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Duncan, NEA’s Van Roekel hear from students, parents at local school

Collaboration is proving to be key to sustaining success in low-performing schools

LANDOVER, Md. - December 01, 2010 -

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today joined NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, head of the nation’s largest teachers union, for a classroom visit and roundtable discussion on the turnaround school reform model that is being implemented at a Prince George’s County school.

The roundtable discussion, titled “Moving Towards Student Success: Relationships, Collaboration, and Change,” was held at G. James Gholson Middle School in Landover, Md., and it provided a forum to hear from parents, educators, administration officials and members of the community on how best to turn around low-performing public schools. Prince George’s County Public Schools Superintendent William Hite and Clara Floyd, president of the Maryland State Education Association, were also on hand.

“Turning around high-needs schools is a high priority for NEA’s 3.2 million members,” said Van Roekel.  “Our goal is to transform the lives of tens of thousands of students by significantly raising their academic achievement. What we learned today is that collaboration is indeed the key ingredient that’s needed to ensure long-term success in low-performing schools.”

G. James Gholson Middle School, which has more than 900 students, is one of four schools in Prince George’s County that received a School Improvement Grant from the U.S. Education Department to boost academic performance.   

“When a school continues to perform in the bottom five percent of the state and isn’t showing signs of growth or has graduation rates below 60 percent, something dramatic needs to be done,” said Duncan. “Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids.”

The school is part of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, a program launched by the National Education Association that highlights innovation and success in America’s struggling schools. The campaign supports strategies to transform schools and emphasizes collaboration by all community stakeholders.

During the visit, Van Roekel noted that many positive things are 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.

“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.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers  (202) 270-5333,