Advance Illinois in their own words... Complete Transcript of all speakers and remarks from the June 19, 2009 breakfast
The following is the complete transcript of all the remarks made during the June 19, 2009, breakfast with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The transcript was provided to Substance by the staff of Advance Illinois, and we thank them for it.
The transcript has been highlighted by speaker (bold) but is otherwise precisely as we received it from Advance Illinois on June 24, 2009. Advance Illinois Transcript
ROBIN STEANS: And it’s going to start with a man that I had always admired from a distance and in public, and who I’ve gotten to admire even more deeply and even more as I’ve gotten to know him, uh, more personally; and that’s former Governor Jim Edgar, who is as genuine, as smart, as insightful, and as genuinely committed to the issues of Illinois in private, in person, and behind closed doors as he seems to be and always has been publicly. So, it’s my great pleasure to introduce one of the two co-chairs of Advance Illinois, Governor Jim Edgar.
JIM EDGAR: Thank you, Robin. Let me welcome all of you here early this morning. We appreciate your flexibility as we change this from a lunch to a breakfast. Now, I’m going to be very brief. You’re here not to hear someone who used to be, but you’re here to hear someone who is. And, more importantly, Secretary…is not only somebody who is in power, he has power, and, I think most importantly, he has money, so, uh…
JIM EDGAR: And I have neither, and I have neither, so, uh…but let me just say, as someone who does not spend as much time in education as many of you here in this room do, that I have been very impressed with the enthusiasm in this state to bring about change.
And one of the things that really struck me, that came out of the report that we have just released, is the fact, the unfortunate fact that only one out of four high school graduates in Illinois are really prepared for what comes after high school. That means three out of four aren’t making it. And, to me, that is a shocking statistic and something that underscores, whether we like it or not, we need to bring about change, and we need to bring about radical change. Now, some might say this is a terrible time in Illinois to try to bring about change with all of our problems.
But it’s been my experience in government that that is when you bring about change, when things are bad. It gives you a window of opportunity and we do not want this window of opportunity to pass us by. So, it’s great to see you all here this morning. I want you to know this group is working as hard as we can, but we need your partnership. And together we have an opportunity in Illinois to bring about meaningful change. But, it’s been my experience, that window won’t stay open for a long period of time. So let’s hope that a year from now we can gather again and talk about some of our early victories. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to ruffle a lot of feathers, but, looking at the studies, looking at the facts, we have no alternative but to bring about change, even what some people might think is radical change. So again, I welcome you here to this breakfast.
We look forward to working with you in the months and the years ahead as we move Illinois forward. Now, one housekeeping I’ve been told to do: you’re supposed to have cards at your table and we would like you to start writing questions you will have for the Secretary that will be collected and he will be asked from what is written on those cards. My second responsibility is one that is very enjoyable and that’s to introduce my co-chairman. Now, a lot of people were a little surprised when they saw this was co-chaired by Edgar and Daley, but let me just tell you I have always had a high opinion of Bill Daley and I’ve really enjoyed working with him on this committee, and I can tell you that there is no one more committed to seeing improvement in education than Bill Daley. It is indeed my pleasure to introduce the former Secretary of Commerce, my good friend, Bill Daley.
BILL DALEY: Thanks very much. Thanks very much, Governor, for your comments. Obviously, it would have been really weird if it was Rich Daley and Jim Edgar, but, uh…
BILL DALEY: But, uh, I think we, we’ve seen, those of us who have been on the board of Advance Illinois over the last year and a half, or whatever period it’s been that we’ve been working, the sort of leadership that Jim exerted in the public world when he was Governor, and we really do appreciate his leadership and it’s been a pleasure to work with him so closely. It does symbolize, let me just say, in a very serious way, our coming together, as many others on the board have come together, who may disagree on lots of issues, the importance of this issue, the importance today of this issue. It is not, as we all know, a Democrat or a Republican issue. It’s not urban or rural or suburban, or above or below I-80. It truly is an Illinois issue, and one that we all are focusing on, or need to focus even more so than the people in this room, many of whom have dedicated their lives to making the opportunities for young people greater.
But there are many reasons why it is important today that we act. Never has the need been so great. In the 1970s, the U.S. led the world in the percentage of students graduating from high school and entering college. That is no longer true.
In Illinois, more than 41,000 students drop out of school each year. And that’s a crisis that’s not just in Chicago for over half of those students are outside the Chicago area. We also have one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. It costs our students, but is also costing us as taxpayers in Illinois. By one estimate, if we could graduate students of color at the same rate as white students, we’d add 13 billion dollars to our state economy by the year of 2020. Never has a course of action obviously been so clear. Many states, and even some schools in districts right here in Illinois, are successfully implementing many of the reforms which we are discussing today. So, therefore, we know that these reforms work.
The opportunity, obviously, has never been greater. As you’ll hear later, there are billions of dollars in new stimulus money Illinois could capture if we show we are working to reinvent our schools. The Secretary of Education has been very clear with that. We have to get our act together, and we’ve got to show that we understand that it’s a new day. It’s a new day with a new president who is directing innovative programs and the Secretary. They’ve got the money, yes, but they also have the responsibility with 50 states and thousands of school districts to do this fairly and they will.
And if we don’t get our act together, with the opportunity we have, than shame on everyone in this state, and that’s starting with the political leadership in this state. So we are, obviously, by our recommendations that are based upon research and based upon best practices that are occurring throughout the country.
We offer these changes with no hidden agenda. This is a start, but if we don’t start now, we will never have the opportunity to truly change this state. So, now we want to introduce to come back to the stage the Executive Director of Advance Illinois, an attorney, a former schoolteacher, someone who’s really pulled this group together, and we are very proud is the Executive Director, Robin Steans.
