Duncan: doing more with less

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan

Ok, you know you’re doing things incorrectly when even your greatest ally, the Secretary of Education, is urging something different from what you’re doing.  A statement released today by the U.S. Department of Education follows (emphasis ours):

November 26, 2010

…a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

At a recent American Enterprise Institute forum, Secretary Duncan opened with a bold statement.  “I am here to talk today about what has been called the New Normal,” he said.  “For the next several years, preschool, K-12, and postsecondary educators are likely to face the great challenge of doing more with less.  My message is this challenge can, and should be, embraced as an opportunity to make dramatic improvements.  I believe enormous opportunities for improving the productivity of our education system lie ahead if we are smart, innovative, and courageous in rethinking the status quo.  It’s time to stop treating the problem of educational productivity as a grinding, eat-your-broccoli exercise.  It’s time to start treating it as an opportunity for innovation and accelerating progress.”

There are productive and unproductive ways to meet this challenge of doing more with less,” he noted.  Cuts that damage school quality and hurt children are the “wrong way,” like reducing the number of days in the school year, slashing instructional time spent on task, eliminating the arts and foreign languages, abandoning promising reforms, and laying off talented young teachers.”  He also identified as “necessary but nowhere near sufficient” various district-level cost efficiencies, such as deferring construction and maintenance projects, cutting bus routes, lowering the costs of textbooks and health services, improving energy use and efficiency in school buildings, and reducing central office personnel.  “By far,” he explained, “the best strategy for boosting productivity is to leverage transformational change in the system to improve outcomes for children.  To do so requires a fundamental rethinking of the structure and delivery of education in the United States.”

“Broadly speaking, there are two large buckets of opportunity for doing more with less,” he continued.  “The first is reducing waste throughout the system….  The second…is doing more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. That is a simple sounding idea.  Yet, as experience shows, that simple mantra is often not followed.”  Among the transformational productivity reforms that can also boost student outcomes, he advises rethinking policies around seat time requirements, class size, compensating teachers based on their educational credentials, the use of technology within the classroom, inequitable school financing, and the over-placement of students in special education.

“I want to be clear.  I am not recommending a specific course of action today to any state or district,” the Secretary concluded.  And, he added, the federal government has a role, “to cut red tape that diverts dollars from improving student outcomes and to focus our resources on those areas with the greatest potential impact.”  Then again, “It is important to remember that boosting productivity can cost money.  In some cases, government may have to spend more now, to get better returns on our current investment.  Race to the Top and i3 are good examples of programs that are important to continue in FY 2011 and beyond.”  FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/new-normal-doing-more-less-secretary-arne-duncans-remarks-american-enterprise-institut.



2 thoughts on “Duncan: doing more with less”

  1. Wow, this speech is ALMOST enough to make me wish Michael Bennet had been selected as Secretary of Education… Clearly, if everyone stopped eating broccoli, the US would become a healthier place! Great point! (Read the previous with sarcasm.) How long was this guy a teacher? Too long, in my opinion.

    1. Well, he doesn’t have much of a resume at all. He has a degree in sociology and hung out at his mother’s after-school programs for disadvantaged kids in Chicago while growing up. He seems to be yet another person with no education background that simply has a gaggle of rich friends and CEOs that do him favors by appointing him to things.

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