Sec. Duncan Calls Out Ed Schools' Shortcomings: Could New Early Ed Credentials Be Part of the Solution?
In a speech earlier this week at the University of Virginia, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan harshly criticized the nation’s education schools. “In far too many universities, education schools are the neglected stepchild," Duncan said. "Too often they don’t attract the best students or faculty." He added: "Many ed schools do relatively little to prepare students for the rigor of teaching in high-poverty and high-need schools.”
Duncan has a point. Numerous studies and reports have documented the failures of our nation’s system for preparing prospective educators. In brief, our education schools enroll some of the least academically promising students; provide them with little practical teaching experience or grounding in evidence-based practice; don’t prepare them to work in high-poverty schools or serve students with special needs; and are not accountable for the performance of their graduates in the classroom — or whether they even make it there at all. While there's substantial disagreement in education policy circles about many issues, the shortcomings of our approach to preparing and training the nation's teachers are one issue that critics both across the policy and political spectrum can agree on -- although they have radically different prescriptions for how to fix the problem.
Earlier this week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his appointment of several key Department of Education officials, including the selection of Jacqueline Jones as senior adviser to the secretary for early learning. Jones previously served in the New Jersey Department of Education as assistant commissioner for the Division of Early Care and Education.
This morning the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which includes a provision establishing Early Learning Challenge Grants for states, got another push, this time from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is testifying this morning at 10:00 AM before the House Committee on Education and Labor, about the Obama Administration's Education Agenda. A live webcast of the hearing will be available on the Committee's website, here.
This hearing is a good opportunity for members of the committee to ask questions about the administration's early education policy agenda. Here are a few ideas:
1. Secretary Duncan, the administration has proposed a Zero-to-Five agenda to improve the quality of early care and education services for children from birth through age five. Your agency's fiscal year 2010 budget request includes new programs, such as Early Learning Challenge Fund and Title I Early Childhood Grants, that are a part of this Zero-to-Five agenda. Can you explain how the administration's early childhood education agenda fits into your larger education reform agenda? How will you ensure that our nation's elementary schools are equipped to build on and sustain gains that children make in quality early learning programs?
Big Increases for Higher Ed in House Democrats' Stimulus Bill
Duncan Provides Few Specifics on Higher Education
Lawsuit Alleges Univ. of Phoenix Improperly Manipulated Default Rate
Tuition Up, But Not All Going to Instruction
Grant Participation Up but Still Below Expectations
Education secretary-designate Arne Duncan faced some not-so-tough grilling from senators in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee yesterday morning. In his prepared remarks, Mr. Duncan highlighted early education:
First, we must invest in early childhood education. Too many children show up for kindergarten already behind. Many never catch up. The President-elect's "Zero-to-Five" proposal calls for:
- Greater supports for working parents with young children;
- Early-learning challenge grants to states;
- Voluntary universal pre-school quality enhancements; and
- More resources to build on the successes of Head Start and Early Head Start.
The President-elect also plans to establish a Presidential Early Learning Council to better integrate pre-school programs and resources.
And when it came time for Q and A, the first question was about early education:
On Tuesday, January 13, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Education Secretary-Designate Arne Duncan. New America's Education Policy Program has put together a list of 20 policy questions that we hope Senators will ask Duncan tomorrow--including questions about Duncan's views on early education issues:
Big front pages NYT article today looks at the palpable excitement within the early education community about President-elect Barack Obama's support for early education, and the ambitious agenda he put forward for early childhood investments during the campaign. The article's a big win for early childhood advocates, but it's also a bit diappointing from an analytical perspective. Although the NYT's Sam Dillon offers some interesting glimpses into the forces that influenced Mr. Obama's support for early education, there's nothing here that will be news to EarlyEdWatch readers, and the article touches only tangentially on some of the tougher policy questions that any effort to enact or implement these proposals will have to deal with: How will new investments interact with existing early childhood programs and funding streams, such as Head Start? What kinds of quality controls and state-level accountability can be incorporated into new federal investments to ensure that states are using them in ways that actually improve outcomes for kids? How can states ensure quality in early education services across a network of diverse providers? If we're talking about a federal role in fostering the development of systems of early care and education at the state and local level, what should those systems look like?
This morning, President-elect Barack Obama will announce that he is nominating Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan is a great choice on several fronts. First, he's been a good superindendent in Chicago, where fourth grade student student achievement in reading and math has improved under his watch, and low-income students are narrowing the gap in fourth-grade reading. Second, Duncan has earned the respect of various, sometimes clashing constituencies within the Chicago and national education communities. As a result, he is viewed as someone who can potentially bridge the divide between civil rights groups and education reformers, on the one hand, and teachers unions and established education groups on the other--a necessity for any secretary who aspires to oversee the next reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or NCLB.