff. Sue has been so helpful during this transition. I know that she'll continue to be a great, great resource for our new Director and let's give John Easton a big round of applause. Let's hear it for John.

    (Applause.)

    As everyone knows, John Easton is a colleague for whom I have tremendous respect. I feel so fortunate that we're going to be able to continue to work together. The Chicago Consortium on School Research enjoys a similar independent relationship to the Chicago Public Schools as IES does to the Department of Education.

    John always told us the cold, hard truth, without regard to ideology or politics. And so many of our most important reforms in Chicago were a direct result of work and data produced by the Consortium, the idea of ending social promotions, keeping our freshman on track and trying to dramatically raise graduation rates, tracking college enrollment, development growth models and thinking very differently about how we turn around under-performing schools.

    The common denominator for all of these policy decisions was that they were informed by data. I am a deep believer in the power of data to drive our decisions. Data gives us the roadmap to reform. It tells us where we are, where we need to go, and who is most at risk.

    There's a lot I don't like about No Child Left Behind, but I will always give it credit for exposing our nation's dreadful achievement gaps. It changed American education forever and forced us to take responsibility for every single child, regardless of race, background, or ability. And this is just one example of how data affects policy and there are many, many more.

    I'm actually thrilled to have a leader like John working with us here in Washington and I'm absolutely committed to relying on high-quality, independent research, funded by IES to inform our thinking.

    So thank you, John, for coming to Washington and agreeing to serve, and thank you, Sue, as well as the entire career staff, for your extraordinary service.

    I want to begin this morning by talking about the historic opportunity we have today. We will never have a chance like this again. We have a president who is passionate about public education. He and his wife were not born with silver spoons in their mouths. They are who they are because they worked so hard and because they got a great education.

    We have absolute bipartisan leadership on the Hill who see the need and the opportunity for us to get dramatically better. We have more proven strategies out in school districts around the country, rich, poor, rural, urban, suburban, have this flourishing of innovation and entrepreneurial ideas over the past 10, 15 years. We've never had so many examples of success before.

    And thanks to the Recovery Act, we also have some money and money does matter. Over $100 billion in new resources is coming to education. It would have been unimaginable just a few months to think about that.

    And the Recovery Act focuses on four broad areas of reform. We're convinced that with unprecedented resources must come unprecedented reform. Just simply investing the status quo isn't going to get us where we need to go.

    We're focused on college and career-ready international benchmark standards. We have many states, as you know, voluntarily moving in that direction. We're thinking a lot about teacher quality, great talent matters tremendously, how we attract and attain the best and brightest teachers and principals in our business and how we get them to work in some of our toughest schools.

    We're thinking about turning around schools. If we were to take -- we have about 100,000 schools in our country. If we were to take the bottom one percent each year, the bottom thousand, and year after year turn them around, over the next four or five or six years, we could basically eliminate those drop-out factors from our nation.

    And finally, we need robust data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

    Today's speech is the first of a series of policy speeches around those four assurances leading up to the Race To The Top in innovation and what works, grants that will be coming soon.

    Race To The Top and to What Works in Innovation Funding, $5 billion in discretionary money and I was talking to Secretary Page recently. I think he has $17 million. We have $5 billion. Think about the opportunity we have to make a difference.

    The time frame now, the rough time frame is to have draft applications out in July, final applications out by October, a deadline of February and to get grants out by -- a deadline of December and then to get grants out to states and districts by February.

    Today, of course, I want to focus on data and I'm blessed to have an audience that knows what I mean when I use words like regression models and effect size indicators. While these words may have meaning for all of you, as you know, they have very little meaning to the general public. And one of our collective challenges is to talk about data and research and ways that people understand. That's one of John's tremendous gifts is to take complicated ideas and make them understandable. That is the only way that good ideas can lead to action and not just remain on a shelf somewhere.

    When we did our first turnaround schools in Chicago, in which we closed and reopened the schools with the same children,[sic] (Check out the reality in Substance) but new adults, the saddest part of it was was that so many parents had no idea how far behind their schools were. They didn't know that they were the worst schools in the city and in fact, had been like that for years. They thought they were just like everyone else.

    And part of the problem is that people don't know how to read data, how to sift through it or understand it and that's really a challenge for all of us. This is just an insider conversation, but affects everyone outside of this club: parents, children, taxpayers, and employers. And the stakes have never been higher. We must tell the truth and we must tell it clearly. We cannot communicate an undecipherable code.

