‘Third-Rate’ Charter Schools Should Be Closed, Education Secretary Says

By Nicholas Ballasy | September 2, 2009 | 3:17 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan told CNSNews.com that he is “not a fan” of charter schools, only “good charter schools,” adding that the non-performing ones should be closed.
“I’m not a fan of charter schools, I’m a fan of good charter schools,” Duncan told CNSNews.com at a "Read to the Top" Event outside the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., as part of the Department's summer reading campaign.
“We happen to have some phenomenal charter schools around the country,” he said. “We want those to grow and replicate – couple of them represented here today.”
But, said Duncan, “We also have some third-rate, third-tier charter schools around the country – I think those need to close.”

He also said, “When charters aren’t working we need to deal with that openly and honestly as well.”
During the “Read to the Top” event that preceded the interview, several children asked the secretary and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice if they liked charter schools.
CNSNews.com followed up with Duncan and asked him what factors he would take into consideration when closing down a charter school. Duncan said lessons can be learned from the charter schools that are doing well by focusing on imitating their performance.  
“I think you look at a variety of criteria. We have to, as a country, dramatically increase the graduation rates, reduce the dropout rate and make sure many of our high school graduates are prepared to do college level work,” said Duncan, who has experience in educational policy but has never worked as a school teacher.
When responding to questions regarding the No Child Left Behind legislation, Duncan criticized the program as it stands now for respectively including “dummied down” standards for each state, saying that a “common” national standard would work better. 
“What the president and I have been arguing pretty precipitously is, we’ve had 50 states doing their own things – 50 different bars – and in many places they’ve been dummied down,” Duncan told CNSNews.com, “and in fact we’ve been lying to states, including the state I’m from, Illinois.”
He explained that hitting a “common higher bar” is possible through the flexibility, innovation and creativity of teachers. 
“The best ideas about education are never going to come from Washington. They’re always going to come from local teachers, local principals, who are making a difference in student lives,” said Duncan. 
“My job is to listen, to learn, to pay attention to what’s working and really scale up those best practices and invest in them,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
Duncan served as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools before being appointed by President Obama as education secretary.