I told him it was not fair that these schools that take on the greatest challenges, in the toughest neighborhoods, have the screws put to them. A teacher at one of these schools told me their principal is the heart and soul of their school, and yet they have been told they must fire their principal to qualify for a school improvement grant.
Mr. Duncan told me that the principal need not be fired if she had been there less than three years. (unfortunately, the principal has been there too long to use this loophole.)
I then said that the continued emphasis on boosting test scores made these schools focus too much on test prep. "Oh no, we don't want that," he said. "We are using a whole bunch of outcomes, like dropout rates, not just test scores."
I was honestly a bit incredulous at this point. I said "These schools are on this list because they haven't made AYP. The biggest factor in AYP is test scores."
Secretary Duncan responded, "But we are going to get rid of AYP."
I will have to investigate this. I have been under the impression that test scores remain hugely important in designating schools as being in need of restructuring.
That should be a pretty quick and easy investigation.
This takes me back to the many "evil or stupid" debates that characterized life in the Bush administration. In this case, I'd put my money on Arne being stupid and the people advising him being evil.
But also, they simply don't get out enough at this point. In particular, policymakers are losing track of how interventions are being piled on top of interventions -- increasingly piled on top of other interventions that are beginning to work (at least in terms of what's being measured). The low-hanging fruit, the stereotypical urban school locked in stasis and quietly failing for 20 years barely exists anymore.