Notes from the Road
Secretary's Travel Log
Archived Information

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 behind is more than an ideal—it's already a reality in many American schools.

Chicago (Jul 18)

After leaving Paris, I returned stateside to continue the discussion of improving higher education at the 2008 "Test of Leadership" summit in Chicago.

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems estimates that to keep up with international competition, 20 million more Americans must access higher education by 2025. I issued a challenge to my colleagues at the summit to reach the halfway point by 2012. It's a tough goal, but I know we can reach it. Why? Because we've done it before. Take the GI Bill. Within 12 years of its signing, nearly 8 million veterans took advantage of its education benefits. And take the Russian satellite, Sputnik. Ten years after its launch, our country tripled the number of math and science PhDs awarded annually.

To reach our 2025 goal, we must improve the "Three A's" in higher education: access, affordability, and accountability. As my Commission on the Future of Higher Education noted, too often, students graduate from high school only to find themselves unprepared to succeed in college without costly, time-consuming remedial courses. Too often, families get lost in the maze of our broken, Byzantine financial aid system. And, too often, graduating college students are saddled with great debt.

Consumer needs and demands can, and must be, catalysts for change in our higher education system. For example, some institutions are pioneering efforts to increase transparency and provide students and families with more information to help them make wise choices. I commend these efforts—after all, as educators, we are in the business of sharing information and knowledge, not guarding it! Plus, making data public enables institutions to attract more consumers. As James Madison University asserts, "Some say their education programs are successful. At JMU, we can prove it." I love that!

At the federal level, we, too, are doing more to advance the Commission's recommendations. Pell grantees in 2008 will benefit from the largest increase in their annual awards in 30 years—and all students are now benefiting from new tools to help them choose a college and apply for financial aid, such as the College Navigator and FAFSA4caster online portals.

These are just the first steps in transforming our higher education system to unlock the tremendous potential of our country's diverse, talented, and multifaceted population. I challenge the next administration, no matter what party they represent, to carry forward and multiply the progress we've made.

By educating 20 million more people, we will increase our Gross Domestic Product by 500 billion dollars. Half a million more people will be employed. And 20 million more Americans will likely live longer, healthier, more prosperous lives. This is a vision worth fighting for—so let's get to work!

Paris (July 7)

Some people talk about "springtime in Paris." As a student of history, I prefer visiting the French capital between the Fourth of July and Bastille Day! I traveled to the City of Lights – which earned its nickname as an early center of learning and ideas – to meet with luminaries in education at the Education Leaders Forum organized by Microsoft at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

While here, I was honored to meet with UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura and European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Youth Jan Figel and other members of the international education community. We discussed a topic very close to my heart: ensuring the success and sustainability of higher education.

I spoke as the mother of a college student and as a representative of U.S. families and federal taxpayers who are one-third investors in our country's higher education system. These customers rightly expect our colleges and universities to knock down barriers to enrollment, use technology in innovative ways, and build our country's human capital by educating more students from diverse backgrounds.

I shared recommendations from my Commission on the Future of Higher Education to help institutions become more agile, transparent, and student-centered. These include greater collaboration and alignment between colleges and high schools, more information about college tuition costs, and an increased focus on non-traditional learners, such as adults seeking a competitive edge in today's global economy.

I believe that by building a global platform for collaboration on this important issue, we can ensure that human potential does not go untapped. Considering the fact that 90 percent of the world's fastest-growing jobs require postsecondary training or education, we have nothing to lose—and a world to gain!


San Diego (June 16)

Recently, I traveled to the state where the Internet was born to discuss how incorporating technology in education can help customize student learning and raise achievement.

My trip was all about discovery and continuous learning. I began by visiting High Tech High (HTH), a public charter school where everyone is learning from one another. Students complete hands-on projects with their peers and attend "power lunches" with local business people to discuss how their learning is relevant to the workforce. Teachers at HTH can enroll in staff seminars and a Graduate School of Education located on the HTH campus.

The school was conceived by civic and high-tech industry leaders who were concerned that women and minorities were under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Today, we're seeing the results of their vision. 100 percent of graduates are accepted into college – which is particularly impressive considering that 35 percent of HTH graduates are first-generation college students – and nearly one-third of alumni go on to enter fields in science, math, and technology.

While at HTH, I participated in a roundtable with founder Gary Jacobs, CEO Larry Rosenstock, administrators, and students. We discussed how the federal government can build upon the successes of schools like HTH to better prepare all students for success in the 21st century. The HTH model has already has been extended to six San Diego schools located in a "High Tech Village," which has its own "Emperor of Rigor," Rob Riordan. Rob also co-authored a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education to build upon HTH educational philosophy.

