Education Drives America – Bus Tour Stops in the Midwest

Leaving the Rockies behind, this year’s Education Drives America back-to-school bus tour will head through the Great Plains and on to the Midwest with stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Here are the details released today:

Topeka – Sept. 18

Bus in rural area

ED's back-to-school bus tour--which includes a bus slightly larger than a school bus--will visit both rural and urban areas across the country.

With 1,800 miles of the tour down and 1,100 to go, Secretary Arne Duncan will start this leg of the tour with a visit to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan. Duncan and guests will honor the legacy of hope and courage represented by the U.S. Supreme Court case that ended legal segregation in the nation’s public schools.

Emporia – Sept. 18

After Topeka, Duncan will join National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel for a tour of the National Teacher Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kan. Duncan and Van Roekel will also hold a discussion with students, prospective teachers and community members at Emporia State University.

Kansas City – Sept. 18

Secretary Duncan and other senior Department officials will travel to Kansas City, Mo., where they will host a town hall on education and the Hispanic community at the Penn Valley campus of Metropolitan Community College. Read about additional events in the Kansas City region.

Columbia – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton will travel to Columbia, Mo., where they will participate in a video conference and roundtable discussion with local rural educators and participants in the eMINTS program (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies). The discussion will be held in the Ellis Library on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus.

St. Louis – Sept. 19

Following the visit to Columbia, Miller will host a town hall with community leaders, representatives of faith communities, school officials and students to discuss college access and affordability, especially for African-American students. The town hall will take place at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. He will highlight the Department’s efforts to support communities, states and local schools to reduce dropout rates and increase academic success for African-American students. There are many more events in the St. Louis area, read more.

Mt. Vernon – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller and Sue Liu, special assistant for community colleges in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, will travel to Continental Tire’s production facility in Mount Vernon, Ill., where they will tour the facility and lead a roundtable discussion with representatives from the company, Rend Lake College, and other local business and education leaders.

Evansville – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller will visit Glenwood Leadership Academy on Wednesday, Sept. 19 in Evansville, Ind., for a panel discussion on labor management collaboration and community partnership in education. The panel will include Miller, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, and local school officials. The audience will include teachers, union leaders, parents and community members.

Tomorrow we’ll be releasing the details of the bus’s final stops. For up-to-the-minute updates from the road, subscribe to our Education Drives America e-mail updates by clicking here.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement

6 More Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Visit the School

When visiting the school, walk or ride the route your child will take. Speak to your child about talking to strangers, and observe along the route any areas in which your child must exercise caution.

Look for the school patrols, crossing guard, or police officers on the streets near the school. Find out the school’s policy for early arrivals, and if needed, organize with other parents to have adults stationed outside the school to watch the children until the school allows them to enter.

Introduce Yourself

Back to School LogoFind out the school’s entrance procedure before visiting your child’s classroom, and how his/her teacher prefers to be contacted.

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Ask the teacher the times he/she is available to talk to parents.


Now that you know the teacher of your child, offer to help with class trips or with school activities. Are more books needed in the library? Offer to hold a book drive or find a company that will donate books.

Does the teacher need assistance with particular projects in the school? If time permits, offer to be a classroom parent or to organize other parents to help in the classroom or at the school. If you can’t make it to the classroom during school hours, ask if there are things you can do from home or on the weekends that would be helpful.

Afterschool and Extracurricular Activities

If the school offers afterschool and/or extra-curricular activities, find out ways you can assist. If the budget restricts afterschool activities, find ways you or members in the community could assist. 

Make Homework a Priority

Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework.

If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss his or her difficulty. Check with the counselor and the teacher about tutors to get your child help if needed.

Take Charge of TV

Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child’s life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.

When your child is watching TV, watch with him or her when you can. Talk together about what you see. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child’s everyday life.

When you can’t watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he or she is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.

 Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families

Rocky Mountain High – Details for Bus Tour Stops in WY and CO

ED’s third annual back-to-school bus tour is taking Secretary Duncan and top federal education officials across the country for a series of events and community conversations reinforcing the message that Education Drives America. Yesterday we provided details on our stops in California, Nevada and Utah. Here is additional information on our stops in Wyoming and Colorado:

Rock Springs – Sept. 14

After making their way across the deserts of Nevada and through the rugged mountains of Utah’s Wasatch Front, Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss will board the Education Drives America bus and head to the Equality State for a stop in Rock Springs, Wyo. Kanter and Weiss will tour career academies and participate in a roundtable discussion at Rock Springs High School. Read about other events in the Rocks Springs area.

Bus Tour MapRawlins – Sept. 14

Later that day, Kanter, Weiss and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White will visit the Carbon County Higher Education Center in Rawlins, Wyo., to participate in a roundtable discussion on the topic of distance learning, with an audience including Wyoming’s state and county school superintendents, local college leaders, and local community college students and teachers.

Cheyenne – Sept. 14

Under Secretary Kanter, and Chief of Staff Weiss will end the week by joining Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier on a visit to Laramie Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., to highlight education successes and lead community conversations about school reform, college affordability and completion, and the link between education and jobs. Read more about other events near Cheyenne.

Denver – Sept. 17

Secretary Arne Duncan will rejoin the Education Drives America tour on Monday, Sept. 17, and will start off with a visit to Lowery Elementary School in Denver, Colo. Duncan will participate in a “Let’s Move!” nutrition event and group fitness activity. Read about other tour events in the Denver area.

Limon – Sept. 17

Secretary Duncan will then make a stop at Limon Public School—a K-12 school—in Limon, Colo., addressing some 200 students, parents, teachers and community members at the school’s Constitution Day celebration.

Next stop, the Sunflower State. Details coming soon.

More specific details about these stops will become available as the time for the events draws closer. For live, up-to-the-minute updates from the road, follow the Education Drives America tour on Twitter using the hashtag #edtour12, and read more about the entire tour at

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement at the U.S. Department of Education

White House Honors Parents as Champions of Change

In a recent speech, Secretary Duncan noted that parents understand better than anyone how important it is that schools prepare students for success in life—not just with academic knowledge, but with the skills needed to succeed in jobs and to be an active participant in society.

Champions of Change logoParents and guardians are key to student achievement, which is why the White House recently recognized the importance of parental involvement by honoring 12 parents as “Champions of Change,” during a recent “PTA Day” at the White House. Over 175 PTA leaders from across the country met with senior officials from the White House and Department of Education to discuss the importance of family engagement.

Meet the 12 PTA Champions of Change. Click on each name to read about the Champion:

Melissa Kicklighterread her blog

Ana Chapmanread her blog

Calvin Endoread his blog

Emily Sackread her blog

Janelle Sperryread her blog

Deidre Pierceread her blog

Sam Macerread his blog

Anne Stafford  – read her blog

Sharon Whitworthread her blog

Sharon Meigh-Changread her blog

Carlina Brownread her blog

Mandy Pattersonread her blog

Visit ED’s new Parents & Family page, and sign up for email updates from our parent engagement team.


5 Ways to Help Your Child Prevent Bullying this School Year

As children head back to the classroom, now is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with your kids about bullying. Here are five tips to help your child prevent bullying and to help them deal with bullying:

Back to School Logo1)     Establish lines of communication and talk for at least 15 minutes a day. Bullying can be difficult for parents to talk about, but it is important that children know they can talk to you, before they are involved in bullying in any way. and our partners at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have easy tips and tools that can help start the conversation.

2)     Make sure kids know safe ways to be more than a bystander. When kids witness bullying, it can affect them too. Helping kids learn what they can do to help when they see bullying can help to stop bullying. Click here for more suggestions on how bystanders can help.

3)     Know your state’s anti-bullying law and your school’s anti-bullying policy. Forty-nine states have laws requiring schools to have anti-bullying policies. Know what your school policy says and how to report an incident of bullying if you ever need to.

4)     Learn how to support kids involved in bullying. When you find out your child is involved in bullying, it is important to know how to respond. Whether your child is bullying others or is the one being bullied it is important to know what steps to take, and which to avoid, in order to resolve the situation.

5)     Take an active role in anti-bullying initiatives. The key to addressing bullying is to stop it before it starts. Work with your children, their school, and the community to raise awareness and take action against bullying. Toolkits like the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Community Action Training Modules can help you start an initiative in your community. You can get your children involved, too, by using the Youth Leaders Toolkit to help them mentor younger children.

