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As an education major, I expected my internship with the U.S. Department of Education to help me to better understand federal policies. I didn’t necessarily expect it to inspire me, but my time at ED’s Regional Office in Chicago has done just that. I’ve been able to connect what I’ve learned in college to the real-life motivations of educators throughout the U.S., which were highlighted here on Homeroom earlier this year.
For example, I’ve learned through my studies at Vanderbilt University about the impact that talented, committed teachers who genuinely believe in their students’ potential can have on the large achievement gaps in the U.S. between disadvantaged children and their more fortunate peers. The story of Marcus Jackson, principal of Kendrick Middle School in Jonesboro, Georgia, brought that lesson to life for me. Nearly 20 years ago he left his position at an afterschool recreation center to pursue a teaching degree.
Jackson’s decision to change careers crystallized when one of the brightest children at the recreation center failed all of his classes. Confused, Jackson met with the child’s teacher. He recalls the teacher saying, “If you think these students are the future, we need a backup plan! These boys are going to be drug dealers, and these girls will become pregnant.”
Jackson couldn’t disagree more. He decided to become a teacher to ensure that “all kids can succeed in school and in life.” Almost 20 years later, Jackson’s passion has helped his school progress into the top 10 percent of all Title I schools in Georgia.
Similarly, Joan Maurer, a middle school teacher from Roots International Academy in Oakland, California, shared that she “became a teacher to be there for the students who don’t come from wealthy neighborhoods. I want to close that equity gap.”
Many students enter college undecided about their majors, and Waunakee Middle School teacher Rachel Rydzewski was one of them. The Waunakee, Wisconsin teacher had a college opportunity to mentor immigrant students. Through the experience, she realized that all students don’t have access to the same opportunities she’d enjoyed, growing up in suburban Milwaukee.
“I came to the realization that education was the answer [to the challenges caused by disparity],” said Rydzewski, Wisconsin’s 2010 Teacher of the Year.
The fight against inequity inspires many to students to become teachers. It’s also a daily motivator for many veteran educators like third-grade teacher Kristen Goncalves of Henderson Inclusion Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. At Henderson, students who have disabilities learn side-by-side with their nondisabled peers
“Children learn to be compassionate; they don’t see any differences between themselves,” said Goncalves about her school’s inclusive format, which has generated state designation as a “high performer” in language arts, and a long waiting list.
Contrary to the myths, none of these educators entered the field — or stay in it — to get a summer vacation, or for the money. As a future teacher, I am driven to join the profession in its fight against inequality, one student at a time.
Shannon Ruge is a student at Vanderbilt University and an intern in ED’s regional Office of Communications and Outreach in Chicago. ED regional OCO staffers Joe Barison, Malissa Coleman, Julie Ewart and Olga Pirela also contributed to the story.
The final “Let’s Read! Let’s Move!” event of the summer took place on July 30 at the Library of Congress. The “Let’s Read!” segment of the event took place in the Thomas Jefferson Library Exhibit, an area which took on a whole new meaning for many of the students after they learned that the last event hosted there had been for the Queen of England.
Secretary Duncan began by introducing his panel of celebrity guests that included Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, chef and host of the Pati’s Mexican Table TV show Pati Jinich, and NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Warren Moon. They all took turns reading the book Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock and John O’Brien, with Chef Pati also translating into Spanish. From the story, everybody learned more about the reasons for the construction of the library building where we were sitting. Dr. John Cole, Jr., Director of the Library’s Center for the Book, then delighted all the children by announcing that each child would get a copy as a memento of the visit.
The Secretary’s guests answered the children’s questions, and emphasized the significance of a good education and a healthy body. Then, the children eagerly “followed the leaders,” Chef Pati and the Acting Surgeon General, to their different stations to begin the “Let’s Move!” segment of the morning event.
At his station, Dr. Lushniak gave everyone a real workout that got our blood pumping! He also emphasized his advice that they stay active, eat well and “never start smoking!” At another station, the children helped create a delicious plate using USDA’s My Plate guide, and learned more about nutrition from Chef Pati ,who shared some alternatives to their favorite junk food. After high-fiving Lushniak, an unexpected guest, USDA’s Power Panther, eagerly looked on and participated in exercises with the children. Library of Congress staff from the Young Reader’s Center also engaged the children in a Reading Discovery game, which involved a scavenger hunt through their new book and a quiz to see what they had remembered from the story they had just heard. The final station was a re-shelving book relay, coordinated by the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington’s Physical, Healthy, Driven program, which tested the children’s balance and pace by getting them to navigate around an obstacle course of books, while balancing a book on top of their heads. Some of them even got to compete against Warren Moon in this activity!
