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Obama Education Secretary Gets a Grilling from 10,000 Teachers

July 3, 2009

Las Vegas, NV – President Obama's new education secretary opened himself to tough questions from 10,000 teachers Thursday and addressed concerns about where the nation should be headed on the issue of education. Sec. Arne Duncan held a town hall-style meeting at the National Education Association (NEA) convention in San Diego and Nevada educators were there.

Lynn Warne , president of the Nevada State Education Association, the union representing teachers and administrators, says it was a breath of fresh air to see an education secretary seeking genuine input from educators on key issues, such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

"We applaud the Obama administration for looking at ways to make positive change. That is what the Nevada delegation is supporting: positive change, so that we can see our children reach their fullest potential academically during the school years."

Nevada educators want student performance to be evaluated over the course of the school year, rather than a using a single periodic test, Warne says. Duncan told educators that tests scores alone "should never drive evaluation," and he called on unions to relax some contract rules to recruit and reward effective teachers.

With Nevada home to one of the nation’s fastest-growing immigrant populations, Warne says it’s important that the Obama administration also consider changes to the way English language learner students are evaluated.

"To access them in a language that they are unfamiliar with has always been very unfair. We need more flexibility as to when we can test these folks in English, if that is not their native language."

Many delegates at the NEA’s "Hope Starts Here" convention expressed concern that summer school had been cancelled in their states. By contrast, Nevada used stimulus money to keep summer school open, which means there is little K-12 stimulus money remaining. Most of what is left for Nevada will go to higher education, according to Warne.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV