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Advice for Duncan

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President-elect Barack Obama with Arne Duncan, the nominee for secretary of education, who has been widely praised for his work as chief executive of the more-than-400,000-student Chicago school system, the nation's third-largest.
President-elect Barack Obama with Arne Duncan, the nominee for secretary of education, who has been widely praised for his work as chief executive of the more-than-400,000-student Chicago school system, the nation's third-largest. (Pool Photo By Ralf-finn Hestoft)
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Monday, January 12, 2009; 12:00 AM

Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan goes before a Senate committee on Tuesday for a confirmation hearing. To help him set priorities, Post reporter Valerie Strauss asked folks in the education world to provide their best advice on key issues. Here is a response from Gerald Bracey, educational psychologist and researcher, author.

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Education doesn't need reformers. It needs renewers. There's nothing renewing about charter schools, merit pay or, especially, No Child Left Behind. When's the last time anyone spoke about "love of learning" rather than raising test scores?

I'd like to see President Obama set in motion a means of establishing forums at the local level, certainly no larger than at the state level to debate what educative experiences children should have to help them become engaged in and responsible for their own learning and become citizens in a democracy (which we nearly lost in the last 8 years). Right now, we're just teaching them to be passive which is what some believe corporate America wants but it won't say so.

Because "educative experiences" is a much broader term than "school," the forum should debate which experiences schools should provide and which should be provided in other places┬┐in museums and other on-site settings, say, and by technological devices.

At the same time, I'd like to see him move on some of the changes proposed in the Broader Bolder Manifesto for instance, making routine vision, hearing, and dental checks available where they are most needed. Poor children have many undiagnosed physical problems. Kids who can't hear the teacher well, see the words well, or whose mouths hurt all the time are not likely to succeed in any school. The school is the most convenient place to ameliorate these problems.

Gerald Bracey, educational psychologist and researcher, author


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