Arne on Cost of College and Pell Grants

Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently to answer questions he received via social media, email and mail. Zack wanted to know if Arne thought the rising cost of college would keep Americans from a post-secondary education.

Arne says that college is the best investment one can make, and explains how the Obama Administration is working to keep the cost of college low, as well as it’s unprecedented investment in Pell Grants, and making repayment options easier.

However, Arne says keeping college costs low is a shared responsibility. States need to invest in education, and colleges and universities need to help keep tuition low and build cultures around college completion.

Arne also answers Jason’s question about Pell Grants, explaining that Pell Grants are the best investment we can make for a young person’s future and for a strong economy.

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ED Mailbag: Arne on Standardized Testing and 360° Accountability

Secretary Arne Duncan recently responded to two questions he received via social media.

He first addressed a question from Nate concerning the overreliance on standardized testing. Duncan explained that No Child Left Behind places too much weight on one test, leading to a narrow curriculum. With waivers from NCLB, more than half of the states are creatively moving away from single test scores to other critical factors in closing the achievement gap, like graduation rates and career readiness.

Another inquirer, Monica, asked about how parents and students – not just teachers – can be held accountable for student success. Duncan agreed wholeheartedly and said schools need “360 degree accountability.”

“I tell students all the time it is their job to get a great education,” said Duncan. “Nobody can do that for them.” Tennessee and other states are developing new, innovative systems for measuring parental influence on student progress, models that Duncan said he will be watching closely. “We have to stop pointing fingers,” Secretary Duncan said. “Accountability has to be shared responsibility.”

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Click here to become a fan of Arne on Facebook and here to follow him on Twitter.

Alexandra Strott is a student at Middlebury College and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

ED & SBA Host Twitter Chat: Connecting Grads to Resources to Help Them Startup

Cross-posted from SBA.gov

Graduation season is right around the corner and to help grads that are looking to start a small business, SBA and the U.S. Department of Education will host a Twitter Q & A Session on April 25 at 2pm EDT connecting soon-to-be grads or recent grads to resources to help them startup, succeed and create an economy built to last.

Startup logoI, along with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will answer your questions about starting a business and  highlight the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan, which supports young college grads that are looking to start a business, join a startup, or work in a public service job by making Federal student loan repayment manageable.  IBR helps to keep loan payments affordable by using a sliding scale to determine how much you can afford to pay on your Federal loans—empowering you to take risks with new opportunities like starting a small business.

Submit your questions now and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #GradStartup.

What: Twitter Q&A Session: Connecting Grads to Resources to help them Startup with SBA Administrator Karen Mills and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan

When: Wednesday, April 25 from 2:00pm–3:00pm EDT

Where: Follow the Q & A on Twitter and submit your questions now, hashtag #GradStartup

– Karen Mills

Karen Gordon Mills is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Arne on Thanking Teachers and College Debt

Arne sat down last week to answer a couple of questions and comments he received on his Facebook page. Ginger and Adriana wrote about thanking great teachers, and Arne encouraged others to take time and thank their teachers. “Whether you graduated last year, whether you are still in school, or whether you are 50 years out of high school,” he said, “it is never too late to go back and say thank you.”

Jamie left a comment for Arne that described the stress associated with having significant college debt. Duncan noted that on the front end the Obama administration has taken big steps in increasing Pell Grants, including doubling funding for Pell Grants within the last couple of years. For those in repayment, the Administration recently announced a pay-as-you-earn program, which could reduce loan payments by hundreds per month for those who qualify. Duncan explained that college can’t be for the wealthy only, and that while the Obama administration has made tremendous progress, “there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.”


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Arne on Teacher Salaries and Standardized Tests

Arne sat down recently to respond to a couple of questions he received on his Facebook page. Kenny commented on how teacher salaries make it difficult to stay in the teaching profession. Duncan noted that low salaries are a real challenge.  “I’m out very publically saying that I think teachers need to make a heck of a lot more money,” Arne said. He went on to explain that we can’t pay a great teacher enough money for their talent and expertise. “We have to elevate the teaching profession,” he said.

