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Tuesday With Arne


Tomorrow, I'm spending the day with Arne. Yes, the Arne.

And, I'll be tweeting about it, so follow along via the Politics K-12 Twitter feed.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be in Florida as part of his Listening and Learning tour. He'll also give a speech at the GE Foundation's meeting.

In between visits, I'll try to get answers on my questions (and yours) about Race to the Top.


Questions for Sec. Duncan:

1. Most teachers oppose national standards and merit pay based on test scores. You also say you want teachers involved. Why involve them if you are going to ignore them?

2. Show us one single piece of empirical evidence that indicates charter schools do a better job of than traditional public schools.

3. Charter schools are supposed to be public schools with less restrictions and yet you are calling for more accountability from public schools. What gives?

4. How can you use the term "innovative" when discussing national standards? We've been headed towards national standards for over 2 decades. There's nothing innovative about them.

5. The majority of the individuals writing the national standards are representatives of think tanks and corporations, if you respect teachers so much, why aren't any of them participating?

Please ask my question of why we can't move from dat-DRIVEN accountability to data-INFORMED accountability.

I just got back from hearing Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, and the conservative businessmen in the audience bought the distinction.

Senator Michael Bennet wrote that "the accountability system we have ought to be a way to check right direction/wrong direction. The idea that from Washington we're going to be able to materially inform people's instruction is a little bit of an illusion, and I'm not sure we should be trying to do it anyway. And I think there's usefulness to having some distance between the accountability framework and the tools that people use every day to (give) quality instruction to our kids."

That essential "distance" has traditionally been protected by due process, collective bargaining, and tenure. Bennet’s Denver Plan for performance pay, like the Toledo Plan and other methods of peer review, are great examples of negotiating improved systems for the 21st century.

The next steps should be a "no-brainer" for President Obama. We can tear down the "firewalls" between teacher identifiers that link test scores to individual teachers when we have a firewall that prevents that data from being used for evaluations or tenure. The rationale should be obvious. We have Value Added Models that are valid enough for incentives or for rough "right direction/wrong direction" judgments regarding schools. But results from primitive growth models are not reliable enough to destroy a teacher’s career.

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