    In the months and years ahead, we will ask thousands of communities across America to close and reopen schools based on data, showing that they are underperforming. That has never happened before and it will be as difficult as it is important. It will change and improve the life chances of children from under-served communities forever.

    We will ask millions of teachers to use student achievement and annual growth to drive instruction and evaluation. Parents need to understand that. We ask elected officials in states across America to embrace higher standards, even though the initial data for their states may reflect badly on them and their schools. This will take real political courage with short-term pain leading to long-term gain.

    Clearly, this is a lot to ask of people. It is our responsibility to make this experience as safe and comfortable for people as possible. People need to get it and they need to be part of the cause of public education. And that means they need to understand data.

    Data may not tell us the whole truth, but it certainly doesn't lie. So what is the data telling us today? It tells us that something like 30 percent of our children or students are not finishing high school. It tells us that many adults who do graduate go on to college, but need remedial education. They're receiving high school diplomas, but they are not ready for college.

    I saw a figure in the paper the other day that talked about a million students a year spending their Pell Grants on courses that don't give them college credit. This is why we need higher standards. When states lower standards, they are lying to children and they are lying to parents. Those standards don't prepare our students for the world of college or the world of work.

    When wee match NAEP scores and state tests, we see the difference. Some states, like Massachusetts compare very well. Unfortunately, the disparities between most state tests and NAEP results are staggeringly large.

    This is one of the significant problems of NCLB. It let every state set its own bar and we now have 50 states, 50 different states all measuring success differently and that's starting to change. We want to flip that. We want to set a high bar for the entire country against states' and districts' ability to create and hit that higher bar, give them the chance to innovate and whole them accountable for results.

    Through the Council of Chief State School Officers, 46 states and three territories have agreed to work on a common core of internationally benchmark standards. This is just a first step, but is a huge step in the right direction.

    We absolutely support that work because we know from the data that TIMSS and the PISA studies that America has stagnated educationally as the rest of the world has progressed and in too many places passed us by.

    We're competing with children from around the globe for jobs of the future. It's no longer the next state or the next region. It's India, China, South Korea and Finland.

    I was on Capitol Hill the other day an faced questions over how much recovery money was going to save jobs and how much was going to advance reform. I told them that in the long run reform is all about jobs. We have to educate our way to a better economy.

    Yes, we have to keep teachers in the classroom and we have distributed enough money through recovery to save literally hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs around the country. But if that's all we do, then we'll miss an opportunity. The status quo today is simply not good enough. No one should be satisfied.

    Now we know the news isn't all bad, of course. We also know that children of all age groups across the country have improved their performance in reading and that younger students are posting strong gains in math. We know that achievement gaps are narrowing at the elementary level.

    We also know that college enrollment has increased for students at all income levels. And that the enrollment gap between students from low and high-income families has shrunk by almost half. That means that more disadvantaged students have access to college which is extremely encouraging as more and more of today's jobs in a competitive, global economy require post-secondary education.

    With enrollment in our K to 12 public schools rising to all-time highs, we know challenges remain in educating a population that is growing as we all know, but becoming increasingly diverse. The results from the long-term NAEP shows that we have a lot of work left to do, particularly in raising the achievement of our students at the secondary school level, whose test scores have barely moved over the past three decades.

    This is what we mean by transparency and absolute commitment to exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly about our current state of education.

    I need your collective help to drive a national conversation that is above partisan policy disputes, beyond wars on math and reading, and instead focuses on the facts. We need to reach some agreements. We can't keep studying things without arriving at some commonly-accepted conclusions.

    President Truman once lamented the fact that every economist he spoke to would always say, "on the one hand things might get better, and on the other hand, things might not." Truman finally concluded that if he wanted to find definitive advice on the economy, he was going to have to start finding some one-handed economists.

    (Laughter.)

    To some extent, the education community suffers from that same dynamic. For every study showing the benefits of the policy, there's another one with a different conclusion. Quite often people draw different conclusions from the same study and that's where we need to separate ideology from analysis.

    I recently spoke to education writers about the search for truth in education. I challenged them to go beyond the ideological statements and the surface conclusions and find out what is really happening for our children in our classrooms.

    It's kind of like the debate around charter schools. Advocates say they outperform traditional schools. Opponents say they don't. The plain facts show that some charter schools do, and some of them don't. But rather than acknowledging the obvious, we devolve into an ideology debate and somehow forget that this is about children and learning. If something helps children, let's do it.

    That's where all of you come in with the research and the facts. Education reform is not about sweeping mandates or grand gestures. It's about systematically examining and learning and building on what we're doing right and scrapping what hasn't worked for our children.

