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NCLB Outrages

AERO Director Jerry Mintz Meets Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

by Jerry Mintz

I am in Washington, DC, at the Education Writers Conference. I decided to come down here on the chance that I could somehow communicate to Arne Duncan, Obamaâs new Secretary of Education something about the need to get rid of No Child Left Behind. He talked for about 25 minutes to the large audience of education writers from all over the country. I stood in the line at the audience microphone but almost got stopped. The secretary of the organization came over to tell me that the line was just for reporters. Obviously she knew who I was and thought I might be a loose cannon. I told her that I was a reporter, for Education Revolution Magazine! She backed off, reluctantly.

Duncan seems to be an affable man, confident in himself but not too arrogant. Heâs tall, and, in an answer to one question, sometimes plays basketball with Obama. For a while he talked about when he felt he had accomplished in Chicago, but a lot of it sounded to me like it was supporting No Child Left Behind.

Finally it was my turn. I said, âIâm Jerry Mintz from Education Revolution Magazine. Our audience is public and private alternative schools. We have a database of over 12,000 of them. In your talk you said that President Obama supports innovative charter schools. But those schools and others in our network find that No Child Left Behind makes innovation and change very difficult. We donât feel that it measures the things we feel are most important. We want it scrapped. Will your administration do that?â

He replied that there were some things he didnât like in the law and some things he liked, that he would have to look at it in detail.

I repeated, âWe want it scrapped. Will it be scrapped?â

He replied,âI donât know. But the name No Child Left Behind is toxic. We will at least change the name!â Afterward I said to John Merrow who does the Merrow documentaries on PBS. âSo he will keep it but change its name?â He nodded knowingly.

I gave our latest Education Revolution Magazine and a copy of my book to Dunncanâs nearby PR man who was pointed out by Merrow, and the PR man gave me an e mail address through which I could contact him to follow up. I then came up and shook Duncanâs hand, reiterating our position. He acknowledged it. Surprisingly, I had accomplished what I set out to do when I got on the train this morning at Penn Station in New York. I hope it helped a little.

Jerry points out that the subsequent AP article , despite the hundreds of mainstream reporters in attendance, they only quoted his question, without attribution. They wrote:

President Barack Obama has pledged to rewrite the law, but he has been vague about how far he would go, or whether he would scrap it altogether.

âI donât know if âscrapâ is the word,â Duncan told reporters last week. âWhere things make sense, weâre going to keep them. Where things didnât make sense, weâre going to change them.â

They didnât quote what he said after that, which was more revealing.

— Jerry Mintz
Alternative Education Resource Organization


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