White House demands teacher excellence for students most in need
July 7th, 2014
03:22 PM ET
3 months ago

White House demands teacher excellence for students most in need

Updated 5:37 p.m. ET, 7/7/2014

(CNN) - President Barack Obama continued in his theme of a "year of action" Monday, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan unveiled a new effort to ensure access to "effective educators" for all American children.

Duncan joined the President at the White House for a lunch with a group of teachers chosen for their expertise with high-need, high-poverty schools.

"There are a lot of kids around the country who are not getting the kind of teaching that they need - not because there aren't a whole lot of great potential teachers out there, but because we're not doing enough to put a lot of our teachers in a position to succeed," Obama said to reporters covering the event.

During a White House briefing Monday Duncan announced "Excellent Educators for All Initiative" and said that the U.S. has failed to provide the best teachers to students with the greatest need.

"Today race and family income too often still predicts kids access to excellent education," Duncan said. "That is simply unacceptable, and we must do better and do better together."

"Change can only come when we deal openly and honestly with the facts, and we need more states and districts to challenge the status quo."

The new initiative calls on states to consult with teachers, principals, districts, parents and community organizations in analyzing data and coming up with solutions that are targeted to the local population.

And the plan includes an investment of $4.2 million in setting up a technical assistance network to supports the development and implementation of these plans.

The Department is also seeking to put a spotlight on different schools that highlight "gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students" as well as the ways that specific schools overcome challenges and succeed.

In a statement, the Department of Education put some blame on Congress for a lack of substantial education reform and said the President was "moving forward on behalf of vulnerable children and families" in the absence of Congressional action.

In June a California judge struck down a state law on teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws, saying they keep bad teachers in the classroom and force out promising good ones. Duncan praised the ruling and pushed the importance of state's taking the initiative to reform their school systems.

"This decision presents an opportunity for a progressive state with a tradition of innovation to build a new framework for the teaching profession that protects students' rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve," Duncan said in a statement following the ruling.

Dennis Van Roekel, out-going president of the National Education Association, told CNN that plan is a good first step but that more details are needed. He says truly helping students means investing in early childhood development and school readiness, as well as maintaining a high bar when comes to building rich curriculums and conditions for learning.

"We need a whole new system of accountability. The kind of accountability that drives equity so that every student has what they need to succeed," Van Roekel told CNN.

That kind of reform, Van Roekel says, requires more than just a plan for reform.

"If they have a plan and no resources to implement it, that doesn't do anything," Van Roekel told CNN. "It's a very positive first step but we need to withhold judgment until we see what happens."

Van Roekel also downplayed a vote on Friday by the NEA Representative Assembly calling for Duncan to resign. He told CNN there is widespread frustration within the union with the Department of Education's reliance on mandatory testing but that ultimately they all have the same goal – to lift students up.


Filed under: Arne Duncan • Education • President Obama • White House
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Dean

    It starts with the family. If black kids had a home with a mother AND a father, they would do better in school. The education system is fairly equitable.

    July 7, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    Obama: Equal access to education for all.
    Tea Party: Put guns in the classroom.
    Radical Religious Right: Take science out of the classroom.
    Which approach will turn out the next generation of scientists and engineers to help our country compete globally?

    July 7, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. just asking

    you want to improve the situation 1000% in a second? get rid of the teachers unions that makes it impossible to get rid of bad teachers, even if they commit crimes, let alone just stink at teaching. but the teacher unions own the demorcat party lock, stock and barrel so the demorcats will never jeopardize that massive cash flow into their coffers. and the kids will continue to pay the price.

    July 7, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Dean

    It starts with the family. If black kids had a home with a mother AND a father, they would do better in school. The education system is fairly equitable.
    ----------------------–
    You're making the false assumption that black parents can afford a home. A study just came out that says that the American Dream for a family of four requires a minimum annual income of $130,000. We might see fewer of your black kids without a mother AND a father if there were more opportunities for those to climb the economic ladder. The same study also showed that only 1 in 8 families meet those minimum income requirements. In other words, your distasteful comment has not exclusive to just black families.

