Ask Your Question to Duncan, King and Walcott!

UPDATE: We have reached our deadline for accepting questions. We thank everyone for their suggestions, and we will work with our moderator to incorporate them into our panel discussion with Secretary Duncan, Commissioner King and Chancellor Walcott.

For the first time ever in a public setting, Philanthropy New York is bringing together U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, New York State Education Commissioner John B. King and New York City Chancellor Dennis Walcott for a discussion about the intersections of national, state and local reform and the role that philanthropy can play. This panel discussion will be the centerpiece of Philanthropy New York’s 33rd Annual Meeting on June 4, 2012 (#PNYmeet).

WNYC’s education correspondent Beth Fertig will moderate the session and we want you to join us in developing the questions for the panel!

Beth Fertig is welcoming submissions from Philanthropy New York members on what and how questions should be asked. This is the rough territory we have suggested should be explored:

  • What does it really mean to be college/career-ready in the 21st century?
  • What have we learned about what it takes to transform schools that don’t work into ones that do?
  • What do we need to do to build a great teaching workforce and build the capacity of those already in the profession?
  • How can school systems communicate the new Common Core Standards and engage communities in their implementation?

We wish that we had a whole day with these remarkable education leaders, but we only have one hour. So the questions we ask must be focused and insightfully constructed. Are there topics other than those above that you think are crucial to ask these leaders? How exactly should we frame the questions on the topics above?

If other topics seem to have a great deal of demand and interest, we will make sure the panel addresses them.

Give us your questions in the comments submission box below by Tuesday, May 29th. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

27 Responses to “Ask Your Question to Duncan, King and Walcott!”

  1. 1 Tricia Kawi May 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Asked on behalf of my PhD professor: The US public education system was for much of the 20th century, the envy of the world with countries like China sending their best and brightest to the US to study. With the increased economic opportunities in China many of those students have and are returning home. Amongst other reforms are efforts to allow for creativity, continued teacher mentoring (something China has long been good at) and other reforms modeled on US education. In contrast, we have districts (e.g. Buffalo) where we have been mandated to have every child on the same page every day regardless of what that child’s needs are–similar to the former education system in Communist China. In the US there is more and more testing. More and more focus on “accountability” narrowing of the curriculum and less freedom. Why should we follow this road when our competitors (e.g. China) are actually reforming their own systems away from this centralized approach?

  2. 2 Edward Gordon May 25, 2012 at 2:40 am

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    I am a retired school teacher. Both of my children attended public schools and are now college graduates. One of them has a Masters degree. Why is the NYC DOE still taking money from the public schools and giving it to the charter schools, when they have made no visible impact on the statistics, many of their teachers are unqualified and 9 charter schools have been closed recently?-Edward H. Gordon

  3. 3 Christopher Spink May 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    I am a teacher at a TitleI school in Charlotte NC. It was through a process of defacto resegregation that TitleI schools blossomed within our city under the more palatable title of “neighborhood schools”; a city coincidentally hosting the DNC. How does our national government propose to alter this defacto trend here and throughout the states priorly committed to effective desegregation measures proven to benefit our society? You, and your philanthropic brethren, demand more tests, voucher, charter schools but somehow disregard basic sociological interventions that are far more powerful with regard to closing the acheivement gap and strengthening our nation. Legislate a national, heterogeneous public schools and we may just have a chance of “reforming” our educational system and , as important, the racial and ethnic divisiveness within our society. In the meantime, based upon fundamental precepts of human nature and survival, provide great teachers with some incentive, other than selfless service, to continue serving our most vulnerable students. I have seen the greatest and most selfless educators fall as a result of a single standardized test. It is shameful given we serve as psychologist, mentor, pseido parent etc. to the vunerable youth we serve. Spend one day, just one day, in our shoes at a TitleI school; no press, no hoopla, and no picking your own classes. Then, and only then, will anyone in my shoes take you seriously regarding true educational reform. Finally, why not consult just a few of us regular “folk” teachers with regard to shaping policy. I suggest just randomly picking a hundred or so and asking them what they think. You might be surprised at the good ideas that result.

  4. 4 Liz Rosenberg May 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Ed Week just ran a series that explores the parent “advocacy” groups some of the major education foundations are supporting. The bulk of these groups are lobbying for corporate reforms. Actual parents may or may not support these reforms. What do you think of using your influence to suggest that these foundations support parent groups that advocate for greater parent participation in edupolitical decisions?

    Related to this, what are you doing to invite parents’ voices into your decision making circles. So much of what we hear in the press is the we (parents) are misguided, ill informed or dismissed as a fringe element. This us vs the dynamic benefits no one.

  5. 5 Phillip Harris May 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Why do you think the new assessments will be more informative? These new assessments will still be a sample of content and a sample of time from the students being tested. They will be no more objective than current tests and the norms will not be complete with which to use for comparitive purposes. So why are you doing this?