Innovation must run in the Jacobs family, because later in the day, I met with Paul Jacobs, Gary Jacobs' brother and CEO of Qualcomm, which manufactures the computer chips that power wireless devices. While at Qualcomm, I hosted my fourth education technology roundtable to discuss how we can use technology to deliver instruction and operate schools in innovative and more efficient ways.

I heard from education technology pioneers, investors in innovation, and of course, educators. For example, I heard from Calvin Baker, the superintendent of Arizona's Vail School District, about a new high school that has replaced all textbooks with laptops. My discussions all revealed that we need a strategic, sustained use of technology to be part of our education improvement efforts.

I shared this idea with gifted high school students, scientists, and educators at the Biotechnology Institute's Education Awards Banquet. I was pleased to hear that a teacher from HTH was a finalist for the Biotech Educator Award and I was inspired to learn more about students who are working on cutting-edge projects from gene therapies to bioplastics.

San Diego provided me with a personal "Eureka!" moment: If we can map the human genome, surely we can adapt our school systems to better serve all students. I know technology can open new doors of opportunity in education, and I look forward to working with educators, businesses, entrepreneurs, and all stakeholders to make it happen.


Peru and Mexico (June 9-13)

The United States and Latin America share common history and values that have made our nations natural partners. That's why I was eager to visit Peru and Mexico and discuss ways to strengthen our ties and address common challenges in education, such as improving teacher quality and student performance.

While in Peru, I was honored to meet with Minister of Education Jose Antonio Chang Escobedo and other education and business leaders. I applaud Minister Chang's goal of creating evaluation programs that can target improvement in Peruvian schools. As I like to say – and as we've begun to see in this country – what gets measured gets done.

I was also impressed to learn that Peru's private sector is taking a more active role in education. Many businesses, for example, have contributed to an initiative called "Empresarios por la Educacion" (Entrepreneurs for Education). It reminded me of our efforts in the U.S. to strengthen ties between business and education and better align curricula with workforce needs.

Ensuring that students are equipped with the skills to succeed in the 21st century was a major topic of discussion in Lima, Peru's capital city, where I participated in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) Education Ministerial Meeting. I joined Minister Chang and education leaders from APEC member economies to discuss education priorities such as improving math and science learning.

Thanks to decades of research, we in the U.S. are beginning to identify proven strategies to improve teaching and learning in math. Earlier this year, I received the final report from my National Mathematics Advisory Panel, which emphasized the importance of teaching math skills early and preparing students for higher-level math through a strong foundation in algebra.

In the same spirit of improving math and science instruction for students, I proposed two math and science projects at the APEC ministerial. The first will compare standards and assessments in math and science across the APEC region. The second will explore why in many nations – including the U.S. – girls are not achieving at the same rate as boys in math and science. The ministerial meeting offered a tremendous opportunity to share ideas, and I look forward to ongoing collaboration with our neighbors in the Pacific Rim.

Collaboration continued to be the theme when I visited Mexico. My first stop was a school in Mexico City, Escuela Estados Unidos de America, a school that symbolizes the close relationship between Mexico and the U.S. Its buildings are named for President John F. Kennedy, who said, "Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future." I couldn't agree more.

While in Mexico, I met with representatives from the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) and other education leaders. We toured the beautiful Diego Rivera murals that decorate Mexico's education headquarters and discussed current and future partnerships between our countries.

One great example of U.S.-Mexico partnership is the the Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship program. I was pleased to meet with 45 Mexican Fulbright- Garcia Robles scholars who will be studying in some of the finest universities in the U.S. I'm sure they will enjoy their time in our country as much as I enjoyed my stay in Mexico – particularly the three scholars who will study in my home state of Texas!

I was also privileged to be the guest of honor at a Mexican National Teacher's Day reception, and to recognize educators who enrich their instructional skills through scholarships to teach and study in the U.S. Having traveled the world with U.S. university presidents to encourage academic exchanges, I've learned so much about the benefits of studying abroad – for students and teachers alike!

My trip to Peru and Mexico confirmed my belief that by working together to promote quality education, we can make our nations more prosperous, more hopeful places to live. Hasta la proxima vez!


Abu Dhabi and Dubai (May 16-21)

My trip to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has been a great opportunity to meet with colleagues and students and learn about the education innovations that are underway in the Middle East. I expressed my hope for deeper partnerships between our countries, and I learned first-hand about how the U.A.E. is working to prepare its citizens for success in the 21st century.

