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Arne Duncan: "We have one common enemy"

Ganda At

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a keynote speaker here at the National PTA Convention.  We last spoke to him before the announcement of the first Race to the Top Fund winners, so it was a pleasure to hear about that program in Tennessee, one of the winning states.

But Secretary Duncan wasn't at the National PTA Convention to talk funding; his focus was on parental engagement.  A committed father, he emphasized that committed mentors and educators are the key to improving our children's education and lives.  "Parents -- I can't overstate their importance," Secretary Duncan said.  "We have to be full and equal partners with teachers." 

He touched on the Blueprint for Reform, a start for fixing the terrible legacy of No Child Left Behind.  "We have to stop lying to children," he said.  "When we tell a child they're meeting an arbitrary benchmark, we do them a grave disservice."

"Around the country, parents tell me that schools are too often teaching to the test.  They worry that the curriculum was narrowing," he said.  The convention attendees cheered enthusiastically when Duncan followed, "A well-rounded curriculum is not a luxury, it is a necessity."

But reducing class sizes may prove difficult with districts across the nation facing teacher layoffs and closings. Secretary Duncan said he would ask Congress for funds to help solve this short-term economic crisis without adversely affecting our children's educational experiences.  "We want to launch a national teacher improvement campaign." Central to that initiative will be the public education system's "ability to attract and retain talent," he said.

"We have one common enemy in this country -- academic failure," he said.  "Any other battles just get in the way of progress."