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Notes from the Road
Secretary's Travel Log

Greetings! Thanks for visiting my travel log, and for letting me share with you one of the highlights of my job—traveling the United States to see, firsthand, the inspiring efforts of our nation's educators, business leaders, and parents who are working hard to support our nation's students. Every time I step outside of Washington, I am reminded that leaving no child left behind is more than an ideal—it's already a reality in many American schools.

Secretary Spellings visits Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary School in Kiln, Mississippi, and joins First Lady Laura Bush at the New Orleans Charter for Science and Mathematics High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. (April 18-19)
Secretary Spellings with students and teachers at Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary School in Kiln, Mississippi.  Spellings visited the school to launch the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative, a public-private partnership between ED, First Book, and Scholastic Inc.

This week I had the privilege to return to America's Gulf Coast region, an area of tremendous cultural, economic—not to mention culinary importance—to the nation. I've traveled to the region many times in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Despite the tremendous devastation wrought by these storms, I'm continually inspired by the resilience and resolve shown by the people of the Gulf and their tireless efforts to rebuild their communities and schools. In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the lessons we've learned here about the importance of re-establishing a sense of stability and normalcy for students who've endured trauma are key to helping those who have suffered so much to recover.

The first leg of my Gulf Coast trip brought me to Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy Elementary School in Kiln, Miss., where I had the opportunity to tour their library and read to students. In spite of the adversity of Katrina, these students have continued to achieve and excel, recently earning a Level 5 Superior ranking by the State of Mississippi. In partnership with First Book and Scholastic, I also announced the 2007 Gulf Coast Summer Reading Initiative. Over the next few weeks, we'll distribute 500,000 books to students, families, schools and libraries throughout the hurricane-affected communities. As Principal Jan White said, "making things normal again starts with Gulfview-Charles B. Murphy's new library and keeping students' love of reading intact. Let's face it—books are the center of a school." She couldn't be more right! I hope these books help nurture these students love for reading and that they come back ready to learn in the Fall.

On Thursday, I joined the First Lady for a visit to the New Orleans Charter for Science and Mathematics High School. Featuring an intensive lab-based education in the sciences, mathematics and technology, graduates of this economically and ethnically diverse school boast an impressive 95 percent college acceptance rate and regularly earn over $1 million in scholarship offers from universities all over the country. As Mrs. Bush and I talked with Principal Barbara MacPhee and visited with students in the chemistry lab, we heard a common voice on how critical math and science is to the revitalization of New Orleans and our nation's future competitiveness. It's a much more competitive world then the one Mrs. Bush and I knew when we graduated from high school, but from what I saw on Thursday, I feel good that these students will be well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of them.

Secretary Spellings visits Grainwood Elementary School and meets with the Chamber of Commerce of Burnsville, Minnesota. (Apr 5)
Secretary Spellings visits with students at Grainwood Elementary School in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

This week, I had the good fortune of visiting Minnesota -- a state that has a lot of good news to share about how teachers, policymakers, parents and the business community can work together to get students on track for success in the global economy. I was here last June to make an Academic Competitiveness/SMART grant announcement, and based on what I saw Thursday, the people of Minnesota have stayed hard at work to ensure their children have the brightest of futures.

I saw evidence of this at my first stop on Thursday -- the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, just outside of Minneapolis, where I engaged in a lively and productive conversation about No Child Left Behind with local business leaders and my friend, Congressman John Kline. As we shared ideas, the enthusiasm and know-how in the room made it clear why Minnesota, behind its civic and community leaders, is a pioneer on so many educational fronts -- innovation and technology in the classroom, charter school reform, and teacher quality, to name just a few.

