The voice of students has never been more critical to education than it is today. We know that our young people’s capacity to influence society cannot be underestimated, which is why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his team are dedicated to listening to students’ ideas and concerns. We know that youth are concerned about the quality of their education, getting in and paying for college, and finding a good-paying job.
Secretary Arne Duncan regularly meets with students during school and classroom visits, but also in discussions at the Department of Education headquarters in Washington.
Last year, President Obama directed the Department of Education to develop a ratings system to identify colleges that provide a good value and to increase college affordability information available to students. Over the past several months we have been getting feedback from across the country, but it’s important that we get this right.
On January 13, 2014, Secretary Duncan will be moderating a special one-hour #stuvoice Twitter chat to get feedback from students on how we can keep college affordable and how the Administration’s college rating system can be useful for students and families.
What: #StuVoice Twitter Chat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
With a fresh year just weeks away, it’s a perfect time to start thinking about my new year’s resolutions. We give a lot of thought to our digital communication strategy here at the U.S. Department of Education, and we’re committed to providing content that is informative, useful and interesting. On occasion we spend too much time discussing what content serves the public best, while forgetting we can use our tools to ask you directly.
Secretary Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) is a regular on Twitter, often jumping on between meetings to answer questions using #AskArne. Here he participates in a Twitter town hall with stakeholders and staff.
So before we kick off a new year, we want to hear from you. What information and resources do you want to see on our blog, email newsletters and social media? Is there something you’ve liked about our digital communications that you’re hoping we continue? What do you find annoying or invaluable that you think we should be communicating less?
Let us know in the comments below and feel free to tweet us (just make sure you use our Twitter handle @usedgov).
Secretary Arne Duncan talks with students during today’s event announcing the 2012 PISA results.
Do schools in the United States ask enough of students?
Based on the results of a major new international report, and conversations surrounding its release today, the answer is no.
Every three years, hundreds of thousands of 15-year-olds in more than 65 global economies take the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The results provide a snapshot of how students in the U.S. compare to students around the globe. Earlier today, the 2012 PISA results were announced and Secretary Arne Duncan was on hand with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria to discuss the results and what it means for education in America.
Duncan explained that results for the U.S. are “straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation.” However, this is not to say that the U.S. hasn’t made any progress since the 2009 PISA. In the last three years, 700,000 fewer students are in high school dropout factories, college enrollment is up—especially among Hispanics—and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed us that reading and math scores for 4th and 8th graders are up nationally to new highs.
Duncan also talked with a group of foreign exchange students from several countries, in a conversation moderated by author Amanda Ripley. The students said that schools in the United States did not expect as much of students as those in their home countries.
In his remarks, Duncan reminded those at today’s release that the America’s stagnation evident in the PISA results “must serve as a wake-up call against educational complacency and low expectations.”
The PISA results give evidence of America’s troubling achievement gaps, and Duncan acknowledged that we must do better on closing what he calls the “opportunity gap.” “The only way to increase social mobility and strengthen the middle class is through high-quality education,” he said.
But today’s results also show that while white 15-year-olds in the U.S. do better on average than students of color, our white students are still lagging behind the world’s top performers.
So the real educational challenge in America is not just about poor kids in poor neighborhoods. It’s about many kids in many neighborhoods. The PISA results underscore that educational shortcomings in the U.S. are not just the problems of other people’s children.
To correct this, Duncan said that we must invest in early learning, redesign high schools, raise standards and support great teachers.
Joiselle Cunningham, one of ED’s 2013-14 Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education (a teacher on leave from her school for a year to help bring educator voice to the policy world), recently had the opportunity to sit down to talk with Secretary Duncan during the latest installment of Ask Arne, a regular video series where Duncan answers questions from social media, teachers and traditional mail.
During Secretary Duncan’s back-to-school bus tour through the Southwest, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows spoke with hundreds of teachers and compiled questionsthat reflect the teachers’ aspirations, angst, successes and frustrations.
In the first video, Duncan talks about funding professional development and teacher evaluations, and in the second video he addresses the opportunity gap and dual-language education. Watch the videos below:
In support of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology is proud to announce that October is Connected Educator Month. Throughout the month, educators will have opportunities to participate in online events, build personal learning networks, and earn digital badges by demonstrating technology skills.
Online communities help educators share effective strategies, reduce isolation, and provide “just in time” access to knowledge and expertise. However, many educators are not yet taking advantage of all the benefits of connected learning. Schools, districts, and states can dramatically enhance their professional development by integrating digital learning opportunities into their formal professional development and teacher quality efforts.
