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Highlights from Arne Duncan’s Twitter Town Hall

By Michele McNeil — August 24, 2011 1 min read
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During a 30-plus-minute, rapid-fire Q & A between Arne Duncan and moderator John Merrow, we learned that 10 days of testing is too much, merit pay for teachers should be voluntary, and the U.S. Secretary of Education is a Twitter “novice.”

For Duncan’s first-ever Twitter town hall, thousands of folks sent questions to the EdSec using the #askarne hashtag, and many were outright “hostile,” Merrow said. But PBS’ education correspondent and the president of Learning Matters managed to get in more than a dozen substantive questions about testing, cheating, teacher merit-pay and charter schools.

Here are highlights from the town hall:

• Duncan is a Twitter “novice” who doesn’t follow a single teacher. (Uh oh, will he be updating his “follows” list?)

• Duncan says “every single governor” has said we need NCLB waivers. Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry has expressed interest, @edpresssec later confirmed.

• As for NCLB waivers given in exchange for adopting Duncan’s reforms, the EdSec says that’s not creating a bigger federal footprint because states are “doing the right thing.”

• When pressed to get specific about what makes for too much testing, Duncan said he thinks 10 days of testing is too much.

• Though a supporter of charter schools, Duncan says he will never support vouchers, and disagrees with Merrow’s assertion that he may not be tough enough on bad charter schools.

• Duncan says pay-for-performance for teachers “can be very helpful” on a “voluntary” basis. (Yet teacher evaluation systems, which had to be revamped to include some emphasis on student test scores, were a crucial part of winning Race to the Top, and probably will be for NCLB waivers, too.)

• This fall, the Education Department plans to come out with some “ideas” on improving schools of education.

• Regarding budget cuts that schools are continuing to make as the economy plods along, Duncan said he’s “pushed extraordinarily hard” to do more with art, drama, physical education, and recess. “Budgets reflect our values.”

• He wants to do another Twitter town hall, this time in the evening.

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