Education Secretary Arne Duncan Says Merit Pay Should Be Tied to Student Growth

The education secretary tackles teacher pay, student performance, and principal training.

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Secondly, we have to build a culture in which every student, every teenager in high school, has an adult who they can go to in good times and bad who will be there for them. Having meaningful adult relationships is desperately important. Our high school students are looking for mentors.

Third, they want to understand what the relevance of their schoolwork to the world of work and the world of higher education. How we make those connections—from what we teach in the classroom to how the students understand how it will benefit them as they move on—is hugely important. When you see those things happen collectively and comprehensively, you see great outcomes for high school students.

We need to get the country into the business of turning around chronically underperforming schools. We are challenging everybody: states, and districts, and nonprofits, and unions and universities to think about turning around schools. We have some extraordinary examples of that around the country. But we don't begin to do it at scale or with the sense of urgency that we as a country need.

Some folks predict that you're going to have a hard time sticking to your guns about giving out only a few federal grants, and you'll have to give money to every single state to make friends. How you are going to be the leader who sticks to your guns on this?

Don't just listen to my words, watch my actions. I'm here for only one reason, and that is to help the country get dramatically better, and that is what we are going to do.