Archives for category: Duncan, Arne

This scintillating article by Alex Leary in the Tampa Bay Times explores the curious but close alliance between Jeb Bush and the Obama administration. Jeb, Arne, and Barack are on the same page. They all believe in testing, high-stakes, charter schools, closing schools, and the Common Core.

He tells the story of the day in March 2011 when the three pals met at Miami Central High School to celebrate its successful “turnaround” after the firing of most of the staff. Leary doesn’t mention that while the President and Duncan were in Miami, thousands of protestors were demonstrating at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker and the legislature were stripping away the rights of public sector unions.

He also doesn’t mention, probably doesn’t know, that one month after the Bush-Obama-Duncan photo op at Miami Central, the state notified the school that it was on the list to be closed because of its low scores.

Strange buddies, indeed. Allies in promoting truly terrible education policies.

Remember a few months ago when everyone was wringing their hands and agreeing there was too much testing? Remember Arne Duncan said testing was sucking the oxygen out of the classroom?

That was then. This is now. Duncan is upset that Chicago is backing away from Commmon Core PARCC testing.

Mike Klonsky reports that Duncan threatened to cut off $1.2 billion in state aid if Chicago doesn’t give the PARCC.

This is crazy. The Secretary of Education is not supposed to tell states and districts what tests to use. He has overstepped his bounds, as he has done so often in the past. He has no understanding of federalism or of the limits of the federal role in education. The law says that no federal official may try to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction. Tests influence curriculum and instruction. By funding two tests and then compelling states to use them, he is flouting the law.

If he cuts any funding, Illinois should sue him.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, takes issue with Secretary Duncan in reauthorization of NCLB. Duncan said last week that annual testing was “a line in the sand,” that is, non-negotiable. This, of course, ignores the views if educators and parents, who SES how the testing obsession has harmed teaching and learning and narrowed the curriculum.

Randi on Secretary Duncan’s ESEA Reauthorization Remarks

WASHINGTON— Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s speech regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“As I’ve said before, any law that doesn’t address our biggest challenges—funding inequity, segregation, the effects of poverty—will fail to make the sweeping transformation our kids and our schools need. Today, it was promising to hear Secretary Duncan make a call for equity, stressing, as we did through the Equity and Excellence Commission, the importance of early childhood education and engaging curriculum. It was encouraging to hear him laud the hard work of educators, who have had to overcome polarization and deep cuts after a harsh recession. And it was heartening to hear him acknowledge the progress our schools have made. However, the robust progress we saw in the first 40 years after the passage of ESEA has slowed over the last 10 years.

“On testing, we are glad the secretary has acknowledged that ‘there are too many tests that take up too much time’ and that ‘we need to take action to support a better balance.’ However, current federal educational policy—No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and waivers—has enshrined a focus on testing, not learning, especially high-stakes testing and the consequences and sanctions that flow from it. That’s wrong, and that’s why there is a clarion call for change. The waiver strategy and Race to the Top exacerbated the test-fixation that was put in place with NCLB, allowing sanctions and consequences to eclipse all else. From his words today, it seems the secretary may want to justify and enshrine that status quo and that’s worrisome.

“Yes, we need to get parents, educators and communities the information they need. And all of us must be accountable and responsible for helping all children succeed. That’s why we have suggested some new interventions, like community schools and wraparound services; project-based learning; service internships; and individual plans for over-age students, under-credited students and those who are not reading at grade level by third grade.

“If one test per year can cause an entire school to be shuttered or all the teachers fired, something is wrong with the way that test is being used. Even in the District of Columbia, where the secretary spoke from today, the school district has pulled back from the consequential nature of these tests.

“At the end of the day, the most important part of the debate shouldn’t happen in big speeches. It should happen in real conversations with parents, students and teachers, who are closest to the classroom. Communities understand the huge positive effect ESEA had for impoverished and at-risk communities 50 years ago. Those communities are saying loudly and clearly that they want more supports for students and schools, and data used to inform and improve, not sanction. It’s my hope that, in the coming weeks, leaders in Congress and the administration will listen to these voices and shape a law that reflects the needs of all our kids.”

Postscript: An advanced copy of Secretary Duncan’s remarks today included a quote from Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, on accountability. To this, Weingarten responded, “If the secretary wants to invoke Shanker on accountability, then invoke him on his proposals for grade-span over annual testing. Shanker once called for ‘an immediate end to standardized tests as they are now,’ instead favoring testing over five-year intervals.”


Randi Weingarten

American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

Stephanie Simon of Politico has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s education legacy. While some credit him for his contribution to increasing early childhood education, the likelihood is that his legacy will be a great fizzle because of his unquestioning allegiance to standardized testing. Many Republicans are thinking of restoring greater control to the states and gutting annual testing, but Arne Duncan considers annual testing to be non-negotiable.

