Back-to-School Tour Highlights from Day Two

The second day of the “Education and the Economy” Midwest Back-to-School Bus Tour saw Secretary Duncan and other ED officials meeting with education stakeholders in Michigan, Indiana, and other points of the compass. Check out some of the day’s noteworthy items.

Detroit, MI
‘New Day’ Dawns in the Motor City

Secretary Duncan joined state and local leaders at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Sciences, urging Detroit to become a national leader in urban renaissance, and calling plans to help more students attend and graduate college ”about the best economic development tool the city can have.” Check out the full post.

The Nerdy Teacher Gets on the Bus.
Between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Secretary Duncan picked up Nicholas Provenzano and his student Teddy, a high school newspaper editor. Provenzano blogs about education issues and Tweets as The Nerdy Teacher. Thursday he posted this summary of his “Day of Epicness.”

Kouts, IN
No Bull.

On his Thursday visit to Kouts, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White heard from third-grader Hayden Landfadt about the student’s plans to go to college. “I’m saving money from raising a cow. Some of it will be for college, some for a car,” Landfadt said. Kouts is a rural Indiana school serving 400 elementary students and 453 in grades 6-12. Read about how “technology took center stage” during ED’s visit to the school.

Bus Tour in the News

During his bus tour to focus on education and the economy Secretary Duncan visited Detroit to recognize progress they have made to identify and improve persistently low performing schools.

“I appreciate the state being willing to step up and say, ‘Our children deserve better,’” Duncan said when he and other ED officials visited schools in Michigan on Thursday.

Calling on Detroit to turnaround schools, Duncan commended a new effort modeled on The Kalamazoo Promise, which has increased enrollment in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, and can help propel education reforms in the communities and school districts.

Meeting with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, and other state and local officials and community leaders Secretary Duncan said that thanks to cooperation among stakeholders, he is more hopeful than ever about the future of Detroit schools.

“Today, you might be able to sit at the front of the bus, but if you can’t read, you’re not free,” Duncan told an overflow crowd at the University of Michigan’s School of Education where he participated in a panel discussion on the importance of teacher preparation.

We need a new generation of great teachers who will be better prepared to start making a difference in kids’ lives on day one, Secretary Duncan told a crowd on his stop at the University of Michigan.

And, Indiana stakeholders responded to the Secretary’s call to turn around low-performing schools and equip students with the college credentials and career skills they’ll need to thrive in the global economy.

Merrillville, IN
Ready For College and Career Success in Indiana

When the Secretary brought his message about education and the economy to Northwest Indiana, he said the state – and the nation – must do better to prepare students to compete in the global marketplace. The community’s response: “we are ready” to help students succeed in college and careers.

Gary, IN
Changing the World.
Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White met with students at Calumet High School, which incorporated the New Tech program to prepare students for college and careers of the future. Using one-to-one computing and project-based learning, Calumet is increasing rigor and teaching students to be “young professionals” who learn problem-solving and shared responsibility by working in teams.  The New Tech program was sparked by business leaders in Napa, Calif. Several students wore t-shirts reading, “Changing Lives. Changing Learning. Changing the World.

Martha Kanter, under secretary of education, speaks to a reporter in Merrillville, Ind., following Secretary Duncan's speech. (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

From the Mouths of Babes. During a student/teacher roundtable discussion at Calumet New Tech High School in Gary, IN, Under Secretary Martha Kanter asked the group, “What would you tell President Obama?” Student Noah Trevino had this to offer: “America used to be an education mecca, and it needs to be again.”

Washington, DC (via Cleveland on Wednesday)
No Teacher Left Behind. Sitting near First Lady Michelle Obama at Thursday’s Presidential address to Congress was Nicole Gentile, a teacher Arne Duncan met on his bus tour in Cleveland. The Secretary tweeted on Thursday that she may lose her job due to budget cuts. He is hoping that the President’s plan to hire more teachers will pass and that the new funding will allow her school to keep her where she is needed most.