ROBIN STEANS: Good morning. I asked my dad for his advice on some comments this morning. He said, "look, just tell 'em everything you know, it won't take very long." I, of course, promptly replied, "I'd tell 'em all we both know and it would take absolutely no longer." So, uh...that's just for you, dad. Um, seriously, I'm gonna be brief, but I'm gonna take a little longer than I might because Advance Illinois has come out with it's first set of recommendations, and we're a new organization, and I think that it bears us taking a little bit of time to make sure that we are, uh, sharing some of our thinking.
So I appreciate all of you being in this room. It's really a tremendous collection of talent. But my most special welcome this morning is for Arne Duncan, who I just can't thank enough for being here this morning. Like some of you in this room, I've known Arne long before he was a fancy CEO of the third largest district in the country; certainly before he rose to national prominence and we have to call him Secretary and fancy things like that. And I know him to be unbelievably dedicated to children, absolutely sincere in everything that he does, and one of the smartest people we're going to find.
And so the idea that this historic opportunity that the federal stimulus package for education represents is in Arne's hands, to be used to drive change, substance, and lasting value around the country gives me unbelievable confidence and pleasure. So I'm just unbelievably personally grateful, Arne, that you're here this morning. We all know that the Secretary has a very powerful bully pulpit and an unprecedented amount of resources behind him. But as he regularly acknowledges, real change has to be driven at the state level. That's why Advance Illinois exists. That's why you're all here this morning, because we all know that that's true. That's where the hard, rubber-meets-the-road decisions get made. We also know that real change requires collaboration.
And Illinois is in an unbelievably good place on this. There are formal coalitions, like the Education Roundtable, and informal gatherings, like the Dialogue Group, that are bringing, regularly, education leaders from across the political spectrum, from around the state, and from management and labor and downstate and Chicago points of view together to talk about how we can improve and put new ideas to work.
As my co-chairs have noted, we have a lot of work to do in Illinois. So it's good that we're in that place. But as tough as some of the numbers are—and obviously we've only scratched the surface, you'll see some additional ones in our report—I am fundamentally hopeful about our future because we have this unique opportunity at the state level. We have strong leadership in key places. We have some sound efforts that are already underway. We have a spirit and growing practice of collaboration. I think we have a growing and clear understanding of what awaits us if we do nothing. And then we have this transformative opportunity to capture the funding we need to move forward.
The proposals you have before you, as Governor Edgar and Mr. Daley have mentioned, were informed by nearly a year of consultation with national experts and by a listening tour around the state of Illinois, where we met with families and stakeholders and educators throughout the state. And while a few things came shining through, chief among them, as the person who drove most of those miles, is that Illinois really is a very big, very diverse state. And while schools and districts struggle with a common set of challenges: how do you engage parents; how do you really make curriculum and courses meaningful and relevant for kids; how do you deal with the wide spectrum of ability that can take place in a classroom; how do you use technology really to enhance instruction. While you've got a common set of challenges, they play out very differently in different places in the state. And different communities have different opportunities, different resources, and different ideas.
Yet despite the dramatic variations that we all know exist in schools across the state, that all of us know exist, Illinois continues to fund and regulate schools in a one-size-fits-all manner. It's time for a paradigm shift. We have to move away from an over-reliance on state mandates to solve problems and towards a system that empowers and trusts local decision making. How do we get there? We've got to recruit the most talented educators. We have to arm them with good information, clear goals, and the necessary support, and then we have to backstop that with a strong focus on results.
So first, if we're going to empower local decision making, we've got to have the best possible teachers and principals in every school. There isn't any other reform that we might pursue—I don't care whether it's more funding, I don't care whether it's the best standards in the world—that can substitute for sound judgement, well-applied by good, motivated, well-trained people in the field.
So if we're serious about this, we have to rethink the way we train teachers and principals, we have to rethink the tools we're providing them, the way in which we're evaluating them, and then we need to empower them.
As the State Leader Task Force, which was ably chaired by Steve Tozer—I know is here this morning, I'm a big fan—as the State Leader Task Force concluded, we are overdue to revamp the principal preparation programs in this state. Moreover, both teacher and principal preparation training programs should be evaluated more rigorously, with approval and accreditation linked to how graduates actually perform on the job. Mentoring and coaching needs to become the order of the day.
And finally, we need to develop meaningful teacher and principal evaluations; not ones that are based on seniority or time in training, but based on performance. In the case of principals, that means we're going to need better, more diverse information that goes just beyond the test scores, which are critical and important to know about growth, but also tell us something about the school culture and climate, which are leading indicators for long term success.
So we propose that the state conduct, on a regular basis, an independent school climate survey. In the case of teachers, it means that union, district, and state leaders need to work together to shape an evaluation strategy that's focused on performance, on a teacher's ability to impact student achievement, and done in a way that honors the complexity of the teaching task. Done well, evaluations help develop and promote better practice.
And as The New Teacher Project pointed out in a recent report—Tim Daly is here and I just thought it was a terrific job—the sad reality is we haven't taken seriously evaluations in the past. Between 1995 and 2005, fewer than 1% of teachers in Illinois were rated unsatisfactory. Fewer than 1%. That benefits no one. It doesn't benefit the teachers, who need and deserve honest feedback for their work and how to grow. And it certainly doesn't benefit the students, who depend upon their instruction.
So we need to make evaluation count, which means we need to make it matter, which means that we need to link it to professional milestones like certification and tenure. Now, in addition to having great people, we've got to be clear what we're trying to accomplish. There’s an old saying that what gets measured gets done. So setting high standards and clear goals may be the most fundamental state role of all. Without a roadmap of where they need to go, schools can’t be faulted for not reaching important destinations. This is one issue we heard loud and clear on our listening tour.
