Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Arne Duncan would stay on for second Obama term

Posted by Lyndsey Layton to Washington Post Election 2012 |

September 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm  ::  Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that he intends to remain in the Obama cabinet if there is a second term. “I’m in it for the long haul,” Duncan said. “I’m staying, unless the president gets sick of me.”

Duncan is routinely praised by both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. He made the remarks after addressing a roomful of education officials and economists gathered for a program about K-12 education that was sponsored by the Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institution.

Duncan corrected one audience member who asked about his agenda if there is second Obama term. “When,” Duncan interjected, prompting laughter. “When there is a second term.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have both said they do not plan to stay on in a second Obama administration.


Arne Duncan tries to smooth relations with teachers

YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks next to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about providing states flexibility under No Child Left Behind in exchange for reform at the White House in Washington February 9, 2012.

By Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post |

October 2, 2012  ::  Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a careful effort Tuesday to smooth relations with teachers, saying the Obama administration understands that many educators feel besieged by the national push for new evaluations and faster improvements in student achievement.

“I know some educators feel overwhelmed by all of this change,” Duncan said during a wide-ranging speech at the National Press Club in Washington. “Teachers always, always support accountability and a fair system of evaluation. They want the feedback so they can get better. But some of them say it’s happening too quickly and not always in a way that is respectful and fair.”Teacher evaluations, which were a central issue in a recent seven-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union, are being implemented across the country as a result of President Obama’s Race to the Top grant program and his decision to issue waivers to 33 states to exempt them from No Child Left Behind, the 2011 federal education law that, many say, is overdue for a rewrite.

The Obama administration wants good teachers to be rewarded with merit pay, promising teachers to get support to improve and weak teachers to leave the classroom. But figuring out how to measure the quality of a teacher is difficult, and many states are struggling to determine the best methods. Some teachers worry that they are being blamed for the weak academic performance of students struggling with poverty, homelessness and other social ills beyond the control of a classroom teacher.

“They want an evaluation system that recognizes out-of-school factors and distinguishes among students with special needs, gifts and backgrounds,” Duncan said. “They certainly don’t want to be evaluated based on one test score — and I absolutely agree with them.”

During his speech, Duncan nodded to a seat occupied by Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, and referred to him as “my good friend.” The nation’s largest labor union, the NEA is a major Democratic donor.

Duncan said the country needed to “rise above the partisan politics — we have to set aside the tired debates pitting reformers against unions — we have to discard the ugly and divisive rhetoric of blame.”

He talked repeatedly about the need for cooperation between the parties. But he also slipped in a campaign message dinging Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

“They fundamentally see education as an expense and the president sees education as an investment,” Duncan said, referring to the GOP ticket. “Congressman Ryan’s budget would mean 200,000 less kids in Head Start, potential massive cuts to Pell grants. None of that leads us in the right direction.”


Arne Duncan Calls For Textbooks To Become Obsolete In Favor Of Digital

By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press in Huffington Post |

Arne Duncan

10/02/12 06:11 PM ET EDT AP  :: WASHINGTON -- Worried your kids spend too much time with their faces buried in a computer screen? Their schoolwork may soon depend on it.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Tuesday for the nation to move as fast as possible away from printed textbooks and toward digital ones. "Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete," he declared.

It's not just a matter of keeping up with the times, Duncan said in remarks to the National Press Club. It's about keeping up with other countries whose students are leaving their American counterparts in the dust.

South Korea, which consistently outperforms the U.S. when it comes to educational outcomes, is moving far faster than the U.S. in adopting digital learning environments. One of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea has set a goal to go fully digital with its textbooks by 2015.

"The world is changing," Duncan said. "This has to be where we go as a country."

The transition to digital involves much more than scanning books and uploading them to computers, tablet devices or e-readers. Proponents describe a comprehensive shift to immersive, online learning experiences that engage students in a way a textbook never could.

A student studying algebra might click to watch a video clip explaining a new concept or property. If they get stuck, interactive help features could figure out the problem. Personalized quizzes ensure they're not missing anything – and if they are, bring them up to speed before they move on to the next lesson. Social networking allows students to interact with teachers and each other even when school isn't in session.

Using digital textbooks, schools can save money on hard copies and get updated material to students more quickly. School districts may also be able to pick and choose their curriculum buffet-style. A district might choose one publisher's top-notch chapter on Shakespeare, but follow it with another publisher's section on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."

But adopting digital textbooks isn't as easy as a directive from Washington. States set their own processes for selecting and purchasing textbooks that match their needs.

Over the last two years, at least 22 states have taken major strides toward digital textbooks, said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association. Until recently, Levin said, states struggled to collaborate because each had its own curricular standards, a particular burden for smaller states. That burden has been eased now that 48 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading.

"There are opportunities for the federal government to encourage states and districts not to reinvent the wheel," Levin said.

A school district in Huntsville, Ala., launched an effort over the summer to become the first district to transition fully to digital textbooks. To do that, the district must first ensure every student has either a laptop or a tablet computer. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a pair of bills in September aiming to make his state a national leader in electronic college textbooks.

Still, many districts, already buckling from diminished budgets, don't have the bandwidth or the equipment to make digital materials available to every student. That's created a new challenge for the educational publishing industry as it works to market products to district across the technological spectrum.

"We haven't produced anything that's print-only in over three years. One hundred percent of what we have is available to school districts electronically," said Vineet Madan, senior vice president of new ventures for McGraw-Hill Education.

A central tension in the movement toward digital materials is what it means for textbook publishers whose profits rely on replacing old, worn-out textbooks with new ones. Yet to be seen is whether textbooks, like music, will become easy to steal or copy without payment, or whether the industry will find new ways to make money off of teaching materials.

No comments: