Secretary Duncan: “Finally a Fix to No Child Left Behind”

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Summary: The Every Child Succeeds Act, the bipartisan bill to revise and revamp No Child Left Behind, passes the House with bipartisan support.

Yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent the message below to the White House email list, telling people about the progress made to revise & replace No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act will reduce over-testing and one-size-fits all mandates for schools across the country.

Didn’t get the email? Sign up for updates here.

If you’re like me, you probably dread an overdue notice, whether it’s for registering your car or returning a library book. For nearly a decade, our national K-12 education law has been overdue for revision, and parents, teachers and students across the country have made it clear that it is time for a reboot.

Over that period of time, America’s fourth graders became today’s high school seniors — ready to graduate and embrace a bright future. The students who come behind them deserve a better law focused on one clear goal of fully preparing them for success in college and future careers.

Although well-intended, the No Child Left Behind Act — the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — has long been broken. We can no longer afford that law’s one-size-fits-all approach, uneven standards, and low expectations for our educational system. That’s why, early on, President Obama and I joined educators and families calling on Congress to fix its flaws in this outdated law.

When Congress didn’t act, we did — providing relief from the most onerous elements of the law for states and school districts willing to embrace reform.

But yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives finally answered the overdue notice and took action to revise and replace No Child Left Behind. This bipartisan plan — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — is good news for our nation’s schools. It is a compromise that builds on the work already underway in states to raise expectations for students and to help them graduate college and career-ready. The bill reflects many of the priorities we’ve put forward over the last six and a half years.

See how far we’ve come since 2009.

Today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. That’s thanks to educators across the country.

ESSA will help cement that progress. All students will be taught to high learning standards that will prepare them for success in college and career. More children will have access to high-quality preschool, delivering educational opportunity earlier for our nation’s youngest learners.


Educators will have more flexibility and support to develop their own systems for improving schools. However, ESSA maintains critical guardrails, especially for the schools and groups of students that are furthest behind.

And with new resources for states to review and reduce the burden of standardized testing, ESSA will enable a smarter approach to eliminating unnecessary tests so that teachers can spend more time ensuring that all students are learning, while still following their progress each academic year and providing critical information for parents about their child’s performance.

As the President has said, education is the civil rights issue of our time. Every American deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, so every child in America — regardless of zip code — deserves a fair shot at a great education. I hope the Senate acts swiftly, so we can all move forward on behalf of our nation’s children.



Moving Innovation in Education Forward


This post originially appeared on Medium.

Start-ups are one of the most exciting parts of today’s economy. Local leaders across the country are racing to build economies that foster entrepreneurship, experimentation and innovation. Yet in public education, we routinely struggle to lean into educators’ innovative instincts. What if we celebrated great schools the same way that we celebrate great start-ups? What if we thought of educators in the same way that we look up to leading innovators? To galvanize education leaders, the Department of Education is partnering with Medium to launch a series of conversations centered on innovation and education. We will hear from educators, thought leaders from education and technology, and many other innovators who are affecting change across our country.

They may not be household names like Elon Musk or Sheryl Sandberg, but throughout the country, public education innovators are inspiring fellow educators and improving education for America’s students. There are innovators like Scott Given at UP Education Network, who is launching new public schools that are quadrupling students’ proficiency levels; or Mora Segalat Achievement Network, who spends her days helping educators understand and employ high-quality standards and practices that address the unique needs of their students. These folks — and the countless other educators who stretch the limits, and make us rethink what’s possible in student achievement — are leading efforts to transform students’ lives. And yet the fanfare given to innovative educators is nowhere close to the attention that start-ups receive. As a nation, we expend tremendous time, capital and talent into finding the next great business idea, but too often we overlook the important innovations happening in our own schools, in our own communities. But what if we prized the ingenuity and creativity of our teachers and schools the same way we do for entrepreneurs and start-ups?

arne2First, we would all readily know the names of incredible educators leading dramatic gains in students’ achievement. Cities and communities would compete to attract and retain great educators. And we would talk about the schools where these educators work like we talk about sports teams. We would say to each other, “Did you see that students at IDEA schools have had 100 percent college acceptance for nine straight years? How do they do that?” We would recognize that for every problem we face in education there is someone in America — right now — who is actually solving it. We need to lift these people up, celebrate their success and learn what they are doing to enable such transformation.

Second, there would be fierce competition to invest plentiful resources in educators and schools. Funders, cities, and companies would provide facilities, training, and resources for educators to attempt new and innovative methods. When these new methods demonstrate success, public and private funders alike would elbow their way to the front of the pack to make large investments to scale across schools and communities. And if a new model did not produce better outcomes, we would push ourselves to understand why and apply these lessons to a new iteration. Our own experience indicates that educators are hungry for financial support that enables innovation — and that they’re willing to take an honest look in the mirror to understand their impact: In 2010, the Department launched the Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program; over the last five grant cycles, we received over 4,000 applications for just 143 grants. Each of these organizations commits to rigorously measuring its results so that it can learn from the experience — and share its learnings with others. While the demand is clear, there are currently insufficient Federal and private-sector resources that support education innovation.

