"Listening and Learning" tour stops in Phila.

September 29, 2009 3:27:17 PM PDT
Philadelphia was the first stop Tuesday on a nationwide education tour that brought U.S Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan to the city, along with a political odd couple.

The President's education reform initiatives were the hot topic, and what makes education work was the big question.

If you thought politics makes strange bedfellows, it seems education does as well, because joining Education Secretary Duncan Tuesday was former U.S. House Speaker, Newt Gingrich and Civil Rights leader, Al Sharpton.

"I hope the fact that Mr. Gingrich and I can go into certain cities together with the Education Secretary will be an example to others that there must be something in this country that we put above our partisan and idealogical and philosophical differences and that is our children."

The trio have joined forces for the "Listening and Learning" tour. They visited the Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School in South Philadelphia where more the half the students achieve proficiency in reading & math in the PSSA's; a huge improve from 3 years ago.

"I'm not a fan of charter schools, I'm a fan of good charter schools," said Secretary Duncan.

Good schools like the Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus in West Philadelphia. Since it was converted from a district school in 2006 test scores have increased dramatically and violence is down nearly 80-percent.

"When you visit a school as we did where there was a jump from 25th percentile to 85th percentile in two years, same children, same building, so you can see in the best schools that it's possible," explained Gingrich.

The goal of the tour is to create discussion and interest in education reform.

Some parents turned out for the event, hoping to "listen and learn" about the challenges facing our country's school systems.

Education Secretary, Duncan agrees with President Obama that American children don't spend enough time in school. Both are pushing for longer classes, for schools to stay open later, and on the weekend.

"Schools open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, 6, 7 days a week, 11, 12 months a year, students and parents learning together good things are going to happen to those children."

Gingrich sees school reform as central to our national security.

"I know that if we don't get the schools fixed we are not going to be competitive with China and India and not be the leading country in the world and we're not going to be safe."


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