    IES and its grantees are uniquely able to contribute to this effort. You are staffed with world-class researchers and skilled statisticians. You have high standards both for evaluating program effectiveness and for the publications you produce. I want to tell you what we're doing to support data-driven instruction and research.

    In addition to $250 million in the Recovery Act for state-wide data systems, we have requested nearly $690 million for IES' activities, an increase of more than $70 million from last year's budget.

    Among other things, that money will pay for longitudinal -- for a longitudinal study of teachers and an international assessment of adult competencies. We will also launch a national survey to examine the participation of our youngest learners in preschool as well as the levels of parent and family involvement in education.

    We will also focus on data in our race to the top and what works in innovation applications. While the applications are still under construction, we are developing questions around how teachers are using data to drive instruction. Many teachers are hungering for data to inform what they do.

    Our best teachers today are using real time data in ways that would have been unimaginable just five years ago.

    They need to know how well their students are performing. They want to know exactly what they need to do to teach and how to teach it. It makes their job easier and ultimately much more rewarding. They aren't guessing or talking in generalities anymore. They feel as if they're starting to crack the code.

    We will also ask whether the data around student achievement is linked to teacher effectiveness. Believe it or not, several states including New York, Wisconsin, and California, have laws, they have laws that create a firewall between students and teacher data. Think about that, laws that prohibit us from connecting children to the adults who teach them.

    Usually, firewalls are set up for our protection. They prevent hackers from getting into our computers and they block our children from visiting inappropriate websites. But these state firewalls don't help us. They hurt all of us. They impede our ability to serve students and better understand how we can improve American education.

    I brought this up in a meeting in California two weeks ago and a local union leader said the following: "Gather data so you can decide who the good teachers are? Wrong. We need more data, but not to use it as a basis for teachers' pay."

    Now I absolutely respect the concerns of teachers that test scores alone, they should never be used solely to determine salaries. I absolutely agree with that sentiment. I also appreciate that growth models as they exist today are far less than perfect. We have a lot of work still ahead of us.

    But to somehow suggest that we should not link student achievement and teacher effectiveness, it's like suggesting we judge a sports team without looking at the box score.

    It's like saying since standardized tests are not perfect, eliminate testing until they are. I think that's simply ridiculous. We need to monitor progress. We need to know what is and is not working and why.

    In California, they have 300,000 teachers. If you took the top 10 percent, they have 30,000 of the best teachers in the world. If you took the bottom 10 percent, they have 30,000 teachers that should probably find another profession, yet no one in California can tell you which teacher is in which category. Something is wrong with that picture.

    I know that many forward-thinking educators share this view and I am confident that with your help and your thoughtful work we can overcome the legitimate concerns of teachers that they are being merely judged on test scores.

    We began a performance-for-pay program in Chicago, design by 25 of our city's best teachers. It rewards not just individual teachers, but entire schools and include several factors well beyond test scores.

    It's too early to see real results about performance-pay initiatives. There aren't a lot of studies showing it boosts student achievement, but there is plenty of evidence that it boosts worker productivity in other industries so why shouldn't we try it? Over time, you collectively will tell us whether it's working.

    We will also push states to make data available to researchers. Of course, we realize student privacy is a real concern. But there are solutions. We can assign student identifiers to connect databases in school systems. Universities, researchers and other nongovernmental third parties can strip out personally identifiable information from those databases.

    And hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career. We must track high-growth children in classrooms to their great teachers and great teachers to their schools of education.

    Which schools of education are producing the teachers that produce the students that improve the most year after year? We need to know that answer.

    We can one day do a better job of understanding what makes great teachers tick, why they succeed, why they stay in the classroom and how others can be like them. Hopefully, we can track good programs to higher test scores to higher graduation rates. Hopefully, one day we can look a child in the eye at the age of eight or nine and ten and say you are on track to be accepted and to succeed in a competitive university and if you keep working hard, you will absolutely get there.

    Today, many states are well along the path to having good data systems. Today, nearly every district has an information system that stores data about students and more teachers have access to these systems than ever before.

    In Garden Grove, California, teachers administer quarterly assessments aligned with California State standards. Results are available the next day.

    In Long Beach, teachers see benchmark assessments, attendance and behavior. They meet regularly together to review data, monitor student progress, and plan strategies for at-risk students. In addition, the high school students monitor their own progress. How is that for motivation? We need more and more districts using this kind of technology to help them improve.

