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Arne Duncan tells Education Writers Association: NCLB has to go (the name, not the law)

By Dale Mezzacappa on May 1, 2009 06:34 PM

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the annual convention of the Education Writers Association in Washington, DC Thursday night, and he said that the name "No Child Left Behind" has to go.

"The name 'No Child Left Behind' is toxic," he said.

Duncan doesn't want to scrap NCLB by a long shot, but he wants to see some changes, especially in how schools are evaluated. He called himself a big fan of value-added methods of judging school progress -- in other words, looking at growth in test scores -- rather than relying on a basic proficiency rate.

On testing, Duncan said he realizes the limits of standardized tests, but doesn't want to get rid of them. "Test scores don't tell us everything, but they tell us some things. We must use what we have until we come up with something better."

One other indicator he wants to add to NCLB -- or whatever it will be called -- is a measure for high schools of how well they keep ninth graders on track.

Duncan said that he wants all states to have data systems that can tie student progress to individual teachers.

He gave a strong endorsement to alternative pathways back to high school, saying that "the hardest work in the country" is getting 15- to 17-year-olds who have "lost their way" back in school, or back on track in school.

As for the stimulus money, which he said represents an "opportunity that won't come again," he said that to get a share of the funding set aside for the "Race to the Top," states and districts will have to show that they have used their other money creatively. "The first question on the application will be, 'how did you use your stimulus money,'" he said. Request-for-proposals for that $5 billion pot of money will go out within a few months to states, which will get the bulk of the money, and later to districts and nonprofits, which will compete for $650 million of the total. 

Duncan made a strong plea for schools and school districts to be as open as possible. EWA's public editor, Linda Perlstein, said that many education writers are "up against a pervasive culture of fear in the education world and the world of schools. Teachers and principals are afraid to be honest with us." Often, that tone is set from the top leadership of a district.

"We're trying to do everything we can to create unparalleled transparency," Duncan said. "We must dismantle the barriers to straightforward discussion. The lack of willingness to open up actually impedes progress."

OK, teachers and principals and other district administrators, what do you think about that? Do you feel that you are encouraged to speak freely to the press and public in Philadelphia? We would love your reaction.

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Comments (2)

Submitted by f (not verified) on May 1, 2009 10:25 pm

If I were to publicly disagree with the priorities of the current district leadership I would be accused of not having the interest of our children in mind. Dr. Ackerman has on more than one occasion attempted to stifle discussion by saying to those who question her, “those are adult issues, we should be focusing on doing what is best for children.” This is a statement that is intended to marginalize opposition.

During the Vallas administration more than a few principals who were deemed to have embarrassed Paul were quickly removed from their position. To add insult to injury the offending principal found out that she/he were relieved of their duties by way of the morning paper.

So do you think that principals in Philadelphia feel comfortable to voice their views concerning the management of the district? The school reform guns for hire that have been systematically dismantling our district since the arrival of Paul Vallas are not individuals who take dissent well.

Though Mr. Duncan says,

"We must dismantle the barriers to straightforward discussion. The lack of willingness to open up actually impedes progress."

I wonder does he really understand the possible consequences of what he suggests?

How does he expect to pursue the progress he seeks by asking the people who do the actual day-to-day work of schooling (teachers and principals) to commit career suicide by engaging in straightforward discussions with autocratic leaders?

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on May 1, 2009 11:39 pm

Ackerman should do whatever she pleases...she makes more than the whole editorial board of the Philly Notebook put together...

If Jesus Christ were on earth...she would make more than Him...

The woman is an overpaid out of town lady...who basically goes around saying bon mots...such as: "Children come first..." and "teachers are the reason...(Johnny is failing)"

I don't put much stock in the lady...she is a female version of Paul Vallas...mediocre...overpaid...

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