2014 Back-to-School Bus Tour Cities Announced!

Students across the country are heading back to school, which means it’s also time for our annual Back-to-School Bus Tour!

Secretary Arne Duncan and senior ED officials will visit Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. This year’s tour, themed Partners in Progress, will run from September 8-10 and includes visits in the following cities:

  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Carrollton, Ga.
  • Birmingham, Ala.
  • Huntsville, Ala.
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Memphis, Tenn.

Throughout the tour, the Secretary will discuss the changes in education and the challenges that accompany them, all while highlighting the champions of reform — teachers, parents, community members, and others — who are leading the effort to improve education for all students.

Secretary Duncan will also showcase the investments the Department has made in each state and discuss initiatives such as Investing in Innovation (i3), Race to the Top state grants, Preschool for All, College Access and My Brother’s Keeper that are aimed at improving outcomes for students.

This is the fifth back-to-school bus tour for Secretary Duncan. Last year, the tour traveled throughout the Southwest. In 2012, the Department’s tour went coast to coast; in 2011, the tour rolled through the Midwest; and in 2010, Duncan and his team visited the South and the Northeast.

Check back soon for additional information on the tour, or simply sign up to receive Partners in Progress updates in your email inbox.

Dorothy Amatucci is a digital engagement strategist at the U.S. Department of Education.

Building a High Quality Early Learning System

As part of the Secretary’s Strong Start, Bright Future back-to-school bus tour, I had the opportunity to meet with early learning providers, parents, and children in Las Cruces, N.M. Las Cruces, situated near the Mexico border, has a large Hispanic community and is surrounded by small rural farming villages. It was chile harvest time and the smell of roasting green chile was in the air.

Michael Yudin during school visitLas Cruces and Doña Ana County are served by three early intervention agencies under contract with the New Mexico Department of Health, Family Infant Toddler (FIT) Program. The FIT Program is the lead agency for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part C) and ensures that families of children birth to age three with, or at risk of, developmental delays and disabilities have access to quality early intervention services, no matter where they live. In New Mexico, that can mean serving families in large urban areas, rural towns and small villages, tribal communities, and those families living on ranches separated by long dirt roads. I was thrilled to personally witness the passion, commitment, and dedication of the individuals and organizations involved in making sure that families get the supports and services they need, in the language and culture appropriate to the family.    

Of course, children receiving Part C services are children first, and have the same need for high-quality early care and learning opportunities as their nondisabled peers.  Fortunately, for the children and families in Doña Ana County, providers of Part C services, Head Start, Early Head Start, home visitation, child care, and the public preschools all work together to ensure that some of our most vulnerable babies have access to high-quality early learning.

For New Mexico, it starts with rigorous outreach, public awareness, and home visitation to identify infants and toddlers who are eligible for early intervention services.  According to Andy Gomm, the State FIT Director, “we make sure families know that early intervention can make a lifetime of difference.” Part C early intervention services provide critical supports and services to our youngest children with disabilities or delays so they too can enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

But Part C services are not an educational placement. Young children with disabilities need these services as part of their early learning experience. To be most effective, these services should be delivered in inclusive early care and education settings.

With scarce resources, the providers in Doña Ana County work collaboratively and share those resources, tools, professional development, and training to make sure that families get the early care and education their children need. Parents expressed how important it is for these providers to work together so their children can experience seamless, high-quality early learning.

During the trip, I also had the opportunity to visit with the amazing folks at “Jardin de los Niños,” who provide early care and education, as well as parent support services, to homeless families. One of the highlights was playing in the sand box with a little girl who offered to “bake me a chocolate cake” out of sand. These educators and other providers are truly creating new possibilities for homeless and near homeless children and families.

The dedicated and passionate early care and education providers of Doña Ana County are working together to meet the diverse needs of young children and families in their community. They’re building a high-quality early learning system, giving our children the best opportunity for a strong start and a bright future.

Michael Yudin is acting assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

An Active Return to School in Arizona

Cheerleaders

Photo courtesy of J and L Photography

Acting Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education Michael Yudin joined a crowd of more than 1,000 students, teachers, and parents in Marana, Ariz., on September 11, in an effort to bring healthy habits back to America’s schools through the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS) initiative.

