Duncan Focuses on Fixing NCLB for Rural Schools

Secretary Duncan teamed up with John Hill, director of the National Rural Education Association, during a call to both journalists from rural communities and education writers who cover rural schools on Wednesday, January 26. The Secretary and Hill discussed the importance of fixing the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind that do not work for rural schools and answered questions from the media about the challenges and opportunities that rural schools have.

Listen to the call. Audio icon Read the transcript.

Education Funders Conference Call

On Monday, the day before the President’s State of the Union Address, the Department of Education hosted the first quarterly conference call of 2011 for education funders with Secretary Arne Duncan.

Secretary Duncan talked about the importance of reauthorizing ESEA, maintaining momentum for state and local education reform when education systems are facing huge budget cuts, the recent Aspen Innovation in Education Forum & Expo, the upcoming conference on Labor-Management Collaboration for Student Success, and the TEACH campaign.

Listen to the call. Audio icon Read the transcript.

Senators Join Duncan to Discuss Fixing No Child Left Behind

Secretary Duncan was joined by by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in a national press call on January 26. The Senators, who currently serve on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which Harkin chairs, called for fixing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.

Listen to the call. Audio icon Read the transcript.

School Reform: A Chance for Bipartisan Governing

Cross-posted from The Washington Post

With a new Congress set to begin, key members on both sides of the aisle are poised to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In fact, the work has been underway for much of the past year, and few areas are more suited for bipartisan action than education reform.

On many issues, Democrats and Republicans agree, starting with the fact that no one likes how NCLB labels schools as failures, even when they are making broad gains. Parents, teachers, and lawmakers want a system that measures not just an arbitrary level of proficiency, but student growth and school progress in ways that better reflect the impact of a school and its teachers on student learning.

Most people dislike NCLB’s one-size-fits-all mandates, which apply even if a community has better local solutions than federally dictated tutoring or school-transfer options. Providing more flexibility to schools, districts and states – while also holding them accountable – is the goal of many people in both parties.

Both Republicans and Democrats embrace the transparency of NCLB and the requirement to disaggregate data to show achievement gaps by race, income, English proficiency and disability, but they are concerned that NCLB is driving some educators to teach to the test instead of providing a well-rounded education.

That is why many people across the political spectrum support the work of 44 states to replace multiple choice “bubble” tests with a new test that helps inform and improve instruction by accurately measuring what children know across the full range of college and career-ready standards, and measures other skills, such as critical-thinking abilities.

NCLB’s accountability provisions also prompted many states to lower standards, but governors and legislators from both parties in all but a handful of states have rectified the problem by voluntarily adopting higher college and career-ready standards set by state education officials.

Finally, almost no one believes the teacher quality provisions of NCLB are helping elevate the teaching profession, or ensuring that the most challenged students get their fair share of the best teachers. More and more, teachers, parents, and union and business leaders want a real definition of teacher effectiveness based on multiple measures, including student growth, principal observation and peer review.

These issues are at the heart of the Obama administration’s blueprint for reauthorizing ESEA: more flexibility and fairness in our accountability system, a bigger investment in teachers and principals, and a sharper focus on schools and students most at risk.

This common-sense agenda also reflects the quiet bipartisan revolution underway at the state and local level. With the incentive of the Race to the Top program, governors, states and districts across America are implementing comprehensive plans to reform education systems and boost student achievement.

School districts and their local partners in inner cities and rural communities are overcoming poverty and family breakdown to create high-performing schools, including charters and traditional public schools. They are taking bold steps to turn around low-performing schools by investing in teachers, rebuilding school staff, lengthening the school day and changing curricula.

In partnership with local teacher unions, districts are finding new ways to evaluate and compensate their teachers and staff their schools. Some districts have reshaped labor agreements around student success – and teachers have strongly supported these groundbreaking agreements. On Capitol Hill, numerous internal meetings with staff as well as external meetings with educational stakeholders have occurred, several hearings have also been held, and some legislative language has been drafted and shared at the staff level.

