Librarians Nurture Students’ Passions

In his remarks to about 75 leading members of the American Association of School Librarians on Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan identified libraries as often being “at the heart” of school success stories.

“Libraries are integral to helping kids figure out what that big world looks like. You (librarians) help people find their passions,” Arne said, jokingly bringing up the seemingly endless supply of books about snakes that his son brings home from school, much to his wife’s chagrin.

Secretary Duncan spoke to school librarians June 28. At right is Cassandra Barnett, a high school librarian from Arkansas who is the outgoing president of the American Association of School Librarians. (Photos by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

The Secretary pointed to the Obama administration’s support for libraries and librarians through a proposed $450 million fund for literacy under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. States and school districts could apply that money toward library services and other uses that improve student literacy. This larger, broader fund would replace an existing $19 million fund expressly for school libraries.

The proposed literacy fund, along with the Department’s Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (i3) programs, intentionally allow for greater spending flexibility at the state and local level, but AASL’s incoming president expressed concern that school libraries were not explicitly named components of these grant programs.

“If we’re not on the roster, we can’t get into the game,” Nancy Everhart said, employing a sports metaphor with the basketball-playing secretary.

With the Department’s shift toward more flexible, and less narrowly defined, funding, Duncan encouraged librarians to advocate for a seat at the table when states and school districts apportion their budgets, including the money they receive from the federal government.

“We want our money to follow your successes,” Duncan said, assuring the crowd that, “we don’t want to fund things that might just feel nice or look good.” He acknowledged the role that school libraries can have in transforming “pockets of excellence” into “systems of excellence.”

Leaders of the American Association of School Librarians were among 20,000 librarians gathered in Washington, D.C., for the American Library Association's annual conference.

Responding to a question about the best way to identify and convey exemplary library programs to the public, Duncan encouraged the school librarians to keep lines of communication open with both the Department and their association’s parent organization, the American Library Association (ALA), which convened about 20,000 librarians in Washington, D.C., this week. Confident that the best ideas in education will come from the local level, Arne assured the audience that the Department will continue to take its cues from successful schools, and will work with librarians to shine a spotlight on what works.

In addition to Arne’s appearance, members of the Department’s outreach staff and librarians from the National Library of Education were on hand in the ALA conference’s exhibit hall to answer questions about the federal education agenda and distribute Department publications.

Mallory Easton
Office of Communications & Outreach

President Obama’s Commencement Address at Kalamazoo Central High

President Obama’s Commencement Address at Kalamazoo Central HighOn Monday, President Obama delivered the commencement address at Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan — the winner of the 2010 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge .

Watch the video or read the transcript.  See the White House blog post about the event.

Read “My Graduation Day with President Obama,” a blog post written by Kalamazoo Central High graduate Kelsey Socha.

National Teacher Day

ED Commemorates National Teacher Day Across AmericaSecretary Duncan joined thousands of parents, students, school administrators and officials across the country in recognizing and honoring the work and dedication of America’s more than 5 million teachers on National Teacher Day.

To commemorate the day and acknowledge our nation’s “unsung heroes,” Duncan visited educators at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary and Junior Academy and Houston Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

At Friendship Chamberlain, Duncan visited the classroom of Stephanie Day.  Day, a 26-year-old Teach for America alumni and lead special education resource teacher at the Chamberlain campus, was selected by a panel of District education leaders as the 2010 D.C. Teacher of the Year.  Her goal during her one-year tenure as Teacher of the Year is to get the word out that Washington, D.C. needs more great teachers. See video of Duncan’s visit to Stephanie Day’s class.

Following the visit at Chamberlain, Duncan visited with distinguished teachers and staff at Houston Elementary School where he thanked them for their hard work and commitment to improving student achievement.  In 2009, Houston students improved 14 points in reading and math, and the school met its adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals for the first time in years.

Principal Charlotte Whitten-Watkins, an educator noted for emphasizing a “no excuses for failure” policy, escorted Duncan to the classrooms of veteran educators who share that philosophy.  After a visit with Mary Riley, a 1st grade teacher with 43 years of distinguished service at Houston, Duncan stopped by the classroom of Tracy Thomas, where he reminded her 5th grade students to take a moment and thank her for her time and effort on their behalf.  Thomas is the only Houston teacher to receive a perfect score this year under the DC IMPACT teacher evaluation program. See video of Duncan’s visit to Houston Elementary School.

Secretary Duncan will continue his Teacher Appreciation Week tour with a stop at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, on Thursday, May 6th.

Todd May
Office of Communications and Outreach

More Photos

Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship

Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship

Secretary Arne Duncan participated in the Catalyzing Youth Entrepreneurship panel discussion at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship this week in Washington, D.C. The summit was hosted by the White House, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Commerce.

Learn more about the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. Find federal teaching and learning resources related to entrepreneurship.

