Secretary Duncan Visits Houston, Texas A&M

Last week Secretary Arne Duncan visited Houston and Texas A&M.

At a community education forum in Houston, he discussed what’s working in education and what needs to be fixed with U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Harris County School Superintendent John Sawyer, North Forest ISD Superintendent Adrain Johnson, Aldine ISD Assistant Superintendent Priscilla Ridgway, and others.

At Rice University, he attended at YES College Prep event where more than 100 high school students announced the colleges they plan to attend.

At Sam Houston High School, he took part in a discussion about turning around low-performing schools with business leaders and Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier.

He stopped by Jack Yates High School to shoot hoops with the 2010 national champions in high school basketball, the Yates Lions.

At Texas A&M, he participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from nearby Blinn Community College on the needs and potential of community colleges. He also talked with Texas A&M leaders about effective programs for preparing science, technology, engineering, and math teachers.

ED Staff

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Secretary Duncan Visits George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Secretary Duncan continued his Teacher Appreciation Week tour with a morning stop at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia.

After greeting students as they arrived, Duncan joined Principal Ty Byrd on morning announcements, where he praised the Mason school community for their commitment to excellence and reminded students to take a moment to thank their teachers for their hard work.

The tour continued with a stop at International Baccalaureate (IB) history teacher Jamie Scharff’s classroom, where he thanked Jamie for his 20 years of committed service and encouraged students to pursue a rigorous course of studies. At English teacher Karin Tooze’s classroom, he challenged students to consider becoming a teacher. “Do you know how many teachers we’ll need in the coming decade?” Duncan asked. “All of us,” replied a student.

The tour concluded with a stop to congratulate French teacher and coach Julie Braven for her work to help students fulfill the Mason Mustang’s creed: Excel in mind, body and character.

On Friday, May 7, the Secretary will wrap up his National Teacher Appreciation Week tour with a stop in New Orleans, Louisiana. While in New Orleans, Duncan and Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) President Marian Wright Edelman will host a roundtable discussion honoring more than a dozen African-American men inspired to become teachers after working as Servant Leader Interns in the CDF Freedom Schools® program.

See additional photos and coverage of Secretary Duncan’s visit this morning at the Falls Church City Public Schools website.

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Early Learning Tour Kicks Off in Washington, DC

On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) held the first Listening and Learning about Early Learning meeting at ED’s Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones (ED) and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development Joan Lombardi (HHS) hosted a panel of experts from diverse segments of the educational community. While Dr. Jones reiterated the two departments’ focus on birth through third grade, the goal of this session was to better understand preschool through grade three (P-3) structures. The audience was made up of members of the public, federal staff, early learning stakeholders, and two hundred webinar participants.

President of the Foundation for Child Development Ruby Takanishi shared her foundation’s role in the conceptualization of district P-3 systems and their use as a successful strategy in school reform models to close the achievement gap. Dr. Takanishi cited the Montgomery County Public Schools as an example of a system that has successfully built bridges from prekindergarten through third grade by aligning standards, curricula, instruction, and assessments both within and across the early grades.

Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast, documented the effectiveness of high-quality preschool through third grade programs in leading to better outcomes for children through grade 12.

Metropolitan State College of Denver Professor of Psychology Deborah Leong described a curriculum method that focuses on enhancing executive functioning in which preschool and Kindergarten children master self-regulation skills as well as early learning standards.

Gail Connelly, Executive Director of National Association of Elementary School Principals, described her organization’s interest in high quality P-3 programs. She noted, as had other panelists, that key components of successful P-3 models include joint professional development and articulation between preschool and K-3 teachers and enhanced knowledge of child development for elementary teachers and administrators.

Slide presentations and public speaker comments will be posted at The next three meetings will be held in Denver, Orlando, and Chicago. Each meeting will focus on a specific topic. Below are dates, places, and names of panel members for the meetings, which will run from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Workforce and Professional Development: Monday, April 26, 2010, in the auditorium at the Center for Early Education, 3245 E. Exposition Avenue, Denver, CO
Marcy Whitebook, Director of Center for the Study of Child Care Employment
Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute
Phil Strain, Director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences Center in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver
Sue Russell, President of the Child Care Services Association

