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[Susan notes: As always, Krashen's letter gets to the core of things, pointing out Duncan's real record, which the media chooses to ignore. ]

Published in Time Magazine
09/28/2009

To the editor


NOTE: The magazine published a much-shortened version of this letter.
What I learned from Can Arne Duncan (And $5 Billion) Fix America's Schools? (Sept. 14) is that Secretary of Education Duncan's only experience in education is helping out in his mother's after-school tutoring program, which was somehow enough to get him an administrative position with Chicago public schools.

I also learned that when he was head of Chicago public schools, he tried a number of odd schemes, all known to be ineffective, to improve performance (e.g. charter schools, bribing students, merit pay, closing down schools). These schemes resulted in "modest gains," a description that USA Today on July 12.
Duncan's plan now is to use these discredited approaches nationwide, and expand the Bush administration's testing program, also shown repeatedly to be ineffective.

All this is because he thinks American schools are "dysfunctional," despite analyses that show that the problem is poverty, not the quality of our schools: American students who do not live in poverty do very well on international tests when compared to students in other countries.

In her book, "Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids Caught in a Killing Curriculum," published in 2001, Susan Ohanian, an experienced and award-winning educator who has actually taught in public schools, pointed out that:

"The pattern of reform" has spread across the nation: Bring in someone who has never been involved in public education; proclaim that local administrators and teachers are lazy and stupid; use massive testing to force schools into curriculum compliance" (page x).
Since this passage was written, this pattern of reform has clearly spread to the highest levels.


Here is what Time published:
You call that reform?
Published in Time Magazine, September 28, 2009

What I learned from Time's story on Education Secretary Arne Duncan is that Duncan's only experience before he became head of Chicago schools was helping out in his mother's after school program [Sept. 14]. His plan is to take nationwide the unproven, and not terribly successful approaches he used in Chicago schools and also expand the Bush Administration's ineffective testing program. All because he thinks U.S. schools are "dysfunctional," despite analyses that show the primary problem is poverty, not the quality of our schools. American students who do not live in poverty have done well on international tests. Some reform!

Stephen Krashen


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