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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 Emily Aronson, sophomore, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda.

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The secretary of education in the Obama Administration should focus on the quality of teachers, adjusting standardized tests, and ensuring that young children have a strong education from the start.

I think that there should be more extensive training so that teachers are better prepared for the demands of their jobs. Teachers should be assessed in a learning environment before being hired. In order to attract more teachers to inner-city schools, incentives should be given to teachers that work in high-need areas.

Standardized tests force teachers to "teach to the test" so that their students perform well. But these tests don't accurately assess what material should be taught in a curriculum, such as grammar and writing skills. The standardized tests should be refocused so that they assess more than test-taking skills.

Children, from the start of their education, need to be in an enriching environment. The new secretary of education should support and encourage the funding of programs that focus on early childhood education. I think that if children are well educated at a young age, they will be more motivated to continue and excel in their studies.


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