U.S. Ed Secretary: 'The Best Ideas...in Education Are Never Going to Come from Me'

By Edwin Mora | August 24, 2011 | 4:21 PM EDT

Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today that the "best ideas ... in education are never going to come from me or frankly from anyone else in Washington.”

He also said some American schools are testing their students too much.

“Washington can never run public education, and what we want to do is we want to be a good partner,” Duncan said in a webcast in which he answered questions submit via Twitter.

“We want to reward courage, we want to reward excellence, we want to reward creativity, we want to hold folks accountable to high bars, but education has always been and should be at the local level,” said Duncan,

“And the best ideas, I’ve always said, in education are never going to come from me or frankly from anyone else in Washington,” he said.

“They’re always going to come from great teachers, great principals at the local level,” said Duncan. “We want to hold them accountable, but give them lots more room to move and to do the right thing for the children in their community where they know best what those children and what the community need.”

Duncan argued that in some jurisdictions students spend too much time preparing for and taking tests.

“I think in some places we do test too much, I think it varies,” said Duncan. “So, do I think we should evaluate students each year to see how they’re doing and progressing? Absolutely. But when you have too many tests or spending all your time on test prep that never leads to good results--so I think there’s real variation around the country. I think some places are doing this pretty well. Some are probably absolutely over-testing.”

Duncan said that 10 days of testing during a school year was too much.

“My children are in a great public school system,” he said. “They’re evaluated annually. I have no problem with that. If they’re getting tested 15 times a year or multiple different tests I have a problem with that.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan looks on as President Barack Obama talks to students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

When asked how many days of the “traditional standard bubble test” are too many, Duncan said, “It should be a tiny percent of what we’re doing. So should students be tested 10 days? No, I think 10 days is a lot.”

“I think that’s a lot, yeah,” said Duncan. “And it’s not just the testing. … It’s the filling the bubble, you know, practicing that and, you know, if all you’re doing is doing that kind of work and not doing great instruction, great creativity, the students aren’t going to do well anyway.”

Duncan criticized the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Law saying it was an “impediment” for education. He said states will be able to apply for No Child Left Behind waivers in September, adding that the Obama administration has the authority to grant those without breaking any laws.

“I’ve talked to almost every governor,” said Duncan about the waivers. “I think I’ve talked to 47, 48 governors. What’s interesting, John, is there’s lots of noise here in Washington. Every single governor has said thanks for moving in this direction. Not one governor has said we don’t need this. And many governors have actually said, ‘Thank God someone in Washington is actually listening to real teachers and real people.’”

According to the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Education spending rose from $33.476 billion in fiscal 2000 to $92.858 billion in fiscal 2010.