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National Press Club: Education Secretary Duncan Speaks About Education Reform, Part 1

Ohanian Comment: NOTE: Due to length, this item is divided into two parts.

Right at the top, Duncan blames teachers and students by saying "we have to educate our way to a batter economy." As though we are responsible for Enron, subprime loans, Goldman Sachs, General Motors, et al.

Why do we sit still and silent for such crap? Why do people who claim to be resisters keep urging people to e-mail Duncan? This is a waste of time. Haven't we been shown often enough that the corporate-politico elite will lever listen to us? We need to organize for grassroots revolution. . . not go to Congressional offices on bended knee.

Next, Duncan assures us we have absolute leadership from the top. I will remind you that this is the leadership that let the quisling Center for American Progress write his education platform.

Of course education is important but of critical importance is the need for U. S. families to receive a living wage. Duncan is more than outrageous and deceitful when he orates about "regardless of economic challenge. . . ."

Need I repeat that the source of what Duncan calls "great ideas" come from the Broad Foundation:

The Broad Foundation (Rhymes with Toad) funds the policy. The Center for American Progress writes the policy papers. Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan and Senator Barack Obama repeated the policy. And we get the schools that Broad (Rhymes with Toad) wants.
And now Duncan has $100 billion to spread around to Broad-compliant districts. As revealed in the New Yorker article profiling the Green Dot leader.

Arne modestly says "I don't have to come up with any great ideas." No, he never has. They are shipped in from the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Business Roundtable.

The land in the sand, says Arne, is 60% of the college graduates in the world. He doesn't say where the jobs will be. . . unless they jack up the "qualifications" for getting a service industry job. Or maybe the college diploma will come with a plane ticket to India.

I hope the Duncan version of "transparency" makes college professors shake in their shoes. Then maybe then they will break their silence and get out on the street for grassroots revolution.
We want to know what schools of education are producing the teachers that are producing the biggest gains in student achievements.

And on and on.

You've been warned--since the Barack Obama education speech in 2005, prepared by the Center for American Progress.

You've been warned: Now what are you going to do about it?

From PURE, Parents United for Responsible Education, in Chicago
Duncan tells some whoppers to National Press Club

"And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about data."

So says Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan, in the bully pulpit calling for national standards (and, of course, the inevitable national standardized tests for all).

Well, it's also wrong to lie about children. Yet a few moments after he made the statement above in a speech at the National Press Club on May 29, Duncan told at least three major whoppers about his time in Chicago (check out the speech for yourself to see if you can find more!)

Whopper #1: "What we did in Chicago is we moved the adults out. We kept the children, and brought in new teams of adults. Same children, same families, same socioeconomic challenges, same neighborhoods, same buildings, different set of expectations, different set of beliefs. And what we saw was dramatic change."

Here are the Facts: There was not and has not been dramatic change. In fact, the research shows that there has been little if any change for all of Duncan's "reforms".

What school is he talking about in Whopper #1? Well, at this point, all of Duncan's "turnaround" schools seem to have blended into one magical place we might call "Dramatically Better Elementary," but in this case we think he might be talking about Sherman, the turnaround model for 2007 (Chicago has a new model every year). Yet, if he is to be truly "transparent about data," Duncan would have to admit that, after the turnaround, Sherman actually performed worse on standardized tests than several schools CPS proposed to close for poor performance in 2009. And there were other troubling data at Sherman: student enrollment plummeted, the mobility rate skyrocketed, parent involvement went down, and science scores tanked after the turnover.

Whopper #2: "We had a school that we did -- we turned it around. The students left -- this is (inaudible), came back -- that was one of the worst schools in Chicago; that in the third or fourth year of the turnaround had the highest gain of any elementary school in the state. Went from being one of the worst to having the greatest gain of any elementary school in the state of Illinois."

Here are the Facts: We know he is talking about Dodge, which did get that "greatest ISAT gain" nod. But he is lying about who the students are at Dodge, as he has been doing for several years now. In fact, the original Dodge students DID NOT COME BACK, according to CPS's own report, which states that only 12 students who were enrolled at Dodge when it was closed in 2002 were still there in 2005.