Visit for more helpful tips on how to prevent bullying, and have a great school year!

Deborah Temkin is a Research and Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives at the Department of Education

Cities Announced! 2012 Back-to-School Bus Tour

Bus Tour MapEarlier today, Secretary Arne Duncan announced ED’s third back-to-school bus tour. The tour, themed Education Drives America, will take Duncan and senior ED leaders across the country, with stops in the following cities:

    • Secretary Duncan in front of last year's bus

      Secretary Duncan in Pittsburgh kicking off last year's back-to-school bus tour. Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

      Redwood City, Calif.

    • Sacramento, Calif.
    • Reno, Nev.
    • Elko, Nev.
    • Salt Lake City
    • Rawlins, Wyo.
    • Rock Springs, Wyo.
    • Cheyenne
    • Denver
    • Limon, Colo.
    • Topeka, Kan.
    • Emporia, Kan.
    • Kansas City, Mo.
    • Columbia, Mo.
    • St. Louis
    • Mt. Vernon, Ill.
    • Evansville, Ind.
    • Lexington, Ky.
    • Charleston, W.Va.
    • McDowell County, W.Va.
    • Roanoke, Va.
    • Richmond, Va.
    • Washington, DC

The tour will highlight education successes and bring communities together to talk about P-12 school reform, college affordability and the link between education and jobs.

Last year’s tour took ED through the Midwest, and in 2010 Duncan and staff visited the South and the Northeast.

Secretary Duncan will lead the tour from Redwood City through Reno, Denver through Kansas City, and Charleston through Washington. Deputy Secretary Tony Miller and Under Secretary Martha Kanter will also lead portions of the tour.

More details on each stop will be announced in the coming weeks. To receive updates about the tour, SIGN UP for our Education Drives America email list.

Cameron Brenchley is Director of Digital Engagement

Check Out ED’s New Parents & Families Page

The Department of Education is proud to announce the launch of a new parent web page that provides resources aimed at parent and family engagement. This new addition to ED’s site is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more and getting involved in their child’s education. To make it even simpler, here’s a list of some of the great things this new page has to offer:

School Crosswalk Sign1.     On the Blog

Find links to posts on ED’s Homeroom Blog that deal specifically with parents, families, and engagement.

2.     Email Updates

Enter your email address to receive updates from ED’s parent engagement team.

 3.     Parent and Family Involvement Topics

The parent page provides a list of links to a number of parent and family involvement topics, such as special education, college, bullying, Promise Neighborhoods, and more.

 4.     Further Resources

Click on any of the links below the Resources subheading to learn about how to collaborate with ED or to participate in family engagement in other ways, like ED webinars or parent forums. You will also see links to our publications and newsletters focused on parents and families, such as Parent Power and Engaging Families.

Get started today by visiting

Alexandra Strott is a student at Middlebury College and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Top 5 Ways to Prevent Rusty Summer Readers

With summer vacation started or on its way, as parents or guardians, it’s important to ensure that reading remains on your child’s schedule even while school is out. Reading over the summer is important not only because it improves literacy and language skills, but also because it prevents what has become known as the “summer slide”—a regression in reading ability.

A student reads a bookStudies show that children who don’t read or who read rarely over the summer encounter a stagnation or decline in their reading skills.

With that in mind, here are five of the best ways to keep your child reading this summer:

  1. Let your child choose what they want to read – or be read to – for 30 minutes each day. Children are much more likely to engage in material that interests them rather than materials that are forced on them.
  2. Use language and reading opportunities throughout the day.  Talk often with your child and point out reading materials wherever possible:  on menus, magazines and newspapers, signs, brochures, maps, guidebooks, smartphones, ipads, etc.
  3. Make daily reading a social event. Get the whole family to join in with their own books or take turns reading the same book aloud. Include telling stories as well.
  4. Connect reading to other summer events. If you take your child to the zoo, think about reading a book about animals before and afterward. This will place your child’s reading within a larger context.
  5. Make reading a lifestyle choice. Keep books all around the house to cultivate an atmosphere of reading, and set an example by reading yourself. Children need good models of reading books, magazines, or newspapers.

