MEDIA WATCH: U.S. News and World Report provides propaganda for Duncan... Barrelgate and Ripleygate? Arne Duncan's slanders against American teachers (the 'bottom of the barrel') gets mendacious reportorial support

Does it matter whether Arne Duncan said that America's teachers are "the bottom of the battle." A bigger question than the spurious "bottom of the barrel" attribution is why Arne Duncan quotes Amanda Ripley incessantly. Why is Amanda Ripley so favored today?

Just call it Barrelgate. Or maybe Ripleygates.


Amanda Ripley, the latest propagandist for corporate "school reform," is making the rounds in 2014 on behalf of the latest sure-fire-thing to make corporate reform work. Ripley stands in the long line of propagandists who get their books into the university classrooms and public eye following massive support from the New York Times and other propaganda organs. Others in the long line stretching back to the 1980s preaching the same line include Marva Collins, Geoffrey Canada, Wendy Kopp, and Paul Tough. I decided to use my UC Berkeley status to get the attention of the US News and World Reporter.

Here is our Twitter exchange. ..

from Susan: @alliebidwell As one proud UC Berkeley alumna to another, I'm stunned by Arne's 'bottom of barrel' remark. Shows total ignorance & arrogance - 16 Jan

from Allie: @susanoha Just to be clear, Duncan did not say "bottom of the barrel." Direct quote is bottom 1/3 of their classes

Before she replied, I'd put up a second Tweet, and Allie replied again, this time copying Arne: ?@alliebidwell 8h

To: @susanoha @arneduncan Susan -- again, if you read my article (

To: @susanoha @arneduncan never said it was direct quote, if you read my article. It's a paraphrase of what Duncan said -- bottom third

Here's what Allie wrote: While teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel and are disproportionately teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Duncan said, teachers in South Korea are selected from the top of the class. . . .

Here's what Arne said: In the United States, a significant proportion of new teachers come from the bottom third of their college class. . . More about what he actually said below. I highlight Allie Bidwell's artful and deceitful use of commas.

This is no way excuses what Arne did say throughout his remarks, but I wonder where the US News and World Report retraction is.

I sent Bidwell one more Tweet: @alliebidwell Then I assume US News & World Report will be printing a correction?

No response. Not surprising, Allie Bidwell is a deceitful reporter.

I find it hilarious that for truthiness she refers me to Arne's speech, not her own article. The article provoked a firestorm of outrage, which you can see here.

With no further ado, here's the article. Arne Duncan: School Expectations Are Too Low in the United States


by Allie Bidwell

Part of the reason students in other countries outpace American students on international exams, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, is because they are more serious about education, not just in their cultures, but in their policies. Today's parent advocates do not limit themselves to coaching soccer teams and organizing bake sales as a way to get involved in their students' schools.

But parents, educators and policymakers alike need to do more to "walk the walk" in working to close achievement gaps and improve education in the United States, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told an audience of parent leaders Monday. While other countries have made strides in student performance on international tests in reading, math and science, American students have stagnated, and in some cases regressed, while achievement gaps in the country remain "staggeringly large," Duncan said at an education summit for parent leaders hosted by the National Assessment Governing Board.

Comparing American students to those in South Korea �- a country that ranks among the highest in the world in terms of academic achievement �- Duncan said part of the problem is a culture in the United States that perpetuates low expectations in schools. Parents in the United States do not demand the same kind of educational excellence as those in other countries, he said.

"As you think about how to use your voice, your time, and your energy, I want to pose one simple question to you: Does a child in South Korea deserve a better education than your child?" Duncan said. "If you answer is no �- that no child in America deserves any less than a world-class education �- then your work is cut out for you."

Part of the reason students in other countries outpace American students on these exams, Duncan said, is simply because they are more serious about education, not just in their cultures, but in their policies. The former head of the Chicago public school system, Duncan told parents that there is a sense of complacency regarding education in the United States, but also a lack Duncan said, but also a lack of action by politicians.

