Posts Tagged ‘Secretary Duncan’

Sec. Duncan and House Committee Clash Over NCLB Waivers

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Weeks ago, we reported U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s threats to waive parts of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) if Congress does not reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before the start of the next school year.

Since then, members of Congress have questioned Duncan’s assertion and his right to grant waivers to states in exchange for a commitment to follow initiatives that he champions. Rep. John Kline (MN), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, disapproved of Duncan’s actions and requested more information on Duncan’s plan.

Secretary Duncan provided a response this week. In his letter to Rep. Kline and Rep. Hunter, Duncan explained that any instance of overriding the current system would provide only a temporary fix until the House completes reauthorization of ESEA. Duncan wrote that “I am convinced that current law increasingly is discouraging [states] from implementing important State and locally developed reforms and other innovations to the detriment of students.” He also explained that ESEA was due for reauthorization in 2007, and the Department of Education must move forward with more innovative options for education reform that did not exist at the time that NCLB was enacted.

While Duncan’s letter described his reasons for issuing waivers, he did not provide details on the waiver plan, such as when waivers would be reviewed or enacted. He did mention that state and local input will be considered.

After receiving Duncan’s response, Rep. Kline’s spokesperson stated that “It is disappointing the secretary continues to elude questions about his plan… Instead of touting murky alternatives, the secretary should lend his support to the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ongoing efforts to advance targeted education legislation.”

Today, the Committee expects to release its third in a series of five bills intended to reauthorize ESEA. Secretary Duncan has already stated disapproval of the third bill.

Read more about the third bill from the House Committee, which aims to provide increased funding flexibility as part of ESEA reauthorization, in tomorrow’s Legislative Update from NASDCTEc.

By Kara in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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New Accountability Roadmap May Add Pressure for Faster ESEA Reauthorization

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Last week, NASDCTEc reported on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s efforts to pressure Congress to hasten reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by issuing waivers for states to bypass parts of the current law. Now, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a nonprofit membership organization representing education chiefs from each state, has released a roadmap that will apply further pressure for Congress to take action.

CCSSO’s roadmap, currently a working draft, proposes “next-generation accountability systems aligned with college- and career-ready expectations for all students.” The roadmap is a combined effort of chiefs from 40 states and the District of Columbia to outline areas that should be included in state accountability systems, specifically through ESEA reauthorization. The accountability systems would still require schools to meet high standards, and would also provide more feedback and support to help schools make continuous improvements.

If Congress does not speed up the ESEA reauthorization process, states plan to request waivers to build new state accountability systems based on the roadmap instead of using the federal accountability system, according to leaders at CCSSO. If this occurs, the Department of Education will be inundated with requests for waivers all addressing essentially the same topic. This would unify the focus of the waiver requests received by the Department and would make very clear the kind of accountability systems preferred by states in the new ESEA legislation.

Yesterday, Congress approved the second in a series of education reform bills designed to overhaul NCLB. Despite pressure from Duncan, CCSSO, and others, it looks unlikely that Congress will complete reauthorization prior to the upcoming school year.

By Kara in News, Public Policy, Resources
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Duncan Threatens to Waive Parts of NCLB This Fall

Friday, June 17th, 2011

In an announcement released by the U.S. Department of Education this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan threatened to take action if Congress does not reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) before next school year. Duncan expounded upon his announcement in a recent op-ed.

The Secretary reported that America’s students cannot afford to wait any longer for reform. Duncan wrote that, “While Congress works, state and local school districts are buckling under the law’s goals and mandates.” Schools are rapidly approaching the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) 2014 deadline to have all students meet proficiency goals in reading or mathematics; many schools are not on track to meet the requirements of the old law and will face futile sanctions as a result.

If Congress does not reauthorize ESEA by the fall, Duncan is prepared to take matters into his own hands. As the Secretary of Education, Duncan has the authority to waive certain aspects of the law, including the NCLB proficiency deadline. In exchange, participating states would agree to adopt Duncan’s other efforts, such as expanding charter schools and reconstituting poorly-performing schools.

Despite pressure from Duncan, Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate education committee, stated that Duncan’s decision is drastic. Rep. John Kline, Republican chairman of the House education committee, said of Duncan, “He’d like to get this done before they go back to school in September. We’re not going to do that.”

Opinion articles from former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Rep. John Kline were also published.

