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Updated: 32 min 52 sec ago
Cross-posted from the White House Blog.
As a community college teacher, I know that excellence happens every day in community college classrooms and campuses across this country. Both in my classroom and when I’m on the road visiting community colleges, I am fortunate to see firsthand the tremendous impact these schools have on so many students. I see students striving, teachers inspiring, and administrators innovating – each doing their best to make the community college experience richer and more meaningful. President Obama has made community colleges a centerpiece of his goal to have the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world.
Earlier today at the Newseum in Washington, DC, leaders in education and business congratulated Santa Barbara City College from California and Walla Walla Community College from Washington for being selected as co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Kingsborough Community College – CUNY from New York and Lake Area Technical Institute from South Dakota were honored as finalists-with-distinction.
Community colleges represent a uniquely American idea – that if you work hard and get a good education, you can get the skills you need for a good job and build a better life for you and your family. Community colleges are often unsung heroes in their work to expand opportunities, offer intensive preparation for careers, and provide an affordable and effective option for many students. Education and job training are critical to that vision, strengthening the middle class and preparing our citizens to compete in the global economy. Each and every day, community colleges are doing more to grow our middle class, equipping our citizens with the education and training that today’s jobs require.
Our Administration is working to advance locally-tailored solutions to fill in skills gaps where our local economies need them. Nearly three years ago, we held the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges, where we announced the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
In the past few years, our Administration has taken important steps to make incentive prizes and challenges, like the Aspen Community College Excellence Prize, a standard tool for open innovation in every Federal agency’s toolbox. Federal agencies, in partnership with our private-sector and philanthropic partners, are using prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their missions. In fact, since its launch in 2010, Challenge.gov has featured more than 240 prizes offered by over 50 Federal departments and agencies.
The Aspen Prize is designed to honor and recognize excellence in community colleges through evaluation of academic and workforce outcomes in both absolute performance and improvements over time. By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize honors excellence, stimulate innovation, and create benchmarks for measuring progress – highlighting the “best of the best” and giving other schools the opportunity to consider adapting those best practices to their own campuses.
In December 2011, Valencia Community College from Orlando, FL was announced as the first Aspen Prize winner and Valencia is now a model for other community colleges across the nation. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Valencia and learn more about the success they are having in improving student outcomes while they are in school at Valencia and when they graduate.
Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, shared more of what made this year’s winners exceptional: “At Santa Barbara City College, faculty and staff are providing students just what they need to transfer and complete a four-year degree – a rigorous classroom education surrounded by first-rate supports from remedial math to college level writing. Walla Walla Community College’s visionary leaders stay on top of local economic job trends and job growth, and the entire college provides the kind of excellent training that students need to access well-paying jobs and that employers know will ensure future investments in the regional economy will pay off.”
Congratulations to this year’s winners and finalists, and thank you to the Aspen Institute, the supporters of the Aspen Prize, and the many people who worked so hard to help these institutions get the recognition they deserve.
Dr. Jill Biden is the Second Lady of the United States and a lifelong educator.
The fight to end the school-to-jail track and reestablish restorative justice practices is personal for Jasmine Jauregui, a youth organizer from the Youth Justice Coalition.
“I have a family with a history of incarceration. My father is serving a life sentence at the moment and I don’t feel comfortable around [school resource] officers.”
Jauregui is just one of a number of students who recently met with Secretary Arne Duncan and David Esquith, director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS), at the Department of Education to discuss school safety. The students, who work to break down silos and make their schools and communities safer, represented coalition members of the Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ), the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) and Padres y Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United).
One day before the students met with Secretary Duncan, they participated in a rally on Capitol Hill calling on Congress to implement positive approaches in response to gun violence and address the impact of school safety policies.
Secretary Duncan applauded the students’ efforts to make their voices heard to lawmakers and was interested in hearing some of the alternative recommendations they’ve developed.
“Rather than promote more school resources officers (SROs) in schools, we want school administrators to promote positive measures such as positive behavior intervention and restorative justice,” said Yuki Diaz, a youth organizer of Padres y Jovenes Unidos via video teleconference.