During my visit, it was clear to me that the U.S. and the U.A.E. share more than just a first name. Our countries hold a common belief in the value of education. We also face many of the same challenges. Some of our shared concerns include developing human capital through high-quality learning opportunities, ensuring the availability and affordability of higher education, and equipping students to thrive in our competitive world. Our countries also continually explore ways to make our education systems more responsive and accountable to consumers.

While in Abu Dhabi, I had the honor of meeting with His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassimi, the U.A.E. minister of education. We discussed initiatives currently underway to enhance the education system in the region, such as establishing teacher licensing, updating information technology, improving curriculum and assessments, and upgrading school buildings.

I saw the results of these ambitious reforms firsthand at the Al Mawaheb Model School for Girls. The beautiful, newly remodeled facility includes a theater, high-tech media center, five science labs, and a swimming pool that looked quite tempting in the desert heat! The school offers high-quality academic programs and encourages teachers to explore and share instructional strategies that get results.

Our countries can learn a lot from each other, which is why I was privileged to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.A.E. education ministry and the U.S. Department of Education. This agreement demonstrates the close partnership between our countries and signifies our commitment to work on mutually beneficial projects in education, particularly in Arabic language, history, and culture and in science and math.

I also had the opportunity to meet with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the U.A.E. minister of higher education. We discussed his goal of establishing a culture of research within an advanced Arab college system. One step toward this goal is the establishment of a National Authority for Scientific Research and a Center for Excellence in Applied Research and Technology in Abu Dhabi – I look forward to learning how these institutions evolve!

During my university tours, I spread the word about the value of international education and exchange, telling students that our doors are open, and that we want to help more Emiratis pursue studies in the U.S. The U.A.E. has an impressive array of higher education institutions that partner with U.S. universities – including the United Arab Emirates University; Zayed University; the Higher Colleges of Technology, which are loosely modeled on the U.S. community college concept; and private institutions like the American University of Dubai (AUD).

One of the highlights of my trip was delivering the commencement address at AUD. I had the honor of meeting the U.A.E. prime minister and ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum; members of the royal family; and the students of the eleventh AUD graduating class.

It wasn't hard to find inspiration when speaking to AUD graduates. Dubai is a tribute to the wonder and power of the human mind – home to the Palm Jumeirah, a manmade city and engineering marvel built in the ocean; a skyscraper designed to be twice as tall as the Empire State Building; Dubai Cares, a campaign to provide primary schooling to one million children in developing countries around the globe; and AUD itself, a top-class, fully accredited American university that educates 3,000 students representing 90 nationalities.

Sheikh Mohammed has said, "Our age is defined by knowledge." This means questioning the world, improving what exists, and creating what has never existed before. As the first U.S. education secretary to visit the U.A.E., I discovered that Dubai and the surrounding regions embody this ideal. Let knowledge light the way – Al Ilmu Noor!


Miami (May 3)

Miami, Florida, is not only a popular vacation destination, it's also home to the largest and most diverse college in the nation. I was privileged to deliver the commencement address at Miami Dade College and meet this great institution's outstanding graduates, who attended classes across the college's eight campuses and took advantage of the 200 programs of study. I was pleased to hear that the most popular degrees are education and business – we need more great teachers and education entrepreneurs serving the nation.

Students at Miami Dade hail from 150 countries and speak many different languages. Yet, every day, those students are involved in a common dialogue of learning, and they challenge each other to perform to the highest levels. That's what education is all about!

Although Miami Dade is the "Home of the Sharks," I like to think that it's also the home of pioneers. Many Miami Dade students balance the responsibilities of parenthood and careers while attending classes. Many also are the first in their families to go to college. It's one thing to do what everyone before you have always done, but breaking new ground is a tremendous accomplishment.

Miami Dade's president and my friend, Dr. Eduardo Padron, is one of these pioneers. Dr. Padron came to the U.S. at age 15, speaking very little English. But by dedicating himself to learning, he mastered the language, earned a Ph.D. in economics, and now heads a college that boasts the largest enrollment of Hispanic students in the country.

Miami Dade has never accepted the idea that the quality of a school is judged by how many people are denied enrollment. Instead, the college is dedicated to inviting people in to higher education. Miami Dade sets an example from which the entire world could learn, which is why I was honored to have Dr. Padron join my delegation of university presidents when we traveled to Brazil and Argentina last year. We held up Miami Dade as a model for how to help more people access a college education.

Miami Dade's motto is "opportunity changes everything." I couldn't agree more, which is why my Department and I are proposing a new regulation requiring that all states use the same formula to calculate high school graduation rates. Armed with accurate information, we can better diagnose our nation's dropout crisis, work to end it, and give more students the opportunity to obtain postsecondary education.

