Quote: Duncan Slams NCEE Pessimism Re US Reform
I am much more optimistic than Marc that the U.S. –including state and local governments – is in the midst of adopting a number of the core elements of high-performing education systems. -- Arne Duncan in response to NCEE report last week (via NCEE press release below)
May 31, 2011
U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, other education experts react to NCEE report
National Symposium kick starts new U.S. education reform agenda
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A groundbreaking report released this week by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) sparked unprecedented conversations among the country’s leading educators and experts, who convened at a national symposium to discuss its findings.
The report, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform, calls for a new U.S. education reform agenda based on lessons learned from some of the world’s top-performing education systems. It reveals that those nations that are outperforming the United States are pursuing strategies that the U.S. has not been pursuing, while the U.S. has embraced strategies that none of the best-performing countries have embraced.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also spoke with symposium participants about the report and its recommendations. He praised the work of NCEE and its President and CEO Marc Tucker and recognized that the U.S. “absolutely has much to learn from other nations.” But the Secretary took issue with the report’s criticism of the current U.S. education reform agenda and highlighted both unique barriers to change faced in the U.S. as well as areas of progress and innovation at the federal, state and local level. “I am much more optimistic than Marc that the U.S. –including state and local governments – is in the midst of adopting a number of the core elements of high-performing education systems,” he said.
Among the report’s key recommendations to American states are:
Build strategies for improving student performance based on the continuing study of the strategies employed by the top-performing countries.
Expand the work begun on the Common Core State Standards to the entirety of the core curriculum, creating frameworks that specify what topics are to be taught in the core subjects, grade by grade.
Develop a world-class teaching force by raising standards for entry to teacher education programs; insisting that all teachers have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they teach; raising teacher pay so that it is comparable to that of the leading professions and giving teachers substantial research skills so they can take the lead in improving teaching practice.
Move toward state adoption of responsibility for financing schools and away from local control of school finance, ultimately providing more resources to students who are harder to educate than to other students.
Abandon the old industrial model of school and district management and move toward a more modern labor relations system.
Adjust how we spend our education budgets, allocating more funds toward teachers and their most disadvantaged students and less on fancy school buildings, glossy textbooks, intramural sports and district administration.
Ensure that all elements of the education system and coherent and aligned, weaving together policy and practices without inundating the system with program after program, initiative after initiative.
Teachers’ union leaders, superintendents and other key education stakeholders voiced support for many of NCEE’s recommendations.
National Education Association Executive Director John Wilson expressed his support for negotiating contracts that require greater teacher and union responsibility for student achievement, stating, “As long as the assurance, trust, respect and the balance of decision-making in that district are present, absolutely.”
“As one labor leader, I would love to engage in how we move our unions to the [professional teaching] craft concept discussed in the report,” added Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“If we really wanted to recruit the best and the brightest [teacher candidates], the system would have to make major changes,” said Mari Koerner, Dean of the College of Education at Arizona State University.
“We have systems of systems that in most cases do not tie together…and umbrellas of transformation and reform models [that] only last as long as the administration,” Mississippi State Superintendent Tom Burnham said, calling for “a common strand with a common set of goals and objectives that [can] guide us and move us forward.”
The National Center on Education and the Economy was created in 1988 to analyze the implications of changes in the international economy for American education, formulate an agenda for American education based on that analysis and seek wherever possible to accomplish that agenda through policy change and development of the resources educators would need to carry it out.