"Both South Korean and U.S. citizens believe that the caliber of teacher matters tremendously, and the great teachers make a huge difference in children's lives," Duncan said. "The difference is: they act on their belief. We don't. We talk the talk, and they walk the walk." While teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel and are disproportionately teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Duncan said, teachers in South Korea are selected from the top of the class and are rewarded for working with low-income students. (emphasis added)

Still, when people see statistics showing that by age 24, students from high income backgrounds earn bachelor's degrees at almost seven times the rate of those from low income families, they often blame poor academic achievement on the students' race, their family background or their cultures -- not the school or school leaders, said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. "Our question back to them is if you're right, why are low income students and students of color performing so much higher in some schools?" Haycock said. Haycock gave examples of schools across the country �- such as Halle Hewetson Elementary in Las Vegas, George Hall Elementary in Mobile, Ala., and Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School in Elmont, N.Y. -- with high numbers of minority and low-income students and histories of poor performance that were able to turn around due to changes in leadership, teachers, staff training and parent involvement.

Now, students in those schools are outperforming students throughout the state. Not only does the quality of the teachers matter for low income and minority students to improve academically, said Charles Payne of the University of Chicago. Students from those backgrounds also benefit more from more rigorous standards, but are the least likely to gain access to them -- and it's up to parents to work with schools to push for those higher expectations, he said.

But because people are often "skittish" about bringing up issues of race, Payne encouraged parents to "ask a lot of questions," about how race relates to education and work to build trust between parents, teachers and students. "Schools that pride themselves on color blindness ... are living in a false world," said Payne, a professor in the university's School of Social Service Administration. "That is simply a lie. If you live in America, you see race."

Otha Thornton, president of the National PTA, said parents should take that next step to become more "connected, dedicated, and advocacy-minded" to drive change within American schools, rather than standing on the sidelines. "Accountability for education begins at home. But unfortunately, not all children have an advocate at home," Thornton said. "Be committed to speak up and speak out, and sometimes show out, to ensure that no child falls through the cracks."


Ohanian Comment: As you read what Arne said, with his incessant quoting of Amanda Ripley, keep in mind who Ripley acknowledges for helping her with the book. These are direct quotes: Kate Walsh--National Council on Teacher Quality provided generous and helpful guidance in the preparation of American Teachers. . . . Timothy Daly from TNTP helped me translate what I'd seen for U. S. consumption. . . .

And there you have it: Arne Duncan is drawing on the wisdom of the National Council of Teacher Quality (See Gates Foundation funding) and TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project when it was founded by Michelle Rhee (Gates funding), in his address to parents. This is beyond disreputable.

And then look at to whom he calls out special recognition.

Parent Voices for World-Class Education

Remarks of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the National Assessment Governing Board Education Summit for Parent Leaders January 13, 2014 Contact: (202) 401-1576,

Thanks, David, for that warm introduction, and for all your leadership. I'm delighted to see leaders whose work has been so important to empowering parents: Otha Thornton of the National PTA; Janet Murgu�a of the National Council of La Raza; Marc Morial of the National Urban League; and Kati Haycock of The Education Trust.

But, just like me, they all came here as part of their day job.

Ohanian note:

National PTA Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

La Raza Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

National Urban League Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Education Trust Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

I want to give a special shout-out to the many parent leaders here. You have taken time out of your busy lives to come to Washington, to think about how you, other parents, and your communities can improve education. That means a lot, and I want you to know the story behind this event.

In 2009, President Obama met with President Lee of South Korea, and asked him about his biggest challenge in education. President Lee answered without hesitation: parents in South Korea were "too demanding." Even his poorest parents demanded a world-class education for their children, and he was having to spend millions of dollars each year to teach English to students in first grade, because his parents won't let him wait until second grade.

President Lee was very serious. Korean parents were relentless and had the highest of expectations -- insisting their children receive an excellent education. I told that story when I spoke to the National Assessment Governing Board a couple of years ago, and said that I wished our biggest challenge here in the US was too many parents demanding excellent schools. Well, David and his fellow board member Tonya Miles took me seriously. They invited you -- parents, leaders in your communities, people who care so much about education -- to come together and raise your voices for better schools and increased educational opportunity. I'm so grateful that all of you are here.

As you think about how to use your voice, your time, and your energy, I want to pose one simple question to you: Does a child in South Korea deserve a better education than your child? If your answer is no -- that no child in America deserves any less than a world-class education -- then your work is cut out for you. Because right now, South Korea -- and quite a few other countries -- are offering students more, and demanding more, than many American districts and schools do. And the results are showing, in our kids' learning and in their opportunities to succeed, and in staggeringly large achievement gaps in this country. Doing something about our underperformance will mean raising your voice--and encouraging parents who aren't as engaged as you to speak up.