  6. 6 Rosalie Friend May 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Why are you leaning on children’s test scores to evaluate techers and schools when education researchers, psychometricians, and statisticians say the the aggregated scores have neither validity nor reliability. Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind and the shift to widespread high stakes testing, the NAEP has shown no increase in school achievement. Why not use research in learning and instruction as the basis for improving education, rather than business approaches that have not been shown to be effective.

  7. 7 susan May 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Why not use the estimated $15 billion it will cost to implement the common core and new assessments to help address the real issue – poverty in america?

  8. 8 John Albin May 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    My child attends a public school that has many positive elements — there are experienced and responsive teachers, a pleasant environment, a strong sense of community. But there are two things that concern me that I would like the three distinguished gentlemen to speak to.

    1. Class sizes are too large already and growing. This has had a clear impact on teachers’ inability to provide individualized attention to students. Moreover, they class sizes in this school exceed the limits set forth in the contracts for equity settlement and New York State law, as they do in much of New York City. What do the City and State education departments intend to do about this? Is the US Department of Education aware that New York is in violation of its own constitutional requirement that every child receive an adequate education and that it has failed to implement its remedy to this situation?

    2. Elementary school was once a time when learning was allowed to be more open ended and exploratory. Things like physical education/activity, art and music, field trips, classroom projects, and games were central to the curriculum. They were not merely “enrichment” to be enjoyed when there’s spare time. Today, there is so much focus on ELA, and math, and test prep, even in kindergarten, that this sort of exploration seems to have been almost totally abandoned. This is turning school into drudgery, and I believe it poses a significant threat to the intellectual development of the generation of Americans subjected to it. What policy shifts can you offer that can make school a place where children want to go and where lifelong learning is engendered rather than suppressed?

  9. 9 Adam Grumbach May 22, 2012 at 5:56 am

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Your policies have made high stakes, standardized testing a central component of your education “reforms”. But if high stakes tests are the way to excellence in education, why is it that nation’s elite private schools (including Sidwell Friends, for example, where the President sends his daughters, and Lab School in Chicago, from which you graduated, Mr. Duncan) don’t use them? Why shouldn’t the 99% receive the same type of education as the 1%?

  10. 10 Julia Sass Rubin May 22, 2012 at 12:27 am

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    The US DOE granted a No Child Left Behind waiver to New Jersey despite strong opposition from on -the-ground education advocates, who argued that the State’s waiver application was incomplete and lacked community input or feedback.

    The Christie Administration is now using that waiver to disenfranchise, de-fund and privatize public schools in low-income, brown and black communities across the State.

    Does the US DOE plan to intervene in any way to stop this disenfranchisement and destruction of public education or do you share the Christie Administration’s agenda and intent to completely ignore the wishes of those who live in these communities?

  11. 11 Patricia Love May 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Please ask him if he is familiar with Diane Ravitch’s positions on Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. Ask him how he can counter her arguments and her analysis of the flawed statistics that have been used to support those highly damaging policies/laws. How does public education benefit when schools and children are forced to compete for funding instead of all schools and children being provided with financial support and quality teachers? How does poverty affect a child’s ability to succeed in school?

  12. 12 Chris May 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Why is more and more of our children’s time being used for high-stakes testing, test prep and scripted learning. Critical thinking, creativity and the arts are being limited and cut. How do I know this? Active parent and 18+ years of teaching.

  13. 13 Chris May 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Why do public schools have High-stakes testing and teacher evaluations based on those tests? If HST is a good idea, why don’t private schools have HST?

  14. 14 Patrick J. Sullivan May 21, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    In NYC we are implementing the federally-defined and funded “turnaround” model of school reform. In this model the principal and at least 50% of the staff must be replaced. Chancellor Walcott has explained that he will not require principals to hit the 50% threshold. Will Secretary Duncan require the NYC DOE to replace the full 50% or forego the federal funds?

  15. 15 Deborah Cornavaca May 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Coming out of Chicago Mr. Duncan, I hope you have seen the recent publication by the CTU (The Schools that All Chicago Students Deserve; that offers a set of changes that would ensure all Chicago students have equal access to an excellent education – including smaller class sizes, addressing the broader needs of children living in poverty, and making sure that a well rounded education that includes arts, music and physical education are part of every day for every child. These are recommendations from teachers who work in the environment about which they are commenting. My question, sir, is why is the current administration turning a deaf ear on these teachers and listening instead to those who have not been in the classroom and plan to marketize education?

  16. 16 Sue May 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    In the link below, Mr. Coleman and his colleagues discuss the need to increase text complexity for students. Near the end of the video Mr. Coleman states that we should expect students to be angry, frustrated . . . even silenced by texts. His colleagues readily agree that this level of challenge is good for students.

