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.

1 Comment

  1. I would like to question the intelligence of the texas department of education. My is a kindergarten teacher in the texas public education system. This year we were forced to drop our medical insurance due to the rising cost. How is it that a teacher of 10 years cannot afford to carry nedical insurance on her family. she cannot afford even to carry full coverage insurance on her self. Please let me know of the reason that insurance premiums cannot be held to an afforadble rate.

    sincerely and frustrated

    Paul Blackman

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