“One of the most important things we can do to support teachers and students is to put modern tools in their hands, and give them access to the limitless knowledge and connections that the Internet makes possible,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “That’s why President Obama has made a priority of getting our schools connected to high-speed broadband, and it’s also why I’m so enthusiastic about Connected Educator Month.”
Nearly 200 educational organizations are participating in Connected Educator Month. These organizations will provide a variety of interactive activities, such as webinars, live chats, open houses, contests, projects, and badges for connected educators to earn.
Activities and events will range from a design challenge, in which educators will develop strategies for helping kids develop creative confidence, to a webinar in which five U.S. organizations will team up with UNESCO to share insights about mobile learning around the globe. State and locally focused activities will also engage communities of educators across the nation.
“Connected Educator Month provides an opportunity for all educators across the country to join a vibrant community of teachers and leaders using technology to reimagine learning,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology.
Connected Educator Month events can be found at www.ConnectedEducators.org/events. The site will be updated continually to reflect new activities, as they are added throughout the month. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using the #CE13 hashtag.
The Department of Education is now open for normal business operations. Employees should report for duty on Thursday, October 17, 2013. Office Heads are authorized to grant employees up to 4 hours of administrative leave for delayed arrival after their regular arrival time. Supervisors are encouraged to support unscheduled leave and/or telework requests for October 17th, when practical. Employees who were scheduled to be on approved leave or have a regular alternative work schedule (AWS) day off on Thursday, October 17, should not report unless they are notified otherwise by their supervisors and should report for work on the business day they are scheduled to return from leave or the next business day after their AWS day off.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), “must not just survive but thrive,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told those gathered at the HBCU National Conference in Washington yesterday. Duncan spoke of the enduring contributions HBCUs have made to the country and said that the tremendous historic role of HBCUs must endure as well as evolve.
Historical Role of HBCUs
Too many Americans are unfamiliar with the staggering accomplishments of HBCUs. Most of America’s civil rights giants were educated at HBCUs—Dr. King, W.E.B. DuBois, Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, and Thurgood Marshall.
In our time, Jesse Jackson, Andy Young, Barbara Jordan, Congressman John Lewis, Marian Wright Edelman, and Doug Wilder all earned their degrees at HBCUs.
Legendary artists and authors came out of HBCUs—Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison.
Yet what is most impressive about the HBCU record is not just your famous alumni. It is that HBCUs, working with meager resources, almost single-handedly created an African-American professional class in the face of decades of Jim Crow discrimination.
College Completion Rates
The math here is pretty simple. To reach the President’s 2020 goal, student populations with high dropout rates—especially minority students—will have to exponentially increase their college graduation rates.
This is not just about access—this is about attainment. Nationwide, only about one in four—28 percent—of young black adults have received a college degree.
But we know that African Americans have the highest proportion of adults who have some college but not a degree of any major racial group. Almost 18 percent of African Americans aged 25 years and older—nearly one in five adults—went to college but left without their degree.
That college completion shortfall is both a tragic squandering of talent and an unprecedented opportunity to do better.
So, in the years ahead, we want HBCUs to continue to be known not just for their storied alumni but for leading the way for all institutions in educating and graduating African American college students.
Innovation at HBCUs
I want to be absolutely clear: Support for innovation at HBCUs should be government-wide, and not just from the Department of Education. I’m excited that the Department of Energy awarded $9 million to nine HBCUs in South Carolina and Georgia to develop academic programs that promote minority involvement in STEM fields, especially in environmental management.
And just yesterday, the National Institutes of Health announced it has awarded planning grants to five HBCUs, totaling almost one million dollars in its new NIH BUILD initiative.
Five days, four states and more than 1,100 miles later, the Strong Start, Bright Future, back-to-school bus tour came to a close last Friday at Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista, Calif. Greeted by a Mariachi band, giant “Arne posters,” and hundreds of cheering students, Duncan arrived at Castle Park and took part in a school-wide pep rally.
Following the pep rally, Duncan joined local school officials, education stakeholders and community leaders to talk about Promise Neighborhoods, which focuses on cradle-to-career initiatives that call on the entire community to provide comprehensive place-based supports such as high quality early learning, rich after-school activities, and crime prevention. Following the town hall, Department staff continued the dialogue with with community participants.
Since receiving a Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Castle Park has a nearly 100% attendance rate, improved scores in core subject areas, and all students are in algebra by 8th grade.
During the event, Secretary Duncan also gave a recap of his back-to-school tour, and what the key takeaways have been for him.
“We have seen firsthand how courageous educators, committed parents, and caring communities are pulling together to tackle tough educational challenges,” he said. “Successful solutions and effective innovation inevitably originated at the local level, not in Washington.
