Duncan on Parent Involvement and Fixing NCLB

Secretary Duncan recently sat down to respond to a few comments he received on his Facebook page.  Duncan describes the importance of parents in a student’s education, and he says that it’s important we do “everything we can do to get parents more engaged, to have them be full and equal partners with teachers, to be part of the solution.”

Secretary Duncan also responded to comments about the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), by noting that “the current law, as I’ve said repeatedly, is far too punitive, far too prescriptive, [and] has led to a “dumbing down” of standards, [and] to a narrowing of the curriculum.”

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, Secretary Duncan has been working with Congress to obtain a bipartisan fix to NCLB, but Congress hasn’t acted yet. Later this week, President Obama will announce additional details on the Administration’s plan to give great teachers and great schools the flexibility they need to improve education outcomes.

Read the Top 5 Questions About NCLB Flexibility, and sign up to receive email updates on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).


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Department of Education’s Back-to-School Bus Tour Gets Rolling

Starting tomorrow, Secretary Arne Duncan and senior ED staff will travel to the Great Lakes region for a Back-to-School Bus Tour to visit schools, colleges and universities; engage with business and community leaders; and talk with educators. The tour’s theme is “Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future,” and Secretary Duncan explains in the video below “that education is the economic strategy for the 21st Century.”

Our children will be competing with the rest of the world for the jobs of the future. Your children’s—my children’s—long-term financial security is directly tied to the quality of the public education we provide.


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

You can follow the progress of this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting ed.gov/bustour, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter and by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

Back-to-School Bus Heads to the Great Lakes

During last week’s #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, Sarah, a third grade teacher, asked if it is possible for Arne to “tour and sponsor real town halls with educators.” This week, ED announced that Secretary Duncan and his senior staff will be holding more than 50 such events next week.

Secretary Duncan stops in New York during last year's back-to-school bus tour.

Starting on Wednesday, September 7, Secretary Duncan and senior ED staff will head to the Great Lakes Region for a Back-to-School Bus Tour. Arne will be making stops in Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Merrillville, Ind., Milwaukee and Chicago, and senior ED officials will be hosting dozens of events throughout the Midwest. The theme of the tour is “Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future.”

Arne will be meeting with educators and talking with students, parents, administrators, and community stakeholders. Among the topics that Secretary Duncan and senior staff will discuss include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, K-12 reform, transforming the teaching profession, civil rights enforcement, efforts to better serve students with disabilities and English Language Learners, Promise Neighborhoods, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, STEM education, increasing college access and attainment as well as vocational and adult education.

Click here for additional details on Secretary Duncan’s back-to-school bus tour stops.

You can follow the progress of this year’s Back-to-School tour right here at the ED Blog, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, and by signing up for email updates from ED and Secretary Duncan.

Duncan Takes to Twitter to Answer Your Questions

(Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood)

During the past week, thousands of Twitter users submitted questions to Secretary Duncan for his first-ever #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, and the difficult task of choosing the questions for Arne fell to the event’s moderator, journalist John Merrow. Merrow monitored #AskArne tweets throughout the week and even gave one last look through the steady stream of questions just moments before the camera went live.

Merrow asked Secretary Duncan tough questions covering a broad range of topics, including: standardized testing, cheating, performance pay for educators, and whether Arne truly listens to teachers.

Many Twitter users asked Arne about testing, and whether students are taking too many tests at school.

@pureparents: #AskArne: What specifically will you do to decrease the amount of and emphasis on standardized testing in the US?

Secretary Duncan answered:

@usedgov: Where you have too many tests, or are spending too much time on test prep, that doesn’t lead to good results. #AskArne

@usedgov: Fill-in-the-bubble tests should be a tiny % of what we’re doing. I’m a big fan of formative assessments–more helpful to teachers. #AskArne

A few Twitter users such as Richard wondered if Arne listens to teachers.

@Thanks2Teachers: #AskArne Do you truly LISTEN to the voices & concerns of teachers and parents? Hope this isn’t a hollow public relations exercise.

Duncan explained to Merrow:

@usedgov: I listen to teachers daily, in visits to schools, in mtgs @ ED and through our teaching ambassadors. Visited hundreds of schools. #askarne

Several Twitter users inquired about the Secretary’s stand on school vouchers:

@thefooshshow: #AskArne Heritage Fndn sz vouchers most viable way to *dismantle* pub #education. Will u unequivcbly take v off table?

