Students and teachers greeted Duncan and
his officials by reciting the pledge of allegiance. The visit is part of the
third annual back-to-school bus tour. The federal education leaders met with
educators and stakeholders to discuss early learning, school turnaround efforts
and build relationships with those in the community.
Cathi Bradley said the pre-K program at
Elk Elementary is considered one of the best in the state. Bradley is the
“It’s hopeful that someone in his
position is going to come to our little school here in Elkview, West Virginia
and he’s shown such an interest to see what we do, I know he’s going to many
states, but for him to come here, but for him to come here for pre-K being that
we are doing it the most of any state,” Bradley said.
Bradley said Pre-K is key for the early
development of children in their schooling.
“The difference that children have that
go through a quality pre-K program make strides throughout their schooling, 90 percent
of my retentions are kids that did not go through pre-K and I can’t help but to
think if they would have put their children in pre-K, they would not have been
retained,” Bradley said.
Duncan said programs like the pre-K one
at Elk Elementary are very important.
“The more that we can get young
children, 2-3-4 year-olds, into high quality early childhood education programs
so they’re entering kindergarten ready to read and ready to succeed is hugely
important. Our department has done a lot in the last few years to invest in
early childhood education and we just think if we’re serious about closing
achievement gaps we have to close what I call the opportunity gap,” Duncan
Duncan and other senior Department
officials fielded questions and heard about the concerns of local and state
officials versed in early learning during roundtable discussions.
Duncan said it’s an effort to highlight
great programs and find out what the Government can do to help.
“We’re traveling across the country on
this back to school bus tour trying to highlight the great work that is going
on and this is a phenomenal elementary school and this state is doing some
great work around early childhood education, increasing access, funding in a
significant way and I just think it’s so important as a nation that we get our
babies off to a good start,” Duncan said.
In the first two years of the bus tour
they visited areas in the South and Northeast and last year much of the
Midwest. The visit is just one of many that Duncan has made with community
members in different areas across the nation. The theme for this tour is
Education Drives America. Duncan said visits like these allow his department to
see how the current education system is working.
“The only way I learn is by getting out
and talking to real people. You don’t learn much by sitting in your office in
Washington and the real work is going on in great communities like this, great
teachers, fantastic principal. That’s what makes a difference and whatever we
can do to be supportive and this is how I learn and what I enjoy,” Duncan said.
and the other visiting U.S. department of Education officials boarded their
bus. Their next stop: McDowell County, a county facing mounting challenges and a
failing school system.
you have so many factors that are impeding progress you have to take it on in a
holistic comprehensive manner and you need great principals, you need great
wrap around services, you need great early childhood education, you need great
community colleges, you need to think about employment tracks for parents and
you need to think about how you’re engaging entire community,” Duncan said.