Yudin greeted an ecstatic student body at a pep assembly hosted inside Marana Middle School’s (MMS) gymnasium on Wednesday and was supported by members of the town of Marana and 17 school wellness coordinators from each school in the Marana Unified School District. After being introduced by Marana Middle School principal Kristin Reidy, Yudin congratulated the school for joining LMAS and spoke of MMS’s strong push to keep both students and community members active. Yudin supported the school’s efforts to be healthy, commenting that after school opportunities such as an open gym, cardio and weight rooms, and various family-oriented athletic programs make Marana unique. He then continued by praising Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative, encouraging every school in rest of the district to join along with MMS in hopes of becoming only the second district in the entire U.S. to accomplish such a feat.

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Ending on a High Note

Chula Vista GreetingFive 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.

Watch a video of the 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.

Read the entire speech.

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.”


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and blogged and tweeted his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Sunrise to Sunset, Bus Tour Stops in Arizona

sunrise-sunset-arizona

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.

See a collection of social media posts from day three of the tour.

Tucson

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.

Classroom VisitThe 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.”

Tempe

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.

Watch the video below to hear Secretary Duncan recap day three:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and is blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Back-to-School Bus Tour Heads to the Border

Secretary Arne Duncan makes time for an unscheduled bus ride in Columbus, NM. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

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.

See a collection of social media posts from day two of the tour.

El Paso

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.

Columbus

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.

Watch the video below to hear Secretary Duncan recap day two:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and is blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Back-to-School Tour Launches in the Land of Enchantment

Duncan speaks with child

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.

See a collection of social media posts about day one of the tour.

Santa Fe

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.

Albuquerque

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.

Polvadera

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.

Watch Secretary Duncan wrap up his experiences from day one:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and is blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Top 4 Ways (Digitally) to Join Our Back-to-School Bus Tour

Bus PictureSecretary of Education Arne Duncan has repeatedly said that the best ideas come from schools, districts and states – not from Washington. Starting this morning, Duncan hits the road in the Southwest during his fourth back-to-school bus tour to visit schools, hold town halls, and listen to teachers, parents, students and members of the community.
 
This year’s tour, entitled Strong Start, Bright Future, will highlight the importance of ensuring that all students benefit from high-quality educational opportunities.
 
The five-day tour will take us to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California (see our interactive map of all the stops), and if you can’t make it to one of the events, here are four ways to stay digitally connected to the tour:
 
1. Twitter 
Follow hashtag #edtour13 for the latest and keep up to date by following @usedgov and @arneduncan.
 
2. Email Updates
Sign up here to get the latest from the road in your inbox.
 
3. Storify
Subscribe to our Storify page and read our collection of stories and photos from the road.
 
4. Blog
We’ll be blogging throughout the tour. Visit ed.gov/bustour or subscribe to email updates from our Homeroom Blog.
 
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and is blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Final Details of Back-to-School Bus Tour Released

EdTour13_REVWe’re only days away from the start of the Department of Education’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will make stops in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California. Earlier this week we provided details of the first two days of the tour, and below are the remaining stops as we cruise through the Southwest.

Subscribe to bus tour email updates.

Wednesday, Sept. 11

Tucson, Ariz.

In districts across the country, bus drivers are up bright and early to ensure millions of students get to school on time. Secretary Arne Duncan will start day three of the bus tour by joining U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx at the Tucson Unified School District Bus Depot to discuss the vital role that bus drivers play in school-safety efforts.

The Secretaries will then hop on a bus and ride along to Dodge Traditional Magnet School to participate in a service project with students.

Following the service project, Duncan will check out how technology is being used to empower educators and engage students at Sunnyside High School.

Tempe

The wheels will keep rolling Wednesday afternoon as the bus will make a stop at Arizona State University in Tempe, for a community town hall on college affordability and how to increase educational opportunities for the Hispanic community.