Congratulations to all the high school and college graduates across the nation in the Class of 2008! In the next couple of weeks, I'll speak with more graduates – including far from home, in the United Arab Emirates. I look forward to sharing my experiences there. Good-bye for now!


Advancing Accountability 2008 National Tour (Winter/Spring 2008)

This year marked the sixth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and we've been hard at work building the momentum for a movement that recognizes education is, in fact, the new civil right.

In January, President Bush asked me to travel the country and engage stakeholders in a dialogue about how we can continue to work together to help every student achieve their potential. So began my three-month journey from coast to coast!

Since, I've visited 22 states and met with 9 governors and 17 state education chiefs. I've also met with members of Congress; testified before state legislatures; visited schools; and held roundtable discussions with business leaders, superintendents, parents, and community members.

Among the many highlights from my trips were meeting with university presidents in Alabama; participating in classroom lessons in New Orleans; speaking with Bill Gates about his ideas for high school reform (over a cup of Starbucks, of course) in Seattle; and discussing education policy with the Houston Chronicle in Texas. Who says you can never go home again?

The one thing all these visits had in common was that we continued the national conversation about how to strengthen and improve NCLB.

The year isn't even half over, and already I'm a little bit out of breath! But, what keeps me going is seeing the inspiring efforts of people who are working hard on behalf of our nation's students.

The discussions we had supported the idea that our nation is on the move and that our schools and students are making progress. My Department publishes data to guide and promote these improvements. While in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, I unveiled a new resource called the "National Dashboard" that shows how every state is doing on key indicators, such as graduation rates and achievement gaps. The Dashboard can be found on the Department's homepage—I hope it will help educators, policymakers, and parents better understand how their state is doing.

In all my meetings, one thing most people could agree on is that we must take dramatic action to improve our lowest-performing schools. But not all struggling schools are alike, and many states have identified a wide range of schools for improvement. That's why I announced a new pilot program under NCLB when my tour took me to Minnesota. "Differentiated accountability" is aimed at helping states improve underperforming schools by distinguishing between schools that need dramatic interventions and those that are closer to meeting achievement targets. I invited up to 10 states to apply, with the goal of helping educators tailor reform at every stage of improvement.

My Department is taking a look at the applications for this program now and, soon, outside peer reviewers will provide their recommendations. I hope to approve participating states before the fall, and I know we'll all be looking forward to the early results.

Toward the end of my tour, I also proposed new policy tools to give families lifelines and empower educators to make dramatic improvements in their schools.

These proposed regulations are consistent with the heart of the law and address consensus issues: helping schools that fall behind, giving parents the best information, and publishing transparent information. Under the regulations, states would be required to publish data from the Nation's Report Card alongside data from their own student tests. This way, parents can get a better picture of how well a school is serving their child. In addition, parents would benefit from clearer and timelier notification about their child's eligibility for public school choice and free tutoring.

The regulations also require that states establish a uniform graduation rate showing how many freshmen in a given high school earn a diploma after four years and how many drop out. This will help us better diagnose the dropout crisis in our nation's high schools, and help us end it.

Information is a powerful catalyst for change. The more information we have, the better able we are to demand improvement—and to get it. The accountability movement is at a critical juncture, and we have a great opportunity to strengthen and improve NCLB. I'm glad to have had opportunity to hear from many of you in recent months about how to help practices and policies evolve, and I look forward to continued cooperation in the months ahead.



Bus Tour—Indianapolis (Sep 21)

Today was my final day aboard the big yellow school bus, and we finished up with some great events.

My day got off to a patriotic start when I joined the morning assembly at Andrew J. Brown Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis—they begin every school day with the Pledge of Allegiance and a patriotic song. The up-beat assembly also focused on student achievement, including the recital of the school song: "AJB's the place for me, virtues lead us the way." Pretty catchy!

Mayor of Indianapolis, Bart Peterson, joined me at the assembly. He's a great friend to charter schools, and is the only mayor in the nation with the power to authorize charters on his own. Andrew J. Brown is the fifth charter school he authorized, and they're doing great work under the leadership of Principal Thelma Wyatt.To give just two examples, in 2006 74% of 3rd graders scored proficient or above in reading and 90% of 6th graders scored proficient or above in math. Keep up the good work AJB!

The next stop was the Indianapolis Children's Museum. We had the opportunity to check out some great exhibits like ScienceWorks and the Biotech Lab. I also spent some time with kindergarten students in the "Dinosphere," where we read Dinosaurs Go to School. No dinos left behind! Before we wrapped up, I had the chance to take a look at the museum's beautiful carousel, part of which dates back to 1917.

