By Claire Webber
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlines his plan for schools at an education conference in San Diego.
Speaking at the National School Board Association’s conference this week in San Diego, Secretary Duncan applauded and encouraged school boards across the country in an effort to revamp our education system to match world competitors like China and India. Our new focus, he said, was overall complete reform. He also recommended a reintegration of schools and communities in an effort to increase the quality and performance of teachers.
The reaction to Duncan’s speech was overwhelmingly positive, with some board members remarking on how exciting it was to finally have a voice in Washington that they understand and agree with. According to the San Diego Union Tribune trustees like Zepora Roberts from Dekalb County Schools in Georgia were ecstatic. “He’s been where we have been,” said Roberts, “It feels like we have one of us in Washington.”
The news could not come at a better time. For years American schools have been in need of serious adjustment as teacher shortages continue to affect education. Secretary Duncan encouraged governments to get involved at the City level, saying that bigger City Mayors needed to step up their involvement. Which was an interesting statement considering that most school boards are opposed to mayoral control. “You’re welcome to boo,” Duncan said in a jovial tone, “[but] please don’t throw any shoes at me.”
Not afraid to criticize.
And Secretary Duncan had harsh words for the San Diego Unified School district which he criticized saying that the need to “build sustainable leadership” was paramount. Duncan was referring to the district’s inability hang on to district superintendents; the region has been through five in five years, noting that the constant turnover was sending the wrong message.
In addition Secretary Duncan also made mention of President Obama’s provisions in the new stimulus package relating to education, encouraging schools to go after funding that had been set aside form them and to increase their efforts to innovate teaching practices.
Duncan ended on a high note, saying that although mistakes have been made in the past it only offers more opportunity for improvement in the future. “This is less about what you have done historically,” he underlined, “but what you will do tomorrow.”