Day three of the tour will close out with a visit to the “Healing Field” Memorial in Tempe, to honor the victims and first-responders of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Thursday, Sept. 12

Phoenix

Duncan and team will get an early start on day four of the tour at the Bret Tarver Education Complex to visit classrooms and to hold a town hall on the importance of quality early learning programs.

Scottsdale

The bus will then head to Scottsdale, Ariz., for a meeting with tribal leaders to talk about the federal role in strengthening tribal education.

Yuma

The tour continues to Yuma, with a stop at a local food bank to thank volunteers and highlight work that strengthens communities. Duncan will join high school students who volunteer to fill backpacks with food to be delivered to disadvantaged students for the weekend. The last stop of the day will be at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station where Duncan will join military leaders, service members and their families to discuss the importance of supporting military-connected students and their families.

Friday, Sept. 13

Chula Vista, Calif.

This year’s back-to-school bus tour will conclude at Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista where Duncan and team will join a pep rally and hold a town hall on the importance of the community and to highlight Promise Neighborhoods.

It’s going to be an exciting week, and we hope to see many of you along the route. If we’re stopping by your city or school, give us a shoutout by using #edtour13 on Twitter.

Stay up to date during the tour by visiting our bus tour page at ed.gov/bustour and by subscribing to Strong Start, Bright Future email updates.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and will be blogging and tweeting his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Getting a Strong Start in New Mexico

Last month we announced the Strong Start, Bright Future annual back-to-school bus tour and today we’re happy to announce the details of the tour’s first two days. Drum roll please!

Santa Fe

Strong Start LogoOn Monday, September 9, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will kick things off at the Santa Fe Children’s Project Early Learning Center with classroom visits and a town hall on the importance of quality early learning programs.

Albuquerque

Following the town hall, the bus will roll south through the “Land of Enchantment” for classroom visits and a roundtable discussion with district and labor leaders, teachers, parents and students at Emerson Elementary in Albuquerque. The focus at Emerson will be their turnaround efforts and Duncan will discuss the Department’s School Improvement Program.

Polvadera

The back-to-school bus will continue to the Rio Grande Valley Monday afternoon for a classroom discussion with teachers at Midway Elementary School in Polvadera, N.M., north of Socorro. Duncan will discuss digital learning and hold a community meeting on rural education at the school.

Day Two

El Paso

Day two of the Strong Start, Bright Future tour will get its start at the El Paso Transmountain Early College High School (Home of the Mavericks!) in El Paso, Texas, where Secretary Duncan will join a town hall on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The high school is located adjacent to El Paso Community College and by the time students graduate from high school, they’re already earning college credits. This is the type of great collaboration the Department of Education is calling for in its high school redesign initiative.

Columbus

On Tuesday afternoon, the bus will cruise back into New Mexico and make a stop at Columbus Elementary School where Duncan and Department officials will listen to teachers talk about the challenges of teaching a diverse student population.

Following Columbus the bus keeps moving, and in the coming days we’ll provide details of our stops in Arizona and California.

For now, stay up to date by following the Strong Start, Bright Future tour on Twitter using the hashtag #edtour13, visit our bus tour page at ed.gov/bustour and subscribe to Strong Start, Bright Future email updates.

 Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Cities Announced! 2013 Back-to-School Bus Tour

Bus Tour MapIt’s back-to-school time, which means that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior ED officials are hitting the road once again for the Department’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run September 9-13 and includes visits to states throughout the Southwest with stops in the following cities:

  • Santa, Fe, N.M.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Socorro, N.M.
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Columbus, N.M.
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Tempe, Ariz.
  • Phoenix
  • Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Yuma, Ariz.
  • Chula Vista, Calif.

Each stop will highlight the importance of ensuring that all students benefit from high-quality educational opportunities, including Preschool for Allcollege affordabilityConnectEDfirst-term education efforts, and comprehensive immigration reform’s impact on education.

This is the fourth back-to-school bus tour for Secretary Duncan. Last year, the Department’s tour took us coast to coast, in 2011, the tour rolled through the Midwest, and in 2010, Duncan and his team visited the South and the Northeast.

Check back soon for additional information on the tour, or simply sign up to receive Strong Start, Bright Future tour updates in your email inbox.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education