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A Conversation with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

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Sal: This is Sal Khan here of the Khan Academy, and we're going to do a really fun experiment this morning. We're on Google Hangouts on air with Secretary Duncan, Secretary Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and we're just going to have a conversation about technology, about education, about higher education, and I'll just hand it over to Secretary Duncan. Secretary Duncan: Well, I hand it back to you and take any questions you have; but, just as you know, I'm a big fan of your work. My children have really enjoyed participating in Khan Academy. Lots of exciting things going on. Obviously came off the bus tour last night with the President, we're really working hard to reduce college costs. But whether it's talking about college costs, or technology, or K to 12 reform, or try and do more early childhood, happy to take any questions you have. And again, thanks so much for the leadership and the extraordinary amount of opportunity you're creating for children, not just in this country, but across the globe. It's pretty amazing to see. Sal: Oh, no, thank you. That means a lot to hear from you, and your children use Khan Academy? Senator Duncan: They do use Khan Academy. (both men laughing) They actually enjoy it, I don't have to beat them to make them do it. Sal: [unintelligible] enjoy it. That's great. Senator Duncan: It's been fantastic. Sal: So, the place I really want to start on, we get a lot of comments here, especially because a lot of the news with the bus tour that ya'll have been making around some of the announcements around trying to reduce college education costs. We got on Facebook and on Twitter from Science Guy, what element of the reform plan do you think is going to be the biggest game changer, and who's saying there's [unintelligible]. They're all asking around this, how are you going to address the cost issue with this plan, and do you think it's actually going to happen? It seemed like there was some resistance, from at least comments, from members of Congress. Senator Duncan: Well, there's always going to be resistance, and change is hard, as you know. But, let me just start with sort of explaining the problem. And I have to tell you, virtually everywhere I go, whether it's to the grocery store, whether it's to the dry cleaners, every plane I'm on, you have hard-working middle class parents coming up, and it's almost heart-breaking, basically pleading for help, and college costs are just crushing folks; and when you poll the American public, it's pretty scary, a lot of people started think that college isn't for them, it's for the wealthy, it's for the rich, it's for people not like them. At a time when going to college has never been more important, unfortunately, it's never been more expensive. So, we have to work together to drive down costs. We have to have much greater transparency and help young people and their families make better choices. We have to challenge states to continue to invest; we can't do it by ourselves. We have to make sure that young people have a set of good options to select from and know what a loan is. What's a grant? What are graduation rates? What are the particular strengths and weaknesses of majors of different places? But to see the President so engaged, it's fantastic. This is one simply where we have to break through, and this should not be political. We want to lead the world in college graduation rates. Right now we're on a path in terms escalating costs that is unsustainable, so having a honest conversation with the public, how do we better encourage states to do the right thing? How do we better rank universities and rank them based upon are they taking in low income students? Are they graduating? Are they keeping down college costs? There should be nothing political about any of this. I look forward to working with, not just the public, but with members that, republicans and democrats, in the House and Senate to do the right thing for our country. This to me, again, is not just about helping individuals and their families, but really fighting for our country's economic future and to remain economically competitive. We need to have the best educated work force in the world, and some form of higher education has to be the goal for every single young person; a high school diploma is no longer enough. 4-year universities, 2-year community colleges, trade, technical, vocational training, that has to be the goal for everyone. Families have to have the security that they can, if they work hard that they'll have a chance to pursue that goal. That's what this is about. Sal: This is a kind of over-arching theme of this plan, especially around the rankings, is to rank universities based on, essentially, value that they create or the economic opportunities for students the afterwards, so that the universities that are really expensive and the students aren't getting good jobs afterwards, they're going to be at the bottom of the list and might not get a grant funding or subsidized loans. Secretary Duncan: Well, we're open to all of this, and want to have a really public conversation over the next year and get the best ideas. I'm always interested in our universities improving. Is there growth and gains? Are graduation rates going up or down, or are they stagnant? Are serving more low income and first generation Pell Grant recipients? Are graduates being able to compete successfully in the job market afterwards? But there's a whole host of things. I'm very aware that if you put the wrong metrics out there you can create some perverse incentives and disincentives and encourage bad behavior. That's obviously the last thing we want to do. We want to be very thoughtful