In response to a comment from Sharon who worried that an overemphasis on standardized tests may keep talented teachers out of the classroom, Arne said that he absolutely shares that concern, and is one of the big reasons ED has offered No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers to states. NLCB is “far too punitive; it’s far too prescriptive, led to dummying down of standards, [and] led to a narrowing of the curriculum,” Duncan said. “We know filling out bubble tests once a year should not be what everyone is focused on.”

Click here to become a fan of Arne on Facebook, and here to follow him on Twitter.

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Town Hall: 140 Characters at a Time

Twitter Town Hall

Secretary Duncan and John Merrow during the #AskArne Twitter Town Hall (Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood)

“I love my job,” Secretary Duncan said at the close of yesterday’s second #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, moderated by education journalist John Merrow.

Merrow covered a wide-range of education topics including teacher pay, early learning, and how to get more young people excited about teaching. Here are several of the topics Arne addressed:

Respecting Teachers:

Merrow pointed to a couple of Twitter questions about respecting teachers, and asked Arne if he believes that teachers have been subject to “teacher bashing.” Duncan agreed:

@usedgov: Arne: “No question” teacher bashing is happening. We need to elevate, not demean, the profession. #askarne

“Whether it’s teachers or the teaching profession,” Duncan explained, “we’re trying to do everything we can to elevate it, to strengthen it. To make sure we celebrate excellence, and to make sure that collective bargaining rights are maintained.

Charter Schools:

@tbfurman: Has the charter school movement begun to “police itself” – as you asked them to do last July? #AskArne

Arne replied:

@usedgov: Arne on charters: I see bad charters being phased out & closed down. There’s more work to be done. #AskArne

@usedgov: Arne: Need a high bar for charter schools. The chance to educate children is a sacred obligation. #AskArne

Later the topic of charters reemerged and Duncan explained:

@usedgov: Duncan: Where charter schools are high-performing, we want to support them. Where they aren’t, they’re part of the problem. #AskArne

Choice:

@SteveGrose: Mich lawmakers are on a path to increase school choice without requiring improved quality. Is choice a reform model? #askarne

Arne explained:

@usedgov: Arne: For choice to work, it has to be choices between quality. #AskArne

@usedgov: Arne: It’s really important to empower parents. If parents are not empowered, I’d have a problem with that. #AskArne

Testing:

@usedgov: Re: testing, we need to be evaluating students’ knowledge, but drilling on fill-in-bubble tests isn’t best way to do that #AskArne

Student Loan Debt:

@EDSuccess: #AskArne what policies are @usedgov considering to address student loan debt at public and non-profit schools?

Duncan replied:

@usedgov: Very proud of Obama admin’s progress on student aid, esp direct lending to cut out middlemen banks and put $40B into Pell Grants #AskArne

@usedgov: Find out more about lowering your student loan payments at http://studentaid.ed.gov

Early Education:

Stacy Casson: #AskArne When will this country make a serious investment in early childhood education for all children. Proven ROI as seen in Head Start.

Duncan noted the Obama Administration’s commitment to early learning programs through programs such as the recently announced Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge:

@usedgov: Re: early learning, it’s the best investment we can make. And @USEDgov is investing $500M into states for access to quality. #AskArne

To see all the tweets from the event, follow @usedgov on Twitter, and you can watch the archived video here. To keep up to date with ED on Twitter follow @ArneDuncan, @usedgov@ED_Outreach@EDPressSec or click here to see all of ED’s social media accounts.

#AskArne Twitter Town Hall Kicks Off American Education Week

Twitter Town Hall

Secretary Duncan talks with John Merrow during the first #AskArne Twitter Town Hall in August 2011. (Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

To kick off American Education Week, Secretary Duncan will be participating in an #AskArne Twitter town hall today at 5pm ET. You can watch the town hall live on ED’s official ustream channel. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will moderate the discussion based on your #AskArne questions from Twitter.

If you can’t watch the town hall live, you can still ask questions any time before the event by using the hashtag #AskArne on Twitter. Video from the town hall will be archived on ED’s website, and check back to this blog for a summary, or sign up to receive blog updates by email.

Follow @ArneDuncan on Twitter, and click here to see all of ED’s social media accounts.

