Arne Duncan had some interesting things to say at the National Governors Conference this past weekend. Lots of his usual business-model, testing/standards madness. But also lots of ambiguity and mixed messages. It's clear to me that this isn't simply a Bush/neocon rehash. Some things better. Some may even be worse. But Duncan's speech leaves some openings. Since many (including myself) have been focusing on the negatives--and there are plenty--I picked out a few areas where there appears to be a break from the past 8 years or where there's at least some room to struggle.
Here's a few:
- I also appreciate that the primary focus of the Recovery Act is to save and create jobs and we're deeply grateful that states across America are helping save hundreds of thousands of teaching and other education-related jobs.
- Nothing is more important than getting great teachers into our classrooms and great principals into our schools. And there are millions of hard-working, dedicated teachers in schools all across America.
- I understand that teachers are concerned about the fairness of performance pay. I share those concerns – but I am confident that if we sit down with the unions – instead of forcing it on them -- we can find ways to reward excellence in the classroom.
- But many of you have charter schools in your state that, frankly, are not getting the job done. If they are failing, they should close and the children should have another option.
- I also think that we need to break through the dynamic that positions charters against unions.Albert Shanker, the legendary union leader, was an early advocate of charters. The AFT represents something like 70 charters and the NEA represents another 40. So we should stop fighting over charter caps and unite behind charter accountability.
- Teachers scramble to cover everything – a little of this – a little of that – and not enough of what’s really important. They can’t dig deeper on a challenging subject that excites their students. And students can’t master material when they are racing through it. We must limit standards to the essential knowledge and skills our kids need so teachers can focus in depth on the most important things their kids should know.
- This is a growth area for the testing industry, which may worry that assessments used across multiple states will be bad for business, even if it’s the right thing for kids. However, it’s not my job to worry about their business. My job is to worry about kids and I know that our kids not only need to be challenged but they want to be challenged.