Presenting himself “first and foremost” as a parent of two public elementary school-aged children, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed deep gratitude to more than 700 principals and teachers from the 314 National Blue Ribbon Schools who were recently recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Offering praise for the “amazing difference” they are making, Secretary Duncan told the assembled school representatives that they made him very hopeful about the huge challenges the country faces. “You are truly going to lead us where we need to go,” he said.
In response to a question about the best way to reach legislators in order to show them what is working in effective schools, Secretary Duncan said educators should invite elected officials to visit their school and classrooms. However, Duncan urged the audience to not focus solely on federal officials, but to involve their local and state elected leaders, because education decisions are often made at the state and local level.
When asked to identify the most successful qualities of a good school, Secretary Duncan put the spotlight back on the National Blue Ribbon Schools, explaining that every great school has a principal and teachers with passion for students’ growth and well-being. “Half of the work is intellectual. The other half comes from the heart,” he said.
Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program