Sweet Tweets

@thenerdyteacher: On my way back from #EDTour11. Great conversation with @arneduncan and @usedgov. Maybe I’ll get a follow now. 😉

@lgoldrick25: MT @usedgov: ED’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows are on #EDTour11 hosting 16+ #teacher roundtables in 7 states. #teaching

@Joy_Resmovits: @arneduncan gets some love from the toledo federation of teachers

@jennydemonte: The UMich school of education room is packed, people sitting on stairs, standing, crouching. Plus watching the webstream #edtour11

@delta_dc: I want a summer lab school @GVSU that immerses preservice, inservice & teacher educators & kids in promising practices. #EDTour11

—Laurie Calvert, Sherry Schweitzer, and Melissa Apostolides
Office of Communications and Outreach

Follow the trail of the Back-to-School bus tour at, through #EDTour11 on Twitter and by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

AFT and TFT Share “The Toledo Plan” with Secretary Duncan

Ed. Note: Maryann Woods Murphy is a Spanish teacher and a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from her school in Allendale, NJ. This former New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and 33-year teaching veteran travelled with Secretary Duncan’s bus tour to meet with teachers and teachers unions.  Here she shares her first-hand experience with a visit to the AFT Union Hall in Toledo, Ohio on Wednesday, where the Secretary viewed a demonstration of Toledo’s innovative program to mentor and evaluate teachers.

 “Welcome to the home of peer review,” says Francine Lawrence, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and the former president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers. “We are so proud to recognize what we have done together.”

The room at Union Hall, Toledo, is packed. Teachers, educational leaders and community members are here to share “The Toledo Plan” with the Secretary of Education on his bus tour. There is excitement in the air.

 “The Toledo Plan” is a peer review process that uses master teachers to guide and support the professional development of a newly hired probationary teacher or a non-probationary teacher who needs assistance.

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Dal Lawrence, former President of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, was a key player in the creation of the plan 31 years ago. He says that it’s about seeing which teachers can “fly on their own” after they get expert mentoring.

Tonight we are watching how the panel reviews the work of two probationary teachers. Each intern teacher has been assigned a trained, consulting teacher who has worked with the intern extensively throughout the year. Now it’s time for that consulting teacher to present a case for the retention or release of their mentee to the panel.

One of the teachers that the consultant presents, shows great organization, an ability to connect with students, expertise in the design of learning activities, clear expectations and terrific routines. This intern seems to be a capable and caring educator and this is what the consulting teacher recommends to the panel.

But the panel needs to probe and clarify any doubts, asking the consultant for evidence of the intern’s positive performance. Finally, the panel decides to affirm the consultant’s recommendation. This teacher will be offered a non-probationary contract for the following school year.

The next probationary teacher presenting to the panel really struggles. Though she is well meaning, her directions are unclear to kids. In her kindergarten class, students are distracted, doodling on themselves with markers, standing up at will and tossing paper cups. Despite the fact that the consulting teacher has offered many helpful suggestions and strategies, the intern cannot get her teaching together. The year has gotten progressively worse, and students are just not learning.

The panel agrees with the consultant’s negative recommendation. This teacher has not learned to “fly” and won’t be invited back to teach in Toledo. She didn’t make the cut.

After the mock peer review process concludes, Arne takes the microphone: “I have followed this model very closely for years,” he says, “I am always looking for models that the country should be looking at.” He goes on to say that he’d like to see more “tough minded collaborations” and “more districts working together in a thoughtful and collaborative way.”

Francine Lawrence, the Vice President of AFT closes the evening by saying that “in every school where you have significant student achievement, you have union and staff collaboration.”

The positive climate I see tonight and the long history and success of the peer review process show that working together for the good of students is possible. In fact, it’s been happening in Toledo for a very long time.

Maryann Woods-Murphy

Read a previous bus-tour post about the Toledo event.

Talking Teacher Prep in Ann Arbor

How do we train a new generation of effective teachers?

This was the question under consideration in a packed room at the University of Michigan’s School of Education, where Secretary Duncan joined a faculty and student panel during a stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan as part of the Department’s Back-to-School Bus Tour.

During the panel discussion, Secretary Duncan highlighted the need for a diverse teaching force. “There is a growing imbalance of what our students look like and what our educators look like,” he said.

