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Duncan Sharpens Second-Term Agenda, Stresses Teacher Quality

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan continued to lay out his priorities for the next four years in a speech today, emphasizing that he thinks teacher preparation is broken and that the best educators need to be teaching the highest-need children.

In remarks at the two-day forum in Washington of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, run by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Duncan said he has an "ambitious" second-term agenda that includes holding the line on initiatives he started during his first four years. He cited specifically the tough road ahead for common standards, common tests, and teacher evaluations.

"Do we have the courage to stay the course there?" he asked during his 30 minutes of remarks, which included a question-and-answer session.

As for renewed areas of emphasis, he clearly wants to focus on teacher and principal quality. He said teacher education programs are "part of the problem." Without getting specific, Duncan said there are a "number of things we plan to do," and said the department is looking at some sort of competitive initiative to foster innovation in schools of education. He continued, "We need to push very, very hard in schools of education." (This isn't a new area of concern, as the administration has pushed teacher-prep reform before.)

He also said he was extremely troubled that no schools or districts that he knows of work "systemically" to identify the best teachers and principals, then place them with the children with the highest needs. "We're not even in the game. We're not there yet," he said. So be on the lookout for a new initiative there, too.

Duncan also indicated that early education would get a renewed focus in his second term.

This marks the most widely viewed speech from Duncan since President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term. Previous speeches to the Education Trust and to the Council of Chief State School Officers were to smaller audiences, and not broadcast online.

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