Town Hall Meeting with Secretary Arne Duncan: Join the Conversation!

Secretary Arne Duncan will discuss education issues with parents, educators, and students across the country in a televised town hall on September 15 from 8-9 pm ET. You are invited to participate. Watch the broadcast. Ask questions by phone and email during the show. You can also post a comment right now (below).

This is the first broadcast of the new season for ED’s monthly TV show, “Education News Parents Can Use.” It is also part of the “Listening and Learning Tour,” which has taken Secretary Duncan across the country to engage Americans in a conversation about education and federal policy. Tuesday’s broadcast will include a discussion about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Education News Parents Can Use airs live via satellite on the third Tuesday of each month during the school year, offering parents and others vital information about getting involved in children’s learning. The program will be carried live on the Dish Network, dozens of PBS stations, and hundreds of public access and education channels. Other broadcast and cable outlets will air the show on a tape-delayed basis. A list of viewing options is available at In addition, the program will be available as an archived webcast at

ED Staff


  1. All of the above comments appear to come from educators and citizens who are deeply concerned about their students and the issues they face. I believe that each of these is a worthy cause. What is lacking in commentary is a view of the “big picture”. Our entire education system is in jeopardy. The drop out rate is high, our special education students are not being prepared for life after high school, our general education students are often over-looked by the needs of other students at either end of the bell curve, and social and emotional needs of students
    pre-K through 12th grade continue to increase. Unfortunately, the elephant on the couch in the education world is money. In my 26 years as a teacher, I have not seen one educational decision made on behalf of students that was not motivated by money. Many decisions have been cloaked and misrepresented by “what’s good for kids”, but if you trace it down, it comes back to money. Until this country finds a way to fund education beyond the local level and make a true commitment to our most precious natural resouce (our children) that ensures this country’s future, schools, and ultimately students, will continue to experience inequities in educational services and experiences. Our schools will muddle through in mediocrity, the talents and dedication of many teachers will be wasted, and our student achievement willcontinue to fall behind other countries.

  2. First off this is wonderful that you are doing this. As a 34 year old vetern teacher, it is amazing as I read all these comments how many issues are at hand. I wonder if having task forces across the country to keep the momentum going from this town hall meeting will help.

    Two statements stood out here for me. The first was from the teacher from Baltimore who is teaching in a building that sounds like it should be condemmed. It is unhealthy for the staff and children to spend time in this building. With no air condition, it is hard to focus on learning yet alone teaching. I have asthma and would not last one day without air conditioning on a very hot day.

    The 2nd comment that stood out was just because a student is not improving it is not always the teachers fault. Kids learn in so many ways, some kids reach a plateau and it then becomes even more difficult to teach them. I do believe in some cases, self contained classes are needed more as they used to be. These kids can stay in these classes to get the assistance they need and slower pace of learning and then go out to those classes where they can be successful. This way the balance of learning is present and the students self esteem will be higher.

    The only additional comment I have is to address the teachers salaries. To me you won’t keep teachers very long is their salaries are not competitive with those across the US.

    I wish you luck in this effort. It seems huge, but one must start somewhere and taking baby steps is the first task as hand.

  3. I was part of group #45 comments… I would also like to comment that I concurr with 19, 23, 25, 29, and 38.

    With #29 I also struggle with student loans. I am currently making a $400 a month payment for undergrade and when I graduate in May with my masters I will have another $200 a month payment. I feel there should be some type of reward for teaching,say after 10 years of teaching student loan forgiveness would be a GREAT reward for teachers!

  4. When are we going to integrate the education of children with the training of parents. The challenges facing the low academic performance of many schools is deeply rooted in the practices and behaviors of children that is a by-product of poor parenting skills. Poverty, low income and the lack of educational attainment of parents does not have to be an excuse for low performing children. They just have to be taught and trained in the proper practices necessary for success at home and school. Excellence is a conditioning process and so is mediocrity and low performances. Excellence/high performance can be taught but requires parents “know these practices”. I know because I am the product of a low income family with 14 siblings with a college degree. My parents were outstanding at training us in “success behaviors” although they were not high school graduates. As an education consultant, I know that parents (and teachers) can be taught how to do the same but you must know the practice. It works and I have written a book about it to honor my parents and siblings. If we are serious about improving our schools, we must expand our reform agenda to include programs that help parents manage and sustain the academic and personal growth of their children.

