Community Partners Share Responsibility to Support K-12 Schools

When it comes to increasing student achievement in K-12 schools, Secretary Duncan believes everyone has a role to play – teachers, parents, higher education leaders, business executives, community partners and the students themselves.

In April, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Department of Education, and the Corporation for National and Community Service launched “Together for Tomorrow.” This initiative is working to engage local communities to meet the challenge to turn around persistently low-performing schools. The goal is to promote a community culture where everyone takes and shares responsibility for improving these low-performing schools.

In communities across the country, nonprofits and business leaders are working together to improve education.

Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, recently travelled to Minneapolis where they met with civic leaders and educators to discuss their work to close the achievement gap. You can read Under Secretary Kanter’s reflections on the trip here.

American Jobs Act Will Invest in Education Now

Carl Schurz students greet Secretary Duncan in Chicago. (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

At the final event of the “Education and the Economy” Back-to-School Bus Tour, Secretary Arne Duncan returned to his hometown with an urgent message: Our country needs to invest in education today.

During a roundtable discussion at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago, Duncan reviewed some of what he learned during the three-day, six-state tour where he met with teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community leaders. The sobering news is that districts are continue to struggle financially and are facing tough choices in this schools year.

In Pittsburgh, the district is considering eliminating extracurricular activities. In Cleveland, the district may have to lay off teachers in the middle of the school year. “Think about what it will mean to students to see those teachers disappear,” he told the audience at Schurz, which include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, and other city and state leaders.

Secretary Duncan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a panel discussion in Chicago. (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

In Milwaukee, art, music, and physical education teachers may face layoffs. “When you lose art, music, and physical education, none of that’s good for children,” he said.

Duncan urged Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which President Obama had unveiled the night before in a speech to Congress. You can read the transcript here.

The bill will allocate $30 billion to support teacher jobs and $30 billion for school modernization and renovation. In Illinois alone, the bill would provide $1.24 billion for teacher jobs – enough to support 14,500 jobs for one school year. Chicago would receive $609 million to renovate and modernize schools, with another $503 million available for the rest of the state.

Based on what he learned on the tour, Duncan recognizes the urgency facing states and districts across the country.

“If Congress passes this bill, we’ll move the money to state and districts as fast as we can,” Duncan said.

Click here for state-by-state information on the American Jobs Act.

David Hoff
Office of Communications and Outreach

American Jobs Act Will Create Jobs Today and in the Future

Secretary Duncan and White House advisor Melody Barnes visit a classroom in Milwaukee (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

President Obama’s American Jobs Act will make immediate investments that will help today’s students compete in tomorrow’s economy.

The Jobs Act will provide $30 billion to support teachers’ jobs and another $30 billion to modernize and renovate schools. Both are essential ingredients to the President’s plan to create and preserve jobs to move the economy forward. But they also will ensure children get the preparation needed to compete for jobs in the knowledge economy of the 21st Century.

When the Education and the Economy bus tour stopped in Milwaukee on Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes emphasized the critical role that the Jobs Act will play in creating jobs today and in the future.

In a town hall at the School of Career and Technical Education, Barnes pointed out that the average Milwaukee public school was built 70 years ago. The Jobs Act will provide $169 million for Milwaukee to modernize and renovate their buildings, ensuring they have the facilities to prepare students to compete for careers tomorrow.

“We can teach students about science and technology, but if they can’t put their hands on, it doesn’t make sense to them,” Barnes said.

Secretary Duncan watches the President's speech aboard the back-to-school tour bus.

The funding for teachers will support 280,000 jobs across the country and 7,400 in Wisconsin alone. Without it, schools will have to make tough choices to increase class sizes or cut programs in the arts and other subjects essential to a well-rounded curriculum.

“None of that is good for our children across the country,” Secretary Duncan said at the event.

The President outlined the American Jobs Act in a speech to Congress on Thursday night.

“There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation,” the President said.  “Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans.  And everything in this bill will be paid for.”

Northwest Indiana Is Ready

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams.

We are ready. That’s the message that the One Region, One Vision initiative sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when the Education and the Economy bus tour stopped in Merrillville, Ind., on Thursday afternoon.

Before Secretary Duncan delivered his message about the need to educate our way to a better economy, the conference organizers showed that they’d already learned that lesson.