    The Data Quality Campaign, DQC, lists ten elements of a good data system. Six states, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, and Utah have all ten elements. Other states are also making progress. For example, Arkansas has a data warehouse that integrates school fiscal information, teacher credentials, and student coursework, assessments, and even extracurricular activities.

    The system has allowed for better student tracking to enable the state to identify double-count enrollments and is saving them more than $2 million in its first year.

    We want to see more states building comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult.

    There's so much opportunity for growth and process in this area. We have the money and we have the technology. The biggest barrier, the only remaining barrier in my mind is do we have the courage. It takes courage to expose our weaknesses with a truly transparent data system. It takes courage to admit our flaws and take steps to address them.

    It takes courage to always do the right thing by our children, but ultimately we all answer to the truth. You can dance around it for only so long. America's children need your help. America's educators just need your help, and the President and I need your help. We don't have a minute to waste.

    Reforming public education is not just a moral obligation. It is an absolutely and economic imperative. It is the foundation for a strong future and a strong society. Education is the civil rights issue of our generation. The fight for quality education is about so much more than education. It's a fight for social justice. It is the only way to achieve the quality that inspired our democracy that inspired women to stand up for their rights, and then inspired minorities to demand their fair share of the American promise and it inspires every child to dream.

    Those dreams are shaped in America's classrooms. They are nurtured by the dedicated teachers and principals all across America who do the hard work every single day of educating our children. And they are counting on all of you to help them get better, help them see how they can improve and help them turn their students' dreams into reality.

    So I thank you for all that you have done. I thank you in advance for all that you will do. And thank you, above all, for telling us the truth, for keeping us honest and for showing us the path forward. We may never have an opportunity like this again, to transform the quality of education in our country. Together, let's make the most of it.

    Thank you so much.

    (Applause.)

    Secretary Duncan: Thanks so much. I'm happy to take some questions.

    I think there are a couple of mics up here.

    Participant: Good morning. It is an honor to be here today and I have a question for you.

    My research and experience has shown that social support is critical for educational success. How can we broaden the notion of education to include social support?

    Secretary Duncan: I think, today -- I think our schools don't really have to do too much, but I think our schools have to become community centers and have to be open much longer hours with a wide variety of activities for children. I always say it's hard to talk about algebra, trig or chemistry or AP biology if you're hungry, if you're not safe, if you don't have the right clothes, if you can't see the blackboard.

    And so I think we have to think very differently about what the notion of what a school is and what a school does and where our schools truly become community centers with a wide range of activities in that building during the school day, before school, after school, that address the whole child's needs, that's the only way we're going to be successful educationally.

    And so thinking a lot about how we build that foundation in every school to give children a chance to compete, a chance to learn, a chance to envision a positive future for themselves and the more our schools, I'm convinced, the more our schools truly become community centers and addressing all of these other needs beyond just what's historically been known as strictly educational, that's the only way we're going to help our students get where they need to go.

    (Applause.)

    Participant: Thank you very much for everything you said.

    You didn't mention education technology, but everything you said requires education technology, so all the data that you're talking about collecting, there's only one way to do it and that's with education and information technology.

    And also, we can do now ubiquitous and seamless assessment, so it's not teach and assess, it's assess all the way through from the kindergarten from the graduate school and everybody is going to be assessed equally.

    Similarly, we need education technology which you didn't mention because there's a prediction that the jobs available in 2010 almost 100 percent of them have not been defined or exist, did not exist 10 and 15 years ago. And a lot of them relate to information technology.

    So my question is what is your idea of the role of information technology?

    Secretary Duncan: Obviously, technology is the basis of all -- the backbone of everything we're talking about, so it's extremely important, both in creating strong data systems and giving children the chance to learn about technology from the earliest of ages. So it is hugely important.

    I think what I'm trying to argue is for me, the technological battle is almost the easy battle. We have great examples of what works. We know what's out there. I think what's lacking is not the technology or the resources in many places. We're putting unprecedented dollars on table. What I think has been lacking is the courage to use the data in the right way.

    And so I'm pushing very hard for us to think differently about do we have the political will, do we have the courage to ask the hard questions and get the rights answers. Technology will guide us, but it will only take us where we're willing to go.

    Participant: Thank you very much.

    Participant: Could you say a little bit about you review of the place of birth to kindergarten in your vision and integration of the different systems that are serving children who are younger than kindergarten?

    Secretary Duncan: Yes, I guess, ideally you would give every child who is born a student identifier and the identifier would stay with them through college.

