What I Would Do If I Had Arne Duncan's Job
First of all, I would state, for the record, that there is no quick or instant way to make our schools perform better unless we have a major initiative to reduce poverty that encompasses employment, health care, nutrition and housing as well as education.
Then, I would end Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, deemphazie standardized testing and make schools places where young people, especially those from poor and working class backgrounds want to spend time in and where they get skills that lead to useful employment. Here would be the keystones of my program.
1 Create first rate vocational and technical education programs like the kind they have in Germany and like they used to have in New York City in the 1950's. Help train the technicians needed to build a new energy efficient economy for the 21St Century.
2. Create after school progarms and night centers in the public schools which featues sports, the arts, and modern information technology, all led by teacher mentors, helped by teachers in training. Young people in NY City also had programs like this when I was growing up. They were elminated in the 1970's fiscal crisis
3. Vastly expand the hours and resources of public libraries so they not only create safe zones where young people can do their homework free of harassment and noise, but are places where they can have access to computer and information technology they might not have in their home.
4. Create CCC and WPA type jobs program for out of work out of school teens and young adults, paying them to help rebuild our rotting infastructure and mentor young people in their neighborhoods.
I can assure you that these programs would be much more effective engaging young people than our current strategy of deluging them with standarized tests to make them competitive with young people in other countries.