In a short video that preceded the secretary’s speech, educators and students from throughout the region explained how they are organizing their work around the goal of preparing all students being to be ready for college and careers.

The students talked about how their teachers help them track their progress toward their academic and career goals starting in 8th grade. Shannon Rostin, who is a high school freshman, plans to attend Indiana University and pursue a degree in education. She knows what courses she needs to take to be admitted to IU and is on the path to earning up to 30 credit hours in a dual enrollment program before she even enrolls at the state’s flagship university.

Shannon, like all of those speaking in the video, ended her story by saying: “I am ready.”

The goal of the One Region, One Vision partnership aligns well with President Obama’s agenda to reform America’s schools. In both Race to the Top and the Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Department has encouraged states to set standards that are aligned with college and career expectations.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams.

In his speech, Secretary Duncan praised the collaboration of educators, business executives, and community leaders for working together for education reform. But he also warned that Indiana – and the rest of the country – faces a difficult task if it wants its students to be competitive in the 21st Century economy.

“The reality is tough: Those countries are out-educating Indiana. Plain and simple, they are doing a better job of promoting educational excellence,” Duncan said.

“I know my message today about Northwest Indiana’s educational system has been a sobering one.  But I don’t believe that we do our children or our nation any favors by sugarcoating reality,” he added. “We must deal with these challenges openly and honestly, and with a sense of urgency that has been missing for far too long.”

Duncan praised the region for its commitment to expanding dual enrollment programs and turning around low-performing schools. He also singled out the commitment to college- and career-readiness and the willingness to be held accountable for reaching those rigorous standards.

Those investments in education will yield dividends in the 21st Century economy.

Education and the ‘New Day’ in Detroit

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

In a spirited community meeting at a high-performing public school in Detroit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reminded the audience that the city’s economic renaissance is inextricably linked to the reform of its schools.

“I couldn’t be more hopeful about Detroit,” Duncan told more than 200 parents, community leaders, and Mayor Dave Bing and other political leaders. “There’s an alignment of leadership and an alignment of commitment and courage here.”

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“My challenge to Detroit is to become the fastest improving district in the country. I can’t see any reason why that can’t happen.”

The forum at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Sciences was the first stop on the second day of the “Education and the Economy: Investing in our Future” bus tour.

Duncan appeared on the panel with Governor Rick Snyder; state Superintendent Mick Flanagan; Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts; Keith Johnson, the president of the Detroit Teachers Union; Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of the Detroit Parent Network; and Dan Varner, the executive director of Excellent Schools Detroit.

“One of the things that’s happening in Detroit is that a coalition of community organizations, philanthropies, and businesses have come together and said we’re no longer going to accept mediocrity for our children,” said Varner.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Varner added that there’s a commitment in the city to begin anew with an intense focus on improving the results for students.

“We have to think as if we were starting from scratch and ask: What do we want to create to ensure we get great educational outcomes for our children,” he said.

But the commitment goes beyond fixing the K-12 schools.  It extends to ensuring students have the opportunity to go to college. Through the Detroit Promise, the public-private partnership guarantees that high school graduates from the city will receive free tuition for at least two years of college.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

“The Detroit Promise is such an important piece of the puzzle,” Duncan said. “It might be about the best economic development tool the city can have.

In addition, the state is committed to turning around the city’s lowest performing schools and engaging its parents in the education of their children.

With all of these commitments in place, Duncan challenged Detroit to be a national leader for reform in urban areas.

“Detroit has the opportunity to leap-frog other urban districts,” Duncan said. “I want to do everything I can to be helpful.”

Stakeholders Express Frustration Over Lack of Change in ESEA

This week, national organizations representing school boards, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and other stakeholders sent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a letter asking for regulatory relief from the No Child Left Behind Act. While Congress and the Obama administration work on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to fix NCLB’s flaws, the organizations asked the Secretary to consider using his regulatory authority to alleviate some of NCLB’s flaws.

In a letter, 16 organizations from the Learning First Alliance wrote:

“Absent swift reauthorization of ESEA, LFA member organizations urge the Department of Education to explore its authority for offering regulatory relief around NCLB. Once those areas are identified, we would recommend that the department then engage in collaborative discussions with our individual member organizations – as well as other interested stakeholders, including Congress – and focus on building consensus around proposals offering appropriate and immediate regulatory relief for the upcoming 2011-12 school year.”