It's been a busy couple of days... Thanks to everyone who participated in the bus tour events. It was great to meet so many interesting students, teachers, and all kinds of folks who are interested in education. Now, it's time for me to return to Washington—luckily, I'm not driving all the way back on the bus!

Bus Tour—Riverside, Ohio (Sep 20)
Secretary Spellings greets school officials at the STARBASE program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

It's day two of my Back to School bus tour and I'm proud to say we haven't slowed down for a minute. This morning I visited Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Riverside, Ohio, for breakfast with spouses of military personnel. As President Bush has noted, military spouses do not raise their right hands and take an oath of enlistment. But their service begins as soon as they say two words: "I do." In addition to thanking these brave men and women for all that they do for our country, I wanted to find out more about what we at the Education Department can do to help make sure their children are getting the quality education they need and deserve.

Later on, I enjoyed visiting classrooms on the base and helping students launch water rockets as part of Wright Patterson's STARBASE program for local schools. Afterwards, I was even lucky enough to be presented with "wings" to mark the successful launch. My codename? "Starbuck." I guess people have heard how much I like my coffee!

Before leaving the base, I enjoyed reading The Story of Ferdinand to younger children as part of Jumpstart's Read for the Record national campaign day. This campaign set the World Record for the largest shared reading experience last year, and I hope this year's event will set another record.

All that, and my day was only halfway over! Next stop: Cincinnati, for a roundtable with local business leaders, including Bob Castellini, owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Bob helped me lead a lively discussion about the competition our nation faces in today's knowledge-based global economy. In my travels, I've seen time and time again how private sector involvement is helping to prepare students to succeed in this fast-changing economic landscape. For example, in Ohio, PNC Bank's Grow Up Great program is improving school readiness for younger children, and Duke Energy is partnering with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to launch a professional development web site for math teachers.

Especially after hearing these employers talk about the lack of qualified employees, I was happy to visit a school that's preparing students to succeed in college and the workforce. Just a few years ago at Withrow High School, less than half of students could pass the state reading exam. But today, after splitting the high school into two smaller schools, 80 percent of Withrow International students and 95 percent of Withrow University High School students are reading at or above grade level. So, now that so many more students are prepared for college academically, we need to make sure they're prepared financially. And by consulting my department's new FAFSA4Caster, families of high school juniors can estimate how much financial aid they will qualify for in college. Together with the $11 billion dollar increase in Pell Grant funding that the President will soon sign into law, this planning tool will help make college more affordable for families nationwide.

Overall it was quite a day. Looking forward to Indianapolis tomorrow!

Bus Tour—Cleveland (Sep 19)
Secretary Spellings participates in the National Parent Town Hall with Eugene Sanders, Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Richard Rosen, Vice President of the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Today, I kicked off a Back to School bus tour. For the next three days, my second home will be a big yellow school bus as I travel through Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.

Along the way, I'll be visiting schools, popping in on classroom lessons, meeting with parents, and reading with students. It's going to be a great trip, and this online journal will make sure you can be along for the ride!

My first stop today was at Watterson-Lake Elementary school in Cleveland, Ohio. At the home of the "Peaceful Pandas", I was able to tour several reading classes and then take part in a pep rally with students, parents, and teachers. At the pep rally, Cleveland Mayor, Frank Jackson, helped me officially launch the bus tour. I also unveiled the new Empowering Parents School Box, a resource we put together at the Education Department with lots of helpful education information for parents everywhere.

After the pep rally, we loaded back up on the bus and headed over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not only did I get to tour the museum, but I also got to participate in one of their "Science of Sound" classes. Any lesson where I can learn about science by singing Stevie Wonder is a winner in my book!

The final bus stop of the day was at Collinwood High School where I held a National Parent Townhall. Parents in the audience and parents watching around the country were able to ask questions and share their concerns. It was a great way to end the first day on the bus. Tomorrow, we'll be stopping in Dayton and Cincinnati... more to come!


Brazil (Aug 24)
Secretary Spellings speaks at Fundação Getulio Vargas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Our delegation visit with U.S. university presidents just completed the second part of our trip in Latin America – spending several days in two of Brazil's most important cities – business center, Sao Paolo and the capital, Brasilia.

Our first stop in Sao Paolo was a visit to one of the main universities – Getulio Vargas University. Here, we brought our message directly to Brazilian students that our doors are open, and we want to help more Brazilian students of all backgrounds pursue their studies in the United States.

In Sao Paolo, the delegation also met with business leaders at the American Chamber of Commerce, to discuss our shared challenge to educate students with the skills they need to compete and succeed in the business world.

