In The News › Arne Duncan: New Orleans education community is ‘leading the nation where we have to go’

Dec 11, 2014

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

Arne Duncan: New Orleans education community is ‘leading the nation where we have to go’

By Danielle Dreilinger

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

December 11, 2014

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised New Orleans’ academic progress and defended Common Core in a speech Thursday (Dec. 11) to a supportive crowd of New Orleans business, education and political leaders.

“You’re leading the nation where we have to go,” Duncan said at the annual luncheon of the Bureau of Governmental Research, a non-profit watchdog group.

Duncan came to the state as a defendant in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawsuit against the new Common Core standards, and one day after Louisiana was awarded a $32 million federal grant for preschool education – a grant Jindal appeared ready to block.

Jindal, who is considering a presidential run in 2016, first supported Common Core but later turned against the new standards, saying the federal government is imposing them on states.

Earlier Thursday, Jindal released a statement suggesting that President Barack Obama sent Duncan to Louisiana to “double down on these failed policies and bully us into federal overreach” following the defeat of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. Duncan’s New Orleans appearance was announced in early October, well before the election.

In response to questions from the audience, Duncan said the Common Core standards were voluntary. “What we’ll fight against is politicians who want to dummy-down standards, go back to lying to children and families, to make themselves look good,” he said.

In his speech, Duncan apologized again for his 2010 comment that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans schools. But “the before-and-after story is pretty stark,” he said.

“Pre-Katrina, students here too often languished,” he said. He noted how most students attended failing schools, graded F; “If students didn’t go to one of the city’s six selective high schools there was little chance for them to be successful in college.”

Now, he said, fewer than 10 percent of students attend F schools. As examples of high school success, he cited two recent graduates of high schools created after the storm. Leonard Galmon, alumnus of Cohen College Prep, grew up with a teen mother and a murdered father but now studies at Yale University on a scholarship. Troy Simon entered Sci Academy practically illiterate and hating school, then matriculated at Bard College and spoke at the White House.

The city does need to work on racial balance in schools, Duncan said. Public schools are largely segregated, and many white teachers have replaced the largely black teaching force that existed before the storm. He praised three newer charters, Morris Jeff Charter, Homer Plessy Charter and Bricolage Charter, for aiming to be “diverse by design.”

Duncan’s comments on the importance of higher education resonated given the recent announcement of yet more cuts at the University of New Orleans. He said states need to invest in public higher education to keep it accessible to young people, adding that his department’s new pay-for-performance college ratings will be out in the next week or two. The administration has said the rankings aim to show which schools receiving federal financial aid “provide the best value.”

Duncan also acknowledged that New Orleans’ K-12 schools continue to lag the state. He said the city’s goal should be to catch up and beat Louisiana’s average in the next two or three years.

But mostly the secretary complimented New Orleans’ educational transformation. The preschool grant announced this week “is not a gift. It’s an investment, and you guys won because people believe in your commitment,” he said.

“I’m just in awe of what this community’s done collectively,” Duncan said. “One reason I continue to return here is that all of you continue to inspire me.”

Listen to Duncan’s speech.

Dec 11, 2014

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Schools

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