Parents have the power to challenge educational complacency here at home. Parents have the power to ask more of their leaders -- and to ask more of their kids, and themselves. And all of those will be vital in a time when we are losing ground.

It's not that we are failing to make progress in the U.S. For example, last year, math and reading scores for fourth- and eighth-graders edged up to a new high on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Dropout rates are down and college-going is up, especially for African-American and Latino students. This is real and meaningful progress.

But, as we saw last month on a major international assessment of the skills of 15-year-olds � the PISA exam --other countries are progressing much faster, leaving us behind. In today's knowledge-based, global economy, jobs will go, more and more, to the best-educated workforce. That will either be here, or it will be in places like South Korea, Singapore, China, and India. Let's look at the facts. Your children aren't competing just with children in your district, or state -- they are competing with children across the world.

America now ranks 22nd in math skills and 14th in reading among industrialized countries -- and our achievement gaps are not narrowing. Now, some would like you to believe that our mediocre achievement results are due just to the presence of large numbers of low-income and minority students in the US -- that without them, we'd be the world leaders. Not true. That's an excuse. While we've been treading water, other countries have moved ahead. Just one generation ago, we were Number 1 in the world in college completion among young adults.

Today, we have dropped to Number 12 in the world. Dropping from 1st to 12th -- that's not something any of us can be proud of. President Obama has set regaining world leadership in college completion as our educational North Star. That Number 1 spot is now occupied by -- guess who? -- South Korea.

So, you may be asking: What are countries like South Korea doing for their kids that we aren't? The answer is, a lot.

There's a new book out called "The Smartest Kids in the World, and How They Got That Way." The author, Amanda Ripley, found an interesting way to compare American schools with those in top-performing countries. She spent time with American students who did a year of school abroad, and with students from other countries who went to school in the United States. One of the countries she compares us to is South Korea. Amanda came away believing that these other countries are doing a lot better than the United States in education because -- simply put -- they're more serious about it. And that seriousness, that sense of educational purpose, has its roots in both policy and in culture.

On the policy side, as one example, Korea is serious about developing and rewarding great teachers. That means recruiting top college graduates into teaching, training them effectively for the job, and making sure vulnerable students have strong teachers. Both South Korean and US citizens believe that the caliber of teacher matters tremendously, and the great teachers make a huge difference in children's lives.

The difference is: they act on their belief. We don't.

We talk the talk, and they walk the walk. In the United States, a significant proportion of new teachers come from the bottom third of their college class, and most new teachers say their training didn't prepare them for the realities of the classroom. So underprepared teachers enter our children's classrooms every year, and low-income and minority kids get far more than their share of ineffective teachers.

In contrast, in South Korea, elementary teachers are selected from the top 5 percent of their high school cohort. Teachers there get six months of training after they start their jobs. They are paid well, and the best receive bonus pay and designation as "master teachers." And please, listen very closely to this: in Korea, according to an international study, students from low-income families are actually more likely than students from rich families to have high quality teachers. Students from low-income families are actually more likely than students from rich families to have high quality teachers.

Why? Because teachers get extra pay and career rewards for working with the neediest kids. Their children who need more, get more. Our children who need more get less. And it's not just about teachers. Many countries that outdo us educationally hold high standards for all students -- an area where we're just trying to come up to speed. South Korea isn't a standout in providing public preschool, but many of the other countries that also out-educate us help kids start strong, by making sure they can attend preschool. We have to expand access to high quality early learning here. And they know that they have to give their schools modern tools -- including high-speed Internet. In Korea, 100 percent of students have access to broadband Internet. Here in the United States, it's more like 20 percent.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying we should be just like South Korea, where -- as President Lee told President Obama -- the pressure to study can get out of hand. In her book, Amanda Ripley talks about how Korean authorities have to enforce a 10 pm curfew on extra-tutoring schools, and students so exhausted that they wear napping pillows on their wrists in school. We absolutely shouldn't aim to emulate all aspects of Korea's education system -- there should be a sense of balance and common sense. But we need to act on what we know about countries that are out-educating us -- and your role as parent leaders is vital. Amanda Ripley's most intriguing point -- maybe her most unsettling point -- isn't just about schools, it's about culture, too.

It's about what we as a country, and as parents, expect of our children. The high-performing countries she looked at set high standards for what students should learn, and measured mastery with tests that mattered. In too many schools with low expectations here in the United States, everyone who comes to school passes, because, she writes, "kids deserved a chance to fail later, not now."