On leaving the Chamber, my next stop was Grainwood Elementary School (or the "Home of the Lakers!"). I visited Ms. Losure's 5th grade science class, which used a multimedia projection system to bring coral reefs seemingly to life; and I got to see Ms. Zach's 4th graders captivated by an interactive, web-based "SMART" board that made mathematics light up before them. It was as though Principal Linette Manier and her hardworking staff had been listening to our conversation on innovation and technology at the Chamber of Commerce! And, if this weren't enough, I also got the opportunity to recognize one of Grainwood's outstanding students -- second grader, Alex Sandler. Together with his family, Alex prepares meals for hungry children worldwide, and during the holidays they also bring stockings and gifts to kids at Minneapolis Children's Hospital. I presented the Sandler family with the President's Volunteer Service Award to honor them for devoting 200 hours to serving others in need. As I left Grainwood's gym, they played the song "Proud to be an American," and I thought about how my visit to Minnesota couldn't have ended on a brighter or more appropriate note. See you next time!

Secretary Spellings visits the Mesa Arts Academy and participates in a roundtable discussion with the Arizona Business Education Coalition. (Apr 2)

My trip to Phoenix this week was my first official visit to the Grand Canyon State. Many high-tech and telecommunications companies have relocated to Phoenix, one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Here, as in the rest of the nation, nearly all of the fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary education, and so our challenge is to find ways to make college more accessible, especially for the low-income and minority students who are seriously under-represented in higher education. In Phoenix, business leaders and educators are thinking hard about how to improve the lives of all students -- and to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in our ever-flattening world.

Preparing students to meet the challenges of the 21st century was at the top of the agenda when I met with members of the Arizona Business Education Coalition (ABEC) for a roundtable discussion at the University Club. Barbara Barrett, wife of Intel CEO Craig Barrett, and executives from companies such as Motorola, Wells Fargo, and Tucson Electric joined area educators for a candid conversation that ranged from ways to strengthen No Child Left Behind to improving college access. One good example that we explored was the BASIS school, a Tucson charter that Newsweek called one of the nation's best public schools. BASIS founders Olga and Michael Block explained how their grades 5-12 college preparatory charter school offers a twenty-first century liberal arts curriculum with a rigorous science and math program.

Arizonans clearly believe in the power and promise of charter schools, and I had a chance to visit another outstanding example -- the Mesa Arts Academy. Founded through a partnership between Mesa School District and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley, the Academy focuses on music, dance, painting and the other arts to get students excited about learning. A tour of the building gave me a chance to see some of the beautiful murals that the students created, and I was treated to a terrific vocal performance in the gymnasium. Later, Principal Sue Douglas and I handed out awards for special achievements in reading. Keep up the good work, kids!

Secretary Spellings visits New York, speaks at Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference. (Mar 23)

This weekend, I visited one of my favorite places: New York City. I believe that, no matter where you're from, New York is a great symbol of America's strength, diversity, and vitality. It's no secret that the "Big Apple" is, well, big—but did you know that its school system has more students—over one million—than some state systems do? With so many students, it takes thousands of adults to teach them. In honor of these teachers and others like them, on Friday afternoon I helped to host the PBS Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference. In true New York style, this event is one of the largest professional development conferences in the world. I was delighted to share the grand stage with K-12 teachers and administrators from all over the country, hear their ideas, and talk about the ways that the U.S. Department of Education—through initiatives like our Teacher Incentive Fund—will help them lead students to success in the 21st Century. It was heartening to hear so many good ideas about improving math and science performance in the global economy, especially for our low-income students. And who could ask for a better sponsor than our longstanding partner in education, PBS? As a mom who raised my children with the help of Mister Rogers and Big Bird, I know personally PBS's genius for using technology to make learning fun.

With technology as a central theme, the PBS conference set the tone for my next stop at the Teach for America offices in Manhattan, where I convened the first of a series of education technology roundtables that I'll be hosting on how technology can help students succeed. I was lucky to participate in the discussion with some of the leading minds in technology and education today—people like Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, IBM's Stan Litow, and others. I was moved by their passion for the subject as we engaged in a lively exchange about ways to help realize technology's potential in the classroom. Based on what I heard, there's no shortage of great ideas. I look forward to building on what we learned Friday as we continue this important conversation across the country. I'll be on the road again soon for that—and I hope you'll join me.



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Last Modified: 04/19/2007