Thirty-eight percent of American students are African American or Latino, but only fourteen percent of teachers are, and only 1 in 50 teachers are African American male.

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

Keep following the progress of this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

College Access Gets a High Tech Boost

YPSILANTI-There was a field trip on just the third day of the school year at Ypsilanti New Tech High School @ Ardis, but it wasn’t students doing the traveling.  Instead, the school itself was the destination, for Greg Darnieder, Education Secretary Duncan’s senior advisor on the College Access Initiative, who visited the school as part of ED’s back-to-school tour through the Midwest.

As one of ten schools in Michigan’s New Technology High School Network, Ypsilanti New Tech @ Ardis employs the system’s Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach to “use technology and inquiry to engage students with issues and questions that are relevant to their lives,” according to promotional materials.

The public school, in just its second year of operation, is funded in part by more than $1.2 million in Federal Title II support to the state of Michigan that has helped seed six New Tech schools.

Darnieder toured several classes at the school, including Geo(graphy)Tech and PhysicsTech, guided by sophomores Kelsey Scott and Zachery Roberson.

While the campus bristles with high-end technology like high-definition cameras, flat screen TVs and laptop computers, school officials say the goal is for students to embrace technology – in all its forms – as a tool to advance learning.

Scott and Roberson enthusiastically endorsed the approach, describing a class project from their freshmen year where students put together a multimedia project on the Roaring 20’s, including producing a newspaper, videos and class presentations built around research into the technological developments, significant events and important figures of the time.

“It’s a really fun way to learn,” Scott said, “and you don’t even realize until later how much you have learned.”

Holly Heaviland, director of the New Tech network in Michigan’s Washtenaw county, explained to Darnieder that the school strives to “marry innovations with other things kids need,” including strategies to increase college access.  She introduced him to two teams of College Advising Corps members from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.  Together, the teams provide valuable college counseling support to 33 Michigan urban and rural schools.

“You guys are in a key role,” Darnieder told the group, mentioning President Obama’s goal of reaching 8.2 million new college graduates by 2020.  “I want to thank you for stepping out there and venturing into the land of young people.  So much of success in this area is about building relationships.  It’s about academics, too, but especially for first generation college-going students, success revolves around relationships.”

His point was echoed by Joilyn Stephenson, a member of the University of Michigan college advising corps.   “A lot of people don’t realize that these students are helping us as well,” Stephenson said.  When we can see some of the challenges they’re overcoming, it encourages us to do our best.”

-Daren Briscoe
Office of Communications and Outreach

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.”

Back-to-School Highlights from Day One

The “Education and the Economy” bus tour shuttled Secretary Duncan and other ED officials to events with students, parents, educators and community leaders from New York to Ohio and places in between. Here are some of the highlights from day one: 

Pittsburgh, PA
Education is Job One.
At Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary, Secretary Duncan linked education and jobs. “A quality education system and a strong, growing vibrant economy are inextricably linked,” he said. “If we do this well, we put our country back on the path to prosperity.” Read the full post.

Pittsburgh, PA
Harnessing Research and Technology for Higher Ed Excellence
. And, in a Wednesday afternoon speech to administrators, teachers and students at Carnegie-Mellon University, Under Secretary Martha Kanter outlined the Obama administration’s investments in open educational resources, to broaden access to high-quality higher education for students across the country. “If we get this right, our generation will enable the greatest expansion in access to high-quality education opportunities in world history.  And we are determined to get it right,” Dr. Kanter told the audience.

Bus Tour in the News

The Secretary’s message resonated in Pittsburgh, including his emphasis on the need for schools, teachers unions and communities to partner in improving student outcomes, and his call for more volunteers and mentors to support at-risk youth and their teachers, especially in low-performing schools.

“The battle isn’t with us. The battle is with poverty; the battle is with social failure; and the battle is with unemployment. We have to have a vision of how we are going to overcome those battles together,” Secretary Duncan said at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Secretary Duncan brought his message about the need to invest in education to a Pittsburgh elementary school and an early learning center in Erie. He focused on laying a solid foundation from children’s earliest years.

“Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants level the playing field,” Secretary Duncan said Wednesday on his stop in Erie at the Early Connections pre-K Learning Center.

Even the time between stops was newsworthy, as the Secretary was interviewed on the bus by ride-along bloggers and reporters, who covered the day’s events and the conversations on the road.

Saying that the time of high paying jobs without a high school diploma has passed, Secretary Duncan joined educators, parents and community leaders in Cleveland to call for education beyond high school and mentors to turnaround low-performing schools.

In Toledo, Secretary Duncan praised the Toledo teacher evaluation plan, created in 1981 by then-Toledo Federation of Teachers President Dal Lawrence, for its union and management collaboration.

Erie, PA
A Big Start for Little Learners.
The Secretary’s second stop – for a roundtable at a pre-K learning center – showcased strong early education programs as a powerful investment in students’ success in school and life. “There’s nothing more important we can do to get our babies off to a great start,” Duncan noted.

Erie, PA
From Cradle to College–in a few hours!
 Before departing from the roundtable event at the Early Learning Connections Center, Secretary Duncan took a few minutes to meet with Noekhea Williams, a 12th grader at Central Technical High School who has participated in GO College Erie, a national program aimed at increasing college access and completion for at-risk students. Williams and several of her cohorts shared with Duncan that she has benefitted from two programs funded by ED (TRIO and i3), and that these programs have helped her to find options for her to go to college and make her life better.  GO College Erie is five-year program funded by a combined $24 million contribution from the U.S. Department of Education ($20 million) and the GE Foundation ($4 million).

Cleveland, OH
Connecting Communities and Classrooms for Student Success.
 On his third stop, the Secretary met with a capacity crowd at East Tech High School, highlighting progress in the region and the State, including comprehensive reform sparked by the State’s successful bid for Race to the Top funds.

Cleveland, OH
Teachable Moment.
In Cleveland Arne met two teens who described to him their own teachable moment. While walking to school on September 2, James Rhodes High School’s Dontaz Bailey (9th grade) and Juan Goins (10th) stopped to save the life of a woman who was attempting to jump off of the 130-foot Fulton Road Bridge to end her life. Instead, the boys grabbed the woman’s ankles, talked to her, and begged her to hang on. Police reported that once they arrived on the scene, the boys shied away from accolades, saying that they wanted to get to school. Later, Goins offered advice to the troubled woman. “We saved her life, it was an honor to save her,” he said. “But that’s no way to solve your problems.”

Essex, NY
Country Roads Lead to College Access. 
And, from Tuesday, John White, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach, toured three Adirondack schools with Rick Dalton, President and CEO of College For Every Student (CFES). The schools, including Willsboro Central, Crown Point Central and Ticonderoga Middle, have been recognized by CFES as “Schools of Distinction” for inspiring rural students to attend college, and equipping them with skills and resources to reach their goals.

Our Favorite Tweets

@newtechnetwork: Beginning the right way @ArneDuncan welcoming students first! #edtour11

@JTFlynny: Cleveland All City Drumline – awesome! #edtour11

@Joy_Resmovits: @arneduncan‘s applause line in Cleveland “In tough economic times, we have to continue to invest in education” #edtour11

@StriveTogether: “U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urges community support of schools and schoolchildren” #edtour11

@khefling :Duncan: “You can’t have a great city without a great school system.” Praises work between teachers union and district in Pit #EDTour11

@thenerdyteacher: #EDTour11 – .@arneduncan – We’ve (Dept of Edu) been part of the problem. Too focused on compliance and not enough on innovation. #Truth

—Laurie Calvert, Sherry Schweitzer, and Melissa Apostolides
Office of Communications and Outreach

Keep following the progress of this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

Duncan and Officials Observe Mock Presentation of Innovative Teacher Mentoring and Evaluation Program at AFT Hall

An innovative teacher evaluation plan, developed with the participation of the teachers union in Toledo, Ohio, was the focus of the final stop on the first day of the “Education and the Economy” bus tour.

Secretary Duncan paid a visit late Wednesday to the Toledo Federation of Teachers union hall.  There, along with 75 teachers, union officials, local elected officials and community members, Duncan observed a mock peer-review panel presentation of the Toledo Plan, 2001 winner of the “Innovations in American Government Award” competition co-sponsored by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government, with funding from the Ford Foundation.