Repeatedly, she found that school in the United States was simply easier than in higher-performing countries. That's a point that was echoed, with devastating clarity, at a panel she moderated recently with me and a group of foreign exchange students from Korea, Brazil, Germany and Australia. Some of them were going to really strong high schools here in the United States -- but they all said that school here was easier than at home. Four teenagers, from four different countries, and all said they were challenged more back home.

And Amanda points a finger at you and me, as parents � not because we aren't involved in school, but because too often, we are involved in the wrong way. Parents, she says, are happy to show up at sports events, video camera in hand, and they'll come to school to protest a bad grade. But she writes, and I quote: "Parents did not tend to show up at schools demanding that their kids be assigned more challenging reading or that their kindergartners learn math while they still loved numbers." Here's her point: We love going to our kids' games and seeing them perform on stage in a play or in a concert. Parents who volunteer and raise money are the lifeblood of schools -- especially those that are stretched for resources.

But to really help our kids, we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work. And we have to work with teachers and leaders to create schools that demand more from our kids. I know I'm preaching to the choir here today. You're here because you're committed to raising your voice. But you're also a leader of other parents. And this is a singularly important moment. So let me speak to you as parent leaders, and leaders of parents, because you have the power to drive change.

Don't ever underestimate the power of your collective voice. America's schools are undergoing some of the greatest changes in decades right now. Forty-five states and DC have adopted new, higher, internationally-benchmarked standards for what students should learn -- standards that call for more critical thinking and deeper problem solving. Most school systems will give a dry run this year to new assessments that measure mastery of those standards.

These assessments are better than what you've seen in the past, but there's a reason for the dry run.

The new assessments will be taken on line, and I can guarantee you there will be technical glitches, as well as some questions that won't make it past this "field test" stage. Teachers are working really hard to come up to speed with these new standards, which are driving big �- and positive -- changes in the classroom. Schools are putting new systems in place to use data on students' growth and improvements in learning to support and evaluate teachers, which is a really good thing for the teaching profession -- but it also causes anxiety.

Great teaching matters tremendously -- we have to get better at recognizing and rewarding excellence. Every part of this sea-change in the classroom is about schools expecting more of students, helping teachers be more creative, telling the truth about our performance, and improving teaching and learning. It's about giving our kids a fair chance to succeed, to compete, to become part of the middle class -- to do better than you and I did. Our children deserve the best -- we have to stop settling for less. These changes are hard. They're controversial. And your support can make so much difference.

Take, for example, what's happening in Louisville, Kentucky. The transition to higher standards is going well there, and parents are a huge part of why. The 15th District PTA began training parents on the state's new, high standards there in 2011, holding workshops at 36 schools, 42 community groups, and every single library in Louisville. They reached over 15,000 parents and community members face-to-face. And, in part because these new standards are more rigorous, the PTA sponsors an afterschool assistance program at Middletown Elementary where teachers volunteer and parents provide support. That's the kind of engagement, communication, and academic enrichment we need in communities across the country.

Your voice matters, too, in how schools handle discipline. Last week, Attorney General Holder and I announced new guidelines aimed at reducing inappropriate suspensions and expulsions. Too often, students -- and disproportionately, students of color and those with disabilities -- are put out of school for relatively minor infractions. That discrimination that still exists today in too many of our schools and districts is unacceptable and must be challenged by all of us. Please, work with educators to support them in setting high expectations for appropriate behavior and safety at school -- and to fight back against unnecessary out-of-school discipline. You can learn more at our website. What we, as parents, do now matters so much. Please raise your voice for excellence--and against complacency. Organize other parents. Ask your political and school system leaders what they're doing to support higher standards, to improve teaching, and how you can partner with them in this difficult, but critically-important work. Ask the hard questions, even when it means shaking things up and challenging the status quo. And -- regardless of politics or ideology -- in the voting booth, cast your ballot in local, state, and national elections for those who will invest in education � in quality preschool, in college opportunities that families can afford, in schools that offer more to your kids.

Every politician says they are pro-education � but how many get beyond the platitudes and easy sound bites, and actually walk the walk? The answer is not enough -- but it's our fault, not theirs, because we don't hold them accountable. Collectively, parents have the power to transform educational opportunity in this country. We must stop fighting the wrong fights and unite against our common enemy � and that's academic failure. Thank you so much for what you have done and, more importantly, thank you for what I know you will do going forward. I look forward to your questions.



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