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.