and nuance and so no preconceived notions. We're going to go out and talk to professors and presidents and parents and students themselves, have a national conversation; and at the back end of that, come up with something that makes more sense. What many folks don't understand is today we invest about $150 billion each year in grants and loans. This is a huge investment that we make happily that the tax payers support, but all of that investment, Sal, is based upon inputs, access to college. None of it is on outcomes. Are students actually graduating? Are they graduating with skills that will help them be successful the rest of their life? So, having a greater emphasis not just on access, which is important, but really on the outcomes. That's where we want to go. Sal: Hm, that makes sense. Makes sense. With some of the statements that ya'll have been making, we got a lot of tweets, this is from Becky Bacala. Ya'll talk a lot about also the importance of technology in education, and how technology might be a tool to increase accessibility, but it did raise some concerns from several folks. Becky Bacala wrote, "Some students' only chance "of carrying human interactions are at school, "why is online learning better?" Erica Kirshner wrote, "Replacing teachers with computers "to save money only short changes our kids." Also wrote, "Technology must work in concert with the teacher, "it's not the teacher." So, what are your thoughts? There's a lot of fear around, when people talk about technology, and especially when they're talking about it in the context of cost-savings, that it means that you're gonna have fewer human beings involved. Secretary Duncan: Yeah, I always think there's false dichotomies, false debates. Technology is never going to replace great teachers, and what all the research, all the studies seem to show, is that blended learning, great teachers empowered by great technology, is what's leading to the best educational outcomes achievements for students. As I travel the country and get to go to hundreds and hundreds of schools each year, which I love, I'm seeing amazing teachers, some young teachers, some 25 to 30 year veteran teachers, who talk very openly with me about their initial apprehension and fear about using technology in classroom; but how much more empowered they feel, how much more effective they feel, how much more engaged their students are in their learning. So, this is neither, this is never going to be either or, it's got to be both, and I think technology can help to strengthen teaching, help teachers not just teach, but actually know whether their students are learning or not. The goal is not to teach, the goal is actually to have students learn, to have students much more engaged in their own learning, to have parents know what's working and what's not, and have them be better partners. I just see tremendous upsides; I think there's a huge equity play here to give students and communities who have historically not had the best of education opportunities to really level the playing field. But, it's also a chance to raise the bar at the high end. If you can do both those things, push equity very, very hard and raise the bar for the country, it's early, we're in our infancy. You and others are helping to lead this field, but I'm actually extraordinarily helpful about where this can go. Sal: Completely agree with that. What we've seen at Khan Academy is, as you know, people a lot of times have that knee jerking reaction, "Oh, this is technology versus physical," but it's the exact opposite. Secretary Duncan: Just to give a couple quick examples. The President and I, we made the announcement about increasing access to broadband. We went to Moorseville, North Carolina; this is a district that's invested heavily in technology over the past 6, 7, 8 years in tough economic times, no additional money. What they simply stopped doing is buying text books. I continue to wonder as a nation, why we keep spending 7, 8, 9 billion dollars each year on text books that are literally out of date, basically, the day you purchase them, so they'd made that shift, and again, veteran teachers feel that they're teaching an entirely different level. I've been to places like School of One in New York, where you have larger classrooms, 30, 40 children working in small groups, teachers walking between different groups. Again, veteran New York teachers, initially very scared about this, think they're changing kids' lives in a really important way. Again, early on, a lot to learn together, but I'm very, very hopeful, not just on the K to 12 side, but in higher ed with [mooks] as well. Sal: Absolutely, but moving on in K through 12, a lot of the questions we've gotten have been around the common core, in particular. Nathan Nasby wrote, we've already had standards at a state level, "How is the common core going to be different?" We have several questions; Deborah [Debara Lomeo] wrote that in her state of New York, they're already having issues with graduation rates, what is the common core going to do there? I'll throw in my 2 cents is at Khan Academy, we're very focused on intentionally creating material for the common core; the thing that I see in it is it's much deeper and much more rigorous, so in that world, it's really a higher standard than we've had in the past. I guess, those are the 2 questions. How will it improve overall learning and graduation rates? And is there a risk that it's maybe too rigorous? Secretary Duncan: These are all great questions, important questions, but let me be really clear. One of the things I think has hurt children in communities, and ultimately our country tremendously, is we had 50 different states with 50 different standards, and many of which got dummied down. They got reduced to make politicians look good. We were actually lying to children and families telling