Bakersville Elementary School, Manchester, NH

Secretary Duncan and Manchester, N.H., Mayor Ted Gatsas meet with Bakersville Elementary School students and talk about the first day of school coming up.”

Secretary Duncan and Manchester, N.H., Mayor Ted Gatsas meet with Bakersville Elementary School students and talk about the first day of school coming up.

This morning’s stop at Bakersville Elementary School started with a tour – not of the school, but of the neighborhood.

Here’s a video of the tour and the discussion with teachers and parents that followed.


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Duncan Asks: How Do We Improve the Teaching Profession?

Melinda Treadwell, the dean of professional and graduate studies, and Secretary Duncan lead a conversation with current and prospective teachers at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Melinda Treadwell, the dean of professional and graduate studies, and Secretary Duncan lead a conversation with current and prospective teachers at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Imagine you’re a studying to be a teacher, and on the first day of the new semester, the U.S. Secretary of Education arrives to ask your opinions about the future of the teaching profession.

That’s what happened at Keene State College in New Hampshire on Monday’s evening stop on the “Courage in the Classroom” bus tour.

During the discussion, Secretary Duncan had more questions than answers for the class of that included undergraduates preparing to be teachers and current teachers working toward a master’s degree.

How do we recruit one million new teachers over the next four years?

How do we retain them in the profession?

How do we improve the way we prepare teachers?

Will better preparation programs lead to higher retention rates because teachers feel better prepared for success in the classroom?

One current teacher said that teacher preparation programs should focus on classroom-based experiences rather than philosophical discussions.

So many of a teacher’s daily tasks—such as managing a classroom, working with parents, and planning lessons—are best learned by doing the work yourself or watching an experienced professional, said Denis Jobin, who teaches English learners in Milford, N.H.

“You can talk about those things, but it’s interactive to learn them,” Jobin said.

Secretary Duncan agreed that teacher colleges need to find ways to integrate real-life teaching experiences into their preparation programs.

But he believes that the larger challenge is to improve the status of the profession so that teachers feel respected and valued.

“Teaching must be a much more revered profession,” he told the group. “Teachers haven’t been revered for a while.”


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Working Together to Address Students’ Needs

Paul Winspeare, a junior at the High School of Commerce, tells a community forum about the importance of keeping high school students engaged in school.

Paul Winspeare, a junior at the High School of Commerce, tells a community forum about the importance of keeping high school students engaged in school.

Education is everybody’s responsibility, and everyone has a role to play: teachers, parents, elected officials, and school leaders.

In Springfield, Mass., today, Secretary Arne Duncan heard of the collaborative efforts of communities across the state and the city to reform their schools. By engaging educators and members of communities, the state strengthened its Race to the Top application. Last week, Massachusetts won a $250 million grant in the second phase of the competition, scoring higher than any other applicant.

“All the stakeholders worked together on the final application to make sure it was centered on helping students succeed,” Tim Sullivan, the vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said at a meeting at the High School of Commerce in Springfield.

Students at the event reminded Secretary Duncan and others that providing them a world-class education is the ultimate goal of Race to the Top and other reforms.

Students need to be engaged in academics, sports, or other activities, Paul Winspeare responded when Secretary Duncan asked what schools need to do to keep students from dropping out.

“That motivation keeps them coming to school every day,” said Winspeare, a junior who says the Junior Reserve Officer Training program is a program that keeps him engaged at the High School of Commerce.


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Click here for an accessible version of the video.

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Reclaim the Dream

Reclaim the Dream marchers

Secretary Duncan and his family, Assistant Secretaries Peter Cunningham and Russlyn Ali, and other Department of Education employees participated in Saturday’s “Reclaim the Dream” Rally at Dunbar High school in Washington, DC. The rally drew thousands of students, teachers, parents, community organizations, along with numerous national civil rights, and other organizations.

Secretary Duncan was one of a number of speakers that included Ben Jealous from the NAACP, Marc Morial from the National Urban League, and Rev. Al Sharpton from the National Action Network. The speakers reminded the audience of the impact and importance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream”. Secretary Duncan reiterated, “Education is the Civil Rights issue of our generation.”

After the rally, Secretary Duncan and his family joined the 3-mile march from Dunbar High School to the future site of the Martin Luther King Memorial. Thousands more people joined the march along the way. Martin Luther King III spoke at the culmination of the march reminding the crowd of how far we have come as a nation since his father’s famous speech, but how much more work we need to do before the dream will become a reality.

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Duncan Praises New York’s Race to the Top Plan

Duncan Praises New York’s Race to the Top Plan

Secretary Duncan speaks at a press conference with New York Gov. David Paterson and other state leaders.

At the first stop on the second half of the “Courage in the Classroom” tour, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised New York leaders for state’s remarkably bold vision for reforming schools.