By Kara in Public Policy
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Sec. Duncan, Experts Talk WIA and Jobs for Youth

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

As the country still struggles with the effects of the Great Recession, employment opportunities for less-seasoned workers are the hardest to find. Without prior job experience, teenagers face particularly bleak prospects. The current level of unemployment for teenagers is at an all-time high. Yesterday, Jobs for America’s Graduates, a non-profit organization, convened several governors, corporate executives and organization leaders to brainstorm ways to boost academic and economic outcomes for high-risk youth in the midst of the unemployment crisis.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off the event by reiterating a point that he frequently makes: successful local programs need to be taken to scale. When an attendee asked how to prepare high school students beyond academia, Duncan pointed to “great” Career Technical Education (CTE) and early college programs as ways to make school more relevant to students. Though the Secretary acknowledges the benefits of CTE, states and localities scramble to prepare for major funding cuts to CTE effective later this year.

A staffer from Senator Harkin’s office commented that Senators are now working on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to better leverage government resources and increase alignment between programs. He noted that many Senators were struck by the results of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that identified many areas of wasteful spending due to program overlap.

Speaker Boehner’s Assistant on Policy echoed that Republican Members feel justified in making cuts to job training programs because of the GAO report. She also stated that Perkins is not on the schedule for review in the near future.

Panelists and participants agreed that skilled positions must be presented as respectable career options for students. Many followed Duncan’s suggestions to replicate best practices, and some suggested that states make high-impact practices mandatory. Other ideas included: increasing service learning opportunities, raising the compulsory age for dropping out from age 16, and including graduation rates as an accountability measure. Though CTE was not a central part of the conversation, most participants agreed that job training and education, key aspects of CTE, must be further integrated.

By Kara in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Spring Meeting: Duncan Pushes for Higher CTE Student Outcomes

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Though he sees Career Technical Education (CTE) as “a tremendous force for good,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that many CTE programs are not delivering the necessary student outcomes.

At the NASDCTEc/OVAE Joint Leadership Meeting last week, Duncan told State Directors and other attendees that many CTE programs are not rigorous enough, and that they need to focus more on preparing CTE students for high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs.

The Secretary also emphasized that postsecondary completion is the bottom line; CTE programs must prepare students to earn postsecondary credentials or industry-recognized certifications. This is not surprising as the country strives to meet President Obama’s goal to have the highest number of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Besides achieving high postsecondary or certificate completion rates, Duncan proposed that quality CTE programs must demonstrate increased graduation rates and decreased dropout rates.

Duncan stated that programs or schools exhibiting high statistics in these areas should be replicated, while CTE programs not yielding results should be phased out. While he promotes taking successful CTE programs to scale, the Secretary separately noted that programs should be locally-driven and “the opposite of cookie-cutter.”

Sharing best practices in CTE is critical at this time. CTE programs that are not yielding high-achieving students must look to the examples of more successful programs and revamp.

Despite Duncan’s message, State Directors continue to cite encouraging statistics and compelling examples showing the success of CTE in preparing college- and career-ready students.

By Kara in Uncategorized
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Duncan Defends FY12 Budget, and Perkins Cuts, Before the House

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the House twice this week concerning the Obama Administration’s FY12 education budget – on Wednesday before the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Thursday in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

During the Education and the Workforce hearing, Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA) asked the Secretary why the Administration was proposing to cut Perkins CTE funding when CTE students outperform their peers in math and science. Thompson also wanted to know how schools could be expected to offer higher quality CTE programs with fewer resources. Duncan responded that results from Perkins-funded programs across the country are mixed – some are great, but some are antiquated, so schools must learn from what is working and replicate.

At today’s appropriations hearing, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) also asked the Secretary about the proposed cuts to Perkins, noting that CTE programs lead students to high wage, high skill, high demand careers through career pathways at a time when skilled workers are needed more than ever. Like Thompson, she said that CTE students in her district outperform non-CTE students in math and reading, and graduate high school at a higher rate. Again, Duncan responded that some CTE programs are great, while others are not, and that they made the tough decision to “cut where we could, to invest where we must.”

It is clear from the Secretary’s answers that more consistent data about outcomes is needed to show the Administration that CTE programs are serving students well and leading to high achievement and high graduation and completion rates. Until we can tell a different story about CTE than the one Duncan is familiar with, cuts to Perkins may become a reality.

By Nancy in Legislation
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Secretary Duncan and Secretary Solis Launch First Community College Summit in Philadelphia

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis gave remarks this morning at the first of four Community College Summits. The Community College of Philadelphia hosted 150 invited guests including regional community college presidents, students, and leaders from businesses, foundations, and the government. The focus of the first summit was “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce.”

Secretary Duncan once again lauded community colleges, calling them the “unrecognized gem” of institutions within the education continuum. He emphasized that both 2-year and 4-year institutions cannot just focus on access, but they must also be adamant about increasing completion rates to meet President Obama’s goal for 2020 – to have the highest proportion of college graduates worldwide.