Finally, we would dedicate ourselves to creating and sustaining large-scale innovation that fundamentally and dramatically improves educational outcomes for our most disadvantaged students. In the entrepreneurial ecosystem, when the status quo is failing, someone creates a new model. Sharing economy startups, for example, are helping small businesses and individuals access office space, lodging, and transportation; and crowdfunding start-ups are helping raise money for entrepreneurs who may not access conventional sources of funds. Too often in education, we rely on models that are failing students, especially our most vulnerable. We need to change this by investing in models that are proven to work for our most disadvantaged students. One example is Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschoolin Chula Vista, California. The Mi Escuelita program is helping children who have experienced family violence enter kindergarten at equal or sometimes higher levels of school readiness than their non-trauma-exposed peers.

Although we are proud and excited to launch a discussion on innovation in education through our partnership with Medium, these success stories can’t just live online. We need your voice and your action on the ground. There are pockets — such as Tennessee’s iZone schools and 4.0 Schools — where individuals and communities are taking innovation seriously, both in thought and in resources. But there is potential everywhere. Please join the conversation by using the tag “i3” to share your thoughts and stories about innovation in education. We all must take a hard look at our own communities and demand that all our educators have the financial and political support necessary to create transformational improvements in student achievement.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.

The Impact of Teach to Lead

Across the county, teachers are working to solve some of the biggest challenges facing education today. They do this work in their classrooms with students, in their schools and professional associations, and—increasingly—in collaboration with other educators who seek opportunities to lead the transformation of teaching and learning and to have a voice in the development of policies that affect their profession. On September 26-27, the Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) will offer a forum for educators to transform their best ideas into actionable plans by bringing together 29 educator-led teams in Tacoma, Wash., for Teach to Lead’s sixth summit.

Teach to Lead started as an idea in March 2014 to recognize the importance of—and challenges faced by—teachers, and to advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, especially those that allow teachers to stay in the classroom. Today, Teach to Lead has received a groundswell of interest from teachers around the country.

Over the past 18 months, educators have submitted more than 560 ideas for expanding teacher leadership through Teach to Lead, from Hawaii to Florida and Maine to Alaska. And nearly 200 teacher-driven action plans—developed through the Teach to Lead network and with the support of key stakeholders—are being implemented by educators at the school, district, and state levels. What’s also encouraging is that 85 organizations are committed to supporting and sustaining the work of teachers engaged with Teach to Lead across the country.

Summits are an opportunity to help spotlight and advance the groundbreaking, teacher-led work happening in states, districts, and schools. Teachers have gathered in Louisville, Ky.; Denver; Boston; and Washington, DC. For the educators who join Teach to Lead’s summits, 91 percent report that they plan to stay in touch with people they meet at the summits to share promising practices and successes. And through in-person and virtual settings, Teach to Lead has connected more than 4,000 educators, creating a large network of professional support.

At the Tacoma, Wash., summit, teams of educators and supporter organizations will work over two days to translate more than 160 ideas into concrete plans that educators can take back to their districts and schools. Some of the educator-led teams will focus on issues such as aligning professional development with project-based learning in classrooms; integrating English language learning concepts into daily teaching practices; and developing programs to expand parent and community involvement in education.

There has never been a more critical time to recognize the importance of meaningful teacher voice in decisions that are made in schools, districts, and states. Earlier this month during the Department of Education’s annual back-to-school bus tour, I visited with teacher leaders at Roosevelt Middle School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What I saw there was nothing short of revolutionary. The state is in its second year of implementing a statewide system of teacher leadership that allows teachers to lead from the classroom and honors that leadership with greater compensation. These leadership positons are developed by local stakeholders and cooperatively staffed by teacher and administrative selection teams. I heard directly from teachers and principals about the impact that teacher leadership is having on their practice. Iowa is leading the nation when it comes to building strong models for teacher leadership.

We know that attracting and retaining effective educators in our classrooms is one of the most critical challenges that high-need schools face. We also have seen that when teachers are given the opportunity to lead, with autonomy, time, and a real voice in decision-making, the results can be remarkable and lead to increased learning outcomes for students.

A recent Los Angeles Times article highlighted Mission High School in San Francisco and the impact that the school’s teacher-supported and led initiatives has had on teachers and students. Mission High School has been able to address teacher retention through teacher supports, such as building in time where teachers can plan lessons together and design assessments that measure a broad range of skills critical for students to master.

Teachers also have created action groups where they review data and investigate the root causes of achievement gaps. These groups then create action plans to address the gaps. Graduation rates at Mission High have gone from among the lowest in the district, at 60 percent, to more than 80 percent. In 2013, Mission High’s graduation rate for African-American students was 20 percent higher than the district average.

I’m encouraged to see the progress at Mission High School, the work of teacher leadership in Iowa, and the many projects Teach to Lead has helped to support. The impact of teacher leadership is powerful and we must continue to find ways to support, highlight, and finance these efforts across the county. When teachers are given the opportunity and space to lead, the results are extraordinary.

What we know from the past five Teach to Lead summits is that teachers have some of the best ideas to solve many of the biggest challenges facing education. It’s our job to keep asking teachers, what do you need, and how can we work together? For more information, please visit:

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.

New Orleans: An Unfinished Story

This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

The story of rebirth in New Orleans’ schools since Hurricane Katrina is one of nationally historic significance – but as is true of the city’s recovery, it is a profoundly unfinished story.

As residents of the area know too well, the devastation of the hurricane wasn’t merely an accident of weather and geography. As others have observed, the abandonment of New Orleans’ people began not when they were calling for help from their rooftops, amid sudden national attention, but throughout decades leading up to that moment.

