#RethinkSchool: New Approaches That Are Meeting the Needs of Students

During our annual Rethink School Tour, I had the pleasure of joining 16 other Department of Education officials in highlighting a number of interesting approaches to education. The tour covered 46 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia.

I kicked off my Rethink Tour at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia where I learned about the university’s innovative student programs. I was able to interact with developing entrepreneurs who will be future business leaders. Georgia Tech has questioned everything about their current model and is now expanding their online and remote learning opportunities so students with varying needs can pursue a great education.  Additionally, I had the chance to see the new MyStudentAid mobile app in action as students enrolled and completed their FASFA form on their phones.

Next, I visited the Marshall Space Flight Center and U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. While touring the Payload Operations Center at Marshall, I enjoyed a recorded message from Astronaut Ricky Arnold, who the following day returned home from his 197-day mission in space. I was then able to join a group of students from across the world for their Space Camp mission, where we successfully flew our lunar lander to the Moon, performed several lunar habitat experiments and returned to Earth in the Orion capsule.

While at the Center in Huntsville, which symbolizes unlimited horizons, I encouraged everyone to question everything to ensure nothing limits students from being prepared for what comes next.

The following morning I was off to Tuscaloosa to visit both the Rise Center and Shelton State Community College. The Rise Center is an early childhood learning center that truly creates a nurturing environment for students of all needs to come together for their important, early years of learning. During my visit to Shelton State Community College, I toured the various career and technical education classrooms and even tried my hand at operating a CNC (computer-numerically-controlled) machine. Shelton State maintains close partnerships with regional businesses, which enables students to learn the necessary and relevant skills required for the high-skilled and high-paying jobs in the area.

From Alabama, I moved on to Lexington, Mississippi. In Lexington, I visited Holmes County Central High School, where they are implementing a program that provides promising high school students access to advanced courses in a blended classroom setting. This district is taking a creative approach to remove the limits rural school locations place on students’ learning. Through online resources, college tutors and in-class instructors, students have the opportunity to study advanced physics with remote teaching from a Yale professor.

I closed out my day in Mississippi by joining a Mississippi Home Educators Association outing to the Mississippi Children’s Museum. I enjoyed visiting with the homeschool families and observing how they leverage local community resources as hands-on experiences. Learning shouldn’t be confined only within school buildings.

My final day on the Rethink School Tour was spent in New Orleans, Louisiana. I began at Edward Hynes Charter School where I was joined by Majority Whip Steve Scalise. I observed several of their French immersion classrooms, where students put their foreign language courses to use in many ways, including doing their science lessons in French.

My tour concluded with a visit to the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy. Here I learned about their Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) program, the only one of its kind in the country. I was impressed by the students’ ability to articulate what they had learned and express the opportunities they see beyond high school.

It was an exciting few weeks on the Rethink School Tour as we observed the new approaches to education that are meeting the needs of individual students across the United States. The schools I visited during my Rethink Tour are examples we need many, many more of. All students deserve these creative approaches to education.


Betsy DeVos is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.