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Duncan to Principals: Release Your Inner Warrior!


From guest blogger Lesli A. Maxwell:

In his campaign for turning around the nation’s worst public schools, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this morning called for a cadre of “warrior principals.”

Speaking to principals from across the country, Mr. Duncan said that without strong leaders, any effort to dramatically transform the thousands of public schools that have failed for decades would be futile. He challenged the leaders to “take on the toughest job in America.”

“We need a team of warrior principals to leave the easier places and go into the most underserved communities with a chance to build a new team,” Mr. Duncan said to the roughly 350 principals who are in Washington this week for the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Duncan said he would need to enlist about 1,000 principals a year, over the next five years.

The secretary has been pushing hard for turning around thousands of failing schools, and has already implored other groups of educators, including the charter school movement, to get involved in that work. Mr. Duncan also asked the principals to work on fixing the “broken” teacher evaluation system by developing evaluations that are “fair, thoughtful, but meaningful.”

The principals peppered him with questions that reflect a wide range of concerns among school leaders. One question, from the executive director of South Carolina’s principals association—who made the room roar with her joke about Gov. Mark Sanford’s peccadilloes—was about the secretary's position on school vouchers.

“I’m a big fan of choice,” said Mr. Duncan, who said he doesn’t object to private philanthropy being tapped as a way for poor children to attend private schools. But government-sponsored vouchers, he said, “pull out one to two percent of children but leave the other 99 percent to drown. As a federal government, we have to be more ambitious than that.” The principals LOVED that response.

And, of course, Mr. Duncan used the school choice question as one more opportunity to push for turning around failing schools. “We have to save more than one percent to sleep well at night," he said. "That’s why the turnaround effort is so important.”


Ducan was a poor choice by Obama. His choice was more of the "good old boy" mentality. Reading a recent article from the Chicago Tribune on how Ducan distorted the test scores to make him look like he knew how to improve schools, has lessened my opinion of Obama as well. Perhaps Obama should have picked the previous NEA president. Oh but that would be terrible since the "big powerful teacher's union" don't have a clue on how we might just fix public education. Ducan needs to go, a better educational wizard warrior needs to be chosen.

The National Writin Project has an answer for all of our schools and it doesn't cost a lot. Get every teacher to teach reading and writing in their subject areas. The basis for all learning is in reading and writing. There are so many fun and engaging ways to get kids to use writing and reading in any classroom. When we start getting kids to read and write (which is thinking) in ALL subject areas, there will be dramatic change in our schools and eventually our society since reading and writing and thinking kids become reading, writing, and thinking adults who will help pass on the importance and fun of reading and writing to their own children. Check out the studies. Check out NWP.

Duncan is no less a politician than any other secretary of education. We don't need warrior principals, we need national leadership to be different than George Bush, which the Obama adminisration has not been regarding education. Their Bush-lite educational programs have already begun to alienate the very people who elected him to office. What we also need is a recognition that no principal can turn around a school alone. In fact, principals who are hired to turn around schools often face greater resistance than those who were already there. Here is the deal: Create birth to 18 programs that provide supports for kids fom the minute they exit the womb. Provide the parents with the skills and knowledge needed to make the right educational decisions for their children. Track students from birth and intervene early and meaningfully, and I assure you that the achievement gap will be substantially decreased.

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