Whopper #3: "But with new opportunities, with new expectations, with a new high school in North Lawndale where 95 percent of the children graduate, and 90 percent of those who graduate go on to college, I am convinced we can finally get to what Dr. King talked about."

We know he's talking about North Lawndale College Prep, a charter school which, excuse me, actually has a graduation rate closer to 50%, so low that the school just landed on the NCLB restructuring list (so that it has to be - what? -- turned into a charter school?). The lie about North Lawndale's graduation rate has been perpetuated by Duncan and others - I even got the Tribune to print a correction on just this issue a while back.

So, what are we going to do about Duncan's lies, besides ask our fairy godmother to make his nose grow every time he does it?

Just keep telling the truth, I guess.

Don't miss The Lies of the Obama Administration in A Tale of Two Cities... Chicago's Reinberg Elementary School suffers overcrowding while privileged few get huge public building, new football field.


DUNCAN: Thank you so much for this opportunity. And I look forward to some great questions, particularly from the students. So don't hold back. I'll answer anything. This is an extraordinary time in our country to be working in education, and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity. This is a time, as everyone here knows, of economic crisis, it's a time of educational crisis, and I'm convinced we have to educate our way to a better economy.

The challenges are real, the challenges are profound, the stakes have never been higher, but the opportunity is absolutely once-in-a- lifetime. I want to talk about why the opportunity is so huge today.

First of all, you have absolute leadership from the top. You have a president, a first lady, a vice president, his wife, Jill Biden -- who's still teaching today at a community college, which is fantastic -- you have leadership from the top that is passionate about education and knows how critically important it is to give every child a chance to go to a great school.

The president, the first lady weren't born with silver spoons in their mouth. They are who they are, the leaders of the country and the leaders of the free world, because they worked so hard and because they had great teachers.

We have bipartisan support in Congress. Everybody knows how much better we need to get. If there is no other issue in this country that people can agree upon, it's on the critical importance of education to our country's health and vitality, and we've had tremendous support on both sides of the aisle to help us go where we need -- where we need to.

Third, there's more great ideas about what works around the country than ever before. What I've said repeatedly is I don't have to come up with any great ideas. My job is to listen, to learn. And that in every inner-city community around the country and many, many rural communities, there are extraordinary schools, great educators who are beating the odds every day.

My job is to listen to them, to invest in them, to take to scale what works. And there's been this blossoming of entrepreneurial ideas and energy around education over the past 10 to 15 years. And we know what is possible: Regardless of socioeconomic challenges, regardless of family background, when children have a chance to get a great education, they do very, very well.

So you have leadership from the top, you have congressional support, you have great ideas, and lastly, and not insignificantly, we have some real resources. As said in my introduction, $100 billion to invest in education. We have never seen that kind of influx in resources.

And let me be clear: Money is a piece of the answer, but money alone won't begin to solve our problems. And with unprecedented resources, we want to push unprecedented reform. Simply investing in the status quo is not going to get us where we need to go. We have to get dramatically better if we're going to retain our spot around the world as the education leader. And the president's drawn a line in the sand. He has said by the year 2020, we want to have the highest percent of college graduates in the world. We're at about 40 percent now. To get there, we have to get to a 60 percent graduation rate. We have a long, long, hard road ahead of us. It is an ambitious goal, but it's absolutely the right one, and we're going to push hard every single day to get to that point and to educate our way to a better economy and a stronger future.

How do we get there? I want to talk about the pieces of our agenda and walk through why the reform agenda is so important.

We're investing at every level of the education continuum -- early childhood, K-12 and higher ed. And some folks have said, "That's too ambitious. You should just do one of those." And it would be easy. I wish we could just do one of those. But that's not reality. We have to get better at every single level.

On the early childhood side, a $5 billion investment. And a very strong case could be made that's the most important investment we can make, that if we can get our 3- and 4-year-olds into high-quality programs, if our children hit kindergarten ready to learn and ready to read, with their socialization skills intact, their literacy skills intact, they can do very, very well.

