Yesterday afternoon the U.S. Secretary of Education made a quick stop at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton University for some remarks and q and a. Here are some highlights:
On American public high schools’ high dropout rate: “We’re perpetuating social failure.”
It’s a national security issue: “Less than 25% of kids are fit to enter the military because they’re academically unprepared.”
When he first got to D.C.: “I thought it was a joke” that states had laws on their books that barred linking student growth to teacher evaluations. “All those laws are now gone.”
Elevating the teaching profession: we need to “recruit and retain the next generation of teachers” and demand excellence. One idea: Income-Based Repayment, which would repay all student loans for teachers who complete ten years of teaching.
“We’re beating down the profession…heated rhetoric isn’t helpful.” In South Korea teachers are known as “nation-builders.”
Tenure Reform: “Tenure should never be a life-time guarantee.” Technology is changing the world, but education isn’t moving. Agrarian calendar vs. 24/7 learning. His strategy is “tough-minded collaboration.” On value-added models of teacher evaluations: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” We’ll have a couple of choppy years, and then we’ll get it right.
On great schools: “I’ve yet to visit a good school that didn’t have a good principal.”
On No Child Left Behind: It’s “far too punitive and prescriptive.” It inspires a “dumbed-down curriculum” as states try to game standardized tests. We need to reward excellence, get Washington out of the way/give local educators more room, and look at student growth. NCLB should give successful schools more flexibility with resources and raise standards across all schools.
“We have to invest in early education.” We should make preschool part of a newly-authorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
On school boards and management: “Adult dysfunction hurts kids.” We need to use collective bargaining to drive student achievement.
On Newark: “you can’t have a great city without a great school system.”
On community support: “How do we awaken the community?” “I wish we had more parents with a sense of urgency instead of supporting the status quo.”