MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former big-city schools chief, traveled through rural terrain Tuesday as he asked educators and parents how the Obama administration should overhaul the No Child Left Behind law.
Duncan, who is from Chicago, made West Virginia the first stop on a 15-state tour.
"I think the challenges are very similar," Duncan said. "There are high-performing schools in every state in the country, and what's important to me is to really understand what enables them to beat the odds."
Duncan noted that urban and rural schools alike still struggle to attract talented teachers, a problem lawmakers and President George W. Bush tried to fix when they created No Child Left Behind in 2001.
"We can fix what doesn't work. We can build on what does work," Duncan told about a dozen teachers and parents at Bunker Hill Elementary, a high-achieving school in the state's eastern panhandle.
Duncan said little about the law Tuesday, preferring to listen to the concerns of teachers.
Special education teacher Lynn Reichard told him she works all year long to boost the self-esteem of mentally impaired students at Bunker Hill, only to see them fall apart over standardized tests. "They feel so good about themselves, and then they look at a two-paragraph reading passage, and they know six words."
Congress deadlocked over a rewrite of the law in 2007 and plan to try again in the fall.