Here is the transcript from the Diane Rehm show and its interview with Arne Duncan. This is the interview where Duncan said he was “not familiar’ with the Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block vouchers in Louisiana because they will undermine court-ordered desegregation.

Two others were interviewed about Duncan’s policies: Mike Petrilli of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Richard Rothstein of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

Rothstein was asked whether Duncan was the most powerful and influential education secretary ever:

“Oh, yes, he certainly has because he’s had enormous flexibility without congressional authorization as a result of the stimulus bill and the Raise to the Top funds. The problem is that he’s got an entirely incoherent approach to education policy which, as I said, is doing enormous harm. He ended his comments before with promoting the importance of early childhood education. I fully agree with that.

“Everybody who studies student achievement knows that the one most important factors affecting student achievements is whether children come to school in the first place prepared to learn, whether they’ve had good literacy experiences in early childhood where they’ve had high-quality care. He promotes that. It’s very important. It’s wonderful that he promotes it.

“But then he turns around and advocates and implements an aggressive accountability policy which holds schools accountable for the same results whether or not their children have had high quality early childhood instruction. If early childhood is really as important as he says it is, and I think it is, how can you hold schools accountable for high standards and high accomplishment if children haven’t had those early childhood experiences?

“So, on the one hand, he advocates all the right things, early childhood. He advocates health clinics in schools. He advocates after-school programs and has promised neighborhoods program.

“But when it comes to actually implementing an accountability system, it makes no difference. It has no effect whatsoever.

“His Race to the Top program, for example, gave states no points for whether they had early childhood programs or health clinics in schools or after-school programs. And so he talks a good game when it comes to all of these important influences in education, but when it comes down to the actual accountability policies that he’s promoting, they have no effect whatsoever.”

Rothstein said earlier in the exchange:

“Well, the key point he made, which I think has been lost in the debate, is there’s a big difference between having higher standards and the consequences of those standards. Nobody objects to having higher standards, the common core or if they are higher and to the extent they are higher. The real issue is that what Secretary Duncan has been advocating is tying accountability to the tests that are based on those standards. We’ve had 10 years now of accountability tied to tests based on so-called lower standards, and they’ve completely corrupted our education system.

“They’ve made the system much worse. Teachers have had incentives to narrow the curriculum to the things that are tested. Students have been trained to take tests rather than to learn the underlying curriculum. The same thing is going to happen if we tie tests to these higher standards. Teachers will learn what kinds of things are going to be on the test. There’ll be a lot of test preparation going on. The tests will not reflect what children really know but rather how skilled they are at taking tests.

“And it won’t account for all of the other things besides classroom instruction that affect how high student achievement is. So the common core standards are one thing, but the real issue is the attempt — the misguided attempt to have very high stakes attached to tests to measure those standards. Those will corrupt education just as much as now as they have in the past, and it’s unfortunate Secretary Duncan and his colleagues haven’t learned the lessons from No Child Left Behind and are preparing now to implement the same kinds of mistakes that were done in the last 10 years.”