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Education

WBFO interview with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

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Photo from the U.S. Education Department
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The U.S. Education Department has released data showing improvements in nationwide graduation rates for minorities. The rates for African Americans and Hispanic high school students increased nearly 4-percent from 2011 to 2013. That outpaced the growth for all students.  WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley had a chance to speak with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan prior to the release of the data. 

"What we are seeing across the nation is we see high school graduation rates at all time highs," said Duncan. "African American drop out rates are down 45%, Latino drop out rates are down 50%. Higher high school graduation rates have led to more than a million more students of color not just graduating but going off to college." 

"I always say there's one common enemy -- that's academic failure and there's one common goal and that's academic success," stated U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Graduate rates for African Americans and Hispanic high school students increased nearly 4-percent from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students.  

But Duncan said even with those successes, the Obama Administration is very focused on the reauthorize of 'No Child Left Behind' and how it could drastically effect funding.

As part of the reauthorization of 'No Child Left Behind' Duncan said the Education Department is recommending to Congress that there should be a cap placed on the amount of time spent testing students.

Duncan said there is an inequity in funding.  He calls it 'separate and unequal'. 

"Sadly, but not surprisingly, and it is definitely true in the state of New York, that in far too many states poorer districts with more poor children at risk often have less resources to work with than wealthier districts," said Duncan. 

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Credit WBFO News file photo
Buffalo School students in a classroom.

The Education Secretary warns the proposed House bill to reauthorize of 'No Child Left Behind' would move additional money from poorer districts.  The bill, to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, was introduced by Republican Congressman John Kline, R-Minn., but the vote was postponed late last month. It appeared House leaders were short of support for the measure and dealt with conservative opposition.

But Kline noted the delay was tied to an effort to approve a short-term measure financing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

However, in the reauthorization bill Duncan said it could modified some of the over testing in centered around the Common Core Learning Standards.

"I do believe we should access kids annually," said Duncan. "But in some places, there is too much time spent on testing. People should scale back."

WBFO News asked Secreatry Duncan how a struggling school district like Buffalo could move forward.  He suggests that the district reach out to as many in the community as possible without trying to do it alone.   

"In rally every part of the community. Political leadership, business leadership, non-profit faith-based leadership, parents behind this work. When we see that that's when we see rapid change and rapid progress.  When people are doing this work in isolation, it's frankly too hard," responded Duncan. 

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Credit WBFO News file photo
Buffalo Public School student showing off his reading.

Duncan said people need to come together to improve graduation and academic success. 

"I always say there's one common enemy -- that's academic failure and there's one common goal and that's academic success," stated Duncan.