Because in community after community, there was a concern that students are leaving school thinking that they’re fine and finding out they’re in fact not ready for what’s coming next for them. So we need to raise our standards, both in terms of course requirements, more math, everyone should take Algebra II or the Career and Technical equivalent.
We need more science and more lab work.
And we need more relevance.
Some of the best stories we heard from folks around the state was about course work that brought students out into the workplace or brought the community into the classroom or that had really wonderful dual credit programs that allowed students to experience college early.
Now, the happy news here is that Illinois is moving in a terrific direction. Chris Koch and Jesse Ruiz, from the Illinois State Board of Education, are doing an unbelievable job. They’ve partnered with Judy Erwin, at the Board of Higher Education, Geoffrey Obrzut, at the Community College Board, Jeff Mays from the Illinois Business Roundtable, and the Governor’s Office, all joined together to put Illinois on a path of becoming part of the American Diploma Project, which is an effort designed to help Illinois develop a common core of college and career ready standards. And as importantly, Chris Koch has gone a step further. He’s working with more than 40 states to tighten standards in a collaborative way, which is not only incredibly important, but very timely because the Department of Education has recently pledged 350 million dollars to help states develop assessments against those standards.
And once those standards are in place, the state is going to have to look at new assessments. Not just retooling old high stakes tests, but incorporating end-of-course exams, moving to online assessments; strategies that provide more accurate, nimble, and timely information to teachers and families and, in the case of online assessments, could well save us lots of money. And every bit as importantly—and I know the leaders, I don’t mean to say this, I know they’re onto this, I know they’re going to work hard on this—
We’ve got to raise our expectations on those standards. It is unacceptable that the scores we’re telling kids, that we’re telling kids they’re doing fine when in reality they’re performance is not what it needs to be, and they’re going to learn that soon enough when it’s much harder to correct. But I also want to be clear that, while raising standards is critical, it is equally important that we provide teachers with the curriculum and the formative assessments and training that will help them help their students achieve to new high levels, and that we give them timely, usable data to inform instruction in decision making.
We’re delighted, the General Assembly, you’ve got a number of elected officials. You guys did a number of things well. There were a few things you didn’t finish. But you did a number of things well. One of them is you passed a longitudinal data system, which finally puts us on a path to be able to follow kids from early childhood all the way through higher education, potentially also track them across other agencies and produce information that’s really usable, that will drive smart decisions by parents, by teachers, by principals.
And that’s the next challenge, to make sure we put that information in people’s hands in a way that they can and will use it. And we also understand how critical it is that we involve parents early in their child’s education. [indecipherable] where students’ challenges begin early. One educator on our listening tour put it really well. He said, “you know, kids are dropping out in 10th grade, but we’ve lost ‘em by 3rd.” So we applaud the efforts, the organizations, The Ounce of Prevention, Action for Children, Voices for Illinois Children who have been championing programming for children ages birth to three, not just because it reaches children early, although that’s fabulous, but I think as importantly because those programs necessarily reach out to parents and seek to engage them in their child’s learning.
We propose that Illinois develop a multi-dimensional kindergarten readiness measure that will give parents information earlier in their child’s education, alerting them to developmental problems, and providing guidance on how to support their child.
But the real key to moving away from a one-size-fits-all status quo is creating mechanisms that provide local schools and districts with the flexibility to try new things and to do so in a way that builds accountability into the process. Charter schools are one clear such strategy. And again, we applaud the General Assembly, with bipartisan and bicameral leadership from Senator Kimberly Lightford and Representative Jerry Mitchell [sounds like she says “Miller”??], for passing legislation this session lifting the cap on charter schools. Everybody came together—management organizations, state leadership, union leadership—to pull this legislation off. And given the strong feelings on charters that I know exist, both in this room and around the state, the fact that we were able to tackle that legislation, to me, is a very healthy sign that the state is able and willing to embrace a new way of working together.
To help support such local initiative in other schools and districts, we propose that Illinois direct a portion of any new education funding, that it go to schools and districts, be an innovation and performance fund.
Schools and districts would be able to use these dollars to tackle long-standing issues. Critically, schools would set stretch but tailored performance goals. If they meet those goals, the funding would continue. In other words, instead of directing funds to support state driven mandates, we would direct funds to meet local needs and do so in a way that is performance driven; something, I’ve got to tell you, is almost unheard of in a public school system; and something that, with real time and real investment, has the power to transform the way schools do business. And I know from traveling the state that good ideas are out there. What sorts of things did we here about that such a fund might support? Schools need and want more time
I’m sure everybody here knows Illinois has got one of the shortest school days and years in the country, and the country in turn has got one of the shortest school days and years in the world. And more time doesn’t only mean more instruction for kids, although God knows that’s essential, it also means more time for professional development and collaboration and planning for teachers.
Schools are also looking for more and better ways to support kids, to make sure they’re not falling through the cracks.
Illinois has one of the worst student-counselor ratios in the country. We’ve got an average of one counselor for every 690 kids, if you can believe that. Schools are anxious to find good and better ways to engage and motivate students; maybe it’s with counselors, maybe it’s with advisory, maybe with this enriched programming. But they’re anxious to work on that. Or perhaps we can use the resources we already have more effectively and additional dollars can help support that.
At present, Illinois directs over 400 million dollars to reward teachers for graduate degrees, despite the fact that there’s no correlation with student achievement.
