Learning International Lessons in Principal and Teacher Preparation

International Summit on the Teaching Profession

International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Photo by Andy Kropa for the Department of Education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined education leaders from twenty-three high-performing, rapidly-improving countries in New York City last week. Over the course of two days, each country shared ideas and successful, innovative practices for teacher preparation and school leader development during the second-ever International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

Just last year, the Department held the first Summit, bringing together not just national education ministers, but also union leaders in partnership with teachers, and education experts to help to shape the conversation. Through a public discourse, participants identified common challenges in education across different countries and cultures while also laying out the need for systematic reform.

The lessons learned from the practices of high-performing systems during last year’s Summit, had a big impact in the United States. It helped lay the groundwork for a new Obama Administration project called RESPECT, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching.

Last month, President Obama proposed this new competitive grant program to empower states and districts that commit to pursuing bold reforms at every stage of the teaching profession. Throughout the planning, teachers themselves had—and will continue to have—a major voice in shaping RESPECT. The Department’s team of Teaching Ambassador Fellows—active classroom teachers who spend a year working at the U.S. Department of Education—have already held more than 100 roundtable meetings with teachers across the country and will hold several more in the coming months. The development of RESPECT also benefitted enormously from the input of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, and from National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel’s and his leadership in the NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching.

Translators at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession

Translators at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Photo by Andy Kropa for the Department of Education.

This year’s Summit reaffirmed the central role that school leaders and teachers play in successfully implementing reform to improve student learning and why the RESPECT project is so important to the United States. We heard, for example, from the head of Singapore’s National Institute of Education who talked about the knowledge, skills and values teachers need to be able to engage 21st century learners. Teachers in Singapore open their classrooms to colleagues to watch and listen so they can all work together to improve teaching and learning rather than closing their doors and working in isolation. This is truly a collaborative way to promote educational success and excellence and one the U.S. can work to emulate.

Certain practices and policies were repeated throughout the Summit like the need to attract talent to education through competitive pay scales and career-ladders; the benefits of providing support through school-to-school, principal-to-principal, and teacher-to-teacher networks; and the large-scale value of identifying high-level, common standards that are consistent from pre-K through high school in order to prepare students for college and careers.

With these great challenges come great opportunities. Engaging with international education leaders has contributed valuable insight and input that will help the U.S. continue our work to elevate our nation’s education system. Accomplishing this broad, imperative goal will depend on our ability to attract and retain great talent over the short term so the U.S. can effectively shape public education for generations to come.

We look forward to continuing the conversation at the next Summit, which will be convened by the Netherlands in Amsterdam in 2013.

Click here for more information on the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, and click here to read Secretary Duncan’s opening remarks.

Liz Utrup is the Assistant Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education

21st Century Skills: A Global Imperative

This is our reality.

In many urban areas our graduation rates hover around fifty percent. Nearly forty percent of our students need remediation in college after they graduate from high school. We have one million students dropping out of school each year. And recently, President Obama pointed out that there are U.S. businesses eager to hire, but they simply can’t find American workers with the right skills.

International Summit LogoSomething is amiss. America’s students are clearly not workforce ready.

And we’re not alone in the conversation.

This week, education ministers, national union heads, and teacher leaders from over 20 countries around the world will eagerly descend on New York City for the 2nd annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession co-hosted by the Department of Education, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Education International (EI) with the support of the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, (NBPTS), Asia Society, and WNET.

The Summit will engage the international community in rigorous discussions around how we can better train and develop quality teachers to improve student achievement. Developing school leaders, matching the supply and demand of quality teachers, and delivering 21st century skills are the three key themes.

“It’s clear that no two countries are the same,” Secretary Duncan said, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t face common challenges.”

These countries are gathering because they recognize that the demands of a 21st century world call for thoughtful change in how we do education.

Summit hosts will ask nations to talk about the competencies teachers need to teach 21st century skills and how teacher preparation programs can prepare teachers for a 21st century classroom that not only incorporates, but demands, more focus on critical thinking, STEM, foreign language, collaborative problem-solving, and technology literacy.

The International Summit on the Teaching Profession represents an extraordinary achievement for the education dialogue. It’s the second time in history that ministers, union leaders and educators sit down together in one space at one time to discuss, share ideas, and problem-solve some of our biggest challenges in education as a unified front.

During the recent launch of Project RESPECT Secretary Duncan said, “No other profession carries a greater burden for securing our economic future.” Agreed.

As teachers, we want our students to succeed and be college and career-ready. But we want our definition of success to be meaningful. This Summit provides the opportunity for us to glean insights from other countries about what would be particularly helpful to teachers and teacher policy in the US to help all students to be more successful.

By bringing together high performing and rapidly improving countries from around the world, jointly represented by their teachers and educational leaders, I am hopeful the U.S. can discover real solutions for developing 21st century teacher and school leader workforces through effective practices that transcend differences among cultures and countries.

Claire Jellinek is a 9th-12th grade social studies teacher at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque, NM and a 2011-2012 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Dynamic Dialogue and Shared Experience at Miami Summit

More than 200 Latino leaders convened earlier this month in Miami for the White House’s Hispanic Community Action Summit at Miami-Dade College (MDC), a fitting venue for the forum as the nation’s largest community college and one renowned for graduating the largest numbers of both Latino and minority youths.

Eduardo Padrón, MDC president and chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, welcomed business and civic leaders, administrators, educators and students to the daylong session. Padron emphasized the link between America’s economic progress and that of Hispanics, and that, as the fastest-growing community in the U.S., Hispanics must be better prepared to succeed both academically and economically if America is to compete globally.

Jose Rico, the new executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Julie Rodriguez, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, provided a concise overview of the status of employment, housing, immigration, education, and health care. These presentations provided an excellent foundation for the roundtable discussions that ensued throughout the day.

The roundtable discussions focused on issues important to the Latino community: job creation; immigration reform; high-quality education; the impact of suspension and expulsion on Latino youths; recruitment and retention of K-12 teachers; holistic health programs; funding for Latino students; access to credit; and the status of the local Head Start program; among others. The format spurred engaging conversations and the spontaneous sharing of ideas. I was especially impressed with the abundance of expertise that participants were able to share with their groups. The students, in particular, speaking from their own experience, offered the group a good deal of wisdom. The conversations were effective at airing a range of problems and providing recommendations.

The officials and organizers present throughout the day did an excellent job of moving through the roundtable discussions, providing expertise and content when necessary, and serving to stimulate the conversation. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Participants expressed a desire to continue the collaboration, good will and conversation initiated at the summit.

Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez is the founding president and CEO of The Children’s Trust and a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. 

Secretary Duncan’s Straight Talk Is Music to Puerto Ricans’ Ears

Secretary Duncan speaks in Puerto Rico

Secretary Duncan speaks at the Puerto Rico Education Summit. (Official Department of Education Photo by Joshua Hoover)

On the island of Puerto Rico, home to the third-largest school district in the United States, Secretary Duncan on Monday brought a tough, but optimistic message to the “Investing in Our Future” Education Summit.

Puerto Rico, Duncan said to the more than 300 attendees, must choose “the path of embracing innovation, academic rigor, accountability, and effective strategies for accelerating learning for all students.”

In the first official visit by a U.S. Secretary of Education to Puerto Rico in 18 years, Secretary Duncan delivered opening and closing remarks at the 7-hour summit.

Duncan’s message was summarized Tuesday in the front-page headline of Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, which read; “U.S. Education Secretary Sings the Truth.”

Convened at the recommendation of the President’s Task Force Report on Puerto Rico’s Status, the summit brought together local elected officials, teacher unions, nonprofits, Puerto Rico Department of Education stakeholders, mainland education experts, as well as the business community.

Participants in the summit included Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño; resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi; San Juan mayor Jorge Santini; Vadim Nikitine, founder of the Flamboyan Foundation, and Nelson Colon, President of the Community Foundation of Puerto Rico.

Summit panels included System Wide Education Reform; Labor Management Collaboration as Key to Student Success; Beating the Odds in Traditionally Failing Environments; and a Business and Philanthropy in Education roundtable.

Student achievement has floundered in Puerto Rico, and 63 schools have been identified as persistently low-achieving.

Duncan acknowledged the challenges, but pressed summit attendees to meet those challenges, including poverty, with a spirit of collaboration and optimism.

