‘They knew I had a future … ‘

Education Secretary Arne Duncan mentored Lawanda Crayton 25 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, Arne Duncan was an “I Have a Dream” Foundation mentor at a Chicago elementary school. The outgoing education secretary reunited with Lawanda Crayton, when she was interviewed for NPR’s StoryCorps interview project.

The foundation helps low-income children with “tutoring in early elementary school all the way through help with college tuition,”  reports NPR.

Crayton’s  mother was “an abusive alcoholic,” she told Duncan in the intrerview. “I remember being put in the hospital, I had a broken bone in my leg, had cuts on my face — all from my mother.”

I was a very angry young woman . . . But you and I had a very dynamic relationship, because I spent a number of days being tutored by you in math, and it became one of my favorite subjects.

Crayton was motivated by the program’s rewards. “And for us it was like, hey, if we do well on this test we can go on a trip … anything that was going to get us out of the war zone that we were in. I wanted as much homework as I could get in order not to go home.”

Every year I embraced everybody a little bit more and I accepted that they wanted to be a part of my life. They knew I had a future, I had a life, and I had a purpose, because I never thought that I had that, and it took these blessings to put that in my life. If I didn’t have that support, I wouldn’t be here.

The foundation paid for Crayton to attend a Catholic school, then go on to college.

She had no family at her college graduation. But she’d called Duncan. “You were there. You came. You were just as proud of me as I was of myself.”

Crayton now works in information technology as a project manager and mentors children.

Duncan will resign as ed secretary

Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan, a member of President Obama’s original Cabinet, will step down as Education secretary in December.

His deputy John B. King, Jr., will replace him.

John B. King, Jr. in April. Photo: Michael Nagle, New York Times

John B. King, Jr. in April. Photo: Michael Nagle, New York Times

As New York’s state education commissioner, King was a staunch defender of Common Core standards and tests. reported the New York Times. He was shouted down at public forums. The state teachers’ union called for his resignation.

The son of a former principal and a guidance counselor, King grew up in Brooklyn. Both parents died of illness when he was 12.

He was a fourth grader at Public School 276 in Canarsie the year his mother died of heart failure, he told the Times. “His teacher that year, Alan Osterweil, was dynamic and creative, encouraging him to read Shakespeare and memorize the leaders and capital of every country in the world. Later, Celestine DeSaussure, a social studies teacher whom the children called Miss D, made him the sportscaster in a fake Aztec newscast.”

King earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard, his master’s in teaching of social studies from Columbia, his law degree from Yale and his education doctorate from Columbia.

He taught social studies, co-founded the high-performing Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston and was a leader at Uncommon Schools, a charter network.

He is married and has two daughters.

Duncan proposes prison-to-school pipeline

Freeing half of non-violent prison inmates would save $15 billion to fund 56 percent pay hikes for teachers at high-poverty schools, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a National Press Club speech yesterday. Duncan envisions a “prison-to-school pipeline,” as Ed Week puts it.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch  lists to Alphonso Coates, a jail inmate in an education program.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch listen to Alphonso Coates, a jail inmate in an education program. Photo: Washington Post

“We cannot lay our incarceration crisis at the door of our schools,” Duncan said. “But we have to do our part to end the school to prison pipeline.”

Duncan also proposed $25,000 pay hikes for mentor teachers at high-poverty schools.

More than two-thirds of state prison inmates are high school dropouts, according to the DOE.

If their teachers had earned more, would they have done better? Or were they trapped in the bad parenting-to-prison pipeline?

However, the Education and Justice departments have released guidelines urging schools to reduce expulsions and suspensions, notes the Washington Post.

Tying racial patterns in school discipline to academic achievement gaps and to the national debate about racial discrimination by police, Duncan urged educators to examine their biases, their “own attitudes and decisions, and the ways they are tied to race and class.”

If Duncan wants more high-quality teachers in high-poverty schools, accusing educators of being racially biased probably isn’t a good move.

Locking up fewer non-violent offenders may be good policy. But it’s not cost free. The “savings” would have to go to supervise thieves, train the unskilled, rehab addicts and alcoholics, care for the mentally ill, house the homeless — and police neighborhoods. Don’t expect states or cities to hand over the money to the schools.

Duncan stressed about Ed Secretary exam

“Saying the long nights of cramming from the study guide and the constant drilling from flashcards had really worn on his nerves,” Arne Duncan told The Onion Tuesday that “preparing for the upcoming standardized Secretary of Education Test was completely stressing him out.”