Tough problems, like turning around persistently low-performing schools, require collaborative, comprehensive solutions that threaten the status quo.
Tough challenges force people out of their traditional silos and push them beyond their comfort zones. That takes courage—and a commitment to doing what works.
In the end, it takes a community to provide a world-class education. It takes outstanding principals, great teachers, high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, arts, and sports programs, affordable health care providers, and accessible community recreation centers.
And by the same token, it is also true that no community ultimately succeeds without a good school at its center. The single surest path out of poverty today is still a great school.
Secretary Duncan wraps up the last day of the tour in the video below, but at Castle Park he noted that after four bus tours, “I never finish a bus tour without being reminded of the ingenuity and commitment and passion of our teachers and students for an education.”
The last stop of day four was at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station where Duncan joined military leaders, service members and their families to discuss the importance of supporting military-connected students and their families.
It was a beautiful and hot morning in Phoenix last Thursday at the start of day four of Secretary Arne Duncan’s back-to-school Strong Start, Bright Future, bus tour across the Southwest. The heat didn’t deter a day full of excitement and inspiration with stops in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Yuma, Ariz.
Duncan got an early start at the Bret Tarver Education Complex where he visited classrooms—even receiving a daily weather forecast from an early learner—and then participated in a town hall to discuss the President’s Preschool for All proposals and the need for high-quality education.
The town hall focused on the proven benefits of high-quality early education. For every $1 invested in high-quality preschool, taxpayers save an average of $7 in future costs due to reductions in remedial education costs, increased labor productivity, and a reduction in crime. “Education is the best crime prevention tool,” Aaron Carreon-Ainsa, Phoenix’s city prosecutor, said during the panel discussion.
The back-to-school bus kept on rolling and made a stop in Scottsdale for a meeting with tribal leaders to talk about the federal role in strengthening tribal education. Over the last four years, the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase collaboration with tribal government and communities regarding Native students.
The Secretary addressed the negative impact sequestration is having on Native American communities. “They’re feeling it out here. DC let them down,” Duncan tweeted following the event.
The day continued in Yuma, Ariz., with a visit to the Yuma Community Food Bank where Duncan joined more than 400 volunteers who had gathered to fill backpacks with food to be delivered to disadvantaged students for the weekend. Yuma is home to the highest unemployment rate in the nation and Yuma County has the highest food insecurity rate in the state. It was an important reminder that students who show up to school hungry have a difficult time learning.
Following the Food Bank visit, Duncan and team stopped at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for a town hall and discussion on the importance of supporting military-connected students and their families.
Military-connected students face unique challenges such as parents who deploy often and multiple moves through during their K-12 years. Abagail, a Yuma High School senior who has two parents connected to the military, told the audience that she has moved 11 times during her school years.
Listen to Secretary Duncan wrap up day four of the back-to-school tour below.
There is no lack of sunshine in Arizona, and Secretary Arne Duncan, joined by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx discovered this first hand early Wednesday morning at the Tucson Unified School District Bus Depot. The early-morning visit kicked off day three of Secretary Duncan’s Strong Start, Bright Future, back-to-school bus tour.
After thanking Tucson bus drivers and mechanics for their hard work, Foxx and Duncan boarded a school bus and rode a full route, picking up students along the way to Dodge Traditional Magnet School. Duncan sat by sixth-grader Simone Ufondu, who shared with the secretary her goals—to become the President of the United States—and what she likes and dislikes about school.
At Dodge, Foxx and Duncan joined students in a service project making “kindness coins.” Students hand out the coins when they see someone perform a random act of kindness. On the playground Duncan joined a pick-up game to shoot some hoops.
The next stop on the tour found Duncan greeted by cheerleaders and marching bands as he arrived at Sunnyside High School in Tucson. Sunnyside provides one-to-one computing for every student. The design allows each participating student access to a wireless laptop. Duncan walked through a student technology expo, speaking with students about their projects and how the technology they use is enhancing their educations.
Following the expo, Arne joined hundreds of high school students for an assembly to talk about education technology. Duncan told Sunnyside that “what you’re doing is not just impacting people here, but has national implications.”
The cost of college is on so many families’ minds, and President Obama brought the affordability of higher education to the forefront in August when he outlined an ambitious plan to demand greater value from colleges and universities and encourage innovations that will help more students access, afford and complete college.
Arizona State University is a natural place to brainstorm ways to make college more affordable. President Michael Crow is a national leader who has led an institution committed to excellence and impact. Few institutions in the country have been more creative, and as a result, ASU is serving more low-income student, raising quality, raising graduation rates, and keeping the cost of college down.
