March 17th, 2010
12:33 PM ET
13 years ago

Duncan works to sell administration's education plan

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Education Secretary Arne Duncan is leading the administration's effort to pass education reform legislation."]
Washington (CNN) - Saying the United States is "falling behind" in education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan worked Wednesday to persuade lawmakers that the Obama administration's plan to rewrite a federal education law is the right move for the nation's students and schools.

"A generation ago, we led the world, but we're falling behind. The global achievement gap is growing," he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"If we're serious about preparing our nation's young people to compete in a global economy, we must, we must do better than this."

He cited statistics, saying that 27 percent of American high schoolers drop out and that only 40 percent of the country's "young people" earn a two-year or four-year college degree.

"I believe that education is the one true path out of poverty, it has to be the great equalizer in our society," Duncan said.

The Obama administration released Saturday its wide-ranging plan for overhauling the No Child Left Behind education law. It shifts the focus from singling out underperforming schools to fostering a "race to the top" to reward successful reforms. The proposed revisions promise that low-performing schools that fail to improve will be asked to show "dramatic change," but states and school districts will be held accountable for those shortcomings as well.

It supports the expansion of public charter schools and calls for giving states and school districts additional flexibility in how they spend federal dollars "as long as they are continuing to focus on what matters most -
improving outcomes for students." And it allows them to use federal grant funds to change the way teachers and principals are paid "to provide differentiated compensations and career advancement opportunities to educators who are effective in increasing student academic achievement," among other considerations.

The newly published "blueprint" has come under fire from teachers' unions.

The National Education Association's president, Dennis Van Roekel, said that the union was expecting "more funding stability to enable states to meet higher expectations."

He said, "Instead, the 'blueprint' requires states to compete for critical resources, setting up another winners-and-losers scenario. We were expecting school turnaround efforts to be research-based and fully collaborative. Instead, we see too much top-down scapegoating of teachers and not enough collaboration."

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said the plan puts all the responsibility on teachers but gives them no authority.

"For a law affecting millions of schoolchildren and their teachers, it just doesn't make sense to have teachers - and teachers alone - bear the responsibility for school and student success," she said in a statement.
"Teachers are on the front lines, in the classroom and in the community, working day and night to help children learn. They should be empowered and supported - not scapegoated."

The Obama administration's $50 billion proposed education budget adds $3 billion in funding to help schools meet these revised goals, with the possibility of an additional $1 billion if the overhaul plan passes Congress.

The 8-year-old "No Child Left Behind" law was one of the signature policies of the Bush administration. It set up a regimen of state reading and math tests for students in third through eighth grades, intended to identify
failing schools. But critics have said the Bush administration never properly funded the effort and that states needed more flexibility in meeting those goals.

Duncan said earlier this week in a conference call with reporters that the law was "too punitive." He said, "It lowered the bar for students and too often narrowed the curriculum and we have to flip all of that. We have to raise the bar - high standards for all students, meaningful college and career-ready standards."

Updated: 1:54 p.m.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. jm for sc

    1,2,3,4.....Waiting to see what the GOP will say about this. I guess the "American people" don't want the educational system overhauled.

    Obama 2012

    March 17, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. The Chilren Are Our Future?

    I suggest a 6 day school week.

    March 17, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    "A generation ago, we led the world, but we're falling behind."

    Yeah, a generation ago, all the states ran their own education systems without incessant interference by the Federal idiocracy. If Duncan were serious about improving American education, he'd shut down the Department of Education, fire himself, and get out of the way.

    March 17, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. The Other Michael in Houston

    JM for SC: I agree with you 100%, let's just how many Republican Jihadist come out against this. The idiot Republicans will say no to Healthcare reform, no to Education Reform, I guess they want to see their kids and grandkids uneducated and sick. And furthermore, Why aren't the Republicans prolife for adults? Why do the Republicans hate America? And is it me or is the Republican Party the new Taliban? Bye Bye Republican Jihadist!

    March 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    Our total committment to education is the greatest investment we can make if we are to take our share of the world markets.

    March 17, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. sarah

    Has anyone looked into the success or more likely the lack of success in the Chicago Public Schools. Let's not forget Arnie Duncan was the CEO (and CEO in waiting) for several years before moving to Washington. The restructured schools continue to fail and the money keeps flowing into the select schools. Charter schools do not have any better rate of performance than traditional schools.

    Before we put our eggs into Race to the Top basket, we need to take a good look at what makes a school successful – the teachers?, adequate funding and supplies?, the school administration?, the parent support for the child? – the list could continue. Each school will have a different profile and each school needs to work on its weak areas and promote its strengths. Like so many things in life – There is no one answer!

    March 17, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. terry,va.

    The reason why our students are falling behind is because there isn't teacher accountability. And guess what, the teacher's unions are against Obummie's idea because they say it will hold them accountable. From everything I've heard the bill actually let's them off the hook compared to Bush's bill and they are still crying.

    Years ago when I went through public school, there were a few good teachers but as general rule I knew more about the subject that they were "teaching" than they did. Yes, that's right and I'm not Einstein. The point is most view their job as 5 days a week, 8 hours a day and 9-10 months work out of a year. A lot of them don't care if you can follow what they are "teaching", if they know what they are talking about.

