Secretary of Education Unveils Blueprint to Reform Nation’s Vocational Education System

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaking at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, Feb. 2012

During a national press call on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced an outline for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006; a proposal entitled Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. Joining Duncan for the teleconference was Brenda Dann-Messier, the Department’s assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation.

The Investing in America’s Future proposal zeroes in on a number of educational reform issues, primarily as it pertains to two-year colleges and technical education programs. According to Dann-Messier, the proposal aims to increase the nation’s skilled labor force – primarily in the fields of computer science and healthcare – through a series of career and technical education (CTE) program reforms.

Dann-Messier noted the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget included a number of investments in the nation’s community colleges and technical schools, including $1 billion proposed for carrying out the four “key areas” of the newly unveiled blueprint, which seek to increase the nation’s number of community and technical college graduates through “alignment, collaboration, accountability and innovation.”

According to an official Department of Education press release, the proposal would also incentivize “secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE program offer students high-quality learning opportunities.”

During the press call, Litow said the needs of private industry may necessitate a complete overhaul of the American education system. A proponent of Pathways in Technology Early College High schools (P-TECH), Litow said he would like to see more institutions adopt the educational model, which merges high school with a post-secondary technical track into a six-year program.

Litow said that the key to “rebuilding” the nation’s economy was not through job creation, but through increasing the percentages of Americans with technical or career educations.

“We don’t have a jobs crisis,” he said. “We have a skills crisis.”

Photo courtesy Department of Education

Education Data Shows Disproportionate Minority Discipline, Opportunity Gaps For Public School Students

Department of EducationNewly collected data from the Department of Education shows that minority students are disproportionately subject to harsher disciplinary actions in public schools than their peers and offers insight into opportunity gaps for public school students around the country.

More than 70 percent of students involved in school arrests or law enforcement referrals were black or Hispanic, according to the report. Black students were three and half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers, the New York Times reported.

The Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 gathered statistics from 72,000 schools, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students from kindergarten through high school.

While the disciplinary data is probably the most dramatic, the statistics illustrated a range of racial and ethnic disparities. Finding included:


  • Black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, however, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 statistics.
  • Over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black.
  • Black students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.
  • In districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies.

“For the first time we have an incredible new source of data that tells us where opportunity gaps are in ways we’ve never seen before as a country,” Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, said in a telephone briefing with reporters on Monday. “In recent years we have more data than ever before on identifying the achievement gap and where it exists.”

The department has gathered information on civil rights and education since 1968, yet the Bush administration suspended the project in 2006. Since then, the data collection has been reinstated and expanded to include referrals to law enforcement, The New York Times reported.

The Civil Rights Data Collection is being released in two parts. This afternoon Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, along with Aliwill will announce the results at Howard University. Afterward, data will be publicly available at

Check back for expanded coverage and updates.


The Plague of Bullying

The U.S. Department of Education held the first summit on school bullying this week. It comes in the wake of several high profile suicides linked to bullying, including two children in Georgia.   Education Secretary Arne Duncan called bullying in schools across the country “a plague.”   The Christian Science Monitor provides these alarming statistics:

  • Nearly 1 out of 3 students in middle and high school said they had been bullied in 2007.
  • 1 out of 9 high schoolers – 2.8 million students – said they had been pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on during the last school year.
  • 900,000 high schoolers reported being cyberbullied in 2007.
  • One recent study found that when young people victimized by moderate-to-severe bullying reported the incidents, the situation improved just a third of the time.  For 29 percent of students, it got worse.

Duncan says some bullying of children is sexist, homophobic and racist, and may be violations of harassment laws.  The federal government plans to enforce civil rights violations and will issue policy guidelines to schools about their responsibilities, according to Education Week.

One challenge facing schools is the need for a clear definition of bullying and other aggressive behavior in schools.   The Department of Health and Human Services defines bullying this way:

  • Attack or intimidation with intent to cause fear, distress or harm that is either physical, verbal or psychological.
  • Real or perceived imbalance of power between bully and victim
  • Repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over time.

Politics Daily reports that children who are bullied are more likely to smoke, drink, and cut classes.

Under Georgia’s new anti-bullying law, schools must notify parents when their child has been involved in a school bullying incident.  It also requires schools to come up with bullying policies and procedures for dealing with incidents.