The event concluded with a book distribution, in which each child received a backpack with healthy snacks and another book of their choice, courtesy of Target and its partnership with First Book. AmeriCorps members also supported the event, and the Library staff provided a tour of the main reading room overlook to all the YMCA youth volunteers and interns who worked the event.
All in all, it was a day unlikely to be forgotten by the younger and older guests alike!
Lisa-Marie O’Malley is a summer intern in the Office of Non-Public Education at the U.S. Department of Education. She is a student at the University of Limerick.
The association plans to investigate tenure practices at the U. of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The center responds: First, explain your authority.
I had three conversations last week that served as valuable reminders of the impact of visionary, skilled principals. In one conversation, a group of award-winning teachers emphasized repeatedly the important role that great principals play in recruiting and retaining the best teachers in challenging school environments. One teacher, Laura Strait, shared that she moved from Massachusetts to California just to work for an outstanding principal.
I have never seen a high-performing school without a great principal. Principals are key to education change efforts, and I can’t overstate the importance of courageous leadership.
As we work together to prepare our students for success, it’s vital for me to regularly tap into the collective wisdom of our schools’ instructional leaders. In two other conversations I had with educators last week, I met with principals in Toledo, Ohio, last Tuesday and in the District of Columbia on Friday. I wanted to hear from them about what’s working, what isn’t, and what the U.S. Department of Education can do to better support them. In both cases, I asked for a candid conversation, and I got it.
At D.C. Public Schools, I spoke with a group of 200 principals and central office leaders to thank them for their commitment to their students and schools and listen to their thoughts as they head back to school. I shared Laura Strait’s story – she’s a winner of TNTP’s prestigious Fishman Prize – and challenged them to be that principal, one who is so strong that a teacher would follow them across the country to teach in their school. That’s the kind of leadership we need everywhere.
At Toledo Public Schools’ Woodward High School, I met with nine principals of northwestern Ohio schools – from urban, rural and small town environments – to hear about the impact that all the changes happening now in K-12 education are having on their students, teachers and families. I was pleased to hear that Ohio’s Race to the Top grant has funded meaningful professional development that has helped to bring teachers at many schools out of their classroom silos to more effectively collaborate with their colleagues to meet the unique needs of each child. Race to the Top funding has also made some dramatic innovation possible: For example, it’s helping to transform the middle and high school in rural Van Wert, Ohio, into a New Tech school that utilizes cutting-edge resources to enable kids to fully develop the critical thinking skills that today’s employers need and tomorrow’s jobs will demand.
However, I also heard loud and clear from Ohio principals that the quick pace of change is causing angst for them and their staffs. From the transition to college- and career-ready standards and assessments to new teacher evaluations, there’s been an unprecedented amount of change within a short span of time. All of the principals made it very clear that they’re seeing strong progress in their schools, and don’t want to stop the momentum. As Woodward Principal Jack Renz said, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”
These are not easy times in education. What I hear from you, our principals and teachers, influences what we do at ED. As we start the school year, it’s important for districts, states and the staff at ED to hear your voices.
Can we build on positive momentum to help each student reach his or her full potential? If the answer lies with educators like those that I met last week –courageous principals and the passionate teachers who want to work with them – then I have no doubt in my mind that we can.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
When I walked to the Financial Square Building at 32 Old Slip St. in New York City earlier this summer, I cried. I couldn’t even fathom the idea that I would be interning for the U.S. Department of Education. As a 22-year-old kid from the urban streets of Indianapolis, I recently read an article that stated that my hometown has had more than 50 homicides alone this summer. As I stared at the building, I could only think of what my brother Brandon once said: “Durrell, you’re going to do big things in your life, you’re gonna be on TV or something and when you do, remember me, remember us.”
Reflecting on my life so far, I recall one moment that became the landmark that set forth my career path. In an Advanced Placement class one day during high school, I was confronted by a group of Caucasian students who didn’t understand how young Black males are misrepresented. I told them in an outburst that they didn’t know what it took to wake up to a neighborhood with no hope of ever having a positive role model to set the foundation for the future. That was more than five years ago, and if there is one thing that I’ve taken from that encounter, it is the knowledge that we African-American males need successful role models.
I came on board as a summer intern fully aware of President Obama’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, and how it echoes the words of the great W.E.B. DuBois, “Our community is going to be saved by exceptional men.” Having a black man as our President is historic, and President Obama’s announcement of My Brother’s Keeper is just as significant because he is showing us through his policies and his actions what we need to do to ensure that all children in America can reach their full potential.