“I know that poverty is not destiny,” Duncan said.  “We have all seen lives change because of opportunity, support, and guidance from great teachers and mentors.”

The summit’s panel on labor-management collaboration was the subject of particular attention, and Dr. Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent, and Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, shared with the audience how they forged a strong working relationship.

“It all began when they asked me to participate in a teacher evaluation discussion, and I realized they were listening to me,” Vigisitis said.  “That really is where things began.”

The Department of Education, along with the Task Force, will continue to follow-up on the recommendations and lessons learned from the Summit.

During his visit, Secretary Duncan also conducted a town hall with parents and teachers at a school in Bayamon, as well as a small meeting with high school seniors at a school in San Juan.

ED Hosts Community College Virtual Symposium

“As we try to educate our way to a better economy, community colleges are absolutely going to help lead us where we need to go,” said Secretary Duncan earlier this week at the first-ever Community College Virtual Symposium.

The symposium, streamed live over the Internet from Montgomery Community College in Silver Spring, Md., brought together ED staff and other education experts for a discussion about recent research findings related to student success in community college programs.

On four separate panels, scholars spoke about policies and practices that support bridge programs for low-skill adults, alignment of secondary and postsecondary education, improved developmental education, and college-employer partnerships that promote curricular change.

On hand to help kick off the conversation were Secretary Duncan, Undersecretary Martha Kanter, Dr. Jill Biden, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Montgomery College President, Dr. DeRionne Pollard.

In his opening remarks, Secretary Duncan talked about the critical role community colleges play in providing pathways of opportunity for millions of Americans.  “Community colleges have been the unrecognized, unpolished gems on the education continuum,” Duncan said.  “Our country can’t be great and can’t be strong without community colleges leading us there.”

The symposium capped off a series of events that began with last year’s White House Community College Summit hosted by President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.  Since then, ED has hosted four regional community college summits in Philadelphia, Houston, Indianapolis, and San Diego to help extend the conversation across the country.

Click here to learn more about ED’s regional community college summits and this week’s virtual symposium.

Final Community College Regional Summit Focuses on Veterans, Military Members and Families

Tomorrow, April 15, ED will hold its fourth and final Community College Regional Summit at San Diego City College in San Diego, Calif. The focus of this one-day event is on Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families, and will bring together federal, labor, industry and philanthropic partners to discuss how each entity can support local community college efforts to meet the President’s goal of having the best-educated workforce and the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Other topics to be discussed at the summit include solutions and promising practices in college completion, developmental education, industry-education partnerships, services to military service-members and veterans, transitioning adults to community colleges, and successful transfer programs to four year colleges and universities. The Summit will also provide a forum to identify local, state and national recommendations for increasing community college completion in order to meet the President’s 2020 goal.

Join us at 12:00 PM EDT on April 15, 2011 for a LIVE webcast of the summit (link will become active when the summit begins).

Duncan Opens National Summit on Gender-Based Violence Among Young People

“No school can be a great school unless it’s a safe school,” is a familiar phrase often cited by Secretary Duncan, and one that he repeated earlier today as he opened the first session of the National Summit on Gender-Based Violence Among Young People in Arlington, Va.

The Summit is being hosted by ED’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, and brings together organizations, educators and federal, state and local leaders to discuss ways to end gender-based violence among young people. Participants will share their expertise, give feedback on existing federal efforts, and provide recommendations on the future direction of federal policy and programming.

At ED, we are supporting efforts across the country to help prevent sexual violence in schools and on campuses.  Through our grant programs, K-12 school districts are providing year-round training for school personnel on sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and mandated reporting of incidents.  Our grant funding is also helping universities and colleges that are preventing interpersonal violence and starting innovative intervention programs.  These universities are also conducting research into best practices to curtail interpersonal violence, often with impressive results.

Earlier this week, Secretary Duncan and Vice President Biden announced new guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault.  Vice President Biden noted that the Obama administration is the first administration to state that sexual violence is not only a crime, but can also be a violation of an individual’s civil rights.

Check out our media advisory for more information on the two-day National Summit on Gender-Based Violence Among Young People.

Community Colleges + Businesses = Jobs


Teri McClure of UPS talks about successful community college and business partnerships. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

President Obama frequently talks about the importance of educating our way to a better economy, and partnerships between community colleges and businesses are vital to getting there. That was the key message of the U.S. Department of Education’s Community College Summit at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 23.

