With billions in stimulus funding, Education Secretary
Here you are spending
Obviously, a tough economy further stresses school systems that are already underfunded. But I actually view it a little differently. Sometimes economic crisis creates an opportunity.
You're all about evidence and data. But at the same time as you start your innovations, the schools will be increasing class size. So how will you know what impact you have?
What we want to do is simply invest in what is working at the local level. The great ideas always come locally, from great teachers and great principals. We want to take those good ideas to scale.
But aren't you concerned the recession will muddy the waters on research?
It makes it more difficult, but what's the alternative? Sit back for a couple years and accept the status quo? Accept incremental change? You can't do that. You have to push as hard as you can and look those challenges square in the eye and do the best you can in a tough environment. Look at this tough environment not just as a huge challenge but also as a time of opportunity.
In Race to the Top, what we talk about is great adults: great teachers and great principals. She's absolutely right. There are no high-performing schools without great principals. And we need to focus on both. I think as a country, we have absolutely underinvested in developing the next generation of great principals and really thinking about principal preparation and pipeline programs. So I couldn't agree with her more.
The issue of merit pay is very controversial. A lot of people complain that basing merit pay on the scores of their students just rewards teachers who happen to teach in rich districts. How can schools really measure student growth?
I am not a big believer in looking at absolute test scores. I think they tell you some things. There is a lot they don't tell you. I am a much bigger believer in looking at growth and gain and how much a student is improving each year. So, the more we can identify not just the teachers but the schools and the entire school districts that are accelerating student achievement and are accelerating progress, those are the individuals and the teams and the schools and the districts that we need to reward and shine a spotlight on, and most importantly learn from and replicate that success.
So it sounds as if student growth is what you are going to be pushing?
I'm much more interested in that than absolute test scores, absolutely. If you just take a look at absolute test scores, you create some unintended consequences. Many schools just focus on the students right around that midpoint, those students trying to get to grade level. They neglect the many students who are above that, and they neglect the many students who are behind that. And what we want is we want teachers, schools, and school districts challenging every student to continue to improve dramatically. The only way you can do that is by looking at the growth and gain of every single child.
I've heard some folks predict that you're going to have a hard time sticking to your guns about giving out only a few Race to the Top grants, and you'll have to give money to every single state to make friends. How are you going to be the leader who sticks to your guns on this?
Don't just listen to my words, watch my actions. I'm here for only one reason, and that is to help the country get dramatically better. And that is what we are going to do.
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Education: Education chief tackles test scores and teacher pay | Kim Clark
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