Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 4:23 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Defending Arne Duncan, sort of

By Valerie Strauss

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is getting bashed by critics and even supporters for telling Congress that 82 percent of public schools could be at risk of failing to meet education goals this year, up from 37 percent last year.

People are coming out of the woodwork accusing him of making up the figure in a bid to persuade Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the law that carries student achievement requirements and penalties for schools that fail to meet them.

Here’s what Duncan said, according to testimony prepared for his appearance this week before the House Education and the Workforce Committee:

“Current law also sets annual targets for proficiency and mandates that every student meet those goals by 2014. Today, almost 40 percent of America’s schools are not meeting their goals, and as we approach the 2014 deadline, that number will rise steeply.

“In fact, we did an analysis which shows that — next year — the number of schools not meeting their goals under NCLB could double to over 80 percent — even if we assume that all schools will gain as much as the top quartile in the state.”

My colleague Nick Anderson quoted Charles Barone, a frequent ally of the Obama administration who helped draft No Child Left Behind and who tracks federal policy for the pro-administration group Democrats for Education Reform, as saying:

“He’s creating a bogeyman that doesn’t exist. Our fear is that they are taking it to a new level of actually manufacturing a new statistic — a ‘Chicken Little’ statistic that is not true — just to get a law passed. It severely threatens their credibility.”


For years, critics of No Child Left Behind have been warning that the adequate yearly progress requirements of the law — which insist that most students achieve “proficiency” in math and reading by 2014 — are so unrealistic that almost all public schools in the country will fail, even with individual states setting their own definition of “proficiency.”

Duncan said that this year, 40 percent aren’t meeting their AYP requirements. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this number could jump significantly, considering the fact that some states pushed back improvement goals as late as possible, perhaps in hopes that the 2014 goal would be scrapped and they would never be forced to bring nearly all of their students to “proficiency.”

The Center on Education Policy just released a study noting that 23 states had set easy goals in the early days of No Child Left Behind, but had set for themselves the task of bigger proficient jumps starting now. That essentially makes it impossible for them to meet the 2014 goal.

It should be noted that the center’s president, Jack Jennings, told Anderson that Duncan’s 82 percent figure was a huge exaggeration, “for dramatic effect.”

Still, the American Association of School Administrators is in a quiet panic about the number of schools failing to make AYP; in a piece this month on ESchool News, Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the association, wrote that if No Child Left Behind is not fixed this year, “then we beg the administration to use its regulatory power to grant significant relief from the punishments bestowed upon schools that fail to make AYP.”

“Choice and Supplementary Educational Services are costly and have not proven to be workable solutions, but more and more schools will be forced to adopt them as the number of schools not making AYP increases,” he wrote.

The larger point, of course, is that the numbers are increasing and putting untenable strains on school systems.

Meanwhile, it’s a little striking that this is the line that some of Duncan’s supporters have drawn in challenging his credibility.

It never bothered them, apparently, that Duncan talked about equal opportunity to all children for a good education but set up a multibillion-dollar contest for states to compete for federal funds that guaranteed unequal resources. Or that Duncan talked about the importance of parent involvement but didn’t include it in his Race to the Top contest as a priority. Or that Duncan talks about the importance of teachers but has pursued policies that teachers believe have done more to harm the profession than help it.

Duncan may well have been exaggerating when he said 82 percent of schools may not meet AYP this year. But maybe he wasn’t.

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | March 10, 2011; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  Accountability, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  | Tags:  education secretary arne duncan; arne duncan; nclb; no child left behind; 82 percent; ayp; adequate yearly progress; 82 percent and ayp;  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Philosophical proof: Why testing obsession is nutty
Next: The Michigan Fish Test and school reform


And what is the point of this post Valerie Strauss? Secretary Duncan says YOU are part of the problem, and you prove him right every day.

From the NYT:

"Peter Cunningham, an Education Department spokesman, said Mr. Duncan’s intention was to inform Congress of the dynamics of the law this year. “States are now facing very steep goals under the law, and they are not going to meet them,” Mr. Cunningham said. “Arne is just telling the committee that is charged with rewriting this law what’s coming.”

The Obama administration’s blueprint for rewriting the law, released last year, would retain many features of the Bush-era law, including its annual testing requirements.

But it proposes far-reaching changes, including replacing the pass-fail school accountability system with one that would measure individual students’ academic growth and judge schools on other indicators like graduation rates, not just test scores.

The administration’s proposal would replace the 2014 goal with a new national target, raising standards so that all students who graduated from high school by 2020 were prepared to succeed in college and a career."

Posted by: frankb1 | March 10, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Frank farted, "And what is the point of this post Valerie Strauss?"