And I say this as someone who got a nice salary bump for having a master’s degree myself. But that money, to be clear, should stay with teachers. But it should be with teachers to do things that are going to be helpful to student achievement: to extend the school day; to attract teachers to high-need classrooms and fields; to support coaching and mentoring, which needs to be expanded. But with local discretion comes responsibility for results.
If we are serious about holding schools and districts responsible for results, then we must finally as a state tackle the hardest challenge of all. What do we do when schools, despite all the best efforts, continue to struggle and continue to fail? We need to agree as a state on how to identify those schools that require extraordinary measures. We need to be clear about what that work will require. And we need to begin to build the capacity, internally at the state level and with outside partners, to really tackle it effectively. These and our other recommendations are our attempt to join forces with good work and good partners that are already underway. And to push in some directions we believe remain as yet unaddressed. And they’re of course just first steps. There are many other issues we can and must address over time: ongoing need to reach children as early as possible, the particular need to expand bilingual early childhood education opportunities, and the obvious need to address the state’s fundamentally flawed school funding system.
But we need to make a start and we look forward to working with everyone in the room and beyond to make progress.
So without further delay, and I apologize for taking some time, I want to introduce a fellow board member—I guess not “fellow”—and a board member, Joe Fatheree. Joe Fatheree is a teacher and Effingham High School. He may be one of the most talented educators I’ve had the privilege to meet. And I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so because he was named the Illinois State Teacher of the Year two years ago, and the National Education Association named him their Educator of the Year for the country last year. And I’m sure when there’s a Planetary Teacher of the Year, he will win that too. Joe Fatheree, can you come up and introduce our speaker?
[img=621 JOSEPH FATHEREE: A teacher, having the opportunity to speak directly to the Secretary of Education about the issues at hand, that’s the way it should be. And I really appreciate Arne Duncan having an open door policy and rewriting the way politics are done in Washington and helping us see how it can be done in Illinois and our districts around. Arne Duncan is a man that needs little introduction in our city. He served as a CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from 2000 until last year, making him the longest serving big city Education Superintendent in the country. While at CPS he worked with education reformers, teachers, principals, business stakeholders, pushing an aggressive education reform agenda that included more than a hundred new schools, expanding after-school and summer learning programs, closing down under-performing schools, increasing early childhood and college access, and dramatically boosting the caliber of teachers.
He has called education the civil rights issue for our generation. And I think that’s something we ought to pay particular attention to. And his drive in national change as the new Secretary of Ed for President Obama, laying out some bold challenges to states to tackle some of the nation’s toughest problems.
We are delighted to have Secretary Duncan here to share his thoughts on the work at hand and give us a national perspective on some of the critical issues Illinois aims to address. It is my pleasure to introduce to you the Secretary of Education, Mr. Arne Duncan.
ARNE DUNCAN: Thank you so much, Joe, and it’s good to be home. I miss you guys. Before I begin, could I just ask that the current CPS family and former CPS family to please stand. Let’s give them a round of applause for all their hard work.
ARNE DUNCAN: I have to tell you, without their leadership and their courage, I would never have had this opportunity, so I’m forever indebted to what you guys have done collectively. To Robin and to the Advance Illinois team, this is just a remarkable, remarkable collaboration. I love this Daley-Edgar partnership. I love the idea of doing business differently, and I mean that very, very seriously. The problem in education is we’ve had these traditional battle lines and people don’t talk and people don’t collaborate and people don’t work. And what you see here with this Advance Illinois coalition of business and educators on both sides of the aisle, community folks, nonprofits, it is fundamentally breaking through.
And I think this Advance Illinois partnership is exactly the type of thing that we need around the country. We have to behave differently together.
Adult dysfunction has been a huge part of the problem in education. And if we can do it here in Illinois, we can do it anywhere, you know, given the historical dividing lines. So Robin, thank you so much for your leadership. Thank you to Governor Edgar and Bill Daley for your leadership. And you guys are really setting, I think, a standard for where the country can go. So thanks so much for your leadership. We’re trying to build upon that sense of coalition and, believe it or not, I’m probably going to go on a five-city tour with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton, so…
ARNE DUNCAN: And I’m not making this up.
ARNE DUNCAN: And there’s so much interest. I was told yesterday there’s going to be a movie about this tour.
ARNE DUNCAN:: I’m not making that up either. So, it’s interesting times, but it takes people from many different walks of life coming together. Again, that’s been the problem in education is we haven’t done that historically. So what you’re doing here is very, very important, not just for the state and not just for the children here, but for country. And I appreciate that collective leadership.
I was here a couple of months ago and I was probably a little tough in my comments to Illinois, but, for better or worse, I tried to be pretty frank. And since that time there’s just been some absolutely remarkable progress that I would not have predicted.
We’ve seen the charter cap raised.
We’ve seen this movement to create this P-20 data system.
Illinois has joined 46 other states thinking about dramatically raising standards.
And so, in a short amount of time, real movement. I want to thank all of you for chipping in to that, all of you for not accepting the status quo and pushing to get dramatically better. I think the agenda that Robin’s laid out is bold. It is aggressive. And it’s interesting that you can sort of sense the excitement in the room. You can sense the interest.
But it’s pretty easy to put some good ideas on paper.
The hard part is how you move from ideas to implementation. And that’s where the rubber is going to meet the road. And so I urge you collectively to stay the course. Don’t stop with a good presentation. Don’t stop with a good report. If you can actually do the things in there, if you can implement them, act upon them, then things start to change pretty dramatically for children. If not, this will be one of dozens and dozens and dozens of great ideas, great papers that never saw the light of day. And so it’s been great, great work so far, but that’s honestly the easy part. The hard part is taking that to the next step and really making it change for children in classrooms around the state.
