Recently Arne Duncan, the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Education, announced his resignation. I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing him over the years for two main reasons.
1. I don’t agree with his “reformer” policies and
2. I think that a Secretary of Education ought to have some experience and expertise in actual education. Duncan has neither.
Here are some articles about his tenure as head of the U.S. Education Department…
Jersey Jazzman’s post about Duncan’s legacy reads like the Declaration of Independence. However, most states weren’t strong enough or economically healthy enough to stage a rebellion.
Each item in the Jazzman’s list shows how little Duncan understands about learning, schools, children, and public education. On the other hand, he knew enough to keep his children out of schools which were forced to follow his reforms.
- Duncan has created a test-obsessed education culture that has narrowed the curriculum and sucked the joy of learning out of our schools.
- Duncan has fostered an unbridled expansion of charter schools; while some may be well-run and showing marginal gains in test scores, many others have been involved in profit-seeking and corruption so egregious that they put defense contractors to shame.
- Duncan has allowed organizations like Teach For America and the Relay “Graduate” School of Education to provide substandard teacher preparation, even as he promotes the use of noisy, biased student growth measures to rate actual colleges of education.
- Duncan rewarded states that inequitably and inadequately fund their school districts, incredibly holding them up as exemplars.
- Duncan has decimated the morale of America’s teaching corps, de-professionalizing teaching and contributing to an atmosphere where teachers are blamed for problems they did not create.
- Duncan has overseen the implosion of teaching as a career; universities around the country are reporting that fewer students are enrolling as education majors, even as several states report shortages of qualified teaching candidates.
- Duncan has allowed the unprecedented mining of student data, blithely ignoring parental concerns.
- Duncan’s ham-fisted approach to implementing the Common Core has all but guaranteed that we will never see meaningful national standards reform in our lifetimes.
- Duncan inappropriately punished states for not implementing teacher evaluation policies that experts have found to be wholly invalid.
- Duncan has watched while the systematic defunding of our nation’s schools continues.
- Duncan has presided over the continuing resegregation of America’s schools, offering little more than weak platitudes in response.
And, perhaps worst of all, Duncan has denigrated the real concerns of parents, teachers, and students, using the most condescending language possible — all while hypocritically exempting his own children from the effects of his policies.
Diane Ravitch is succinct about Duncan’s legacy. She reported what President Obama said about Duncan…
In the car yesterday, I heard a report that Arne Duncan was stepping down. President Obama said: He did more than anyone else to bring American education into the 21st century, sometimes kicking and screaming.
Taking Obama’s lead, Ravitch explains what Duncan’s version of education in the 21st century means.
So this is what the 21st century will look like: boot camps for minorities; teachers with scripts; schools run for profit; school scams by corporations; education industry traded on New York Stock Exchange; high-yield online schools with high attrition rates; the monetization of public education.
Duncan’s most famous, stupidest comment…Hurricane Katrina was a blessing, apparently.
“I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better.”
So, how is the privatized New Orleans district working out? See for yourself…
Vice President Biden is correct in one part of his statement. He said,
Arne has made almost unprecedented strides in changing the direction of education in this country…
That’s true –– Unfortunately the “direction of education” in which Duncan took the country is the wrong direction!
Arne Duncan has been one of the best Secretaries of Education in our nation’s history. Over the past 7 years, he has been a dynamic leader who brings unparalleled energy to his work. During his time as Secretary, Arne has made almost unprecedented strides in changing the direction of education in this country through his work to improve graduation rates, expand access to community colleges and raise academic standards for students all across the country. He has also done tremendous work through Title IX to make campuses safer for women and girls. He’s a man of great character and principle and he has become a close friend to Jill and me. We wish him all the best and we will miss him dearly.
Duncan was a spokesman for the wealth-based, research denying, so-called “education reform” movement. He was, as I have written before, careful to keep his own children out of schools affected by his poison.
Duncan’s tenure was underscored by his embrace of an agenda that reflected the priorities of what’s become known as the education reform movement: support of charter schools, a willingness to spar with teachers’ unions, and a push for more rigorous teacher evaluations that take students’ standardized test scores into account.
Duncan is also known for the Race to the Top competition, a signature funding competition that used stimulus money to create incentives for states to adopt some of those policies, including common standards. Duncan also became an outspoken supporter of increasing the capacity of early education programs. This week, he made headlines by proposing to decrease incarceration for nonviolent crimes and use that money to increase teacher pay.
In Race to the Top, as in any race, there are winners and losers. Public education ought not to have any winners and losers.
In December of 2010, already two years into Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education, I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson indict Duncan’s education policies for abandoning the very idea of American public education that Dewey and Wellstone had described so eloquently: “There are those who would make the case for ‘a race to the top’ for those who can run. But ‘lift from the bottom’ is the moral imperative because it includes everybody.”
If, as President Obama says, Arne Duncan has “brought our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century,” I hope we will stop to reconsider. Has our society decided to strive for innovation and to abandon universal provision of services and equality of opportunity as overarching goals? And have we become satisfied to blame the teachers in our poorest communities instead of ourselves for the vast injustices that appear at school in the guise of the achievement gaps?