The same can be said for New Orleans’ schools. It is a painful understatement to say that students and families deserved better than what they had in 2005. Math and reading achievement at Orleans Parish public schools ranked second-to-last in the state. Barely half of high school students graduated on time. For low-income and minority students, prospects were particularly bleak.

After the flood subsided, the New Orleans community courageously set out to break with the past and build a set of schools worthy of the city’s children. They dedicated themselves to creating schools that honored the city’s rich traditions and history, and prepares every student for college and the careers of today’s world.

The story of change since then offers lessons that educators everywhere cannot afford to ignore. To the enormous credit of the city’s educators, families, students and leaders, New Orleans has made strides rarely seen in this country. Graduation rates are up 19 percentage points since the hurricane. The “failing schools” label is nearly gone. Expulsions are down nearly 14 percent, amid a new push for restorative justice practices – which aim to develop reflection, communication and empathy. And, as former Louisiana senator and New Orleans native Mary Landrieu noted in a recent commentary, “most importantly, African American students in New Orleans have gone from the lowest performing in the state in 2004 to 5 points above the state average for all African American students today.” New Orleanians should be proud of what they have accomplished.

As I’ve visited the city in recent years, I’ve seen the rebirth firsthand. Buildings damaged beyond repair have been replaced by bright, colorful, creative learning spaces. From chef’s kitchens and school gardens to Advanced Placement robotics courses, schools are making learning real for students.

Despite the massive, painful impact of the hurricane on families and educators, the community is making rebirth a reality.

Yet, as Senator Landrieu writes, we must not confuse progress with success. Similarly, my friend Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans, said the decade anniversary of Katrina must be a moment of taking stock, saying, “Give yourself some check marks and then, on the other side of the paper, say ‘Here are some things we really have to confront as a city.'”

Things like the fact that success is not equally shared for all children. Today, 18 percent of all youth aged 16-24 in New Orleans are neither working nor in school. That’s more than 26,000 young people. Only two other metropolitan areas – Memphis and Las Vegas – have higher percentages.

Educational opportunity has improved enormously, but is still not nearly consistent enough. And teachers have told me that, despite the years and the progress, they still contend with students’ trauma of disaster and dislocation.

What gives me enormous heart about what’s happening in New Orleans is the unflagging spirit of educators, families and leaders to continue to make changes to build the schools their students deserve.

Take, for example, Sabrina Pence, principal of Arthur Ashe Charter School. Ashe once had the lowest fourth-grade scores in the city. The school was under academic watch.

But Sabrina knew kids at Ashe could succeed. Today, the students at Ashe learn like never before. Sabrina implemented personalized learning projects, using technology to customize lessons for individual students and raise achievement for all. With computer-assisted instruction at work in their classrooms, teachers have information about student progress at their fingertips, so they can tailor future learning and assignments.

The hard work is starting to pay off: in 2012, the school boasted the Recovery School District’s highest eighth-grade math achievement. In 2013, Ashe had the District’s highest eighth-grade English achievement.

Likewise, in many schools, teachers are engaged as leaders working side-by-side with administrators, disseminating professional development resources to colleagues and even sharing bus routes.

Many teachers also are leading efforts in their schools to provide students with wraparound services, through partnerships with hospitals and nonprofit organizations. Responding to community feedback, education leaders are working to forge a common enrollment process to ensure that it becomes a more transparent and simpler experience for families in both charter and district schools, and the District and individual public charter schools are beginning to rethink discipline strategies.

These efforts, and many others, are needed to ensure that every student and family has access to strong schools.

As New Orleans’ schools and leaders move forward with innovative and exciting new models, they must not lose touch with the city’s communities and history. For every inspiring school leader that has emerged, there also are stories of teachers who were displaced after Hurricane Katrina; and thousands of teachers – more than half of whom were African-American – lost their jobs in the aftermath of the storm and amid the District’s restructuring.

It’s vital for the city’s educators to reflect the backgrounds of the students they teach, and it’s encouraging that the city’s teaching force is demonstrating diversity. It’s also critical for teachers and school leaders to forge strong connections with the community and to provide children with culturally responsive learning experiences that help them see how their education can prepare them to succeed in New Orleans and beyond.

As the people of New Orleans reflect on the last ten years, I join with them in remembering the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and in honoring the hard work that has made progress possible. Louisiana Superintendent John White got it right when he said the anniversary of the storm is not only about “how much New Orleans has improved life opportunity for its children, but also how much is left to be done.”

The promise of New Orleans is in the potential of its children and the indestructible spirit of the community. I thank everyone who supports and nurtures New Orleans’ rebirth, every day.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

100,000 Children in Over 200 Communities in 18 States Could Lose High-Quality Preschool Under the 2016 House and Senate Spending Bills

Budgets should never just be numbers on a piece of paper; they reflect our values. As the Vice President often says, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you actually value.

One thing we should all value is the high-quality early learning opportunities that are critical when it comes to helping students to succeed in school and ultimately in life. This is true for all of our young people, but especially, especially for those who come from low-income families and who also often start kindergarten between a year and 14 months behind their peers in pre-readings and language skills. So that means of the children who start school this fall, far too many are already a year to 14 months behind.

Unfortunately, the House and Senate are moving forward with partisan spending bills that cut several critically important investments that will support our country’s economic success and expand the opportunity for all, including our Preschool Development Grants. Right now, this grant is helping more than 200 high-need communities in 18 states to build and expand high-quality preschools. In fact, tens of thousands of additional children from low- and moderate-income families will start school in high-quality preschool programs this fall, thanks to these grants.