    Given our understandings, from the neurological community on brain function and learning, that students learn best when endorphins are flowing and students feel a sense of confidence and success – why would any school or organization interested in learning adopt the Common Core Standards which increase the very feelings that neurologists tell us interfere with learning?

  17. 17 David Reinstein May 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Do the three of you have any idea how difficult it is to get useful information from PARCC? What learning materials should be considered helpful, and what tasks should our students be able to perform?

  18. 18 susanp May 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Although the government focuses on what it means to be college/career-ready in the 21st century, the skills and needs to meet demands shift in ways we can’t always anticipate. We do want students who can think critically and be creative. Many teachers and parents are concerned that the public school experience is increasingly consumed with testing, often to weed out “bad” teachers in the name of accountability, robbing students of instructional time. This also is not building a great teaching workforce or building the capacity of those already in the profession; instead it is making teaching less professional. The classroom experience needs to be shared with those in decision-making positions; will you please involve teachers, students, parents and administrators in the “roundtables” and panel discussions you hold at the highest level?

  19. 19 Greg nizewitz May 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    I simply want to know how these three individuals balance their rhetoric for increased teacher expertise and advanced qualifications with their policy of micromanaging from above and increasingly dictating standards and testing? In other words, if teachers are truly experts and professionals, why do these leaders find private industry more capable of developing curriculum and assessment methods than the educators themselves?

  20. 20 ag2828 May 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    I’m interested to know why, since value-added has proven to be nothing more than junk science and has been validated absolutely nowhere, that you are so keen to use it to evaluate teachers. The preposterous margins of error we’ve seen would certainly be unacceptable to any politician assessing odds of reelection. In fact, they’re so high that they effectively demonstrate nothing whatsoever. Does it not behoove you to do research and field test such things, particularly since they’ve proven to be such an abysmal failure in places we’ve actually seen their use? Do your positions not behoove you to do at least cursory research on such things?

  21. 21 Jeff Nichols May 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    A growing number of parents and educators across the country reject the top-down, centralized, test-driven model of education policy that currently prevails in this country. Some are going so far as to boycott standardized tests. What would these leaders say to convince parents to sign on to the Common Core and other federal education initiatives when what they see in their own schools is talented teachers hobbled by centralized education policy, unable to implement known best educational practices or to exercise their own imaginations in developing innovative curricula because of the constant pressure to adhere to test-driven education models?

    • 22 almamama May 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      I second, third, fourth, and fifth this question. We need the DOE to take a leadership role in challenging the damage that testing is doing to the educational process. Elementary and secondary years are the time to develop as creative, curious, engaged human beings-not to fill in bubbles on scan-tron sheets. We are missing the boat.

  22. 23 Heather Cornell May 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    I am wondering how they suggest that educators teach the important critical thinking skills that are necessary for our children to be successful in post-secondary when there is so much time required now in teaching to the mandated tests.

  23. 24 diana zavala May 21, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    After 10 years of NCLB policy the terms “accountability” and “choice” have been used to introduce more testing to education that results in bonuses and sanctions for schools, leading to school closings, and an increase in charter schools (privatization). The use of tests to measure progress has lead to narrowing of the curriculum, a reduction in teacher training, and a lack of recognition that poverty is a major factor for poor academic performance, one which schools alone cannot address. In terms of “accountability” when will the federal, state, and local governments recognize the failures of the NCLB policies, how the use of tests has not proven to improve education, but have rather increased the turnover of teachers, the closing of schools, student apathy and drop-out, as well as students who continue to lack preparation for college careers?

  24. 25 leonie haimson (@leoniehaimson) May 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

    This question comes from a non-member of Philanthropy New York.

    Parents have largely been left out of the discussion on education reform. Our top priorities, according to national and local surveys, include reducing class size, de-emphasizing high stakes testing, and improving our neighborhood schools, rather than closing them or turning them over to private hands. And yet the policies being pushed at the federal, state and local levels all are doing the opposite — with little or no backing in research that this will improve opportunities for our children. In particular, there is a growing revulsion against the way in which standardized testing and test prep is costing millions, taking up excessive time, unduly stressing our children, and undermining our schools. Yet test scores, according to your policies, will take up even more importance in the future, because of the requirement to link teacher evaluation and job security to the results. What do you intend to do, if anything, to ensure parents’ voices are heard, and that we have a seat at the decision-making table when it comes to devising and implementing policies that will affect our children’s education and future?

  25. 26 Maria Mottola May 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I am interested in Beth asking about how education policies are taking into account the growing number of immigrant students, ELL students, and students of color.

  26. 27 M. Starita Boyce Ansari May 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm


    In the U.S., over 60% of Black children, compared to 20% of White children, attend low-performing early childhood programs. How will Universal Pre-K and the recent increased funding close that education gap?


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