The urgency for reform has never been greater. Today, American students trail many other nations in reading, math and science, and a quarter of them do not graduate high school on time. Many college students do not finish, despite the clear national need for more college-educated workers who can successfully compete in the global economy.

President Obama in 2009 set a national goal that America will once again lead the world in college completion by 2020. With our economic and national security at risk, this is a goal Republicans, Democrats and all Americans can unite behind.

Since coming to Washington, I’ve been told that partisan politics inevitably trumps bipartisan governing. But if I have learned anything as education secretary, it is that conventional wisdom serves to prop up the status quo – and is often wrong.

In the past two years, I have spoken with hundreds of Republican and Democratic mayors, governors and members of Congress. While we don’t agree on everything, our core goals are shared – and we all want to fix NCLB to better support reform at the state and local level. So, let’s do something together for our children that will build America’s future, strengthen our economy and reflect well on us all.

Arne Duncan

How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Teachers

What is President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform? How will the proposed changes affect teachers and classrooms?

To discover answers to these questions, check out a new brochure, Built for Teachers: How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Teachers. Written by teachers and for teachers, the brochure highlights issues in the Secretary’s plans to revise and reauthorize the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act), focusing on those of particular concern for teachers. Specifically, it addresses educational challenges posed by the current NCLB (No Child Left Behind) law and how the Blueprint answers these challenges. For example, one section of the brochure addresses concerns that NCLB has narrowed the curriculum, neglecting subjects other than reading and math, and it describes the Blueprint’s strategy for tackling this issue. The brochure also raises common questions about the reauthorization of the ESEA, including state competitions for federal dollars, as well as specific issues facing charter schools, urban, and rural schools.

The text of the brochure is available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/teachers/publication_pg2.html.

You may also order it by writing to ED Pubs, Education Publications center, U.S. Department of Education, P.O. Box 22207, Alexandria, VA 22304. Or fax your request to 703-605-6794. Or e-mail your request to edpubs@inet.ed.gov . Or call in your request toll free to1-877-433-7827 (1-877-ED-PUBS). To order online, go to http://edpubs.gov .

Laurie Calvert
Teaching Ambassador Fellow

Parents Gather in Washington, D.C., to Discuss Rights and Responsibilities

Parents gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss rights and responsibilities

Parents gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss rights and responsibilities

More than 250 parents, grandparents, caregivers and community members from 17 states gathered in the Department of Education’s auditorium on May 26 for a dialogue with a panel of senior ED officials.

The 90-minute discussion touched on meaningful ways to support family engagement in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), supporting children with special needs, and the allocation of Title I funding in schools. The standing-room-only forum was full of energy and passion, providing a platform for parents to express their concerns, comments and questions to Department officials who are responsible for developing, communicating and implementing federal education policies, and others charged with enforcing civil rights laws.

Central to the discussion was the idea that everyone must take responsibility for the education of America’s children, and that parents have the most important role. Several weeks before this forum, at the first annual “Mom’s Congress,” Secretary Duncan identified three roles that parents can play: as partners in learning with their students, as advocates and advisors who push for better schools, and as decision-makers who can choose the best educational options for their children. When parents demand change and better options for their children, he said, they become an effective accountability backstop for the educational system.

Parents gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss rights and responsibilities

Secretary Duncan has proposed that the Department do its part in supporting parents by doubling that amount of federal money for family involvement, from the current 1 percent of Title I funds that states receive to 2 percent. Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, whose Office of Innovation and Improvement oversees the Department’s resources for parents, explained to the May 26 forum that the Department wants school districts to think differently about how they systemically make the school environment welcoming to parents and ensure there is two-way communication between school and family.

One parent who attended the forum summed up well a parent’s responsibility toward his or her child’s education and toward the child’s teacher at school.