This week, the Administration released a Fact Sheet that shows by cutting this funding, as the spending bills currently do, Congress jeopardizes state and community plans to serve more than 100,000 additional children in high-quality preschools in the last two years of the grants. Real hard-working American families and their children would suffer. What we need is just a simple common sense approach to the budget, one that reflects the great work is already happening in states – red and blue, Republican and Democrat – across the nation to increase access to high-quality early learning.

Governors across the country, regardless of their party, are ready to join a partnership with the federal government, to invest more and provide high-quality preschool to children who need it and families who want it. President Obama’s proposal outlines how this can be done by calling for the expansion of preschool development grant to serve more than 350,000 additional children over four years.

These grants require a true partnership. Everyone must have skin in the game, with states and community organizations pledging additional matching funds on top of the federal grant, embodying the shared commitment needed to support our youngest learners. Under the President’s budget, states without Preschool Development Grants – states where there’s real need like Mississippi and Georgia and Ohio – could move forward with high-quality preschool.

Sadly, there remains a tremendous unmet need for high-quality preschool. Thirty-six states applied for the grant last year. Yet, we only have funds to support half of those proposals. But if we had the funding in place to award a grant to each state that applied, about 285,000 more preschoolers could have been served over four years.

Today, nationwide, less than half of our four-year-olds are enrolled in a publically-funded preschool program. This simply isn’t acceptable. We cannot succeed in a 21st-century globally competitive economy if we continue to short-change our students, particularly those who start out life in the most vulnerable situation. When it comes to ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed, we still have a long, long way to go. Investing in high-quality early learning would be a great start and a life-transforming experience.

Its right for our students, their families, and it’s right for our nation. States like New Jersey, Montana, Alabama and Hawaii are moving forward with more access to high-quality preschool and preparing our children for the future. It’s something that should and does concern all of us.

We simply cannot roll back on a progress we’ve made for our younger students, something the House and Senate budget would absolutely do. Instead, we must work together and forge ahead on our shared goal of equipping our babies with a world-class education starting with high-quality preschool.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

Start Now, to Start the School Year Right

Three children in the classroom.In communities and homes all across the country, change is in the air, and families are thinking about back-to-school season. There are lots of ways to gear up for a great school year.

Sometimes the whole neighborhood plays a part! For example, this past weekend, my hometown of Chicago hosted an 86-year tradition: the largest back-to-school parade in the country. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and their neighbors took to the streets with marching bands, floats and special activities to celebrate the last few weeks of summer and get the word out about the new school year.

“Now is the time for parents and kids to start getting set for success in the classroom.”
Arne Duncan

But even if there’s no parade or back-to-school block party in your area, now is still a great time for parents and kids to start getting set for success in the classroom. Here are some things you can do now, and in the weeks ahead:

Start adjusting early. Start bringing meal times, bed times, and morning routines back in line with the school year schedule. Reading before bedtime, getting enough sleep, and having a reliable weekday routine: all these activities contribute to a student’s readiness to do well in school from day one.

Brush up on skills and complete any summer assignments. Take time together for refresher activities like practicing math facts or playing math games. Also, many schools send home summer activities, like math packets or reading lists, or post them on their website. Look through these together and make sure all assignments are completed.

Make a back-to-school to-do list, and start checking off tasks. With less than a month to go, create a plan to take care of everything that’s needed for a great first day of school. This includes scheduling any remaining health check-ups including dental and vision screenings, contacting the school with any questions, completing all necessary forms, taking care of any insurance, meal plan and enrollment requirements, as well as stocking up on supplies, clothes and other back-to-school gear.

Plan a learning adventure. Do something fun together that’s focused on learning, whether indoors or out: from a kitchen craft project or backyard science experiment, to a trip to the library or a museum. Our minds are like muscles: help get them warmed up for academic success.

Help to beautify your school. This month, many schools will host events to get their buildings looking great for the first day, from planting flowers and picking up trash in the schoolyard, to painting walls and cleaning classrooms. It’s a great way to learn about service together and help create a welcoming environment for the whole school community. If your school doesn’t have a beautification day, ask whether there other ways you can help teachers and school staff prepare.

Make space for study and creativity. Identify a quiet place for your child to do homework. Set aside space to post school schedules and assignments, classwork, art, projects, and report cards, as well as messages and milestones.

Set some clear, achievable goals for the year. By setting and meeting academic goals, students do more than improve their performance in school – they also gain confidence, motivation, and pride in their accomplishments. Help your child set some clear goals, like improving math or vocabulary, along with timeframes and clear steps for reaching them. Write them down, post them, and check progress regularly.

Get connected and stay in touch. Parents who are active and engaged with their child’s school are a key ingredient to helping their kids thrive. Here are just some things parents can do:

  • Reach out to your school, and get to know your child’s teachers. Let them know the best ways to contact you, and that you’re ready to work closely with them to help your child succeed.
  • Start a calendar for parent-teacher conferences and school events, and to check in regularly with your child’s teachers throughout the year.
  • Plan ways to keep track of your child’s subjects, grades and progress, help with homework, and provide support throughout the year. Agree to talk often together about what’s happening at school, what your child is learning, what she enjoys and where she might need help.
  • Consider serving on your local parent-teacher organization, or joining in other activities that help support great teaching and learning.
  • Check out our month-by-month toolkit at:

Talk about what to expect and focus on skills for life. Each student is different: some kids love back-to-school time; others have concerns or questions. Each new school year means transitions – to a new grade, classroom, or school building. In case of any back-to-school jitters: take time to remember the highlights from last year, and point out things to look forward to this year. As a parent, you can share memories of your own school experiences – including favorite teachers, field trips, subjects and activities – as well as lessons learned. Most of all, help your child build the skills that make for long-term success in life, like flexibility and open-mindedness, persistence, and a positive attitude.