We learned about a unique partnership the Chamber has underway – a U.S.-Brazil Higher Education initiative – that will pair community colleges with their Brazilian counterparts to exchange faculty and students. In both our countries, we need to find more ways to nurture these kind of relationships between business and education.

Finally, we were fortunate to be joined at several of our events by Brazil's Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, a progressive thinker committed to strengthening education in Brazil. I was pleased to join him in announcing a quadrupling in funding for significant expansion of a community college scholarship program, piloted in Brazil this year. This program provides one and two-year scholarships to study in high-demand skill areas at community colleges in the United States.

Also in Brasilia, my delegation met with their counterparts from the Brazilian higher education community. We discussed many shared challenges our colleges and universities face and ways to collaborate on new initiatives and partnerships in the future.

Traveling back to Sao Paulo, we joined a group of alumni from Fulbright, FIPSE and the U.S. Embassy's Student Ambassador programs for a productive discussion on their study abroad experience in the U.S. and ways we can encourage more Brazilian students to study in the U.S.

See photos and learn more about the Secretary's trip to Latin America.


Santiago, Chile (Aug 20-21)
Secretary Spellings and Minister Provoste hold a press conference with Chilean media.

I'm thrilled to be reporting from Latin America, where I'm leading a delegation of eight U.S. college and university presidents with Tom Farrell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs at the Department of State. I'm grateful to be traveling with such a dynamic delegation. Our hope is to encourage more Latin American students to study in the U.S. We are also encouraging American students to study in Chile, Brazil, and other parts of Latin America.

This historic trip is the third U.S.-led delegation of college and university presidents. Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes led a delegation to India this past March. And last November, I led the first trip to Japan, Korea, and China.

Why is international education so important?

First, studying abroad enhances students' perspectives and exposes them to new cultures and approaches to learning.

Second, it helps students acquire the critical skills they need to be successful in this knowledge-based economy. More and more, businesses are placing greater value on and seeking out those who have a global perspective.

Third, the more we collaborate—whether students, faculty, businesses, or governments—the better equipped we will all be to take on shared challenges, from poverty to pollution and disease.

I have so much confidence in the value of international education that I put my money where my mouth is…my own daughter is studying abroad in Latin America this semester.

Now, let me highlight what I've been doing so far.

After arriving in Santiago, Chile over the weekend, my delegation met with the Chilean Minister of Education Yasna Provoste on Monday. A former teacher, she's working to advance education in Chile and promote key education initiatives of President Michelle Bachelet. We also met the Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley and talked about a new initiative to bring more Chilean students of diverse backgrounds to study in the U.S.

Later in the day, we participated in a scholarship ceremony for more than 250 Chilean post-graduate students who will be studying abroad, many in the U.S. We congratulated them on their success and wished them well, as they pursue their educational goals in the U.S. and elsewhere.

On Tuesday, we met with alumni of the Fulbright Program, who shared their experiences studying in the U.S. and offered suggestions on how to engage more students in studying abroad.

The delegation also met with the Federation of Chilean Industry. One thing we all agreed on was that the global workforce is changing, and students need stronger skills in math, science, and foreign languages in particular to succeed in the most competitive jobs. We discussed the importance of a rigorous, engaged and active business community in all things education.

Afterwards, we went to the beautiful Presidential Palace to meet with President Bachelet, a strong leader who has made education a top priority.

As we do our work here in Latin America, we hope that Americans back home will encourage international education in their own communities. Whether learning a foreign language, studying abroad, or welcoming a foreign student in our homes or schools, we can all become better neighbors to our friends around the world.

Well, time for me to get ready for the next part of my trip - Brazil!

See photos and learn more about the Secretary's trip to Latin America.


Memphis, Tennessee (Aug 7)
Secretary Spellings and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson pose in the

How do we close the achievement gap and prepare all children to succeed in the global economy? To me, the answer is clear—the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Building on the success of this landmark law will help ensure we keep our promise to have every child learning on grade level by 2014.

That's what brought me to Memphis, Tennessee this past Tuesday. Memphis City Schools kicks off another exciting school year on August 13th, and this year's theme is "Let's Go!" I couldn't help but think of these two words when I proudly joined a roundtable discussion on education and home ownership with my friend and fellow Texan Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson.

We led a discussion with prominent African-American leaders like Bernal Smith II from the 100 Black Men of Memphis; Tomeka Hart, President and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, and so many other concerned partners. We discussed education as the new civil right and the central role that African-American leaders play in making sure we stay the course in our efforts to close the achievement gap.