Separately, two Learning First Alliance members, the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association, started gathering signatures for an online petition supporting “regulatory relief for the 2011-12 school year, and any efforts to rescind or modify current regulations and alleviate undue pressure on the nation’s schools.”

Secretary Duncan has been working closely with Congress to create a bipartisan bill to reauthorize ESEA. The President has called on Congress to pass an ESEA bill before the next school year begins. The Obama administration’s main goal is to change the accountability framework to fix the problems created by NCLB, which mislabels too many schools as low-performing and doesn’t reward successful schools.

The Secretary understands the frustrations of education stakeholders and shares their concerns about the slow pace of work in Congress. He remains committed to fixing NCLB so that its flaws are addressed as we move into the new school year.

Tips for Parents for National Day on Writing

Parents can use everyday activities to promote the lifelong skill of writing. Children can be taught how to write at a very early age by showing them that writing is a form of communication like talking. Children learn to read and write by being exposed to words through conversation and literature. Reading stories to your child is a motivational force that could inspire them to want to write.


• Teach your child to  recognize the letters of the alphabet by reading alphabet books.
• Write your child’s name on the door of their bedroom or on the refrigerator so he or she can look at it often.
• Have your child pick out the letters in books, signs and other printed materials.
• Let your child scribble and draw.
• Teach your child to print first and write in cursive later.
• Beginning with lines and shapes, encourage your child children to draw.
• Teach them to write their own name.
• Practice handwriting. Copy letters, words, and sentences.
• Clearly label everyday items. Teach them the word. Then practice writing the word.
• Read stories to your child.
• Have children read the stories back to you.
• Let your child tell you stories.
• Write the stories they tell you.

Learning to write is a process that can begin when your child is a toddler. To help your child with writing, help build his or her fine motor skills and recognize letters and words. Once children know how to hold a pen, you as a parent can begin teaching your child how to write. Age appropriate books should be easily accessible and reading time should be encouraged throughout the day. Children begin to learn how to write simple things such as their name and other small words in kindergarten.


• Have fun with writing. Have your child trace letters accurately. Make this a huge deal.
• Make up stories with your child and you can write them down.
• Have children write short stories.
• Have your child write cards and notes on holidays and birthdays.
• Have your children make up alternative endings to their favorite books or stories. Ask what if and what would happen if questions. Have them write the alternative ending.
• Have them read stories they have never read before and write book reports about the story.
• Play word games to lengthen and strengthen the attention span of your child. This will increase vocabulary and desire to write.
• Have your child write about someone they know
• Talk about what the person will do in the story.
• Ask your child questions: “What happens?” “What do you think?”
• Have your child write the story.

Encourage writing by purchasing fun pens and pencils that children may find interesting. Buy notebooks that fill the same purpose. After you have presented your child with a fun pen and notebook, have them write notes, letters and lists. The aim is to get the child to write either letters or stories, so they will enjoy writing.

Middle and High School

• Have your child gather information by interviewing someone in your family or your neighborhood.
• Choose questions, together, for the interview.
• Have your child edit the interview and put the information in order.
• Read the interview back to the person.
• Have your child make lists, take down messages, and write notes.
• Play charades, scrabble, and do crossword puzzles, together.
• Talk about why people write. Let them know people tell stories about events and other people when writing.

Children can prepare the grocery list or write a letter to their friends or relatives or start a diary. Encourage your child to read daily. Discuss what they have read at school. Talk about subjects that interest them. Have them write about those interests and share it with you. Don’t criticize, just listen.

To discover other ways to help your child learn, read Parent Power published by the U.S. Department of Education.

At Beginning and End, Bus Tour Focuses on Civil Rights

Secretary Duncan visits King Middle School

Kelly Martinez, Joanna Quinn, and Mohamed Nur show their civil rights project to Secretary Duncan

The “Courage in the Classroom” bus tour started at a landmark of the civil rights movement.

And it ended today in Portland, Maine, with middle school students telling Secretary Duncan about their in-depth research project on how people in their community participated in that movement.

At the stop at King Middle School in Portland, a group of three rising 8th graders made a poster presentation to the secretary about how they interviewed local residents about their participation in marches and protests to advance civil rights.
The project, completed last spring, was an interdisciplinary effort. The students learned the history of the movement. They practiced interviewing skills with family members. They interviewed local residents. They published a book about their project.

