Secretary Duncan Discusses Reform with Tribal Leaders

In advance of today’s White House Tribal Nation’s Conference, the U.S. Department of Education hosted a town hall event with more than one hundred tribal leaders and representatives from across the country. Among the participants were tribal council representatives, presidents of tribal colleges and universities, and officials from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).

In the town hall format, Secretary Duncan and members of his senior staff engaged directly with tribal officials on a range of educational issues important to Indian Country.

After brief introductions and an opening prayer, a short video was played in which senior staff talked about the lessons they learned at tribal consultations during the past year – in places like Shawnee, Oklahoma; Pine Ridge, South Dakota; and Window Rock, Arizona. You can watch the video at the bottom of this page.

Secretary Duncan started a dialogue by discussing the Department’s ongoing efforts to improve educational opportunities and outcomes in Indian Country.

Seated in a circle with tribal officials and Department leaders, he spoke candidly about the educational challenges Native American communities face – high dropout rates, low matriculation rates, teacher turnover – and about the Department’s commitment to addressing them in the coming months and years.

Secretary Duncan and his senior staff also highlighted key steps the Department is taking to accelerate educational gains among Indian students – including the launch of a new pilot program that will strengthen the role of tribal education agencies, and the appointment next year of a senior level advisor within the Department who will focus on improving education in Indian Country.

Following the Secretary’s remarks, tribal leaders and several senior staff talked in depth about how the Department can more effectively partner with tribal officials to ensure that all Native American children get the high quality education they deserve.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Math and Science Award-Winning Teachers Offer Duncan Advice on Reform

Secretary Arne Duncan speaks to 2009 PAEMST award winners.

Secretary Duncan calls on a "remarkable group" to help him take advantage of the "huge opportunities" that exist in this country to take education to the next level. "Education may be the one thing—for all the craziness we see in Washington—where we may be able to see great gains in the coming year," he told the 2009 PAEMST award winners.

Today the 2009 Presidential Awardees for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Education offered Education Secretary Arne Duncan advice about how to leverage the “huge opportunities” that exist in our country to move forward with education reform.

Soliciting their input on a range of issues, Duncan called on teachers whom he described as “the best of the best” to share their ideas to improve the quality of education that students get in our country. Citing recent PISA scores released by the OECD this month that rank the United States as 17th in science and 25th in math, Duncan said, “This is about more than just math and science. It’s about our country’s strength and long term stability.”

Recommendations from the teachers focused on improving teacher preparation and professional development and on holding parents and students accountable for their part of a child’s education. When Becky Jones, of West Virginia, called for more rigorous training of elementary math and science teachers, affirmations of “Yes!” reverberated through the audience of PAEMST winners. Awardee Camsie Matis, a science teacher and Einstein Fellow from New York, offered to work with other PAEMST winners to mentor other math and science teachers. Other winners offered to write up their teaching ideas, which the Department will post soon on the blog.

Laurie Calvert, Teaching Ambassador Fellow

Laurie Calvert is an English Teacher in North Carolina and a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Making Real Progress on School Reform

There’s been a great conversation happening online today on the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform. I appreciate how many educators have taken time to share their ideas thoughtfully with the rest of us. (See good lists of today’s posts here and here.) At the U.S. Department of Education, we’ve been listening in. I am convinced that the best ideas come from classrooms and communities across the nation. I am committed to supporting the great work that is happening in states and districts.

Today’s conversation has focused on many issues that I think we can all agree on:

  • We need to raise expectations for America’s students and challenge them with standards that will prepare them for success in colleges and careers.
  • We need to elevate the teaching profession so teachers get the respect they deserve and the tools and time to do their jobs well and continually improve.
  • For education reform to be “real,” we need to focus on what works. We need consensus on the right way to measure students’ progress. And then we all need to hold ourselves accountable—and recognize those educators who are especially effective.
  • We need to involve parents as active partners in their children’s education so they can support the hard work that teachers do in the classroom.

(If you’re curious about how the Obama administration’s Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) proposes to empower educators, check out our “Built for Teachers” brochure at It was written by teachers, for teachers.)

Throughout my tenure as secretary of education, I’ve met with outstanding teachers who are positively transforming the lives of children every day, often in unbelievably difficult situations. For them, a child’s background—which can include poverty, a language barrier, a disability, a dysfunctional home—presents a challenge but isn’t used as an excuse.

One of the many places where I have seen real education reform at work is George C. Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Ala., which has transformed from being one of the lowest-performing schools in Alabama into a national model for achieving success in challenging circumstances. I visited George C. Hall at the start of the school year on my Courage in the Classroom bus tour.