“Our objective is to meet each student where they stand,” Crow said during the town hall in reference to helping students finance their education. “We have a mantra here,” he said, “We will be judged not by whom we exclude, but by whom we include.”
Not far from the ASU campus, Duncan joined local officials and first responders at the Tempe “Healing Field,” where more than 3,000 American flags were displayed representing those who lost their lives due to the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001.
Duncan led the audience in the pledge of allegiance and participated in a candlelight vigil—a fitting close to a day of remembrance across the country.
Day four of the tour took the bus to Phoenix, Scottsdale and Yuma. Check back for a recap.
Secretary Arne Duncan makes time for an unscheduled bus ride in Columbus, NM. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.
With four bus tours under his belt and hundreds of school visits, one thing Secretary Arne Duncan is sure of, is that there is no lack of inspiration in America’s schools. Yesterday’s stops on Duncan’s Strong Start, Bright Future Back-to-School Bus Tour through the Southwest took the Secretary right to the border.
The day got a bright start just miles from the U.S./Mexico border at the El Paso Transmountain Early College High School (TECHS), in El Paso, Texas. There isn’t a lack of inspiration at this school that participates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and has teamed up with El Paso Community College to allow students to take courses and receive an Associate degree before they graduate high school.
Following a classroom visit where Duncan got a hands-on science lesson from students, Duncan participated in a STEM town hall to talk about the school’s successes. Duncan sought answers from the group on how to make STEM more hands-on and listened to emotional stories of hope from the school’s students who are now on their way to college and careers, armed with the power of a quality education.
Dr. Diana Natalicio, president of the University of Texas-El Paso said during the town hall that it takes an entire community to prevent barriers to student progress, and we saw that in action at TECHS.
With our stop in Texas complete, the back-to-school bus headed west with a stop at Columbus Elementary in Columbus, N.M. This rural school not far from the U.S./Mexico border, has a very unique student body. Seventy-five percent of its students live in Mexico and cross the border each day for school. All are U.S. citizens and many rise as early as 4:30a.m. in order to make it to the border in time to present their laminated birth certificate before boarding a bus for Columbus.
Secretary Duncan participated in a discussion with the principal and teachers, listening to the challenges faced by the faculty. Teachers told stories of students who had never read a book or used indoor plumbing, and explained how difficult it is to coordinate with parents who are unable to visit their child’s school for parent-teacher conferences.
Following the discussion, Duncan altered his agenda and boarded one of the final buses to leave Columbus for the border. During the short drive, Duncan sat with two students, talking about their schoolwork and taking at look at one student’s recent poster project. Day two of the tour ended as we watched the students walk back across the border into Mexico. Columbus Principal Armando Chavez said that each day they send them back hoping that a parent is there to greet them on the other side.
Day three of the tour takes the bus to Tucson and Tempe, AZ.
Secretary Arne Duncan kicked off his annual back-to-school bus tour in New Mexico. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.
Santa Fe, N.M., is a testament to our country’s diversity and beauty. That’s where Secretary of Education Arne Duncan launched his fourth annual back-to-school bus tour yesterday morning. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, runs September 9-13 and includes visits to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California.
Each stop on the tour will highlight the importance of ensuring that all students benefit from high-quality educational opportunities.
Duncan kicked things off at the Santa Fe Children’s Project Early Learning Center where he spoke with teachers and students during classroom visits and then held a town hall on the importance of quality early learning programs.
Many people come to Santa Fe to see its art, architecture or even a world-famous opera said Joel Boyd, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, but “we believe you’re here to see our most precious resource: our children,” he said.
Duncan noted that high-quality early education is the ultimate bipartisan issue, and that the U.S. Department of Education is looking to partner and help states that are willing to do “the right thing.” Learn more about the Obama Administration’s Pre-K For All proposal.
Following our Santa Fe visit, the back-to-school bus made its way to Emerson Elementary in Albuquerque for a roundtable discussion on the school’s recent turnaround efforts. The school, with just under 500 students, nearly half of whom are English language learners, has made a turnaround that dramatically improved student proficiency in math and reading.
During the discussion, Duncan listened to administrators, teachers and students on what is working to turn the school around. He also praised the district and the local teachers union for their collaboration and courage.
Day one closed out at Midway Elementary School in Polvadera, a small community just north of Socorro, N.M. Duncan highlighted the Obama Administration’s ConnectED proposal to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years. One of the teachers at the town hall expressed frustration she felt in the past because her class in previous years had only one computer for more than 20 students.
In the video below, Duncan also talks about one of the students at the town hall who challenged him, and said she wasn’t receiving enough support. Duncan said that we have to be doing more to support our students.
Today the tour takes Duncan to El Paso, Texas, and Columbus, N.M.