We want to be a good partner with you. Thanks to the President’s leadership and support, thanks to Congress’s generosity, three billion dollars in stimulus resources is coming to the state. Never enough. Very, very tough economic times here and around the country. But with that money, we want to push an unprecedented reform agenda.
I couldn’t agree more with Governor Edgar and Rahm Emanuel, the President’s Chief of Staff, has this great line, “never waste a good crisis.” And this is this combination of educational crisis around the country and economic crisis, real opportunity.
And this money invested in the status quo will not get us where we need to go. We want this money to drive a very, very strong reform agenda. So I want to take a minute to talk about that.
If we just invest in what we have, we’re going to continue to have drop-out rates that are unacceptable, we’re going to continue to have a bar that’s too low, and so we have to use this money to be creative, to be innovative. Yes, we need to save hundreds of thousands of teachers’ jobs around the country. We have to continue to push a very strong reform agenda. What does that mean? Four things I’ve talked about. And Illinois is part of a group of 46 states that are first working on creating common college-ready, career-ready internationally benchmarked standards.
Our children today aren’t competing for jobs in the district or in the state. Our children are competing for jobs with children in India and China. We have to raise the bar dramatically. Robin said that Illinois, unfortunately, is one of those states where I think we lie to children, where our bar is so low and we tell them they’re meeting standards. When a child or a family is told they’re meeting standards, the logical assumption, the right assumption is that they’re on track to be successful. The fact of the matter is, in Illinois and in many other states around the country, when a child is meeting standards they are barely able to graduate from high school and they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to college.
And so this idea of coming together, and I appreciate Chris Koch’s and Jesse Ruiz’s leadership so much, 46 states coming together and saying, “our children deserve better,” trying to raise the bar and thinking about much higher standards, thinking about common assessments after that. And if we can do that, and that’s going to take political courage, if we can do that, the life chances of our children are going to improve dramatically.
Secondly, and again Illinois has already worked on this, this idea of comprehensive data systems. And what’s so important to us is these data systems link teachers to children. Great teachers matter. Great principals matter. Talent matters in education tremendously. We’ve been scared to talk about how important a great teacher is for children. We’ve been scared to talk about how devastating the consequences are of teachers that aren’t making a difference in student’s lives. I was amazed to learn, and maybe many of you knew this, we have a number of states around the country where it is literally against the state law to link teacher data with student data. There are firewalls protecting that. And it was interesting, I went to California, and California is like its own country. I’m learning so much about California.
ARNE DUNCAN: So it’s a big country. I’ve got, like, five full-time tutors on California. But California, I kept being told at this lunch, “we have this firewall, we have this firewall, this firewall between these two systems.”
And I said, “a firewall is supposed to protect children, protect us from fire. And what is this protecting us from?”
The room got real quiet. And California is fascinating.
California has 300,000 teachers. 300,000.
If you took that top ten percent, the top 30,000 teachers, those teachers are probably amongst the best in the world.
If you took the bottom ten percent, the bottom 30,000, those 30,000 probably shouldn’t be in teaching. They should be doing something else.
And no one in California can tell you what teacher is in what category. How is that good for children? It doesn’t make sense. So you guys leading the way on creating comprehensive data systems, P-20, and really thinking about how teachers impact children, how adults make a difference in student’s lives. We can’t shy away from that.
Third, and this is in your report, thinking very differently about talent. How do we reward excellence? Why in education are we so scared of rewarding excellence? Great teachers, great principals, we can’t pay them enough. Pick a number: 125 grand, 150 grand, 200 grand. Pick a number and they will still be underpaid, they will still be undervalued. We have to shine a spotlight on excellence.
We have to create real incentives to get the best and brightest to take on the toughest of assignments. Something I worry a lot about nationally, I worried every day about it here in Chicago, as you all know, we have some of our best teachers often flee the inner city communities and go to the more middle class communities. And how to we reverse that trend, that talent flight, and create an incentive so our best and brightest go into the heart of the inner city on the south and the west side into underserved communities around the country, whether it’s the inner city or rural.
How do we think about areas of critical need, math and science, foreign language? I think we should pay math and science teachers more. Our country has been talking about a math and science teacher shortage for, I think, three decades. So let’s stop talking about it. Let’s put some money on the table, let’s create some incentives so that we can get folks to come in there. How can our children learn to love math, learn to love science if their teachers don’t know the content?
Our students start to lose interest in 6th and 7th and 8th grade, and guess what? That’s when the content starts to get a little hard. They’re being taught too often by teachers that don’t have those skills. So we have to think very, very differently about rewarding talent, identifying it, getting that talent to go where we need it the most. And then where we have areas of shortage, filling those gaps.
And then finally again I appreciate your leadership so much on this idea of turnaround schools. And as you guys well know, it is tough, it is controversial, it is hard, but I’d argue it’s one of the most important things we can do as a country. Our children have one chance to get a great education. And if we just tinker around the edges in those schools that, year after year, 60, 70, 75 percent of students drop out, where not just their absolute test scores are low, I’m much more interested in gain, but we have low test scores and low growth where those schools are falling further and further behind.
We have to step in and do something dramatically different. I’m trying to challenge the country to think about—we have almost 100,000 schools, 95,000, round it up to 100,000—if we as a country just took the bottom one percent, 99% left alone, but the bottom one percent a year and as a country we got into the business of turning those schools around every single year and stopped the acceptance of these drop-out factories. If we did that, over the next couple years, we could absolutely eliminate that bottom piece of our portfolio and change not just the life chances of the children going to those schools, but the life chances of their children’s children and for generations to come.