Also on that tour I saw great examples of students learning about the civil rights movement from members of their community in Portland, Me., and had a candid conversation with teachers about how to improve testing and teacher compensation in Hattiesburg, Miss. I’ve also seen tremendous leadership from union leaders and district leaders in Hillsborough County, Fla., Prince George’s County, Md., and other districts. These leaders are moving beyond the battles of the past and finding new ways to work together.

I am more optimistic than ever about our nation’s education system, because I see the courage and commitment of teachers, parents, and educational leaders to making real reform happen every day. But I believe we are at an important crossroads. We’ve reached consensus on many important issues, but we in education spend too much of our time and energy focused on issues that divide us. We forget how important it is to move forward on what we agree on.

On this National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, I hope we can agree on one thing: Let’s move forward on solutions– and not get sidetracked by debates that will slow what is real progress.

Arne Duncan

Teacher Quality and Our Future

Opinion pieces on the importance of teacher quality appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post over the weekend.

“If I were a cub reporter today,” writes New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman, “I’d…want to be covering the epicenter of national security — but that would be the Education Department.”


“President Obama got this one exactly right,” Friedman writes, “when he said that whoever ‘out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow’.”

Friedman goes on to talk about the importance of improving how we recruit, train, support, evaluate and compensate teachers, noting Secretary Duncan’s statement that what we do in the next 5 years on these issues will shape public education for the next 30 years.

The Washington Post says in an editorial:

“Teacher quality is the single most important in-school determinant of student achievement; that is why the need is so great to make reforms in how teachers are evaluated, compensated and supported.”

Read the pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Duncan, O’Malley and Van Roekel Commemorate American Education Week

Secretary Duncan meets Montgomery Blair High School students

Secretary Duncan meets Montgomery Blair High School students

We want to recruit the next generation of excellent teachers to lead our nation’s classrooms was the clear refrain for the day when Secretary Arne Duncan joined Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast, local leaders, elected officials and distinguished educators at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, to celebrate the 89th anniversary of American Education Week.

American Education Week—historically observed during the first full week before Thanksgiving—honors teachers and support professionals who have dedicated themselves to the education of young people. Duncan, O’Malley and Van Roekel visited Blair High School on November 18th to serve as the school’s guest Educators for a Day and led two student forums where they discussed the importance of education and urged Blair students to consider the teaching profession as a career.

Students asked the panel a number of insightful questions from the focus on standardized testing to the priorities for the O’Malley and Obama administrations to the support for alternative certification programs like Teach for America. Secretary Duncan focused on the urgent need to recruit America’s best and brightest students to the profession and to help revitalize and transform public education in America. “We’re going to need over a million new teachers in this country,” stated Duncan. Due to current population trends, “we need more teachers of color, and more men.”

In response to the impending teacher shortage, the U.S. Department of Education recently launched the TEACH campaign to encourage Americans, especially minorities, to pursue careers in teaching. To learn more about the TEACH campaign and to view public service announcements (PSAs) by celebrities, Administration officials and local leaders, visit The site provides information and resources for students and prospective teachers—including a new interactive “pathway to teaching” tool designed to help individuals chart their course to becoming a teacher. More than 7,000 teacher job listings also are posted on the site.

View a video about the event posted by Montgomery County Public Schools, or see our photos.

For more information on American Education Week, visit:

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

Secretary Duncan on Teaching and Teacher Preparation

On November 19, Secretary Arne Duncan answered questions about…

  • recruiting teachers
  • improving teacher preparation programs.

“If you want to make a difference in students’ lives, if you want to make a difference in your community,” he said, “there is nothing more important you can do than to come into education and be a teacher.”

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

See all the topics or all videos in the playlist.

Want to Help Teachers Solve Challenging Problems (And Win Some Money)?

Over the past few months, the U.S. Department of Education and the NEA Foundation have been tapping the brains of educators to identify their most pressing classroom problems. Our Challenge to Innovate (C2i) has created an opportunity for educators to share their thinking and at the same time create a new virtual community where educator’s views and experiences are being shared, discussed, rated, and rewarded.

The Challenge. Based on the ideas shared in the first round of the challenge—which came in from 40 states—the C2i community has selected the following four classroom-based problems as the most pressing:

  • How can educators help students learn and use fractions, ratios, and proportions?
  • How can classroom teachers/schools best facilitate positive parental involvement in their child’s learning?
  • How might a teacher who has a student(s) reading significantly below grade level build a foundation of literacy skills for ultimate reading success?
  • How can educators better incorporate student voices in decision making?