Duncan’s children are moving from one “reform-free” school system to another. To protect them from the damage he, and his “reformist” friends in DFER, the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and others, have done to America’s public schools, he is enrolling them in the private school he went to, the University of Chicago Lab School. It’s a school with highly trained, highly educated, multi-degreed, unionized teachers, small class sizes, and resources their peers in the city don’t get – like libraries and art teachers.
The Duncans could have stayed in Virginia where they were residing (and where Duncan’s kids were attending Common-Core-free public school) for another entire school year. Instead, Duncan’s wife, Karen, and their children headed back to Chicago in July– more than a full school year before Obama would finish his time as a two-term president.
So, for Duncan to say that he is resigning to be with the fam seems more like he knew he would be resigning at the end of 2015– right in the middle of a school year. So, it became realistic for the Duncans to move back to Chicago summer 2015.
I was never on the “Dump Duncan” bandwagon. I heartily disagree with the “NCLB on steroids” policy thrust of the current Department of Education, but I never saw Duncan as effective spokesperson for the behind-the-scenes big guns he for whom was fronting: Gates. Walton. Broad. DFER. He could dish out memorized talking points, sort of, but skilled interviewers have run circles around the Secretary of Education.
Furthermore, getting rid of a hapless Secretary doesn’t mean the policy-making will improve, just as getting rid of an incompetent President hasn’t meant smooth sailing for the Republic. Arne’s blunders have not slowed down the drive to capture the previously untapped K-12 education marketplace.
A Fan of Talking Points
“He could dish out memorized talking points…” Duncan couldn’t do much in public but spout talking points, even when he was talking about basketball. The following interview with Jon Stewart was proof positive that Duncan can spout his talking points, but beyond that he was out of his league.
He never really responded to Stewart’s repeated questions about teachers opinions and actual concerns about Race to the Top.
Listen when he says that schools belong to the community. Remember that Race to the Top forces schools to close only to be replaced by privately run charters.
Listen when he says Race to the Top helps to support “great” teachers and remember that his definition of “great” means high test scores and VAM…
No doubt Duncan will take a job with some “reform” organization — like a “think tank,” a charter organization, a test-and-punish company like Pearson, or some state that wants to destroy their public school system.
Much rejoicing took place Friday when it was first announced that Arne Duncan was leaving the Obama administration early. Social media was a-buzz poking fun at the Secretary of Education who will now ride into the sunset to make money likely in the private sector, probably with something having to do with children. When you grow up around teachers it gives you a warm spot in your heart (sarcasm).
Perhaps he will work in President Obama’s future Presidential Center giving us his take on education matters from time to time—like Margaret “NCLB” Spellings sits cloistered in President G.W. Bush’s special place.
Or he might be like President Bush’s other ed. secretary Rod “NCLB” Paige, remember him? He was the guy who likened teachers to terrorists. He sits on the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation’s board, Eli Broad’s board too, and has done a bunch of serious periphery education stuff to foster privatization and make money. Here’s his Bio.
Maybe Arne could become Dean Duncan at the Relay Graduate School of Education—or even a real university president! The possibilities are endless for the guy who thinks soccer moms dote too much on their children, or that Katrina helped fix schools in New Orleans.
And, of course, there is Duncan’s coordinated and backed-up push for all children with disabilities to take regular tests. Who can forget that?
Duncan was never qualified to be Secretary of Education. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in Sociology and a plan to play professional basketball. He learned all he knew about education from watching his mom tutor high-risk students…his “solutions” for the Chicago Public Schools didn’t work and formed the basis for his attack on the nation’s public schools.
Duncan doesn’t know anything about public education. He never taught in a public school. He never attended a public school.
The lesson: no matter how close the friendship, no matter how loyal the friend: beware. Arne Duncan, your basketball buddy, an elite upbringing, jumped onboard the worst of the education reform ideas. As Linda Darling Hammond, Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, renowned researcher after researcher questioned the Duncan agenda, Obama never strayed from supporting his friend.
IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE
Everyone who blames Duncan for this administration’s public education policy ought to take a close look at his replacement. Replacing Duncan with John King is like George W. Bush replacing Rod Paige (“Teachers are terrorists”) with Margaret Spellings (“I’m qualified because I’m a mom”) By allowing John King to take over as Education Secretary, President Obama is guaranteeing that the Duncan policies continue. King’s appointment is a slap in the face to every public school teacher, administrator, and student. The damage that Duncan did will continue.
…with the entire country embracing Race to the Top, Gun to the Head policies like Common Core, I’m not feeling the love. The high-stakes testing and developmentally inappropriate tasks for our children (and not his, or Duncan’s, or Obama’s) are intolerable. That’s not to mention the junk-science teacher ratings that have been foisted upon us, rejected by none other than the American Statistical Association.
Education is apparently on the president’s “Eff-It” list. At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama said that he didn’t have a bucket list, but with time running out on his administration, he did have something that rhymed with it. The president’s choice of John King* to oversee the department after Duncan is a signal he’s not that concerned with education politics at this point.
That’s clever, but not precisely accurate. It appears to me that President Obama, who’s certainly in a position to say “Eff-it” to pretty much anything, has decided to continue with the reformy policies that are King’s signature. While it wasn’t clear to UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who deemed King suitable as an independent arbiter for our evaluation system, it’s quite clear to anyone paying attention that John King supports all things reformy, specifically including Common Core and junk science evaluations.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
Click here to sign the petition.
For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.