Other students agreed, saying that they felt their schools needed an increased presence in guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists.
Secretary Duncan said that he believes each school is unique and should have the flexibility to choose school resource officers or social workers and counselors in order to prevent violence.
Padres y Jovenes Uniodos recently reached a historic partnership with the Denver’s police department and school district that limits the role of police in schools. The organization is hoping that their interagency agreement will be used as a model for other urban schools confronted with alarming rates of misconduct and violence.
The Department of Education has already provided technical aid to help nearly 18,000 schools implement evidence-based strategies to improve school climate. “One of the things that the President is proposing is a new $50 million initiative to scale up positive behavioral interventions and supports,” said David Esquith.
Other youth activists such as Nicole Cheatom of the Baltimore Algebra Project said that it shouldn’t have taken the tragedy at Sandy Hook to build momentum on school and community safety. She cited that a school shooting occurred last year at Perry Hall high school in Baltimore, and that it didn’t receive national attention.
Earlier this month, ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students awarded more than $35,000 to the Baltimore, County, Md., high school. The Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) grant will assist with ongoing recovery efforts.
Christina Cathey, a youth activist and college student at Tugaloo College said that she hopes the Department continues to support alternatives to a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment and push out in schools. She said that ED’s leadership can serve as a catalyst at the local-level.
Click here to read the President Obama’s plan to make our schools safer.
Click here to read the students’ joint issue briefing.
De’Rell Bonner works in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
Each March we take time to reflect on the amazing women who have left their mark throughout history. At the U.S. Department of Education, we realize we have a lot of women to celebrate in education. Every mother is an educator, instilling life lessons for future generations from the moment her child is born. Every sister, aunt, grandmother and even friends, help us learn valuable lessons in and out of the classroom. After all, we never truly stop learning and an education never ends.
As a small part to the month-long commemoration of inspirational women, we have chosen to highlight two women educators because of their incredible ability to break glass ceilings through their dedication to education. Please read and share these inspirational stories with the women and young girls in your own life.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910) Physician:
After many years of determined effort, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to complete a course of study at a medical college in the United States, graduating at the top of her class at Geneva Medical School (NY) with an M.D. degree in 1849. Blackwell later used her education and experience to help other women achieve doctorate degrees by establishing the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first medical school for women, resulting in greater acceptance of female physicians across the country.
Famous Quote: “It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.”
Share Elizabeth Blackwell’s story with your classroom:
Mary McLeod Bethune (1877-1955) Educator:
Equal parts educator, politician, and social visionary, Mary McLeod Bethune, dedicated her life to improving the lives of young African American women through the power of education. In 1904, Bethune established the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Girls, aimed to help young African American women living in the most impoverished areas of Florida get an education.
Famous Quote: “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.”
These are just two women out of the millions who have helped educate our children. On behalf of all of us at the U.S. Department of Education, we thank you.
Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
This time of year I typically dream of travelling someplace warm, but today I woke up wishing I were in Amsterdam.
As a Social Studies teacher, I would appreciate the opportunity to dive into the city’s rich history. Today I want to be there to participate in the third International Summit on the Teaching Profession.
Education leaders from around the world, including 150 teachers, are at the 2013 Summit to discuss teacher quality and evaluation. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report prepared for the Summit, 1 in 4 teachers globally never receive feedback from their school leadership. This highlights an opportunity for leaders to learn from each other about improving teacher evaluation and quality at the Summit. For example, today, the Dutch Education Minister shared that Holland is using peer review in teacher evaluation—a best practice learned from the U.S.
The previous Summits have been great learning opportunities for the U.S. delegation and inspired two important initiatives. One is the RESPECT vision statement for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession (shaped by over 4,000 American teachers). The other is Transforming the Teaching Profession, a framework developed by national groups representing teachers, superintendents, school boards, and state leaders that puts forth a common vision for teaching and learning.
Today in the Twitter feed for the Summit, a number of people tweeted a quote from the Estonian delegation, “Education is under heavy pressure. Either we make more and better rules. Or we must liberate the teacher profession…” As a teacher, I know that I want to be in a profession that is shaped by teachers. But owning our profession is not simply about being seated at a table set by others; we need to recognize that is our table.
While teachers and union leaders from the U.S. and other nations are at the Summit, I can’t personally be at the table in Amsterdam this week. Still, I can be informed and engaged. Here are some things I am doing:
Following the Twitter feed #ISTP2013 and participating in a conversation tomorrow on Twitter.
Reading the OCED background report for the Summit.
Reflecting on how I would answer the questions that are guiding this year’s summit and sending responses to the Teacher Mailbox, TeachTalk@ed.gov.
- How is teacher quality defined by policy makers, the teaching profession and society? What standards are set and by whom?
- How is teacher quality evaluated? What systems are in place and how are the evaluations carried out?
- How do evaluations contribute to school improvement and teacher self-efficacy? What impact can be expected on teaching and learning from teacher evaluation?
Engaging in conversations with my colleagues.
Watching Secretary Duncan’s video played during the opening session.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Lisa Clarke is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and social studies teacher on loan from Kent, Washington.
A Rural U.S. Principal Reflects on Collective Lessons from the Closing Session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the closing session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City on March 17. I found it encouraging that so many of the goals and concerns of educators in the United States are shared by educators around the world.
As an educator from a rural area In Washington, I often feel that much of the national discussion on education involves issues of our urban areas, but I am beginning to see that the challenges are in some ways universal. We all face the need to raise student achievement and close gaps, whether in rural or metropolitan settings, in Europe or Africa.
One panelist observed that in all countries, the quality of education cannot exceed the quality of our teachers. This is why it is so important that we all find ways to improve our quality of teacher preparation programs and share with each other what is working.
Another panelist reminded educators that student learning is the only real aim of our work, and it seemed that her words ring as true in India as they do in Brazil.
One participant commented that the changing times have required her country to focus on transforming the curriculum so that the skills students learn arm them to compete in the globally competitive marketplace. In rural areas of Washington, I have struggled with limited resources to meet this challenge, but I imagine there are teachers in Japan going through the same thing.
A panelist from Norway encouraged me, when he/she urged that as we seek to improve education reform, we must respect and listen to teachers and give them autonomy while building trust. Trust is something that is earned every day, vertically and horizontally, among teachers and administrators, working all as professionals. Trust is a universal value, globally understood and appreciated.
By Tamra Jackson
Tamra Jackson is 2009-2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education. She currently serves as the principal Bridgeport High School, a remote rural high school in Bridgeport, WA.
March 14 (3/14), is only a few days away, which means it’s time to celebrate pi, everybody’s favorite irrational mathematical number (the 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday). Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and it’s an irrational number, so it can’t be expressed as a simple fraction of two integers. 3.14 is just the beginning of pi, which goes on for infinity.
This STEM-themed holiday is an ideal time to plan some Pi-filled activities for your classroom or for children at home. Here are our five great tips to celebrate math on Pi Day.
- Prove Pi exists by measuring the circumference and diameter of circular objects around the classroom or house and solving for the equation: circumference = (pi) x (diameter).
- See how many digits of the number Pi you can recite. A Japanese man in 2005 memorized pi to 83,431 digits.
- Write a Pi-ku, a math version of the traditional 5-7-5 syllabic haiku. A Pi-ku of course, follows a 3-1-4 syllabic pattern.
- Bake a Pi-themed pie. Whether savory or sweet, eating deliciously circular pies is a highlight of every Pi day.
- Impress your friends by learning the song, “Mathematical Pi,” set to the tune of “American Pie”; or sing Pi Day carols.
Math is fun
Mixed with some pie
Margaret Yau is a student at the University of California, San Diego, and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
In March 2012, ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced the release of an innovative FAFSA Completion Tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators and practitioners both track and subsequently increase FAFSA completions at high schools across the country. Prior to publishing this data, the only source of data on FAFSA completions that high schools had were from self-reported student surveys, which were highly unreliable.
