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Forum: Educating America: The Will and the Way Forward – Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings

the Will and the Way Forward at John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Harvard

I was fortunate to hear Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings speak tonight at the Kennedy School. See press release. There was standing room only when I arrived. The address itself was short but the Q&A lasted for an hour. The secretary was not afraid to address any question and spoke with candor and a sense of humor.

Postscript: I’m adding this on Oct 7. What I liked about the forum: Margaret Spellings strongly encouraged young people to go into education and was supportive of organizations such as Teach for America. She is in favor of improving college access by simplifying FAFSA. She is aware of the need for children to be aware of the world outside America. Some things were less satisfying. The secretary asserted that NCLB has been successful. There is probably some set of data that will support such statement but do most people involved in education agree….? Also, some things were left unaddressed. For example, a college professor friend of mine pointed out that Margaret Spellings proposed to introduce standardized testing to measure what students learn in universities. My friend and her colleagues are concerned about this initiative because it would encourage professors to teach to the test instead of trying to develop other skills such as critical inquiry and research. This is true at any grade level (and the reason why I’m interested in the whole topic of efficacy of standardized testing) but having standardized testing at the post-secondary level, I think, is quite alarming. I do not know where the issue stands but am not surprised that Margaret Spellings did not choose to bring up this topic at the forum.

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