When children enter kindergarten and barely know their name, don't know the front of a book from the back of a book, don't know their colors, I wonder how the best kindergarten teachers in the country can teach those to those great disparities in ability levels.

And so we're trying to dramatically increase access on the early childhood side to make sure every child that wants to go to a program can do that. And secondly, we want to dramatically drive up quality; that if the early childhood piece is simply glorified babysitting, that's not going to get us where we need to go.

So if we can do those two things, that investment long term, we're convinced, is going to pay huge dividends.

I'm going to come back and close on the K-12 side. I'm going to jump ahead on the higher ed side.

Higher education, over $30 billion, going to do two things: increase access and increase opportunity.

And it's so critically important today that our students not just thing about graduating from high school, but going on to some form of higher education: four-year universities, two-year community colleges, trade or vocational training, whatever it might be. There are no good dropouts -- no good jobs today for high school dropouts.

DUNCAN: Students that drop out today are basically condemned to poverty and social failure. There are almost no good jobs out there if you simply have a high school diploma. So some form of higher education has to be the aspiration for every single one of our students.

And I worry a lot about that today at a time when going to college has never been so critically important, it's never been more expensive, and our families have never been under more financial duress.

And so, $30 billion, north of that, the greatest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill, is hugely, hugely important. We want to make sure that our fourth and fifth and sixth graders know that even if mom or dad might be losing a job or might be taking a 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent pay cut, we want them to know that money is going to be there for them as they graduate from high school and on to college.

I worry a lot about the dreams of our young people starting to die at an early age if that's not there.

So we're doing some things that we think are common sense, but a little controversial. We are asking in the F.Y. '10 budget to take our money out of banks and stop subsidizing banks, and put all that investment into our children, into our high school graduates.

Over the next decade, that will produce a savings of conservatively -- conservatively -- $40 billion. And we can dramatically increase Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, the tuition tax credit to make sure that our students can do -- can have the chance to go on to -- to higher education and fulfill their dreams.

This has turned out to be a little bit controversial. There's lots of good debate, and that's healthy. But at the end of the day, I fundamentally think we should be in the business of investing in children, not in subsidizing banks.

Secondly, as part of that package, we don't just want to invest in the students. We're asking for $2.5 billion over five years, $500 million a year, to go to states and through states out to colleges to make sure we are retaining students in higher education.

The goal is not to go to college; the goal is to graduate. And we see huge disparities in outcomes amongst different universities. I worry particularly about students who might be the first generation going to college, students where English is a second language for them. We want to make sure those students have a chance not just to go, but to complete.

And so we want to make an unprecedented investment there to help schools build a culture and a climate of support so that every student who enters their campus has the chance to complete at the back end.

Finally, I'll close with our K-12 agenda, and then open up for questions.

I talked about $5 billion, early childhood; $31 billion, higher ed; almost $70 billion, K-12.

And we want to get dramatically better. Again, with unprecedented resources, we have to have unprecedented reform.

DUNCAN: And what we're asking for states is we put money out to states as part of the Reinvestment Act and Recovery Act -- is we put out unprecedented resources in discretionary dollars -- $5 billion Race to the Top Fund; $5 billion in Title I School Improvement Grants; $500 million in Teacher Incentive Fund money; money for charter schools -- huge, huge funding opportunities. We're asking for unprecedented reform.

What does that look like? A couple things. First of all, we're asking every state: Do you have comprehensive data systems? Do you have an ability to track your children from the earliest of ages, not just through high school, but on to college? Children cannot fall through the cracks. Children cannot afford to get lost. We can't afford to not know how they are doing.

Secondly, we're asking states to link children to teachers. In some states, there are actually laws forbidding the linking of students and teachers. Great teaching matters tremendously, and we want to be able to track that progress over time. We want to be able to identify those phenomenal teachers. We want to be able to learn from them, recognize them, reward them, provide incentives for them. And when students aren't learning, we want to deal with that as well.

