Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

Duncan Talks School Improvement, Stimulus, and Education Department Culture

By Alyson Klein — May 29, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan got to use his favorite word again in a speech this morning when he said he wants states and districts to take “dramatic” steps to overhaul schools that are struggling to meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act.

He talked about how, as superintendent in Chicago, he closed the city’s lowest-performing schools and brought in all new staff, resulting in significant academic gains.

But in a wide-ranging speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Duncan said that there’s a shortage of folks out there—among states, districts, and even innovative non-profits—who know how to reshape foundering schools.

“I can count on one hand the number of turnaround specialists doing this work,” he said.

There is already $3 billion for school improvement included as part of the economic stimulus package, and Duncan is pushing for another $1.5 billion in the fiscal year 2010 budget. Some experts have told me that, while that money is great, they’re not sure it will necessarily be put to good use because districts also need expertise to help fix chronically underperforming schools.

Duncan also acknowledged that the $100 billion in stimulus funding for education may have an uneven impact in states, since some, such as California, will still have to make drastic cuts, while others, such as South Dakota, will get an enormous windfall.

But he said that shouldn’t preclude states that are in the red from taking steps to overhaul schools.

“In a time of crisis, you have to look very carefully at how you are spending the money,” he said. “States that have been hardest hit” may be well-positioned to advance reforms, he added. “This is a huge test of leadership.”

Today’s was the latest in a series of tough-talk speeches by Duncan about the need to turn around low-performing schools, with the implication that states and districts that don’t take the hint may be left out of the running for some of the $5 billion in Race to the Top and innovation grant money he will be doling out.

Duncan said he hadn’t expected that so many states would drag their feet in applying for the first round of fiscal stabilization funding in the stimulus package. He said the Education Department hasn’t come up with a contingency plan in case states don’t finish their applications by the July deadline, since he expects them all to be complete by then.

“I don’t think that’s going to be much of a problem,” he said.

Duncan was also asked about his efforts to improve Education Department’s culture, after the department ranked near the bottom of a survey of the best places to work in the federal government. (The survey was taken before the Obama administration took office.)

He said that he will try to create the kind of collegial, professional working climate that he would like schools across the country to adopt.

If the department doesn’t rise in the rankings, “you can hold me accountable,” he said.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Education Department Opens Civil Rights Probes in 5 States That Ban School Mask Mandates
The move on behalf of students with disabilities deepens the fight over masks between the Biden administration and GOP governors.
4 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 13, 2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles in April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP