We’re All In This Together – Getting Rid of “Us vs. Them”

Ed. Note: This post is guest authored by Cynthia Stevenson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, Colo., and Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association.

“Once you get trust established and work together, that trust expands like fireworks. It goes in all directions.”

That’s compelling. We heard it from an elementary teacher in our district, Jefferson County, Colo.—the state’s largest school district with almost 86,000 students and 12,000 employees. The teacher is part of our strategic compensation pilot, a national research project funded by a Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education testing new ways to support and pay teachers.

A hallmark of the pilot is teamwork. All educators in the 20 pilot schools—principals, teacher leaders, classroom and specials teachers, librarians, psychologists, and social workers—collaborate daily to improve instruction and student achievement.

They’re building trust and learning from each other.

And so is the school district and teachers’ association. It’s not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it can be done.

Read More

ED Mailbag: Arne Answers Your Questions

Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently to answer questions he received from social media, email and regular mail.

Duncan responded to Dillon’s question about the future of charter schools, saying that “good charter schools are part of the solution, bad charter schools are part of the problem.” Arne noted that there needs to be more successful coordination between charters and school districts. ED recently announced new grants to help foster this coordination.

Ethan asked the Secretary how we can make our schools more competitive on a global scale. Duncan noted that 46 states have voluntarily adopted higher college- and career-ready standards, which will help put American students on a level playing field, and he noted that we have to look at high-performing countries like Finland and Singapore for new ideas on what works.

Duncan also received a question from Brett who asked about the importance of collaboration. Arne says that he can’t overstate the importance of collaboration on “multiple fronts.”

Watch the video and join the conversation in the comments below:

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

Collaboration on Display in Three States: Bus Tour Day Six

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller took part in a town hall on college affordability at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis on day six of our back-to-school tour. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller took part in a town hall on college affordability at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis on day six of our back-to-school tour. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Columbia: Rural educators teaching with technology

Rural educators face a challenge of isolation. Miles away from their peers, collaboration and training can often be difficult. Technology is helping bridge this geographic divide, and was the focus of our first Education Drives America event on Wednesday at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton joined rural educators, both in person and via video conference, to discuss the eMints program (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies), an Investing in Innovation (i3) grantee that focuses on providing professional development that uses interactive group sessions and in-classroom coaching/mentoring to help teachers integrate technology into their teaching.

St. Louis: Improving college access and affordability

Yesterday, I wrote about the impressive student bands that have greeted the Education Drives America bus, and at Harris Stowe University in St. Louis, we discovered that student choirs are equally impressive. The Harris Stowe choral students set the tone for an important discussion on college affordability and access.

Deputy Secretary Miller joined Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, director of ED’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Harris Stowe students, as well as community members for the town hall discussion. (Earlier in the week, the Department of Education announced that Harris Stowe received $1.6 million grant – one of 97 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to receive nearly $228 million to strengthen their academic resources, financial management, endowments, and physical plants.)

“In the past three years,” Miller said. [The Obama Administration has] done more to help students afford college since the G.I. Bill.” Miller spoke of the Administration’s steps to helps students, including increases in Pell Grants, a commitment to keep student loan interest rates low, and the President’s plan to keep college affordable.

Mt. Vernon: Celebrating successful public-private partnerships

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller speaks with a worker at the Continental Tire facility. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller speaks with a worker at the Continental Tire facility. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Following St. Louis, the bus kept us moving to our third stop of the day. The floor of a tire factory isn’t your typical spot to celebrate educational success. Yet, that is exactly where the Education Drives America dropped off Deputy Secretary Miller and staff to talk about the successful partnership between Continental Tire North America (CTNA) and Rend Lake College in Mt. Vernon, Ill.

Since 2005, CTNA has partnered with Rend Lake College to develop and staff a new training center at CTNA. The facility boasts a 24-station computer lab with teacher station, a distance learn¬ing room which seats 24 students, and Rend Lake provides a coordinator to work full-time in the training center, over¬seeing the college programs.

The public-private partnership allows CTNA employees to take classes that meet the CTNA’s business needs and puts its employees on a path towards an associates degree and in some cases a bachelors degree. It is an impressive partnership that is model for communities throughout the country.

Evansville: Collaboration is key

Because two states in one day wasn’t enough for day six of ED’s back-to-school tour, our last stop of the day took us to Glenwood Leadership Academy in Evansville, Ind., for a discussion on labor-management collaboration.

Deputy Secretary Miller joined National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel, Superintendent of Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation David Smith, and President of the Evansville Teachers Association Keith Gambill.
Glenwood is both an NEA priority school and a recipient of an ED School Improvement Grant, and has pulled in the entire community to ensure success of its students.

Superintendent Smith spoke passionately about the need for collaboration, saying that it is necessary to “take time to invest in relationships.”