Working together, parents and children can help make sure the new school year is filled with progress, achievement and the wonder of learning. Let’s make it a year worth celebrating, for every child.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Comencemos ahora para comenzar el año escolar bien

Three children in the classroom.

En las comunidades y hogares de todo el país, se siente el cambio en el aire, y las familias están pensando en el regreso a clases. Hay un montón de maneras de prepararse para un gran año escolar.

A veces todo el vecindario tiene un papel que jugar. Por ejemplo, este fin de semana pasado, mi ciudad natal de Chicago celebró una tradición de 86 años —el desfile de regreso a clases más grande del país. Cientos de estudiantes, padres, profesores y vecinos salieron a la calle con bandas de música, carrozas y actividades especiales para celebrar las últimas semanas del verano y anunciar el nuevo año escolar.

“Ahora es el momento para que padres y niños se empiecen a preparar para el éxito en el aula.”
Arne Duncan

Pero aun si no hay desfile o celebración de regreso a clases en su barrio, ahora todavía es un gran momento para que padres y chicos se preparen para el éxito en el aula. Aquí hay algunas cosas que usted puede hacer ahora, y en las próximas semanas:

Comience a hacer cambios. Comience a cambiar la hora de la comida, de ir a la cama, y rutina mañanera que sigue durante el año escolar. Leer antes de acostarse, dormir lo suficiente, y tener una rutina fiable de lunes a viernes, son las actividades que contribuyen para preparar al estudiante a triunfar en la escuela desde el primer día.

Afine las habilidades y complete cualquier tarea de verano. Pasen tiempo junto en actividades de perfeccionamiento, tal como practicar las tablas matemáticas y juegos de matemática. Además, muchas escuelas envían a casa actividades de aprendizaje durante el verano, incluso tareas de matemática y listas de lectura, o los cuelgan en su sitio web. Revisen juntos tales actividades y asegúrese de que todas las tareas se han completado.

Haga una lista de quehaceres para el regreso a la escuela, y empiece a tachar los ya cumplidos. Con menos de un mes para el regreso a clases, prepare un plan para hacer todo lo necesario para que su hijo esté completamente preparado el primer día de clases. Esto incluye programar chequeos de salud pendientes, incluyendo exámenes dentales y de visión; contactar a la escuela si tiene alguna pregunta, completar todos los formularios necesarios, obtener cualquier seguro requerido, planear la alimentación y requisitos de la matrícula, y abastecer todos los suministros, ropa y útiles escolares.

Planee una aventura de aprendizaje. Haga una actividad divertida que se enfoque en el aprendizaje, ya sea dentro o fuera de casa: tal como un proyecto de arte en la cocina o un experimento científico en el patio, hasta una excursión a la biblioteca o al museo. La mente es como los músculos, hay que ejercitarla (para que esté lista y fuerte) para el éxito académico.

Ayude a remozar su escuela. Este mes, muchas escuelas tendrán eventos para que las instalaciones se vean bien (estén limpias, lindas y listas) para el primer día de clases, desde sembrar flores en los jardines y recoger la basura del patio de la escuela, hasta pintar paredes, y limpiar las aulas. Es una gran manera de colaborar para crear un ambiente acogedor para toda la comunidad escolar. Si su escuela no tiene un día de mejoramiento, pregunte si hay otras maneras de ayudar a prepararse a los maestros y al personal de la escuela.

Haga un espacio para el estudio y la creatividad. Escoja un lugar tranquilo para que su hijo haga las tareas. Separe un espacio para colgar los horarios escolares y tareas, trabajos de clase, arte, proyectos y calificaciones, así como los mensajes y logros.

Ponga metas claras y realistas para el año. Cuando se les ponen metas académicas, los estudiantes hacen más que mejorar su rendimiento académico, y ganan confianza, motivación y orgullo en sus logros. Ayude a su hijo a establecer objetivos claros, tal como mejorar en matemática o en vocabulario, junto con plazos y pasos claros para lograrlos. Escríbalas, cuélguelas, y mida el progreso con regularidad.

Conéctese y manténgase en contacto. Los padres que se involucran activamente en la escuela son un ingrediente clave para ayudar a que sus hijos prosperen. Éstas son sólo algunas cosas que los padres pueden hacer:

  • Visite la escuela y conozca los maestrosde su hijo. Dígales cómo pueden contactarse con usted y que usted está listo para colaborar apegado con ellos en la educación y el éxito de su hijo.
  • Establezca un calendario para reuniones entre padres y maestros, eventos escolares, y para hablar a menudo con los maestros de su hijo durante todo el año.
  • Haga un plan par dar seguimiento a las asignaturas, las calificaciones y el progreso de su hijo, ayúdele con la tarea, y déle apoyo durante todo el año. Hablen con frecuencia juntos sobre lo que pasa en la escuela, lo que su hijo está aprendiendo, lo que le gusta y en qué necesite ayuda.
  • Considere servir en su organización local de padres y maestros, o participe en otras actividades que den apoyo a la buena enseñanza y aprendizaje.
  • Revise nuestra guía de mes a mes en:

