Since being confirmed by the Senate this year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been rolling out an aggressive plan to overhaul the nation’s lagging public school systems. It is time, in his words, for “fundamental reform.”
Congress, at President Barack Obama’s urging, is putting billions of stimulus dollars into education. It is a stunning amount of money, and this is a time like none other for American schools.
The nation has a high-school dropout rate of 30 percent, Duncan said, and those who graduate are behind students in other nations. With American students competing for jobs in a world economy, it is important they have the best education possible.
“As the president has said many times, we have to educate our way to a better economy,” Duncan said Wednesday in a meeting with the Las Vegas Sun’s editorial board.
As the former chief executive of the public school system in Chicago, Duncan understands the variety of issues facing education, including public safety concerns and money woes. He understands the need for change and wants to upend the status quo. Duncan has put together a broad array of plans that, if implemented, could significantly improve schools. To wit:
A well-rounded education. The emphasis under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush administration’s hallmark education policy, was standardized testing that covered a few subjects. Principals and teachers across the country, consequently, “teach to the test.” The result often has been a limited curriculum. Duncan wants to see children receive a well-rounded education including physical education, art and music. He said he wants public school students “to have the opportunities private school students have always had.”