Students and Secretary Duncan Talk About Effective Teaching

When I visited the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., recently, I truly felt that my thoughts and opinions made a difference. Joined with students from across the nation and Secretary Arne Duncan, I was able to discuss my thoughts about what makes an effective teacher. 

RaQuan is an A/B student who plays three sports at the S.O.A.R Academy.

The teacher who brought me to Washington, Ms. Coates, has instilled in me that I play an important role in my education. All the work that she and other teachers do on a daily basis is for the future of our country. This year, I have been more involved with my own education and talk more about what’s going on in my school, and about which teachers or programs I enjoy. 

The Student Voice Series was an opportunity for me to share with other students who care about their education. I was excited to hear that other students just like me are talking to their friends, teachers and other people in their communities, about why education is so important to them. Moving into high school next year, I feel I have a better sense of why an education is one of the most valuable things I can earn.

Arne Duncan and several senior staff advisors met with student representatives of the Teaching Ambassador Fellows, State Board of Education, Project Voyce, the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, and DCPS at the Department of Education and through a conference call.

All students across the nation should have the same opportunity I have been able to have, which is to talk about their thoughts and opinions. As a student, I have been given the tools from my teacher to share ideas and talk about how school and teachers are most important to me. Having had this opportunity to engage in educational decision-making has taught me the responsibility of making choices about learning, schooling, and the education system. I better understand that what affects me affects an entire student body, and student perspectives need to be considered when changes in education are made!

RaQuan Moore

RaQuan is an 8th grader at S.O.A.R. Academy in Ashland, Va. His teacher, Lisa Coates, is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow who brought RaQuan to the Department of Education to participate in a monthly conversation series between students and Secretary Duncan


  1. I am appreciative that students’ voices are being included into the educational conversation. So many curriculum decisions, including those concerning the taught, and written curricula, instructional methods and technological teaching tools, classroom policies and practices, etc., are typically made with little to no input from the individuals whose opinions really matter–the students! As indicated in the research, student voice is most effective when students’ perspectives and commentary are actually used in school reform decisions. I personally believe that we should engage students in rich conversations about how they learn best, what has worked to helped them the most in schools, and what has not worked. Particularly for historically marginalized minority populations at the secondary level, it would benefit teachers, school leaders, and policymakers to consult this often untapped resource to get a realistic picture about how their perspective of schooling practices may actually differ from adults within the process. In a time when we know more about what works and what doesn’t work in education, it only seems logical that we must make our students become more audible in the educational conversation. Again, these conversations are of little value unless decisions can be traced back to students’ input.

    For further research in this area, consider the following resources:;
    The works of: Kathleen Cushman, author of “Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for teachers from high school students”, Alison Cook-Sather, Ph.D., Tyrone Howard, Ph.D., Michael Fielding, Ph.D., and others.

  2. Education Reform

    This is the 21st century. Let’s throw out the 20th century curriculum (that apparently isn’t working) and reinvent our school system from the bottom up, the way it will get the most “bang for the buck”.

    Speak to scientists of technology and find out where they see us going in the future to compete with the global market. Then we design a curriculum around what we need for today and the future, not what we needed 100 years ago.

    School will be year round. The day will be split shift. Some students will go to school for ½ the day for hands on learning. Then they will go home with their laptop/ipad to either do online classes or skype sessions for the afternoon. The other ½ of the students have had their online and skype classes in the morning and then attend hands on classes in the afternoon. Same amount of teachers, twice the amount of students (or ½ the amount of students).

    One week breaks at intervals throughout the year. One day during that break each class will pick a community project and will work on that project for that one day as a group (such as picking up a littered park, helping with a pea patch, whatever) to give back to the community and to learn to be good citizens and good people.

    Curriculum and lesson plans will be exactly the same for each grade throughout the USA. If a child moves from California to Washington in the middle of the year, that child will still be using the same textbook, same lesson plan and will not have to spend time catching up with their class. This will also ensure that all children, no matter where they live, or what their family’s income, will have a chance at the exact same education and information as everyone else.

    All basics will be taught K-8. Starting 9th grade most children have an idea what area they want to go into. For instance say a girl wants to work for NASA, then a program will be in place with NASA as to what subjects will be helpful for a future with that program. The same could work for Boeing, or Microsoft or whatever company (even to include our military prep schools or government agencies needing well-educated, focused personnel). Let’s get these businesses to invest in their future employees. Vocational education will also be available for those that want to go into construction, cooking, etc.

    Each child starting from kindergarten will be taught with a laptop or ipad type equipment. This is so they can play to learn. The more fun it is to learn, the more learning is done.

    No more printed textbooks. They are on the laptops. No more bookbags and sore backs. No texting, online games or instant messaging will be allowed on computers.

    There are some things that are not taught in schools and are no longer taught in the home as they used to be. Courtesy, manners, how to be a good person, how to love yourself, positive reinforcement, and citizenship. I also believe that life skills classes, grade level appropriate, be taught all through school. Basics: How to do basic healthy cooking, shopping, simple household repairs, how to check oil in car, how to fill out their yearly taxes and so on.

    If a student has to miss school due to illness, being bullied, vacation or other absence (such as cancer, quadriplegia, etc) it doesn’t mean that they cannot keep up with their class. They would still be able to work at home online and during skype classes. Bullies could be made to study in cubicles alone and studies online would be checked for direction, and would have to attend anger management counseling or classes or some sort of behavior modification with their parent/s.

    Self paced classes so students can feel free to excel in subjects of great interest to them.

    There is no quitting school. If a student wants to drop out of school, they must join the job corp, peace corp, or military to continue contributing as a decent citizen.

    Funding would come from a variety of sources of future employers:
    20% IT community (Microsoft, Apple, Nintendo, Amazon, etc)
    20% DOD (civilians at DOD facilities, CIA, FBI, and the other letters)
    20% NASA/Aeronautics (Boeing, GE, etc)
    20% Vocational (Green builders, green energy, restaurant chains etc)
    20% EMS/Healthcare (Hospitals, medical centers, Fire/EMS and Police SWAT)

    Extra funding could come from wealthy contributors who like to tout how much education means to them. Let’s ask them to put their money where their mouth is and ante up.

    Consider children that don’t want to go home after school. I was one of them. I would rather stay after school as long as they would have me, in the office, helping the teacher, librarian, who ever, just so I didn’t have to go home. Child abuse? Neglect? Great signs for school staff to notice.

    Give our future adults the tools and directions they need to build our future.

    • Any time I think of education, I think of this.
      It is better, and it isn’t science fiction. It just requires hard work on the part of policy makers, with only slightly more work for the administration and teachers. And it requires those that complain the loudest to either put up, or shut up.

      Where is this in the national discussion? Is there a movement for this type of school?

      If you don’t mind, I will be quoting this in the future.

  3. I bet RaQuan has parents who care about education. As a 30 year veteran teacher, I find that to be the most important piece of the equation of effective instruction. It takes teamwork to instill a desire to learn and parents have to play a pivotal role.

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