Thursday, March 12, 2009

From Sudhakar

I just finished watching Arne Duncan on the Charlie Rose show.

A conversation with Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education Video may be viewed online at

I had to pinch myself several times during the show, just to make sure I was not dreaming. Here is the nation's highest education official, saying things that I wished every education official had said. Many of these things have been expressed right here in the blog. But there he was, on national TV, saying the right things, popular or not. If a fraction of what he said became reality, we would be in fat city. Here are some highlights of what he articulated:

1. School facilities to be kept open for 12 hours a day or longer.

2. High quality pre school for all

3. Teacher merit pay, and much tougher tenure requirements

4. Removal of ineffective teachers, based on student achievement

5. Higher pay for STEM teachers

6. Start/expand charter schools

7. National standards for core subjects

There is tons more stuff because it is a 1 hour interview with no commercial breaks, but it was a riveting interview. Charlie Rose, the interviewer, is no slouch. He asks very pointed questions, until the guest cries uncle. In other words, you know exactly where the guest stands on every issue. But first, something about Arne Duncan's past, as articulated in the interview, caught my attention. The first thing he has going for him is that he is not an education insider. He was not trained in the education circles to think like a teacher or an administrator. So, he does not have the baggage that comes with someone who is predisposed to defend the status quo. This was quite evident when he unequivocally said the system needs to shed poor teachers, based on student achievement. Second, he said he grew up in a neighborhood where getting to adulthood alive was considered a great accomplishment. His mother ran a tutoring program for disadvantaged kids, and those who stuck with education not only got to live, but some went on to achieve much greater things. Third, he and the president appear to be in lockstep with all the proposals. Lastly, there is an unprecedented amount of money being doled out, $112 billion to be exact, to help implement the ideas. This is the largest spending of our future tax dollars since the GI bill. This is the first instance of such synergy that I have seen, that makes me optimistic.

Do I see pitfalls? Sure. Through the grapevine, I heard the money will be fast-tracked to the state governors, with no rules or accountability clauses spelled out, yet. If the past is any indication, the moment the money hits the states, it gets caught up in local politics, and rarely meets its intended goal. But it is a start. I hope the local citizens will hold their elected representatives accountable for spending that money so it accomplishes its intent.

-- Sudhakar Kudva (It's Action Time blog)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Potomac village...Arne believes in structural change. Arne won't address the curriculum, because its his state that produces most of the math reform manure. It don't mean a thing! We've had six years of Bush whacked-out carpentry - and presto, classroom 101. With the depression will come willfully, blind ignorance. Standards my eye, Arne is blow hole asking for money - who is going to pay for his advice - taxpayers and they will get nothing in return except more talk.

How do you remove ineffective teachers when the entire system is ineffective? Where do you start? Teachers have to recognize the students of today are not the same students who attended 30 years ago.

Teachers have to teach everyone - not just the top 10%. Who is more effective? A young teacher in five classes with 40 kids each and none hardly want to be there because they've failed so many classes that they might never see graduation. Or an AP History teacher who sees less than 80 kids per day and everyone is on track to enroll in university. NCLB redirects funds to the AP classes because these are the best teachers? Fine, lets count how many dropouts one happens to meet on the streets these days.

I have a suggestion - lets do a reality check and start by throwing out the asinine textbooks. Arne is making himself look like an asse.