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Friday, February 17, 2012

Duncan has no answers...just talking points.

Jon Stewart interviewed Arne Duncan on last night's (Febraury 16, 2012) Daily Show.

At first he asked probing questions, trying to get Duncan to respond to criticism about teaching to the test and limiting curriculum. He asked about the confining nature of Race to the Top which is causing teachers to "teach to the test."

He asked why the onus should be on teachers to solve the problems of society...and discussed how Race to the Top is demoralizing teachers when, though it's intentions might be wonderful, the result is more "teaching to the test."

Duncan passed the buck to the states. The states came up with the plans...the states developed the standards...the states decided what they would do with their schools.

When Stewart responded that the states were only doing what Race to the Top required, Duncan responded negatively. The states came up with the plans...the states developed the standards...the states decided what they would do with their schools.

Finally, and you'll see this if you watch the three videos below, Stewart gave up. He stopped asking questions which didn't get answers and just let Duncan talk...interrupting with an occasional joke, or nod of the head, or mumbled, "mhm."

An exchange near the end of the interview (near the end of where Stewart tried to ask probing questions at least) epitomizes the entire interview.
Stewart: What you're describing doesn't seem to be matching up with [teachers'] experience.

Duncan: Yesterday we announced $5 billion to try and significantly elevate the profession. What they're feeling is real. I can see it across the country. Teachers have been beaten down...demoralized...we don't pay them enough...we don't reward them enough...we don't support them as they try and go...we can't fire our way to the top...
Is that why Duncan cheered when the entire staff of Central Falls HS in Rhode Island was fired?
Duncan: The system is broken. The entire pipleine is broken. So we want to put a huge amount of resources behind places that will better train teachers...to better support them...they'll compensate them in very different ways...
Compensating teachers in "very different ways" means evaluate them by student test scores -- a process that most testing experts consider invalid.
Duncan: With the baby boomer generation moving towards retirment we're going to need a million new teachers...over the next 4, 5, 6 years. Our ability to attract and to retain great talent now will shape public education for the next thirty.

Stewart: What [teachers] would say "I agree with you, but No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are two of the main causes for that.

Duncan: No Child Left Behind was fundamentally broken in many ways, but what we're doing with Race to the Top [is] to try and support great teachers. That's going to be ultimately very positive for teachers and for students. What we're trying to do to elevate the profession, better support teachers, recognize and reward excellence...again, you shouldn't have to wait till your 55 to make a decent living...you should be able to have a middle class life and be a teacher. We gotta get back to that. That's what this entire initiative is about.
Race to the Top continues the public school destruction started by No Child Left Behind. This is what Duncan claims will be "positive for teachers and students:"

According to FairTest, Race to the Top:
  • ties evaluation and pay for teachers and principals to student test scores.
  • continues the over reliance on testing. More and harder tests don't make for better education.
  • continues to treat test scores as the most important piece of data.
  • continues the law's automatic requirement to take extreme, often ineffective actions based solely on test scores.
Duncan didn't answer the questions. As Valerie Strauss commented in the Answer Sheet this morning,
Duncan...quoted President Obama as saying recently that “we have to stop teaching to the test,” betraying not a hint of irony that it is the administration’s policies that are continuing this dynamic in public schools.

Stewart tried again and again to get Duncan to have a real conversation, but Duncan seemed to never directly respond to a question, always coming back to one of his talking points.

He even said that “teachers have been beaten down,” again without betraying any recognition that many teachers blame his policies for this state of affairs.
It's time to get an educator in the office of the United States Secretary of Education. Duncan has shown time and again that he is not qualified to lead the public schools of America.




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