Duncan responds:

@usedgov: Duncan: I will never support school vouchers. They take $ away from public system. I want great PUBLIC schools in this country. #AskArne

(Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood)

During the town hall, Secretary Duncan noted that he’s still a Twitter “novice” and he looks forward to future chats and to engaging with teachers online. If you missed the town hall, you can watch the archived video here, and you can see a more comprehensive list of questions and answers through ED’s Twitter page.

To keep up-to-date on all things ED, follow @ArneDuncan, @usedgov, @ED_Outreach, @EDPressSec on Twitter, or click here to see all of ED’s social media accounts.

Want to #AskArne a Question? Tweet Today

The response to ED’s first-ever #AskArne Twitter Town Hall has been overwhelming. The questions and comments on Twitter are rolling in, and Arne looks forward to addressing the important issues you’ve raised.

If you still have a question for Arne, it isn’t too late to ask. The Twitter Town Hall begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT, and you can watch it live on ED’s official ustream channel. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will moderate the discussion based on your #AskArne questions from Twitter.

If you can’t watch the Twitter Town Hall live, don’t worry, your voice can still be heard by sending in your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #AskArne any time before the event. The Town Hall video will also be archived on our website, and check back to this blog for a summary of the #AskArne Twitter Town Hall.

Follow @ArneDuncan on Twitter, and click here to see all of ED’s social media accounts.

Secretary Duncan to Hold #AskArne Twitter Town Hall

The Department of Education announced today that Secretary Arne Duncan will participate in the first-ever #AskArne Twitter Town Hall on August 24, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will moderate the town hall that will also be broadcast live on ED’s ustream channel.

Beginning today, Twitter users can submit questions to the Secretary using the hashtag #AskArne.

The Department of Education uses several Twitter accounts to share information and converse with the education community and the American people. For general news and information about ED, follow @usedgov. To keep up-to-date with Secretary Duncan, follow @ArneDuncan. Justin Hamilton, ED’s Press Secretary, can can be found at @EDPressSec, and Massie Ritsch, Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs and Outreach, shares information and converses with stakeholders, teachers and parents at @ED_Outreach.

Click here for a complete list of ED’s Twitter accounts.

President Obama to Participate in Televised Town Hall on Education

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

As part of his ongoing effort to improve education for all Americans, President Obama will participate in a Univision-hosted town hall with students, parents and teachers on March 28 to discuss education and Hispanic educational attainment. The town hall is part of Univision’s “Es el Momento” (The Moment is Now) initiative focused on creating a college-bound culture in the Hispanic community.

Do you have questions about better preparing students for college and 21st century careers? Or thoughts on how to increase parental engagement in education? Now’s your chance. In advance of the town hall, you’re invited to submit education-related questions here. Questions must be submitted by Sunday, March 27.

Then tune in to watch a live video stream from the event in either English or Spanish at EsElMomento.com, starting at 7:00 PM EDT on Monday, March 28.

Citizenship and Pathways for a Green Economy

On Monday and Tuesday, September 20-21, the Department of Education held the national Sustainability Education Summit: Citizenship and Pathways for a Green Economy at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. Approximately 300 participants spent two days discussing ideas and proposals for a national agenda to advance a sustainable economy through education. Participants came from federal agencies, higher education, career and technical education, community colleges, K-12 education, business, and environmental organizations. Congress requested that the Department organize the summit in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.

On Tuesday, the conferees were addressed by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who stated that the Department of Education had “been mostly absent from the movement to educate our children to be stewards of our environment” and had not “been doing enough in the sustainability movement.” But the Secretary further stated, “I promise you that we will be a committed partner in the national effort to build a more environmentally literate and responsible society.” The Secretary went on to speak to the issue of the central role educators must play in promoting a culture of change in our schools and in our communities. “President Obama has made clean, renewable energy a priority because, as he says, it’s the best way to ‘truly transform our economy, to protect our security, and save our planet.’”

The Secretary pointed to the efforts being made across federal government agencies to link education and sustainability. “The National Science Foundation has created a network of projects that are advancing programs that teach about the impact of climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency makes grants to support environmental literacy through its own grant program. The Department of Labor has awarded $490 million to support job training in skills needed in green jobs. All of this money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” Through the administration’s Blueprint for Reform, the department will support local efforts to teach environmental education as part of a well-rounded education.

