The United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a small group of students Thursday that education is the answer to many of society’s problems.
Duncan, on the campaign trail with Vice President Joe Biden, who also spoke Thursday about college costs at Gahanna Lincoln High School, met with 25 student leaders at the Hale Center at Ohio State.
Duncan fielded questions from students, mainly focusing on the importance of quality K-12 education.
Of the 100,000 K-12 schools in the U.S., Duncan said 20,000 are “dropout factories,” together producing half of our nations drop-outs.
Duncan said that in many cases, these “drop-out factories” are being turned around and taken over by a completely different staff of teachers.
“The most important thing I think we can do is get a great teacher in every classroom, get a great principal in every school,” Duncan said.
Duncan cited that 62 percent of new teachers feel unprepared to teach in the classroom upon graduation from an institution of higher education, a statistic that he said needs to change.
“I push schools of education very, very hard,” Duncan said. “If we don’t change the people, if we don’t change the talent … we’re not going to win the game.”
“The game” that Duncan is referring to is a competition with education acound the world. Duncan said teachers from South Korea and Singapore graduate in the top of their class, while an overwhelming number of U.S. graduates do not.
When it comes to teacher quality and performance in the classroom, Duncan said student evaluations are often indicative of a teacher’s effectiveness.
“When you actually ask students what they think, there’s a huge correlation,” Duncan said. “Students know.”
If education is the key to solving society’s problems, Duncan said making education accessible is important.
Duncan said that at his mother’s inner-city Chicago tutoring center, he grew up witnessing what an impact a good education could make.
“Despite real challenges, so many of the students went on to do amazing things,” Duncan said.
Among the students in attendance was Brandon Edwards, a fourth-year in political science, who said access to higher education especially is a concern.
When universities increase the cost of tuition, he said, institutions of higher education are going to lose a lot of great students.
While Duncan said he has worked to increase grants available to students and simplify the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, he said cooperation form higher education institutions is key.
“We have to get universities to come to the table with us,” Duncan said.
Adam Wagner, also in attendance, a third-year in political science, said he values OSU’s extracurricular opportunities for students and recognizes the importance in investing in education.
“I think education is the golden ticket,” Wagner said. “If we can spend more on education, the overall benefit is going to be much greater.”