Hable sobre las expectativas y céntrese en las destrezas de por vida. Cada estudiante es diferente, ya que a algunos niños les encanta la temporada de regresar a la escuela, mientras otros tienen preocupaciones o preguntas. Cada nuevo año escolar es una transición —a un nuevo grado, aula, o edificio de la escuela. En caso de nerviosismo por el regreso a la escuela, tome tiempo para recordar los aspectos más destacados del año pasado, y señale las cosas buenas que vendrán con el nuevo año. Como padre, usted puede compartir los recuerdos de sus propias experiencias escolares, incluido sus maestros favoritos, excursiones, asignaturas, actividades, y lecciones aprendidas. Sobre todo, ayude a su niño a adquirir las habilidades necesarias para el éxito duradero en la vida, tal como ser flexible y mantener una mente abierta, persistente, y tener una actitud positiva.

Trabajando juntos, padres y niños, pueden ayudar a asegurar que el nuevo año escolar esté lleno de progreso, aprovechamiento y lleno de las maravillas del aprendizaje. Hagamos que sea un año que valga la pena celebrarlo para todos los niños.

Arne Duncan es el secretario de Educación de EE.UU.

Teach to Lead: Looking Back, Moving Forward

On July 26th, the education community will celebrate the life of Ron Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, who passed away after a battle with lung cancer.

I will always remember Ron as a relentless and unabashed supporter of the teaching profession. He championed the value of teachers’ expertise and experience, arguing passionately that teachers should be recruited, prepared, developed, paid and honored as the professionals that they are.

Ron was also a tremendous partner to me and to hundreds of teachers in developing and growing the Teach to Lead initiative. In the wake of his recent passing, it’s fitting to honor one part of his legacy by celebrating the significant impact Teach to Lead is making on teachers.

We announced Teach to Lead at a plenary session at the Teaching & Learning Conference in March 2014 as an idea. We followed that announcement with a panel discussion with teacher leaders who were candid about the challenges they faced. Citing the nation’s progress in addressing drop outs, improving graduation and college-going rates, I credited teachers, but said that their role has not been adequately recognized.

Group photo of Teach to Lead Denver participants.

Teachers gather for a photo at the Denver Teach to Lead Summit earlier this year.

According to a recent poll, 69 percent of teachers feel their voices are heard in their school, but only a third feel heard in their district, five percent in their state, and two percent at the national level. Failure to leverage the voices and expertise of teachers has deep implications for students, schools and the profession.

Ron and I had hoped to spur new commitments in teacher leadership and invite teachers to lead the change in their schools, districts and states. We never could have imagined our success. More than 80 organizations would join the effort, serving as critical friends and skill builders for teachers. Hundreds of teachers have participated in virtual and in-person convenings to take their best ideas for the profession and create action plans. And those teachers are telling their powerful stories to me and around the country. Here are a few:

  • Teachers Lesley Hagelgans, Renee Baril, Kristin Biggs, and Amanda Morick from Marshall Middle School (Marshall, Mich.) created an intervention-focused data project to close learning gaps. Their work has brought their whole community together around the shared mission of removing barriers to student learning.
  • Shawn Sheehan, a special education math teacher at Norman High School (Norman, Okla.) started the Teach Like Me campaign to improve teacher recruitment and retention by boosting the public perception of the teaching profession. Shawn and his team have developed a website and conducted significant in-person and online outreach for their project.
  • Jennifer Aponte, a geographically-isolated English instruction teacher at Davis A. Ellis Elementary School (Roxbury, Mass.) organized a team of teachers to research, present and publish their recommendations for how to achieve the Massachusetts state equity plan. Jennifer’s team is playing a critical part in closing opportunity gaps for low-income students and students of color in her state.

There are many of these stories to tell—example after example of leadership ideas created by teachers to solve the most pressing problems in education. They exist as proof that teachers—when given the time, opportunity and resources—are ready to lead.

This leadership is even extending beyond school and district boundaries as Teach to Lead is creating and expanding teacher leadership through systems change at the state level. I am hopeful for this work because I know that systems-level change driven by teachers’ voices can change the face of education in this country.

In May, Teach to Lead assembled teams from eight states, comprised of teachers and representatives from local and state educational agencies, at our first ever state summit. Together, these teams worked diligently to build action plans that would institutionalize teacher leadership at the state level. States are at different stages in developing teacher leadership strategies, but meaningful conversations and actions are underway all over the country. Here are a few examples.

  • New York is working extensively with educators across the state to gain a deep understanding of the systems and structures that will support the work of career pathways.  This June, the state presented to the Board of Regents on the Department’s proposed Framework for Career Ladder Pathways in New York State. Career ladder pathways are also viewed as a critical part of the New York’s strategy to ensure that every student has access to effective teaching. They are using teacher leadership as a tool to improve teaching and learning and ultimately close achievement gaps.
  • The 2014 and 2015 Maine Teachers of the Year, Karen MacDonald and Jennifer Dorman, worked with others who are active in teacher leadership work to organize teacher leadership, coordinating, streamlining and expanding opportunities in the state. They capitalized on structures and meetings that were already scheduled to take place to fortify their push for stronger collaboration in teacher leadership.

