U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today invited state education leaders to join him in a partnership to reform the nation's schools and to clarify the federal government's role in advancing reforms.
Speaking to members of the National Association of State Boards of Education at their annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Duncan told the audience that policymakers, educators, and community leaders need to work together so that student achievement increases, the achievement gap narrows, and more students complete college.
"Education reform starts locallyin classrooms, schools, districts, and statesand my job is to help you succeed. I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it," Duncan said, referring to President Lyndon Johnson's definition of the federal role in education.
"But I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo," Duncan added. "I plan to be an active partner. As a nation, we need a federal voice encouraging our shared goal of success for every student and stimulating innovations to reach those goals."
In particular, Duncan said he wants to drive policies that address the achievement gap. Although the nation has made some progress in closing the gap, too many of our students are failing to reach their potential, Duncan said. Duncan promised to promote policies and to work with state leaders to ensure that great principals are leading schools and highly effective teachers are in every classroom. He also renewed his commitment to turning around 5,000 of the country's lowest-performing schools by relying on talented leaders and teachers.
"In cases where children are being underserved or neglected, we have a moral obligation to intervene, and we won't allow fear of over-reaching to stop us," Duncan said. "Kids have only once chance for an education. They can't wait years or decades for reforms to take hold."
Duncan praised the state board members for their leadership and participation in the effort to write college- and career-ready standards that states will decide whether to adopt.
"I thank you for your leadership and courage on this issue," Duncan said. "This is an example of how states working collectively are solving a national problem and why we will continue to make progress together."