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What should I ask Arne?

The Obama administration once again shows its willingness to deal with even the most wayward types by inviting me for a visit to the U.S. Education Department tomorrow, Thursday, at 10 a.m. This thoughtful gesture came after I set my personal record for page views in October by suggesting we abolish the post of education secretary and send Arne Duncan back to Chicago, where his knowledge and experience building inner city schools is more needed. Secretary Duncan may join my chat with department officials, at least for a while, I am told. Anybody got a burning question I should ask him?

By Jay Mathews  | November 11, 2009; 6:06 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Arne Duncan; education secretary;  
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Ask him how he is coming on national Algebra I standards.

Posted by: mhallet1 | November 11, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

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?

Posted by: nicheVC | November 11, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

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."

Love the blog, jay!

Posted by: aceproffitt | November 11, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

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?

Posted by: rexxNYC | November 11, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

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.

Dee Alpert, Publisher

Posted by: deealpert | November 11, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

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?

Posted by: MannyThinks | November 12, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

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.

Posted by: philipnobile | November 12, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

At the risk of committing an egregious act of shameless self-promotion, I recommend the following:

Ask Secretary Duncan what CONCRETE ideas he has for improving the testing and accountability portions of NCLB.

I posted a solution to the same question here:

However, Secretary has said on several occasions that our tests are bad but that we must soldier on boldly regardless. This strikes me as the same flawed Rumsfeldian logic ("You got war wit the army you've got.) that has landed in such a morass in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How will Secretary Duncan keep education from become a domestic Vietnam? A "conflict" that goes on for years and years without resolution and at very high cost.

Go got'em, Jay!

Steve Peha
President, Teaching That Makes Sense

Posted by: StevePeha | November 12, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

What is the research base behind the the RttT criteria? Is it sufficient to bring such requirements to such a broad scale?

Or, how does he decide when to base his preferring solutions on high quality research, and when does he decide to go with his gut?

Or, why shouldn't parents and educators view his RttT criteria as anymore other than a huge and enormously expensive experiment with unproven strategies, one that prescriptively gambles with students' educations?

Those are real and serious questions, questions deserving of serious thought and substantive answers.

Posted by: ceolaf | November 12, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Please ask Arne how he feels about social studies and science teachers being forced to teach pure math and reading instead of their material in many middle schools because science and social studies do not count towards AYP.

Posted by: parish345 | November 12, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

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