Five days, four states and more than 1,100 miles later, the Strong Start, Bright Future, back-to-school bus tour came to a close last Friday at Castle Park Middle School in Chula Vista, Calif. Greeted by a Mariachi band, giant “Arne posters,” and hundreds of cheering students, Duncan arrived at Castle Park and took part in a school-wide pep rally.
Following the pep rally, Duncan joined local school officials, education stakeholders and community leaders to talk about Promise Neighborhoods, which focuses on cradle-to-career initiatives that call on the entire community to provide comprehensive place-based supports such as high quality early learning, rich after-school activities, and crime prevention. Following the town hall, Department staff continued the dialogue with with community participants.
Since receiving a Promise Neighborhood grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Castle Park has a nearly 100% attendance rate, improved scores in core subject areas, and all students are in algebra by 8th grade.
During the event, Secretary Duncan also gave a recap of his back-to-school tour, and what the key takeaways have been for him.
“We have seen firsthand how courageous educators, committed parents, and caring communities are pulling together to tackle tough educational challenges,” he said. “Successful solutions and effective innovation inevitably originated at the local level, not in Washington.
Tough problems, like turning around persistently low-performing schools, require collaborative, comprehensive solutions that threaten the status quo.
Tough challenges force people out of their traditional silos and push them beyond their comfort zones. That takes courage—and a commitment to doing what works.
In the end, it takes a community to provide a world-class education. It takes outstanding principals, great teachers, high-quality preschool, after-school tutoring, arts, and sports programs, affordable health care providers, and accessible community recreation centers.
And by the same token, it is also true that no community ultimately succeeds without a good school at its center. The single surest path out of poverty today is still a great school.
Secretary Duncan wraps up the last day of the tour in the video below, but at Castle Park he noted that after four bus tours, “I never finish a bus tour without being reminded of the ingenuity and commitment and passion of our teachers and students for an education.”
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and blogged and tweeted his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.