I always thought you had a hard time figuring out the point of anything.

BTW, I finished the Bee Eater and listened to the audio at PP.

What I learned: Whitmire has a serious "impact" and data problem. He probably should have gone to someone else besides Michael to check his data. I know I would've had it checked out regardless. He speaks much of gains in individual schools, but the evidence for the district as a whole looks bad. So much for the big picture. He probably should have qualified his statement a little more. It makes him out to be either a puppet or a fool. So much for your god, Frank. Both he and Rhee make claims that are just not true.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 10, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Many things stand out in the book on Miss Rhee (I've read most of it at Amazon and, but I'm awaiting my free copy to make notes.)

One particular is the way Mr. Whitmire stand things on their head.
He did this at P&P and edweek with his attack on those who question Miss Rhee as "birthers". (Though courtesy Jeff Steele and me, the "birth certifiacte" was made public.)
He attacks Patrick Pope without quotes from Rhee and her staff as being discriminatory in the admissions at Hardy Middle School.

And lastly, despite his claim to have interviewed many from Harlem Park, he attacks the city teachers for being racist while missing their complaint that they said EAI and its staff spoke to the teachers as though they were part of a conspiracy to keep the black children ignorant. (see around page 82 of the UMBC report.)

DHume1, did you buy the audio of the event?
Or is it online somewhere?

Posted by: edlharris | March 10, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Many more than 40% of school(but probably not Mr. Duncan's 82% of them) will be found out of compliance because the bar rises so much higher as schools meet the 2014 deadline* of 100% proficiency. If in 2006 a school made AYP by having 55% of its students proficient to meet the 100% by 2014, In 2011-- that same school needs to have 75% of it students testing at the proficient level and by 2012 85% and by 2013 95% and by 2014 all 100% proficient or be deemed and abysmal failure. Nice way to set up public education for a big fall. Thank George Bush and the business world.
*deadline might as well be deathline for our public schools

Posted by: rastajan | March 10, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I have just started the book, which frankb1 generously sent me. I can send it on to another poster here when I am finished if you would like, otherwise I will donate it to my library.
I had been asking frankb1 for Rhee's quotes regarding her actual classroom experience. Her stories of teaching that "transformed her" versus her simply relying on a data statement made by her principal.
At this point in the book I have a few thoughts...
1) Rhee does discuss how horribly behaved her classroom was, how some observers had thought they would need to tell her to leave the classroom due her lack of classroom management. She learned how to manage her classroom better via experienced teachers and an experienced school librarian. Why then does she seemingly now denigrate experienced teachers?
2) She discusses paying for her own teaching materials at one point, so one would assume she understands that all teachers do this, and therefor take that into account when looking at their salaries.
3) She spent the summer creating lesson plans, and materials for math centers. Why didn't she acknowledge all teachers do this when she was chancellor?
4) she didn't know how to teach reading, and learns from her first husband how to provide "direct instruction" at this point in the book (I am only on page 48)she doesn't address the fact that direct instruction teaches decoding, but doesn't teach comprehension..which as we all know is the crux of reading. Teaching your students to decode so they can pass the DIBELS test, isn't teaching them to read.
She has yet to acknowledge that this is an issue with TFA, sending college grads into needy classrooms without knowing how to teach their students reading.

As chancellor I don't recall her ever discussing how experienced teachers helped her, how ill prepared she was to handle classroom behavior, or teach reading, how she spent her entire summer preparing her math curriculum, and how she spent her own money on class materials. She doesn't mention any of that when she discusses what transformed her. Instead she has stated what transformed her was what her principal stated at the end of her tenure regarding the now disputed test scores.

I would think it would be transforming to think you know it all, to have achieved all she set out to do through her own schooling etc., to essentially almost fail as a teacher in her first year. I would think it would be transforming to realize how very, very tough it is to be a teacher. That it requires more than a summer (5 week) training course via TFA. That it requires mentors and experienced teachers to guide new teachers. That it takes a decent salary so when a teacher does fork over their own money, they don't go broke doing so, that it takes a great deal of time...including full summers, to prepare lessons and curriculum.

I realize I am already drawing some conclusions, and I am only on page 48...but just felt compelled to share since the book was mentioned.

Posted by: researcher2 | March 10, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

“Choice and Supplementary Educational Services are costly and have not proven to be workable solutions ..."

but of course schools in financially strapped, high-poverty districts have been forced to pay for these non-workable solutions for years ...

Posted by: HilaryA | March 10, 2011 9:45 PM | Report abuse

DHume1: "and listened to the audio at PP"


edlharris: DHume1, did you buy the audio of the event? Or is it online somewhere?

