To help America's failing public education system return to its former glory, good educators should receive higher pay, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNBC Monday.
“Great teachers and great principals make such a huge difference in people’s lives,” said Duncan.
Duncan said the department has recently pumped $400 million in school grants into the education system, intended to pay teachers more money when they get better results from their students.
Such programs will help restore the US system that used to turn out millions of well-educated high school graduates who went on college, he believes.
“We have got to get dramatically better,” said Duncan. “We have almost 1 million students dropping out of high school each year in this country.”
Today’s students are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents, and 68 percent of 8th graders don't read at their grade level.
“We used to lead the world in the number of college graduates; we’ve dropped from 1st to 9th in one generation. We have to invest, but we have to invest in reform, not in the status quo.”
Duncan said the department programs, including the school grants and the Race to the Top program, aim to change the system fundamentally.
However, teachers and other educators have criticized the Race to the Top program because they say, like George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, it relies too heavily on test scores. Duncan said that criticism is unfounded.
The public education of America’s children has been “economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable,” added Duncan.
He believes that rather than cutting back on funding, redirecting money into innovative programs will improve the system, which will ultimately help students learn and excel.