Secondly, or third, track students over time, track students and teachers, but then track teachers back to their schools of education. Why? Because we want to know what schools of education are producing the teachers that are producing the biggest gains in student achievements. And so really being transparent about data -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- is hugely important to us.

Secondly, we want to raise the bar dramatically in terms of higher standards. What we have had as a country, I'm convinced, is what I call a race to the bottom. We've had 50 different state standards, 50 different goal posts, and due to political pressure, those have been dummied down. And we want to fundamentally reverse that. We want common college-ready, career-ready, internationally benchmarked standards.

These students here, our sixth-graders here, are competing not with children in your school or in your district or in your state for jobs. You're competing with children in India and China for jobs.

DUNCAN: And we want to be able to tell you that you are on track to be successful. Our students are smart, they are bright, they are committed. We have to raise the bar.

One of the things I think No Child Left Behind got wrong -- and it's a really interesting management challenge -- is No Child Left Behind was very, very loose on the goals. We had 50 different goals, and those got dummied down.

No Child Left Behind was very tight, very prescriptive on how you got there.

As we think about reauthorization, I want to fundamentally flip that on its head, make an absolute, fundamental shift there. We want to be much tighter on the goals. Again, clear, college-ready, career- ready, internationally benchmarked standards. Hold a high bar. Hold everyone to that high bar. But give states and districts more autonomy and a chance to innovate to his that high bar. Hold them accountable for it.

But the great ideas are always going to come from districts. I always said -- you know, when I was in Chicago, I didn't think all the good ideas came from Washington. Now that I'm in Washington, I know all the good ideas don't come from Washington. The good ideas are always going to come from great educators in local communities. And we want to continue to empower them.

What is most troubling to me on the standards issue is that in far too many states, including the state that I come from, in Illinois, I think we are fundamentally lying to children. And let me explain what I mean: When a child is told they are, "meeting a state standard" the logical assumption for that child or for that parent is to think they're on track to be successful.

But because these standards have been dummied down and lowered so much, in many places when a child is, "meeting the state standard," they are, in fact, barely able to graduate from high school, and they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive university, let alone graduate.

And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about data. We have to raise the bar so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they're going to do.

We have many students that think they're doing well, and then they take the ACT or the SAT as a junior or senior, and their scores are devastatingly low. And they're shocked.

There should be no shock there. You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, and we should be working with teachers and parents, and students should be taking responsibility for their own education to really -- to really improve where they have deficiencies, where they have witnesses.

But we have to have a high bar that everybody's pushing for.

Third, and I said this earlier, in education, as in any business, but I'd argue particularly in education, great talent matters tremendously. Great teachers, great principals make a huge difference in our student's lives.

And thereâ's all kinds of data talks about the average child with three great teachers in a row will be a year and a half to two years ahead of where they should be, and the average child with three poor performing teachers in a row will be so far behind they may never catch up.

And so we have to think very creatively about a couple things: How we get the best and brightest to come into teaching and eventually, you know, some of those do become principals.

And we have a fascinating opportunity ahead of us. We have as many as 1 million teachers retiring over the next four, five, six years. We have a baby boomer generation that is -- that is -- that is moving out.

And talent at any time matters tremendously, but this is this amazing window. And our ability to attract this next generation of great talent over the next few years will shape public education in our country for the next 25, 30 years. It is truly a generational shift.

And so we're going to get out -- myself, the president, the first lady, the vice president, his wife, starting this fall, to travel the country to recruit that next generation, this call to service, to come into our schools and make a difference.

Secondly, we have to think about how we get our best and brightest teachers and principals to take on the toughest of assignments. And we talk a lot about achievement gaps.

DUNCAN: I worry a lot about what I call the opportunity gaps. And historically there have been very few incentives and lots of disincentives for the best and brightest to take on the toughest of assignments, whether that's inner-city urban or rural. And we want to fundamentally change that, recognize who that talent is, reward it, and encourage them to go and work with the students in the communities that, I would argue, have been often underserved, not just for a couple years, but for decades.

Third, we have areas of critical need, areas of shortage: math and science, foreign language. We have had those areas of shortage for decades, 20, 30 years. I would like to pay math and science teachers more money. I would like to pay them more to work in underserved communities.

It is hard for this next generation of mathematicians and scientists to emerge if our children are being taught by teachers that don't really know their content. It is hard to be passionate about and instill a love of learning in something you don't fully understand yourself.

And so I don't want to talk about the math and science shortage for another 25, 30 years, I want and try and do something about it. And we think if we can incent teachers to come into those areas and then stay and reward them for doing that, that would be a very significant step in the right direction.

So thinking about systematically how we bring the best and brightest into teaching, how we reward them to take on tough assignments, how we reward them to work in areas of critical need, and how we keep them motivated throughout their educational careers.

We lose far too many of our good young teachers. We lose teachers who come in for the best of intentions, they want to make a difference, they don't feel listened to, they don't feel supported, they struggle with classroom management skills.

And we want to reach out to this next generation of talent, bring them into the profession, but then keep them here and do a better job of helping them build career ladders and trajectories that will keep them in the classroom for the next couple decades.

And then the final reform is one of the toughest, and we want to change the national -- the conversation and debate around this. I want to take a few minutes on it, then open up for questions. We have about 95,000 schools in our country. Round it up to 100,000. We have our best schools in the country are some of the best schools in the world.

DUNCAN: I was at one high school yesterday in Virginia -- Thomas Jefferson High School -- that is just extraordinary. And where we have great schools, district schools, neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools -- whatever it might be -- we need to replicate those schools. We need to learn from them. We need to -- you know, all these great schools, not surprisingly, have long waiting lists. More students are looking to get in. We need to find ways to clone that magic and spread that around the country and create more of these high-end opportunities.

We have a whole set of schools in the middle that are improving, that may be not where we want them to be, but they're doing the hard work every day and they're going the right way. And we have to do everything we can to support those schools, to help them to continue to improve, to help get them more talent, to work on professional development, and help them take that next trajectory, and then move into that top echelon.

But then finally, I really want to challenge the country to think about not those schools at the top, not those bulk of schools in the middle, but the schools that are absolutely at the bottom nationally. I have said, what if we as a country thought about the bottom 1 percent of schools -- 1,000 schools a year?

And those schools, unfortunately, that have become dropout factories where 50, 60, 70 percent of students are dropping out; those elementary schools that don't just have low absolute test scores -- I'm not a big believer in just absolute test scores. I'm a big believer in looking at growth and gain and how much a student is gaining every single year. Where students gain scores, the growth is very, very low, so students are by definition falling further and further behind every single year.

What I want to ask the country to do is to think very differently about those schools at the bottom; and that more of the same, incremental change, tinkering around the edges, is not going to work. We need a dramatic overhaul. We need to fundamentally turn those schools around.

Our children have one chance to get a great education. And I would argue that many of these schools, if you look at the data, these schools have chronically underperformed for years, sometimes for decades. These are not recent phenomenon.

And there are many different ways to do this. What we did in Chicago is we moved the adults out. We kept the children, and brought in new teams of adults. Same children, same families, same socioeconomic challenges, same neighborhoods, same buildings, different set of expectations, different set of beliefs. And what we saw was dramatic change. We saw communities where children had fled, where in the first year 125 families came back to the school because something better was going on.

DUNCAN: We had one school where we had so many discipline problems, so much violence, that in the year after the turnaround, my security team, unbeknownst to me, went out to audit the school because the numbers had dropped so much. They thought the school was lying. They couldn't believe how safe it was.


So they went out to check on what's going on here. Just a different climate. They weren't lying. They were telling the truth. Same children. Peace. Calm. Students are (ph) learning.

We had a school that we did -- we turned it around. The students left -- this is (inaudible), came back -- that was one of the worst schools in Chicago; that in the third or fourth year of the turnaround had the highest gain of any elementary school in the state. Went from being one of the worst to having the greatest gain of any elementary school in the state of Illinois.

