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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 12/ 8/2009

An education job you may want

By Valerie Strauss

I want this education job.

Here’s what Assistant Education Secretary Peter Cunningham is doing today while you are in your office: He’s continuing his “Pacific Islands Listening and Learning” tour in Hawaii.

Yes, he’s listening and learning in Hawaii.

The tour is one of dozens of sessions that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his assistant secretaries have been taking to more than 30 states around the country to talk about school reform with students, parents, educators, community leaders and elected officials.

The tours are intended, the Education Department says, to help inform the government officials before next year’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, known as No Child Left Behind during the Bush administration.

Duncan has already angered NCLB critics who had hoped the Obama administration would break from the era of high-stakes standardized testing. But Duncan, who is now steward of a $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” fund that is giving out grants to school districts that propose reforms the education department approves, has shown no such intention.

He has made clear that he thinks that the problem with NCLB was not the obsession with tests or the illogical sanctions regime for schools but rather standards that weren’t tough enough. Considering his determination to follow this path, it seems fair to ask why he is traveling the country to hold these discussions when he has already made up his mind on the guts of his program.

Meanwhile, Cunningham, who is Duncan’s assistant secretary for communications and outreach, won the long stick when he was sent on a 10-day tour trip in the Pacific Islands.

For three days, including today, he is meeting in Hawaii with teachers and elected officials to discuss improving education. He will also visit Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School in Waimanalo and Niu Valley Middle School in Honolulu, according to an Education Department statement.

Incidentally, for the three days he is spending in Hawaii, the average high is 80 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

After that, he and his group, which include two U.S. representatives from Hawaii’s First and Second Districts, are heading to Guam, where the high temperature is expected to be in the upper 80s, and then on to American Samoa, where it looks like rain.

Ricardo Soto, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, got something of a short stick on his "Listening and Learning Tour" last week.

He visited Kansas City, Missouri.

Follow Valerie’s blog all day, every day at http://washingtonpost.com/answersheet/

For all the Post’s Education coverage, please see http://washingtonpost.com/education

By Valerie Strauss  | December 8, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  | Tags:  Education Secretary Duncan, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  
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