Arne answers your questions
I had a good chat with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this morning at his office. He had other important duties, but I would not let him go until he addressed each and every one of the questions sent in by readers last night and this morning. (Sorry, I missed questions that came in after 8:30 a.m. I had to get going. You know what D.C. traffic is like in the rain.) Here is what he said. I think most of his answers can be summed up as "we're handing out $4.35 billion in stimulus funds for innovation, and if we do it properly we will help solve a lot of problems."
From mhallet1: Ask him how he is coming on national Algebra I standards.
Duncan said that was the job of the group of 48 states and the Districts working to produce common standards. He said he is following their progress with great interest, but at the moment it is a state, not a federal, project.
From nicheVC: Disclosure: I spent the first 15 years of my career as an education practitioner, the last 10 investing in and discerning how the private sector might bring innovation and efficacy to the same.
With respect to technological/pedagogical evolution and macroeconomic/political inflection point, there has not been a better time in recent decades to invest in education. This assumes the money and efforts are spent wisely, efficiently.
How will you ensure that the declared ARRA/RTTT monies and corresponding decision making is decentralized into the hands of the battle worn administrators, teachers/professors who run our countries schools, colleges and universities and who might benefit from novel, heretofore unimplemented solutions to their problems?
In decentralizing the above stimulus monies, what line item stipulations will the DOE make in recognizing the need for novel approaches from those service and technology providers outside the public sector who have the best chance of creating near term positive disruption?
He said the "local buy-in" will be a very important part of the department's review of Race To The Top proposals. The whole idea is to encourage novel approaches by the people who deal directly with students.
From aceproffitt: Ask him how any future NCLB will account for student attendance and mobility rates. One of the nasty secrets of NCLB is that teachers cannot help students who aren't enrolled most of the year or are always out of school or who are suspended for assault. When I taught in the inner city, that was a huge problem. I was statistically responsible for students who could not be found. Likewise, ask if any future proposal will force states to assess a school over its whole population. One of the current problems in Tennessee is that high schools are really only assessed on four exams: Algebra I, English II, Biology, and a writing exam given in the middle of the 11th grade. The other courses/teachers have less "buy-in."
All those issues, he said, are an important part of the work his staff, and congressional staffs, are doing now on the replacement for No Child Left Behind. The department's assistant secretary for communications and outreach, Peter Cunningham, had an interesting idea for a way Class Struggle readers could participate in the labeling of the new act. I will put up a post on this Saturday morning, or next week if I forget.
From rexxNYC: Ask him where he thinks the most succesful 'accountabilty systems' are?
Ask him if he thinks NYCs 'accountability system' is creating measurable progress? Ask if he has reviewed TUDA (NAEP) for math and reading in NYC since Bloomberg took office? Math only up 2% since 2002 and reading up 0% since then.
Is he aware that in the 6 years before Bloomberg took office, NYS improved 4 times as much on NAEP as it has since?
Does he think NYC should be giving out performance based bonuses based on NYS tests that are curved lower each year and when no measurable improvement is being shown in the system-as-a-whole?
He said he has seen the data you mentioned and is interested in this issue. Massachusetts' state test results seem to track well with NAEP, he said. He said he was also impressed to see Florida showing both increases in achievement and narrowing of the achievement gap.
From deealpert: Ask Arne what USDOE is doing, and intends to do in the future, especially via the USDOE's OIG, to insure that states' data is accurate, legitimately verified and reliable. 'Cause right now, it isn't, and most of what USDOE publishes is guestimate, at best.
Big, sophisticated IT systems don't mean a thing when the data inputted is fiction. Or, as our computer friends, say, "GIGO" - Garbage In: Garbage Out. There's no sense encouraging them, or using federal funds to pay for them, when the output is often simply laughable.
All such flaws will figure in who gets the RTTT money and who doesn't, he said.
From MannyThinks: Kids need fundamentals to start their education. However, they need critical thinking skills to get ready for college, a real job, & life beyond high school.
Teachers seems to often be left behind when understanding & using technology to teach and engage students.
Ask the EdSec how we can keep K-12 education innovative?
The more creative the lessons, the harder they are to evaluate with old testing methods.
How do we measure the success of lessons that promote innovative critical thinking in K-12 education?
"We want to reward success," he said. That means that state proposals that have a good chance of encouraging the kind of creativity you mention will have an advantage.
From philipnobile: Secretary Duncan: You cooperated with Steven Levitt's investigation of teacher and principal cheating on high stakes tests when you ran Chicago Public Schools. Levitt's dismaying findings were reported in "Freakonomics." As a NYC high school teacher I have blown the whistle on test tampering which is not only rampant in our schools, but also covered up by the DOE and UFT which exploits rising counterfeit scores for their own ends. Since RttT rates
schools and teachers on test scores, what will you do to stop the fakery which only
cheats our students? Blind grading is the answer.
He said this too is one of the issues that will affect who gets what from the Race To The Top fund.
| November 12, 2009; 3:05 PM ET
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