The capstone of the project was an assembly where they presented their findings to the community, including many of their interview subjects.

“I learned that people in Portland that made a difference, not just people down South,” said Joanna Quinn, who presented about the project along with classmates Keyly Martinez and Mohamed Nur.

More Photos

Working Together to Address Students’ Needs

Paul Winspeare, a junior at the High School of Commerce, tells a community forum about the importance of keeping high school students engaged in school.

Paul Winspeare, a junior at the High School of Commerce, tells a community forum about the importance of keeping high school students engaged in school.

Education is everybody’s responsibility, and everyone has a role to play: teachers, parents, elected officials, and school leaders.

In Springfield, Mass., today, Secretary Arne Duncan heard of the collaborative efforts of communities across the state and the city to reform their schools. By engaging educators and members of communities, the state strengthened its Race to the Top application. Last week, Massachusetts won a $250 million grant in the second phase of the competition, scoring higher than any other applicant.

“All the stakeholders worked together on the final application to make sure it was centered on helping students succeed,” Tim Sullivan, the vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said at a meeting at the High School of Commerce in Springfield.

Students at the event reminded Secretary Duncan and others that providing them a world-class education is the ultimate goal of Race to the Top and other reforms.

Students need to be engaged in academics, sports, or other activities, Paul Winspeare responded when Secretary Duncan asked what schools need to do to keep students from dropping out.

“That motivation keeps them coming to school every day,” said Winspeare, a junior who says the Junior Reserve Officer Training program is a program that keeps him engaged at the High School of Commerce.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

More Photos

New York’s Mission: Improving Teacher Effectiveness

Secretary Duncan listens to NYSUT members discuss the union’s work to improve teacher effectiveness.

Secretary Duncan listens to NYSUT members discuss the union’s work to improve teacher effectiveness.

Teacher effectiveness is the most important factor in student success – and educators and state leaders are working together to improve the quality of teachers in New York.

On today’s second stop on the “Courage in the Classroom” bus tour, Secretary Duncan visited the headquarters of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the state’s teacher union, to hear about how districts and teachers building models to support teacher development and improve teacher evaluation.

“The common goal that we all have is that every child has an effective teacher,” NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi told the secretary, state officials, and union leaders at the event.

Members of NYSUT in six New York cities are working collaboratively with district leaders to create comprehensive models to improve the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom.  The work is intended to help “strong teachers get better and struggling teachers improve,” said Karen Rock, a special education teacher in Plattsburgh, which is participating in the effort.

The U.S. Department of Education recently named the teacher-development program a finalist for a grant from the Investing in Innovation fund. With New York’s grant under the Race to the Top program, the state will be creating a new teacher evaluation program.

“We’re investing in you because of your collective leadership, your collective courage, and your willingness to take on these tough issues,” Secretary Duncan told the group.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

More photos.

Helping New Orleans Rebuild Its Schools

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina destroyed schools throughout New Orleans. Since then, the state and city have worked together to make the city’s schools a model for school reform. New Orleans schools have made remarkable progress. They have been an inspiration to those of us who are working to provide a world-class education to all of America’s children.

Despite the progress, New Orleans still has a lot of work to do. More than 100 school buildings were devastated by the floods of Katrina. The city still needs to replace, rebuild and rehabilitate buildings that were destroyed by the floods. Working together, state and city leaders have produced a master plan to will rebuild and renovate its schools.

Today, I joined Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in announcing more than $1.8 billion in federal funds to support the rebuilding of New Orleans’ schools. This money will support the city in building the excellent learning environments that the children of New Orleans deserve.

In addition, the Department of Education continues to support schools throughout the Gulf Coast that suffered damage from Katrina and other hurricanes. Our staff is preparing to award $12 million in grants from the Gulf Coast Recovery Initiative. These grants will help districts replace instructional materials, renovate and repair schools buildings, and support afterschool and other initiatives to provide extended learning.

Over the past five years, the Department has provided nearly $2 billion for schools in the Gulf Coast region. The money helped schools re-open immediately after the hurricanes and supported schools that enrolled students displaced by the hurricanes. It also provided the $7 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi to pay for mental health assessments for students, substitute teachers, and emergency transportation, and other needs shortly after the hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast.

Five years later, New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast are still recovering. President Obama and I are committed to doing our part to provide the students there with the world-class education they deserve.

Arne Duncan