At a number of stops on the Education Drives America tour, we’ve witnessed communities coming together to help their children succeed, and Evansville is another powerful example of support and commitment.

During the town hall, you could hear the emotion in the voices of the audience as they spoke of how proud they were to be a part of the school’s success. One student asked how she could give back to her teachers because she sees that they work so hard. In response, the entire audience gave the Evansville teachers a powerful standing ovation, which left a deep impression on those of us passing through.

The Evansville stop made for a perfect ending to a great day in the Midwest. The bus moves on and will be rejoined by Secretary Duncan today for stops in West Virginia.

See what people had to say on social media during day six, stay connected to the Department of Education throughout the year by getting email updates, and watch our video summary of day six:

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

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement and is blogging and tweeting his way from coast to coast during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

State and District Education Leaders Collaborate to Transform the Teaching Profession

Leaders of the eight co-sponsoring organizations discuss their support for collaboratively transforming the teaching profession. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education.

Leaders of the eight co-sponsoring organizations discuss their support for collaboratively transforming the teaching profession. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education.

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Last week, state and district education leaders from across the country traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to share their stories, strategies, and best practices around a topic in education that seldom sees the spotlight: labor-management collaboration. For a second time, the U.S. Department of Education partnered with national education organizations, including the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of the Great City Schools, Council of Chief State School Officers, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, National Education Association, and National School Boards Association, to host a major convening centered on changing the way that school administrators, board members, and union leaders work together to improve teaching and learning.

While news headlines tend to focus on the challenges of collaboration among these parties, for the State and school district teams journeying to Cincinnati, collaboration is an essential “part of the job”—and one that helps them meet the needs of both teachers and students. Particularly in today’s tough economic climate, these leaders maintain that increased collaboration, shared responsibility, and joint decision-making all produce thoughtful and creative solutions to meet a common agenda.

Like last year, the conference’s national co-sponsors are not only encouraging and supporting states’ and districts’ collaborative efforts—they are modeling the same student-centered, action-oriented relationships at the national level. At the opening of the event, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined leaders of the seven other co-sponsoring organizations in signing a shared vision for the future of the teaching profession that sets out common goals around increased student achievement, equity, and global competitiveness, and addresses seven core elements of a transformed teaching profession, including a culture of shared responsibility and leadership, continuous growth and improvement, professional career continuums with competitive compensation, and engaged communities.

ED's Storify

Click the image to read our Labor-Management Conference Storify

This year’s conference, Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession, drew teams of State and district leaders from 41 states and more than 100 school districts to highlight innovative approaches to better prepare students for college and careers by dramatically changing the teaching profession and growing the number of highly effective teachers in our nation’s schools.

“The quality of any school relies on the strength of its educators at the front of the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Across the country, there are remarkable success stories shaping the next generation of teaching. The goal of this year’s conference is to help their colleagues learn from one another and take this work to the next level.”

The conference, which was funded by grants from the Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and GE Foundation, was designed to facilitate learning and sharing at every level. In order to RSVP, State and district teams, composed of school chiefs, union leaders, and school board presidents,had to commit to attend the conference together, collaborate to improve student achievement in their State or district, and arrive at the convening prepared to present their plan for transforming the teaching profession.

State and district plans were shared during a three-hour “Transformers’ Dialogue,” where each team showcased their work in an expo-like fashion. In a large ballroom abuzz with conversation, team members took turns manning booths, surveying the plans displayed by others, and broadcasting the highlights using a designated conference Twitter feed: “Check out #LMConf12 booth 113. Portland Public Schools have littered their contract with the word ‘collaboration’” tweeted Greg Mullenholz, a Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.

Goals, strategies, tactics, and measures of success were varied. Leadership from Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 (Illinois) used the analogy of building a kaleidoscope—something their board president has experience with—to describe their strategy for collaboratively reaching district goals using a “backward design model” that starts with a clear understanding of the desired end product and then works in reverse. A handcrafted kaleidoscope sat prominently displayed on their presentation table.

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

Team members from Meriden Public Schools (Connecticut) outlined their collaborative work around a number of transformative programs, including a leadership academy for teachers, peer-to-peer coaching, and learning walks connected to the instructional core and anchored in student data.

Despite differences in plan specifics, a number of clear, overarching messages emerged: Collaboration must be student-centered, focused on improving student outcomes; collaboration must be about action, not words alone; to engender trust and endure difficulty, collaboration must occur on an ongoing basis and be expansive in scope; and finally, collaboration is most likely to be sustained where there is space and time explicitly set aside for it.

On day two of the conference, teams attended breakout sessions led by experts and practitioners and had an opportunity to “shop” for tools in a resource marketplace intended to assist leaders with some of the most challenging, yet foundational, elements of transforming the teaching profession, such as implementing effective professional learning and building meaningful career lattices. The event concluded with time for reflecting on and improving the plans that conference participants arrived with.

There was one final message that these bold leaders from across the U.S. brought with them to Cincinnati: Collaborating to transform the teaching profession and advance student achievement is urgent work. Students can’t wait for changes in local leadership, healthier budgets, or a more supportive climate; there simply isn’t time for dysfunction, blame, or inaction. Let’s hope that others hear this message and follow their lead.

For further information including conference video, resources, and presentations, visit:http://www.ed.gov/labor-management-collaboration.

Roberto Rodriguez is the Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. Aurora Steinle is a Policy Advisor for the Domestic Policy Council.

2012 Labor-Management Conference Kicks Off – Watch Live

Secretary Arne Duncan, national education leaders and over 100 district and state leadership teams are converging in Cincinnati today to kick off the two-day 2012 Labor-Management Conference. The conference will encourage participants – teams of state and district school chiefs, union leaders, and school board leaders from over 100 states and districts — to exchange ideas, share lessons learned, and encourage leaders to take on similar efforts when they return home.

LMC LogoParticipate: 

Opening Session

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 – 1:00-2:15 p.m. ET

Watch LIVE here

Leaders will discuss the past year’s challenges and progress in collaborating to transform the teaching profession in the service of increasing students’ success.

Closing Session

Thursday, May 24, 2012 – 2:00-2:30 p.m. ET

Watch LIVE here


Join the conversation and see what people at the conference are tweeting about by following hashtag #LMConf12

Click here for a list of participants in this year’s conference, and visit our Labor-Management Conference page for more information on the 2012 conference.

Read “Transforming the Teaching Profession,” a shared vision for the future of the teaching profession that was released during the opening session.

Announcing the 2012 Labor-Management Collaboration Conference

The invitation to this year’s Labor-Management Collaboration Conference is now open. The conference, titled Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession, will take place May 23-24 in Cincinnati, and brings together management and labor teams from across the country.

Conference logoFor those interested in attending, please complete the RSVP form (including all three required signatures) and submit it by 5:00 p.m. ET on March 30, 2012. To access Secretary Duncan’s invitation and to download the application package, please click here.

Last year’s conference in Denver, titled, Advancing Student Achievement through Labor-Management Collaboration, focused on the principles of labor-management collaboration. During the conference, Secretary Duncan stated, “President Obama and I are convinced that labor and management can collaborate to solve many of our nation’s enduring educational challenges. And we believe that progress more often follows tough-minded collaboration than tough-minded confrontation.”

This year in Cincinnati, we’re building on those principles by bringing districts and states together to talk about their collaborative work in transforming the teaching profession.

Last year’s event was for districts only, but this year’s event will be open to state as well as district teams. The state team will include the State Chief and the state’s NEA and AFT teacher’s union presidents(s).  The state school boards association and the state administrators association leaders are encouraged to attend as well. District teams will consist of a district superintendent, a school board president and a teacher’s union or association president. All teams that RSVP will share their visions, strategies and plans for increasing student achievement by transforming teaching into a 21st-century profession during the conference centerpiece titled “Transformers’ Dialogue.”

This year’s Labor-Management Conference partners include:

    • U.S. Department of Education
    • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
    • National Education Association (NEA)
    • National School Boards Association (NSBA)
    • American Association of School Administrators (AASA)
    • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
    • Council of the Great City Schools
    • Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS)

We hope to see you this May in Cincinnati!

Chareese Ross is Special Advisor to the Chief of Staff at the Department of Education

The Quiet Revolution Turning Around Michigan City Area Schools

Secretary Duncan Visits a Classroom at Lake Hills Elementary School in Michigan City, Indiana

On a visit to Lake Hills Elementary School in Michigan City, Ind., earlier today, Secretary Duncan saluted the community for renewing a spirit of enthusiasm and pride among teachers, staff, parents, students, and the community and he commended everyone for working together to improve student outcomes.

Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS) is an example of labor and management working together to improve education. MCAS recently reached a contract agreement with teachers that establishes school-based leadership teams to ensure collaborative decision-making and planning. The agreement also included a new principals’ compensation package that incorporates a “pay for performance” component, showing that through collaboration, school leaders are being held accountable for student achievement, and rewarded for student success.

Under the leadership of Superintendent Barbara Eason-Watkins and with the support of Mayor Chuck Oberlie, MCAS is working to re-energize and re-focus, offering more choices and opportunities for students. This fall, the district will launch their first two magnet schools, with Lake Hills Elementary School transitioning to a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) focused school, and Pine Elementary will become a visual and performing arts themed school.

MCAS has been recognized at the state and national levels for its innovative classroom technology, and by the way it uses new ways to engage students in learning. Believing that economic success is closely tied to school success, MCAS is working to realign career and technical education by partnering with local businesses, Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University North Central to create a better trained workforce that will meet the needs of area businesses.