And so I think there’s tremendous alignment between our agenda from Washington and Advance Illinois’s agenda. Couldn’t be more proud of that, but the hard work lies ahead. And we look forward to being a good partner with you. The final thing I’ll say, I would love to open up for questions, is that when you’re trying to think about this fundamental and systemic change, there are a couple pieces to it. Often there are financial constraints.
And there are still absolute and real financial constraints, not just here in Chicago, but in the state and around the country. The flip side of it, though, is we have 100 billion dollars of new money coming into education. Five billion early childhood, almost 70 billion K to 12, north of 30 billion higher education. We will never see this kind of influx of resources again. It’s a doubling of our budget. Those things, as you guys know, just don’t happen in government. Just unbelievable leadership by the President and by Congress. So, unprecedented financial resources.
Secondly, you need sort of the ideas, the intellectual capital. You need to know what works. And a big reason why I’m so hopeful about where we’re going is we have more great examples around the country of what works. Great schools, here in Chicago, in our toughest communities. Great districts, great teachers. Over the past 5, 10, 15 years, we’ve seen this flourishing of innovation, this flourishing of entrepreneurial education. I don’t need to come up with any great ideas. When I was here, I definitely thought all the good ideas weren’t in Washington. And now that I’m in Washington, I know all the good ideas aren’t in Washington.
ARNE DUNCAN: It’s always going to be at the local level. It’s always going to be great teachers, great principals making a difference there. So we have money, we know what works.
I think the challenge for our country, I’m convinced the challenge for our country is not around resources, it is not around intellectual capital. It’s around political will and courage. And, frankly, we have known for a long time what the right thing to do is. We have simply lacked, as a country, the political will and the courage to do the right thing. So I want everyone here just to take a minute and think about the historic opportunity. I may be a little biased, but I don’t think we will ever have a President like this President who fundamentally gets education, who is passionate about it, who day after day, week after week, keeps coming back to education, despite fighting two wars, despite the toughest economy since the depression.
We will never have a bipartisan Congress putting a hundred billion dollars on the table. We will never have this historic opportunity again. And you hope for eight years. That might not happen. You have to think about sets of four. And a question for all of us in this room is can we change education enough in these next four years that it changes for the next four decades. And let me be clear, it’s not about the money. It’s not about the hundred billion. The question is can we use that hundred billion dollars to leverage enough change and drive enough reform so that children are still feeling the benefits and the impact long after that last dollar is spent. So that’s the opportunity and that’s the challenge. And if we can work hard enough, if we can push each other, if we can collaborate and really challenge the status quo every single day, I honestly believe we have a chance to change education in this country forever. I look forward to working with you to do that. Thank you so much. I’ll take any questions you might have.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
ROBIN STEANS: Alright, thank you to those who submitted questions. There are a number, Arne, that are about how do you address the systemic factors—poverty, family deterioration, violence in communities—that are so clearly strong inhibitors of student achievement, student learning.
ARNE DUNCAN: There’s obviously no easy answer, but I just fundamentally believe that great schools, and again people are living and breathing it every day, and the school you and your family put together at North Lawndale College Prep, the heart of North Lawndale, arguably the most or one of the most violent communities in Chicago, absolutely one of the poorest, where 95, 96, 97 percent of students graduate every single year. The overwhelming majority of those who graduate go on to college. And so despite all those factors, schools that work hard, schools that have longer hours, schools that have teachers that go way beyond the call of duty, they make a huge difference in our students’ lives. What North Lawndale does is a fascinating example. So many of our schools in tough neighborhoods spend hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on security: security guards, security systems, metal detectors. They put all of their money not into security, but into social workers. And those social workers create a climate where children feel cared about, where they feel supported. They stay with children for that year after high school to make sure they transition into college well. And so despite poverty, despite, you know, all the challenges we face, great schools make a huge difference in our lives and we can’t afford to make any excuses. We have too many examples right here in our backyard of children overcoming those odds every single day. We just have to have a lot more of those schools. That has to become the norm, rather than the exception.
ROBIN STEANS: Well, in that line, can you talk a little bit about, I mean, you’ve talked about turnaround schools, we know that’s one of the hardest challenges. There are a couple of different questions here about what examples you’ve seen, as you’ve been traveling the country, of successful models. The Fresh Start examples here in Chicago, for example, which are union-district partnerships. Or other examples you’ve found elsewhere in the country that you think are ones for Illinois to look at.
ARNE DUNCAN: There aren’t enough examples. There are some. Green Dot is doing a great job in L.A. Mastery Learning is doing some interesting things in Philadelphia. But it’s — as you look across the country, we have to build our country’s capacity to turn around schools.
And we’re challenging everyone to get in the business. States need to be in the business, districts need to be in the business, nonprofits, charter organizations need to be in the business, unions need to be in the business. All of us need to be thinking very, very differently about what we do in that bottom one percent.
And to me it really means throwing out the old rules, throwing out the playbook, and coming together. So there are good examples, but this is very, very early on. It’s interesting to me, you have great groups that provide—great nonprofits, great social entrepreneurs that provide new sources of teachers, groups like Teach For America.
You have groups that are starting new schools, charter organizations.
You have groups that are doing principal training, New Leaders for New Schools.
There are very few groups nationally that are in the school turnaround business and I think that’s not an accident. There are very few groups in that business because this is so hard. This is the toughest work in education in our country today. So what we want to see is a next generation, a flourish of innovation by everyone. Again, districts, nonprofits, states, unions, all of us coming together. And we need to create a lot more examples. Many of these will work, some won’t. We need to learn from those as well. But as a country we need to get in the business of turning around schools. We can’t continue to shy away from that.
ROBIN STEANS: Well, along that line, can you talk a little bit about the role of parent and community participation. Clearly one of the challenges is there’s always a local context. Do you think they’re important? How do you involve those in constructive ways?
ARNE DUNCAN: Yeah, parental participation is hugely, hugely important and I think, again, it’s so easy to blame parents for not doing enough, but I’ll tell you so often as schools we have not done a good job opening our doors to parents. And before I’m critical of others, I’m trying to be very self-critical first and look in the mirror. I think our schools have to become community centers, our schools have to be open longer hours, they have to have a wide variety of activities, not just for children but for parents: GED, ESL, family literacy nights, family counseling, potluck dinners, healthcare clinics. And again, you guys here, you have examples in our toughest neighborhoods in Chicago where you have 100 to 150 parents come to your school every day, not for their children’s education but for their own.
So I really do believe, we build it, if we do the outreach, and this isn’t easy, this is parents giving out cell phone numbers and calling home, not just when things are bad but when things are good. This is principals literally knocking on doors and getting out there. You just can’t sit back and this is magically going to happen. But you have phenomenal education leaders here in Chicago, in the black community, in the Latino community, who are bringing in parents. Look at what’s going on here and stop making excuses for what’s not possible.
ROBIN STEANS: One of the other challenges I think people have in mind is you talk about how important it is to measure what matters. Are we measuring the right skills, particularly at high school? How do we better measure some of the 21st century skills: critical thinking, leadership, communication, the ability to work in teams?
ARNE DUNCAN: It’s a great question. I think as we go through, or start to think about NCLB Reauthorization, looking at a broader set of measures is really important. And I don’t think we evaluate those things well.
I also think we have to have many more students in our country, that we’re producing from high schools, that are both college and career ready. And there’s often sort of a debate about that. To me, that’s a false dichotomy. I think the skills are very similar to be successful in the world of work today and to be successful in a university. And the bottom line is we don’t have enough children in the country yet who are prepared to do either; to go on to college to be successful or to go into the world of work. So I think we have to think about multiple assessments. We have to think about how we broaden things out. But at the end of the day that’s the bar. Are we producing students that are prepared to take the next step in their education journey? And that doesn’t happen enough yet in this country.
ROBIN STEANS: You talk a lot about teacher quality and I have a couple questions here about National Board Certification and your views on that. It’s impact, whether that’s something that the federal government wants to try and support and grow and how you see that fitting into that issue.
ARNE DUNCAN: Yeah, I was a big, big fan of National Board Certification. And I think Janet Knupp is here. And the Public Education Fund was a great partner. Marilyn Stuart and the Teachers Union was a great, great partner. What I love about National Board Certification is two things. One, it’s your best teachers going back and getting better. And our children listen to what we say, but they do a lot more watching what we do. And when your best teachers are opening themselves up and working that hard to be successful, what and extraordinary example that sets for children. The second thing I love is this external high bar so it can’t be dummied down, it can’t be sort of spun at the local level. About half the teachers nationally that apply for National Board Certification each year don’t get in. It is a really, really rigorous bar. It’s that combination of your best getting better and having a very high standard I think sends a great, great message. And the state’s made some progress. I think Chicago’s made great, great progress. And think about if every school in the city, every school in the state had not one or two, but 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 National Board Certified teachers. I think the culture in those buildings would fundamentally change.
ROBIN STEANS: I have one slightly more particular question. I can guess who submitted this. Increasing funding for 21st century schools; where does that fall in the universe of priorities in the Department of Education?
ARNE DUNCAN: Yeah, well again, this idea of time I think we have to think very, very differently about. And having schools open 6,7 days a week, 12, 13, 14 hours a day, 11, 12 months out of the year is just hugely, hugely important.
And this is again where I’m trying to push people to think differently. It’s not just about 21st century money. I’m trying to get less, these little pots of money. We have north of 10 billion dollars on the table in Title 1 money, new Title 1 money. Title 1 money is supposed to help poor children. That money has often been spent in ways that don’t really help poor children. Often like many jobs programs at the local level. So think not about 100 million dollars in a 21st century learning line item. Think about north of 10 billion dollars. And can we bring students back, keep them in school longer? I know Ron Hume is pushing for that very, very hard.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, they’ve created what they’re calling a 5th quarter where their schools are open a month longer this summer. And so, longer days, longer weeks, longer years. So that’s probably the best investment of Title 1 money for children who aren’t being read to every single night at home, who don’t have a household filled with great books. That’s the most important investment we can make. 21st century learning money is a small piece of that. But north of 10 billion dollars in Title 1 money. Think about time very, very differently with that money. And not just the new money, the old Title 1 money as well. I would argue that money has not been well spent many, many places.
ROBIN STEANS: Can you give us a preview on Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind and some of your thinking on that?
ARNE DUNCAN: I’m in the middle of a national listening and learning tour, which has been absolutely fascinating. Obviously I’ve lived on the other side of the law for a few years so I have my own strong opinions, but it’s amazing as you go to Vermont, West Virginia, inner city Detroit, an Indian Reservation in Montana just to hear the different themes. And listening to children, listening to parents, listening to teachers, listening to principals, there are a couple things that are important and we’re going to continue to listen and learn before we get to that point.
First I want to focus more and more on graduation rates. You can have the best 3rd grade test scores in the world, but if you still have a 50% drop out rate, you’re not changing students lives. So really looking at outcomes is important.
Secondly, I’m a big believer in looking at growth and gain more so that absolute test scores. So, how much are schools, how much are individual classrooms, how much are districts improving the quality of learning going on. So those would be two big things I want to do.
