Duncan on Reform and Back to School

Marion Herbert's picture
Monday, August 6, 2012

A more well-rounded curriculum with less focus on a single test. Higher academic standards and more difficult classwork. Continued cuts to extracurricular and other activities because of the tough economy.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says those are some of the changes and challenges that children could notice as they start the new school year.

Several significant reforms have taken place over the past three years.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and the district have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Billions in federal dollars have gone out to improve low-performing schools, tie teacher evaluations to student growth and encourage states to expand the number of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said he believes students will see the concrete effects of those changes when they head back to class.

Putting in place Common Core standards, which began in many of the early school grades last year, could mean a greater emphasis on critical thinking. Waivers for No Child Left Behind should translate into a greater focus on a broader range of academic goalposts, including increasing the number of students who graduate, pass Advanced Placement classes and tests and leave high school ready for college or a career, Duncan said.

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