Tennessee is setting some good examples for what works and where we need to go. Preliminary data released this week shows the achievement gap between African-American and white students is closing and 85 percent of schools are achieving annual progress goals. 128 Memphis schools are meeting state standards—that's the most ever since we began measuring student achievement through No Child Left Behind. The conversation buzzed with talk about new flexibilities, improvements and ways in which we can better involve African-American parents, clergy and community leaders in achieving the goals of NCLB.

As we sat together in the most perfect of settings—the National Civil Rights Museum, which honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.—I heard one message loud and clear: we're in this together. Parents, especially, have so much to benefit from this law and all of the new and evolving options it affords them. I can't help but think that with families, teachers, and community leaders aboard to renew NCLB this year, we will finally see the transformation of "the dark yesterdays of segregated schools... into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education," as MLK Jr. put it.


Fairfax, Virginia (Jul 23)
Phil Mickelson teaches Secretary Spellings how to use math to improve her putting.

Today I joined golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife, Amy, at the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy in Fairfax. The academy brings together elementary school teachers from across the country to help motivate students to pursue careers in math and science. Not only was I lucky enough get a putting lesson from Phil, but I also enjoyed talking with the teachers about the growing importance of math and science skills in the global knowledge economy.

We all know golf is a game of numbers: Hank Aaron said it took him 17 years to get 3,000 hits, but he did it in one afternoon on the golf course. I appreciate the fact that Phil and Amy also recognize that in today's world, students need strong math and science skills to succeed in all kinds of careers. Unlike when I was growing up, you now need a high school diploma and a couple of years of college to succeed as a mechanic or plumber or electrician. ExxonMobil alone employs 14,000 scientists and engineers worldwide.

Nothing helps a child learn as much as a great teacher—and at a time when less than half of high school graduates are prepared for college-level math and science classes, it's all the more important that we support teachers working in these critical fields. That's why we at the Education Department launched a National Math Panel to identify the best research on effective teaching practices, along with the Math Now initiative to help bring the panel's insights into classrooms across the country. We also provide more than four billion dollars in teacher-related funding, dozens of free Teacher to Teacher workshops, and a Teacher Incentive Fund to reward teachers who get great results.

Phil's former instructor, Golf Hall-of-Famer Jackie Burke, says that "there's a swing in everybody—you just have to find it." When it comes to education, I believe in exactly the same philosophy. That's why my favorite part of my job is visiting with educators who are committed to developing every child's potential, even if it means giving up part of their summer vacations! I look forward to spending even more time with teachers as we head into back-to-school season. Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer.


Boston (Jun 14)
Secretary Spellings speaks at the regional summit on higher education, 'A Test of Leadership: Committing to Advance Postsecondary Education for all Americans,' in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

For someone who loves to travel, spend time around children, and share good ideas about improving schools—the last few weeks have been a lot of fun. I've spotlighted our classroom's heroes during Teacher Appreciation Week events; shared time with loyal partners at the Daisy Bates NAACP education summit in Little Rock, Arkansas; and testified before the House of Representatives about the urgent need to reform higher education, just to name a few highlights.

Improving our nation's higher education system is a subject that I'll be discussing a lot these days, inside Washington and beyond. Did you know that by 2012, at our current pace, there will be 3 million more jobs requiring bachelor's degrees than there are graduates to fill them? Or that even today, by age 24, less than 9 percent of low-income students have earned a college degree? We need to turn these stats around quickly—the 21st century marketplace isn't slowing down, and our students deserve better.

I started a national dialogue about this when I took office, and on the strength of my Higher Education Commission's report and recommendations, I'm turning up the volume. How can we make the American Dream a reality for more students? Recently, I've taken this question on the road, hosting regional summits to engage local stakeholders around three key themes—accountability, affordability, and accessibility. We've been to Kansas City, Seattle, and Phoenix; this week, at the second-to-last summit, we were in Boston.

I can't think of a better setting for hosting a summit on higher education than the region that is home to some of our nation's oldest and finest universities. Joining me was a collection of education and business leaders who are higher education revolutionaries themselves.

We had a lively and productive discussion, as participants formed workshop groups and exchanged new ideas. The thing I liked most was that we talked in terms of action, with "real world" suggestions, like investing more money in Pell grants; aligning high school and college standards; and streamlining the financial aid system. I'd like to think that University of Pennsylvania founder Benjamin Franklin would be proud of the summit; after all, he once said, "an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." I think we're answering his call. Until next time, enjoy the summer—and keep learning.


