Last week, I met Brittany.
She's a hardworking student at West Georgia Technical College who is now just months away from being certified as a nursing assistant, but there was a point when she didn't think she'd be here. In high school, Brittany became pregnant and her future suddenly became uncertain. Her high school counselor suggested she apply for the 12 for Life program, a local program that offers students who have fallen behind in high school the opportunity to attend class, work, and get back on their feet. As I talked with Brittany and her fellow students -- many of whom were the first in their family to graduate high school -- they spoke powerfully and tearfully of the program's success, and how it had given them hope for the future. Brittany's inspiring story is just one of many I heard last week during the Department of Education's annual back-to-school bus tour. This year's tour took us to Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, and provided my team and me with the opportunity to see innovations in education and to discuss progress, promise, and results. I wish I could see every innovative program -- every initiative creating promise for our children -- happening across the country, but even after visiting all 50 states and more than 350 schools during my time as Secretary, I can't visit every school. So that's where you come in.
What cutting-edge programs are your local schools undertaking? Or, if you don't know of any, what would you like to see them do?
We'll share some of your stories and suggestions on the White House blog.
Brittany tells me about her positive experience in the 12 for Life Program during a stop on my back-to-school bus tour in Carrolton, Ga. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education by Joshua Hoover)
This was my fifth back-to-school bus tour, and with each tour, I become increasingly optimistic about our country's ability to elevate and strengthen education. High school graduation rates are at an all-time high, college enrollment has hit record levels, dropout rates are dramatically down, and principals, teachers, parents, and students are taking the lead on improving education for all students. But during the bus tour and around the country, I also hear a lot of people worried that our children won't inherit a better America than we did. That's why we have such an important shared mission: to make sure that every student, everywhere, gets an effective education. It's a mission that we can all agree on, and it's one that matters immensely. The best ideas in education will never come from Washington, which is why the Obama administration is working hard to help states and communities strengthen schools -- in particular, through supports for great teaching, and higher standards. It's inspiring to see states and local communities stepping up to expand access to high-quality early education, transition to college- and career-ready standards, and support innovation in education.
So I want to know what's happening in your community. Share the innovative things the schools in your area are doing -- or what you'd like to see happen.
We should celebrate the gains we've made these past couple years, but we can't be fully satisfied. There's still more to do to support all students so they may reach their full potential. So, in this new school year, let's get to work.
Arne Secretary Arne Duncan Department of Education
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