Here is Peter Greene’s take on Duncan’s “vision” for NCLB: more of the same. The status quo. Not a whiff of innovative thinking. Greene asks why Duncan is recommending a rewrite of NCLB:

“Why is he doing it now, when he’s had his way for the past several years? The answer is obvious– if the GOP really rewrites ESEA, all of Duncan and Obama’s reformy work will be trashed. Duncan’s announcement is not a clarion call to change a single comma of the administration’s policy– it’s an announcement that he intends to preserve it against the GOP onslaught that’s about to begin. For all intents and purposes, Duncan has had the ESEA rewrite he’s wanted for five years, and the GOP is threatening to take it away from him. Duncan is jumping on the bus before he is thrown under it, but there will now be a hell of a battle over who’s going to drive and where the bus is going to go.”

Curiously, the Obama administration is more devoted to the principles of NCLB than Republicans.

This is funny.

Politico reports:

“BAY STATE SMACKDOWN: Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned a glowing tribute in the Boston Globe [] this week praising the legacy of outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick in improving the state’s schools. “Quite simply,” he wrote, “Massachusetts leads the nation.” That raised the hackles of Jim Stergios, executive director of the conservative Pioneer Institute. He responded with his own op-ed [ ], which opens with the line: “Who says Common Core advocates don’t like fiction?” Stergios notes that the big gains in Massachusetts test scores came before Patrick took office – and that scores have since dropped in several key areas, such as third-grade reading proficiency and SAT scores. Stergios blasts Patrick for abandoning Massachusetts’ famously high standards in favor of the Common Core. He’s even harsher on Duncan, suggesting that the secretary suffers from a “toxic mix of self-importance and the inability to see reality.”

Recently the Néw York Post ran an article about Al Sharpton, saying that he received money from corporations in return for not campaigning against them as racist. The story said that the firm of former Chancellor Harold Levy paid Sharpton $500,000 to help a client who was competing to manage a gambling franchise.

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Néw Tork City’s most activist group Class Size Matters, writes that the NY Post left out the key details of that transaction.

She writes:

“Left out of this account is the most interesting part of the story. It’s not just that the money for Sharpton was ostensibly for “equity” and funneled through Education Reform Now, the non-profit arm of Joe William’s pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform. The larger context is that ERN was merely a pass-through, and the money was directed to Sharpton through the Education Equity Project, founded by then-Chancellor Joel Klein, in exchange for Sharpton agreeing to co-chair the group and adopt Klein’s aggressive anti-teacher, pro-charter stance.”

A few days ago, Secretary Arne Duncan tweeted this question:

“What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?
2:44 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

Within minutes, someone created a hashtag #whatif, and parents and teachers began flooding Twitter with their own “what if” questions. Valerie Strauss reprinted some of them here.

Here is one:

“Jeanne Berrong @kayringe
@arneduncan #WhatIf the DOE committed both to identifying what made their 5 worst reform initiatives failures & removing them from schools?
5:52 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

Here is another:

“Karen Lewis @KarenLewisCTU
#whatif @arneduncan, children got their lives back, their joy of discovery and a safe place to learn to think critically? Play is real.
10:48 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

And another:

“Chris Cerrone @Stoptesting15
#WhatIf Every family & student boycotted @arneduncan ‘s high-stakes testing & we moved to a well-rounded education w/ authentic assessment.
9:41 PM – 30 Dec 2014″

People across America are speaking truth to power, right now on Twitter, where they are tweeting in opposition to charter takeovers in Tennessee.

The BATs’ twitter storm using the hashtags #WeBelieve2015 and #beliefgap calling out Tennessee Achievement School District superintendent Chris Barbic and his privatization agenda has gotten the attention of The Tennessean Newspaper. They’ve posted an active link to the twitter discussion on their website.

Thank goodness for Peter Greene, who finds the time to read reams of think tank reports and even the daily and weekly promotional materials produced by the U.S. Department of Education. He even reads the Department’s official blog, which regularly reminds the citizenry of what a good job the Secretary and the Department are doing, what a great contribution they are making to the improvement of American education.


Peter Greene came across a recent statement from Arne Duncan that is supposed to be his personal reflections on what he has learned as he traveled the country. Peter says he actually didn’t learn anything new. What he learned is that he has been right all along!


Peter writes:


Many people are unclear about the meaning of “learn.” Learning implies a change of state, a movement from not-knowing to knowing, from not-understanding to understanding. The world has a large supply of people who are not interested in a change of state, and so their interactions with the world around them are not about understanding or grasping or discovering, but about confirmation. They are not looking for a change of state, but of a more solid, comfortable settling into their status quo.


Politics are not conducive to learning. You don’t get many political points for saying, “Hey, I’ve look at some facts, talked to some people, examined the issue, and I’ve come to a different understanding.” In life, we aspire to be, find, foster life-long learners. In politics, learning just gets you a “flip-flopper” label.


So it’s not particularly surprising that in traveling through fifty states, Arne “learned” that he’s always been right about anything. Not once in fifty states did he encounter something that made him say, “Damn. I need to rethink this.”


And more:


Duncan goes on to cite some specific visits in which he was excited to discover that he has been right all along and that his policies are awesome. This is not learning. By the end of this piece of puffery, it’s clear that Arne has learned nothing in five years, but he has collected confirmations of his pre-existing beliefs….