Secretary Duncan to Hold Second #AskArne Twitter Town Hall

Secretary Duncan announced today that he will hold his second #AskArne Twitter Town Hall on Monday November 14, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. ET. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will return to moderate the town hall that will also be broadcast live on ED’s ustream channel.

Beginning today, Twitter users can submit questions to Arne using the hashtag #AskArne.

Read more about Arne’s first Twitter Town Hall.

Click here for a complete list of ED’s Twitter accounts, and SIGN UP to receive a daily email summary of Secretary Duncan and ED’s tweets.

Arne on the Income-Based Repayment Program and Community Colleges

Arne took time last week to answer a couple of questions he received on his Facebook page. Daniel had a question on the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program and the President’s recent pay-as-you-earn proposal. Secretary Duncan encouraged Daniel and others with student loans to look at switching to the current IBR program. “Depending on your income, you could save literally hundreds of dollars every single month,” he said.
 
You can get an estimate of how much you could save by visiting our IBR page, and check out our IBR calculator that will give you an idea if IBR will lower your monthly payments.

Arne also responded to Lesley who left a great comment about her success as a community college student. Lesley, who now has her doctorate, talked about the power of education and how it can change lives.

“Community colleges, I continue to believe, have this ability to transform young people’s lives, adults’ lives, [and] older people’s lives in very profound ways,” Duncan said. He also highlighted the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to community colleges, including the proposed American Jobs Act that would provide $5 billion for renovation and upgrades to community colleges across the country.

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Arne on Teacher Evaluation Metrics and Celebrating Success in STEM

Arne recently sat down to answer a couple of questions posted to his Facebook page. In response to Lori’s question about teacher evaluation metrics, Arne said that we have to look at multiple measures in order to see how much students are improving, and how much they are growing each year. Other measures include peer assistance, principal evaluation, portfolios, what teachers are doing in terms of their own professional development, and what leadership teachers provide to their school and community.

“Whether it is a teacher, a principal, anyone in education, anyone in any other field, you have to look at multiples measures, student’s growth and achievement being a part of that, and a significant part, but just one piece of that overall equation,” Duncan said.

Nils commented on the need to celebrate the success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas just as we celebrate great athletes. Arne agreed and said that a good starting point is to recruit about 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade so that not only high school students, but 4th, and 5th, and 6th graders have a chance to be taught by teachers who are passionate about and love the STEM fields.

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Join the conversation in the comments below and feel free to ask Arne a question by checking out his Facebook page.

Arne on Dumbing Down Standards and the Next Generation of Assessments

Secretary Duncan sits down several times a month to answer questions he receives via his Facebook page. This past week, Arne answered questions that had been received on Facebook’s Facebook in Education page.

In the video, Arne responds to a question asking why we as a country allowed standards in schools to be “dummied down.” Secretary Duncan explains that dumbed-down standards are an unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but that over the last two and a half years, 44 states have raised standards and are working to level the playing field for students.

Arne also responds to a question about the need for a new generation of assessments. Duncan notes ED is helping fund two consortia of states that are providing leadership and working together to develop new assessments that will go beyond today’s fill-in-the-bubble tests that only measure basic skills. These new assessments will support good teaching by measuring crticial thinking skills and complex student learning.


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Join the conversation on Arne’s Facebook page or leave a comment below.

Duncan on Parent Involvement and Fixing NCLB

Secretary Duncan recently sat down to respond to a few comments he received on his Facebook page.  Duncan describes the importance of parents in a student’s education, and he says that it’s important we do “everything we can do to get parents more engaged, to have them be full and equal partners with teachers, to be part of the solution.”

Secretary Duncan also responded to comments about the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), by noting that “the current law, as I’ve said repeatedly, is far too punitive, far too prescriptive, [and] has led to a “dumbing down” of standards, [and] to a narrowing of the curriculum.”

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, Secretary Duncan has been working with Congress to obtain a bipartisan fix to NCLB, but Congress hasn’t acted yet. Later this week, President Obama will announce additional details on the Administration’s plan to give great teachers and great schools the flexibility they need to improve education outcomes.

Read the Top 5 Questions About NCLB Flexibility, and sign up to receive email updates on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).


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