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Duncan Holds a (Somewhat) National Town Hall on NCLB


So, remember that listening-and-learning tour that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan embarked on to get a sense of what Americans think of the No Child Left Behind Act? Well, he took the tour to the airwaves (sort of) earlier this week, holding a national town hall meeting that was televised in many places. Check it out online here.

There wasn't much said at Tuesday's event that was new to me. The criticisms he heard of NCLB were important, but relatively predictable (too much testing, too much focus on the core subjects at the expense of physical education, art, and other interests).

And Duncan's answers were similar to what he's said on those topics before. He wants tighter control from the federal government on what states' goals should be, but would like to consider how there can be more flexibility in how they get students there. (Is that attitude evident in the guidance the department has put out so far, dealing with Race to the Top Fund and other programs? Discuss.)

When it comes to teachers, he thinks student achievement data should be part of the equation in measuring effectiveness, but he also said that it doesn't tell the whole story. Principal observations and peer feedback counts too, he said.

"We need a menu of options," he said.

Duncan took questions from folks in Hillsborough County, Fla., school system, which includes Tampa. The superintendent there, MaryEllen Elia, recommended national standards, to allow for better comparisons across state lines.

"Amen," said Duncan.

Interesting factoid: Duncan did not have a TV in his house growing up. Instead, his parents read to him and his sibilings from classic literature, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Huckleberry Finn, and Moby Dick. Makes me wonder if his own children have a television.

Speaking of TV, despite lots of help from the U.S. Department of Education, I had a tough time finding a place to watch live on television. It's not clear that the event was broadcast in Washington, D.C., or in parts of suburban Maryland, for instance, just a few miles from where it was being taped in Shirlington, Va. Although Duncan said the program was being broadcast on 800 stations nationwide, I guess mine wasn't one of them. I suspect that's at the discretion of local providers...there probably wasn't much the department could have done about it.


they could have webcast it, couldn't they?

At an event last week hosted by the University of Chicago, Sec. Duncan responded to a question asking what are his children's favorite PBS shows by saying that he and his wife don't let their kids watch much TV, so they don't have a favorite PBS show.

Re: NCLB, In my county, the District has seven high schools. Only three made AYP last year, but one of those is an all-magnet prep school. The remaining two passing schools will almost definitely fail this year or next because of incredible overcrowding, while the failing schools have sharply dropping enrollments, and corresponding dropping efficiencies.

So a good idea proves to be disastrous. I don't have the solution to failing schools, but I know that the current system of NCLB is itself a dismal failure.

I was able to get through on the phone and they took down my question as a comment, regarding "When Physical/Corproal Punishment of All Children in All Schools will be prohibited?", but said my question did not pertain to reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, but now that I think of it, I should have made the point that a nationwide ban on school paddling could be tied to federal funding. Still, this comment will hopefully reach Arne Duncan, as I also made the point that I have taken this up with my local school board, the State of Tennessee and U.S. Dept. of Ed. Office of Civil Rights and no one has done anything. I also commented that it is a children's civil rights inequality when children are treated differently in our nation based on where they live and the cost to prohibit corporal punishment in schools is $0. School corporal punishment is related to the discrepancy in achievement scores for African American children. The committee announced two years ago that addressing the achievement gap is a high priority in LNCB reauthorization. African American children represent l7 percent of the school population and receive 36 percent of the paddlings.

Ron - your district leaders don't know how to run schools, and you're blaming NCLB for pointing that out? That's rich.

Even if the NCLB bureaucracy was a smooth dictatorship, all schools were completely under its control, and all schools amazingly passed/improved on every arbitrary test category: how would the bureaucrats or citizens know if the resources chosen and methods used to achieve these marks were the most efficient and efficacious? How can these actions be evaluated with regards to all the other needs and wants of the populace given the state of scarcity? (Let's assume for a moment that the arbitrary state goals for achievemnent are somehow objective)

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