them they are prepared to be successful, when frankly they weren't even close, and to me that is absolutely insidious, it is heart-breaking. That's the worst thing that can happen to a child and to families that think they're on track to being college and career ready, and they get to senior year and find out they're not even in the ball game. They have no hope of doing that, and they think they've played by all the rules, and this has happened in some places for far too long. So, the idea of having high standards, college and career ready standards that are internationally bench marked so we will no longer be lying to students and families is a game changer. Now, it's going to take a tremendous amount of work to help to prepare students, to give teachers the PD they need, the implementation of this is going to be rocky, and hard, and difficult, but I tell you, every time you raise standards, students do better, they're more engaged. Sal, I'll argue, the vast majority of students who drop out don't drop out because high school's too hard, they drop out because high school is boring. They're not connected, they're not engaged, and your point, the chance to go deeper, more critical thinking skills, more analytical skills, we think it's hugely important. Teachers across the country have really embraced this; it is hard work, they know they're taking on more. We do a great job supporting them, but I'm so hopeful about where this is going to go over the next 2, 3, 4 years. If we can have the courage to stay the course as a nation, we will be at an entirely different place. I can tell you literally for the first time in our country's history, a child in Massachusetts, or a child in Maryland, or a child in Mississippi, they're going to be held to the same high standards. As you know so well, young people today aren't competing for jobs in their district, or in their state in their country; they're competing for jobs with children in India, in China, in Singapore, in South Korea, and I'm convinced our children are as smart, as talented, as creative as entrepreneurialist children anywhere in the world. We just have to level the playing field for them. We have to give them a chance, and that's what this effort, which is being led by states on a voluntary basis, that's what this is all about. Sal: And following up on that, we've gotten a lot of folks here who, with the common core, also express fear that this, there's been a general trend, more emphasis on testing, and the fear is that with the common core that seems like it's an even larger emphasis on standards, possibly testing, what's your view on this balance between the very, the objective things that you can test in a test, and whether it should be high-stakes or not for things like teacher evaluation, and the intangible skills, experiential learning, things like that? Secretary Duncan: Yeah, I think these are really important issues that we have to work through together, but I will say part of what I resented so much about the No Child Left Behind Law, and I lived on the other side of it for 7 1/2 years when I led the Chicago public schools, and we wanted Congress to fix the broken law. Unfortunately, Congress is pretty dysfunctional. We provided waivers to 40 states, so we're partnering very, very well directly with states across the political spectrum. What No Child Left Behind did, and I think it did lead to an over-emphasis on a test, on a proficiency cut score, which I think is lots of perverse incentives there, lots of bad things for kids and for educators, what you're saying through the waiver process is states move in a very different direction. Yes, they're looking at growth and gain improvement, which I think should be part of multiple measures of what you're looking at, but they're moving way beyond a focus on test scores. They're looking at increasing graduation rates, reducing drop-out rates. Are more high school graduates actually going on to some form of higher education? Are they doing that not having to take remedial classes? I have to tell you so many young people around the country, 40, 50% in some communities, are taking remedial classes. Okay, these are the graduates. These are the ones that made it through, they're not ready. Are they persevering in higher ed? So, what you're seeing in terms of accountability is moving way beyond a focus on a test score, which I think has lots of problems, looking at much more long term outcomes. I think that's a very, very healthy thing, so we want common core to continue in that trend, but having states and districts and schools look not just at 3rd grade test score, but again, are we graduating more students? Are they graduating prepared to chase their dreams? Again, be that in a world of higher ed, or in a world of work, on a much more holistic sense of accountability and comprehensive absolutely right direction to go. And states, again, I think are showing tremendous leadership encouraging creativity in these areas. Sal: Yeah, absolutely, and another, I guess, over-arching theme, we got a lot of tweets that touch on this issue is that teachers themselves often are feeling marginalized in the conversation, they're feeling that everyone's solution is sometimes to blame teachers, and I think both you and I would agree that education is literally the, probably the most important investment that we can make in society, and often times there's lip service to the importance of that, and the lip service to the importance of teachers, but the way things are structured right now that they don't get paid what a doctor or a lawyer or engineer gets paid. They don't get, often times, the same respect that a doctor or an engineer gets. What can we do to move more in that direction? Secretary Duncan: Let me say a couple things. First of all, anyone who's blaming teachers is part of the problem, not part of the