Q-and-A: Back to School with Arne Duncan

With back-to-school season in full swing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sat down to respond to some pressing education questions from SmartBlog on Education. Below is the full Q&A:

What is the biggest challenge that teachers face as they go back to school this fall? What guidance would you give them to help them meet the challenge?

Back to school stampThe large majority of states are now making the shift to the Common Core State Standards, a state-led effort to raise standards for which the U.S. Department of Education has provided some support. Educators across the country have embraced the enormous, urgent challenge that goes with this transition to more rigorous academic standards, new assessments, and updated teacher evaluation systems. Teachers are faced with a level of change and reform in schools and districts that is unprecedented.

Overwhelmingly, I’ve heard teachers say that it’s the professional challenge of a lifetime to raise standards so every American student can compete and succeed in the global economy. In discussions with more than 4,000 educators, my team at the U.S. Department of Education and I also have heard teachers say that it’s imperative that we, as a nation, get this right for our kids.

The  Common Core State Standards focus on college- and career readiness and have been adopted voluntarily by a majority of states. The new standards set the bar for student performance high. But they also give teachers the opportunity to go deep into content and innovate. In surveys, three out of four teachers say these standards will help them teach better.

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Secretary Duncan on Common Core Standards and the Next Generation of Assessments

Secretary Duncan recently responded to several questions asked via his Facebook page, including a question from Annie about Common Core standards. The Secretary praised the courageous work of states that are refusing to dumb down standards and are working to expand the depth and breadth of academic programs. Duncan encouraged states to not just focus on standards, but to “have a well-rounded curriculum to make sure all of our children have access to a wide range of subjects.”

The Secretary also answered a question regarding the need for a “new generation” of assessments to evaluate student progress. While improving assessments is a decision that will be made on the state and local level, Secretary Duncan emphasized that ED contributed almost $350 million in grants to 44 states who are collaborating on improved assessments.

Continue the conversation on Secretary Duncan’s Facebook page, on Twitter and in the comments below.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Ben Firke is an intern in the office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education