    July 7, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. Marty

    And all those Union Teachers voted for you.

    July 7, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Dean: "It starts with the family. If black kids had a home with a mother AND a father, they would do better in school. The education system is fairly equitable."

    25% of white kids come from single-parent families. Don't forget to generalize about them, too.

    July 7, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    you want to improve the situation 1000% in a second? get rid of the teachers unions that makes it impossible to get rid of bad teachers, even if they commit crimes, let alone just stink at teaching. but the teacher unions own the demorcat party lock, stock and barrel so the demorcats will never jeopardize that massive cash flow into their coffers. and the kids will continue to pay the price.
    ------------------------
    If you don't like the flood of money into politics, then just say so. But, that's really the problem, though, is it? The real problem is the money that flows to the other side. It's okay just as long as it flows in the right direction. Political money is what has broken government. Recent court decisions have made it legal to bribe politicians. We're all toast.

    July 7, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Tommy G

    The liberals and Democrats and their lackeys in the unions have wrecked our school systems with their garbage liberal agenda. Kids spent WAY too much time on total rubbish that does nothing for them except indoctrinate them into leftist causes. Who cares if little Johnny can read, write and do math as long as he knows about the liberal causes?

    July 7, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. kev

    "And the plan includes an investment of $4.2 billion in setting up a technical assistance network to > supports < the development and implementation of these plans."

    College grads work at CNN.

    July 7, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. Harry Legg

    I demand excellence from my President and what I am getting is lies, failure and a bad economy.

    July 7, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "In June a California judge struck down a state law on teacher tenure, dismissal and layoff laws, saying they keep bad teachers in the classroom and force out promising good ones. Duncan praised the ruling and pushed the importance of state's taking the initiative to reform their school systems."

    The United States of America has been "reforming" school systems for well over 40 years now. If anything, stats are lower, progress is nonexistent, and initiatives have all but been thrown out the door.

    While one side finger points the other side, nothing will ever get accomplished. What a freaking waste; to our children and to our country. It is a sad day in America when less education becomes the norm, and parents become submissive to a talking point of blaming teachers ... while their own little angels walk all over them (and their teachers) in open contempt and mockery.

    July 7, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. Tampa Tim

    It appears the big complaint from the RWNJs is that public employees have a process of evaluation and a legal right to know why they are being terminated. Contrast that to minimum wage RWNJs who post lies on behalf of the Kochs and Fox, who can get fired for wanting America to succeed.

    July 7, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Fair is Fair
    Tampa Tim

    2-Indy – It seems you are hooked on unnecessary republican wars, unfunded republican drug programs, record republican job loss, stock market under 7000, voter suppression, and government shutdowns. Quite a republican badge of honor you wear.
    ---
    Wow... the only item you left out of your stale democratic talking point word salad was "Koch Brothers". Close, but no cigar.
    ----
    There are so many more I could have included, but most people got the point. It has to be hard for you to try to justify republican stupidity.

    July 7, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. just asking

    Rudy NYC
    If you don't like the flood of money into politics, then just say so. But, that's really the problem, though, is it? The real problem is the money that flows to the other side. It's okay just as long as it flows in the right direction. Political money is what has broken government. Recent court decisions have made it legal to bribe politicians. We're all toast.
    --

    sorry rudy, all the money and free election time labor flowing into the democrat party from the teachers unions was flowing in long, long before any recent court rulings about political contributions. nice try at conning people though. some things just never change with you.

    July 7, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. joyfulmeme

    Harry Legg-I demand excellence from my President and what I am getting is lies, failure and a bad economy

    If you paid more attention to what the President actually does instead of what Fox tells you, you would know that the above statement is blatently false.

    July 7, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Donna

    Just gotta love this.... liberals, Demorcats and their rotten union owners have been screwing up the schools and screwing over the kids for decades now. The LAST people we can trust to fix them are the very same people that have made them a disaster.

    July 7, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Keep talking RWNJs. Every word out of the drooling ideologue conservative menagerie is proof that we need both better funding AND better accountability in our public schools. You make our liberal case for us.

    July 7, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |