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Duncan Visits Rural McDowell County on Nationwide Bus Tour

One of the highest-profile projects to turn around a rural school district got a visit Thursday from the nation's top schools chief.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a stop in rural McDowell County in West Virginia, which is the site of the Reconnecting McDowell project. Duncan and other top education officials have been traveling across the country since September 12 as part of their third annual bus tour, and they'll wrap up today in Washington, D.C.

Reconnecting McDowell is a collaboration of 87 public and private partners working to improve the schools and surrounding community, and it's gotten a good share of national attention, in part because the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers has taken the lead on the initiative. McDowell County is one of the poorest in the country, and this is the first time the AFT has taken on this kind of project.

News coverage of Duncan's visit showed he did more listening than talking, with one story quoting him as saying he didn't come here to teach, "I came here to learn." Some stories gave more details on the overall plans for improving McDowell County, such as addressing illiteracy, more housing options for teachers, and parenting classes for pregnant teens.

All that said, the fact that Duncan chose McDowell County as one of the stops on the tour is a sign of the turnaround effort's prominence on the national stage.

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