ED Mailbag: Arne Answers Your Questions

Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently to answer questions he received from social media, email and regular mail.

Duncan responded to Dillon’s question about the future of charter schools, saying that “good charter schools are part of the solution, bad charter schools are part of the problem.” Arne noted that there needs to be more successful coordination between charters and school districts. ED recently announced new grants to help foster this coordination.

Ethan asked the Secretary how we can make our schools more competitive on a global scale. Duncan noted that 46 states have voluntarily adopted higher college- and career-ready standards, which will help put American students on a level playing field, and he noted that we have to look at high-performing countries like Finland and Singapore for new ideas on what works.

Duncan also received a question from Brett who asked about the importance of collaboration. Arne says that he can’t overstate the importance of collaboration on “multiple fronts.”

Watch the video and join the conversation in the comments below:

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


  1. Is it legal in Oregon for a child to be called out of their class room and asked if they are native american,or are hispanic. Also being asked if they recieve funding from their tribe, and if they recieve money from their tribe for schooling. The child is under fourteen. I was told this occured due to being flagged by the students race. They were verifying information I had already provided on an enrollment form. Thank you for your response.

  2. With all the e mail info. why cant I get a summary of the total spending, State and Federal, comparing the total spending for the past 5 years? I believe iy is info. we are entitled to get! Robert Olson

  3. My son is having difficulty in his high school freshman year.

    Although previously diagnosed with A.D.D in third grade, he completed non-pharmacological therapy and by eighth grade was on the honor roll. Now in high school he is relapsing into his non-attentive behaviors. Our family counselor recommended contacting the school and requesting a 504 plan.

    I did just that and have encountered a great amount of resistance. The staff is willing to make all kinds of accommodations similar to a 504 plan but will not go ahead with the plan. In a meeting I asked how many 504 plans are currently in place within the school and I could not even get an answer to that question.

    Everyone I have spoken to who is familiar with what a 504 plan is tells me they are fantastic for a child who needs them but that no school wants to willingly file the plan. What is the big secret? Why do schools not want to file the plans? I am concerned that my son will miss out on something just because the plan won’t be filed and the staff wont take his disability seriously.

    • If all the necessary steps to set up the 504 accomodations such as:
      1. The letter to the school requesting the committee of the school
      that he/she is in attendance requesting1508 or 504 services. The Special

  4. Secretary talks a lot about the empowerment of teachers but not enough about parents. And this is a tragedy! Parents, Teachers, and Principals, all need to collaborate on the same scale of importance that Superintendents, Board of Trustee Presidents, and Union Heads. Also, there’s a need for a national trigger law to come into existence. Organized parents need to be contacted first about a new charter school seeking recognition from a School District. Lastly, how do you distinquish a good charter from a bad charter school?

  5. In February 2008 ED made a business decision to suspend collections against most co-makers also known as cosigners and to terminate each co-maker’s relationship to the debt. Is this action in place yet. Thank you.

  6. I am glad to hear Secretary Duncan address the crucial question of promoting our schools’ international competitiveness. He ought, therefore, to favor our (and any similar) proposal to give disadvantaged students the opportunity to leave their underperforming local traditional high schools to attend a magnet (One World Secondary) school offering mathematics instruction leading students to achieve the Singapore Cambridge O level standards in the tenth grade, standards that are much higher than those in our Common Core, which illustrates the failure of the Common Core to meet its mandate, which was to provide our students with internationally competitive standards. In Singapore the majority of students are prepared so that they can undertake calculus in the 11th grade; under the Common Core, most of our students won’t reach that level until after 12th.

  7. Excellent question, though Secretary Duncan’s response was vague and disappointing–despite his lengthy response. He says good charter schools are part of the solution and bad ones are part of the problem. At first blush, it’s hard to argue with this. Upon reflection, it begs the question of how we distinguish “good” from “bad.”

    Unfortunately, the ED’s charter replication grant program does a poor job of sifting good from bad, relying on self-reported assessment data and directing funding politically-connected charter management organizations that score high on surface measures, but sometimes serve “creamed” student populations.

    As an advocate of the chartered schools concept, I find this simplistic and politically-driven approach very disturbing and fear that it will ultimately undermine the efforts of many effective chartered schools that serve our most disadvantaged students.

  8. Does Arne agree with the president that an important strategy to making us internationally competitive is providing smaller classes? I know he’s spoken dismissively of class size reduction, despite the fact that it is one of only a handful of reforms that according to the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the US Ed Dept., has been proven to work through rigorous evidence.

    Also, what does he think about the plans of the Gates-funded Shared Learning Collaborative to provide personal and confidential student data to third party for-profit companies, to help them develop and market their learning products?

  9. Do you know that entire districts can deny accessible materials to students with print disabilities? It’s true. It is a IEP team decision. But if parents attend a IEP meeting for 10 years and beg for access to books but the team (not counting the parents) say not the answer is no. Park 6 Wy denys accessible materials to every student that as a print disability and parents are powerless in IEP meetings , out numbered by administration that don’t know student. Paws Alt caused all IEP goals to be reduced and then you give waivers to provide even less education to those who are segregated and isolated in resource rooms doing nothing, But school puts straight A grades on power school for the accountability. My son is smart but has a print disability. The director of SS says no books then its no Books!!

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