Evidence? Secretary Duncan, You Can’t Handle the Evidence

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appears now to be assuming the mantle of self-righteous indignation—a tenuous perch for someone who is leading a field in which he has no experience or expertise.

As Valerie Strauss has reported, Duncan this summer lambasted news editors, berating them for failing to demand evidence for claims against Common Core.

Duncan, first, is striking an insincere pose that manufactures a false universe in which only evidence-based support for CC and Tea Party railings against CC exist. This conveniently ignores the growing legions of educators, academics, and scholars who reject CC, and actually have the evidence.

Since Duncan is demanding evidence, it is high time he practices what he preaches (let’s all pause here because that strikes me as a bit of lunacy, in fact, to expect a political appointee to live by the rules he imposes on others).

Secretary Duncan, please either confirm or discredit the following body of evidence that refutes any credibility for needing CC or that CC will work as education reform:

  • Hout and Elliott (2011), Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education: Most recent decades of high-stakes accountability reform hasn’t work.
  • French, Guisbond, and Jehlen (2013), Twenty Years after Education Reform: High-stakes accountability in Massachusetts has not worked.
  • Loveless (2012), How Well Are American Students Learning?: “Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning” (p. 3).
  • Mathis (2012): Existence and/or quality of standards not positively correlated with NAEP or international benchmark test data; “Further, the wave of high-stakes testing associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has resulted in the ‘dumbing down’ and narrowing of the curriculum” (2 of 5).
  • Whitehurst (2009), Don’t Forget Curriculum: “The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it. There is a rational argument to be made for good content standards being a precondition for other desirable reforms, but it is currently just that – an argument.”
  • Kohn (2010), Debunking the Case for National Standards: CC nothing new, and has never worked before.
  • Victor Bandeira de Mello, Charles Blankenship, Don McLaughlin (2009), Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007: Why does research from the USDOE not show high-quality standards result in higher NAEP scores?
  • Horn (2013): “The 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trends are out, and there is a good deal that we may learn from forty years of choking children and teachers with more tests with higher stakes: IT DOESN’T WORK!”

Evidence? Secretary Duncan, you can’t handle the evidence.

For Further Reading, Secretary Duncan:

Baker, B.D. & Welner, K.G. (2011). Productivity Research, the U.S. Department of Education, and High-Quality Evidence. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/productivity-research.


Bruce Baker and Kevin G. Welner

Evidence and Rigor: Scrutinizing the Rhetorical Embrace of Evidence-Based Decision Making Educational Researcher April 2012 41: 98-101, doi:10.3102/0013189X12440306
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  1. If legitimate evidence were of any real importance to the proponents of the CC, current policy would never have seen the light of day. There is more than a century of legitimate research in numerous fields of study that would have undermined support for it in the first place.

  2. We must keep in mind that before becoming Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was on the Board of the Broad Foundation. (The Broad Foundation 2009/2010 Annual Report http://tinyurl.com/6w5sps2 Page 25 )

    In the same annual report (Page 5) it said:
    “The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.

    With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”

    On page 10 this same report said:

    “Prior to becoming U.S. secretary of education, Arne Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he hosted 23 Broad Residents. Duncan now has five Broad Residents and alumni working with him in the U.S. Department of Education.”

  3. Theresa good says:

    What a farce. In the magical world of unicorns and fairy dust, palm readers and used car sales, charlatans and carnival barkers, reality is never acceptable, right Arne? Then there is all the other evidence like kilamanjaro!

  4. Jim Horn says:

    Duncan has been ignoring the evidence on “merit” pay systems, value-added teacher eval, and high stakes testing for years. I am glad he acknowledges that the word “evidence” exists, even though he still does not know what it means.


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  15. […] across the U.S. is driven by Bill Gates and his billions as well as the celebrity of Michelle Rhee, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Jeb Bush while the careful messages crafted by Ravitch in Reign have been readily available […]

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  21. […] either refuses or is unable (my guess) to confront the evidence that would serve him well in his privileged position, his bully pulpit as leader of US […]

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