Expectations matter tremendously. Adults matter tremendously. Opportunities matter tremendously.

And what I want to do is challenge the country to think very differently, not just about the top and the middle, but to think about those schools at the bottom. And I want to challenge all of us to have the will and the political courage not just to tinker around the edges, not just to push for incremental change, but to fundamentally turn schools around.

And it's interesting to me as you look around the country, very few people are doing this. There are very few districts engaged in this work. There are very few states engaged in this work. There are very few nonprofits and entrepreneurial groups engaged in this work.

And what we want to do is challenge everyone to step up to the plate and think about where things simply aren't working for children. Where we are producing dropout factories that are by definition condemning children to poverty and social failure, we have to have a fundamentally different approach.

Some folks like to create false dichotomies or false debates. Some folks say you can only do this if you charter, and this is an anti-union movement. Well, it's not. In Chicago, every school we turned around, we moved out union teachers, and guess what? We brought in union teachers. And I want to challenge the unions to be part of the solution, to be part of the answer, to help us turn around and give our children a chance to play.

I want to challenge the nonprofit communities. We have great nonprofit groups, great social and educational entrepreneurs that produce great teachers, that produce great principals. We have very few groups nationally that are producing turnaround specialists. There's a handful of them. We had a great partner in Chicago, the Academy of Urban School Leadership. There's a group, Mastery Learning, that's doing some interesting work. There's Green Dot in California.

But I can literally count on one hand the number of nonprofits engaged in this work. And we want to challenge other folks to step up and be part of the solution.

So partnering with the unions, partnering with nonprofits, asking states to help us challenge the status quo. And think about as a country -- think if we got to the point where every year we were taking on that bottom X percent of schools. And if we did that four, five, six years in a row, we would basically eliminate that bottom piece of our educational portfolio and come back with dramatically better options.

What I would argue is we have huge challenges in education. Education has been desperately underfunded for a long time. We have $100 billion on the table. Money is never enough for an unprecedented investment. We have more good ideas than ever before. We have more great schools in every inner-city community and the rural community. We know what works.

What I would argue what we have lacked -- the toughest challenge is not the resources, is not the intellectual battle, is not the ideas. What we have lacked is the political will, the courage to do the right thing by children.

And so I would challenge the country and challenge every piece of the country to come together, to have the will, to understand what our children can do when we give them opportunities. And if we could do this year after year as a country systemically, we would change the life chances of our children.

Let me close with a personal story, and then I'll open up for questions.

Dr. Martin Luther King came to Chicago in 1966 and came to the West Side of Chicago, the North Lawndale community, to point out the slum conditions there.

And subsequent to his visit, billions of dollars poured into the North Lawndale community -- jobs, programs, anti-poverty programs, community development programs.

When I got my job running the Chicago public schools in 2001, 35 years later, I looked at every single North Lawndale school. Ninety- seven, 98, 99 percent of the children in those schools were still poor.

So the question you have to ask is, after 35 years, after billions of dollars, billions and billions of dollars investment, why were the children in North Lawndale desperately poor?

And I would argue that the one thing that didn't change there is the only thing that can end cycles of poverty and social failure, was the quality of education. No one touched the schools.

In the past seven years, we created nine new schools in North Lawndale, and I'm convinced that those new schools are going to produce children that enter the mainstream and be successful and have a dream.

And what I told my staff every day is if a generation from now 97 percent of children in North Lawndale are still poor, then we would have failed, then we would not have done our job.

But with new opportunities, with new expectations, with a new high school in North Lawndale where 95 percent of the children graduate, and 90 percent of those who graduate go on to college, I am convinced we can finally get to what Dr. King (ph) talked about.

Education is the only answer, and we have to have the political will, we have to have the courage to do the right thing by children, because if we -- if we as a country can summon that passion and summon that courage to do the right thing, we will transform the lives of our children, of our children's children, and for generations to come.

Thank you so much. And I'll open it up for questions.


Find the Q & A session in Part 2.

— Arne Duncan, with notes by PURE
Congressional Quarterly, speech at National Press Club


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