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Three Questions, Two Answers from the Department of Education

A little more than two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a phone-in press conference. I submitted several questions online, but they were not addressed during the event. However, reporters on the line were assured that unanswered questions would be given high priority. So I emailed them in.

Today, answers have arrived, from Department of Education spokesperson Stephen Spector, who explained that time constraints prevent a response from Secretary Duncan himself.

Here are the questions, followed by Mr. Spector's responses:

Question 1: Secretary Duncan, you have a successful career. Would you be willing to take the Common Core Tests as they become available and share your score?

Response: "I cannot personally respond to your first question, but happy to respond to the second to.(sic)"

Question number 2: There has been a massive loss of teacher agency since you've taken charge, and creative, top-notch teachers are fleeing the profession in droves. Do you see a way to address the feeling of loss teachers have about their own profession? Is that something you were after? --What do you have to say about teacher morale, in general?

A: The Department is working with educators in rebuilding the profession. We are looking to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state, and local education policy. Teaching should not only be America's most important profession but should also be America's most respected profession. Recently, we heard from thousands of teachers who contributed their time and creative ideas to help shape the RESPECT blueprint for the teaching profession. We want to use the voice of teachers to refine educational practice and improve outcomes for students.

Question number 3: Research on motivation and human behavior shows that external incentives (rewards and punishments) are the worst kinds of motivators for getting people to be creative and to perform well in intellectually complex environments. They are also anathema to everything we know about how people learn. Yet external incentives form the entire foundation for your approach to "accountability." Why?

A: When we're talking about accountability we're talking about a variety of factors and we want to make sure those measures are reasonable. The measures should be consistent with what makes sense at the state level. We want to provide the needed flexibility for states to determine the accountability system that is best for them.

What do you think of these questions and the answers from the Department of Education spokesperson?

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