Through the FAFSA Completion Tool, educators have real-time access to reliable data to track FAFSA submission and completion and gauge their progress in increasing FAFSA completion. Key studies have indicated that FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, particularly among low-income populations.
Last month, FSA updated and enhanced the FAFSA Completion Tool by revealing FAFSA submission and completion totals for the current year, as well as FAFSA submission and completion totals for the same time last year. With this addition, the FAFSA Completion Tool—updated biweekly during the peak application period—now provides every high school in the country whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2013–14 application year as well as comparison data from the 2012–13 FAFSA application year.
Last year’s data provides a baseline by which school districts can gauge their efforts, set goals to improve on last year’s performance, and subsequently increase FAFSA completion within their school district.
Last year, the Tool provided FAFSA submission and completion data for the senior classes at over 24,000 high schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and all U.S. territories. More than 30,000 visitors accessed the data throughout the spring of 2012 to inform their local FAFSA completion strategies and overall college access initiatives. There are indications the Tool has contributed to raising FAFSA awareness across the country with more than 500,000 seniors having submitted a 2013–14 FAFSA through the end of January this year. This represents a nine percent increase compared to early submissions during January 2012.
For more information on the Tool and to search updated FAFSA Completion Data by High School for the senior class of 2013, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa-hs-data.
Federal Student Aid
There has been a noisy debate in Washington over whether sequestration’s harm is real and at what point our public schools will feel the pain, but for educators outside of Washington, that’s a settled question. They’re not wasting time debating it, because some had already eliminated jobs and cut programs in anticipation of Congress’s dysfunction. Right now they are focused on figuring out how to deal with an even worse situation next school year.
This week I joined a handful of superintendents from around the country whose school districts are especially reliant on federal funding because of their locations in areas with little to no local property tax base. It is a particular shame that among the earliest and worst hurt are schools that serve large numbers of military families and those on tribal land serving Native American students.
Here’s some of what they said while visiting Washington for a conference of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools.
- Window Rock Unified School District, in Fort Defiance, Ariz., serves 2,400 students in the capital of the Navajo Nation. Two-thirds are homeless or live in substandard housing. Anticipating the cuts that sequestration would make to Impact Aid and other federal programs that amount to 60 percent of her budget, Superintendent Deborah Jackson-Dennison eliminated 40 staff positions going into the current school year. Her plan for the upcoming year includes cutting 35 more teachers, 25 support staff and five administrative positions, and potentially closing three of her district’s seven schools. (Some children would face hour-long bus rides to school, on the reservation’s dirt roads.) Unemployment in Jackson-Dennison’s community exceeds 50 percent, so these layoffs due to sequestration and other budget pressures will drag down the local economy even more.
Ron Walker is superintendent in Geary County, Kan., which is home to Fort Riley and the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Last year, pessimistic that Congress would act to prevent the sequester—he turned out to be right—Walker eliminated the jobs of more than 100 paraprofessionals, many of whom worked one on one with children with disabilities. Sequester compounds the pressure already on his budget, he said. “This is a slow-bleed process,” Walker said. “It’s like someone stuck needles in you and is draining your blood. You don’t die overnight. But you will die.”
- In York County, Va., where Dennis Jarrett is chief financial officer, the district has reduced 124 positions over the last four years, he said. One of them was a guidance counselor—a tough position to keep unfilled when 42 percent of your students are connected to the military or some other branch of federal government. Parents’ deployment and frequent moves put unusual emotional strain on children. “What we’re concerned about…is the quality of life for our students,” Jarrett said.
These superintendents and their colleagues said something over and over that I know well from my days leading Chicago’s public schools: Any reduction in funding, and any uncertainty, causes managers to make more conservative decisions, which means fewer jobs.
In a recent survey by the American Association of School Administrators, more than three quarters of school district leaders indicated their district would have to eliminate jobs as a result of sequestration. Indeed, local school districts, along with states, will have to decide how to absorb these cuts.
The amount of money being cut from education programs and Head Start is the equivalent of about 40,000 teachers’ jobs. Instead of cutting jobs entirely, districts could furlough their teachers and staff for a period of time—which is disruptive for kids—or shorten the school day or year. No one here in Washington can precisely predict how they’ll cope—not Congress, not the President, not Republicans, not Democrats, not think-tanks, interest groups or the news media.