solution; teachers do extraordinarily hard, complex, difficult work every single day, often without enough resources. Again, i'm in hundreds of schools each year, and teachers are working amazingly hard. Obviously literally just this week you saw in DeKalb County in Georgia, teachers and school members prevented what could have been just a horrific massacre and just show tremendous courage; I mean, literal heroes, [profiles and courage]. The President and I talked to one of those staff members last night, Antoinette Huff, I talked to the entire team this morning. Teachers routinely go way, way beyond the call of duty; so, what we need to do together is to elevate and to strengthen the teaching profession, to do everything we can to attract and retain great talent. We've put out a blueprint people can look on our website to respect initiative. We think it's again, the best thing we can do. I'll say 2 other things. As a country, I think we're just this fork in the road of whether we see education as an investment as you and I do, and I would argue the best investment we can make or an expense, and every time I go testify before Congress we have a set of folks who say we should cut back on education, and cut back on head start, and on K to 12, and on Pell Grants. I just think that's very, very troubling, and it's cutting off our nose to spite our face. Again, we want to have the best educated country in the world, and we have politicians who refuse to invest. It makes no sense. I worry desperately, right now in real time, about what's going on the city of Philadelphia. I worry about as the school year starts, those children there who deserve the best education, receiving that inferior education because folks refuse to invest. North Carolina is a state I worry tremendously about. North Carolina used to be sort of national leader in reform in so many things. Teachers salaries have dropped precipitously in North Carolina. I spoke last week with some teachers and it was, these are fantastic teachers in North Carolina. Sal, it was actually heartbreaking, you have teachers literally who are making so little money now that they were on food stamps. They're receiving food stamps to feed their children. I spoke to another teacher who was giving blood, who was selling blood like twice a month to pay the bills. Again, for me, it just makes no sense whatsoever; so how we elevate the profession, how we strengthen it. I've already argued very publicly that we should pay starting teachers a heck of a lot more money. We should pay fantastic teachers 2 to 3 times as much money. It is the best investment we can make. Right now, as a country, in too many states and localities, folks, I think, don't quite understated that, and I would argue in tough economic times, education's not something you cut back on. You actually double down your investment. We have to educate our way to a better economy. If you want more upper mobility, more social ability, the only way you do that is to strengthen America's classrooms and to support our nation's fantastic teachers. Sal: I 100% agree with you, I just, it's scary, some of what you just talked about. I think a lot of, we definitely agree that there has to be more investment. There has to be ways to compensate teachers better, but at the same time, you have these budgetary pressures, so I just hope that these 2 things don't run into each other with negative. Secretary Duncan: Well, what I would say, Sal, is that these are tough economic times, and yes, there are budgetary pressures, but I would say budgets aren't numbers on a piece of paper. Budgets reflect our values. The question I always ask, when, you know. Hold us accountable at the federal level, and you see the President's tried to increase investment at every level, early childhood, K to 12, higher ed, every single year; one of the things I'm most proud of is an additional $40 billion for Pell Grants, serving almost 9 million, more than 9 million young people, Pell Grants. But we can't do it by ourselves. When states cut funding to education, but keep increasing funding for prisons, as many states do, they're making a value judgement that would prefer to lock people to up, to incarcerate them, to invest them at the front end. so, yes, we all have, in our own families, in our budgets, professionally, personally, we all have to make tough calls. But the calls we make, the investments we make, reflect our values, and I just desperately hope more states and more communities and more elected officials at the national level, in Congress, House, and Senate, understand that we have to invest in education, that that means we have to spend less on other things. That might be a tough call, but is the right call to make for our children, for our families, and ultimately for our country. Sal: Yeah, and with that, obviously we should be investing in more education, and as we do, and we do invest a reasonable amount already, what's your view, and there's a lot of talk now as something that we get a lot of questions on, and we talk about a lot of this, is thinking about the structure of education itself, that the way that we teach, and right now is really something we inherited from the 18th century [pressions] where we group kids together, and we move them at a set pace. At least, to some of what you talked about, that kids get promoted because they were in a chair for a year, and then they get to community college or college and they're testing at a 6th grade math level. The other side of it is more of a competency based model, where students take as long as they need to learn something, but then they get to a very high standard, and so, really that would make it impossible that someone graduates and has to take remedial math. Do you see things shifting there? Secretary Duncan: That they have to shift, and we have to continue to accelerate. The