Secretary Solis noted that the role of community colleges in training healthcare workers is critical, as healthcare will continue to be one of the fastest growing sectors in need of skilled workers. Solis also pushed for stronger partnerships between community colleges and businesses to meet regional challenges.

The panelists, most from foundations or businesses, also discussed partnerships between community colleges and businesses or foundations. They focused on using leverage to stretch funding and on the necessity of quality data to back community colleges’ progress. Particular attention was paid to the use of competency-based education and contextual learning opportunities to accelerate adult learner degree attainment.

Though she did not attend the summit, Dr. Jill Biden wrote an op-ed on the topic in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

The next Community College Summit will take place on March 9th at the Lone Star Community College District in Houston, Texas.

By Kara in News
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Obama Proposes Deep Perkins Cuts in FY12 Budget

Monday, February 14th, 2011

President Barack Obama today released his FY12 budget, which proposed increasing Department of Education funding by $2 billion, or 11%, but there were significant cuts to Perkins programs. As he did in last year’s budget, the President merged Title II Tech Prep with the Title I Basic State Grant. However, this year he also proposed cutting $264 million from Title I, bringing the total appropriations for FY12 to $1 billion (13.9% decrease).

The Department’s rationale for the cut is that:

You can see a breakdown of the impact of cuts on each state here.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this afternoon at the Department’s Budget Briefing said that “While we know that high-quality career and technical education strategies have the potential to prepare students for jobs in the knowledge economy, many career and technical programs haven’t lived up to their promise of preparing students for careers and college.” It is vitally important that we have the data and examples to back up our assertions that CTE programs do prepare students for college and careers. Please send any information you have on postsecondary going rates and programs linked to high skill, high demand careers to Nancy Conneely at

By Nancy in Legislation
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Secretary Duncan and Harvard Scholars Showcase Benefits of CTE

Friday, February 4th, 2011

On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan referred to CTE as the “neglected stepchild of education reform” and expressed an urgent need to change this perception. Duncan’s remarks were prompted by the release of Pathways to Prosperity, a major report suggesting a need for increased high-quality career technical education (CTE). This is the first time that Duncan has delivered a speech focused primarily on CTE.

The release of Pathways to Prosperity, in addition to Duncan’s remarks at the event, brings to light the tremendous role that CTE plays in providing students with viable pathways to success.

The report, written by scholars from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Pathways to Prosperity Project, describes a need for more career counseling, high-quality career education, apprenticeship programs, and two-year degree and certificate programs as viable pathways to solid careers. The authors suggest giving students more choices beginning in middle school, including opportunities to link academics with work experiences, so that students can more successfully pursue college or career paths that do not necessarily result in a bachelor’s degree. 

The report also advocates for a decreased focus on classroom-based academics and a greater emphasis on work-based learning. Pathways to Prosperity proposes the development of a comprehensive pathways network, including a three-part plan to increase the value and effectiveness of CTE across the United States:

1)     Development of a broader vision of school reform with less emphasis on four-year degree attainment

2)     Expanded role of employers in providing more work-based opportunities for students and more jobs related to students’ programs of study

3)     Development of a new “social compact” between society and young people with a goal of equipping young adults with the education and experience needed to lead a successful adult life

Both Duncan’s remarks and Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report increase the visibility of CTE as a powerful pathway to student success.

By Kara in News, Research
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Secretary Duncan Hails CTE During National Roundtable Event

Monday, January 31st, 2011

On Thursday the Obama Administration hosted a series of roundtables on topics that were highlighted in the President’s State of the Union Address. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down to answer questions from the public about education issues. Among the issues that were raised were how to balance the reform agenda with state budget shortfalls, Obama’s plan for a new ESEA, how to foster critical thinking in a time of multiple choice tests, and college access and affordability.

At the 29 minute mark, a participant from Jersey City, NJ asked “Why have high schools abandoned vo-tech programs? Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics all make decent livings, yet our schools do not offer young people proper education in these fields. These are the kids who choose to dropout.”

Duncan admitted that the United States “probably did a better job in the career technical training 30, 40 years ago, and somehow we lost our way a bit there.” He went on to say that we need to invest in both the careers mentioned in the question, as well as new careers that are needed in this technologically advanced age.

He went on to say that the debate about college or careers is a false one; students need both to be successful. By giving students the choice of both college and careers as early as high school and middle school, we can help keep them engaged before they drop out, and help them to figure out the right path to reach their goals.

Secretary Duncan’s response was noteworthy because he used the term “career technical training” rather than “vocational education,” as he has in many of his previous speeches and statements. This shows the progress that Secretary has made over the last two years in educating himself about CTE and that he sees it as something beyond the vocational education programs of the past.

By Nancy in Public Policy
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