Arne Duncan, after visiting Tennessee last week to hail its leadership in education reform efforts, has now done so in a Tennessean op-ed piece.
It starts like this:
On a visit to Nashville this past week, I was repeatedly confronted by a very basic and important fact: that achieving our common goal of strengthening the U.S. economy requires strong leaders and educators working together to collaborate in the best interests of children
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday applauded Tennessee for what he called courage in making education changes and said the state can “help lead the country where we need to go.”
Duncan took part in a panel discussion — that included Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman — at a Nashville middle school before heading to a roundtable with school administrators and business owners from rural counties.
He said some states talk about education reform, but Tennessee is taking initiative.
“I just love what I see here,” Duncan said after the roundtable. “What I see is courageous leadership at the top. You guys are taking on the tough issues in ways that frankly I wish more states were.”
Recent changes in state law — including toughening the curriculum and teacher evaluations — allowed Tennessee to win $500 million in the national Race to the Top education grant competition.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today cited Tennessee as an example of a state that has “done a great job” in setting education standards and deserving of a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
Duncan’s comments came in a telephone news conference with reports around the nation to outline his general plans for granting waivers to NCLB. Specifics will be provided next month, he said, and the process of granting approvals will begin shortly thereafter.
While he stopped short of specifically saying Tennessee would be granted a waiver, Duncan came pretty close.
“We look forward to partnering with Tennessee,” the secretary said, adding that he had ” talked with Gov. Bill Haslam, recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said last week that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to apply for a waiver from NCLB standards, established under a federal law enacted at the urging of former President George Bush.
About half of Tennessee’s schools failed to meet current NCLB standards under testing results, also announced last week. Under NCLB, those standards are scheduled to continue rising. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
Duncan said President Obama has pushed for federal legislation to change NCLB, but has directed him to proceed with a waiver program because Congress has made little or no progress on the legislative front. He said the president remains committed to addressing NCLB changes at the federal level.
Duncan said Tennessee had “dumbed down” its state=level standards in the past and had declared 91 percent of the state’s students proficient in math. Subsequently, he said Tennessee raised standards – a move initiated under former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration – and now shows just 34 percent proficiency in math.
“Tennessee like many states (had been) dumbing down standards to make it seem like students are doing wel,” Duncan saidl. “They were telling their state that 91 percent of their children were proficient in math.
“Tennessee, like about 44 other states, recently raised standards, and when they raised standards, they went from saying they were 91 percent proficient in math to 34 percent proficient in math.
“That’s a very tough message. But guess what? It’s the truth. And we need to reward those states that are showing courage there and give them the room to move.”
At another point, he was asked about Tennessee’s prospect for getting a waiver.
“I think Tennessee has done an amazing job of really making tough calls and showing courage, so we’re very, very hopeful,” he said “I actually talked to your governor this weekend – he had just returned from Afghanistan – and we will review all of the waivers at the same time.
“Once we put out the final package, in early to mid-September, we’ll look at Tennessee’s and everyone else’s. But Tennessee has done a great job, … and we look forward to partnering with Tennessee moving forward as part of this process.”
Note: A U.S. Department of Education news release on NCLB is HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s request for a waiver to use its reformed education standards to measure schools instead of those mandated by No Child Left Behind is falling in line with a plan by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break from student testing mandates in the federal law.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced his request last month. State officials said at the time they didn’t know what the response would be.
Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind is not changed. Education experts have questioned that estimate, but state officials report a growing number of schools facing sanctions under the law.
Duncan is scheduled to be in Nashville this week for a round table discussion with school administrators in rural counties.
A forum on education reform, which was to have included U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, Monday at Knoxville’s West High School has been canceled.
The cancellation was confirmed by Knox County School Board Chair Indya Kincannon.
No reason was given for the cancellation, but Kincannon said the event might be rescheduled.
Gov. Bill Haslam also was expected to participate.
They would have been on a panel with state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and state Sen. Jamie Woodson.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Gov. Bill Haslam will participate in a forum on education reform Monday at Knoxville’s West High School, a spokesman for the governor said today.
Haslam and Duncan will be on a panel with state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and state Sen. Jamie Woodson, who has announced plans to resign her Senate seat to become president of State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), a group founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to promote education improvements.
Knox County School Superintendent James P. McIntyre will serve as moderator of the panel discussion, according to David Smith, press secretary to Haslam.
Smith said students and their parents will also be on hand for the event, which follows adjournment of a session of the Tennessee Legislature where several education laws were transformed.
Among them were Haslam-pushed measures to change teacher tenure laws and to open the door for more charter schools in Tennessee. The governor also signed a bill, initiated by legislative Republicans, to end the current system of collective bargaining between teacher unions and school boards, creating instead a system of “collaborative conferencing.”