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High-Performing Schools

I’ve made clear in this blog and in my other communications that we are focused and committed to helping states and districts improve their persistently lowest-performing schools.  Perhaps because of this, we’ve received quite a few questions about what this Administration is doing for those high-performing schools in the country.

Our Blueprint for Reform, or our proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), actually has quite a few things to say about supporting and rewarding high-performing schools, in addition to our investment in low-performing ones.


Today's Superintendent Call and Webinar

I just finished a wonderful Superintendent Call and Webinar with our community of superintendents. Thank you to all who joined us for the call. I want to especially thank Secretary Duncan, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and Assistant Superintendent Nikolai Vitti for helping to lead the call.

The conference call was recorded, and will be available for replay for the next month. If you missed the call, you can listen in by dialing the following number: 888.566.0041.

In addition, I know some of you weren't able to get to the webinar, so I'm attaching a copy of the PowerPoint presentation here. I hope this is helpful to you, and I look forward to speaking to you again during our next call.

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Support for English Learners

If you’ve ever heard me speak at an event, you’ve probably heard me talking about growing up as an English learner, and how those experiences helped shaped who I am today. I’ve spent my career working with English learners and tackling issues of English language and literacy, and I’ve been passionate about putting these experiences to work in my current position at the Department.

Recently, the Department publicly shared its proposal to use the Enhanced Assessment Grants Program for developing an assessment for English language proficiency, and we’re seeking public comments on this proposal until February 7. We’re seeking to fund projects that will develop an English language proficiency assessment that’s based on standards that are aligned to a common set of career and college-ready standards – something our field really needs!  I’ll be speaking about this and other means of EL support at the Virginia ESL Supervisors Association Conference this evening in Richmond, VA.

I’m looking forward to moving forward with this program and seeing how we as a community of educators can best support our ELs.

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Highlighting Technical Assistance at the National Title I Conference

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of leading a technical assistance (TA) session at the National Title I Conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to sharing information on OESE’s TA plan and the changes we are making at the Department to better support states and districts, we also featured a “Response Panel” of three state directors at the session. The panel provided some immediate feedback on my TA presentation, offered suggestions for OESE on further improving TA, and discussed how, as state directors, they are rethinking TA themselves to support their local districts and staff.

One of the concrete tools I shared with all the participants of the session was the rubric we created to honestly assess ourselves on the quality and effectiveness of our TA. It was so great to hear reactions from panelists on the rubric – several said they wanted to develop something similar in their own states! That signals to me that we are on the right track in shifting our mindset within OESE to emphasize support for those on the ground, and I know we have big plans ahead as we continue to implement our TA plan.

In addition to the TA session, I also gave brief remarks at the Opening Session of the conference, which a local radio station covered here. They even posted a YouTube clip of the end of my speech, which you can watch below:


Superintendent Resources

If you are a Superintendent, there’s a good chance that you may have received an invitation from me for a Superintendent Call/Webinar in February. I’m really excited about this event, as we’ll have some special guests – including Secretary Duncan – to discuss hot topics Superintendents are dealing with on a day to day basis.

If you haven’t received this invitation from me and want to join our Superintendent call, please let me know by emailing me at Please note that this call is only for Superintendents and/or their staff members.

In addition, we published our January issue of the Superintendent Monthly last week. I hope the issue provided some helpful information for all of you. To read the issue online, visit our Superintendent Monthly page here.

I look forward to speaking with you soon!

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Responding to Your Questions: Student Edition

We love to hear from students around the country, and recently, we’ve been receiving a lot of questions about the length of the school day and school year from our young students.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan support a longer school day and school year to give children more time to learn and master their subjects so that they can be fully prepared to compete with students from other countries for jobs when they grow up.  In many other countries, students attend school year-round and have school days that are longer than those here in the U.S. 

Many of our youngest readers may be happy to know that while the President and the Secretary can recommend that states extend the school year, they do not have the power to make the school year longer.  In the United States, the majority of decisions about education are made by State and local governments. So, if you have concerns about school day length, I encourage you to contact your State Department of Education. I'm sure they would love to hear from you!

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Celebrating Great Schools in the New Year

Dr. Melendez greets a student speaker at the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center.

Dr. Melendez speaks to a young student at the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center (ECFLC).  Read more about Dr. Melendez' visit to the ECFLC in the Times-Picayune.

I went on my first work trip of 2011 to the wonderful city of New Orleans last week. On Friday the 14th, I spent some time at an early learning school: the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center (ECFLC). Not only did I get to do a tour of the school, but I also was able to spend some time with the Louisiana State Literacy Team, as they were doing a visit of the Center and holding their meeting at the school that same day. Walking around the Center and meeting with its staff and students provided all of us visitors an opportunity to think about what a comprehensive literacy plan starting at birth could —and should – look like. I left the school energized and inspired, and I hope the State Literacy Team felt the same way.

I also visited the Warren Easton High School, which has such a great history behind it as the state’s oldest public high school. The school reopened as a charter school after Hurricane Katrina, but still faced tremendous trials and struggles. The staff members, in conjunction with support from the community, are working hard to rebuild and reform the school to ensure that all its students are on track for academic success.

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season and a happy, healthy New Year!


December Issue of School Turnaround Newsletter

School Turnaround Newsletter - December 2010I have another resource to share with all of you today -- the December 2010 issue of our School Turnaround Newsletter. This issue features an innovative parent-teacher partnership model in Arizona as well as district strategies for turning around multiple schools. I hope you find the information helpful!

If you've missed previous issues of the School Turnaround Newsletter, you can find it on our School Turnaround Newsletter page here. I encourage you to let me know if you find these resources helpful in your work with school turnarounds, or if there are other ways that we at the Department can help support you.

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A New Resource - Superintendent Monthly

We recently launched a new resource for superintendents: the Superintendent Monthly, a regular e-newsletter directly from OESE that shares timely and relevant information on the Department, grants, policies, and upcoming events.

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