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Arne Duncan On The Daily Show: Talks Race To The Top, Teacher Support And Pay

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in New York Thursday as Jon Stewart's guest on The Daily Show, largely rehashing the Obama administration's widely debated educational policies.

In explaining Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind and their anticipated long-term effects on the American education system, Duncan again repeated a phrase he is well known for: "I think No Child Left Behind was largely broken."

"We wanted Congress to fix it," he added. "Congress is pretty dysfunctional these days, unfortunately."

"I have not heard that," Stewart cut in.

Earlier this month, the Education Department granted No Child Left Behind waivers to 11 states, offering them more flexibility from the Bush-era education law. And while more states earned another $200 million in December in the third round of Race to the Top, a January report found that of the 12 winners in the program's first year, just three are on track with their plans. Three others -- New York, Florida and Hawaii have backtracked on their commitments so much that they face threats of losing the grant.

The Thursday interview presented yet another venue for Duncan to present the same platforms and policies to a large audience, and "the effort was an exercise in the futility of conversing with someone who won't deviate from his talking points," The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss writes.

The talk show host drew on frustration from educators across the country, noting that those like his mother -- a teacher -- to question Duncan about rigid constraints to the "art" of teaching that federal policies have created.

"So much of the onus is now on the teachers, giving the false impression that teaching is a science," Stewart said. "Isn't Race to the Top the exact thing that demoralizes them further than No Child Left behind?"

So, he asked Duncan, "Was Race to the Top a misstep?"

"Absolutely not," Duncan responded.

"So you thought it was more of a stumble.... It seems like that's rewarding schools that are doing well and giving them money and schools that are falling behind just fall further into, I guess you call it, a dark... pit... of despair."

But Race to the Top puts in a disproportionate amount of funding and support behind the lowest performing schools, Duncan said, providing opportunities for teacher training and support systems.

What would Duncan say to teachers who don't feel like the policies really support educators? The Obama administration, Duncan said, wants to put "a huge amount of resources" into better training, supporting and compensating them.

"This is about transformational change, and we have to do that," Duncan said.

Duncan's Thursday appearance was the culmination of a year's worth of talks with The Daily Show, USA Today reports.

Prior to the show's taping, Duncan tweeted that he would try to convince Stewart that viewers should select the show's Moment of Zen -- a short clip at the end of the show. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition, at least not during the interview.

Watch the televised segment of the interview above, and the extended version in the two videos below.

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