Now we are going back to educators—and anyone else with a great idea—to find the solutions.

Earn Cash for Solutions. The NEA Foundation will offer up to five cash awards of $2,500 each for individuals who submit solutions voted as most responsive to the pressing problems stated above. Here are the rules:

  • Each proposed solution should cost no more than $500 per classroom to implement
  • The solution must be able to be initiated within a three- to four-month period.

These solutions will be shared in a host of ways so that educators across the country can apply them in their classrooms. C2i is a fast and easy way to add your voice to the chorus of educators and members of the public working on some of America’s most important classroom-based problems.

We encourage you to visit the site. Then rate solutions that others have proposed. You may comment on ideas to help make them better, or propose your own solution to become eligible for a cash award. And, please, encourage your friends and colleagues who care about public education to participate.

2010 Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony Celebrates Teachers and Principals

Secretary Duncan and Brandon Taylor celebrate education.

Secretary Duncan and Brandon Taylor celebrate education. Brandon, a 4th grader at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland, introduced both Arne Duncan and special guest Melody Barnes.

Outstanding teachers and principals from the 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools gathered in Washington this week for a two-day celebration in their honor. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other officials offered their congratulations to representatives from the 250 public and 64 private schools named in this year’s competition.

“I thank all of you for the example you set for me, and I thank all of you for the example you set for the country,” Duncan said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools whose students achieve at very high levels or have made significant progress and helped close gaps in achievement, especially among disadvantaged and minority students. During the ceremony, 10 of the principals also received the Bell Award, an additional distinction recognizing their outstanding leadership in fostering successful teaching and learning.

Duncan acknowledged the important role that principals play in creating the conditions under which teachers can succeed in the classroom. “We have no good schools in this country without good principals, and, I assure you, we have no great schools without great principals,” he said.

As part of the two-day Blue Ribbon event, Teacher Ambassador Fellows from the Department of Education facilitated five round-table forums with Blue Ribbon principal and teachers, helping them to collaborate from one another on issues of great importance to teachers such as parent/community engagement and developing and evaluating great teachers.

Melody Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Advisor

Melody Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Advisor, brought President Obama's support for education reform and said that he is committed to working with Congress to make the American education system "the envy of the world."

The two-day event also included a surprise guest – Melody Barnes, the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council in the White House, who brought greetings from President Obama.

“Thank you for your hard work to make our schools better – for everything you do to make sure our children succeed,” Ms. Barnes said. “And I want you to know that you are not alone. The President is prepared to work with teachers, principals and parents; governors, mayors and superintendents; business and philanthropic leaders; and the Congress to ensure that once again the American education system is the envy of the world, our children are prepared for bright futures and our country is able to compete and win on the world stage.”

More photos

Watch the videos below, or watch Melody Barnes and Arne Duncan speak separately.

Click here for an accessible version of the first video.
Click here for an accessible version of the second video.

Secretary Duncan and John Legend Team Up to Encourage Students to Pursue Teaching

TEACH Town Hall at Howard University

TEACH Town Hall at Howard University

Secretary Arne Duncan and Grammy Award-winning artist John Legend visited Howard University today to encourage students to choose teaching careers. The two co-hosted a a TEACH town hall meeting with students and educators in the university’s School of Business auditorium. Legend will share his involvement in education and his work with both the TEACH and Show Me campaigns.

“With more than a million teachers expected to retire in the coming years, we have a historic opportunity to transform public education in America by calling on a new generation to join those already in the classroom,” Secretary Duncan said.

The TEACH campaign encourages more minorities, especially males, to pursue careers in the classroom. To learn more about the TEACH campaign, visit

More photos

The Link Between Standards and Innovation

This week U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined education leaders and administrators from throughout Virginia to kickoff Governor McDonnell’s Innovate to Educate summit in Richmond.

The daylong summit highlighted Governor McDonnell’s K-12 and higher education agenda for the Commonwealth and focused on his education plan that expands public school options for students, embraces the role of technology, and enhances the pipeline of teacher talent.

Secretary Duncan expressed his optimism for education reform and the “new era of innovation in education that was almost unimaginable a decade ago.” He cited examples of innovation in Virginia’s and touted the state’s commitment to standards. He said that “when teachers and principals know what students are expected to know, they unleash the power of their own creativity and have the freedom to innovate.”

At the same time, he challenged Virginians, noting that 25 percent of their college students must take remedial classes. Secretary Duncan said “that’s simply not good enough” for today’s globally competitive economy and cited the administration’s goal that America will once again lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by the end of the decade. He urged Virginia to raise its standards so they prepare students for success in college and careers.