California (May 3-4)

This week I had an exciting time in the Golden State. Since the Gold Rush of 1849, California has embodied the ideal of the West, a place of adventure and endless possibility. The image of the Golden Gate Bridge has symbolized a gateway of opportunity for generations of Americans. It was fitting, then, to be privileged to deliver the commencement address at Golden Gate University.

But first, I began my trip in Los Angeles by visiting Ànimo Inglewood Charter High School. Ànimo is a Spanish word that means "spirit" or "vigor," and there is no better way to describe the zest that these charter school students have for learning and that Ànimo teachers have for teaching. The school prepares its students for "college, leadership, and life" through a curriculum that is designed to enable students to fulfill the entry requirements for the University of California. It was a great way to commemorate National Charter Schools week.

Amino is part of the Green Dot Public Schools' network of high performing charter schools. Green Dot's founder, Steve Barr, exemplifies the innovation and energy that I came to expect in California—the kind of energy that it takes to manage 10 charter schools!

Of course, no trip would be complete without talking about No Child Left Behind. Before I left Los Angeles, I spoke to the Education Writers Association at its 2007 Annual Meeting. The focus of the meeting was "Asking the Right Questions, Dispelling the Myths." I challenged a few of the myths, discussed President Bush's priorities for its reauthorization, and chatted with the creative people who keep education on the front pages and in the forefront of America's consciousness.

Next came the opportunity to visit some of California's celebrated colleges and universities. In delivering the commencement address at Golden Gate University, I shared my love of Starbucks, American Idol, and education with the graduates. I also participated in a roundtable discussion about higher education at the College of the Canyons (COC) with Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA). COC recently initiated a first-of-its-kind "University Center"—a partnership between COC and local universities that offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs on the COC campus. The University Center is a great example of how colleges and universities can work together to make higher education more accessible, especially for the part-time, returning, and adult students, who make up 50 percent of today's higher education customers.

I also had the honor of commemorating San Jose State University's 150th anniversary and leading a roundtable at the school with business leaders, industry experts, and practitioners to discuss the role that technology can play in improving education. We did a lot of talking in Silicon Valley, America's breeding ground for innovation.

I also want to hear from you. If you have thoughts about technology in schools, feel free to e-mail your suggestions to

For centuries men and women have traveled to California to find their fortune. I was fortunate enough to find true innovation and inspiration for our country's educational system. Til next time!


Albuquerque, New Mexico (Apr 27)
Secretary Spellings speaks at the National Charter Schools Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For the past week, our thoughts and prayers have been with the Virginia Tech community. As the mother of two students—one in college, the other in high school—I am deeply aware of the pain and grief that a tragedy such as this can cause. No child, whether in a K-12 classroom or on a college campus, should ever be in fear. Schools are safe havens for students to grow and learn, where families trust that their children are out of harm's way. We have to rebuild that trust.

Today, I visited beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico. To start the day, I conducted a roundtable on school safety with local educators, mental health experts, and state and local officials. President Bush has asked me to help lead a national dialogue on school safety and this was one step in jump-starting the discussion. We heard a number of thoughtful ideas about how we can improve emergency response planning, share information more quickly and effectively, and leverage technology to communicate during crises.

I did a lot of listening, and a lot of learning. And I want to hear from you, too. If you have suggestions about school safety, please e-mail your thoughts to, and visit our new page on school safety,

After the school safety roundtable, I had the good fortune of hosting another conversation with local business leaders on higher education reform, American competitiveness, and No Child Left Behind reauthorization. If there's one thing that my travels have taught me, it's that the private sector is a true friend of education. Everywhere I go, I see companies that are making meaningful differences in students' lives.

One great example in New Mexico is Sandia National Labs, which encourages its employees to volunteer in more than 50 local schools. They host Science Nights, judge science fairs, and even teach classroom lessons. I got to see their work first hand when I paid a visit to Armijo Elementary School. There I watched as chemists and mechanical engineers helped students with hands-on science projects. I sure could have used the help when I was in school! To the school and Sandia—keep up the great work.

During my time in Albuquerque I also addressed the National Charter Schools conference. I'm a big fan of charter schools, which I call incubators of good ideas. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the opening of the first charter school. Since that time, the number of charter schools has grown to over 4,000 nationwide, serving over a million American students. Parents are embracing the opportunities provided by these unique schools, and thankfully, from what I saw at the conference, there's a whole bunch of folks like me who want to provide parents and students with even more opportunities.

Until next time—take care, stay tuned to the log, and don't forget to e-mail me your thoughts on school safety at


Kiln, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana (Apr 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 than 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.


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!


Phoenix, Arizona (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 21st 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!


New York City (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: 07/25/2008