Madison Killen is a student at the University of California Berkeley and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Detroit Family Engagement Forum: Families Stepping Up for Student Success

In spite of the cold and drizzling rain, about 200 parents came out on a recent Saturday morning to Central High School in Detroit. They were “parents with a purpose,” the theme of the family engagement forum co-sponsored by Detroit Public Schools and ED.

Building on President Obama’s inspirational statement that “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one,” parents from diverse backgrounds came to learn how they can partner with their child’s teacher and school and what school, district, state and federal resources are available.

During a workshop, family members discuss ways to support their children’s education.

During a workshop, family members discuss ways to support their children’s education.

As part of the day’s activities, parents and other family members attended a series of workshops on such topics as: special education rights; what every parent needs to know about parent involvement in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; financial aid; responding to bullying; and protecting students from civil rights violations.

Secretary Duncan visited Detroit on his 2011 back-to-school bus tour and noted, “I couldn’t be more hopeful about Detroit.” He told parents and community leaders, “There’s an alignment of leadership and an alignment of commitment and courage here. My challenge to Detroit is to become the fastest improving district in the country.” The recent family engagement forum was one of many steps taken in collaboration with ED to meet that goal.

At the recent event, some of the tips for family engagement given to the parents included:

  • Make sure your child attends school every day.
  • Limit times for watching television and playing video games.
  • Read with your child 30 minutes every night.
  • Assist with homework.
  • Volunteer in the school.
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher throughout the school year.

With a revitalized purpose, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) is working to make parents and families partners in student academic success.  Linda Blanton, DPS’s Executive Director of the Department of State and Federal Programs, reinforced the need for family engagement by pointing out the importance of having the event at Central High.

One parent commented: “What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! The workshops were great, [and] what stood out most was that presenters were attentive and compassionate with the parents,” she said. “They listened and valued our comments and concerns. I was grateful to walk away feeling respected.”

Shirley Jones is the family engagement liaison in ED’s Chicago Regional Office

Duncan Talks Obama Education Record at Mom Congress

Secretary Duncan speaks to Mom Congress

Secretary Duncan speaks to the 2012 Mom Congress delegates. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

What is the proper role of the federal government in education? Secretary Arne Duncan answered this question Monday at Parenting‘s annual Mom Congress in Washington. “Under President Obama’s leadership, our role here in Washington is to support you,” Duncan said. There’s a transformation underway in public education at the state and local level, he said, that is raising expectations for students and educators.

At the Department of Education, our first three years were really about building a foundation for this transformation. We have challenged the status quo wherever it is needed and championed bold reform wherever it is happening along the educational pipeline from cradle to career.

Secretary Duncan explained how the Obama Administration has supported reforms by:

Strengthening K-12 Education

The Administration is investing in courageous leadership at the state and local level, taking to scale practices that close achievement gaps and raise the bar for all students. Investments include:

Investing in Early Learning

The Obama Administration has made an unprecedented investment in high-quality early childhood education with the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.

Keeping Teachers on the Job

Under the Recovery Act and emergency jobs funding, more than 325,000 teachers were kept in classrooms during the height of the recession.

Investing in Higher Education

The Obama Administration has made the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill.

    • Three million more students are going to college with Pell Grants, thanks to an increase in Pell funding by $40 billion. Rather than adding to the deficit, the Administration paid for the increase by cutting overly generous federal subsidies to big banks that make student loans.
    • Invested $2.5 billion to support adults attending community colleges.
    • Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has resulted in 50 percent more applications since President Obama took office.

“The bottom line today is: We can’t stop,” Secretary Duncan said. “The costs of educational stagnation and mediocrity are too high. President Obama has put us on a path to reach our goal of being the best-educated country in the world by 2020, and we have to keep going.”

Arne encouraged the education advocates in the audience—moms from all 50 states and D.C.—to continue working in their communities on behalf of their own children and all children. Parents need to be good partners with their children’s teachers, he told them, but “also need to be partners in bigger, systemic issues.”

Read the entire speech here.

Voices that Matter

I recently attended a convening sponsored by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), Joining Forces (which is coming up to its first anniversary) and the US Department of Education.  The event was designed to identify a series of immediately implementable solutions to some of the challenges vexing military-connected children.

