December 10, 2009
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Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged state legislators to become leaders of the school reform movement and urged them to carefully review their education codes to identify places where state law is impeding reform.
Speaking in San Diego to the fall forum of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Duncan said that legislators have the power to write laws that will create an environment where reforms can take root and improve the achievement of students.
"Education is very much a state and local responsibility," Duncan said. "And the truth is that state lawmakers must play a vital role in improving our schools, quite apart from any federal initiatives and incentives."
Duncan noted that states allocate more money for education than any other purpose. But too often states laws interfere with efforts to make the structural changes necessary to increase student achievement.
Specifically, Duncan called on legislators to rewrite state laws to:
- Ensure that studentsespecially disadvantaged studentsare taught by an effective teacher and that all policies related to the teaching profession promote effective teaching;
- Offer high-quality alternative certification routes to becoming teachers for military veterans and career changers;
- Give districts the ability increase learning time by extending the school day or school year; and
- Expand the number of charter schools and to increase accountability so bad charter schools are shut down.
Duncan praised state legislatures for leading the way on several fronts over the past several decades. In the 1980s, statehouses were in the forefront of the movement to set academic standards. Today, Louisiana is leading efforts to measure the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs by tracking the graduates' success in improving student achievement, and Florida, Texas and Colorado are preparing to follow suit.
"I applaud each and every one of these home-grown initiatives," Duncan said. "Yet I think that if state lawmakers want to be architects of reform today, they must think even more ambitiouslyand especially when it comes to our neediest students in our lowest-performing schools."
Before addressing NCSL, Duncan held a meeting in Los Angeles with Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, educators and civic leaders to discuss turning around low performing schools and other reform initiatives.
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