From guest blogger Dakarai I. Aarons:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a Maryland elementary school this morning to promote the release of $44 billion in education stimulus funding.
Before heading off to visit two classrooms, Duncan told the crowd packed into the school library that with money comes accountability and a push for reform to improve education across the country.
States are going to be required to show more information, including how their state test scores compare with national tests. They must also show measures that tie principals and individual teachers with student performance. And Duncan said the Education Department will be taking a harder look at what states and districts do with chronically underperforming schools.
“We have this magical opportunity to invest significantly in these best practices and scale up what works,” he said. “What’s going on at this school has to be the norm, not the exception.”
The school, Doswell E. Brooks Elementary near the border with southeast Washington, is a 2008 Title I Distinguished School that has posted big gains on test scores over the last five years.
Asked how stimulus dollars and resulting innovations would make schools and their outcomes “dramatically better,” one of the secretary’s key phrases, Duncan said the U.S. must push toward the goal identified by President Obama recently of leading the world in college graduates.
“At the end of the day, we have to dramatically increase college graduates,” he said.
Duncan wasn’t alone in singing the praises of stimulus funding. He was joined by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Maryland state schools superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards and Prince George’s County (Md.) interim superintendent William Hite in a group that also included representatives from several national education organizations.
The county school system is using the stabilization money to plug a $151 million deficit that was going to require furloughs and larger class sizes.
“He’s a pretty good reader, isn’t he?” Duncan said about the governor, whom the education secretary said was one of his heroes.
When the kids asked him what job he’d do if he weren’t education secretary, Duncan said while he enjoys his current job, he’d still be CEO of Chicago Public Schools, a job he said he loved.
“I miss home. I miss the the kids there,” he said.