fact that we're still teaching with a 19th century model makes no sense whatsoever, and 25 or 30 kids sitting in rows all learning the same thing at the same time, same pace, again, it's just like Neanderthal. It makes no sense, and so this idea, again, with technology being a great tool to empower a moving from seat time, as you said so clearly, to competency. I don't want to know how long you sat there, I want to know do you know the material? Do you know algebra or biology or physics or chemistry, or whatever it might be? If you know it, you shouldn't have to sit there. So, we're doing everything we can to encourage this on the K to 12 side, on the higher ed. We're starting to do some pilots, some experimental programs in places like the University of Southern New Hampshire that is moving from seat time to mastery to competency. This is absolutely where we need to go. What's still important for me, Sal, is not just for the high flyers, yes it's going to benefit the high flyers, they need to be able to move much more quickly, but the average student should be able to get the help they need and that student who takes more time, doesn't matter how long it takes them to learn it, they just need to master that content. So, whether it's more time during the school day, more time after school, or at night at home, and again, using technology weekends, the goal is to become comfortable and confident with whatever the material is that whatever 3rd grade, 5th grade, AP physics. This for me, is a game changer for kids. It's absolutely the right thing to do, and time should be variable. Time should not be the constant. The constant should be are students having opportunities to learn, to master the material, to be engaged in their own learning? So, again, there's some really creative, innovative things starting to happen; but, part of, I think, our role is to take these areas of innovations, these pockets of excellence, and try and share these best practices and actually take them to scale to make this the norm rather than the exception. Sal: Yeah, and just to double underline that, a lot of times what we see is, yes, you have students go at their own pace and the assumption is some kids are just going to take longer and fall further and further behind, but we're seeing over and over again, if you let students go at their own pace, a lot of times that student that you thought was a a little bit slower, they're taking their time really filling in their gaps, and they're becoming the best student in the class 6 months later. Secretary Duncan: The more you can articulate those findings and demonstrate them, that's so important. Far too many adults underestimate what students can do; and yes, we know students need help, we need to support them, but our biggest problem, I think, in this country is not that we're pushing kids too hard, it's that we're not encouraging them enough. We're not giving them enough opportunities to learn and do more. Whenever you raise standards, ready to give opportunities, you don't have more drop outs, you have more graduates. The problem, I guarantee you, has always been that we dummy things down for kids, and they feel that, they know it, they sense it. They know that they think that we're not serious about their education, and they become disengaged, they back out. We give them a chance to fly, to learn, to empower them, you see extraordinary things happen. Again, not just for those at the top, but those that we thought may have been struggling, let them find their passion, let them find their interest and they'll go to the moon with that. We have to create those opportunities. Sal: Another, I guess, over-arching theme, it's along the same idea of us going with a legacy system that we've had since the [horseman] brought us the [pression] system in the mid 19th century, is not only the system itself, seat time versus competency, but what is actually covered, this is something I've written about, a lot of people know, is that this decision to do algebra in 9th grade, geometry in 10th grade, trigonometry, the calculus and physics in the senior year, and all of that, that was decided essentially by 10 men around 120 years ago. So, one question I get, I just [need] to have myself, I love calculus, I've made 400 videos on it, I have it online. I love the subject. Secretary Duncan: I need to watch our videos. I need [unintelligible] Sal: Oh, very exciting stuff. But, at the same time, the one thing I wonder is something like statistics, is are more applicable in pretty much any field you go into, but that's usually reserved for an elective course in college, and it isn't core; things like law, you only get, frankly, if you go to law school, you don't even get it at a undergraduate level. Is there some movement to try to make this more part of the core curriculum ? Secretary Duncan: I always talk about a well-rounded world-class education, and so, as all the things you mentioned, it's computer science, which obviously didn't exist 100 years ago. Sal: I'm biased. I didn't want to mention that people talk about computer science (laughs). Secretary Duncan: There are a lot of great jobs in computer science that are going on field today, coding, I- Sal: [unintelligible] here. Secretary Duncan: I would add to that foreign languages. I would add to that financial literacy. I would add to that physical education, recess, health; and so, these are things that generally you see in the elite private schools, they are this sort of part of core, but somehow in public education, again, often due to underfunding, lack of investment, all those things kind of get stripped away. Again, I worry about, generally, but very specifically, right now, about places like Philadelphia, North Carolina, that I think are a sort of a time in crisis. When you take away those kinds of opportunities, our children should