“I want to underline that great schools and great teachers arethe most effective anti-poverty tool of all,” stated Arne Duncanduring his speech at the Harvard School of Education. Addressing anaudience at the
“What drives me every day is the recognition that we have thishuge untapped academic and social potential that our nation isleaving on the table. I absolutely believe that education is thecivil rights issue of our generation,” Duncan said.
U.S.A. – Falling behind in education, leading inself-esteem
Much controversy is going on in the U.S. regarding how studentachievement should be measured and whether this should be factoredinto the evaluation of teacher performance. Duncan believes thatdiscussing how this can be done properly is crucial as the U.S. isthreatened of being “out-educated”.
“In a single generation, the U.S. has gone from having thehighest college attainment rate in the world among young adults tobeing 16th. And in international comparisons, our performance ismediocre at best. It’s telling that the only thing our studentslead the world in is self-esteem. The hard truth is that manynations are out-performing and out-educating us. It is thiscompared-to-what litmus test that educators, school leaders, andparents must constantly keep in mind. Someone once complained toVoltaire that “life is hard”-to which Voltaire replied, “comparedto what?”
“Educational failure is hard, too. But the first question weshould ask of reforms is, would these changes significantly, evendramatically, enrich and accelerate learning for students andteachers? We shouldn’t be asking “is this a perfect solution?” Weshould be asking “is this a much-better solution?” Does it help uschallenge the status quo and accelerate student achievement?”
Improving teacher quality crucial
Duncan also highlights how scientists have shown that excellentteachers can tackle many pressing issues for society. “Thanks togroundbreaking research by Raj Chetty and John Friedman here atHarvard and their colleague at Columbia, Jonah Rockoff, we know nowthat the long-term impact of good teachers on students in adulthoodis profound. Their study was not about good teachers creatingshort-term bumps in test scores; it demonstrated how teachers, forbetter or worse, literally altered the trajectory of their pupils’lives.”
“Their analysis of the long-term impact that teachers had on 2.5million children found that simply replacing a teacher in thebottom five percent for advancing student growth with an averageteacher would increase the students’ lifetime income in thatclassroom by more than $250,000.”
And improvements in teacher quality also significantly reducethe chance of having a child while a teenager and increase collegematriculation. Want to increase earnings potential, decreasepoverty, and reduce teen pregnancy? Then please spend a lot of timethinking how to attract, retain, and reward great teachers,particularly in disadvantaged communities.”
For the full speech by Arne Duncan, click