To date, Teach to Lead has engaged with more than 3,000 educators, in person and virtually, giving voice to more than 850 teacher leadership ideas, spanning 38 states. And we are not done yet. In the year to come, we hope to engage hundreds more teachers at Teach to Lead summits – including our largest yet in Washington, D.C. which is happening this week.

As more and more teachers join Teach to Lead, we’re committed to helping them develop their plans and connect with organizations that can support their work. We will continue to hold Summits with teams of teachers who have leadership ideas, connecting them with supporting organizations that can share their expertise and resources. We have set up Leadership Labs in teachers’ schools and districts, bringing the community together to support the teachers’ projects and work with them to move their work to the next level. We’re checking in and providing follow-up assistance to teachers and their teams.

With each summit, we see that the momentum around teacher leadership is spreading like wildfire. Teachers have sparked a conversation about the value of teacher leadership that is connecting in schools and districts across the country.

Looking at where we are and where Teach to Lead is headed, I know Ron would be proud.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Ron Thorpe, In Memoriam

In March 2015, Secretary Arne Duncan presented a lifetime achievement award to Ron Thorpe, a courageous and thoughtful leader of educators and a good friend to many of us here at ED. Secretary Duncan’s words are posted here today in respectful memory of Mr. Thorpe, who died last night. His legacy will live beyond him.

We’ve spent a little bit of time here talking about the leadership of all of you and before I get out of here I just want to take one minute and talk about this man’s leadership. For decades, thousands and thousands of people in this Country have benefited from and relied upon Ron Thorpe’s wisdoms and ideas and his commitment, and I just thought it was appropriate for us to take a minute now and say thanks.

Visionary is a word that sometimes overused but in Ron’s case, I think it’s exactly the right one. He’s deepened the understanding of this field, not just for our Nation but across the globe. He has helped us to understand why med schools and Ed schools have to have more in common. One profession works to save lives, the other to transform them. And the training for all of this critical work should be equally rigorous.

Over the past nine years, America’s teachers and the broader education community have come together to celebrate and strengthen the teaching profession, and over this time, nearly 50,000 educators have had the opportunity to share ideas and debate important topics and learn from one another. As a result of teaching and learning, the international summit on the teaching profession developed a couple years ago. We had our first session in New York. We’re now traveling across the globe, which I had the pleasure to participate that. We’ve been working with our peers from dozens of countries around the world. This is continued with summits when we go into other capitals like Canada as I said earlier in just a couple of weeks.

For Ron, it’s been a labor of love celebrating the great, great work of America’s teachers. And now as we head into the ninth year of teaching and learning, we would like to recognize Ron for his tireless commitment to leadership. To be an accomplished teacher, one has to commit to a lifetime of learning and that’s what Ron is all about, from his beginnings in the classroom to his work in philanthropy and the media and now here at this incredibly vibrant event. Ron knows and appreciates that teachers and educators deserve conferences like this, filled with chances to learn from one another. Ron’s been the genius behind bringing the world’s fair the dabbles of education to tons of educators. Perhaps most fundamentally, Ron knows it is not enough to believe in the potential of great teaching that it takes tireless and committed effort to realize the hugely important potential.

And I’m so grateful to call Ron a friend, a partner. His integrity and his courage inspire me every single day. It’s because of his bold vision that I think we all should honor Dr. Ronald Thorpe with the National Board’s first ever Award for Distinguished Service in Teaching and Learning.

Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

This blog originally appeared on the White House Rural Council blog.

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX on May 24, 2012. The SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered by the states in which they reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer months. USDA photo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX on May 24, 2012. The SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered by the states in which they reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer months. USDA photo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs.

The Obama administration has addressed the challenge head-on, investing unprecedented energy and resources to increasing participation in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

And the impact has been significant. In 2014, in the peak operating month of July, over 45,000 summer meal sites were available across the U.S., a 29 percent increase from 2009. All told, last summer the USDA Food and Nutrition Service delivered 23 million more meals than in the summer of 2009. But we know that in order to get every kid a nutritious meal this summer, we need to get everyone involved, from schools to federal agencies to volunteers in local communities. Check out this handy toolkit to see how you can help!

A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Today, the Administration is making a series of announcements designed to serve more meals this summer in rural and tribal areas.

  • Launching the “Summer Meals Site Finder.” Children and parents can now go to on their computer or smartphone and enter an address, city, state, or zip code to find the location and other information of nearby summer meal sites.
  • Bringing in some help! This summer, certain high-need rural and tribal communities will get the help of 60 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates to help recruit volunteers, raise awareness of the summer meal program, and provide operational support.
  • Partnering with others. We’re teaming up with organizations like the National Football League and Feeding America to help raise awareness, target outreach, and deliver meals in rural and urban areas.

By working together with families, local schools, and private organizations, we are helping to make sure that children can easily get the nutritious meals they need to be healthy and ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.

Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education and Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.

Colorado District Delivers Civil Rights Change

Each day we have the pleasure and honor to meet and work with extraordinary school leaders who are working hard to deliver on the hopes we, as parents, have for our own children and for all students in schools. We want to share the story of one such leader in Colorado, whose work we are excited to see, and whose success in supporting parental involvement and engendering community support for schools we’d like to see replicated in more school communities around the country.

