Arne Duncan visits Ballou High School

Dozens of students at Ballou High School got a lesson from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday.

Duncan discussed the importance of staying in school and doing well. But the students also got their chance to speak up ad weren't afraid to ask tough questions.

"Sometimes I can't understand, or I can't get the teacher's attention when I need it," said one student.

Acey Calhoun said nothing will stand in his way from one day owning his own architecture firm and plans to prusue a Bachelor's and Master's degree to get there. His family is supporting him on his journey.

"I've always had influential parents in my life who pushed me to go forward on the right track," Calhoun said.

The 10th grader said support at home is critical. He told Duncan to hold parents accountable for their childrens' academic futures.

While taking suggestions, the Secretary offered some of his own.

"Some form of higher education has to be the goal for all of you," Duncan said. "Four-year colleges, two-year community colleges, trade/technical/vocational training."

He also put the spotlight on teaching.

"We anticipate in the next four to six years as many as a million teachers retiring," Duncan said. "That's about a third of the nation's workforce."

He emphasized the need for more recruits, especially those with diverse backgrounds. According to the Department of Education, nationwide only 15 percent of teachers are Black or Latino.

Groups like Teach for America are making the push to recruit teachers of all nationalities. This year, one-third of its 5,000 first-year teachers were of color.

But still, students at Ballou said teachers salaries need to go up to boost appeal.

"People don't want to be teachers because they gotta go through too much and get paid a little bit of money," said student Ronika Young.