Governor McDonnell agreed that Virginia needs to continue strengthening its education system, saying, “We’re good, but we have a lot more to do to ensure our young people have full access to the American Dream in a global economy.” To help students achieve that dream, he wants to see more students complete college and earn degrees, setting an ambitious goal of awarding 100,000 new college degrees in the next 15 years.

See photos from the summit and the text of Secretary Duncan’s remarks, “The Link Between Standards and Innovation.”

1,100 Gather in Philadelphia for Inaugural TEACH Town Hall

Cross-posted from the blog.

The throng of students and teachers in line at the Temple University performing arts complex stretched nearly two blocks on Monday for the first official TEACH event since the campaign launched in September. Full classes gathered from Temple and Drexel University– a public health class, a German class, and several Education classes – as well as an assortment of university and high school students from around the city of Philadelphia.

We encountered many students who waited up to an hour to see the panel discussion about teachers hosted by Temple, which featured Secretary Duncan, Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, actor turned teacher Tony Danza, whose first year teaching was chronicled on the A&E series Teach: Tony Danza, fifth-year mathematics teacher Muhammad Al-Ahmar, and seventh-year fourth grade teacher Diane Honor.

Some of these students, including Shannon Lutz were education majors, already interested in a career in teaching. Shannon told us she was inspired to teach elementary school special education in high school, when she participated in the Best Buddies program, which creates a community for helping individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Other students waited to hear the Secretary and the other panelists speak, even though they weren’t originally considering careers in teaching. Emily Butler, an anthropology major, waited 45 minutes because she was interested in what the Secretary had to say about the future of education.

Nearly 500 Philadelphia high school students also joined the crowd, many of whom attend Northeast High School, the school where Danza taught during his first year.

In sum, over 1,100 students and teachers participated in a spirited discussion about the teaching profession. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and A&E and Comcast executives kicked off the event. During the discussion, students raised broad questions about why they should become teachers, as well as specific ones directed towards the panelists about best classroom management techniques. The teachers on the panel emphasized their passion for their profession, and encouraged all the students to consider this profession.

Superintendent Ackerman’s journey to teaching resonated with many of the educators in the audience: “I signed up to become a substitute teacher and that’s when I knew I had to teach,” she said, “I saw so many issues in the classroom that I thought I could fix. And that’s why I am here today. Kids need someone who cares about them. They need someone who has been in the places they have been – to relate to.”

Taryn Benarroch
TEACH, U.S. Department of Education

President Obama: It Gets Better

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Recently, several young people have taken their own lives after being bullied for being gay – or perceived as being gay – by their peers. Their deaths are shocking and heartbreaking tragedies. No one should have to endure relentless harassment or tormenting. No one should ever feel so alone or desperate that they feel they have nowhere to turn. We each share a responsibility to protect our young people. And we also have an obligation to set an example of respect and kindness, regardless of our differences.

This is personal to me. When I was a young adult, I faced the jokes and taunting that too many of our youth face today, and I considered suicide as a way out. But I was fortunate. One of my co-workers recognized that I was hurting, and I soon confided in her. She cared enough to push me to seek help. She saved my life. I will always be grateful for her compassion and support – the same compassion and support that so many kids need today.

In the wake of these terrible tragedies, thousands of Americans have come together to share their stories of hope and encouragement for LGBT youth who are struggling as part of the It Gets Better Project. Their messages are simple: no matter how difficult or hopeless life may seem when you’re a young person who’s been tormented by your peers or feels like you don’t fit in: life will get better.

President Obama is committed to ending bullying, harassment and discrimination in all its forms in our schools and communities. That’s why he recorded this message.

Last year, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services joined forces with four other departments to create a federal task force on bullying. In August 2010, the task force staged the first-ever National Bullying Summit, bringing together 150 top state, local, civic, and corporate leaders to begin mapping out a national plan to end bullying. The task force also launched a new website,, which brings all the federal resources on bullying together in one place for the first time ever.

If you’re a young person who’s been bullied or harassed by your peers, or you’re a parent or teacher who knows a young person being bullied or harassed, here are a few resources that can help you:

The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24 hour hotline. If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying.

It Gets Better Project
President Obama’s video is just one of thousands of videos submitted by people across the country to inspire and encourage LGBT youth who are struggling. You can watch more videos at

For even more information and resources visit:

A transcript of the President’s video is here.

Brian Bond
Deputy Director, White House Office of Public Engagement