Brochures describe the program as an “intensive model of evaluation and mentoring” for intern teachers…“aimed at those most in need of professional help – beginning teachers and those experienced teachers in trouble.”

But Dal Lawrence, former president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, had a simpler description.

“We want to find out who can teach in Toledo and who can’t,” Lawrence told Secretary Duncan. “We want to give enough expert mentoring and coaching to people so that they can fly on their own.”

During the presentation, two Toledo Public Schools intern consultants, who are assigned to newly hired Toledo teachers (interns) for two semesters, evaluated two former interns, Matthew Ziegler and Amanda Carr (fictitious name). The consultants’ summary evaluation reports were presented to an Intern Board of Review composed of five teachers and four administrators.

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

Their reports, based largely on interns’ progress toward meeting specific goals as determined by the consulting teachers, included descriptions and evidence of the interns’ performance in the areas of teaching procedures, classroom management, subject knowledge and personal characteristics/professional responsibility.

Upon receiving a recommendation from the consulting teachers on the interns’ future employment status, – “yes” for Ziegler, “no” for Carr – the panel had an opportunity to question the presenters and discuss the interns’ performance before conferring and voting on the recommendations.

The dialogue drew out specific areas where the two teachers were either performing well. For Ziegler:  “Weekly goals are outlined and posted on the blackboard, uses baskets to distribute materials quickly, spirals lessons through increasing levels of complexity.” For Carr:  “Students are not engaged consistently, high standards of work are not encouraged, class rules and consequences are posted but not enforced consistently or fairly.”

Afterwards, the panel voted to accept the recommendation in both cases; Ziegler was approved to receive a second one-year contract and released from the intern program, while Carr’s performance was deemed unsatisfactory, with no offer of a second-year contract.

Next, Lawrence asked Ziegler (who went on to become a math teacher after his real evaluation and was in the audience) to stand to applause from the crowd.

Secretary Duncan joked with Ziegler, saying “That must be a little odd – watching your own life like that.”

“I’ve followed this model closely for years, and this was a chance to learn and pay very close attention to the hard work, collaboration, and thoughtfulness that went into this process,” Duncan said.

Red Jackets On, City Year Supports At-Risk Students

Todd Marsh, center, and several dozen other City Year Cleveland corps members attended Wednesday's forum on community partnerships.

CLEVELAND-You know them immediately by their red coats. And their enthusiasm. They are City Year corps members-young Americans who serve for a year in urban communities throughout the country, including in Cleveland and its public schools.

On Wednesday afternoon, City Year corps members cheered for guests as they arrived at Cleveland’s East Technical High School for a forum featuring Secretary Duncan. On any normal school day, you would find them cheering for 9th graders in the city who are at risk of getting off track and dropping out of school.

City Year just began its second school year of involvement on some of Cleveland’s lowest-performing campuses-five schools this year, all of them undergoing a turnaround funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant program. Corps members serve as mentors and tutors to cadres of students whose grades have slipped and who show the indicators of becoming high school dropouts.

City Year focuses on the ABCs-Attendance, Behavior and Coursework. The day for corps members can start as early as 7 a.m., calling students’ homes to make sure their charges will show up for school.

“The first battle is getting kids into the schools,” said Phillip Robinson, executive director of City Year Cleveland and a native of the city. “Then we work on behavior…and coursework.” Last year, Robinson said, Cleveland students supported by City Year saw a 10-point increase in their attendance. Focusing on the non-academic factors that affect school performance “allows the principals and teachers to focus on teaching,” he said.

What City Year is doing in Cleveland is also happening in 20 other cities around the country, including other stops on Secretary Duncan’s “Education and the Economy” tour: Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago.

In exchange for their year of service, corps members receive a $5,550 education award to defray the costs of college or graduate school, plus a modest stipend for living expenses. Funding comes from public sources, including the Department’s School Improvement Grant program and the Corporation for National and Community Service’s AmeriCorps program, as well as contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals. City Year is also a partner in a five-year, $30 million grant from the Department’s Investing in Innovation (i3) program that is focusing on turning around “dropout factories” in 14 school districts. For every $1 in government funding, Robinson said, City Year tries to raise $2 from private sources.