On Monday, Under Secretary Martha Kanter reinforced the Department of Education’s commitment to “focus on policies and strategies to educate our citizenry and to support clearly articulated education pathways toward a sustainable future.” The Under Secretary spoke to the role of teachers as agents of change toward empowering our youth to make better choices. “Quite simply, the daily choices our young people make will shape the future of our planet – and America’s teachers are the gateway to giving every student a ‘green’ education.”

As the chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the Under Secretary led the colleges’ sustainability initiatives and served on the Steering Committee of the President’s Climate Commitment. As chancellor, the Under Secretary saw that her institution “partnered closely with area K-12 schools and universities with the understanding that stakeholder engagement is a powerful catalyst at all levels of our education system and communities.” This reinforces the department’s underlying support of higher education as “transformational leaders and role models for the nation’s green revolution.”

The Under Secretary also emphasized that the “effort to define pathways to green, clean-technology careers, and to build a competent 21st century green workforce, is in the field of career and technical education.” Established programs of study “combine rigorous academic and technical content with employer validated ‘green technology’ standards to prepare secondary and post-secondary students for high-skill, high-wage, high-demand employment in ‘green-focused’ fields including the President’s priority areas of energy, transportation, housing, and construction.” The Obama administration is committed to the creation of a world-class workforce, including “a special emphasis on promoting student achievement and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.”

The design of the Green Summit allowed broad sector participation in a conversation with experts in the field of sustainability. Panelists from institutions across the country gave brief presentations, followed by discussion among panelists, and with the participants at large. Participants then moved into small group discussion to discuss actionable steps that can be taken toward the goals of the mandate.

Join the conversation:

1. How is your school involved with promoting sustainability either through curriculum or practice?

2. How much community involvement is there with promoting sustainability at your school?

3. What specific sustainability projects are you promoting within your organization or institution?

Leigh Jenkins
Office of Vocational and Adult Education

The Essence of Excellence

Every day, teachers work to motivate students, increase achievement and create an environment where students take ownership of their learning. As Fellows, we have been fortunate to speak with teachers across the country, and concerns around capturing student growth through standardized testing continue to persist across our schools and communities. Teachers’ concerns run a wide gamut, ranging from the need for assessment that engages multiple intelligences to frustration around the stress that high-stakes testing can create for many students.

In light of ongoing conversations about linking test scores to teacher evaluation, we want to hear more about how teachers measure their own effectiveness. We are thinking a lot about how to best reflect on and learn from our practice, so that we as teachers can actively shape current discussions about what true excellence looks like in the classroom.

In the first few weeks of school, how do you know if you are successful in beginning to impact student learning? Please share with us a personal glimpse of your excellence in the classroom from the start of the school year!

For opportunities to help identify and solve other challenges related to teaching and learning in the classroom, check out the new Challenge to Innovate (C2i) initiative at http://challenge.gov/ED/60-challenge-to-innovate-c2i

With great hope for the future of education,

Antero, Edit, Jemal, Jeff, Katie, Laurie, Leah, Linda, Lisa, Nick, Pam, Patrick, Tracey, Stephanie and Steve
Teaching Ambassador Fellows

Rethinking and Strengthening Arts Education

Arts in Education Week

September 12th to 18th is Arts in Education Week. The Congressional designation of Arts in Education Week is an important reminder of the essential role that the arts play in the well-rounded education that all American students deserve.

“The arts can no longer be treated as a frill,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his remarks before the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) this past April. In the Secretary’s Listening and Learning Tour in 2009, he heard from teachers and parents that the curriculum has narrowed, especially in schools with disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students. This led Secretary Duncan to tell his AEP audience of arts, education, government and philanthropic leaders that it is “the time to rethink and strengthen arts education.”

Arts in Education Week

Rethinking it begins with acknowledging the powerful role that regular academic experiences in the arts has for students, particularly economically disadvantaged students, in ways that transcend their accomplishments in the art studio or concert hall. A recent analysis [PDF, 158K] of data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS:88) conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles points to significant connections between high involvement in arts learning and general academic achievement. The study tracked students from eighth grade through their twenties and found that “arts-engaged” students from low-income families demonstrated greater college-ongoing rates and better grades in college. As an example, low-income students from arts-rich high schools were more than twice as likely to earn a B.A. as low-income students from arts-poor high schools.

