Community College Educators Say American Jobs Act Will Fill Gaps

At a recent roundtable, the faculty of Wake tech Community College believed in their students.

“My students have to go out in the community and demonstrate what they can do. I know they’ve learned when I see a reduction in fire loss,” Wayne, a Wake Tech Fire Service Director, told ED Teaching Ambassador Fellows Angela McClary-Rush and Maryann Woods-Murphy, who led the session with Frank Chong, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges.

Wayne’s colleague, Tommy Edwards, from the school’s Law Enforcement Division agreed. “We also see the results in how much cardio training we provide. Our students saved 20 lives.”

The ED team led the one–hour round table event in an outreach effort designed to listen to the challenges and needs of teachers. The discussion immediately preceded the Secretary Duncan’s Town Hall at the community college in Raleigh, N.C.

David Yarley, the Director of Wake Tech’s Bio Network Capstone Center, said that he is happiest when he picks up the phone and one of his students announces he or she has found a job. Steven Hill, the Humanities Department Chair, just wants to “turn the proverbial light bulb on.” Diane Hinson, a Health Science Dean, is thrilled that Wake Tech students score more than ten points higher than the state test pass rates.

These educators do everything they can to get their students engaged in learning and “use muscles they never knew they had,” said Jessica Facciolini, North Carolina’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, who joined the group from ED at the round table and later at Secretary Duncan’s Community College Town Hall.

But even though these faculty members feel that the Wake Tech is the “pulse of the community” and that “college for the real world” has a vital role, they were asking Washington to support to help maintain such successful programs.

Faculty spoke of large class sizes and of facilities with limited equipment for the students to practice their skills. “If you have two beds in a room full of students, they are only going to get limited hands-on training,” said a nursing teacher. “If we’re going to teach students the latest technology for the 21st Century, we can’t use old machines. They’ve got to have what’s out there in the work place.”

Dianne Hison sighed as she moved forward in her seat, “Not one thing we have on our plates is unreasonable, but when you put it all together, it’s impossible.”  Her colleagues shook their heads in agreement.

The faculty were grateful to know that the American Jobs Act, if passed, would provide relief to schools that have facilities needs and would create jobs for educators, including $5 billion specifically set aside for community colleges.

“Ask Washington to keep listening to us,” said one faculty member, “we’re doing magnificent things that help our students. We need support.”

Read more about the American Jobs Act

Maryann Woods-Murphy

Maryann is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Allendale, NJ.

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.

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.

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.

Secretary Duncan Kicks Off Back-to-School Tour in Pittsburgh

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

PITTSBURGH- The U.S. Department of Education’s “Education and the Economy” back-to-school bus tour got off to a rousing start with a brassy welcome at the tour’s first stop, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s arrival at the school, for a discussion with Pittsburgh Superintendent Linda Lane and other officials about labor-management collaboration, was announced by the blue and gray-clad Perry Traditional Academy marching band, which flanked the school’s entrance along with an energetic team of drummers, horn players and cheerleaders. 

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

Secretary Duncan presented principal Jennifer Mikula with a signed basketball bearing the U.S. Department of Education seal, and then headed to the school’s gym for a panel discussion with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Lane, Mikula, co-principal Shana Nelson, Nina Esposito, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and Robert “Bob” Nelkin, president of the United Way, Allegheny County.

Secretary Duncan complimented Pittsburgh’s commitment in the face of the many forces that can stifle student achievement, saying, “This is a battle against poverty, social failure, and unemployment.”

He praised Pittsburgh’s collaborative approach, including the leadership of the school board, the union, and management, singling out teachers for particular praise.  “There’s nothing more important than great teachers,” Duncan said.  “I know how hard this work is, and what you guys are doing collectively is absolutely a model for the country.”

Secretary Duncan challenged the larger Pittsburgh community to join the collaboration to improve the local education system, and tied Pittsburgh’s success to that of the country. “You can’t have a great city without a great public school system,” he said.  “Families will suffer, and communities will see a tremendous negative impact.  This is in everyone’s best interest – it can’t just be the work of the school system and the unions.  A quality education system and a strong, growing, vibrant economy are inextricably linked.  If we do this well, we put our country back on the path to prosperity.”

