Secretary Duncan vs CEO Arne

Print More

As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan boasted about ISAT gains, even though the district showed poorly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card. But now as Secretary of Education, Duncan told reporters at the Education Writers Association conference Thursday that school officials who highlight state standards knowing there is a disparity between those results and performance on national assessments are lying to parents and children.

As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan boasted about ISAT gains, even though the district showed poorly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card.

But now as Secretary of Education, Duncan told reporters at the Education Writers Association conference Thursday that school officials who highlight state standards knowing there is a disparity between those results and performance on national assessments are lying to parents and children.

According to the most recent scores, only 16 percent of Chicago’s 8th graders were proficient in reading and math on the NAEP; while more than 70 percent of 8th graders met reading and math standards on the ISAT.

Duncan noted his support for tying academic standards to international and business benchmarks that would allow students in the United States to be compared with those in India and China. The idea is gathering steam as some 41 school chiefs are already backing it and teachers’ unions are coming on board, he explained.

“This used to be the third rail in education,” he said.

Duncan remarks during his 90-minute talk spanned the gamut of reforms he had tried as in Chicago, and touched on how stimulus funds for education ought to be spent.

Most stimulus funding for schools should be spent on preventing layoffs, but the one-time additional funds earmarked for special education and poverty should be spent on programs. He suggested training for regular education teachers on how to tailor instruction to better serve special education students. Title 1 money could be used to provide summer tutoring.

“Time, time, time,” he said. “Get them in this summer and I promise it will pay off in a few years.”

He reiterated his support for charters and said that he and President Barack Obama are looking for states to change laws that cap the numbers of charters.

He also bemoaned laws that prohibit linking teacher evaluations to student performance. “Outcomes matter, great teachers matter,” he said. 

But Duncan offered no insights on High School Transformation, CPS’s broadest effort to improve Chicago’s struggling high schools. Duncan told reporters that the effort was designed to increase rigor in the city’s middle-tier high schools. However, only seven of the 43 transformation high schools fit that bill. The rest—Fenger, Marshall and Dyett among them—are the worst in the system.

Asked if it was a mistake to put the curriculum-based program in poorly-performing schools, Duncan dismissively said, “If those schools aren’t improving then we need to start over.”