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All Aboard the Success Express: On the Road With the Secretary of Education

Share Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley is traveling this week on the Success Express-- and Education World is going along for the ride! This year's America Goes Back to School ride will stop in about 20 towns in seven states along the Mississippi River. Follow along as we file reports from the Success Express! SuccessexpressissuesMON Article includes: 2 photos (successexpressimage1=entire bus, many people; and successexpressimage2=Riley alone) downloaded from the Dept of Ed site at: (info already sent to guy) kw 8/29/00 [Note to Nancy: Insert photos (FILE NAMES: successexpressimage1 and successexpressimage2) wherever they fit best within the entire article. They need not be limited to today's report.] [successexpressimage1 caption:] Secretary of Education Richard Riley kicks off the Success Express bus tour in Monroe County, Louisiana. [successexpressimage2 caption:] Secretary Riley proclaims himself a "fan of education" at the August 27th kickoff of the Success Express tour. TODAY'S ADDENDUM TO STORY POSTED OVER THE WEEKND SIDEBAR: NOTES FROM THE ROAD: Monday, August 28, 2000 Enrollment at Winnsboro High School grew from 490 to 642 over the summer! A smaller high school in a neighboring community closed because of declining enrollment, and all the students were reassigned to Winnsboro High School. To accommodate the influx of students, the school installed eight portable classrooms in addition to the two already in place. Over the last few years, three school bond referendums to build new facilities and increase teacher salaries have failed. A new bond issue is planned. At Wilmot Elementary School, the school slogan is simple [set dash] "Where Everyone Succeeds." The acronym WES also happens to be the initials of the school. The following acrostic sets out the school motto. [set indent] Willing Imaginative Learners who strive to be Motivated and seek every Opportunity to display our Talents [end indent] [set ital] [set bold] Did you know [set ellipses] ? [end bold] [end ital] Mississippi ranks number three in the United States in the number of teachers who earned national teacher certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Kermit the Frog, of Muppets fame, was created 7 miles east of Greenville, in Leland, Mississippi. A museum in his honor is located in Leland. HEADLINE All Aboard the Success Express: On the Road With the Secretary of Education TAGLINE: ***Monday, August 28, 2000 Yesterday, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley made four stops on the Success Express tour of the Mississippi Delta region. He visited schools in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi [set dash] and Education World was there with him! Riley called on Congress to provide more federal school funding to rural communities and to raise teacher salaries. He chided education cynics to get out and visit schools in their communities. ARTICLE TEXT "Teachers are the great patriots of our time," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told people in Winnsboro, Louisiana, on the first stop of a busy day. Riley vowed "to make some things happen in Congress in September" to help raise teacher salaries across the nation. The issue of teacher salaries is important to teachers in Winnsboro, part of Louisiana's Franklin Parish. For teacher pay, Winnsboro is the lowest-ranking town in the lowest-ranking state. "Why do teachers teach for four or five years, then go off to work in business?" Riley asked the audience. Teachers are no different from other Americans, he said. They want to do better for themselves and their families. Riley's stop at Winnsboro High School was planned to draw attention to the school's technology program. The school is part of a five-parish consortium that received a five-year, $8.7 million Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (TICG) in 1998. The TICG provided funding to more than 25 projects to create technology-enhanced classrooms and train teachers. Winnsboro High has also benefited from more than $45,000 in discounts through the e-rate program. "When I was a child, I was very lucky," Riley told the gathering. "My family was able to afford a set of the World Book Encyclopedia, but every family couldn't afford World Book. Today, children can come home or go to school and have access to World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica and the Library of Congress. They have the whole world at their fingertips." CYNICS NEED TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL "Back to school time is a great time of year. [It's] a time to tell the cynics who spend all their time criticizing schools that they ought to get out and get into a public school and see the great things that are going on there," Riley told a crowd gathered outside Wilmot Elementary School, the first Arkansas stop for the Success Express. In Arkansas, Governor Mike Huckabee's Smart Start program to promote early achievement has gained national recognition. Huckabee spoke to the crowd after Wilmot students offered their rendition of the Smart Start theme song. Speaking about the successes at Wilmot and around the state, Huckabee credited the dedicated teachers. "No one in Little Rock [the capital] can take credit for this," Huckabee told the crowd. He praised teachers for their dedication and hard work in "an area of the state where some people say this kind of success shouldn't happen." FEDERAL FUNDS SUPPORT SOLUTIONS TO LOW ACHIEVEMENT The next stop on the tour was just down the road in Portland, Arkansas. There, principal Ernest Smith leads a team of teachers who have been getting a lot of national attention. "One of the tiniest schools in the country is making a lot of noise," Smith told the assembled group of dignitaries and community members. "We're an unexpected showplace in Portland, Arkansas." When Smith arrived in Portland in 1995, half the students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade were scoring two years or more below grade level on standardized tests. In 1999, 100 percent of the students at Portland achieved scores at or above grade level. In 1999, Portland Elementary was selected as one of 21 schools featured in a Heritage Foundation study of high performing, high poverty schools. Governor Huckabee credited Smith and his staff, "who refused to believe that these kids couldn't be as successful as any other kids in any other school." In 1995, Smith said, his school was an "embarrassment to our neighboring communities." That's when he set out to learn all he could about a new approach. "Direct instruction" had been gaining recognition in a handful of communities, including Houston, Texas. Smith visited Houston, but he was unimpressed. Then he visited another direct instruction school, in Pine Bluffs, Arkansas. "I listened to kids do things that my kids couldn't do [set dash] and I returned to Portland a disciple." After Portland Elementary teachers visited Pine Bluffs and became converts to the direct instruction approach, Smith used Department of Education funding to implement the program. Direct instruction is a research-based teaching model that offers teacher-directed instruction in core academic subjects, demands high levels of student participation, and provides teachers with intensive training. Portland Elementary School's success will be the subject of a story in an upcoming issue of [set ital] Reader's Digest. [end ital] PARTNERSHIPS KEY TO MISSISSIPPI SUCCESS Two hundred members of the Greenville community turned out for a barbecue at Solomon Middle School. Following dinner, Riley again addressed the need for increased assistance to rural schools. "A lot of these communities have a limited tax base," noted Riley, "so they really do have to be more careful about spending their money and working better with partnerships. But I tell you, we've got to do more from Washington. We've got to do more from all of the state capitals. We've got to realize that regardless of the hard work of families, the partnershipping that is going on, and the careful expenditure of money, people in those areas with low assessed values really have to have some help to make the kind of education system that we all want to have." Riley noted that in March 2000, the Greenville Public Schools received $2.5 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) to facilitate school modernization. He highlighted the efforts of area businesses and community members who contributed $250,000 to the Greenville Public School District so the district could qualify to receive QZAB money, which requires schools to form partnerships with businesses or community groups. Greenville also received $5.5 million in discounts through the e-rate program. All classrooms in the 17-school Greenville School District are currently connected. Greenville Public Schools used Class Size Reduction funding to hire 14 new second-grade teachers, reducing second-grade class sizes from 27 in 1998 and 1999 to 14 in 1999 and 2000. TOMORROW: The Success Express visits the "Dales" [set dash] Hollandale, Rosedale, and Clarksdale [set dash] three Mississippi communities. Gary Hopkins Education World Editor-in-Chief Copyright 2000 Education World

Click here for an introduction to the journey. (Aug 26, 2000)
Click here for the first day with Secretary Riley. (Aug 27, 2000)

Sunday, August 27, 2000

As the department of education kicked off the annual America Goes Back to School campaign, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley urged parents and businesses to get involved in the education of the nation's children. "I urge all parents to slow down your lives to help your children learn and grow," pleaded the secretary in his opening-day speech at the Monroe County (Louisiana) Regional Airport. "Education is everybody's business."


Sunday, August 27, 2000 --

Secretary of Education Richard Riley couldn't recall a warmer welcome than the one he received at the opening press conference for this year's Success Express road trip. Warm indeed! On Sunday afternoon, the temperature on the tarmac at the Monroe County (Louisiana) Regional Airport was 103 degrees!

I wonder if the secretary felt the breeze. Just about everybody in the audience of several hundred people waved school bus-shaped fans bearing the words "I am an education fan."

By late afternoon, the Success Express was parked in Rayville, Louisiana, up the road a piece from Monroe. The staff of Rayville High School hosted a traditional Delta supper for the secretary, his traveling companions, and dozens of community members. The menu featured red beans and rice, catfish, greens, and cornbread, and the Rayville Stingers drill team provided rousing entertainment.

Thanks to the elementary school artists who created dozens of colorful placemats for the community supper. A special thanks to Gabrielle (fifth grade, section 2) for the placemat I'm taking home to hang on my office wall!

Did you know ... ?

Delta Airlines began in Monroe County, and Coca-Cola was first bottled there.

Country singer Tim McGraw grew up near Rayville and played baseball at Rayville High School?

The starting pay for a first-year teacher in Rayville is in the low $20,000 range, according to the teachers I had dinner with. That can make attracting the very best teachers to Rayville difficult because a starting teacher can go to Monroe County, just 20 miles down the road, and earn several thousand dollars more.

Secretary Riley is the only U.S. secretary of education who has traveled to all 50 states.