“I am my child’s first teacher,” said George Camacho, a father from Detroit. “I don’t want the teacher—or, rather, teachers—raising my children. I want to be the one raising them. But I want teachers involved by engaging my children, and then I will do my part at home.”

Kim Morton
Office of Communications & Outreach

More photos

Research Behind the Obama Administration’s Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

Today the Obama administration released a series of documents outlining the research that supports the proposals in its blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

These research summaries will serve to inform conversations around ESEA reauthorization and the reforms that research shows are necessary.

These documents outline the research base around each section of the blueprint, including:

  • College- and Career-Ready Students PDF (749K)
    College- and Career-Ready Students, School Turnaround Grants

  • Great Teachers and Great Leaders PDF (920K)
    Effective Teachers and Leaders, Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund, Teacher and Leader Pathways

  • Meeting the Needs of English Learners and Other Diverse Learners PDF (662K)
    English Learners, Diverse Learners

  • A Complete Education PDF (1.17M)
    Literacy, STEM, A Well-Rounded Education, College Pathways and Accelerated Learning

  • Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students PDF (891K)
    Promise Neighborhoods, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students

  • Fostering Innovation and Excellence PDF (840K)
    Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, Supporting Effective Charter Schools, Promoting Public School Choice

The blueprint itself is available at www.ed.gov/eseablueprint.

Secretary Duncan Testifies on Blueprint for Reauthorizing ESEA

Secretary Arne Duncan testified today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee on the Obama Administration’s blueprint for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The blueprint, he said, “is organized around our three major goals for reauthorization:

  1. Raise standards.
  2. Reward excellence and growth.
  3. Increase local control and flexibility while maintaining the focus on equity and closing achievement gaps.

“All of these policy changes will support our effort to meet the President’s goal that by 2020, America once again will lead the world in college completion,” he said. “In particular, the ESEA will set a goal that by 2020 all students will graduate ready to succeed in college and the workplace.”

Read the Secretary’s complete testimony, or watch video of Senate testimony.

Rural Stakeholders Engaged in Discussion of ESEA Proposal

Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development; John White, deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach; and ED staff talked with rural education stakeholders in a conference call Tuesday, March 16, about the Obama Administration’s proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

More than 30 callers received an overview of the proposal and posed questions on a variety of topics, including high standards, a broader well-rounded curriculum, competitive grants, and formula funding through programs that include Title I, IDEA, and the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP).

Read the transcript and the Administration’s proposal, “A Blueprint for Reform: Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education.

President Discusses Proposal for ESEA

In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama discussed the proposal that he is sending to Congress today for reauthorizing the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The proposal focuses ESEA, or the No Child Left Behind Act, on raising standards and rewarding success.

Read the press release and the proposal, “A Blueprint for Reform: Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” Listen to Secretary Duncan’s conference call with reporters or read the transcript.

Read the transcript of the President’s remarks »

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Secretary Duncan Testifies Before House Committee

Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on March 3.

He discussed President Obama’s education agenda, including the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Duncan talked about the importance of college and career-ready standards, supporting and rewarding excellence, focusing on growth and gains in student learning, and a “smarter, more targeted federal role to give states and districts as much flexibility as possible, while ensuring as much accountability as possible.”

Much of his testimony was devoted to the administration’s teacher quality agenda.

See more information about the…


Click here for an accessible version of the video.
Transcript of the video [MS Word, 37K]

Congressional Leaders Announce Bipartisan ESEA Review

Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor announced plans Thursday, Feb. 18, for a bipartisan reform of ESEA. “It will start with a series of hearings in the coming weeks to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead as we work to ensure an excellent education is available to every student in America,” the leadership declared, adding that “With a real commitment to innovation, we invite all stakeholders who share our serious interest in building a world-class education system to email us their suggestions.” The committee’s first hearing, focused on charter schools, will be held Feb. 24. Stakeholders can send their input and suggestions on reauthorization to the committee at ESEAcomments@mail.house.gov. The deadline for comments is March 26. Get more information.