No it isn't online. Since it was a very small event for P&P they didn't anticipate anyone would want to listen to it. You can buy the audio, they will make a special CD, which takes about a week.

I don't believe it is possible to go "listen to the audio at P&P", but I will check.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 10, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I found it about an hour ago online, but not through Politics and Prose.

For free.

If you paid for it, maybe you can claim it on your taxes.

In listening to it, I see that as I noted about, Mr. Whitmire admits that he did not speak to nonTFA teachers at the school, including the first principal of 1992-1993.
Interestingly, he places Miss Rhee at Harlem Park ES before EAI took over.
They took over in July 1992.
According to Miss Rhee, as channeled through the "Bee Eater", she didn't get placed at the school until the first day back for teachers in August 1992.
A rookie mistake, no doubt, on the part of Mr. Whitmire.

Posted by: edlharris | March 10, 2011 11:03 PM | Report abuse

researcher2: So glad you are reading the book and posting comments!

The reaction to Kaya Henderson's appointment (from Strauss & Co. & the WTU) demonstrates that it really wasn't about Michelle Rhee. Defenders of the status quo in DCPS had to demonize her (just as they are trying to do with Henderson), because they preferred DCPS just the way it was. The dysfunction and chaos didn't bother them a bit. The fact it didn't work for students was unimportant, it worked just fine for the adults working in the system.

The Rhee/Henderson haters can't defend the turmoil and incompetence that was DCPS, so they resorted to personal attacks. They would have attacked anyone that represented real change.

But the jig is up. Gray showed integrity and independence (to their shock and dismay) in appointing Henderson permanent chancellor. Together they will finish the job Fenty and Rhee started (in vanquishing the remnants of the dysfunctional status quo in DCPS).

Oh Happy Days.

Posted by: frankb1 | March 10, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

EAI test revelation may hurt credibility
By Kim Clark and Michael Ollove and Kim Clark and Michael Ollove,Sun Staff Writers | June 8, 1994
An admission by Educational Alternatives Inc. that it exaggerated the progress of its Baltimore students has undercut the already tenuous credibility of the for-profit school-management company, industry analysts said yesterday.But the revelation may make little difference in cities such as Baltimore, and Hartford, Conn., where many teachers, parents and administrators already are polarized over the company's plans.The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday that EAI, which manages 12 Baltimore schools, inaccurately reported 1993 Baltimore test scores when it claimed it had raised students' abilities by nearly a grade in three months.

Posted by: edlharris | March 10, 2011 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Frank. Really. ROFL

Here it is. Sorry. I had to go to a softball game or I would have posted sooner.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 11, 2011 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Another flatulence from Frank: "The reaction to Kaya Henderson's appointment (from Strauss & Co. & the WTU) demonstrates that it really wasn't about Michelle Rhee. Defenders of the status quo in DCPS had to demonize her (just as they are trying to do with Henderson), because they preferred DCPS just the way it was."

No, Frank. Almost every teacher I've talked to said that they wanted someone to come in and fix things. They did not prefer the district "just the way it was." In fact, the problem that I often encountered was that they each had a different way to fix the problems that they faced. And none of the answers I've heard had anything to do with leaving things just the way they were.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 11, 2011 12:55 AM | Report abuse

"The Rhee/Henderson haters can't defend the turmoil and incompetence that was DCPS, so they resorted to personal attacks."

Oh really.
Back to this line of thought.
If one was to point out that elementary DC-CAS scores went down from 2009 to 2010, francis b would call such a person a "hater."

"Hater", the new" racist."

Posted by: edlharris | March 11, 2011 1:00 AM | Report abuse

And the polarized world turns.
And so it goes.

Posted by: stevendphoto | March 11, 2011 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Let's see...we've gotten rid of the experienced teachers; we've created a situation where local districts are cutting as much as they can from their budgets; we've set up charter schools that will drag more money from the regular public schools and now we'll blame the inexperienced teachers and administrators for failing! I got it, let's just close all of the public schools for one year, to see what happens when all of us will have to act as the village that raises the kids instead of shipping them to building where we have made babysitting the #1 priority instead of academics.

Posted by: dmyers412 | March 11, 2011 3:27 AM | Report abuse

researcerh2 points out several compelling factual details that illustrate why Michelle Rhee has no credibility, and why she is one of the premier education "reform" charlatans.

If the Pinocchio effect were real, Rhee would have a nose at least three feet long (Frankb1's nose would be sizable too.).

One really has to wonder. Do these people (Rhee, Bill Gates, Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, etc.) really believe the things they say? Or are they just that morally bankrupt?