“These summits are an opportunity for us to ‘listen and learn’ from all of you.  These discussions will help us to make future decisions about higher ed,” said Under Secretary Martha Kanter to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 200 educators, business executives, policymakers, philanthropists and students.

Kanter discussed President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of American college graduates from 40 percent of working adults today, to 60 percent by 2020. That goal will better prepare students for the 21st century job market, and help the U.S. regain its position as first in the world in educating its students. She said that meeting this goal will require the U.S. to turn out at least 8 million additional graduates, and at least 5 million will come from community colleges.

It’s critical we think not only about the students coming up from high school, but the two-thirds of adults who need to come back  or go to college for the first time to move into a new career.

The meeting was the third of four regional summits convened to follow on the success of the White House Summit on Community Colleges held last October, where the President launched “Skills for America’s Future,”  an initiative to improve industry partnerships with community colleges. The summits were developed to identify promising practices for improving community colleges, with the first gathering in Philadelphia focusing on adult learners and an earlier meeting in Houston highlighting transitions to 4-year institutions.  Collaboration between community colleges and the private sector was the special focus of this meeting.

The decision to have this summit in the Midwest and specifically at Ivy Tech was no accident.

“We selected the Midwest specifically because so many of the community colleges here have really stepped up to the plate,” said Kanter, noting Midwestern colleges’ “responsiveness to the 21st century needs of employers” in developing tailored programs for retraining displaced workers.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is thanked by Under Secretary Martha Kanter following his remarks at ED’s Community College Summit. (Photo courtesy of Ivy Tech Community College)

As one of the largest community college systems in the U.S. with nearly 200,000 students at 23 campuses throughout Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College has formed more than 1,200 distinct partnerships with businesses. One of those collaborations is with the Northern Indiana Public Service Company. “We were going through a period where we could not get very many applicants to pass our pre-entry aptitude tests,” said Kris Emaus, manager of training for NIPSCO, during a lunchtime panel discussion.

NIPSCO joined forces with other state utility companies facing similar challenges to form the Indiana Energy Consortium. The consortium reached out to Ivy Tech, which has established a customized curriculum to provide students with the skills they need to fill an array of positions with salaries ranging from $25,000 to $105,000.  So far, about 100 students have enrolled in the program, she said.

ED’s dialogue with community college stakeholders will continue at a San Diego summit on April 15, with a special focus on programs for military members, veterans and their families. A virtual summit is also planned for April 27. To submit your name for consideration as a summit participant in San Diego please send your name, organization, title and e-mail address to: regional.summit@ed.gov

Julie Ewart is senior public affairs specialist for the Department of Education’s Region V office (including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), and proud mom of three public school students.

ED Kicks Off International Summit on the Teaching Profession

Later today, Secretary Arne Duncan will join teachers and education leaders from around the world in New York City, to open the first session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession.  The summit, which will be held today and tomorrow, is the first of its kind being convened by U.S. Department of Education. The event will aim to identify and elaborate on best practices from around the world for recruiting, preparing and supporting teachers in ways that effectively enhance the teaching profession and ultimately, elevate student performance.

Throughout the summit, participants will engage in open and in-depth discussions centered on learning best practices in the following four areas: Teacher Recruitment and Preparation; Development, Support and Retention of Teachers; Teacher Evaluation and Compensation; and Teacher Engagement in Education Reform.

The March summit is a first step in what will be an ongoing dialogue among participating countries about best practices in both teaching and learning. In the weeks following the summit, the Asia Society will lead host organizations in publishing a summary paper to document for the public the insights shared and lessons learned.

Secretary Duncan, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development Angel Gurría, and General Secretary of Education International Fred van Leeuwen, previewed the summit in a op-ed on the HuffingtonPost.com.

Across the globe, education is the great equalizer, the one force that can consistently overcome differences in background, culture, and privilege. Increasing teacher autonomy and participation in reform is vital not just to improving student outcomes but to elevating the teaching profession. We reject the prevailing wisdom that it can’t be done.

You can read more about the summit, including a list of participants and the summit’s agenda, and you can also watch the closing sessions of the event LIVE online starting at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 17.