New York was one of 10 winners in the second phase of the Race to the Top program. Peer reviewers gave the state the second highest score in the competition.

Secretary Duncan made the comments at a press conference led by Gov. David Paterson and joined by leaders from across the state.

Duncan Praises New York’s Race to the Top Plan

Secretary Duncan exits the "Courage in the Classroom" bus at the New York state Capitol.


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New York’s Mission: Improving Teacher Effectiveness

Secretary Duncan listens to NYSUT members discuss the union’s work to improve teacher effectiveness.

Secretary Duncan listens to NYSUT members discuss the union’s work to improve teacher effectiveness.

Teacher effectiveness is the most important factor in student success – and educators and state leaders are working together to improve the quality of teachers in New York.

On today’s second stop on the “Courage in the Classroom” bus tour, Secretary Duncan visited the headquarters of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the state’s teacher union, to hear about how districts and teachers building models to support teacher development and improve teacher evaluation.

“The common goal that we all have is that every child has an effective teacher,” NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi told the secretary, state officials, and union leaders at the event.

Members of NYSUT in six New York cities are working collaboratively with district leaders to create comprehensive models to improve the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom.  The work is intended to help “strong teachers get better and struggling teachers improve,” said Karen Rock, a special education teacher in Plattsburgh, which is participating in the effort.

The U.S. Department of Education recently named the teacher-development program a finalist for a grant from the Investing in Innovation fund. With New York’s grant under the Race to the Top program, the state will be creating a new teacher evaluation program.

“We’re investing in you because of your collective leadership, your collective courage, and your willingness to take on these tough issues,” Secretary Duncan told the group.


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A New Turnaround Strategy

MOBILE, Ala.—Of all the strategies we’ve heard for turning low-performing schools into high-performing schools, we had never heard this one: become a mind-reader.

Extrasensory perception—or at least a staff with a shared vision and the ability to anticipate each other’s needs—has apparently been key to the transformation at George C. Hall Elementary School.

“We’ve come to read each other’s minds at this point,” Principal Terri Tomlinson said today when the Courage in the Classroom bus pulled up at Hall. “We’re just a solid team.”

Earlier this year the Department profiled the school’s success in a series of videos on school turnarounds about the federal School Improvement Grant program. It was good to meet the administrators, teachers, parents and partners from that video in person and to hear from the larger team and community.


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The community’s role in this turnaround was key, especially the support of the Mobile Area Education Foundation. For hard work like this, everyone has a role to play.

Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach

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Freedom School Program Jackson State

JACKSON, Miss.—At the Kids Kollege Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School, the children aren’t called students; they’re called scholars. And the adults aren’t teachers; they’re servant leaders.

That’s how this after-school program serving disadvantaged children in Mississippi’s capital sets high expectations for everyone.

The program is a partnership between Jackson State University, a historically black college, and Children’s Defense Fund. CDF’s founder, Marian Wright Edelman, joined the Courage in the Classroom Tour this morning in Jackson. There, Secretary Duncan listened to a group of Kids Kollege interns talk about why they are drawn to the field of education.

Watch video from this morning’s visit to Jackson State University:


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Secretary Dunkin’

Secretary Dunkin’TALLULAH, La.—The Madison High School Jaguars brought a ringer onto the basketball court with them Thursday evening: a Cabinet secretary.

After a day of events in Arkansas and Louisiana, Secretary Duncan changed out of his suit and tie for a 30-minute scrimmage with the team. More than 300 students, parents, teachers and members of this 9,200-person community turned out to watch and cheer.

The well-coached Jaguars evidently have developed a system that works for them, running plays smoothly and connecting on their passes. It took Arne’s young teammates awhile to adjust to a new player—his no-look passes seemed to throw them off their game—but they soon found a rhythm.  At halftime, Arne’s team trailed 38-42.


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One of the teachers watching from the bleachers was Hazel S. Suluki. Forty-three years ago, as a senior in college, she was thrust into leading her first classroom when her student-teaching mentor left mid-year. She has been in education ever since—as an elementary school teacher, a principal and director of school-based health. For the last two years she’s been at Madison. Ask her which of the students on the court tonight were hers and she’ll say “all of them.”

Secretary Dunkin’Ms. Suluki teaches “life skills” at Madison. She helps high schoolers create résumés and prep for job interviews. She teaches them how to take the knowledge they’ve gained in their academic classes and apply it to their lives beyond the classroom.

“Not all of our children are going to go to college,” she believes, “but they are going to have some type of job.”

As for her own job, this grandmother of eight has no plans to retire.

“I just want to keep giving something back. I want to be a school marm forever,” she said. “I want to wear out, not rust out.”

When the basketball players come to class on Friday, Ms. Suluki plans to discuss what they learned from their pick-up game with the visiting Secretary of Education. She noticed the boys seemed comfortable enough with their temporary teammate to shove him on the court like any other opponent. “It’s like he’s just a big friend out there to them,” she said.

