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In First Postelection Speech, Duncan Talks NCLB Waivers

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been relatively quiet since his boss won re-election on Tuesday. But he broke his silence tonight, in his first speech since the elections to the Education Trust's national conference.

During what was planned as a relatively brief speech—which wasn't on his public schedule—he was expected to talk tonight about his commitment to implementing the No Child Left Behind waivers. And, he was expected to reaffirm his support of the waivers' goal that at-risk students should be expected to make faster progress toward academic goals.

In some states, NCLB waivers have come under fire when advocacy groups and other members of the public see different school performance targets for different groups of at-risk students—now that the universal goal under NCLB of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading has been waived.

The Education Department borrowed from Ed Trust when setting up rules for the waivers—requiring that states set goals that cut the achievement gap in half within six years.

Duncan, who has said repeatedly he would stay on during a second term if President Obama wished him to, also planned to talk about how no accountability framework is perfect and how the hard work of overseeing waiver implementation looms large.

He also planned to talk about the tough road ahead in the next couple of months as Congress and Obama figure out how to address a ballooning deficit and automatic trigger cuts called sequestration.

For the record, Duncan has declined Politics K-12's repeated interview requests about what his second-term agenda looks like. But clearly, waiver implementation will guide much of the second term.

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