Secretary Duncan Talks to Principals

Speaking before a crowded room of principals today at the National Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals leadership conference in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan commended principals for their tremendous work during challenging times. He praised them for being extraordinary “CEOs” and for doing more with less. He also challenged them to join his fight in turning around schools by rewarding teachers who are doing a great job, strategically placing the best teachers in schools where the needs are the greatest, and leaving the comfort of their high performing schools and taking on persistently under-performing schools. Duncan urged principals to think about turning around the lowest performing schools with their time, talent, expertise and the best team of teachers in order to make a difference in communities that are desperately underserved. Miracles happen every day, he told them. “There are no good schools without good principals.”

ED Staff

Four Areas of Reform

In the past month, Secretary Duncan has delivered four speeches detailing ED policy related to four areas of reform.

The goals are to improve standards and tests, the effectiveness of teachers, data to inform educators’ decisions, and low-performing schools. States had to address these issues and inform the department of their progress to receive funding from the $48.6 billion available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. In the months ahead, as states compete for $4.35 billion available under the Race to the Top Fund, their applications will be evaluated based on their assurances on those four reforms.

Here are the speeches. Secretary Duncan talked about the need to…

ED Staff

Fall Flu Season, H1N1 Virus

It’s time to start planning and preparing for the fall flu season and the ongoing H1N1 flu outbreak. That’s why, today, the Obama Administration held the H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit.

More than 50 states, tribes, and territories joined federal officials and agencies for the summit to kick off nation-wide efforts to be ready.

Below is an open letter to Americans from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, all of whom spoke at the summit.

Fellow Americans,

This spring we were confronted with an outbreak of a troubling flu virus called 2009-H1N1. As the fall flu season approaches, it is critical that we reinvigorate our preparedness efforts across the country in order to mitigate the effects of this virus on our communities.

Today, we are holding an H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit in conjunction with the White House to discuss our Nation’s preparedness. We are working together to monitor the spread of 2009-H1N1 and to prepare to initiate a voluntary fall vaccination program against the 2009-H1N1 flu virus, assuming we have a safe vaccine and do not see changes in the virus that would render the vaccine ineffective.

But the most critical steps to mitigating the effects of 2009-H1N1 won’t take place in Washington — they will take place in your homes, schools and community businesses.

Taking precautions for this fall’s flu season is a responsibility we all share. Visit Flu.gov to make sure you are ready and learn how you can help promote public awareness.

We are making every effort to have a safe and effective vaccine available for distribution as soon as possible, but our current estimate is that it won’t be ready before mid-October. This makes individual prevention even more critical. Wash your hands regularly. Take the necessary precautions to stay healthy and if you do get sick, stay home from work or school.

We are doing everything possible to prepare for the fall flu season and encourage all Americans to do the same — this is a shared responsibility and now is the time to prepare. Please visit Flu.gov to learn what steps you can take to prepare and do your part to mitigate the effects of H1N1.

Take Care,
Kathleen, Janet and Arne

Duncan Lauds State Standards Initiative

Secretary Arne Duncan praised an effort announced today to create common core state standards in math and language arts. “This is a giant step,” he said of the initiative, which includes 46 states and 3 territories and is being led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Why is this effort so important? Here’s what Duncan said three days ago at the National Press Club:

“What we have had as a country…[is] a race to the bottom. We have 50 different standards, 50 different goal posts. And due to political pressure, those have been dumbed down….”

“When children are told they are ‘meeting a state standard,’ the logical assumption for that child or for that parent is to think they are on-track to be successful. But because these standards have been dummied down and lowered so much in so many places, when a child is ‘meeting the state standard’ they are in fact barely able to graduate from high school. And they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive university, let alone graduate.

“And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about our data. We have to raise the bar so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do.”

See additional excerpts from his remarks at the National Press Club, or watch the video of the full speech. See the press release from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers on the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Excerpts from Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks at the National Press Club

Secretary Arne Duncan discussed President Obama’s education agenda in a speech at the National Press Club on May 29, 2009. A video of the speech is at the National Press Club’s website. Below are excerpts from the speech on three topics:
– raising standards
– turning around our lowest performing schools
– saving $4 billion each year with direct loans.

Raising Standards

We want to raise the bar dramatically in terms of higher standards. What we have had as a country, I’m convinced, is what we call a race to the bottom. We have 50 different standards, 50 different goal posts. And due to political pressure, those have been dumbed down. We want to fundamentally reverse that. We want common, career-ready internationally benchmarked standards.

One of the things I think that No Child Left Behind got wrong…is No Child Left Behind was very, very loose on the goals. We had 50 different goals and those got dummied down. No Child Left Behind was very tight, very prescriptive on how you got there. As we think about reauthorization, I want to fundamentally flip that on its head…. We’re going to be much tighter on the goals — again, clear, college-ready, career ready, internationally benchmarked standards…but give states and districts more autonomy and chance to innovate, to hit that high bar, hold them accountable for it….

You know, when I was in Chicago, I didn’t think all the good ideas came from Washington. Now that I’m in Washington, I know all the good ideas don’t come from Washington. The good ideas are always going to come from great educators in local communities. And we want to continue to empower them.

