ANDREA MITCHELL: The man with a daunting challenge is here with me now. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Thank you so much. And thank you for participating in all of these conversations for Education Nation. You as the key leader, you are showing us the way. Let's talk about those rankings. Finland, South
Korea Singapore, all have 100 percent ratings of getting the top third students to choose to be teachers. We have something like 21 percent of the top third graduates going into primary education. How do we change
ARNE DUNCAN: We have to elevate the profession. We have make the teaching profession a true profession.You’re exactly right . In those countries that are outperforming us. They are getting the hardest working and the most committed, the best of the best to go into education and they are staying there.
And somewhere along the line in our country we lost our way. The teaching profession has been beaten down and sometimes it’s been stigmatized. We have to recruit that next generation of extraordinary
talent who wants to come in and who has the courage to challenge the status quo and give every child in this country a chance to get the great, great education they desperately need and deserve.
MITCHELL: Well you have a new initiative now today to train 10,000 new math and science teachers. Let's talk about that. Because we are going to see an enormous turn over. In the next decade, we will see half of our teachers retiring. So we are talking about 1.8 million teachers are going to be turning out of the system. This is a rare opportunity to change the direction. But 10,000 is a very small number.
DUNCAN: Well that’s just a piece on the math and science slide. Where the president provide so much leadership here is we have to educate our way to a better economy. And we think about the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow, they are in the stem fields. Science and technology and engineering and math. It's hard to learn for our students to learn to love those subjects if they don't have teachers who know the content. So when the president talked today about bringing in 10,000 teachers in
the stem fields in math and science. That's going to help us get as a country where we need to go.
MITCHELL: There is a lot of push back. And a lot of resistance and many critics say the teacher's union within 40 percent of Americans in our new Wall Street Journal poll say the teacher's union is the problem not the solution. We’re going to be talking to Randi Weingarten she will have her say coming up on the program, but the fact is that the teacher's union is putting a cap on charter schools. Not that charter schools are the answer, but on the creation of charter schools here in New York. That the teacher’s union according to Michelle Rhee, you heard her slapped Michelle Rhee the chancellor in D.C. with lawsuits when she
fired 241 student teachers and more are to be fired by the end of this year if she remains in the system and remains on track. So is the union really the problem not the solution.
DUNCAN: Well I think it’s much more complex than that and Andrea we can all point fingers at a million different things. I’m much more interested in finding solutions. And unions are not monolithic. There is
extraordinary union leadership around the country. I always point to Diane Donahue, just an absolutely courageous moral union leader, head of the Delaware state union. Delaware is one of the first two states that won our Race to the Top competition, in part because of her phenomenal leadership. You’re seeing new contracts, breakthroughs, management and union working together in many, many school districts. D.C. Being one. Philadelphia, New Haven, Pittsburgh, Detroit’s done some interesting
things. So you have some unions that are absolutely leading us where we need to go. You have some unions who are in the middle and there some unions that are hesitant and reticent to change.
MITCHELL: And some unions doing both. Some leadership the D.C. contract but at the same time Michelle Rhee says that union still is an obstacle.
DUNCAN: For me it’s so important it can't just be unions changing . We all have to change. Superintendents have to show more courage. School boards have to be part of the solution. In our country we dummied down standards. That was the unions that did that, that was politicians. That was politicians dummying down standards in their states so they would look good. It was bad for children and bad for education and bad for the state. All of us have to move outside our comfort zones and do the right
thing by the nation's children. We have to do that.
MITCHELL: Secretary Duncan, with all due respect, you say that chancellors and school superintendents have to show more leadership, mayors have to show more leadership. You had a situation in Washington, D.C. Where the union poured a million dollars to defeating the mayor. Now the mayor had a lot of other political problems and some people say his personality didn't lend itself to being a great meet and greet politician. But the fact is the White House sat on its hands. The White House did not help save school reform where it was a test case for the nation.
DUNCAN: School reform has to continue to move in D.C. The children
MITCHELL: But it was a referendum largely on school reform.
DUNCAN: Well I think every voter in D.C. the vast majority of voters thought the school system progressed significantly which it absolutely did. I'm a huge supporter of what Mayor Fenty did and when the story of the D.C. reform movement is written a big chunk will be on his courage and leadership. Michelle Rhee has done a great, great job. I’ve said I’d love to see her stay. Moving forward, the children deserve much better.
MITCHELL: Did the White House show any courage? They were silent.
DUNCAN: I stood repeatedly with Mayor Fenty Michelle Rhee. We invested $75 million in Race to the Top resources, because the district is moving in the right direction.
MITCHELL: Some would say the president and the political wing of the White House should have done more to try to save this experiment that now is in jeopardy.
DUNCAN: It has to keep moving forward. It will be hard, it will be tough, but the D.C. School children deserve so much more than what they’ve gotten for decades. All of us have to work together to ensure
MITCHELL: Going back to the examples of Finland and South Korea and Singapore, in those countries, teaching is a higher rated profession than being a doctor or lawyer. Teachers are not always paid the highest. They are paid more comparatively than teachers here in the United
States, but it isn’t just money, it’s that they are tracked from the beginning. Their education, the colleges that train teachers here have lower standards than in other countries. How do we -- if there is no silver bullet, how do we get around the fact that America is not competitive with the rest of the world.
DUNCAN: You hit the jail on the head when you said you have almost half your teachers across the country retiring in to next eight ten years. Presents some challenges, presents some huge opportunities. We have to really the country behind this. I think there is no more important work
in our society than teaching. Great teachers are absolutely the unsung heroes in our country.
We have to shine a spotlight on them. We have to learn from them. We have to give them more resources. We have to incentivize them to go into the toughest of communities. We have to bring in that next generation of talent. This is a call to service. If young people today want to make a difference in the country if they want to have an impact, if they want to contribute, teaching is game changing. There is nothing more important that we can do than to get a great teacher into every single
one of our classrooms.
MITCHELL: Isn't it true that some of the last hired are the first fired when we have school budget cuts around the country. And there is great resistance by some of the tenured teachers to the young idealistic Teach for America students?
DUNCAN: We have to do the right thing Andrea for the nation's school children. Teach for America is not a part of the problem. It's a part of the solution. They have done probably better than anyone else, a great
job of bringing in phenomenally talented folks into education. We have to continue to do much more that with this opportunity ahead. With the baby boomer generation retiring.
MITCHELL: The conversation continues. Mr. Secretary thank you for everything you are doing. Thanks for being here.
DUNCAN: Thanks for the opportunity.
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