by Arne Duncan
Our work at the US Department of Education aims to make sure that students throughout this country have the education that they deserve -- an education that will give every student a genuine opportunity to join a thriving middle class. A crucial part of that work is supporting, elevating and strengthening the teaching profession.
As often as I can, I spend time talking with teachers about their experience of their work, and of change efforts to improve student outcomes. (We have an important effort, called the RESPECT Project, dedicated to make sure that teacher voices consistently informed policy and program efforts here at the Department of Education.) Lately, we have begun bringing a video camera to the conversation, and teachers have been generous in letting us capture these conversations so others can see them.
Recently, I visited Rogers Heights Elementary School in Bladensburg, Maryland, near Washington, DC. Rogers Heights' students bring the diversity typical of so many urban communities; its student body is 97% minority, and 89% qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Half the students have limited proficiency in English.
I was really struck by how smart, committed and passionate the teachers were. We had an intense, honest, sometimes difficult conversation, and I left inspired. The kids at Rogers are in great hands.
I invited teachers to take on any topic they wanted to, and they took on some important and even difficult ones: the pace of reform, the need for arts education, the impact of early learning, and testing. These conversations with teachers help us get smarter about change in education in this country.