“I know I’ve got the stuff on FSA loans down, but it’s super unrealistic for them to think I’ll memorize every little thing about federal lunch voucher requirements,” said Duncan. “What if I’m wrong, though?”

Obama plans college aid for prisoners

Some prison inmates will receive federal college aid, despite a 1994 law that cut off Pell Grants to prisoners. The Education Department says Pell for prisoners is legal under a waiver provision for experimental programs.

Before 1994, prisoners could use Pell Grants to cover tuitions, books and other education-related expenses. Online learning should make it easier and cheaper to provide coursework to inmates.

President Barack Obama tours a cell block at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., on July 16. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

President Obama tours a federal prison in Oklahoma on July 16. Photo: Saul Loeb, Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Under the Obama administration’s plan, grants of up to $5,775 a year would go directly to colleges and universities that provide courses to prisoners.

Of 700,000 prisoners released each year, more than 40 percent will be back behind bars within three years, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who announced the program at a Maryland prison on Friday.

“For every dollar invested in prison education programs, this saves taxpayers on average $5,” said Lois Davis, who authored a RAND study.  Inmates who take college classes are 16 percent less likely to return to prison, she estimated.

Congress provided nearly $300 million last year to fund job training and re-entry programs for prisoners, said Republican Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a statement.

Pell aid might be a “worthwhile idea for some prisoners,” but the administration has no authority to ignore the law, Alexander said. “Congress can address changes to Pell grants as part of the Senate education committee’s work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this fall.”

Duncan’s kids will go to private school

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a Washington D.C. school.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a Washington D.C. school.

After six years in Arlington, Va., public schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s two children will transfer to a private school in Chicago. Duncan plans to remain in D.C. and commute to Chicago on the weekends, reports an Education Department spokesman.

The children will enroll in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where Duncan — and the Obama daughters — attended. Duncan’s wife Karen worked at the school before the family’s move to Washington and will return to her old job, a spokesman said.

Colleges balk at plan to grade teacher ed

The U.S. Education Department wants to grade ed schools and teacher training programs on performance, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News. Do graduates find and keep jobs? Do they do well on evaluations? And — most controversial — do their students’ test scores show academic progress? Would-be teachers in low-scoring training programs would lose eligibility for federal student aid, known as TEACH grants.

Meg Honey teaches AP U.S. History class at Northgate High in Walnut Creek and also teaches instructors at Saint Mary's College. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Meg Honey teaches AP U.S. History class at Northgate High in Walnut Creek and also teaches instructors at Saint Mary’s College. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The proposal was announced in December and could be finalized by mid-year. Education schools hate it.

“Value-added” measures of student growth are unreliable, argues Deborah Stipek, dean of Stanford education school.

Regulations would penalize programs that prepare teachers for inner-city schools, said Kathy Schultz, dean of the Mills College School of Education in Oakland. Mills teachers often work in Oakland.

“The State Board of Education, California State University and others in the state education establishment” claim the regulations would cost California $233 million to develop new tests and about half a billion dollars a year to enforce, writes Noguchi.

But critics have trouble coming up with alternative ways to ensure new teachers are well prepared, writes Noguchi. “Schools of education have resisted measuring and releasing data about themselves.”

 “The inability of California to name what an effective teacher is creates the conditions where we go round and round,” said Tony Smith, former superintendent in Oakland, Emeryville and San Francisco and a regulation backer. “One of the key components of effectiveness is that a child makes a year’s growth in a year’s time.”

“Teaching is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs there is,” says Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teaching Quality. “Yet for reasons that are hard to fathom, it appears to be one of the easiest majors both to get into and then to complete.”

A new education law — or more waivers?

No Child Left Behind (aka the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) expired in 2007, but Congress hasn’t come up with a rewrite. House Republican leaders have postponed a vote on their version, the Student Success Act, because some conservatives think it doesn’t go far enough to curb federal mandates.

“My district doesn’t like it. They just feel that we’re moderating No Child Left Behind. They hate No Child Left Behind,” Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said.

In the Senate, Republican leaders hope to work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill.

Conservatives should back the Student Success Act, argues Rick Hess.

The Student Success Act (SSA) jettisons NCLB’s invasive system of federally mandated accountability and gives states the freedom to gauge school performance and decide what to do about poor-performing schools. It also puts an end to NCLB’s remarkable requirement that, as of 2014, 100 percent (!) of the nation’s students would be “proficient” in reading and math.