In Colorado’s Adams County School District 14, Superintendent Patrick Sánchez has accomplished transformative change against very tall odds. In April 2014, our Office for Civil Rights (OCR) resolved a complaint against the district to fix what had become a very hostile environment for Latino students, parents and staff. During our investigation we confirmed, for example, that the district had prohibited students from speaking Spanish at school, even in social settings. Staff reportedly used racially hostile language toward Latino students and denigrated students’ cultural backgrounds.

A Latino staff member also reported to us that a principal justified messy bathrooms because “Mexicans are poor and don’t use toilet paper,” and “there are few restrooms in Mexico.” As a cause of the racially hostile environment, many Latino staff were forced to resign or were removed from their jobs.

This is the environment that Superintendent Sánchez sought to immediately fix when he took the reins in July 2012, after the previous Superintendent’s resignation following the start of our investigation. Since that time, the Adams 14 district has made impressive gains to deliver equal educational opportunity to the district’s 7,000+ students. Superintendent Sánchez publicly apologized to parents, the community and staff for harm that they suffered in the past, and has made great strides in restoring the community’s trust and involvement in the district.

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An Equal Investment in Each Child’s Future

America is built on principles of equality and opportunity for all. In education, that means all our students deserve fair and equal access to strong academic programs, great teachers, new technology, and appropriate facilities, no matter where they live. Those values motivate committed educators and their partner organizations throughout this country.

Yet today, not every child in America gets a fair shot at success, including equal access to educational resources. Many students in high poverty districts are short-changed. Often, their peers in low poverty districts receive more per-pupil funding, and that translates to more resources, more opportunities, and better access to effective teaching.

For our nation to be strong, we must offer a real opportunity to every child – it’s a moral imperative and an economic necessity. Yet wide gaps continue to prevail in how we fund schools for rich and poor students. Low-poverty districts spend, on average, 16 percent more per student than high-poverty districts. In some states – like Pennsylvania, Vermont and Indiana – the gaps are much wider.

These gaps should spur bold action by all of us — educators, district leaders, community members, and elected and appointed officials. And there are examples throughout the country of just that kind of collective action.

Just outside D.C., in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the education budget trails far behind those in neighboring districts like Montgomery County, or Virginia’s Fairfax County. But in Prince George’s, advocates are considering bold steps to close some troubling funding gaps, target more resources for struggling schools, and boost academic achievement.

Faced with limited state funding and longstanding local shortfalls, the county executive and the local school board have proposed a significant budget increase to better meet the needs of the district’s students.  They also plan to address a-decades-old property tax cap that has squeezed tax-based contributions to their schools.

The approach is backed by community leaders and stakeholders who want to see their county flourish as neighboring counties have under new education efforts that support all students.  Additional dollars could help increase per-pupil spending, raise teacher salaries which lag behind those in nearby counties, and expand full-day pre-k programs.

For instance, James Madison Middle School, in Upper Marlboro, serves nearly 800 students, most of them African American and roughly 45 percent from low-income families. Under the proposed budget, the school would receive more than $125,000 to focus on improving essential college and career-ready skills for students.  More equitable funding would allow the principal to hire a literacy coach and an 8th grade digital literacy instructor, to help ensure that every student becomes a strong reader, and can perform well in our technology-rich world, from computer-based tests, to the digital workplace.

In Minnesota, Governor Dayton convened a working group of superintendents, business managers, school facilities directors and school board representatives to develop recommendations to create an adequate and equitable funding formula for Pre-K –12 programs. The group “Schools for Equity in Education” is also working with state officials to draft a budget formula that meets the state’s obligation to provide a uniform quality education to all students. The combination of these efforts, the voice of school leaders, and a strong state-level vision has yielded remarkable progress. In the latest legislative session, lawmakers drafted plans to expand programs to close the achievement gap and address funding differences between rural and urban school districts.

True leadership by lawmakers, advocates, and civic leaders means taking courageous action to meet the needs of all students. We cannot cut our way to better education. We have to listen to those who know what is needed – superintendents, district chiefs, educators, and parents – and develop laws and policies to support practices that work.

In Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in school funding disparities, local education leaders recently convened to tackle this issue collaboratively. At the same time, the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has hosted statewide conversations to increase community participation in developing recommendations for the legislature. And, in late April, community members, superintendents and educators came together to discuss the problem of unequal funding between well-off and poorly funded districts. When teachers and students have the support they need, everyone does better.  The wealthier counties are joining the conversation and developing solutions alongside high-poverty districts.

I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for all of us, at all levels, to join with and support those leaders who are willing to take on the toughest conversations and the most challenging issues.

We now face a crucial national opportunity to advance equity, as Congress debates reauthorizing the most important national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’ve called for scrapping the current law, known under the label No Child Left Behind, and replacing it with one that expands funding and support for schools and educators, and maintaining high expectations for students.

The nation faces clear choices here. Some proposals under discussion could exacerbate existing inequities by allowing funds to move out of high poverty schools into wealthier ones.  Other, better proposals would take important steps to ensure all students have the resources and support they need, closing a longstanding loophole in order to ensure that funding intended for the neediest students actually reaches them.

Wise proposals would also help to close opportunity gaps by ensuring an equitable distribution of resources. It’s basic: no matter where they are – in Prince George’s County, in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in this country – kids should have access to challenging, high-level classes and technology, and teachers should have the resources they need to their jobs.

When we adults do our civic duty and take strong steps to ensure that all our children have equal access to a great education, we improve their chances to succeed in college, careers and life – and our own future, as well.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.