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July 09, 2013 2 min read
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| NEWS | District Dossier

School Districts Are Turning to Disney for Inspiration, Improvement

Disney, the world’s most famous maker of dreams, has become one of the most sought-after gurus for school districts searching for new ways to make their dreams of increased academic achievement come true.

The Disney Institute—the professional-development arm of the Magic Kingdom—most recently is working with the Broward County schools in south Florida. The 260,000-student district hired the corporate titan of fun to help improve employee culture and customer service, according to The Miami Herald. The goal is to make Broward’s schools “a more pleasant place for students, parents, and district employees,” according to the paper.

As Broward’s chief quality-service officer (sounds like a Disney-inspired job title, doesn’t it?) tells the Herald: “The goal is not to make us look like Disney,” it’s “what is our version of Disney, for Broward County schools?”

The Disney Institute has worked with hundreds of school systems and charter school operators. The 22,000-student Elizabeth, N.J., district worked with Disney on leadership development, customer service, and other best practices. District employees also learned how Disney’s employees anticipate every “guest’s” needs, including “where to place garbage cans or position toilets.”

—Lesli A. Maxwell

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Duncan Mounts Strongest Defense Yet of Push for Common-Core Standards

In a speech to the American Society of News Editors, in Washington, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mounted his strongest defense yet of the common-standards movement and sought to beat back claims that the federal government has gone too far to encourage the standards’ adoption.

“The federal government didn’t write them, didn’t approve them, and doesn’t mandate them, and we never will,” Duncan told the ASNE late last month.

He also noted that the standards are not lessons or curricula, which the federal government is prohibited from getting involved in. And he called some of the opponents’ claims—that the standards and tests will lead to mind control and biometric brain mapping—"wacky.”

Then, Duncan sought to lay out exactly what the federal government’s role has been, which isn’t so cut and dried. The standards were already in development when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, Duncan said. But, while serious discussions began in 2007, the real work of developing standards began in April 2009.

Then Race to the Top came along. The competitive program awarded 50 points, or 10 percent, to states for adopting and implementing common standards and assessments. In a contest in which only a few points separated winners from losers, those points mattered.

—Michele McNeil

A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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