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Education Secretary Checks on Progress at Vashon High School

Allison Blood, KMOX
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Duncan at Vashon, Allison Blood, KMOX
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - The US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, visited Vashon High School to look at the progress the school is making after being awarded millions of dollars in School Improvement Grants.

Duncan sat in on some summer school classes where students were reading novels about drive by shootings and gang fights. The teacher was asking students how the characters were able to use self-control after their sibling was shot in a drive-by. Duncan says he wasn’t surprised by the content of the novels.

“You have to meet kids where they are,” he said. “This isn’t theoretical, this is a daily reality.”

Duncan strolled through the hallways of a school that’s part of a failing district with his sleeves rolled up. His entourage included Congressman Russ Carnahan, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro, and St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams.

Duncan stopped students in the hall to ask how they liked school, then he toured the gym and played basketball with a few students and Vashon’s principal. Duncan played basketball when he was at Harvard in the 1980s; he was co-captain of the team.

After his tour, he took questions from the press.

He said he was ver satisfied with the progress Vashon has made in the last few years. He says attendance is up, so are graduation rates.

He says he’s looked over Missouri’s application for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, and called it “strong.” He says Missouri should “hear something soon.” The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is already piloting a new teacher evaluation plan that doesn’t solely rely on standardized test scores.

He says he also expects a ruling this week on the student loan interest rates bill.

“Everyone is saying the right things,” he said. He added that often nothing happens until the 11th hour, but the deadline is July 1. After that, student loan interest rates will double.

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