US education secy. says Tenn. courageous in reform - WSMV News 4

US education secy. says Tenn. courageous in reform

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The nation's top education leader paid a visit to Nashville Wednesday on the day before Metro students return to school.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met with Governor Bill Haslam, parents and teachers to talk about Tennessee's struggles in the classroom.

Tennessee is well below the national average in just about every area of education, but today Duncan discussed areas where he says the state is positioned to make some dramatic improvements.

During the visit today at West End Middle School, leaders pointed out that among the biggest problems in Tennessee are achievement gaps between black and white students and graduation rates for college-ready students.

Duncan says Tennessee seems willing to make serious improvements while other states defend the status quo. Last year, Tennessee was awarded $500 million in federal Race to the Top money to reform its schools.

"This work is tough. It is challenging. Nothing is easy about it. There is a reason why these gaps haven't closed. There's a reason why education has been so slow to improve. But I am very hopeful Tennessee could possibly be the fastest-improving state in the country. If Tennessee can do that, the implications not just for the children here, but the nation, are profound," Duncan said.

Tennessee is one of at least a dozen states asking the federal government for a waiver to No Child Left Behind after not meeting the program's standards.

Duncan says it may be another month before the state knows if it will be granted a waiver. But he says those chosen must have high standards in place and be doing interesting things around principal and teacher evaluations - areas he says Tennessee is focused on.

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