The reforms being implemented at MCAS are the same reforms that ED is supporting through programs such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, School Improvement Grants, and the Teacher Incentive Fund. Secretary Duncan calls this the “quiet revolution,” and it is largely being driven by motivated parents, great educators and administrators challenging defeatism, elected officials and stakeholders who value education, and foundations and entrepreneurs who are bringing fresh new thinking to help schools and students grow and improve.

–Sherry Schweitzer

School Field Trip to California

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sits with Eric Simmons in his first grade classroom at Shoal Creek Elementary in San Diego, Calif., March 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

No two schools are the same, and in a giant and diverse state like California, you need to visit a lot of classrooms and talk to a lot of teachers, administrators, students, parents and political leaders before you can even begin to understand the public education system’s accomplishments and challenges. Last month, I returned to the Golden State for a packed two-day visit to Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego.

At an education summit organized by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, I directly challenged the city’s leaders, community groups, unions, parents, educators and students. Los Angeles, I told them, is a world-class city with a second-class school system. They can use the current and very real budget crisis as an excuse to continue on the road they have been on, or they can take the road less traveled—the harder road. To paraphrase the poet Robert Frost, that road less traveled will make all the difference.

At L.A.’s Fremont High School, I was greeted by the energy and enthusiasm of student leaders. In February, some of them came to Washington for a national youth summit that the Department of Education convened. These students have taken ownership for their educations and are demanding more from their schools and from themselves.

Another school with high expectations—and great results to show for it—is Tincher Preparatory School in Long Beach. There, I participated in a roundtable with Tincher’s fantastic principal, Bill Vogel. A music teacher, Laura Strand, asked me if I could pull off “a miracle” and solve California’s budget problems, which are cutting into arts programs like hers. I am proud that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has saved more than 300,000 education jobs over the last two years and supported state and locally led reforms, but I recognizethat schools in California and elsewhere are facing brutally tough funding decisions. There are smart and not-so-smart ways to make those decisions. The not-so smart ways include cutting back on arts and music instruction or implementing other cutbacks that harm learning in the classroom.

Education’s miracle workers are teachers like Ms. Strand who work magic with their students, and in very tough conditions. What those of us in Washington, D.C., can do is give states, school districts, schools and the educators who work in them greater flexibility—with accountability—to be creative in addressing their students’ individual needs. This is where the current federal education law known as No Child Left Behind(NCLB) falls short. While the law is rightfully credited for shining the spotlight on achievement gaps, it’s too prescriptive and too punitive. As President Obama said recently, we want to get this law fixed before students go back to school in September.

In the San Diego area, I was pleased that one of Congress’s leaders on education, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), agreed that this year we need to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—the official name for No Child Left Behind—and fix NCLB’s problems. With Congressman Hunter, I visited Shoal Creek Elementary School. Then we joined current and retired military leaders at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. It is astounding to me that three out of four young Americans do not meet basic requirements to serve in our military; either they lack a high school diploma, they’re physically unfit, or they have a criminal record. This is a national security risk that we must address. And the best way to get our children ready for college and careers, including military service, is to invest first in high-quality early education programs.

March was a busy month for education. The President, Vice President and I, as well as other administration officials, visited schools throughout the country to emphasize the importance of investing in education to win the future. President Obama put it best when he said recently that “in the 21st century, it’s not enough leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead.”

Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education.

Visit WhiteHouse.gov to see a photo gallery of the Secretary’s visit.

Celebrating Collaboration and Race to the Top

Image of Secretary Duncan visiting a classroom at Howard High

Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visit a classroom and talk to students at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware, March, 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Secretary Duncan joined Vice President Joe Biden earlier today in Wilmington, Del., to celebrate the first anniversary of Race to the Top, and to highlight the importance of collaboration between labor and management.  Delaware received $100 million in Race to the Top funding one year ago, and the grant has helped the state make significant progress in improving its education system.

Race to the Top is the most meaningful education reform program in a generation. It rewards states that have comprehensive plans to adopt college- and career-ready standards, build data systems, create policies to support great teachers and leaders, and turn around low-performing schools.  Read Delaware’s Race to the Top application for more information on their plan to implement positive reforms. The Department awarded Race to the Top grants to 10 other states and the District of Columbia to support their bold reform plans.

Today’s visit also highlights Delaware’s successful labor and management collaboration, and follows on the success of the U.S. Department of Education’s recent Labor-Management Collaboration Conference in Denver, which brought together leaders from over 150 school districts.  Secretary Duncan recently noted that he and President Obama “are convinced that labor and management can collaborate to solve many of our nation’s enduring educational challenges. And we believe that progress more often follows tough-minded collaboration than tough-minded confrontation.”

More background information on today’s visit can be found through the White House, and don’t forget to subscribe to ED’s blog to keep up-to-date on all education matters.