Duncan Wants to Flip the Script on Schools

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/6/2013, 1:35 p.m.

"We fight the wrong issues and make so many mistakes," he said. "We have to get past this false dichotomy. The college versus career debate is the absolutely wrong fight to be in. It's about giving children choices. We have to give kids high quality technical education."

One proposal offered by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address is the targeted intervention into 20 struggling communities and injecting resources into each to facilitate a turnaround. That same method would work well in many schools, Duncan explained.

"There are areas of concentrated problems where we need wraparound services if we hope to make meaningful change," he said. "We need to be thinking about what we can do to tackle this in a holistic way."

And a good place to start is redefining the concept of a school's true role.

"We have a situation where schools are an island and they sweep children into the streets at 2:30 p.m. That can't work," said Duncan. "Schools should be the hub for community and family life. We have 100,000 schools with labs, gyms, libraries. They should be open 12-13 hours a day, six days a week, with a range of programs such as GED classes, robotics, dance, chess, the arts and three meals a day."