  5. I think the biggest problem and the easiest to fix is transferring college credits. A lot of Regional Accredited School are rejecting credits just because the school is not regionally Accredited. I had a hard problem transferring credits my self and a lot of my military buddies did as well. This policy is horrible !!!! Nationally accredited colleges should not be discriminated against the U.S. department of Education recogizes these Schools so why are these policies legal.

  6. According to studies, eighty-three percent of girls and 79 percent of boys reported having experienced sexual harassment, and over one in four students stated that harassment happens often. What steps is the Department of Education taking to combat this problem? This is an interesting question, especially with recent news articles about schools.

  7. The public schools have way too much power over our children. Most employees are paid very high salaries at taxpayers’ and parents’ expense, but there is little accountability. The way society is evolving with so many high school dropouts and high crime rates, it’s obvious that our education system needs a total revamping. Plus, other countries are outpacing the U.S. in education. Even if parents are very involved with their childrens’ education, it doesn’t mean they are in a safe environment. The unions have too much power. Parents have very few options other than public schools. Competition appears to be the only avenue to HOPEFULLY make public schools step up to the plate. Our children have the right to a premier education since citizens pay a huge cost throughout the U.S. for public education. I can’t even imagine what that figure is. The power needs to shift. Parents and students have to be able to speak out about this very important issue for the whole country’s sake. The unions can’t have total control as it’s not working. It’s time for our country to wake up and be able to make a major educational reform for the sake of the children, not the unions. It’s more than long overdue to rock the boat. Educators with their high salaries, benefits and time off need to stop blaming parents and take responsibility.

  8. Secretary Duncan: Thank you for remaining focused on parity of educational opportunity, “the key civil rights issue of our time.” Thank you for your in-depth support of charter schooling. Please assure your responding staff and educational leadership in general are skilled at quantitative queries. Getting measurement right is the next hurdle and to do that, you need to have straightline access to experts who both understand your goals and the issues surrounding valid and reliable measurement of student level growth. Thank you for all that you are doing for the children, youth and families in our nation.

  9. Every year, our American education system is compared to European and Asian school education school system. The conclusion has always been that our middle and high schools are lagging behind greatly but that our colleges and universities are on the same level to other countries. As a high school English teacher, I can tell you that NCLB has done nothing but further that gap for us. We have a broken system that will not work, and until the government restructures that system, we will never be on equal ground with Europe and Asia.

    If the education system works in Europe and Asia, why not use their model? Why don’t we change the system so that students can graduate in tenth grade at the age of sixteen? Why not give our students the opportunity to continue on with a two year program that allows them to follow their interests/career ambitions just like Europe’s program?

    Not all students are able to go to college, and even the students who can may not have the motivation to do so. Does a college education make one a better person or have a higher paying salary? Not necessarily so. I have a master’s degree in education, but my father does not even have a high school diploma. He is a pest control technician, and his salary is 3 times my salary. I personally do not think that I am a better person than him just because I have a higher degree than he does.

    I am tired of seeing glazed eyes when I teach students who are not college-bound Shakespeare or Thoreau. They ask me if I can teach them how to wire a house, how to fix a car, or how to make bridges. I tell them that I cannot, and a lot of times, I lose them by the end of their sophomore or junior year because they drop out. If we want students to stay out of trouble and to stay in school, we must teach them life and career skills. Please look at the European model and restructure our education system.

    I am just a lowly teacher, but who better to tell you the problems of our system? Why not ask the teachers in this country? After all, we are trained and experienced, and we can help you with this job so that our jobs can be more fulfilling. I know we can do a better job of educating America’s youth if you give us the tools.

    Thank you for your time.

  10. As an AAUW grad student, I am concerned for the future of education for my peers and for younger students. With continually rising costs and an inefficient “No Child Left Behind” Act, what are you doing to ensure that education will not be lost in the shuffle of the Health Care Reform Bill?

  11. I would like to address two major programs in our nation that have to do with lack of education.

    First point:
    I would like to propose that along with the “health” that students take in middle and high school, all students should also take a “Nutrition and wellness” course so that can be better informed about what they decide each day to into their body and the lifestyle they decide to live now and in the future. Many of the financial problems involving healthcare costs in this country could be minimize or severely reduced if people ate healthier and did regular exercise.

    2nd point:
    Mandate a half year “personal finance” course for all high school students so that lack of education is not again one of the reason for another financial catastrophe in this country. (I know Wallstreet greed is another big factor but lack of education/ “ignorance” is also one)

    I am a financial planner and I can’t tell you how many people I talk to that have absolutely NO IDEA what they are doing with their financial well being. They do not know how to make a budget, set goals, or have basic knowledge on how financial instruments work. It is VERY SAD and this is something that REALLY needs to be addressed.

