November 16th, 2009

Media Monday: Al, Arne and Newt

As we’ve mentioned, Secretary Duncan, Newt Gingrich and Reverend Al Sharpton have been visiting schools across the country together in an effort to look at school reform through non-partisan eyes. Yesterday, they talked about their findings and their visions for American education on NBC’s Meet the Press. Talk focused on teacher accountability, the value of charter schools, and the Secretary’s expectations for the Race to the Top fund.

Though he was perhaps the most clearly partisan in his opinions, Gingrich stood out for the clarity and specificity of his thoughts during this interview. Whereas Duncan said a lot of things we’ve heard him say before, all along the lines of “We all have to take responsibility…we all have to step up,” and whereas Sharpton made some basic, declarative statements about de facto racism in education and the achievement gap, Gingrich pushed his own education agenda. He said twice that he’d “like to have a Pell Grant for K through 12,” and he claimed that charter schools are a solution to the discipline problems in inner-city schools:

We have a friend whose daughter is now teaching in a school [in D.C.] where there have been 23 lawsuits this year over discipline in a school that’s fundamentally undisciplined.  And so teachers are told basically, “You can’t get enough control to teach.” And this is why, when you go out to the KIPP school and to other systems like that–and there are 82 KIPP schools in the country–they’re very structured.  The Mastery schools, very structured. These kids, for the first time in their lives, are being given discipline; and therefore, they can attract great teachers because they can actually focus on the kids.

Despite the vagueness of some of their answers, it’s impressive to see such seemingly mismatched political partners united in their concern for American schools. Watch the full episode below.

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Media Monday: BASIS Charter Schools [Ed Beat, 11/9/09]

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