The third big one…four…one is obviously NCLB was dramatically under-funded, so we want to continue to put significant resources there. We want to keep the past focus on the…focus on data, on the achievement gap. And I’ll give Secretary Spellings and the past administration tremendous credit. As a country, we can no longer sweep those factors under the rug. We all know the horrendous disparities and outcomes between white children and children from the minority community. I think we’re all here because we want to close those.
But the other thing I think No Child Left Behind got wrong is it’s very, very loose on the goals. We have fifty different states, fifty different goal posts all over the map. Due to political pressure, the vast majority were dummied down and were very prescriptive, very tight on how you get there. I think if we can think about that, an absolute reverse, flip that on its head. Be much tighter on the goals, common college ready, career ready, international benchmark standards that we’re all shooting for, but really give states and districts the chance to be creative and innovative, hold them accountable for results, but be much less prescriptive from the national level, from the federal level about how you get there. That’s philosophically the fundamental change we want to make.
ROBIN STEANS: Alright, so, this is the biggie. Is Illinois on the right track to get substantial federal funding for education? And if not — and remember, this is being taped — if not, any advice on other things that we might consider?
ARNE DUNCAN: I think you guys know. I think, again, there’s been real and substantial progress just in the last, you know, six weeks, eight weeks, you know, three months, whatever it might be. So I think tremendous progress. A long way to go. But I think the real test, again, is moving from ideas to implementation.
And again, I’ve talked about National Board Certification and teachers setting a great example not by talking about being life-long learners but by doing it. We’re going to look to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in states that are demonstrating, not talking about a commitment, not talking about promises, not saying they’re interested in this. We want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in states that are actually driving a very strong reform agenda and leading the country where we need to go. We will be very tough-minded about this. We will probably do two rounds.
And so states that aren’t quite there the first round will have a second chance to come back in. But I’m convinced that we’ve basically had a race to the bottom. We’ve had a dummying down of standards. We’ve had a sense of mediocrity.
As a country, we’ve lost our way educationally. We used to lead the world in the number of college graduates. And we’ve really sort of flat lined and other countries have just passed us by. So if Illinois can continue to have the courage and the will to challenge the status quo, there’s a huge opportunity there. But the proof is really going to be in what’s happening here, not the talk, not the rhetoric, but in the actions.
ROBIN STEANS: Alright, we’re going to let you go after that.
ARNE DUNCAN: Thanks so much. Thanks for all the hard work.
ROBIN STEANS: I’ve got to say, there are a lot more reasons for Illinois. You can all sit for one more minute there. You should feel free the stand up when I am done as well by the way.
ROBIN STEANS: I know you were just waiting to be polite. That was very sweet of you. We’ve really got a lot of reasons to be proud. We’ve sent some pretty talented people to the national stage. I have some people I need to thank and I want to acknowledge. First of all, you would not be having this breakfast, we would not be here, and we would not be having some of these conversations if a few people hadn’t had a very interesting and innovative, if I may say so, idea and then backed it up. We’ve got some very dedicated funders that not only put dollars on the table, but put blood, sweat, thought and energy into creating Advance Illinois because they saw a need for a state level bipartisan group to help smooth over and work on things, on some of the issues that were falling between the cracks. So I want to do a special acknowledgement, specifically starting with the Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, whose brainchild this really was. And Ellen Alberding and Gretchen Crosby Sims and John Luczak at the Joyce Foundation, and Kelly James at the Gates Foundation deserve special mention. Can I ask them to stand?
ROBIN STEANSs: And I want to thank the other funders who have come along, very quickly, with both good ideas as well as financial support: The McCormick Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, The Boeing Charitable Trust, The Wallace Foundation, The Grand Victoria Foundation, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Without you, again, there is no Advance Illinois and I value both the financial support, but more importantly the good ideas and the good thinking and the partnerships. So thank you.
Robin Steans: And then I mentioned up top what a pleasure it’s been to get to know my co-chairs who have really been phenomenal and who I think understood full well how important it was that we have bipartisan leadership to send a message, this really is not about some particular hidden agenda or some particular viewpoint. But we have a phenomenal board of directors and it’s really been a pleasure and an honor to get to know them. And I’m just going to name them each and ask them to please stand because they have put in an untold amount of hours and each and every one of them comes to this work from a deep-seated sense of how urgent this issue is. So, in no particular order, I’m going to name them as follows: Clerk Miguel del Valle, Patricia Watkins from TARGET Area Development Corporation, Ellen Alberding of the Joyce Foundation, Lew Collens, former President of IIT, Tim Knowles, the Director of The Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, Sylvia Puente, the Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, John Edwardson, the CEO of CDW, Ed Rust, the CEO of State Farm, who is unable to be here, James Bell, President of the Boeing Company, and…who am I forgetting…Joe Fatheree, who you all got a chance to meet, out Teacher of the Year from Effingham. Thank you very much for your support. Oh, and Jim Franczek, our newest board member, my apologies, Jim Franczek, founding partner of Franczek and Radelet. And I do want to give a shout out to one board member we had to say good bye to, Charlie Rose, who was there from a year before this officially came into being and who’s working now very hard at the Department of Education as General Counsel, so I know we all wish him well and I know everyone in this room probably knows him as well or better than I do at this point. Just a last word, thank you very much for being here and more importantly thank you for the work that you do, day in, year in, year out, to advance children. I’ve met many, many, many of you. The people I met, particularly on the listening tour, I’m delighted that you’re here. I see folks from Decatur and Champaign and from Belvedere and LaSalle, Peru and Effingham, and it’s really, it’s been a joy. And it’s been nice that not only have we met and talked, but we’ve had a chance to continue to work together. I look forward to that. Thank you all very much for sharing your morning. I’ve done my best to keep the clouds and rain at bay and I hope it gives you a dry departure for the next few minutes.