We know, and have long known, where the problems in public education are, and we generally know how to address them. A steady diet of standardized testing is not the answer to poverty and malnutrition and lack of health care and broken neighborhoods. And teachers are not the enemy.

Conservative politicians and corporate "reformers" and their allies (and Obama seems to be one) are pushing a business model on public schools that make them worse, and in some cases, much worse. Then, absent any solid research basis, they advocate for more charter schools, more testing, merit pay for teachers, and vouchers. It's sort of like prescribing alcohol to cure an alcoholic's DTs...there may be a short-term "benefit," but the longer-term effects are serious indeed.

Frankb1 has cited his hero Christ Christie on several occasions as one who tells it like it is; who's not afraid to tell the truth. The problem, of course, is that Christie plays quite fast and loose with the facts (as do all the corporate "reformers"). As the New York Times recently reported, “Clearly there has been a pattern of the governor playing fast and loose with the details.”
Ever the bully, when Christie in confronted on his inaccuracies, when he is challenged about false statements, "his instinct seems to be to turn it into an attack on someone else instead of giving an answer." And this passes for "leadership."

Those who wrecked the economy refuse to acknowledge their complicity. Like police and prosecutors caught in egregiously wrong convictions of innocent people, rather than admit their errors and mistakes and faulty judgment and reprehensible (and at time blatantly illegal) conduct, they point the finger at somebody else. Or they just start making things up. Or both.

This is now what passes for education "reform" in the United States. Deny culpability in making schools worse. Advocate more of the same bad medicine. Lie. And try to profit from it.

It isn't about "the kids" is it Frank?

Posted by: DrDemocracy | March 11, 2011 7:41 AM | Report abuse

I consider myself a liberal and work every day for public school equity. But after 35 years writing about and working with public schools, there was never any question in my mind that a reform law which attempted to engineer change from the Beltway and used a draconian deadline in an laughable attempt to intimidate well-intentioned educators into "doing the right thing" was doomed to fail.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost - how likely is it that the American middle class will continue to support federal school reform efforts when they see their local schools, which they know do a good job, have been declared by Congress and the President to be failures?

Valerie is right -- the issue is not whether Duncan is playing Chicken Little. It's much more about the failure of the Obama Administration to clearly define and lead a new approach to school improvement that would make allies of the millions of public school teachers and administrators who also care about kids.

Posted by: JohnN1 | March 11, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

welcome to our website:

========== =====

if you like to order anything you like.

More details,

please just browse our website Quality is our Dignity;

Service is our Lift.

enjoy yourself.

thank you!!

==== ====

Posted by: chicgoods | March 11, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Well Duncan finally passed one waiver that allows for multifaceted assessment which is changing No Child Left Behind. Have you read about the McPherson waiver? Ms. Strauss, I sent you information about it.

Posted by: MichelleTennant | March 11, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

PEOPLE WAKE UP. Look what the HELL is happening in all of the States. Look right now what the GOVERNORS IN WISCONSIN AND FLORIDA, as 2 examples. The Governors are taking money left and right out of Education and giving it out as tax breaks to businesses. Education is heading back to the 1960s as far as class sizes. The classes are going back up from 35 to 45 or 47. Even though the Courts have said the State Legislatures are required by law to fund the Schools as their first priority. We can see Congress let businesses outsource to other countries so they could make more money and pay less tax. The COMPANIES HAVE BECOME VERY GREEDY. AND THEIR GREED HAS TO BE FUELED CONSTANTLY. And the school children suffer because of this. Our Education system, if you really face it, is being set back 50 years. Primarily because we as citizens have let Legislatures and businesses get away with this garbage.

Posted by: skyjumperdave | March 11, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Aren’t you glad that more of your tax money is funding those who can afford a good education and neglecting those economic pockets that can not afford it? (which is what No Child left Behind effectively does) Soon the dumbing down of America will be completely achieved, as Charlie Sheen would say- ‘Winning!’

Posted by: zoezoe123 | March 11, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

In addressing Arne Duncan's recent statement that 82% of schools are destined to fail under current NCLB... there is alternative and sad reality. I would argue the point that even if all schools actually met AYP, the ultimate irony would be the hard truth that a TRUE assessment of learning would indicate that the students may know how to take a standardized multiple choice test but that is about it! A lot of children from title one schools have been spending years mastering how to smartly decide which answer is most likely correct. They spend countless classroom hours doing test prep for this high stakes annual event. Does this lead to developing critical thinking skills? To learning? Arne Duncan's "alarmist" commentary is just a red herring.

Posted by: teachermd | March 11, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company