Tag Archives: Ready to Learn

Wordamour faces off with Arne Duncan on Talk of the Nation!

Yes, folks, I just got off the phone with Education Secretary Arne Duncan!!!

Duncan was a guest of Talk of the Nation and thanks to the wonders of redial, Wordamour actually got on the last five minutes of the show to challenge Duncan’s plan to dissolve proven national literacy programs like the National Writing Project,  Reading is Fundamental, Teach for America, Even Start and Ready to Learn in favor of block grants to the states. (If this is news to you, you can catch up on the furor by reading here, here and here).

A podcast of the show will be available after 6 pm today EST here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5

I’m the last caller, if you want to fast forward.

Ok, I was more than a little nervous so I probably could have been more articulate (but I could have been less articulate, too).  I told the secretary my concerns about removing funding from proven, established national programs with a national infrastructure (effectively destroying those programs)to give the money to unproven programs that states would apply to, similar to the Race to the Top Competition.  He countered with, “but those programs can compete by joining with the states.”

No, we can’t Secretary Duncan.  If you take away our national infrastructure, you will destroy us. And legally, national programs cannot compete on a state level.

It quickly devolved into a “but you can compete,” “no we can’t,” “yes you can,” conversation.   The truth is, several people within that administration have admitted that they don’t know what to do about programs like ours, programs that are scaled up already and have been serving teachers and students effectively for thirty years!

Once he gave up on trying to tell me we could compete, he started saying, “well, show me you have proven results.” To which I replied, “We do have proven results. Just go to our website.” (see below for the link, dear readers).

I’m not sure, but I may have gotten the last word.

So, I’m a little more composed now (my hands are only shaking a little).  Here is what I would say if I had more time with Secretary Duncan.

Dear Secretary Duncan:

The Common Core you have proposed, setting national standards in literacy K-12 raises the bar for teachers and students nationwide.

As you said in the program moments before our conversation, Secretary Duncan, we must raise the bar on achievement in our schools.

To raise the bar, we need national  professional development in literacy that addresses the needs of all teachers, across the country.

The National Writing Project has provided proven, successful national professional development in literacy for over thirty five years.  Read about it here.

If you destroy our national infrastructure by removing our funding, you will destroy our ability to serve all the states with quality professional development.

You will also destroy one of the best ideas in education to come along in half a century.

And, you will destroy our nation’s ability to meet the bar you have set.

Secretary Duncan,  on behalf of teachers and students across this country, I urge you to reconsider. It’s not too late.

Stephanie Vanderslice



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Wordamour & Son Go to Washington


We’re here!  Yesterday was our first full day in DC and the big day on the hill.  It was incredible!  Lots of good news to report–
we met Senator Blanche Lincoln and Representatives Snyder and Boozman–3 out of 4!  Not bad–and definitely better than last year’s status, especially given it was voterama on the health care bill (yes, apparently voterama has a definition).

Ya think it was an election year or something?

The best part was that they really seemed to get it about the danger the National Writing Project is in with Secretary Duncan’s plan to destroy consolidate national programs (the other 4 in the same boat with us, RIF-Reading is Fundamental, EvenStart, PBS’Ready to Learn and Teach for America!).  Vic Snyder signed on to our House Dear Colleague letter (a shout out to Little Rock NWP site director Sally Crisp, who badgered his aide via email until he did).  Senator Lincoln listened VERY intently and said, “I’m sure a compromise can be worked out to save these programs.”  Mark Pryor’s aide was very attentive.  And Representative Boozman, when learning it was too late to sign the House Dear Colleague letter (he couldn’t have signed anyway, apparently the Republicans have taken some sort of oath not to sign these things) promised to actually contact the sub-committee the program falls in under Appropriations and pledge his support for us.

Best of all, Wordamour’s son got a total insider’s tour of DC. In fact, we were late getting from Lincoln’s office to Bozeman’s, so an Intern (who had just graduated from UCA in December!) put us on one of those “Members Only,” underground trains.  Then when we got to Bozeman’s, he had just left for a series of votes.  So we actually got into the House while they were voting on the healthcare bill and Bozeman came out and met us in the hallway between votes.

We were traveling with the NW Arkansas writing project site (check out their awesome new website) who are a GREAT bunch of people.  Wordamour’s son thought they were totally hilarious–I knew he would; they are very funny people who know how to have a good time and get the work done.  They were very tolerant of having a 13 year old along for the ride but–proud Mama moment here–they were also very complimentary of how well he handled himself during the rounds of meetings.  He really did!

Today–meetings all day and then the Spy Museum tonight. Check out some more pictures:

Bye y’all,


Wordamour’s son was intrigued by this


“Ridin that train. . .”


“Senator Lincoln and the Arkansas Delegation”

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