Education Secretary pledges for innovations in education

January 26, 2011 7:12:20 PM PST
During his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for new innovations in education, and just a day after his speech, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a pledge for more innovation and accountability in the American school system.

Those new innovations will be formally proposed, and negotiated in Congress over the next few months. The challenge for the Obama Administration will be to get Republicans on board over a number of issues including pouring money into these new reforms.

Oakland's Think College Now principal David Silver made recommendations before Congress in May on how the Obama administration should revise the no child left behind law. On Tuesday night, he liked hearing President Obama say his education reform plan will have more flexibility.

"They as a community need to decide, who are the teachers, who the principals are and who is the staff. They need to have the autonomy and flexibility to make those decisions," he said.

Under President Bush, the "No Child Left Behind" law gave Washington the power to set national education standards it relies heavily on test scores to evaluate schools. Both Democrats and Republicans agree it is flawed and in need of revision and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said change is coming.

"I am much more interested in growth and gain, how much students are improving each year than I am in absolute test scores. I am more interested in knowing how many kids are graduating from high school and going on to college," he said.

President Obama's continued his push for more charter schools, merit pay and holding teachers accountable. Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley, says those are all things most Republicans like.

"So clearly he is moving to the right, to the center to pick up Republican votes, but as he moves to the right, he is going to annihilate the teachers union," he said.

Fuller says some Democrats won't like it either.

"If you are going to hold us accountable, there needs to be more money, especially to title one schools, kids in low income neighborhoods. There needs to be more resources," he said.

"If you are going to hold us accountable, there needs to be more money, especially to Title I schools, especially to schools that are in low income neighborhoods, there needs to be more resourses," Silver said.

Duncan says the funds are there.

"Whether it is "Race to the Top" money, or our school improvement grants which are $4 billion, our teacher incentive fund, which is about $400 million, we have huge pots of money that can be used to better compensate the great work that teachers are doing every day," he said.

Some Republicans and Democrats disapprove of the way those funds have been and will be distributed. For example, "Race to the Top" was based on competition instead of need, so we are going to see a lot of compromising in Congress in the next few months. Still, Duncan expects the new version of "No Child Left Behind" to be in place this year.