    March 17, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    "Make classroom sizes bigger" that was th solution said by Republican Bill Bennett (former Rep. Secretary of Education) as a way to fix the education crisis. This is exactly what Bennett told Arne Duncan and Duncan looked at him like he had four heads that are totally not connected and totally out of touch. Are kids are falling behind and Republicans thinks it's because the classroom sizes are too small.

    March 17, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. No Brainer

    I'd like to see the Republicans get on board and raise the performance of public schools [which will educate most of our children].

    Forget all the voucher talk .... which is code for a subsidy to wealthier families to send their children to private schools.

    American industry and innovation depends on our AVERAGE worker being head-n-shoulders above those in India, China, Britain, France and Russia.

    Before the GPO'ers mouth off about American competitiveness 4 years, 8 years, 12 years from now, they need to do some heavy lifting NOW so that today's kindergartener's graduate in 12 years and know what the Pathagorean Theorum is.

    March 17, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Susan

    Something definitely needs to be done – not sure if this is it but I'm not an education expert either. I do know that the graduation rate in Rochester, New York where I live is 46%. That's pathetic. We're losing a whole generation of kids.

    March 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. Wisconsonite - Stop Smoking the Tea Bags!

    Republicans are not going to go for this. They LIKE the status quo. The way they think they're going to rise again is if they keep middle America afraid, poor and ignorant. And sadly, it does seem to work in some parts of the country with some people.

    March 17, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Albert R. K. . L.A., CA

    The problem is that we are the most diverse nation of people on earth and we still send homework home the same way we always have, with no regard for the socioeconomic strata and the diverse level of education and sophistication among parents. We need to identify those students with little, or zero, support at home and inform those parents that they have a legal duty to help, or find help, for their children who need that help. We need to provide adult education courses for parents that are one step ahead of their children’s same course work. We need to provide after-school homework classes for children where parents act as helpers. We need to ignore the far right corporatist who think our nation was built only for corporations to enjoy low taxes and increase their taxes to support We the People who fight the wars.

    March 17, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. NC

    Yes the educational system does need overhauled......No we don't need obama in 2012.....

    March 17, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. Fed Up

    Hellooooooo!!! I grew up in the 50's and 60's. We went to school 8 hours a day and had 8 – 45 minute classes per day, plus a lunch. Every day we had a 45 minute gym class, whether we liked it or not. We had to pass gym in order to graduate. If we were in band or choir, we had to stay after school for another hour when we were practicing for competitions or concerts. We actually had to pass our courses in order to graduate. We were taught the CONCEPTS behind the couse, NOT what the test would be. Most of us can add without a calculator and know how to read a book. The teachers didn't get 2 periods off each day, they had a lunch like the rest of us. We also didn't have time off for teacher training or report card grading. Give me a break. The teachers did that while we were doing the worksheets we were give for the day. We actually had homework at night, also. The dumbing down of America started with the school days being chopped. Everyone is out for themselves at this point, not the children. Teachers unions have caused a lot of the problem, in my opinion. Everyone was ready for either a career or college when we graduated. If we chose to do nothing with that education, it was on us, but we were prepared for the outside world. The education system should never have been "overhauled" to start with. It was fine as it was. Go back to the basics.

    March 17, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. Rush is to far left

    Not going to do much good unless you get the parents involved. Teachers can't do much with students that don't want to study. Teachers have no recourse in the classroom when they have students that are disruptive and/or don't study. That is why I turned down multiple teaching jobs. If a student earns an F then they get an F and need to repeat the grade. Perhaps that might get the parents attention.

    March 17, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Rush is to far left

    "We have to raise the bar – high standards for all students, meaningful college and career-ready standards."
    Means a lot of black and brown people won't be going to college. Oh well, america needs a lot of McDonald workers and ditch diggers too. If a kid does not want to study, then that is all they have to look forward to, well maybe dying in a drug deal gone bad perhaps, or a gang related shooting. Well, more stupidity removed from the gene pool.

    March 17, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |

    Sorry Mr. duncan,if you think college grads are any example ,just look
    at who put this country in the crapper. Yes,all the educated folks,
    who seems to have more degree;s than brain cells.

    March 17, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  18. LacrosseMom

    Without a well-educated populace the United States of America will cease to be a Super Power.

    Without a well-educated populace the United States of America will become a nation of ill informed, fearful people, gullible and unable to think for themselves.

    Without a well-educated populace the United States of America will be simply a memory of a once grand and courageous people.

    We need to INVEST in our children's futures, we are already falling behind, Third World countries!

    OBAMA 2012

    March 17, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  19. Independent One

    Whether Dems or Repubs I think we all can agree Obama is the hardest working President we seen in a long time

    March 17, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. Allen in Hartwell GA

    The states could make a large step forward in educating our children if they would make sure that education dollars go towards education. Extracurricular activities and sports are fine, but the prime objective of our schools is education. Until we get that part right the other activities should take a vacation.

    March 17, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. Macho Macho

    5-6-7-8 Here it is....

    Here is a thought, not all children have the mental capacity of being educated to the same levels. That might be why society is diversified with people working as tradesmen, doctors, scientists, beauticians, engineers, etc. How about rewarding children that have the capacity for higher intellect and good studious behavior in our schools with advanced classes and reward the educationally challenged and disruptive with an education in a vocational school for learning a good trade?

    2012, you're kidding right?

    March 17, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  22. Stop taking my taxes

    Keeps you kids away from this fruitloop. Guy is a danger to society.

    March 17, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |