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Country’s Top Education Leader Visits SD, Talks Reform

The new U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to thousands of school board members attending a national conference in San Diego over the weekend. The event was a chance for Duncan to talk about the educational priorities of the Obama administration. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more. 


(Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks at the National School Boards Association conference in San Diego .

Ana Tintocalis/KPBS )

Duncan was leader of the Chicago public school system while President Obama was Senator of Illinois. Duncan is credited with turning that urban school district around which for years was one of the lowest performing school districts in the country.

Duncan is now in charge of the president's education reform agenda which includes performance pay for teachers -- a controversial issue among educators.

Duncan didn't shy away from that topic at the conference. In fact, he encouraged districts to financially reward hardworking, talented teachers.

“Think about talent,” Duncan said. “How can we dramatically reverse the talent flow out of the neighborhoods that need the most and really recruit and incent the best and brightest to work in communities that in far too many places have been underserved not for a year but for decades.”

Duncan also talked about the need for strong leadership in public school districts and in the community. He says the mayors of big cities need to be more involved in education.  

Duncan also touched on the need for school board members and superintendents to put aside petty differences and get along. He pointed to the San Diego Unified School District as a bad example.

“Five superintendents here in San Diego in five years, that’s not a recipe for success,” Duncan said. “I really challenge the school board members here and the collective community here to think about how we can build sustained leadership and stay the course. Constant turnover is not good for children, its not good for adults, it doesn't' get us where we need to go."

Duncan also endorsed Obama's federal economic stimulus package. Public education nationwide is getting roughly $100 billion. Duncan says an additional five billion dollars will go to districts that adopt innovative ways to help the most struggling students.

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.


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