What is most troubling to me on the standards issue is that far too many states, including the state that I come from, Illinois — I think we are fundamentally lying to children. Let me explain what I mean.

When children are told they are “meeting a state standard,” the logical assumption for that child or for that parent is to think they are on-track to be successful. But because these standards have been dummied down and lowered so much in so many places, when a child is “meeting the state standard” they are in fact barely able to graduate from high school. And they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive university, let alone graduate.

And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about our data. We have to raise the bar so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do. We have many students who think they are doing well and then they take the ACT or the SAT as a junior or senior, and their scores are devastatingly low, and they’re shocked. There should be no shock there. You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what you weaknesses are. And we should be working with teachers and parents, and students should be taking responsibility for their own education to really improve where they have deficiencies, where they have weaknesses. But do we have a high bar that everybody is pushing for?

Turning Around America’s Most Challenged Schools

I want to challenge the country to think about…the schools that are absolutely at the bottom nationally. Now say, what if we as a country thought about the bottom one percent of schools, a thousand schools a year? Schools that have become dropout factories — where 50, 60, 70 percent of students are dropping out. Elementary schools that don’t just have low absolute test scores…but where students’…growth is very low…and are falling further and further behind every single year.

What I want to ask the country to do is to think very differently about those schools at the bottom. More of the same incremental change, tinkering around the edges, is not going to work. We need a dramatic overhaul. We need to fundamentally turn those schools around. Our children have one chance to get a great education. And I would argue, at many of these schools, if you look at the data, these schools have chronically underperformed for years, sometimes for decades….

And there are many different ways to do this. But what we did in Chicago is we moved the adults out. We kept the children and brought in new teams of adults – same children, same families, same socioeconomic challenges, same neighborhoods, same buildings, different set of expectations, different set of beliefs. And what we saw was dramatic changes. We saw communities where children had fled, where in the first year 125 families came back to the school because something better was going on.

We had one school where we had so many discipline problems, so much violence that in the year after the turnaround, my security team, unbeknownst to me, went to out to audit the school because the numbers at dropped so much. They thought the school was lying. They couldn’t believe how safe it was. And they went out to check on, “What’s going on here?” Just a different climate. They weren’t lying. They were telling the truth — same children — peace, calm. Students were learning.

Saving $4 Billion Annually with Direct Loans

We’re doing some things that we think are common sense but a little controversial. We are asking in the FY 2010 budget to take our money out of banks, to stop subsidizing banks, and put all that investment into our children, into our high school graduates. Over the next decade, that will produce a savings of, conservatively – conservatively — $40 billion. And we can dramatically increase Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, the tuition tax credit to make sure that our students can have the chance to go onto high education and fulfill their dreams.

This has turned out to be a little bit controversial. There’s a lot of good debate and that’s healthy. But at the end of the day, I fundamentally think we should be investing in children, not in subsidizing banks.

Secretary Arne Duncan

Secretary Arne Duncan Takes Listening Tour Online, Invites Comments on Raising Standards

Secretary Arne Duncan listens to faculty and staff at a roundtable discussion at Eagle School Intermediate in Martinsburg, WV.

Secretary Arne Duncan listens to faculty and staff at a roundtable discussion at Eagle School Intermediate in Martinsburg, WV.

Last week I went to  Berkeley County, West Virginia, to begin an open, honest conversation about education reform.

I wanted to hear ideas about how we can accomplish President Obama’s goal of providing every child in America a complete and competitive education, from cradle through career.

As we prepare for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, I want to hear from classroom teachers and other educators, parents and students, business people and citizens.  What’s working, and what’s not?  What do we need to do that we’re not doing, and what do we need to stop doing – or do differently?

I will be going to 15 other places across the country to continue this conversation.

There is one more place I will be going to listen and learn.  Here.

In the coming weeks, I will ask questions here.  Topics will include raising standards, strengthening teacher quality, using data to improve learning, and turning around low-performing schools. I will be reading what you say.  So will others here at the U.S. Department of Education.

Today, I want to start with a simple set of questions:

Many states in America are independently considering adopting internationally-benchmarked, college and career-ready standards.  Is raising standards a good idea?  How should we go about it?

Let the conversation begin!

Arne Duncan

State Data Systems

SLDS grantee states

States receiving grants under the Statewide Longitudinal Data System Program

ED’s Institute of Education Sciences recently awarded grants to 27 states to help create statewide longitudinal data systems. This brings the total of states receiving such grants to 41 states and the District of Columbia. These systems will help states, districts, schools, and teachers use data to improve student learning. The data systems will also facilitate research on ways to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps. Find about about this effort in your state.

ED Staff

Secretary Arne Duncan to Announce First Round of Education Stimulus Funding

Tomorrow Secretary Duncan will visit Doswell Brooks Elementary School in Capital Heights, Maryland, to announce the first round of education stimulus funding available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Doswell Brooks is a 2008 Title I Distinguished School in the Prince George’s County school district, where administrators plan to use ARRA funds to avoid employee furloughs, layoffs, increases in class sizes, and other education program cuts. Fact sheets and guidance on how states and school districts can begin receiving this first installment of education stimulus funding will be available at www.ed.gov/recovery.

ED Staff