A few weeks ago I was asked to be interviewed by a friend who was going to write an article about Arne Duncan in a major online news site.

I never had the chance to be interviewed because, as she told me, “It was pulled.” I am sure there are several possibilities as to why but when you see the proposed title, “WHY LIBERALS HATE ARNE DUNCAN”, you may draw your own conclusions.

Not knowing that the article was to be pulled, I decided the best way to answer this was to poll liberals I knew who would be willing to share their thoughts. What appears below is a list of reasons we all shared.

The biggest issue was this:

Bush’s non-policy was less destructive to education in the United States than Duncan’s Race To The Top which used the promise of federal money to force states to adopt a high-stakes “Common Core” aligned testing regime based on ill-defined academic goals that includes the repeated testing of both students and teachers and the transformation of many schools into test prep academies.

Arne’s background:

 Arne directed the Ariel Education Initiative, an arm of Ariel Investments “designed to bring educational opportunity to students in disadvantaged communities. Today, AEI’s primary focus is Ariel Community Academy and its investment curriculum. This curriculum is sponsored by Ariel Investments and Nuveen Investments, Inc.”

—From the Ariel Investments Web page

He Headed the Chicago public schools magnet school program and served as the deputy chief of staff of the system. Then ran Chicago’s Public Schools based on his experiences and influences. (See above) Ultimately that is the issue.

As Secretary of Education:

Duncan’s Race to the Top requires schools to compete for funds, when in fact we should make a priority of fully funding all of our schools and providing the resources needed for all of our public schools to thrive, not compete.

The $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition (that I have heard state legislators call a bribe) made adoption of “common standards” an incentive to win federal funding that would go along with that waiver. The problem was and is that The RTTT carrot is poisoned with common standards, more and newer tests and is actually, as Diane Ravitch has repeatedly said, NCLB 2.0.

All adopting states had to:

1.Adopt international benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace. (But according to whom? Measures are untested unreliable and invalid.)

2.Build instructional data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals on how they can improve their instruction (but not for the kids tested because the grades come back in the summer and without an item analysis to help teachers figure out exactly what needed to be worked on.) 

  1. Turn around the lowest performing schools based on these tests…(which led to controlled content, test prep, and cheating)
  1. Lifting caps on Charter Schools. (And we have all seen what has happened as a result of that in many states.)

Several respondents felt that setting schools up to compete sets many of them up to fail, and this is exactly the kind of situation that privatizers want to capitalize on and profit from. He also has coupled that competition while he continually decries the inadequacy of education in the United States often placing the blame on teachers, teacher unions, teacher tenure, and the seniority system.

But above all, most felt very strongly that, as sincere as he may be, he is not honest, not even to himself .

  1. Duncan has said that developing the CC standards was a state-led initiative.
  2. He said the new standards were written by teachers, and they were not.
  3. He said they are not a curriculum, but they will lead to a curriculum so that statement of his is not entirely true.
  4. He said the CC standards are not national standards, but they really amount to national standards.
  5. He said adopting the CC was voluntary, but actually if a state did NOT adopt them, then the state would lose funding and be punished for not achieving 100% NCLB levels.
  6. Also, he supports value-added assessments to rate teachers based on student test scores, which has been shown to be a horrible measure of a teacher’s actual quality in the classroom.
  7. He has championed the high-stakes tests demanded by the federal Race to the Top program yet conceded that “in too many places, testing itself has become a distraction from the work it is meant to support” and “testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools.” He said this WITHOUT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
  8. He acknowledges “Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress,” but that did not lead to a suspension of the high-stakes Common Core aligned testing regime.
  9. He wrote about the Obama Administration’s “spirit of flexibility.” Many think Race to the Top has promoted the antithesis of flexibility in schools. NOT in the classrooms I visit where teachers are constantly imploring students, not to learn, but to do better on the tests.

To be sure there are plenty of other reasons. Perhaps you can write your own as comments. It would be my pleasure to share them.