The peripatetic Arne Duncan took his “Listening and Learning” tour on the No Child Left Behind Act to the airwaves last week, as the U.S. secretary of education held what was billed as a National Town Hall Meeting televised live and made available online.
Mr. Duncan told the audience of parents and teachers gathered in a small television studio in Shirlington, Va., that he wants to see tighter control from the federal government on what states’ goals should be, but would like to consider how there can be more flexibility in ways they get students there.
Over the years, states have set standards low, he said, leaving their students “totally inadequately prepared” for college and careers. The secretary said he would like to encourage states to raise standards, but give districts “lots of autonomy to hit that bar.” And he said he’s more interested in students’ growth and gains than he is “individual test scores.”
Mr. Duncan took questions via video from people in the 192,000-student Hillsborough County, Fla., school system, which includes Tampa. The superintendent there, MaryEllen Elia, recommended national, or more uniform, academic-content standards, to allow for better comparisons across state lines.
Mr. Duncan, through the $4 billion Race to the Top program created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was enthusiastic.
“Amen,” said Mr. Duncan, who has encouraged states to adopt more uniform, rigorous standards.
A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2009 edition of Education Week