“We’re a higher-yield, low-cost human growth strategy,” he said. Donors are “investing in the transformation” of Cleveland and the other communities where City Year is at work.

Todd Marsh, a 24-year-old Ohio State University graduate who was among the dozens of corps members filling several front rows at Wednesday’s forum, is staying on for a second year with City Year, as a team leader assigned to an academy set up just for 9th graders.

“As much as you’re giving back to a community,” Marsh said, “you’re also developing your own professional and leadership skills.” And developing similar skills-plus others-in those students whom City Year is helping to graduate.

Office of Communications and Outreach

Education Will Open Doors, Duncan Tells Cleveland Students

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Nearly 1000 people filed into the East Tech High School auditorium in Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon for the third stop, and the largest crowd yet, on the “Education and the Economy” bus tour.

But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a personal message for a small group of them. He asked the students in the audience to stand. Several rows of young, mostly African-American men wearing black sweater vests, white dress shirts, ties and khakis seated in the front rows stood, to applause from the crowd. 

Duncan spoke directly to them.

“When I was in high school on the south side of Chicago, my friends could drop out of high school and go to work in the stock yards and steel mills, get a job and take care of a family.  That’s gone now.”

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

He went on to implore everyone attending to find a role in improving Cleveland’s education system and to reject complacency.

“If you do that, doors will open for you, if not – it’s going to be tough.  Cleveland has made real progress, but your goal should be to be the best urban school system in the country four or five years from now.  Cleveland has had some great successes, but now is not the time to rest on your laurels.”

The event “Connecting Cleveland’s Communities and Classrooms,” featured a panel discussion and audience Q&A with Duncan and national and local leaders in community service.  Participants included Joshua DuBois, executive director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Acting CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service Robert Velasco II; Reverend Tracy Lind; Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon, and Nikki Gentile, a 3rd grade teacher from Marion-Sterling school.

But the conversation began before Secretary Duncan’s bus rolled onto East Tech’s campus. The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held a forum for leaders of Cleveland community-based organizations. Representatives of the federal Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Education, as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service, offered information about federal programs that support local communities.

Representatives of nonprofit groups talked about how they are putting that funding to work in the Cleveland area. Outside in the main hallway of East Tech, government agencies and community groups showcased their programs and provided information to the guests.
Once the main event kicked off, Secretary Duncan said the goal was simple: “Connecting Cleveland’s communities and classrooms – what’s working, and what can be done to improve?”  And, he noted, “Any time you have an auditorium full of people talking about education, that’s a good thing.”

The panel discussed topics and audience questions ranged widely; how to increase meaningful parental engagement; how Cleveland has increased graduation rates; what the appropriate role for charter schools is; and from a student in the audience who said he was in foster care and wanted to know, “What will happen in three years when Race to the Top money runs out?  Are students like me going to be left on our own with no help from the system?”

Secretary Duncan was optimistic.  “Race to the Top has catalyzed huge amount of change in this system,” he said.  “Forty-four states have signed on to common core academic standards.  For the first time in Ohio, children are being held to a much higher standard.  When the (Race to the Top) money goes away – I don’t think that goes away.  My hope is that we’ve taken our country in a new direction and will continue to improve.”

Read more about City Year corps members who participated in the East Tech High event.

Transforming Schools into Community Hubs

Cleveland, OH

Turning struggling schools into vibrant community hubs was the focus of Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin’s Wednesday morning stop on the back-to-school bus tour.

Yudin visited Lincoln-West High School (home of the Wolverines), met with students and teachers, and hosted a roundtable discussion with fifteen principals working to transform some of Ohio’s persistently lowest-achieving schools, with federal dollars from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.

Yudin’s tour was led by students from the school’s themed academies: international studies, wraparound services, and computer programming and software development. The school also houses academies that provide support for ninth-graders and immigrant families.

