U.S. Education Secretary says TN schools should set bar high

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 4:35pm

During a morale-boosting visit to Nashville Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee’s schools to become the fastest-improving in the nation.

“Tennessee is well below the national average in just about every indicator, so there are many states that are higher performing,” Duncan said at West End Middle School. “That is a reality. But this state is one of a handful that might be uniquely positioned to be one of the fastest improvers, so that has got to be the aspiration here.”

During a panel discussion with Duncan, Gov. Bill Haslam called the wide gap in Tennessee between the achievement scores for white and black students “immoral.”

“In Tennessee, we are really committed to closing that achievement gap between white students and students of color,” the governor told reporters later. “We know that to move the needle in education, we have to address those issues. I really want to be a part of any conversation in Tennessee that starts and ends with, how do we help children learn more.”

Duncan added: “This work is tough. It is challenging. Nothing is easy about it. There’s a reason why these gaps haven’t closed. There’s a reason why education has been so slow to improve. But I am very hopeful that Tennessee could possibly become the fastest-improving state in the country. If Tennessee can do that, the implications not just for the children here but for the nation are profound.”

This week, the Obama administration announced it will waive the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law for qualifying states because Congress has failed to overhaul the program. 

Duncan said the law's benchmarks are unrealistic and brand schools as failures even if they make progress. Haslam already has asked Duncan for a waiver to let the state replace No Child Left Behind standards with ones the state has set for itself. Duncan said he expects Tennessee to qualify for a waiver.

“We’re still working through what the final waiver package will look at,” Duncan said.  “But we think it’s important that states have high standards. We’re not going to play ball with a state that’s reducing standards. I have no interest in doing that. We want to work with states that are doing interesting things around teacher and principal evaluation and effectiveness. Tennessee is doing a great job there. … I have every reason to be hopeful about Tennessee’s submission.” 

8 Comments on this post:

By: Moonglow1 on 8/11/11 at 7:20

Moonglow1: a reminder to all that No Child Left Behind was implemented by George Bush. Interesting that our Tea Party governor finally sees the folly of No Child Left Behind.

By: Moonglow1 on 8/11/11 at 8:00

Moonglow1: a well educated workforce is critical to attract business to our state. Haslam doesn't have a well educated work force. He also does not have the jobs. Where are the jobs governor. Those ALEC templates you used to pass tort reform and other "job creation" legislation is not working. Too bad. That is what happens when you align with the Kochs.

By: GammaMoses on 8/11/11 at 8:30

Moonglow1:NCLB may have been passed in Bush's administration, but NCLB was the brainchild of Ted Kennedy. NCLB was a bipartisan effort of democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy, democrat Rep. George Miller, republican Sen. Judd Gregg and republican Rep. John Boehner. So quit trying to make NCLB a political issue.

By: localboy on 8/11/11 at 11:38

"“Tennessee is well below the national average in just about every indicator, so there are many states that are higher performing,” Duncan said at West End Middle School. “That is a reality. But this state is one of a handful that might be uniquely positioned to be one of the fastest improvers, so that has got to be the aspiration here.”"
Yes, when you are at the bottom, any rise up the rungs looks more impressive...the following article contains some graphic illustration that is not very comforting...


By: pswindle on 8/11/11 at 4:07

The GOP always blames others for their failure. But, they wanted to take credit for killing the masternind behind 9/11. Of cousrse, Bush was behind NO Child Left Behind. It has a nice ring to it., but that is all that Bush had was a nice ring. We will pay for years the damage that he did to our country.

By: artsmart on 8/11/11 at 4:12

Is this going to work when the teachers ask for relief because the kids can't learn. I have never seen a place where the people in charge are never held accountable.

By: Balo on 8/12/11 at 8:31

From his remarks, it is very obvious that the Governor of Tennessee is a highly educated man with deep intelligent thoughts because no common man from Tennessee, in the name of Davy Crockett & Sgt. York, would ever make those remarks. Now, the goal of education is to close the gap between white students and minority students. Meaningful educators never look at their class and come to the conclusion that they have to close the learning gap between students. It is about raising the learning bar of all students within their ability. An unbelievable comment.

Having the Secretary of Education in Nashville had as much influence on life as the coming and going of the cicadas this summer. He issued a threat by not wanting to play ball with states which do not live up to federal standards. If that means you will take your ball and go home, so be it. When will we learn, the standards are set by the local counties and not by the suits in D.C. As a student in Tennessee, my teachers never mentioned that my classmates should study hard to out wit the students in Rochester, NY. The root of the problem is the Department of Education.

By: pswindle on 8/13/11 at 3:01

No, TN wants the easy way out. This governmor is smart? Good Gosh!