Duncan repeatedly stressed Monday the "competitive" spirit he wanted to see in schools moving forward. He noted the administration's new "Race to the Top" program, in which roughly $5 billion in competitively awarded grants will be available to schools willing to raise their academic standards, improve teacher quality and allow more innovation. He said he supported ongoing work to develop common national academic standards in English, language arts and mathematics for grades k-12. Georgia is among 48 states that have signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Drafts of those standards are expected to be made public sometime next year.
Duncan also spoke encouragingly about some school choice efforts, particularly charter schools. His first stop Monday was at Tech High School, an independent charter high school in Atlanta that has a 97 percent graduation rate. The city system's average rate is 69 percent. He also toured the city's Grady High School in Midtown and attended a discussion about a White House initiative to prevent youth violence.