Family Engagement: Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at the Orange County Public Schools Educational Leadership Center, 445 W. Amelia Street, Orlando, FL
Don Bailey, Distinguished Fellow in Early Child Development for RTI International
Gene Garcia, Vice President for University-School Partnerships at Arizona State University
Carol Day, President of the National Black Child Development Institute
Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project and Senior Research Associate and Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Standards and Assessments: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, at the Polk Bros. Lecture Hall at the Erikson Institute, 451 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL
Sam Meisels, President of the Erikson Institute
Kathy Hebbeler, Manager of the Community Services and Strategies Program at SRI International and Director of the Early Childhood Outcomes Center
Linda Espinosa, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia
Catherine Scott-Little, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Registration: To attend or speak at a meeting, you must register at least 4 business days prior to each meeting you plan to attend. Seating and speaker slots are limited, so registering early is important. On-site registration will be permitted if space allows.

Please go to for complete information on registration, webinar attendance, submission of written comments, and special accommodations and assistance to individuals with disabilities.

See you in Washington, Denver, Orlando or Chicago!

Steven Hicks
Special Assistant on Early Learning

Duncan, Barnes Answer Questions from College Students

Last week Secretary Arne Duncan and White House Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes participated in a live chat with HuffPost College.

They answered a number of questions, including…

  • How does the White House plan to encourage high school minority students to pursue higher education?
  • How can the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which takes effect in 2014, help students who are in college today?
  • What can the federal government do about the ever-increasing cost of higher education?
  • Questions came from HuffPost College’s network of college newspaper sites across the U.S.

    Watch a video of the interview, or read the transcript.

    ED Staff

    Duke and Butler Debunk NCAA Tournament Myths

    The Duke-Butler match-up puts to the lie the notion that men’s basketball teams have to cut academic corners, especially for African-American athletes, to succeed in the NCAA tournament.

    Duke and Butler had the two highest NCAA graduation rates — 92 percent and 90 percent, respectively — of any of the men’s basketball teams in the Sweet Sixteen, and they graduate more than 75 percent of their African-American players. At the same time, not one of the 12 men’s teams in the NCAA tournament with graduation rates below 40 percent made it to the Final Four this year. Anyone who filled out their Sweet Sixteen brackets this year based on graduation rates alone would have had Duke and Butler going head-to-head in the final.

    The women’s basketball teams are also showing us why star players are both students and amateur athletes — and not just participants in big-time college sports entertainment. All four teams in the women’s Final Four graduated more than 80 percent of their players, black and white –- and Connecticut and Stanford, the two finalists, both graduate 100 percent of their players.

    The NCAA tournament is providing yet another reminder of the incomparable value of sports to a college education, both on and off the court. I congratulate all the winners for showing why college basketball is all about demonstrating leadership, teamwork, discipline, selflessness, and court smarts. And I applaud all of these programs for doing the right thing by their student athletes. One day, when the ball stops bouncing, these extraordinary athletes will still have an education.

    Secretary Arne Duncan

    Investing in Innovation (i3) Webinar Recordings Available

    Webinar recordings of the Investing in Innovation (i3) program’s three pre-application workshops are now available. The slideshow from the workshops is also available.

    The purpose of these workshops was to provide technical assistance to interested applicants for the scale-up, validation, and development grants. Over 1000 attendees participated in the workshops; over 2000 attendees participated remotely through the webinar.

    i3 will support the development of path-breaking new ideas, the validation of approaches that have demonstrated promise, and the scale-up of the nation’s most successful and proven education innovations.

    For additional information, see the i3 website.

    ED Seeks Reviewers for Race to the Top

    ED is seeking recommendations for reviewers for Race to the Top, the $4.35 billion competition for states to lead the way in school reforms.

    “We hope to assemble panels of our nation’s most distinguished educators, policymakers, and scholars to participate in the review process for this ambitious reform initiative,” Secretary Arne Duncan said in a letter this week. “I am writing to ask for your help in identifying candidates for consideration.”

    “I encourage you to share this letter with anyone you feel is qualified,” he said. He asked for recommendations as soon as possible and no later than September 30, 2009.

    For more information about the review process or about applying to be on a panel, please see the letter.

    Heard on the Tour: Secretary Arne Duncan Visits Anchorage

    Secretary Arne Duncan visits Anchorage.

    Secretary Arne Duncan visits Anchorage.

    We had a great day in Anchorage yesterday, our first of three days in Alaska to gather input as part of the “Listening and Learning” education reform tour.