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Turning to speak directly to the marching band of 9th-12th graders, Secretary Duncan stressed the importance of education for their future success, and the opportunities it would provide, including Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program administered by the Pittsburgh Foundation that helps Pittsburgh public school students plan, prepare, and pay for an education beyond high school.
“Every single one of you has to graduate from high school and then you have to think about what the next step on your education journey is.  With Pittsburgh Promise – if you work hard, you get good grades, there’s going to be an opportunity for you,” Duncan said.

The panel discussion covered a range of issues, including how to address resource disparities created by local funding for public schools, how to take advantage of schools’ capacity to serve as community hubs during hours outside of the school day, the importance of early childhood education, and Secretary Duncan’s call to recruit 1 million volunteer mentors and tutors in the nation’s lowest performing schools.

Secretary Duncan stressed that his high expectations extend to his own role, and that of the Department of Education.   “We’re trying to learn how to become a better partner,” he told the audience.   “Please hold me accountable, and my team.  We think there’s a lot that’s broken with the No Child Left Behind Act, and we’re trying to provide communities with relief, flexibility, and accountability.  If we can be a better partner, it will speed up change, and it’s always local educators and stakeholders who know what communities need.”

Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

Secretary Duncan closed with a tongue-in-cheek offer to the marching band: “I hope you’re thinking about college now – you guys are fantastic!  I want to take you on the road with me.  If your teachers will let me, I’ll put you on the bus with me until Friday – I’ll write a note for you!”

Back-to-School Bus Heads to the Great Lakes

During last week’s #AskArne Twitter Town Hall, Sarah, a third grade teacher, asked if it is possible for Arne to “tour and sponsor real town halls with educators.” This week, ED announced that Secretary Duncan and his senior staff will be holding more than 50 such events next week.

Secretary Duncan stops in New York during last year's back-to-school bus tour.

Starting on Wednesday, September 7, Secretary Duncan and senior ED staff will head to the Great Lakes Region for a Back-to-School Bus Tour. Arne will be making stops in Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit, Merrillville, Ind., Milwaukee and Chicago, and senior ED officials will be hosting dozens of events throughout the Midwest. The theme of the tour is “Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future.”

Arne will be meeting with educators and talking with students, parents, administrators, and community stakeholders. Among the topics that Secretary Duncan and senior staff will discuss include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, K-12 reform, transforming the teaching profession, civil rights enforcement, efforts to better serve students with disabilities and English Language Learners, Promise Neighborhoods, the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, STEM education, increasing college access and attainment as well as vocational and adult education.

Click here for additional details on Secretary Duncan’s back-to-school bus tour stops.

You can follow the progress of this year’s Back-to-School tour right here at the ED Blog, by following #EDTour11 on Twitter, and by signing up for email updates from ED and Secretary Duncan.

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

Duncan Gains Feedback During California Visit

“You aren’t the future leaders, you’re leading today,” Secretary Duncan told a group of students last night at a community forum in Los Angeles that also included parents, teachers and community leaders.  The Secretary’s discussion at Fremont High School was just one of three stops he made in the LA area yesterday to discuss and get feedback on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Earlier in the day, Secretary Duncan spoke at a gathering of over 1,000 leaders from the business, civic, education, government and parent communities at the one-day Education Summit held by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.  Following his visit to the Education Summit, the Secretary stopped at Tincher Preparatory, a K-8 public school in Long Beach California, for a roundtable discussion with teachers, administrators, parents and students.  The Long Beach Press-Telegram summed up the roundtable discussion:

The secretary listened intently as administrators and teachers talked about the programs that make Tincher a success. The East Long Beach K-8 school, where more than 50 percent of the students are designated as disadvantaged, has been lauded for its gains in test scores and was named a “School to Watch” by the California Middle Grades Alliance in 2009.

Duncan said the LBUSD sets an example for other school districts in the country.

“I’ve studied your school district for a long time, and I think you have so much to be proud of,” he told a crowd gathered in the school library.