Arts in Education Week

Moreover, the UCLA researchers found the students engaged in the arts were more likely to be employed in jobs with potential career growth and more involved in volunteerism and the political life of their communities. “These are big effects … [that] we would like to see more schools replicate,” says Secretary Duncan.

But we must strengthen the arts in all schools, not only to replicate the advantages in life and careers that the arts provide, but principally for the knowledge and skills that the arts uniquely embody as academic disciplines and that they impart on developing minds, bodies, and personalities. At the heart of a solid education in the arts are the appreciation of beauty and the aesthetic qualities of our lives and society; the ability to communicate the ineffable through images, music and movement; and the appreciation of diverse cultural expressions.

Arts in Education Week

In celebration of Arts in Education Week, the Arts Education Partnership is offering up-to-date information on actions that it and hundreds of schools, associations, and others are doing to heighten awareness of the importance of arts education. Our schools need to rethink and strengthen arts education. All our children need and deserve nothing less.

What is your school or district doing to rethink and/or strengthen arts education? Please share your comments below.

Doug Herbert
Office of Innovation and Improvement


Creating Fair Evaluation Systems for Teachers

Thank you for your responses to our question, “What is the biggest challenge facing education today?

The challenges in education are multifaceted.  Your thoughts on insufficient resources, teacher shortages, increasing equity for all students, and an absence in accountability for both parents and students have been heard.  Thank you for voicing your passion on issues that must be dealt with in order to enhance our schools.  Your insights continue to guide our thinking about policy and how it affects practice, a vital consideration for anyone passionate about improving public education.

Certainly this is a period of intense debate.  Recently the fervor on the topic of whether to tie student assessment data to teacher evaluations has gained national attention.  In a conversation last week, we agreed that teachers generally want to be held accountable and supported by a fair evaluation system.  The Fellows’ opinions varied, however, in terms of whether that evaluation data should be shared in a public forum.

In an effort to further expand our understanding of how teachers weigh in on this issue we have the following questions:

What elements do you believe make a fair evaluation of your professional practice?  Should the outcome of that evaluation be transparent to parents and/or the public?

Please share your comment below.

For some resources on how ED has proposed to support great teaching click here.

Also, to hear the thoughts and opinions of the past Fellows on these and other issues click here.

With great hope for the future of education,
Antero, Edit, Jemal, Jeff, Katie, Laurie, Leah, Linda, Lisa, Nick, Pam, Patrick, Tracey, Stephanie and Steve

Youth Speak Out

It is hard to do well when adults don’t expect you to. That is a theme ED officials and staff heard repeatedly at a listening session with 370 youth leaders at the National Urban League conference on July 30 at the University of Maryland.

“We meet with all kinds of groups—educators, parents, government officials—to hear their ideas,” explains Alberto Retana, ED’s director of community outreach. “Too often, we don’t listen to the people who may have the most valuable input of all—the youth themselves.”

Retana has begun a “National Youth Listening Tour” to ask youth about the best ways to meet the President’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.  That goal aligns with the National Urban League’s (NUL) “I Am Empowered” initiative, which includes a call for all youth to be college-ready by 2025.

At the NUL conference, ED and NUL staff and interns facilitated small-group discussions around three areas: family, community and school. Participants discussed what was working and what needed to change in these areas.

In a discussion on teacher quality, students brought up how the best teachers are not necessarily the youngest or oldest, or the ones with the most experience. The best teachers are those who take the time to get to know their students and understand where they are coming from. Teachers should be responsive to specific situations and learning styles, they said. Teachers should care about their students and strive to teach them in creative, engaging and relevant ways.

Retana will lead additional listening sessions in other cities throughout the U.S. in the coming months. Youth forums have also occurred in Chicago and Philadelphia last week.

Among the questions being asked at the listening sessions is this: What needs to happen in our families, schools, and communities to ensure that more students are prepared for, enrolled in, and complete a post-secondary education?

You are invited to respond to that question.  Please post your comment here.

Mallory Easton, Office of Communications and Outreach