    Our first stop, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, was much more than a visit to a museum. We saw children and adults learning about Alaskan history, native dances and sports, and more. We watched women making coats by hand. We saw subterranean homes. Student and adult guides explained how the homes were made and described unique design features, including the narrow tunneled entrances, which keep out polar bears. We saw whale bones and heard about salmon runs and the many types of fish (red, silver, pink salmon, kingfish, halibut, others). One of the student guides said his father caught a 97-pound salmon this year. He said his family hauled in 128 salmon on a recent fishing trip. This should last them one month this winter.

    At our second stop, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Senators Murkowski and Begich joined Arne for the listening and learning event. More than 50 people attended — teachers, state department of education and university of Alaska officials, parents, and media. In his opening remarks, Arne announced the three-year $1.2 million grant to Anchorage public schools to help reduce the dropout rate and prepare students for college and careers. There were many good questions. Afterward, Arne and ED chief of staff Margot Rogers met with Governor Sean Parnell.

    Arne seemed to accomplish everything he wanted on the first day in Alaska, except seeing a moose. But maybe in Hooper Bay today.

    John White
    Press Secretary

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    Heard on the Tour: NorthLake Park Community School in Orlando, FL

    Last week Secretary Arne Duncan took his Listening and Learning Tour to Orlando, Florida, where he visited a very unusual school: NorthLake Park Community School.

    Located in the NorthLake Park Community at Lake Nona, this school represents a 10-year partnership between the YMCA and the public school system. The school and the Y are in the same state-of-the-art facility. The Y is the school, and the school is the Y. The school is the civic and physical focal point of the NorthLake Park Community.

    The developer of the community had the original vision and led in organizing the partnership with the Orlando County Schools, the Central Florida YMCA, and the City of Orlando.

    Secretary Duncan was given a tour of the facility and then had the opportunity to hear from a number of key stakeholders about the power of the collaboration in terms of promoting student learning and the well-being of families and the larger community. The president of the Central Florida YMCA facilitated the conversation. There were testimonials from the developer, the mayor, the superintendent of schools, the principal, a teacher, a parent, and a student. The student was particularly powerful in contrasting her experiences at 3 other elementary schools with the Northlake Park Community School, especially in how much more integrated her life felt at the Northlake Park Community School.

    After the testimonials, the approximately 100 people in attendance had an opportunity to offer their own thoughts to Secretary Duncan as well as ask him questions.

    The Secretary congratulated the community and all of the partners for their remarkable achievement and asked how this could be replicated in other communities, what are the major barriers that need to be overcome. People responded that getting the money on the front end for such a facility was a challenge and that getting different institutions to work together was also a significant challenge.

    Participants did not, however, see these challenges as insurmountable. They felt that the effort was well worth it and that the partnership had made a profound difference in their community and in the lives of their children.

    Jo Anderson
    Senior Advisor

    President Obama, Secretary Duncan Announce Race to the Top

    “Today we cross a threshold in education reform,” Secretary Arne Duncan said around noon at ED headquarters. Today, the Race to the Top began.

    President Barack Obama joined Secretary Duncan for the announcement of this national competition for states to lead the way in school reforms, backed by historic levels of financial support.

    Click here for an accessible version of the video.

    A number of fact sheets, draft notices, and other documents were produced for the event:

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    Marian Robinson, the First Lady’s Mother, and Secretary Arne Duncan Read to Students

    Marian Robinson, the mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, today joined Secretary Arne Duncan to read to kids at the Department’s headquarters as part of the summer reading initiative “Read to the Top!” to fight summer reading loss.

    Click here for an accessible version of the video.

    The crowd of more than 200 included students from Montgomery County Public Schools; grandparents who work at the Department of Education and their grandchildren; members of GrandFamilies of America, a group that supports grandparents raising foster children; and members of the United Planning Organization (UPO) Foster Grandparent Program, a DC-based service agency of senior citizens who volunteer in places such as schools, childcare centers and hospitals. After Mrs. Robinson read The Napping House and Secretary Duncan read The Rainbow Fish, Mrs. Robinson took questions from the kids, which included: “How does it feel to live in the White House?” “Do you play games with Sasha and Malia?” “How did the President meet Mrs. Obama?” “How does it feel to have a daughter married to the President?” and “Do you have a deep connection to the President?”

    News stories on the event include ones from the Washington Post and the New York Times.

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