President Obama Signs the Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans

This Tuesday, I had the great honor of joining President Obama as he signed the executive order on theWhite House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. I shared this special moment with my colleagues, Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education Eduardo Ochoa and Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of English Language Acquisition, Rosalinda Barrera, as well as a number of distinguished Latino leaders.

Before the President took the podium, he was introduced by a young man, Javier Garcia – a chess champion, a wonderful speaker, and a shining example of what’s right with American education today. I’m so excited to be working every day on behalf of students like Javier, to ensure that every single student has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential. The President’s commitment to improving educational outcomes for our Latino students was also incredibly inspiring, and it helped me renew my own dedication to the success of all of our students.

You can watch the video of the event here:

Video: “La universidad: un sueño alcanzable”

Tomorrow, I have the pleasure of speaking at the National Hispanic Education Summit held by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, or ALAS. I spoke at their summit last year, and I’m excited to be able to return on behalf of the Department to spend time with this passionate group of leaders!

To give you a quick preview of my remarks, I want to share this short video, put together by the Department, which profiles a young woman named Samantha Hernandez. Her story demonstrates that college is a very real and attainable dream for our Latino students, and all of our students.

School Turnarounds: Sharing Successes

As we get deeper into the school year, OESE in particular is focusing on supporting schools and districts as they implement turnaround models, using our school improvement grants.

I wanted to share this video of a particularly inspiring example of a successful turnaround school: George C. Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama. OESE’s deputy assistant secretary, Dr. Carl Harris, tells me that he shared this very example at a turnaround event held just yesterday in North Carolina. I think it’s really helpful to share success stories with one another, and to create these communities of practice.

If you have success stories, please do share them with me – email me at

Got A Great Idea?

One of the many interesting parts of my job is to hear from those of you who are out there in the field, especially about all the great work that’s being done in schools. From time to time, we get letters or inquiries from educators, researchers, and other education advocates, sharing with us some interesting curricula or special programs that have worked in their particular school or district. And specifically, they write to ask us, “How can this great idea or program proposal be implemented in schools across the country?

I’ll be the first to say that we are thrilled that so many Americans are passionate about improving public education and want to share their proposals with us. But as you know, education is primarily the responsibility of the State and local governments, and as such, the U.S. Department of Education is prohibited by law from endorsing or recommending particular programs or products to states.

So, as someone who is interested in improving education for all American students, you can do one of a few things. First, you can share your idea or program with your local education officials, whether they are school leaders, district administrators, or someone who works at the state level. Local and state officials can make decisions about programming in schools, so they would be the right point of contact if you are interested in getting your proposal implemented in schools.

The other option is to use something called the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), a tool created by the Department in order to provide educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public with information on what works in education. The WWC provides user-friendly practice guides for educators that address instructional challenges with research-based recommendations for schools and classrooms.  You can visit the WWC website and contact them for information on the possibility of including an evaluation your program on the site.

The Department also sponsors the Doing What Works website (DWW), with the goal of creating an online library of resources that may help teachers, schools, districts, states and technical assistance providers implement research-based instructional practice.  DWW provides examples of possible ways educators might apply the research findings of the WWC and the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Finally, for those of you who have ideas for programs that may not necessarily be research-based,  you can use our Open Innovation Portal, which is an online portal to help create a community where educators, innovators, and other interested individuals can share ideas and best practices. In order to enter the site you will need to register.

Thanks for your dedication to public education, and please keep your ideas coming.

Invest in the future. Inspire a child. TEACH.

Have you heard about our TEACH Campaign yet?

Visit our site. Learn more about how to become a teacher. Listen to stories of inspiring teachers, making a difference in the lives of countless students.

As you know, before I came to Washington, I was a teacher. Each day, I couldn’t wait to get to work. Luckily, I still feel that way — and it’s because to be in the field of education is to wake up each morning knowing that you can forever change someone’s life for the better.

Find out more. Join the TEACH Campaign today.

Providing Support for States and Districts

Recently, the Department held its first meeting with the Race to the Top grant winners. It was wonderful to help welcome delegates from winning states and start rich conversations about implementing each of their plans.

To be sure, implementation is where the real challenge lies for many of the states. We at the Department understand that making such comprehensive reforms is a monumental task, and so one of our top priorities is to ensure that states have the support and technical assistance they need to make their plans successful.

In fact, this support for states, districts, and schools has been our priority in OESE this past year, not just for Race to the Top but for all of our grant programs. I know from my experience as superintendent that high quality technical assistance and support from the federal level is essential in order to make and sustain improvements among our students. That’s why the Department will continue its emphasis on this support, through technical assistance, shared models, and open dialogue. We want to truly become partners with states and districts in the important work of improving educational outcomes for students. And we encourage all of you to get in touch with any suggestions on how we can better do this – e-mail me at with your ideas.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Today, I’m headed just a few blocks over to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take part in their Hispanic Heritage Month Observance ceremony. The theme of this year’s observance is “Heritage, Diversity, Integrity and Honor: The Renewed Hope of America.” It’s an honor for me to take part in such a celebration, to mark the many contributions that Hispanic and Latinos have made to this country.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is important to me, both for personal and professional reasons. My parents, who were born in Mexico, have instilled in me a deep respect for my heritage. My family always placed a huge emphasis on education, and their sacrifices on my behalf have made it possible for me to be where I am today.

This is why I’m so proud and so excited to be working in this Administration. I get up in the morning fired up about the opportunity to revitalize and move forward America’s education reform agenda – both for the Latino community and the nation as a whole.  Our success as a country depends on the success of our children, and I urge you to join us in this movement to offer a world-class education for all of our students.

Dr. Meléndez