Reaction to Arne Duncan’s Change is Hard

It’s no secret that students who come from bad backgrounds can fall behind in their learning and performance skills. It is also common knowledge that some schools are suffering from being underfunded. But as an education student, who is not yet in the field, hearing that some principals are overwhelmed and teachers feel unsupported is sad and surprising news. Everyone in the schooling system is tired of feeling attacked.


But despite all of the negatives, teachers are overcoming huge barriers are helping kids learn in remarkable ways.


Arne Duncan is pushing for a change in the way that teachers are assessed annually instead of only looking at the test scores of their students. After all, there is a lot more to teaching and learning than the standard bubble test, and teachers deserve to be recognized for more of the work they are doing. According to Duncan:


“The goal is to have teachers feel supported instead of isolated and overwhelmed, including earning salaries competitive with professions like medicine and law…many young people won’t even consider teaching because of the low salaries, poor opportunity for advancement and difficult working conditions.”


I would agree that more support for teachers is imperative, and including new ways to assess a teacher’s yearly success is a great idea. Teachers are among the hardest working professionals’ in America today, and also some of the most underpaid (dare I say it). Most are devoted to seeing their students succeed in the classroom and they give up much of their time and social life to supporting and ensuring the success of each of their students. While we do get our share of negative feedback, it is wonderful that the U.S Secretary of Education praises teachers across the country within his speech. Here is a man who sees the passion in teacher’s eyes and sees their efforts to see every child succeed.


Duncan didn’t eliminate testing outright, because it is an important tool to measure progress, but instead encouraged development of new ways to support and evaluate teachers in all subjects (classroom observation, peer review, parent student feedback). A lot of teachers are on board with this new system and are excited to put it in place. In addition to aiding teachers, the new accountability systems capture more kids at risk than NCLB (No Child Left Behind) as well.


In the last 3 years, many states have raised academic standards in effort to prepare children for college and careers.


“When children are assessed against new, higher standards, how will parents, teachers and schools react?  If scores drop, will everyone feel deflated and beaten down?  Or will we all be inspired to work harder?”


This new system may prove to be a roller coaster ride, and there will be many new adjustments to be made among parents, students, and teachers. But ultimately this system should work to help everyone succeed.


There will definitely be some obstacles, mishaps and wrong turns in the making of this new system of evaluation; but Duncan believes the transition to higher standards it will be worth it in the end. This new system needs to transform as quickly as possible. But in order for that to happen, everyone needs to jump on board – school boards, principals, administrators, students, parents, and teachers. Even President Obama realizes the dire need of this new change, authorizing wavers and admitting “we can’t wait”. This change needs to happen quickly because change is what it takes to get better. We need to do better for our students, for our profession, and for ourselves as teachers.


-Emma Steward


About Emma Steward

Coloradoan, yogi, future educator, vegetarian, nature lover, fine wine connoisseur of fine wines (Five truths and lie, or is it two...)

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