Secretary Duncan Talks about Time…

Secretary Arne Duncan talking about investment in time and Summer Learning

I ran across this video the other day and jotted down some of what Secretary Duncan said in the interview.  I’ve only now gotten around to re-reading them and writing down some of my thoughts.  I’m on board the train right now, The Carolinian, getting ready to roll across the North Carolina, Virginia boarder, northbound for Washington, EduBloggerCon, and NECC.

Time is one of those big things where we can dramatically improve student achievement.

Well, its an aspect of the work of educating other people that can be easily measured.  It’s a container, and it is natural to believe that if we can enlarge the container, we can, well, add more material, fuel, weight, whatever — and under most circumstances, this is true.

We can be much more creative in our use of time… thinking about longer days, longer weeks, longer years, thinking about more not just for children but for teachers for professional development.

Two strikes and one ball.  We can certainly make more creative use of our time.  But the creativity has to go deeper than figuring out how to add
more time.  It’s about making time more elastic, adaptable, look
less like a container, and more like a resource.  Duncan is right that teachers need more time.  We’ve been talking about this for a long time,  and it is much more more than just professional development.  Being a 21st century teacher involves planning, collaboration, research, development, liaising with the community, etc.  

The interviewer continues,

You say six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, just doesn’t seem to work.  What countries are doing it right and what can we do?

Many countries are going to school 25% 30% more than we are.  Our children are at a competitive disadvante.  I want to level the playing field. I want our children to compete with the best in India and China, and simply put, in other countrys they’re spend more time in school than we do here — I think this hurts our children.

After watching this interview, I honest believe that Secretary Duncan understands that we’re talking about more than seat time.  But what is going to take more courage than suggesting a 30% increase in school hours, is saying that we do not need to compete against the best of India and China, that we need to do something else.  It isn’t the time that is hurting our children.  It is the notion that education is something that has to be done to our children, instead of something that must be grown from them.  It is cultivation and conversation.

…thinking about schools being open 12 (or) 13 hours a day, 6 (or) 7 days out of the week, 11 or 12 months out of the year, I think is absolutely the right thing to do.

No!  Thinking about learning experiences that are relevant to these rapidly changing times; to our children’s native information experience; and an increasingly digital, networked, and info-abundant environment is the right thing to do.  When we can imagine and talk about that, then we can reshape and perhaps even expand the learning time to fit it.

To be clear, how you use that time, there’s lots of room for creativity.  It’s not just children sitting in their seats for 12 hours a day.  It’s opening up the schools for a variety of activities for children, academic enrichment programs for children, but also art, and drama, and sports, and music and chess, and debate, and academic decathalon, and all those things that give children reason to be excited about coming to school.

Not just for children and their older brothers and sisters, but also for parents, GED classes, ESL, family literacy nights.  And the more our schools become the center of faimly acitiviy in the two heards of the neighborhoods, the better our children are going to do.

Asked about his vision of summer education Duncan said…

i think it has to stretch children.  I’d like to see more students getting on to college campases. I want students to pursue their interests and passions, whether it’s drama, or sports, or art, or music, or dance, or what ever it might be.

Now this excites me a bit.  There seems to be room for some interesting ideas here.  But, again, I think that the interesting and more relevant ideas need to come first.

Duncan described an interesting program that they implemented late during his tenure at Chicago Public Schools.  They brought 15,000 incoming high school freshmen a month early (voluntary), worked toward academic support and team building, and they hired a thousand juniors and seniors to serve as mentors and help the freshmen transition in.

I have to say that I am a little more encouraged about our new education department and I see  some more room for innovation and flexibility.

The conductor just came by reminding us that it’s lunch time.

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4 thoughts on “Secretary Duncan Talks about Time…”

  1. I think many struggle with what creativity is and how it should look in education. Unfortunately, we often beat the creativity out of our students. We need to think about a paradigm where students are creative producers of information. When they construct knowledge and produce products (whatever they may be) for an audience that transcends the 4 walls of the classroom – then we are achieving what we need to. As a science teacher, I see the best creativity in a science as problem finding – determining the appropriate and relevant ideas for study.

    Teachers need to assume that role, too. We need to share our work and ideas with others and make our instructional practices more transparent so best practices can continue to emerge. Teachers and students as collaborative learners together. . . I don’t think it’s that novel (although others might), but it’s so important. See what I wrote about a recent experience at

  2. “It is the notion that education is something that has to be done to our children, instead of something that must be grown from them. “
    We should be concerned about not what is taught but what the students learn and that is not always the same thing. After having taught for several years I had the chance to talk to some of my former students and was amazed at what they had taken away from my class. I remember working weekends on creative and engaging powerpoints and class activities. Reviewing the lives of artists we were studying and explaining the techniques artist used. When I talked to these former students they remembered that they had listened to Boogie Woogie music. Wait! What! I teach art not music… Then I remembered that during a lecture oops lesson on Mondrian we were looking at the painting Broadway Boogie Woogie and the students asked what Boogie Woogie was and I had pulled up Wikipedia and found a wav. file for them to listen to. I had been teaching one thing but they were ready to learn another.
    Fortunately I teach elementary art and the curriculum is a little looser but other subjects have very tight guidelines and schedules as to when students should be taught parts of their curriculum. School is like a stream and students are swept along whether they are ready or not.
    As teachers we should have the time to explore with the students what they are interested learning, not what a text book or calendar says they should be taught.

  3. Interestingly, I have had the opportunity to read your remarks today after stumbling upon a forum yesterday that was quite different.

    Yesterday, as I was logging out of, I noticed an “Education Community,” at The topic related to the big news of the day, “Obama says longer school days and years will bring the US up to par.” (Duncan’s lead-in, eh?) In the two hours since its posting, it had received 1315 posts. Out of curiosity I read about 125 (a little under 10%) of the posts and observed many, especially the early ones, were fairly reactive. As time passed, more were reflective, including teachers/parents/observers with anecdotal evidence to support their opinions. I found myself wishing for voices that could offer not only anecdotal evidence, but also quantitative, data/research driven background information to help develop understanding and shape the discussion.

    Coincidentally, since I have been following EdBlogCon and NECC, I couldn’t help but wish to hear some of those voices speak in a more public venue; after reading the amazon forum, I wish it all the more! To do so, I see, would mean a willingness to be knocked around by a certain number of posters. And yet, there were others in the thread who were listening and dialoging. They would have been so open to what those of you with your finely honed knowledge base have to offer.

    I appreciate your voice, not only in your books, but particularly online; your are able to articulate much that I think about.

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