    (Laughter.)

    And so the more we give thought to how we track students over time, the more we understand how those pre-K programs are contributing to kindergarten readiness, you know, socialization skills, literacy skills intact coming in, and the more we can get to our babies, our one-year-olds, our two-year-olds, our three-year-olds before we even talk about pre-kindergarten, the better our students are going to do.

    And so thinking about how we track students, literally from birth, as much as we can and thinking about how we get intervention support services to our youngest children, particularly in at-risk communities is something we're going to push very, very hard on.

    Part of the Stimulus package is actually paying for 55,000 nurses to do home visits and really help those children who need the most help from the earliest of ages.

    Participant: Do you envision any changes in the relationship between Head Start and publicly-funded preschools?

    Secretary Duncan: Well, I think we all have to work together. It's really important to us to build a really great working relationship with HHS and I think there's been levels of adult dysfunction at the federal level, I guess at the state level and local level. And that adult dysfunction just hurts children. And so whether you have differing funding sources or different ideas, we all have to work together and I'm really looking forward to working with Secretary Sebelius there at HHS. We really want to set a tone from the top of really changing how that communication, how that collaboration partnership works and really trying and say if we can do it at this level, it's got to happen at the state and local levels as well.

    So hopefully, you'll see some pretty significant changes. Those relationships have not been strong historically and that has to change.

    (Applause.)

    Participant: I do want to add my thanks for you being here. It means a lot that the Director of Education would be here.

    You talk a lot about identifying effective teachers through data. What are your thoughts about building teacher capacity? We have a workforce. We know from our research we have effective and we have ineffective teachers. We've not been as successful in building teacher capacity, but we have been able to do it. And I would just like to hear your thoughts about that.

    Secretary Duncan: As I travel the country, I spend a lot of time talking to great teachers and teachers that struggle. And what so many of the teachers that are doing a phenomenal job and feeling really good about what they're doing, they're really using data to drive their instruction. And they're helping each other and they challenge teach other, working across grades. They're working vertically.

    It's interesting and this is a bit of a broad statement, but almost every teacher is saying they're learning these skills on the job. Very few of these skills are being taught in the schools of education. There's a real disconnect between what's going on in the schools of education, the real world of teaching. And so part of what we need to do is figure out how we challenge schools of education to make sure teachers come into the profession not just with classroom management skills intact, and not just understand some of the philosophy of education, but being able to use data from day one to really drive instruction.

    And so I think the more we empower teachers, given them the facts, let them work together, we're just seeing huge dividends, huge results and these schools are just performing off the charts. It's a real common denominator here is having real data, is having the time to think and collaborate and work together and challenge together to get there. So that's going well. I think we have to fundamentally change the schools of education on a pretty broad level.

    (Applause.)

    Participant: I was very pleased to hear that you cited the under-appreciated data showing that we've made very large steady progress over the last 35 years in 4th grade on the NAEP and we flatlined over the entire period in 12th grade.

    Now I think one of the reasons for this, there are many different reasons, but one of them is that the research base in lower grades is far superior to that in higher grades and a major reason for that is that it's much easier to get entry into the schools in the early grades than in the later grades. In fact, it's extremely difficult to get entry into high school and even later into middle school.

    Do you have any ideas about how to motivate schools to participate in research and allow greater numbers of studies to be conducted?

    Secretary Duncan: We need to do it. I'm not sure if I have any brilliant ideas on it. To me, it's a no brainer that we have to sort of break through there. But again, I think so much of what we've done is we've been scared to tell the truth and scared to open our doors.

    I try and talk a lot about what I call de-privatizing education, opening up our classrooms, letting teachers talk to each other, letting teachers talk to researchers. And so I don't have any specifics. We need to work on those, but I promise you we'll push every, very hard in that direction.

    Participant: Yes. You focused -- thank you again for coming today.

    You focused very much on schools. Yet, kids spend much more time outside of schools than inside school and schools are getting outflanked by information and all sorts of stuff available outside of schools because of the web and so forth. So looking outside the box and the big picture, a higher and higher percentage of what kids, at least the haves, are learning, is coming from outside of schools. It's not controlled by the schools and it's using things that often are not available to schools.

    What do you see as the role of the Department of Education in fostering, avoiding, embracing, harnessing outside of school channels of education?

    Secretary Duncan: It's a great question and we can really use the innovation funds, $650 million to really think about making some investments in cutting-edge technology and how do we use cell phones to deliver content and you see some places doing some pretty interesting things.

    So I think there is a real play for us to make some investments and figure out -- again, there are some great models going on around the country now. So much opportunity that I see that we have is not coming up with any great idea ourselves, but simply scaling up what works and we see lots of work, some work in Chicago and other places thinking about different ways to delivery content and we have a huge amount of money to really invest in some things to try to take those to scale.

    The flip side of that, I will say, is I want children in school longer hours. I want schools open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, six, seven days a week, 11, 12 months out of the year. We all know about summer reading loss. We need to think very differently about the use of time and I think our children today are at a disadvantage. Children in India and China go to school al to more time than our children do. I think we're setting our children up for long-term failure.

    So yes, we absolutely need to really explore creative ways to delivery content, delivery information during the non-school hours, but we also need more time in school as well. Thank you.

    These last two, one here and one in the back.

    Participant: I just want to follow up on the question that was just asked and in terms of harnessing the resources that are already out there in the community and Milwaukee Public Schools has recently through the courageous transparent exposure by their science coordinator, Antonio Rodriguez, brought together stakeholders from the entire community to say how can we address these abysmal proficiency and -- any way, the abysmal achievement of Milwaukee Public School students relative to students in Wisconsin? And that group has continued to meet and has now, with absolutely no funds, is beginning to generate objectives, definite group's task that we will generate as an entire community to address how the community can support Milwaukee Public Schools.

    How can these kinds of efforts be supported across the country?

    Secretary Duncan: We have these large pots of money. Let me just take a minute on that to really foster and spur investment and innovation. So we have the Race to the Top Fund, $4.35 billion to invest in states that are willing to push reforms the reforms we talked about.

    We have a $650 million Innovation Fund to invest in districts and nonprofits and community partnerships like we talked about to really take the scale of things that are working.

    I was in Milwaukee last week, actually, and there's some real signs of hope, but also some huge battles, as you know, and we're really pushing Milwaukee to think very differently about some issues.

    We have a $517 million Teacher Incentive Fund to reward excellence. We have $5 billion in school-improvement grants. So think -- we have north of $10 billion in discretionary money to invest in states and in districts and nonprofits willing to push the envelope and get dramatically better. And that's not even talking about the IES' increase in budget of over $70 million.

    So not that we're ever going to have enough money, but again compared to Secretary Page's $17 million, we have never had this amount of discretionary money to really invest in those districts, in those nonprofits, in those states, that are willing to challenge the status quote and get dramatically better. There's a huge, huge, huge chance going forward here.

    Last one in the back.

    Participant: Thank you. You spent a lot of time talking about the kids at the bottom, the kids who can't do math, who can't read, who are not graduating from high school. And obviously, we need to fix that problem. But I have a question about what are we going to do with the kids at the top, the kids who are multiplying in kindergarten, the kids who at age eight are at the 90 some percentage in the science reasoning and the ACT College Entrance Exam, how are we going to teach them? How are we going to let them reach their full potential without mom doing it at home, without parents taking them out and paying for private school? How are our public schools going to reach and really teach those kids so they learn something every day that they're in school?

    Secretary Duncan: Obviously, gifted and talented education is hugely, hugely important. One thing I'm a big fan of is I'm much less interested in absolute test scores than I am in gain in growth model. And what you see in many districts is you see high performance students going to a school, and those schools not pushing them, sort of resting on their laurels and resting on those students in either their abilities or their gifts or the good fortune they had coming from home. They're really not learning. They're really not gaining and those teachers aren't pushing them.

    And so if you focus less on absolute scores and much more in gain and growth and how much students are improving each year, you really give incentives to individual teachers, to schools and school districts to move every child, that child who is at the bottom who needs help or that child who is at the top who needs to be challenged just as much.

    So I think being much more thoughtful about how we look at assessments and create incentives so that every child is pushed to excel and pushed to reach their potential, whatever it might be, I think would be a step in the right direction.

    But you're absolutely right, the next generation of scientists, of engineers, of innovators who create the new technologies that don't exist today, we have to make sure we're working very, very hard to ensure that they're reaching their full potential every single day.

    In too many places, you see that doesn't happen, so we have some work to do there.

    Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity. Thanks for your hard work.

    (Applause.)

    Mr. Kerachsky: I want to thank the Secretary and I also want to thank John Easton and John Baron. We should be very stimulated for an excellent day and I'm going to ask you to move quickly to the panel sessions that you wish to participate in.

    Thank you.

    — Arne Duncan
    speech at IES

    2009-06-08

    http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/06/06082009.html

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