- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

Secretary Duncan on NEA firing line

What does Education Secretary Arne Duncan think about class size, merit pay and the No Child Left Behind Act? What does he think about Sidwell Friends School?

That’s right, Sidwell Friends, the school the Obama daughters attend.

Here’s how Mr. Duncan and the Sidwell question intersected.

In the current issue of NEA Today, members of the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, asked Mr. Duncan a plethora of questions. An arts and drama teacher from Springfield, Mass., for example, asked, “Why do you think extending my work day is going to make any difference if Mom and Dad and Auntie at home aren’t doing anything to help me at school?” Mr. Duncan replied, “We can’t afford to give up on any children, even those who come from the most dysfunctional families.” He also said that one of the biggest things to do “is to give them more time” and that schools should stay open past regular classroom hours to offer counseling, family literacy nights and the like.

Some of the questioners were retired teachers — like Hugh Brady. A retired eighth-grade teacher from Buffalo Grove, Ill., Mr. Brady asked the Sidwell question.

“Why does the Department of Education advocate so strongly for more testing, teacher accountability and rigid curriculum, when President Obama sends his children to a school that emphasizes none of those things?” Mr. Brady asked.

“Well,” Mr. Duncan replied, “I don’t advocate for more testing, I don’t advocate for a rigid curriculum. You’ve never heard me once say we need more testing. You’ve never heard me once say anything about a rigid curriculum. So, I think I agree with the questioner.”

Bill Clinton tells colleges to step up

Former President Bill Clinton was in Chicago recently to speak with college presidents about greener campuses, where he admonished administrators to stop “piddlin’ ” and move faster.

“For all the good we’re doing, we’re just piddlin’ compared to what we could be doing. All this work is out there laying on the ground, begging to be done with absolutely certain rate of return,” Mr. Clinton said at the Aug. 13 American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment confab.

An estimated 250 university presidents and top managers attended the event. They are collaborating on ways to green up their campuses, train students for a green economy and draft pragmatic strategies to sell those changes at home.

Mr. Clinton said things won’t be easy - he cited the fact that his own effort, the Clinton Climate Initiative, is lacking $5 billion in pledges that were made before the financial crisis hit last fall. But he also told administrators that he is “anxious to speed things up.”

“If you do a million little things,” Mr. Clinton said, “you have done a big thing.”

Home-schooling scores high on progress report

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