"Research has told us over the last 30 years that it makes a real difference if you get family and communities working together on the right track," added Riley. "Families and communities that are on the right track are putting kids on the "success express" to better education."

Participants in the Success Express, including Riley; local, state, and regional leaders; educators; and journalists, will make their way to 20 communities in seven Mississippi Delta states. The focus of this year's trip is education in rural towns and cities. "Often we don't pay much attention to rural education," the secretary said in his opening remarks, "but those schools represent one-fourth of all schools. In the Mississippi Delta region, about a third of the schools are rural."

Noting the limited tax bases that many rural communities face, Riley said, "I'm very proud that our administration has put such a strong emphasis on working to help Louisiana and other Delta states to participate more fully in the nation's economic success."


In a powerful conclusion to the Success Express kickoff, Riley turned the podium over to the new president of the American Association of School Administrators, Dr. Benjamin O. Canada. For Canada -- currently superintendent of schools in Portland, Oregon, and the first person of color to head the AASA -- the Success Express kickoff was something of a homecoming. Canada grew up 60 miles down the road from Monroe, in rural Madison Parish. Not all Canada's memories of his hometown are fond.

After graduating from college, Canada returned to teach in Madison Parish. When the first payday came around, Canada was surprised to learn that the school system had a dual pay scale. Black teachers earned less than white teachers did. Canada queried the school's administrator about his paycheck. That administrator used the N-word in his reply: "Boy," the superintendent told him, "that's what all the N's make."

When Canada told the superintendent that he wouldn't accept that, that he'd resign instead, the superintendent said, "Oh, by the way, I'll make sure you're never successful. You'll have no career in education."

"But I'm here today to tell you," Canada told the gathered crowd, "it's like the Success Express. Together, a lot of people helped me be successful. America's future is tied to success for all children. It's in our hands," Canada concluded.

Canada left Madison Parish and went on to teach and administrate in schools in Nevada, Arizona, and Washington. Later, he served as superintendent of schools in Atlanta.


Speaking at a community supper later in the day in rural Rayville, the secretary again emphasized the importance of parent involvement as some of the school system's top students were introduced. Riley took the opportunity to introduce two more themes he has championed in his seven-year tenure at the helm of the department -- class size and reading.

"Research states that if you can get class size in grades K-3 down to 18 or less, and if the teacher is well qualified to teach reading, those things will impact that child in that class that year, in junior high, in high school, and in college," the secretary told the crowd. "We all know that reading is the foundation upon which all of education is built. If children don't read well, they'll have a struggle in school and they'll have a struggle in life."

TOMORROW: Next Stops -- The Success Express follows the Mighty Mississippi to Winnsboro, Louisiana; Wilmot, Arkansas; Portland, Arkansas; and Greenville, Mississippi

Saturday August 26, 2000

Our bags are packed!

Education World gears up to join Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley as he tours 20 mostly rural communities in the Mississippi River Valley. Dubbed the Success Express, the bus tour will make stops in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois. (See the sidebar for a trip itinerary.)

Success Express Itinerary

Education World is aboard the Success Express, taking part in this year's America Goes Back to School ride. Come on along as we stop in a number of Mississippi River Valley towns.

Sunday, August 27
* Monroe, Louisiana
* Rayville, Louisiana
Monday, August 28
* Winnsboro, Louisiana
* Wilmot, Arkansas
* Portland, Arkansas
* Greenville, Mississippi
Tuesday, August 29
* Hollandale, Mississippi
* Rosedale, Mississippi
* Clarksdale, Mississippi
* Helena, Arkansas
Wednesday, August 30
* Marianna, Arkansas
* Memphis, Tennessee
* Blytheville, Arkansas
Thursday, August 31
* Union City, Tennessee
* Hickman, Kentucky
* Charleston, Missouri
* Cairo, Illinois
* Metropolis, Illinois
* Paducah, Kentucky

Riley said that some of the more than 200 counties along the river are struggling. He sees encouraging signs of progress, however, as states in the region launch some important school-reform measures. "We'll visit some exciting places -- schools that are using new technologies, innovative reading programs, after-school programs, family resource centers, award-winning schools that serve primarily students from low-income families. We'll see examples of the kinds of partnerships that have proven so effective in bringing parents and teachers, business leaders and educators together to make schools better."

As the nation's longest-serving secretary of education, Riley has visited more than 325 schools. "Better education is everybody's business," Riley said, "and I hope everyone will go back to school this fall -- as a student or parent, a mentor, a volunteer, or just as a concerned citizen."

Last fall, Riley, a former governor of South Carolina, took a back-to-school bus tour along the South's I-85 corridor, visiting schools in five states.

The bus tours are part of an annual nationwide effort called America Goes Back to School, which aims to encourage greater parent and community involvement in improving education.

Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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