Academy at Shawnee Impresses Education Secretary Arne Duncan

by Devin Katayama on November 10, 2011

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in Louisville to promote President Barack Obama’s jobs bill onThursday, which would invest around $390 million in Kentucky schools and create thousands of jobs.

Some suggest Duncan should use his position to change education assessments.

States will have the chance to submit applications to waive the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements next Monday. Duncan said NCLB is broken and many requirements are outdated. Approved states will be given flexibility to create their own standards, he said.

“We frankly want to get out of the way. Give them a lot more room to move, hold them for a high bar, but let them be creative, let them be innovative. And so we hope to get a great application from Kentucky on Monday,” said Duncan.

Some are concerned with Duncan’s lack of support for what they call effective assessments and say he should lead the charge.

“I think the problem is without promoting that like they’re promoting some of the high stakes multiple choice types of tests it does not encourage states to work on a long term plan for getting to better types of assessments that are locally designed and implemented by classroom teachers,” said Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teacher’s Association.

McKim said he knows Duncan supports reforms and the U.S. Department of Education has laid out a college and career-ready blueprint.

Duncan spoke at Louisville’s Academy at Shawnee and said he was encouraged by the collaboration and sense of urgency at the school. The high school is a good example of how state and local governments can turn around schools, said Duncan.

“I think so much of what’s happening here can be a model for reform so I’m very, very encouraged, a lot of hard work ahead of us, but you have a chance to do something very special here,” he said.

McKim suggested Duncan focus on promoting real-world assessments—ideas like project based testing. In Jefferson County that may look like some college-and-career-ready initiatives already in place.

Duncan spoke at a series of events on Thursday, including the National Conference for Middle School Educators.

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