My Brother’s Keeper is critical for turning around a community because it shows young males of African and Latino descent that they too have a place in this world of success. Today marks the third anniversary of Brandon’s death, and the first anniversary of my brother Bryce Barnes’s death. These are some of the few people that I’ve lost to the streets. This opportunity to be a role model while interning at the U.S. Department of Education has not only shaped me and the way I think, but has also helped to shape my actions as well moving forward. I am now more than ever determined to be My Brother’s Keeper. What we have asked for was an opportunity and a voice to display our pain and share our stories. My Brother’s Keeper is the initiative that will give young minority males that opportunity and help ensure that all young people, including young minority males, can reach their full potential.
Durrell Jamerson-Barnes is a summer intern in the New York Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. He attends Eastern Michigan University.
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Reposted from the OII Blog.
On July 23, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) hosted the grand opening of the student art exhibit Museums: pARTners in Learning at its headquarters in Washington, presenting visual artwork and creative writing by students ages 5–17 in the arts education programs at 16 academic museums.
Deputy Under Secretary Jamie Studley welcomed guests to the Department and thanked the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) for its partnership with ED. Studley not only emphasized the critical partnership for learning between art and other classroom subjects, such as chemistry and history, she also noted the importance of art “as a source of inspiration and a way to practice discipline.”
Rebecca Martin Nagy, director of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, asserted that art museums worldwide are committed to education. “It’s what we do!” she said, citing the 242 AAMD members that work with each other, 40,000 schools, and community organizations.
Anthony Madorsky, a 10-year-old student artist from Meadowbrook Elementary School in Gainesville, Fla., made family members proud when he delivered remarks on his painting “La Florida.” He drew inspiration from Frank Hamilton Taylor’s “A Trip on the Ocklawaha,” a painting at the Harn. Anthony explained that he tried to depict “the untouched majestic beauty [of Florida] before the Spanish colonization,” a different way than people usually see Florida. “When Ponce de León discovered Florida, he called it “La Florida,” meaning ‘land full of flowers.’ I believe each of our brains is a ‘La Florida’ as it is a place full of ideas like flower buds and, as people help us improve these ideas, they can bloom into flowers,” Anthony concluded—an eloquent depiction of “becoming educated.”
Anna Mebel, the poet-in-residence at the Harn, also touched on the different portrayals of her home state, Florida—a foreigner’s and a local’s. She recited her original poem, “Florida,” which was inspired by Karen Glaser’s “Within the Swamp, Roberts Lake Strand,” a photograph at the Harn.
Amanda Stambrosky, the choreographer and dancer-in-residence at the Harn, performed an original piece, “Down to the Lake,” to James Vincent McMorrow’s song “The Lakes” in response to four Florida landscape paintings at the Harn. Amanda incorporated her hair in her performance. Midway, she let it loose from the bun she wore as both an expression of “letting loose” and a representation of the movement of the palm trees and wind. For her, concluding the piece by pulling her hair back in a bun portrayed “resuming life, yet kind of changed.”
The program closed with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, an 11-year tradition of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program to officially open students’ exhibits
“The art is beautiful” and “wow!” were some of the guests’ remarks as they viewed the 67 pieces of work, evidence of creativity and learning in all fields from k–12 students.
The exhibit will be on display through August 31 in the ED headquarters lobby at 400 Maryland Ave. SW. To visit the exhibit, contact Jackye Zimmermann (Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov; 202-401-0762).
Click here to see additional photos from the exhibit opening.
Greta Olivares is a rising senior at Middlebury College and a summer intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at ED.
The bipartisan measure calls for expanded resources for victims, public disclosure of campus-climate surveys, and more coordination with law-enforcement agencies.
Should state universities trim tuition chiefly for low-income students or cut it across the board?
If you’re among the millions of current or former students with debt, you’ve probably been tempted to click on an ad that says, “Obama Wants to Forgive Your Student Loans!” or “Erase Default Statuses in 4 – 6 Weeks!” or some equally enticing student loan debt relief offer … available only if you click or call NOW!
Many the companies behind these offers have sophisticated marketing tactics to target unsuspecting students, borrowers, parents, military service members, and their families. As the Student Loan Ombudsman for the Office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education, I hear about these pitches a lot. My strong advice: Before you pay somebody to help you with your student loans, do your homework.
It’s tempting to just say: Don’t do it. Walk away. Call your loan servicer instead. But there’s more you should know.
In my office we help student loan customers with problems they may face in managing and repaying their student loans. One of the topics that has been trending recently is about companies that promise student loan cancellation, forgiveness, credit repair, or dramatically lowered payments.
