Facing intense resistance from teachers’ unions, the Obama administration has begun trying to persuade union leaders, teachers, and the public that its proposals for overhauling federal education policies are good for teachers and for public schools, reports the New York Times. In remarks prepared for delivery to Congress on March 17, Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued that the proposed policies would elevate the teaching profession by encouraging better tests, by ending the demoralizing practice of mislabeling thousands of schools as failures, and by offering teachers opportunities for career growth. “We think there is a lot in our proposal that teachers will like,” Duncan says in the remarks. But union leaders were not easily convinced. In interviews, they said the administration’s proposal would continue what they called an overemphasis on standardized tests, impose federal mandates on issues traditionally handled in collective bargaining, and probably lead to mass firings of teachers in low-performing schools. Duncan says the administration is requesting $3.9 billion, an increase of $350 million, to strengthen the teaching profession. He says the administration’s plan would encourage states and school districts to develop better teacher evaluation systems, better teacher education programs, and more effective career advancement systems. But still reverberating through the debate was the decision last month by a Rhode Island school board, following the administration’s recommendations, to fire all 93 teachers at the local high school, a move both Duncan and President Obama endorsed…

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staff and wire services reports