More Photos

Secretary Duncan Visits Denver

Secretary Duncan with two Brown Elementary School students.

Secretary Duncan with two Brown Elementary School students.

Secretary Arne Duncan and Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, visited Denver to see and hear about innovative and successful models the state has used to improve learning. They held a roundtable with a number of state education leaders, where representatives of both rural and urban school presented models they’ve used to promote education reform.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary and Senator Bennet visited Brown Elementary School in Denver. The school has taken some innovative approaches to education, which has resulted in student achievement gains across the board. The Secretary and the Senator toured a classroom and visited with students.

More photos

Everybody Wins! DC Gala

Biruktawit Tibebe and Secretary Duncan read together at the Everybody Wins! DC Gala.

Biruktawit Tibebe and Secretary Duncan read together at the Everybody Wins! DC Gala.

Secretary Arne Duncan gave the keynote address at Everybody Wins! DC’s 15th annual gala celebration. In his speech, Duncan praised the efforts of the organization and its volunteers, and highlighted the national importance of reading programs. Duncan was introduced by fifth grade student Biruktawit Tibebe, and also read with her during the event.

Everybody Wins! DC is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting children’s literacy. The program pairs elementary students in low-income schools with reading mentors in order to instill in students a love of learning through shared reading experiences. For the past 15 years, Everybody Wins! DC has served more than 34,000 students and distributed more than 100,000 books to them.

More Photos

Secretary Duncan Is Committed to Making It Easier for Students to Attend and Pay for College

Secretary Arne Duncan delivered opening remarks at the 2009 Federal Student Aid Conference.

Secretary Arne Duncan delivered opening remarks at the 2009 Federal Student Aid Conference.

On Tuesday, December 1st, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined nearly 6,000 officials from colleges and universities at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Department’s annual Federal Student Aid Conference. In a morning keynote address, Secretary Duncan outlined the Obama administration’s higher education agenda and its plans to improve college completion. The secretary emphasized the administration’s commitment to college aid and assistance programs, calling it the “biggest investment in student aid since the GI Bill,” and praised the House passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. The Act authorizes up to $87 billion for student aid over the next decade, including: $40 billion for mandatory inflation indexed Pell Grants and, $10 billion to strengthen community colleges.

Read More and See Photos

Secretary Arne Duncan Recognizes Outstanding School Leaders

AD - Principal Dinner 43

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke in Washington, D.C., at the 2009 National Distinguished Principals Awards Banquet, sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). More than 60 principals from public elementary and middle schools and private pre-K-8 schools were recognized with the award. Each year, NAESP honors elementary-level principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities to students and who have made exemplary contributions to the school leadership profession. This year, administrators from two U.S. Department of State American Overseas Schools and one U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity School also were honored.

Earlier in the week, in Arlington, Va., Secretary Duncan spoke at the 2010 National Principal of the Year Awards Gala sponsored by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. For the last 16 years, this program has honored secondary school principals for exceptional leadership. This year, Sheila Kahrs earned the Principal of the Year award at the middle-school level. Principal Kahrs has worked to develop a model of “shared leadership” at her school, Haymon-Morris Middle School in Winder, Ga., and bases her leadership style on a “values-driven and data-informed” philosophy. Lucy Beckham earned the Principal of the Year honor at the high-school level for her success at creating a personalized learning community at Wando High School, one of South Carolina’s largest high schools. Located in Mt. Pleasant, Wando also is one of the state’s best performing high schools.

During both awards ceremonies, Secretary Duncan applauded the commitment and courage of the honorees and noted that every school in America needs an outstanding leader at the helm.

ED Staff

More photos

Read More

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller Visits Los Angeles for President’s Speech to Students


On September 8, Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller visited Commonwealth Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles to watch with a class of 5th-graders as President Obama spoke to America’s students. Miller also represented the Obama Administration at the “Get Schooled” conference and video screening of a documentary video, “Get Schooled: You Have the Right.”

“As we start the new school year,” Miller said, “America needs all students performing up to the best of their abilities. We need every child to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and to compete in the global economy. As President Obama has said, if you drop out of school, you’re not quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country,” Miller said. “The Administration’s participation in Get Schooled is an example of creative public-private partnerships that are critical to addressing the crisis in our schools and supporting young people in their education.”

See photos of Deputy Secretary Miller’s visit. See the video and text of President Obama’s speech in which he challenged students to work hard, set education goals, and take responsibility for learning.

ED Staff

More Photos

President Obama, Secretary Duncan Talk with Students at Wakefield High


President Obama and Secretary Duncan visited Wakefield High School this week. It was from this school in Arlington, Virginia, that the President spoke to students across America about the importance of working hard, setting education goals, and taking responsibility for learning.

See photos from the speech and the discussion before the speech that the President and Secretary Duncan held with Wakefield students. See the speech text and video.

ED Staff

More Photos