Based on the experience of the Ombudsman Group and the Student Loan Ombudsman Caucus, here are some specific things you should know before signing up with any student loan debt relief company.
Student loan debt relief companies charge fees for services that you can get for free.
You can apply for loan consolidation through www.studentloans.gov. The application is free, and there are no extra fees. Before applying, do your research on www.studentaid.gov. On that site, you’ll find information on loan consolidation, requirements for loan forgiveness, repayment estimators to help you pick the right repayment plan to fit your income, loan servicer contacts, and other important information to help you manage your loan repayment. All for free! Recent research by a member of the Student Loan Ombudsman Caucus found some of these debt relief companies charging upfront consolidation fees as high as $999 or 1 percent of the loan balance (whichever is higher); “enrollment” or “subscription” fees up to $600; or monthly account “maintenance” fees as high as $50 per month. You already pay for these services through the monthly interest on your loans; why double-pay?
Keep your PIN to yourself
Student loan debt relief or credit repair companies may offer to manage your loan account, and to do so, they ask you to provide them with your federal student aid Personal Identification Number (PIN), or sign a Power of Attorney. Think about it: your PIN is the equivalent of your signature on any documents related to your student loan. If you give your PIN away, you give others the power to perform actions on your student loan on your behalf. Plus, regardless of who authorizes changes to your account, it’s your name on the promissory note. If that company fails to provide the appropriate updates to your loan servicer, you have to deal with the consequences.
Is Your Loan in Default?
If it is, you know that being in default on a student loan is bad news. Know this as well: you are a prime target for the marketing tactics of debt relief and credit repair companies. By being in default, you’ve already incurred added interest and you’re subject to collection costs. Don’t add on the additional fees charged by one of these companies to get your loan out of default. Even if your loan is in default, loan consolidation is free. Getting on a loan rehabilitation plan is free. Find out how to get out of default.
Think you’ve been scammed?
If you’ve already signed a contract, seek advice to learn your options. Many state governments have an Office of Consumer Affairs or Consumer Protection either within or affiliated with, the Office of the State’s Attorney General. At the federal level, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have the authority to act against companies that engage in deceptive or unfair practices. Click on the links to file your complaint with either of those agencies.
Contact your Loan Servicer
If you want to talk to someone, call your loan servicer or use your online account access to get more information. They are your first source to get help with managing your loan repayment. The Department’s loan servicers are as concerned as I am at ensuring that you do not spend your hard-earned money to pay for something you can get for free. If you don’t know your servicer’s contact information, grab your PIN and log in to StudentAid.gov.
Joyce DeMoss is the Student Loan Ombudsman at Federal Student Aid. If you’ve tried to resolve your student loan issues without success, contact the Ombudsman. The Student Loan Ombudsman Caucus includes members at Direct Loan and FFELP program participating lenders, servicers, and guaranty agencies.
Cross-posted from the White House Joining Forces Blog.
Last August, at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama outlined key Administration priorities that ensure we are fulfilling our promises to those who have served our nation, including supporting our veterans in institutions of higher learning. In his speech, President Obama announced that 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing the 8 Keys to Success program on their campuses.
Developed by the Administration, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with more than 100 education experts, the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success on campus are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there. Over the past year, the number of commitments have nearly doubled as more than 400 colleges and universities have affirmed their commitment to take the necessary steps to assist veterans and servicemembers in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, obtaining career-ready skills, and achieving success.
The strategies within the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success include:
- Creating a culture of connectedness on campus
- Coordinating and centralizing campus efforts for all veterans
- Collaborating with local communities and organizations to align services and supports for veterans
- Implementing an early alert system
- Utilizing a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information relating to veteran students (i.e., retention and degree completion)
- Developing systems to ensure sustainability of effective practices
These common-sense practices should be implemented on every campus across the country.
To view current commitments and check if your school has signed the 8 Keys pledge, click here. If you are an administrator and would like to join the growing list of colleges and universities focused on providing the best environment for your student veterans, please visit the 8 Keys registration site, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As more servicemembers return to civilian life, the urgency to ensure that they have the support they need to reach their educational and career goals grows each day. We will continue to advocate for the needs of the men and women who serve us so valiantly each and every day.
Robert “Mac” McFarlin is a White House Fellow at the National Economic Council.
The cost of educating veterans at proprietary institutions averages twice that of their public counterparts, says the chairman of the Senate education committee.
But critics say the tentative deal won't force the association to reduce the risk of head injury.
A bill that would require colleges to report more data about faculty who work off the tenure track may not win approval this session, but it’s raising hopes.