Professional Educators

Russell Davis shows NEA President Dennis Van Roekel what he's been learning in his 7th grade science class at G. James Gholson Middle School in Landover, MD on Wednesday morning. Photo by Patrick G. Ryan/NEA.

NEA President, Education Secretary Talk School Reform

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today joined NEA President Dennis Van Roekel for a classroom visit and roundtable discussion on school reform at G. James Gholson Middle School in Landover, Md.

It is one of four schools in Prince George’s County that is using a U.S. Education Department School Improvement Grant to boost academic performance. The school also is part of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, an initiative highlighting effective reform in America’s struggling schools. The campaign supports strategies for school transformation and emphasizes collaboration by all community stakeholders.

During the visit, Duncan and Van Roekel heard from educators and toured teacher Joseph Webb’s seventh-grade honors science classroom. They participated in a roundtable discussion on collaborating to improve student achievement.

“Collaboration is indeed the key ingredient that’s needed to ensure long-term success in low-performing schools,” said Van Roekel. (Read the full release in NEA’s Press Center.) He pointed to the positive changes happening in public schools across the country — including several teacher-led reforms implemented in California schools that are helping at-risk students and closing achievement gaps, which drew national attention yesterday.

“We’re encouraging educators to change—embracing new ways of working and leaving behind old ideas that have not brought about desired results,” added Van Roekel. “With the right policy supports and resources, great educators can lead permanent change in low-performing schools.”

Gholson’s student body is 92 percent Black and 7 percent Hispanic. Nearly 70 percent of its students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch.

It’s helmed by a unique co-principal system, the first such model in Prince George’s County. The school offers students new elective classes, such as consumer science, dance and fashion and interior design. Seventh-graders must take Spanish. School officials say they’re trying to boost parental involvement with their Parent University, which offers parets workshops for helping children with schoolwork, in addition to guidance for them if they’re seeking GEDs. The school’s Scholar Dollars programs offers students incentive to meet academic and behavioral goals.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite and Clara Floyd, president of the Maryland State Education Association, were also on hand for today’s visit.

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