Secretary Duncan Answers a Question about Value Added

Uploaded by usedgov on 08.09.2010

Gentleman: ….the 1984-85 Harvard team where you were playing, I think it was strong side
forward was 15 and 9, 7 and 7 in the Ivy League. The second year, your junior year, Harvard
was 4 and 18, although you didn’t play that year. Correct?
Secretary Duncan: Correct, but my senior year we stunk.
Gentleman: But you said you were doing your thesis but they were very angry he said that
didn’t help their front court at all. And in your senior year 1986-87, that you were
captain, the team was 7 and 17. I think, by any standard, I would call that a persistent
low-achieving basketball team. And from the time you were a sophomore to the time you
were a senior, there was no annual yearly progress. So, I would ask you this. If, let’s
say that if the standards in basketball were to get into the Final Four – your senior
year, it was Syracuse, Providence, Indiana and UNLV. Could you guys, had you practiced
more, had you had a better coach, could you have reached the Final Four? I would say no.
That you guys did the best you could, and I think that there are a lot of schools out
there that are doing the best they can with the students they have and still your Department
is marking them as failure. Mt. Vernon and Jefferson Huston are two great schools here.
They are not failing schools, and they are struggling to have middle-class parents, and
I don’t mean middle class, it’s not a code word for white, it’s middle class blacks
and whites and Latino, to stay in those schools and the Department of Education has said well,
no, you can leave those schools now because they are failing. When are you going to get
rid of AYP which says that, in totally unrealistic ideals, that in 2014 all students are going
to reach 100% pass rate. That is no more true than you are going to be a better player than
your contemporary from Chicago Isiah Thomas. Correct?
Secretary Duncan: Correct.
Gentleman: I want to know about AYP. But, I want to say lastly I have great respect
for you as a ballplayer, I know you played in Australia, I know you are good, but you
are not Cazzie Russell, you are not Isiah Thomas, the great Chicago player.
Secretary Duncan: Let me ask you a question – okay, let me ask you a question. I got
to run to another meeting after this, I apologize. To cut to the chase, I agree with 90 percent
of what you said and ten percent I’m going to challenge you on. We want to get rid of
AYP, and all where to focus on is growth and gain. How much are schools improving.
Gentleman: Great.
Secretary Duncan: And if a child comes to you as a six grade teacher and that child
is three grade levels behind, and that child leaves you a grade behind today, you’re
labeled a failure.
Gentleman: Right.
Secretary Duncan: The school is labeled a failure
Gentleman: Right.
Secretary Duncan: And the teacher is labeled a failure. I think that not only are you not
a failure, you’re an extraordinary teacher. That child has seen two years growth for a
year’s instruction. So, we want to recognize that, we want to reward that, whether that’s
at the teacher level, the grade level, the school level, the district level, the state
level, where we see an improvement and, as you guys know, so much of this, at or above,
these absolute proficiency levels. So many folks are teaching that tiny bubble right
at the middle. The students who are far ahead aren’t getting the help they need, the students
that are far behind and we’re letting them go, and so we absolutely want to fix that.
And that is part of our ESEA proposal. Where I would challenge you is the one thing you
said the schools are doing the best they have with the children they have and what we see
around this country, quite frankly sir, is we see huge variations and outcomes of children
of color, children who are 99 percent poverty, and I think we have to, as a country, raise
our expectations for what we can do for every single child.
Gentleman: But as we see in Mt. Vernon and Jefferson Huston, poverty is having an enormous
impact and those teachers are doing a hell of a job in those schools, with the most challenging
kinds of kids we have in this country.
Secretary Duncan: No question, and we have to support those schools, but let me add one
thing, poverty should never be destiny and it is not about pointing fingers. When you
have poverty, it means you need health care clinic, it means that if children are hungry,
you have to feed them, it means that if children can’t see the blackboard, you have to give
them eye glasses, it means that if children aren’t save to and from school, you have
to do that, but at the end of the day all of us – again, not just teachers, all of
us -- parents, community members, political leaders, religious leaders, non-profit social
service agencies will either keep watching these children fall through the cracks or
we’re going to do something about it, and I’m trying, [inaudible] as a country, to
do something about it.