US Education Secretary Discusses Need for Education and Teacher Evaluation Reform

On November 17, United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the American Enterprise Institute and discussed the “New Normal” of having to provide high-quality education services with fewer resources.  In his remarks, Secretary Duncan discusses the fiscal realities facing the States and the need to move to a more performance-based education system.

I am here to talk today about what has been called the New Normal. For the next several years, preschool, K-12, and postsecondary educators are likely to face the challenge of doing more with less.  …

The outlines of the New Normal are easy to sketch. The federal government historically provides only about eight percent of all K-12 revenues. By contrast, states provide close to half of all public school revenues. With few exceptions, state budgets have yet to recover from the Great Recession.  …

By far, the best strategy for boosting productivity is to leverage transformational change in the educational system to improve outcomes for children. To do so, requires a fundamental rethinking of the structure and delivery of education in the United States. …

Race to the Top has incentivized states and districts to put in place teacher evaluation systems that will ensure human capital dollars are better spent. States and districts need complete information about where their best teachers are, about retaining, rewarding, and learning from their best teachers, and to ensure that high-need schools get the great teachers and principals they need.

The i3 fund ensures our federal dollars are being used to identify and scale-up innovative and effective practices that improve outcomes for students. The simple principle that drove our i3 grants of a little money for things with a little evidence, and a lot of money for things with a lot of evidence, will hopefully help reshape education spending for years to come. For the first time in a competitive grant program at the Department, unit cost was among the selection criteria in the i3 competition.

It is important to remember that boosting productivity can cost money. In some cases, government may have to spend more now to get better returns on our current investments in the future. We should not be penny wise to be pound foolish. Race to the Top and i3 are good examples of programs that are important to continue in FY 2011 and beyond.

It’s also important to underscore that having a common and higher definition of success is essential to measuring the effectiveness of educational spending. That is why the amazing strides made in the last 18 months toward true college and career-ready standards and more accurate graduation rates are game-changers.

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