The final score of Thursday evening’s game: 58-56. Arne and his half of the Mighty Jaguars squad pulled out a victory.

“I love the school spirit here,” he told the crowd after the game. “I love the camaraderie. Hope you guys have a great, great school year.”

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Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach

Memories from Monroe

The “Courage in the Classroom” tour pulled our big blue bus into Monroe, La., on Thursday afternoon. Here’s what we did in town:

Growing Good Habits

Just as there’s promise in a new school year, there’s promise in the sprouts that have popped up through the dirt of the garden at J.S. Clark Magnet School. In time there will be peppers, eggplant and herbs.

Teachers, students and families at J.S. Clark have been embarking on a schoolwide health, nutrition and exercise program. The cafeteria menu has been redesigned to include more whole grains and vegetables, and a registered dietitian teaches healthy habits to students—and adults.

“All of us need to be in better shape,” Principal Christie Taylor said during a roundtable with folks involved in this important initiative.

Memories from Monroe Memories from Monroe


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We Are Family

We got word that the Louisiana Federation of Teachers was having a back-to-school meeting at a Monroe community center, so we rolled on over for a drop-in before heading out of town. This was no ordinary meeting. For one thing, it had a soundtrack. We had a great time with these teachers. See for yourself.


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Recovery Act Helps Upgrade Hamburg High

Recovery Act funds paid for new lighting in the library's media center, along with other school improvements.

Recovery Act funds paid for new lighting in the library's media center, along with other school improvements.

HAMBURG, Ark.—The people of this rural town in southeastern Arkansas will be the first to tell you there aren’t many jobs here, but thanks to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) there have been more jobs lately. More than $1 million in federal stimulus funding has gone into the local schools, Superintendent Max Dyson told us this afternoon.

At Hamburg High School, that investment has meant better lighting in the library’s media center and hallways, new exterior doors and a camera system to improve campus security. To students, the best improvement has been the ARRA-funded upgrades to the school’s bathrooms.

“Kids take care of something that’s nice,” Dyson said. “If they know you took time to improve it, they’re going to be nice to it.”

Hamburg Supt. Max Dyson shows off the high school's improvements to Asst. Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana.

Hamburg Supt. Max Dyson shows off the high school's improvements to Asst. Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana.

 

Hamburg High was built in 1972, an era of flat roofs in school construction. With money from a local school bond, the roof is being raised and replaced, and new classrooms and science labs are being added so that 9th graders can move over from the middle school campus.

These improvement projects have meant work for local contractors in Ashley County, Dyson said, including some with family members in Hamburg’s schools.

“We’ve done a lot with the stimulus money, and we think we would not have been able to have done it if we had not had the money,” Superintendent Dyson said. “Did stimulus money work? Yes, yes, it did.”

Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach

Central High School: Courageous as Ever

Central High School: Courageous as EverLITTLE ROCK—The building of Central High looks almost exactly as it did when the school was built in 1927. The students, however, do not.

Since the “Little Rock Nine” helped integrate Central in 1957, the school has become a mix of more than 2,400 students of various races, socio-economic backgrounds and communities. It is also now regarded as one of America’s top-performing public high schools. In a nation where more than a quarter of students drop out before completing high school, Central High sends 80 percent of its graduates to college.

This morning, in front of the high school’s Art Deco and Collegiate Gothic façade, Secretary Duncan joined Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and state Commissioner of Education Tom Kimbrell to applaud Central’s achievements since its dark days a half century ago when nine African American teenagers were stopped by National Guard troops when they tried to enter the all-white school.

“From that extra tough experience,” Arne said, “a beautiful flower has grown. And if it can happen here, ladies and gentlemen, it can happen anywhere in the country.”
The Secretary, who was born seven years after what they refer to here as “the crisis,” recalled learning about it in school. He told Minnijean Brown Trickey, a “Little Rock Nine” member in today’s audience, “I can’t tell you how much your courage motivated me and motivated so many young people growing up around the country.”

Central High School: Courageous as EverArne’s first meeting on campus was with a group of Central’s teachers in the school’s library. They asked questions about federal education policy and the Obama administration’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which most teachers know as No Child Left Behind. The teachers shared their ideas for improving the law and suggested ways to support a well-rounded curriculum and evaluate teachers.

Arne took this away from their conversation: “For all the progress and success [at the school], nobody is complacent. Nobody is saying, ‘We’ve arrived.’ Everybody’s hungry to get better. And that’s what we have to continue to do as a country. We have to educate our way to a better economy.”

For politicians and policymakers, he told the teachers, “our only job is to support you, to help this country start to recognize how critically important teachers are to our future.”

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Massie Ritsch
Office of Communications & Outreach