    Thank you

  12. Since reading is the core to all learning, don’t you think that the US Government should look into ways to improve EVERYONE’S reading skills FIRST! Based on research, 1 out of every 5 people have some form of dyslexia-a known reading disability. This is a large population for this to NOT be addressed by the government. I think we should look at what some states (Florida, California, & Texas to name a few) and the UK have done regarding this wide spread problem. If we would focus our efforts here first, we may not have many of the problems that we do in the classrooms.

    Is the US Government considering adding any type of legislatiion regarding dyslexia specifically? The people who suffer from this can only learn ONE way. If everyone was taught this way, we would not have the reading issues that many schools are facing.

    Thank you for your time and concern. I think we need to start at the basics of learning FIRST!!!

  13. I am a 17 year old senior, who has aspiration to attend college next year, I could not have done this without the strong involvement of my mother in my academic achievement, but my mother has encountered challenges in which many schools did not want to have her voice on committees and councils, Mr. Secretary I ask that in the Reautho of NLCB, a law my mother trained me well in regarding my rights, that you require all states and local districts to have a District Advisory Committee,so that decisions of what effects my life and the life of my peers will have a requirement at schools and districts of our parents. Please also tell President Obama that I expect both you and him to come to my graduation.

  14. It is accepted practice in this country to group children by ability when it comes to sports, so that each child can receive appropriate coaching/instruction for his or her current level, and compete against those with similar levels of ability. This allows coaches to focus their coaching, and effectively help all of the children to develop their skills, to the limits of the child’s ability and interest.
    If we recognize the wisdom of this model for developing athletic talent, why, then, is it considered “elitist” and completely taboo to do the same with academics? If we grouped students in each subject according to their current skill level and aptitude for that subject, teachers could actually address all of the students in their classroom, instead of teaching only to those hovering around the proficiency mark on the tests, and ignoring those above and below that line. Currently, students who are deemed “hopeless”, and those already ahead of grade-level are often ignored by overworked teachers who simply can’t cater to both ends of the bell curve. Grouping students simply by age (and even then, with the artificial cut-off of some arbitrary birth date) doesn’t provide true peers, either academically or socially.
    As a parent of two gifted children, I want my children to be challenged in school, and have a chance to develop their talents. My child should not be the teacher’s assistant, spending her school hours teaching other children skills and concepts that she long-since mastered. My child is entitled to a “Free and Appropriate Public Education”.
    Another change that would benefit all children (and teachers) would be changing our model of testing from one that measures this year’s students against last year’s students to one that measures the progress of each child from year to year. This would force schools to try to address the needs of ALL students.
    Speaking as a college professor, I see far too many students graduating from high school who lack basic skills to succeed in college, or in life. I firmly believe that we need to set and maintain high standards for public education in this country, and I applaud the intent of the No Child Left Behind Act. Unfortunately, I feel that the current manifestation of NCLB is doing more harm than good. Teachers are teaching to the tests, evidence of cheating is rampant (cheating supported by teachers and schools), and benchmarks are allowed to change from year to year, so any evidence of improvement is highly suspect. The current measures of “success” reward schools and teachers for focusing only on a narrow segment of the student population. Let’s do this right, and give every student the education he or she deserves.
    Further, the goal of “narrowing the achievement gap” is faulty in and of itself – we should be encouraging brightest and hardest working students exercise their abilities to the fullest, which should put them even farther ahead of the average than they are now. These are tomorrow’s inventors and doctors and business leaders – let’s encourage them to excel! By all means, let’s try to improve the performance of those at the bottom, and bring them up to an acceptable level, but let’s not try to “close the gap” by holding back those at the top.

  15. I am simply disgusted and disappointed that the issue of corporal punishment is still continuing in 20 states across the u.s.a. where now more than ever, valid research states it is a harmful practice in schools which can lead to higher drop out rates, lower student achievement, and physical, mental harm..

  16. 1. Can you compare and contrast the national standards assessed via NAEP, the nation’s report card, with standards used by other OECD countries, various state standards, and the “common core” standards being developed under the auspices of the Governor’s Association? It would be especially helpful to understand differences in depth of content, rigor of content, and coherence of subject matters. (I’ve heard that other countries do not use the same “laundry list” of spiraling curriculum.)
    2. Will there be federal funding for any mandated changes?