These young people confront a plethora of issues when one or both of their parents are in the armed services, including frequent moves causing academic and psycho-social disruption, parental absence for extended periods, and loss of or injury to a parent. We know there are more than a million school-aged children of current service members and many more whose parents served post 9-11, making a focus on military-connected children a responsibility we owe to our military families who have served our nation with honor.  It is an issue on which the US Department of Education has been focused, including encouraging the Interstate Compact that facilitates student transition from one school to another across state boarders.

The convening was led by Patty Shinseki, a member of the MCEC Science Advisory Board and wife Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, and Dr. Mary Keller, President of MCEC, both of whom ensured that the proceedings stayed on task and on target.  Also in attendance were a wide variety of committed, visionary senior stakeholders, all engaged in finding quality solutions.  In short, there was real talent in the room being leveraged to help military-connected children.

What was most powerful to me throughout the day, though, were voices of those needing our help — the children of military families.

The program commenced with two high school aged military-connected children on stage reading a script that revealed the array of struggles experienced by children of military families.  They described the common challenges military-connected children face when the family moves and parents deploy.  Then, there was a video, with military-connected children sharing their stories.   There were drawings done by children of military families in the meeting rooms where we worked. There were also copies of ON THE MOVE, the official magazine of MCEC, in the program packets, containing photos of military-connected children and, among other articles, a description of the MCEC student art displayed at the Department of Education in 2011.

But, the real way in which military-connected children’s voices were heard was in the suggestions that emanated from each adult group grappling with solutions.  As we strategized, every group’s final suggestions addressed the critical need to listen to the children of military families — to understand what they are experiencing and what suggestions they might have to address their situations.  For example, there was strong group support for use of social media and new apps to link military-connected children who had moved to the teachers and students they had known in their prior school.  Who better to design a prototype for such an app than military-connected children, including perhaps through a contest, including one with a prize attached?

Stated simply, the day was energized by a willingness to listen to the voices of those experiencing the effects of having a military parent – the voices of military-connected children.

There is a broader lesson here, too.  We are often tempted to come up with well-meaning solutions to the many problems we see in our world.  To be sure, these solutions are often informed by deep years of experience, academic literature and empirical assessment.   But, it is well worth pausing to remember, as the Dean of Students at the college I led kept reminding me, that the best source for information and solutions can often be found by listening to those experiencing the problems we seek to remediate.  We just need to create listening opportunities and then listen well and carefully. And, when we do, our solutions will stand a vastly better chance of demonstrating measurable positive outcomes.

Karen Gross is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Education

It’s All About the Kids

“It’s all about the kids.” The more I heard teachers and leaders speak those five simple words, the more I knew I was in the right place to witness the power of a single school to change the lives of its students and provide hope to a community.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Deputy Superintendent Pedro Martinez, Principal Neddy Alvarez and her dedicated staff at Western High School, located in the Clark County School District, in Las Vegas. With help from a three-year, $2.5 million School Improvement Grant (SIG) from the U.S. Department of Education, the school has seen improvements in student achievement and in the number of students who are on track to graduate on time. With support from district leadership, in the first year of implementing their SIG grant, the school reports it has increased the number freshmen who are on track to graduate from 60 percent in 2010-11 to 80 percent so far in 2011-12, and is on pace to greatly exceed the school’s goal of increasing by 10 percent the number of seniors who are on track to graduate.

Western’s progress illustrates that change is possible when courageous leaders unleash bold and creative strategies that put the needs of students first. With a newly-awarded SIG grant, Principal Alvarez began implementing the turnaround model, one of four intervention models required under the SIG program.  The school undertook a comprehensive effort to completely transform the culture of the school and added a motivated group of talented teachers.  Western altered the school day to add opportunities for students to get additional credits toward graduation and created smaller learning communities. As part of these comprehensive changes, the school’s leadership also focused on four core reforms to transform their school.

First, improvements started with a fundamental and deliberate shift in the relationship between the school and students to create a caring atmosphere at the school. Using the “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” strategies, school leadership and teachers began building a trusting environment and students and families described seeing changes aimed at improving student outcomes and ensuring the success of every student.  The school day was altered to add more options for students to obtain additional credits toward graduation. Students and teachers were grouped into “houses,” so that smaller cohorts of teachers and counselors could create one-on-one relationships with students.  Teachers and counselors said that the altered school day provides time to address student’s individual concerns and develop individualized learning plans to put every student on a path to graduation.

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