Today, the Secretary is stopping in San Diego for another roundtable discussion, as well as a visit to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to discuss education as a national security issue.

Expert Panels Announced for Listening and Learning About Early Learning

Today ED announced the panels of experts who be presenting at the Listening and Learning About Early Learning meetings.

Each of the four meetings will focus on one topic.  Below are dates, places, and names of panel members for the meetings, which will run from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

  • Understanding Preschool – Grade 3 Structures: Friday, April 23, 2010, at the LBJ Auditorium at the Department’s headquarter building in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, 400 Maryland Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C.
    Deborah Leong, Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver
    Jerry Weast, Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools
    Gail Connelly, Executive Director of National Association of Elementary School Principals
    Ruby Takanishi,  President of the Foundation for Child Development
  • Workforce and Professional Development: Monday, April 26, 2010, in the auditorium at the Center for Early Education, 3245 E. Exposition Avenue, Denver, CO
    Marcy Whitebook, Director of Center for the Study of Child Care Employment
    Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute
    Phil Strain, Director of the Positive Early Learning Experiences Center in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver
    Sue Russell, President of the Child Care Services Association
  • Family Engagement: Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at the Orange County Public Schools Educational Leadership Center, 445 W. Amelia Street, Orlando, FL
    Don Bailey, Distinguished Fellow in Early Child Development for RTI International
    Gene Garcia, Vice President for University-School Partnerships at Arizona State University
    Carol Day, President of the National Black Child Development Institute
    Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project and Senior Research Associate and Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Standards and Assessments: Tuesday, May 11, 2010, at the Polk Bros. Lecture Hall at the Erikson Institute, 451 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL
    Sam Meisels, President of the Erikson Institute
    Kathy Hebbeler,  Manager of the Community Services and Strategies Program at SRI International and Director of the Early Childhood Outcomes Center
    Linda Espinosa, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia
    Catherine Scott-Little, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Registration: To attend or speak at a meeting, you must register at×91942aeb2&varPage=agenda.  Please register at least 4 business days prior to each meeting you plan to attend.  Seating and speaker slots are limited, so registering early is important.

Please go to for complete information on registration, webinar attendance, submission of written comments, and special accommodations and assistance to individuals with disabilities.

See you in Washington, Denver, Orlando or Chicago!

Steven Hicks
Special Assistant on Early Learning

HBCU Director John Wilson Visits Jackson State University

We had an uplifting and engaging day at Jackson State University on December 8. It was the first time Dr. John Wilson, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), participated on behalf of Secretary Arne Duncan in a Listening and Learning Tour event.

We arrived to a welcoming audience of teachers, parents, administrators, students, and community leaders of HBCUs teacher prep programs. They’d come to discuss a number of important topics: the President’s goal to produce a higher percentage of college graduates by 2020, the administration’s higher education agenda, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Race to the Top, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As cameramen and news reporters moved into position, we knew it would be a lively town-hall meeting.

In his opening remarks, Wilson painted a picture of the year 2020 — the year this nation will have reached President Obama’s goal of a college graduation rate of over a 60 percent. “We can’t reach this goal without the active participation of our HBCUs,” Wilson said.

He noted that of the 3.2 million teachers currently in America’s classrooms, more than 1/3 will retire within the next four years. He applauded Jackson State University for producing the highest percentage (around 70 percent) of teachers in the state of Mississippi. He challenged Jackson State and other colleges and universities to produce even more quality teachers, particularly math and science teachers — and African-American male teachers, who currently only account for two percent of the nation’s teacher population.

Wilson reiterated the importance of the recently announced final requirements for $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement grants. He encouraged schools to compete for those funds as well as other ED grants.

He concluded by challenging the audience to think creatively and innovatively — to move this country forward by ensuring every child who graduates from high school is ready for college or the workforce. Participants asked a number of good questions. Wilson was pleased with the dialogue and plans to continue it with other HBCUs.