be growing up bilingual and trilingual. They have to be financially literate. They have to have the computer science and other things; that has to be part of the core curriculum. So, yes, the basic reading and math are fundamental and foundational, but that's a starting point, not an ending point. Again, if we're serious about keeping kids in school, reducing drop out rates, they're devastatingly high, it's all of those things, but I would add, it's more. It's all the extra curriculars, it's band, it's art, it's music, it's chess, it's sports, it's academic decathlon, it's yearbook, it's theater, it's model UN, that all has to be the norm as well. Again, when we walk away from that, we really, really hurt our children. Sal: Yeah, I'd even go a little further, but I actually think a lot of that stuff, even if I think about my own education, a lot of my real memories from middle school and high school where I felt I learned the most were some of the things you just listed, and it almost feels like there's an opportunity to rethink can these extra curriculars become the curricular, and that all the course goes our ways to support that. But I 100% agree with that. With all of these, we've just talked about a bunch of really, I think, powerful ideas, and things that are the correct direction, but where do you see the federal government in this? As the Secretary of Education, obviously education is mainly executed on by the states, how do ya'll try to influence what happens in the right direction? Secretary Duncan: So, again, our goal is to lead the world in college graduation rates; that's the north star. That's what the President's challenged us to do. One generation ago, we led the world. We have flat-lined, we've stagnated. About a dozen other countries have passed us by, and I think we're paying a real price for that as a nation. So, for me it's about investing at every level. It's increasing access to early childhood education. You and I haven't talked about that this morning. That's arguably the most important investment we can make is to get our babies off to a good start; let them enter kindergarten ready to be successful. We have to continue to improve K to 12, drive reform, increase graduation rates, reduce drop-out rates, make sure our high school graduates are truly college and career ready. Again, the big pusher making now, is that some form of higher ed, 4-year universities, 2-year community colleges, trade, technical, vocational training, that has to be the goal for every single young person today. How we share best practices, how we continue to encourage investment, how we reward innovation and courage, how we think about this comprehensively. Again, really birth through age, whatever, 22, 23, 24, and even beyond; adult learners coming back. Community colleges doing a great job there. This, for me, is we're fighting for our country here; we're fighting for our families. We want to provide as much leadership as we can and drive this agenda, but again, we need great partnership at the state and local level, as well. Sal: Right, and It sounds like the way that ya'll execute, obviously, ya'll have a soap box, if you will. People will listen based on you can set the direction, and on top of that, the Department of Education goes out there and really kind of rewards districts and states that ya'll feel are moving in the right direction. Secretary Duncan: And we try and invest, so historically our department didn't invest in early childhood education, we thought that was our problem with Congress' bipartisan support. We've invested bout $600 million to increase early childhood opportunities in states across the country. That's a big deal; we would like to invest dramatically more. We want to make sure that every child has access there. We've saved a couple hundred thousand teacher jobs in tough economic times; we're also driving reform K to 12. Then, I said, on the higher ed side, one of the things I'm most proud of was a $40 billion increase in Pell Grants, without going back to tax payers for nickles. We simply stopped subsidizing banks, put all that money into Pell Grants. That was wildly controversial here in Washington. We thought it was common sense. We've gone from about 6 million Pell recipients to 9.6 million. But to be really clear, where we started the conversation, I'm very concerned that college is becoming unaffordable, not just in disadvantaged communities, but for the middle class. So, I'm proud of what we've done. This is absolutely unfinished business, and we have to push very, very hard so that families have the security of knowing if their children work hard, they will have the chance to pursue higher ed once they graduate from high school. Sal: And you did touch on the early learning, which is, I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old, and they're in preschool now, and I personally, as a parent, have seen the value of what's done for them, [their] few years before they go into the formal system. Why do you think that hasn't been more universal? You know, Florida famously has early childhood, and that, you know, is kind of done in a very bipartisan way under Governor Jeb Bush, but why don't we see that more on a nationwide basis? Secretary Duncan: I'll tell you why. Because 2 and 3 and 4 year olds, your children, don't vote, they don't [hire] lobbyists, they don't have pacts, and I think, too many politicians are wired to think about their next election, or just the next news cycle. Early childhood education is the ultimate in long-term investments, and the dividends we often don't see for a decade or 2, or 3, or 4. But folks who are a lot smarter than me, like James Heckman, the Nobel Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago, has talked about a 7 to 1 return on investment; that every dollar we put in early childhood, we as a country get back $7, less