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Duncan to State Board Members: I Want To Be a Partner, Not the Boss

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is giving a speech tomorrow at the National Association of State Boards of Education that will focus on the state-federal role in education.

The issue has flared up recently, particularly in the department's handling of the $4 billion Race to the Top program, which is meant to reward states for making major progress in certain areas, including standards and assessments, teacher quality, data systems, and turning around low performing schools. Some folks say this is a lot of federal direction, even for a voluntary program.

But in the speech, Duncan will explain that the feds do have an important role to play in encouraging states that are ready to adopt what he considers promising practices by providing them with some extra resources and know-how.

And he has some great new lines (thank goodness, because "dramatically better" is getting pretty stale). Here's a particularly punchy paragraph that gets to the heart of his message:

I want to be a partner in your success, not the boss of it. But I'm not willing to be a silent partner who puts a stamp of approval on the status quo. I plan to be an active partner. As a nation, we need a federal voice encouraging our shared goal of success for every student and stimulating innovations to reach those goals. But I'm also mindful of this. For nearly 200 years, our federal government was a silent partner. It mostly sat on the sideline while a shameful achievement gap persisted.

It's important to note that the state board of education president has to sign on to a state's Race to the Top application, under proposed criteria for this competition. So this speech could be a way for Duncan to get some buy-in from them.

Check out the full speech for yourself here.

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