The SSA repeals the “highly qualified teacher” mandate, a bureaucratic paper chase whose most significant accomplishment was lending fuel to lawsuits attacking Teach For America (litigants had some success in California’s courts by arguing that TFA teachers failed to meet the “highly qualified” standard). It eliminates or consolidates 65 programs. It includes expansive new language intended to finally stop federal officials from pushing states to adopt Common Core (or any other particular set of academic standards).

The bill also boosts funding for charter schools, though it doesn’t authorize school vouchers.

Conservatives don’t like the requirement for annual testing, but “shorn of NCLB’s pie-in-the-sky accountability mandates, once-a-year tests will no longer distort schooling and infuriate parents in the way they have in recent years,” Hess argues.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill. Education Secretary Arne Duncan attacked the provision letting federal dollars follow low-income students if they move from high-poverty to low-poverty schools. Urban school districts could lose millions of dollars, he said.

With NCLB in limbo, Duncan has used waivers to get states to adopt his education policies, notes the Washington Post.

If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, the Democrats could regret opening the door to rule by waiver, Hess writes. He imagines President-elect Rick Perry nominating Michele Bachmann as secretary of education.

Chris Wallace: Are you worried you’ll be unable to make the legislative changes that you and the President think necessary?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Once upon a time, that might’ve been a concern. Happily, the Obama administration provided a path for driving educational change even when you don’t have the votes. That’s why we’ve promised that, come inauguration day, we’ll be ditching the Obama administration’s requirements for waivers from No Child Left Behind and substituting our own. They’ll be drawn from the President’s plan that we’ve been calling the Freedom Blueprint.

If states want a waiver, says Bachmann, they’ll need “to institute a moment of silence in all “turnaround” schools, adopt a statewide school voucher plan for low-income students and those in failing schools, require abstinence education, restrict collective bargaining to wages and prohibit bargaining over benefits or policy, and ask states to revise their charter laws to ensure that for-profit operators are no longer discriminated against on the basis of tax status.”

It’s not looking good for reauthorization, concludes Hess.

Alyson Klein reports on the politics. “In the end, House Republicans are going to have to decide whether they want to pass a bill that — while maybe not perfect — is clearly an improvement to NCLB from their point of view; or they can do nothing and let the President and Federal government have unchecked control over education policy for the remainder of his term,” says Vic Klatt, a former aide to Republicans on the House education committee.

Duncan: Drop NCLB, but keep testing

Education Arne Duncan spoke yesterday at Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

No Child Left Behind is “tired” and “prescriptive,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a speech yesterday. However, federal education law should include annual tests, Duncan said at a Washington, D.C. elementary school.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind) is up for reauthorization, notes NPR. Duncan said he’d like to start over with a new bill, but retain annual testing.

In his speech, Duncan invoked famous phrases used by both President Obama and former President George W. Bush, the latter of whom introduced No Child Left Behind more than 13 years ago.

“This country can’t afford to replace ‘the fierce urgency of now’ with the soft bigotry of, ‘It’s optional,’ ” he said.

Duncan came out against “redundant” and “unnecessary” tests.

Brookings makes The Case for Annual Testing that tracks growth in student achievement, while eliminating most NCLB standards and accountability provisions.

Hill Republicans will decide what happens, writes Rick Hess in his ESEA predictions on Pundicity.  They see Duncan as “obdurate, unwilling to listen, and remarkably disinterested in what the federal government shouldn’t do or what it can’t do well.” So Sen. Lamar Alexander will work with Democratic senators, but Duncan could be out of the negotiations.

Shakira will tweet on early ed

As part of the White House Summit on Early Education, Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be tweeting on early education this morning, starting at 10 am EST. Shakira, a native of Colombia, is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The hashtag is #ShakiraEdChat.

Here’s Shakira performing one of her hits, She Wolf.

Shakira’s Barefoot Foundation — started when she was 18 — has built and funded schools in Colombia, Haiti and South Africa to help poor children and their parents, reports CBS News.

The singing star has more credibility on early childhood ed than Duncan, writes Cato’s Neal McCluskey. The White House PR on preschool’s effectiveness “is deceptive, or just plain wrong, as largely documented in David Armor’s recent Policy Analysis The Evidence on Universal Preschool.”