Don’t Miss With Texas!

I was surprised that of all the things one could criticize Rick Perry about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan chose the quality of Texas schools. They’re not great but nowhere near the nation’s worst.  And they do compare favorably with Chicago’s schools so it seemed an odd choice of ground to fight on.  In any event, I asked Duncan about this during an interview for next week’s School of Thought column at TIME.  Here’s how it went:

Why is Arne Duncan messing with Texas? I asked the Secretary of Education about this a few hours after he injected himself into the presidential-election scrum. Policy wonks like me had woken up to baffling reports that Duncan told Bloomberg Television’s Al Hunt that the Texas school system “has really struggled” under Rick Perry, the GOP governor who just announced he is running for President. “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said in the TV interview, which is scheduled to air this weekend, telling Hunt that he feels “very, very badly for the children there.”

When I asked Duncan about this dire assessment in an interview I had scheduled today for my next School of Thought column, the former head of the Chicago school system was light on specifics…

You want specifics?  Click this link and read the entire column over at TIME.

7 Replies to “Don’t Miss With Texas!”

  1. This guy is a social science teacher.


    IF he is going to practice his conservatism then he ought to resign and let a computer do the job.

    I am a mathematician and physicist and I am continually amazed by these conservatives who cannot put it together.

    Their POLITICAL beliefs do not make them EDUCATED, and those beliefs do not HELP THEIR STUDENTS do SCIENCE.

    I see them all as LEECHES on the system of REAL LEARNING.

  2. Conservative teacher in social science equates to:

    I teach little of value.
    I have strong beliefs.
    Listen to me.
    Pay for my ideas.
    I am very important.
    I cannot do science.
    I cannot do math.
    What I teach and profess will have little impact on your child’s future.

    I ensured my children were steered clear of these kinds of ideologues.

    They both graduated from the University of California with degrees in science.

  3. Don’t underestimate the challenges to ELL with academic/school language. As a grad student in my 20s with years of classroom German I had no trouble negotiating the streets. Formal college there was another world of difficulty. ELL need a lot of academic language support.

  4. Arne Duncan never taught social sciences- he was a sociology major who went on primarily to be in administration. And I’m pretty sure he isn’t a conservative.

    But he is the head of the Department of Education, and should be spending more time worrying about that and working on that and less time making political hits on Barack Obama’s opponents. Maybe if he spent more time working on policy and less time playing partisan politics, our nation’s educational system would be better.

  5. I disagree with Arne Duncan. My family and I located from Texas to North Carolina. We left a poor county and city in Texas and moved to, by economic standards, a more affluent one.
    My children arrived to their new public school system about a year ahead of their peers. We deal with disipline issues here that we did not have in Texas. The rub – by economic standards, our public school here is much better off. However I will take our old Texas school any day over the one in North Carolina.
    Arne Duncan has completely missed the mark and needs to stay out of the political debate.

  6. Actually, according to the data…Rick Perry and Arne Duncan are about equally adept at school improvement, at least according to NAEP scores.

    Here’s the math:

    This CATO article examines the gains Mr. Duncan made in Chicago Schools during his tenure:

    They find that during his time there, Chicago schools gained 7.2 points in 4th grade reading, .3 points in 8th grade reading, 5.5 points in 4th grade math, and 6 points in 8th grade points. In the aggregate, Duncan can claim he contributed to 19 “Points of Improvement”

    Meanwhile, in Texas, we can examine NAEP scores during Rick Perry’s tenure, Texas Schools gained 2 points in 4th grade reading, lost two points in 8th grade reading, gained 7 points in 4th grade math, and gained 12 points in 8th grade math. (NCES) Perry can likewise claim he contributed to 19 “points of improvement”.

    Of course, we can argue about whether or not it is easier to improve schools at a lower end of the distribution or schools that may be better off for a number of different reasons, but I think we can all agree that directly comparing Chicago Schools to Texas schools is akin to cherry picking as inner city schools typically perform worse on average than other schools.

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