ED Staff

Listening and Learning in Newport News, VA

Last week Congressman Bobby Scott, Brigadier General Brian Layer, and Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Ashby Kilgore joined Secretary Duncan for stops at the An Achievable Dream network of schools in Newport News, Virginia.  The stops were part of the Secretary’s “Listening and Learning Tour” across America.  Since May, he has visited communities in nearly 30 states to solicit feedback around federal education policy in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

An Achievable Dream is a unique partnership between Newport News Public Schools, the City of Newport News, and the local business community to give students who are at risk an equal chance to succeed.  Students at both the An Achievable Dream Academy and the An Achievable Dream Middle and High School campus attend school for eight hours a day and 210 days a year, compared to the six hours a day and 180 days a year in most schools.  Also, there are three mandatory 10-day intersessions where students participate in enrichment and accelerated activities, or remediation if necessary.

Character education is the foundation of An Achievable Dream and is taught every day.  Banners with motivational phrases and the well-defined rules of the school are hung throughout the school building.  Guest speakers and extracurricular activities are planned around character development themes, including close interaction with soldiers from Fort Eustis Army Base.

At An Achievable Dream Academy, Secretary Duncan and Congressman Scott greeted students and soldiers from Fort Eustis assembled in the gymnasium for a community circle.  They read to 1st graders in the Verizon Reading Room and talked with 5th graders enrolled in the school’s mandatory Speaking GREEN class.  Speaking GREEN teaches the difference between casual/slang conversation and work-place appropriate conversation.  In response to the Secretary’s question on why An Achievable Dream Academy was the right school for them, a 5th grade student offered, “I am here because I want a better future.  What I learn here will help me be successful in high school, college and in life.”

Following the stop at An Achievable Dream Academy, the Secretary and Congressman Scott convened a roundtable discussion with local business and community leaders, educators, students and parents at the An Achievable Dream Middle and High School campus.  The discussion centered around ways to improve teacher recruitment, professional preparation and induction programs; strategies to prepare students for college and the world of work; and replicating effective dropout prevention models.

Although educators and administrators testified to the quality of the State’s traditional and alternative certification programs, many detailed the difficulties in attracting and retaining talented educators.  They urged investment in “grow your own strategies” in tandem with local universities that provide high school students with exposure to the teaching profession. Participants stressed the need to “celebrate” the profession, end the “teacher bashing,” and incentivize the next generation of teachers through competitive salaries and meaningful career growth opportunities.

Community leaders talked about the importance of involving parents in schools and ensuring that “no family is left behind.”  They noted, though, that involving all parents effectively is a significant challenge.  Local business leaders urged educators to continuously court the business community due to their vested interest in America’s educational system.  As one local business leader put it, “we want to invest in what works… we have not yet begun to scratch the surface with the business community in this country.”  Superintendent Kilgore passionately talked about the need to replicate and expand models that work to close the achievement gap.  “An Achievable Dream is an incubator for us.  We take what works here to help other children across the district succeed.”

A single mother who raised five boys simply said, “An Achievable Dream was the path to get my kids to college.  This school helped me do that and I am grateful for what they have done.”

ED Staff

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Gingrich, Sharpton, Duncan Continue Education Tour in Baltimore

Gingrich, Sharpton, Duncan continue education tour in Baltimore

The education tour continues in Baltimore.

Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich joined Secretary Arne Duncan last week along the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore for the second stop of their education tour. They visited classes and talked with students and teachers at the KIPP-Ujima Village Academy, Holabird Elementary School, and Hampstead Hill Academy.

Each school is an example of a successful learning environment that is meeting the educational needs of a diverse range of students. KIPP-Ujima Village Academy is a charter school that asks teachers and students to commit to longer school days and school year; Holabird Elementary School hired a new principal and empowered her to make budget and staffing decisions; and Hampstead Hill Academy converted from a public school to a charter school.

The former House Speaker and the civil rights leader are joining Duncan on this tour to find out what works in education and help rally support for:

  • higher learning standards
  • lifting restrictions on the growth of high-quality charter schools
  • turning around low-performing schools
  • improving principal and teacher quality
  • greater transparency and accountability in all schools.

More stops will be scheduled as the tour progresses.

ED Staff

See photos