teenage pregnancy, less crime, less incarceration, more high school graduates, more folks going to college, more folks going into the workforce, paying taxes, being productive citizens. But it's a long-term play. So, the President has put on the table a $75 billion proposal to dramatically expand access to high quality, early learning opportunities around the country. What's so interesting, Sal, is at the state level, this has absolutely become a bipartisan issue. You see great leadership by republican and democratic governors who, in tough economic times, are choosing to invest; they are valuing this. Quite frankly, our struggle now is to get more of our republican friends here in Washington in the House and Senate to agree this is the right long-term investment. I'm working very hard behind the scenes, and I'm hopeful in the not-too-distant future that we'll start to see a couple of republicans join with us to say this is the right thing for our children, for strengthening families, and ultimately for our country. Sal: Right, and going at the other end of the spectrum, where we talk about college and graduation, this is where we started our conversation. The one thing that I hear a lot about is, I hear this even from, sometimes I talk, we partner with schools, and they're like, "Hey, a lot of our kids go to college." then people, "Well, they should be graduating from college," and we've talked about that today, but it seems like even that really isn't the real angle. The real angle is are they being productive and happy citizens, and is some of what ya'll are talking about also along that dimension, it's not just, you know, because obviously, a college can graduate everyone if it wants to, it can lower its standards. It's kind of what we talked about at the state level with the standards, how do you just make sure that it doesn't happen, just window dressing? Secretary Duncan: We have to be very, again, thoughtful and comprehensive; and we're going to to go out and travel the country and talk to college presidents and faculty members, again, and students themselves and parents, and employers, and get a sense of this, but I think your bigger thing, any time we're dumbing down standards, whether it's higher ed, or K to 12, early childhood, any time we dummy down standards, we're just doing a great disservice to the folks we claim we're serving. So, that's non-starter to begin with. How do you make sure you have a high bar? How do you make sure students are engaged civically, sort of in a participatory democracy? How they're thinking about giving back to the community? What they're doing after college graduation rates? Yes, we need more STEM majors. Yes, we need more computer science. I was a very happy sociology major; and we want, again, just let people pursue their dreams, whatever it might be, liberal arts, it doesn't matter. But we want them being in a position to be successful once they graduate. That, for me, is what we have to be looking at, so long-term. For me, it's not about salaries, it's not about whatever. Obviously, folks who go into education don't do that to make $1,000,000, they do it to make a difference. But I want them going into education prepared to be a great educator, and if they can do that and be successful, then I feel good about that. If folks are unprepared for the world of work, whatever their dreams are, that's when we have to challenge the status quo. Sal: I completely agree. If we have time, really just for one final question, so I'll make it a big picture question. We're talking about a lot of things. There are a lot of exciting things going on, there's technology, there's access. Where you do think this is going to go if we just dream a little bit? If we look at the system 10 years from now, 20 years from now, is it going to look like the system we have now? Secretary Duncan: Quite frankly, I hope it looks very different from the system today (laughs), that we have today. Because I just think we're not doing enough, quite frankly, as a nation. So, my hope, not even 10 years out, but 5 years out, I'm impatient here, I don't want to wait. I would love to see twice as many children have access to high quality pre-K. So, dramatically expand access there. I would like to see almost no classrooms of kids sitting in rows of 25 and 30, and I want to see students having a chance to learn individually and work in small groups. Again, using technology, moving from seat time to competency. That has to happen. I want to see graduation rates. They're actually at a 3 decade high, which is encouraging, but we still have a long way to go. Graduation has to be the bare minimum. If you drop out of high school today, you're basically condemned to poverty and social failure, so we have to get those drop-out rates down to 0 as fast as we can. Then, ultimately, again, high school graduates have to be college and career ready, but college has to be much more accessible and affordable. So, if we can really drive down the cost of college, not just a couple percent, but significantly so that that dream, that aspiration, becomes a reality; families have that security. It is clearly an ambitious agenda, but I frankly think we have to move on all those fronts simultaneously, and move as fast as we can, and move, again, regardless of politics or ideology, I could care less in that, we just want to help our country, want to help our young people, we want to strengthen our families. We should be able to work together on this. This is our national mission. Sal: That was a, completley agree. Thank you, Secretary Duncan. This was a real honor to be able to chat with you this morning. Secretary Duncan: You're doing a great job. You're going to be the next Oprah when you're done with Khan Academy. Thanks for the opportunity, and thanks again, your tremendous leadership, I'm a big fan. Sal: Thank you.