US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pulled up a chair in a circle of desks and asked students what they do to avoid conflict.
The summer school class he attended at Vashon High School is paid for by a federal grant aimed at turning around struggling schools.
The school will receive $378,536 from the grant for fiscal year 2012-2013 and Duncan says his department is getting its money’s worth.
“I always look at the trends, are they going the right way? This is a school that is absolutely going the right way and will continue to improve,” Duncan says.
The school just completed the second year of the three-year-grant, which initially requires changes that include screening all teachers and rehiring no more than half of existing teachers.
“It’s so important that we never give up on kids, and that we give them a chance," Duncan says. "To see grades getting better, to see huge reductions in discipline problems, this is hard work, this is courageous work, but it’s so encouraging to me.”
Duncan also took some time to shoot hoops in the school’s gymnasium.
The former co-captain of the Harvard basketball team will be inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America's hall of fame at their conference tonight in St. Louis.
While speaking to reporters after touring the school, Duncan took time to briefly address the looming student loan rate hike.
The Education Secretary says he is desperately hopeful Congress will find a compromise to hold college student loan rates at their current level of 3.4 percent.
Congress has until July, 1 to hold rates steady or they could jump to 6.8 percent.