The basic point of writing is that you have something you want to say and somebody you want to say it to. Arne’s essay appears to fail on both points.


I take it as the intersection of Arne in particular and politics in general– a pointless, empty exercise in talking to the air to signify, at a minimum, that you are still doing something, and that nothing has changed (just in case anybody was wondering). Devoid of personality, purpose or passion, it hints at a bureaucrat who has simply lost his moorings and any particular contact with actual human beings and the world they live in, but who may not realize that he’s even adrift.


Take it from me. It is very hard to admit you have been wrong. It is very hard to look at the evidence and publicly acknowledge error. What is especially problematic is that Arne Duncan has taken it upon himself to “reform” American education by imposing the lessons he learned in Chicago. Most people would agree that Chicago is far from being a model for America. But more important, no Secretary of Education in the past 35 years has taken it upon himself to control not only K-12 education, but higher education as well. Frankly, it’s alarming. I wish that Arne had learned in his travels that there is wisdom about education found in schools and universities across the nation, and that one of our great strengths as a nation is that we expect people and institutions to make decisions that work best for them and to operate without mandates from distant government agencies.



The federal government has been a strong funder of privately managed charter schools since the Presidency of Bill Clinton. The charter movement got a solid boost from his support of what were supposed to be laboratories of innovation, collaborating with public schools.

Until the past decade, the role of the United States Secretary of Education was to improve public education. Since the Presidency of George W. Bush, the federal government has put its massive political and financial weight on the side of privatization. The Bush revisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act–renamed “No Child Left Behind”–created a series of steps that were ruinous to the nation’s public schools. Given the unrealistic mandate that every students in every school must be proficient in reading and math by 2014—a goal met by no state and by no other nation–the public schools were set up for failure. The sanctions for failing to meet this impossible goal were all punitive, no help: firing the staff, closing the school, turning the school into a charter school, state takeover of the school. Not one of the sanctions had any evidence to support its efficacy. Yet both parties went along with a bill whose goal was to undermine, weaken, close, and stigmatize the nation’s public schools. Of course, matters got even worse when Barack Obama was elected and chose Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education. Duncan hired his key staff from groups (e.g., the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation) that actively promoted privatization and high-stakes testing (that led to privatization). Duncan never lost a chance to bemoan the “mediocrity” and “low expectations” of public schools, or to praise the success of privately managed charters.


In this toxic climate, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have created numerous financial rewards for those who with to open or expand charter school, thus encouraging the advance of privatization. Make no mistake. This is a historic turn of events in our nation’s education system, away from a public responsibility to a market-based approach to opening and closing schools, with test scores as the only gauge of quality, with indifference to desegregation, and with lessened accountability for charter schools whose owners are politically connected.


Our frequent commentator Laura Chapman has gathered a summary of federal programs that encourage privatization; these grants are enhanced by hundreds of millions of dollars from private foundations, including the Walton (Walmart) Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Helmsley Foundation, the Fisher Family (the Gap) Foundation, and many more.

Chapman writes:



Corruption in charters is aided and abetted by U.S. Department of Education, directly and indirectly by your taxes and mine.

Investments available in 2014 from USDE, and note that much of this money was authorized in the No Child Left Behind Act.


The USDE 2014 Funding for Charter School Programs (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) Total = $248.1 Million.

1. State Education Agency (SEA) Grants and Non-SEA Grants: (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $153.9 Million. These Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to SEAs, who in turn, make subgrants to charter schools. But, when SEAs do not apply for or they are denied funding, individual charter schools can apply directly to the USDE. Funding is used to help cover charter school start-up costs.
2. Replication & Expansion Grant. $60.1 Million. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis to non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) that have demonstrated success, including improved academic achievement.
3. National Leadership Activities Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants fund projects of national significance to improve charter school quality, as well as money to disseminate information about the projects.
4. State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grant (ESEA,Title V, Part B, Subpart 1) $11 Million. Competitive grants to states to help cover charter school facilities costs.
5. Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program (ESEA, Title V, Part B, Subpart 2) $11.9 Million. Competitive grants to public and non-profit entities that enhance the ability of public charter schools to raise private capital to acquire, construct, renovate, or lease academic facilities.
In October,2014 USDE announced grants to 27 charter organizations in 12 states worth $39.7 million.
For Replication and Expansion. Here is one sure to insult New Yorkers: the fabulous Success Academy Charter Schools, for $2,234,500. The biggest overall winner is KIPP for $13,789,074 worth of expansion, and the biggest winner by state is California $26,780,502 followed by Tennessee, $3,112,402
For Planning, Program Design, and Implementation Grants, the biggest winner at $308,270 is the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, operator of Gulen charters with issues with scandal documented at .
The big winner by state for start-ups is Washington, with four new charters funded at $1,122,606, about $250.000 per school. Next is Oregon, with three new schools, $692,427 total, Illinois with three, including expansion of the Nobel network already in 12 states and saturating greater Chicago. Total for Illinois-based operations $575,705.


information sources: the following and


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