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Education chief visits St. Louis

By Maria Altman, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The nation's education chief, Arne Duncan, says St. Louis is on the verge of an educational "sea change."

Duncan was at Lexington Elementary in St. Louis as part of a union-sponsored "back to school" tour.

As the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Duncan says he understands the barriers to success urban districts like St. Louis face and that urban schools need to provide an entire range of social services for both students and parents beyond just holding students for eight hours per day.

He said that despite the ongoing problems of poverty and low graduation rates, the district appears to have turned a corner for the better.

"There is a long, long way to go, I don't want to have any illusions," Duncan said. "But what you see is you see a sense of alignment, a sense of collaboration, that you didn't see before. So, I think this is a sea change."

Duncan said that St. Louis in particular stands to benefit from a recently announced $3.5 billion in school improvement grants.