  17. Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to speak directly to the U.S. Department of Education. I am a parent of two children in public schools in Ohio and an ardent supporter of public education. I believe that our public schools offer a path to all Americans unmatched by any other nation. In the U.S. children from all demographics and with all different levels of abilities come together in classrooms across our country – many other societies (and private schools) pick and choose who they will and will not educate. Here we acknowledge the individuality and potential that exists within each child and try, to our best ability, to nurture and form good citizens. Yet meeting the needs of the individual student within the currently existing framework has become a tortuous exercise in who squeaks the loudest with entire segments of abilities underrepresented at the local and state level.

    NCLB created a noticeable shift in how high ability children are educated in this country. With the federal focus on bringing up the lowest ability students, our schools lost sight of the highest ability ones. Recent studies suggest that as many as 20 percent of our high school dropouts in the U.S. test in the gifted range. State departments of education have slashed funding for gifted education – further eroding the opportunities for gifted children of limited means. [The Summer Honors Institute (in Ohio recently eliminated), and the Javits Grant (which always seems to come under attack), are the ONLY government resources in Ohio for gifted high school kids from poor, rural and urban areas.] Without meeting the academic needs of these kids they tune out, turn to other stimulation and drop out from our schools. Parents who carefully monitor their children remove them from the public education system and turn to private schools (if they can afford them) or home school. Parents who do not run the risk of having a child with the highest potential become another underachiever and our schools suffer as a result of having these “different thinkers” marginalized or removed from the classroom.

    I believe that a federal initiative to acknowledge the different learning styles and encourage schools to embrace and serve the needs of high ability students would produce, in a short period of time, some new age thought and a renaissance in our public education system. If we do not acknowledge and serve them, these students will fail to thrive in our education system and will not grow into the leaders and innovators we critically need to sustain our leadership role globally.

    Thank you.

  18. September 15, 2009

    Are you planning on changing
    The Charter ?

    This is asked because
    of the Department of Education setting itself up as an overseer of
    all Public Schools rather than abiding by the law which disallows
    this and does allow Public School independence.

    Question based upon earlier Comment

    Posted September 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
    Given the DOE’s charter stating that you ARE prohibited from exercising “ANY DIRECTION, supervision, or control over the curriculum program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.”

    Why is it that you provided explicit direction to every school district (14,000+) and most every school in the country (100,000) on Obama’s education speech?

    Originally the “Classroom Activities” were called “Curriculum” and then changed to “Lesson Plans” and then finally renamed again. Originally it was stated that they were developed by a cooperation of the Whitehouse and Department of Education, now it’s stated they were developed by the Teaching Ambassador Fellows (other teachers) assumedly to hide the fact that they were originated by the DOE.

    Regardless of who wrote them, you still provided direction by contacting every school in the country to give this list of suggested activities and suggested students participate and watch the speech which is in fact determining the program of instruction for every school child in the country…slightly way over reach of your charter.

    What is the redress available for this action?

  19. School leadership should remove its focus from having a principal at the helm with an education degree to a shared leadership between a leader with a business degree and one with a degree in curriculum planning/staff development. The business-minded principal would then take over all duties related to school management, freeing the curriculum principal to focus solely on educating students in the best manner possible. Too often, curriculum specialists have duties they must perform (i.e. discipline, bus duty)that take them away from the area they know best. Most often, principals with an education background are trying to lead in areas of curriculum while reviewing budgets, hiring staff, and managing daily school operations. Curriculum/staff development must be someone’s full-time focus in order for schools to do what they were intended to do–educate. Most administrative models are archaic and do not best serve the students and teachers.

  20. Is it still considered important for US students to remain competitive? International Benchmarks indicate we lag behind other countries. In technology, our smartest also lag behind.

    What are the plans to assist the child that demonstrates computer technology talent? The bar has already been raised. Many young children come to school already knowing technology. What can be done to continue their emerging interests?

  21. As a child I was very good at math and science, but did not find them very interesting. It wasnt until i started looking at practical applications as an adult that I really got excited. If we had a more practical approach to the sciences I think that it would get kids more involved and help students at the same time as improving scores. I remember my 6th grade teacher had us design and build little solar cars to race. Unfortunately, that was a short lesson but it is still one I think about to this day.

    The FIRST robotics competition is an example that i think should be emulated in every school. Kids start off designing and building with Legos and then move on to more advanced materials as they get older. If I got to help design and build a little robot as a child I would have settled in engineering years earlier.

  22. No Child Left Behind is a challenge to achieve. And vouchered schools need to be held accountable to the same standards and requirements the public schools are. And the chartered results need to be evaluated and the vouchers re-evaluated frequently.
    Funds diverted from the public schools, and the request for part of public schools’ bulk purchases monies – how does this improve our public education offer and No Child Left Behind, Mr. Duncan?

