"You guys are driving reform. You're not just celebrating the status quo. Everybody's working to get to the next level," U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan said.
Duncan held an Education Reform Town Hall meeting on the Evie Dennis Campus in northeast Denver. He says he picked the location because the campus contains a mix of district schools and charter schools working together.
"Our kids don't care whether they go to a charter school or a district school. No 7-year-old knows that," Duncan said to the crowd. "They just want to go to a grade school with a great principal, good teachers."
Lt. Governor Joe Garcia (D-Colorado) was one of several political leaders to welcome Duncan to Colorado. He praised Duncan's efforts of trying to get everyone to work together to address the issue of struggling schools.
"We know that he believes in innovative approaches and that we need to challenge our schools and challenge our communities to come together," Garcia said.
Duncan says he liked to visit Colorado to celebrate its accomplishments. Colorado was one of just 10 states to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act freeing the state from oversight and punishment by the U.S. Department of Education.
"One reason we were so pleased to grant the waiver here is that Colorado's been at the forefront of reform for a long time," Duncan said. "This isn't just something they just started working on in response to our waiver."
Duncan says 28 other states are filing waiver requests trying to follow in Colorado's footsteps. He says Colorado can serve as a model for other states to follow especially when it comes to measuring student growth and establishing a strong teacher evaluation system.
"There's so much innovation, so much creativity, coming from places like Colorado," Duncan said.
He says the waivers mark the need for a big change to the No Child Left Behind Act nationwide.
"It needs a fundamental overhaul," Duncan said.
In Denver, the district changed the entire feeder system in the Montbello area. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg says this is an example of some the bold steps Duncan is talking about.
"We talk to our kids and we talk to our teachers. We see it in their faces. We see it in the hope. We see it in the conviction that they're in better schools," Boasberg said.
The crowd asked Duncan questions ranging from early childhood education to how race impacts academic achievement, to the struggles of undocumented students trying to get to college.
Duncan believes the keys to addressing all of these issues starts by having a conversation. This is why he came to Colorado to talk.
"In so many places people are fighting. People are fighting all the wrong battles and the battle is not between traditional schools and charter schools. The battle is not between union and management and board," Duncan said. "You guys are fighting the right fight here, not wasting time on things that have nothing to do with leading the country where we need to go."
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)