The principals who joined the roundtable lead a wide range of schools, covering grades P-12. All are in their first or second year of a three-year SIG grant. As the principals shared their vision, challenges, and successes thus far, Yudin connected their work to Ohio’s future success – and the nation’s. “All of you are strong leaders, and I applaud your commitment to improving outcomes for your students,” he told the group.

The panel discussion brought out several strategies that can help turn around low-performing schools, including offering students extended learning time, improving students’ access to educational technology tools, using data to drive instruction and decision-making, improving instructional practices, and building strong teacher-led accountability teams. All the principals noted the importance of creating safe, welcoming learning environments for students and their families.

“These school teams are working to build positive cultures and climates for learning,” Yudin said. “They are coordinating all the supports and resources they can, to make these schools the strong centers – the beacons of hope – of their communities.”

Making Early Connections in Erie

ERIE- Second stop for Secretary Duncan on the 2011 “Education and the Economy” bus tour: the Early Connections pre-K Learning Center. Here the Secretary participated in a roundtable discussion about early childhood education with Senator Bob Casey, Pennsylvania state educators, parents and business leaders, along with Duncan’s Senior Advisor on Early Learning Jacqueline Jones, and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny.

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

It began with a quick classroom observation, where in teacher Meghan Haskins’s class, Secretary Duncan’s visit competed for the attention of youngsters with building blocks, crayons, and crafts.

Next, Secretary Duncan joined a capacity crowd in another classroom, sitting with other panel participants at a U-shaped table. Though the classroom was designed for a pint-sized audience, Senator Casey – participating via Skype – introduced Secretary Duncan with a very adult rationale for investing in early childhood education.

The investment, Senator Casey said, “is important so every child can shine to the full measure of their potential. The return on investment is irrefutable, from a low estimate of a $3 return for every dollar spent, to estimates as high as $17 for every dollar invested. Whatever the number, it’s a great return.”

Secretary Duncan praised Senator Casey’s commitment to early childhood education as a way to avoid cascading achievement problems further down the line. “I’m tired of playing catch-up,” Duncan said. “You have colleges blaming high schools when kids aren’t ready: high schools blaming middle schools, middle schools blaming elementaries. There’s nothing more important we can do to get our babies off to a great start. If we can get our three, four and five-year-olds ready for kindergarten, so many of these challenges go away.”

One by one, the participants around the table spoke to the importance of real commitment to quality early childhood education.

Jacqueline Jones agreed with the consensus, highlighting the Department’s $500 million commitment made with the Department of Health and Human Services. She confirmed that their new Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant program offers funding that will increase access to quality early childhood education. “We’re doing everything we can,” Jones said, “to try to make your job easier, and to make sure that teachers and classrooms have what they need, but most of all that children have what they need.”

Back-to-School Bus Tour: Highlights from Tuesday, September 6

Dr. Kanter with Monroe Community College students

A day before the official start of the Back-to-School Bus Tour, several Department officials hit the road early for events in Ohio and New York.  Here are some highlights:

Cleveland Middle School Helps Put ED Tour in Motion
Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin got fit with students at a Cleveland-area National Blue Ribbon School, during exercises led by the Cleveland Browns’ mascot, and other guests.  Read the full post.

Students “Strive” for College and Career Success
In Rochester, New York, Under Secretary Martha Kanter spoke with students, teachers, and state and local partners at Monroe Community College, as part of the area’s Cradle-to-Career/Strive Network Forum.  Read more about the event and the Strive Network, a grassroots partnership to provide the region’s students with a roadmap to excel in school, earn a high school diploma, and attain an associate or bachelor’s degree.  The Rochester group aims to match the momentum of a nearby effort in Buffalo, funded by a Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods grant.

Classes Get a High-Tech Boost in Rural New York
Director of Rural Outreach John White celebrated the first day of school at Cuba-Rushford Central School, in upstate New York.  He joined middle-schoolers using interactive technologies to study the three branches of government, and high school students in a Fisheries and Wildlife Technology Class, planning research projects that integrate math, science, English and computer technology.  From managing their own trout hatchery, to using radio telemetry applications to track whitetail deer, students gain STEM skills through hands-on applications.  Check out this innovative classroom.

You can follow the progress of this year’s back-to-school tour by visiting, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter and by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.