  23. Is any of the stimulus funding being used to renovate schools? The school that I work in is falling apart. We have no air conditioning or screens. Only two windows in my room open. So, it is above 90 degrees in here right now. Rats, mice and 4 inch roaches are sighted several times a day. The heat in my room broke last January and was not fixed by the end of the year. Lights burn out and are not fixed for months. This is a poor, 100% black school in Baltimore. I have been to plenty other schools that are quite nice in Baltimore. We need to put some money into fascilities so that schools are equal!

  24. As a veteran educator, I am quite discouraged by the lack of attention at the federal level towards a gifted identification/service mandate. State initiatives are fine, but it is really going to take a national directive to change the direction of public education in the U.S. Our country developed and advanced as a society because of the strength of the public school system. It is time to address the educational needs of high-ability students, our best natural resource!

    What would you like to see happen to advance the curriculum and accountability of high-ability students in the U.S. and what measures are you hoping to initiate to make this happen?

    This might be a good place to start the discussion:

    “A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students”

    The Templeton National Report on Acceleration
    Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, Belin-Blank Center, The University of Iowa
    Dr. Susan G. Assouline, Belin-Blank Center, The University of Iowa
    Dr. Miraca U. M. Gross, GERRIC, The University of New South Wales

    Thank YOU!

  25. Under our federal statutes, all children in the US have the right to a free and appropriate education. As a professional who treats and advocates for special needs and disabled children, I am heartened by the programs that have been developed for learning disabled, autistic, and other children with physical, emotional and learning challenges.

    However, as the parent of academically advanced and motivated children, I am disheartened by the lack of appropriate material for my sons and the lack of preservice and continuing training for teachers on how to challenge students who come in to school grade levels ahead and continue to learn quickly.

    In my experience, unless a gifted student has a concurrent behavioral or other learning difficulty he or she is considered a “bonus” kid who helps raise school tests scores but is not expected to grow during the school year.

    Do you have ideas on how to NOT “Keep every gifted child back” in our current educational system?

  26. Our local public school does not allow any kid to have grade acceleration even though them are multi-years ahead of their peers. The one hour per week enrichment cannot satisfy the advanced kids’ appetite for learning at all. Do these kids have rights to be taught at their own level? This can be done without any extra cost to school by allowing grade/subject acceleration. It may actually save school money to allow some kids to pass through the k12 system faster at their own pace. If we allow students who failed high school graduation test to stay at school for another year, why can’t we allow other student to graduate sooner?

  27. 1. Just because a child fails a test does not mean that the teacher is not educating them. There is a huge disparity in schools of low-income and minority communities. Many of these children come from communities that lack role models, that include teachers that fail to encourage students. Teachers not only need to be held accountable for the performance of the education received by students but also the morale.

    2. Students are often overwhelmed with the amount of information they are to digest in a short amount of time. As a college student now, who currently has siblings in high school I have seen first hand that the curriculum has changed and that the emphasis towards math and sciences have continued to increase but only in hopes that this will produce future leaders to bring our country capital gains. These subjects are often not absorbed well due to the lack of balance in the classroom. We are concerned about child-hood obesity yet many students don’t even have recess or physical education. Simple luxuries such as the aforemention play a huge role in why children may consciously or subcnsciously perform below standards. The limited access or lack of arts and humanities programs are also a culprit. Curriculum also needs to be changed so students can be attentive and have a genuine interest in their education.

    3. The cost of higher education is becoming more expensive with each academic year, yet financial aid for middle class dependent students and low-income independent students are dwindling away more and more. It becomes increasingly difficult for people to achieve the American dream when they are unable to obtain the basic needs to be successful in this country. Every year many students drop out or have put their education on hold because of lack of funds. However, they may have the grades to stay in school but no funding. I myself have just graduated from undergrad after trying for 8 1/2 years to complete my education. My problem wasn’t my grades it was lack of funding. Yet I barely made enough money as an independent student to cover my basic living expenses. Financial aid for higher education needs to be recalculated on a realistic level, so that higher education is accessable to more than the just the extreme poor and the rich. The only way I can get a scholarship in America is to be poor. Additionally I believe that the government is showing a bit of bias by providing an abudance of monies such as the STEM and SMART grants which solely focus on the math, science and technological degress. This is a problem because many students are majoring in social sciences and arts yet it is almost impossible to get any funding from the government.

    What is being done to improve and ensure that education is an equal right for all at all levels?

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