But one thing is certain: cutting $85 billion out of federal programs that support low-income students, students with disabilities, seniors, energy and medical research, the environment, national security and public safety won’t be good for our citizens, our communities or our country. And in education, where personnel costs are about 80 percent of local budgets, you can be certain that some teachers and staff won’t have jobs come September. You can’t make cuts like these without harming your people.
Am I saying there’s not money in our education system that could be put to better use? Absolutely not. I’m not in the camp that says “more, more, more” without considering what it buys you.
But rather than indiscriminately cutting the education budget, as the sequester does, let’s make smart investments. Let’s fund preschool for all children. Let’s redesign high schools to prepare students to succeed in college and our workforce. Let’s make college more affordable.
Taking an ax to America’s school budgets is bad policy. It endangers the progress our education system and economy have made in the last few years. Educators and parents get this. I urge Congress to undo this policy, which will only hurt children and our nation.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education.
Where can you go to find— in one place— Arne Duncan, Mark Zuckerberg, Marco Rubio, Stephen Hawking, and Snoop Dogg agreeing with each other? Not sure? Now add into the mix Dr. Oz, Richard Branson, and Michael Bloomberg. Give up?
The answer is the overflowing, impressive testimonial page on CODE.org, a new nonprofit created to promote the teaching of computer coding into America’s schools. Founded by Hadi Partovi, CODE.org shines a light on 21st century society’s need for computer scientists and programmers. According to stats on the CODE.org website, 90 percent of American schools currently don’t offer coding while, by 2020, there will be about a million more computer jobs than computer science students. Partovi aims to connect engineers with schools and to help educators bring computer programming to their classrooms.
The linchpin of the awareness campaign is a short video featuring Zuckerberg, Will.i.am, NBA All-Star Chris Bosh and a host of other tech leaders and trendsetters. The video, directed by Lesley Chilcott, a producer of An Inconvenient Truth, portrays learning to code as fun, not exceptionally difficult, and the gateway to a creative, fulfilling career. Released February 26, it has already accumulated over 9 million views.
The moment for this is now. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is a priority area for our country. In 2010, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report entitled Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education for STEM and America’s Future, which claimed:
“The success of the United States in the 21st century—its wealth and welfare—will depend on the ideas and skills of its population. These have always been the Nation’s most important assets. As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of these national assets will be determined in no small measure by the effectiveness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States. STEM education will determine whether the United States will remain a leader among nations…“
Through CODE.org, Hadi Partovi is rightly asserting the need to include the teaching in K-12 schools of computer science amongst the critical STEM disciplines. As the PCAST report makes clear, the stakes are high. And if you don’t trust that, just listen to Bill Clinton and Ashton Kutcher.
— Dan Brown
Dan Brown is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education for the 2012-13 school year. He is a National Board Certified Teacher at The SEED Public Charter School of Washington, D.C
By Arne Duncan and Kathleen Sebelius. Reposted from the Huffington Post.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke forcefully about America’s basic bargain that people who work hard and shoulder their responsibilities should be able to climb into a thriving middle class. Restoring that bargain, he said, is the unfinished work of our generation.
But for millions of young children in this country, the first rung on that ladder is missing because they are cut off from the kind of early learning that would set them up for success in school — with consequences that could last the rest of their lives. Our Administration is committed to closing that costly, unfair opportunity gap through a new plan that will deliver high-quality preschool for every American child, and enhance early learning services for children from birth through age three.
Study after study confirms what every teacher knows: young children who experience secure, stimulating environments with rich learning opportunities from an early age are better prepared to thrive in school. Indeed, both of us have watched our own children expand their worlds and their minds in the years before they entered school, whether at home or in quality early learning settings. Unfortunately, many American children don’t receive these opportunities.
Fewer than three in 10 American 4-year-olds attend a high-quality preschool program filled with well-organized learning experiences, guided exploration, art, and storytelling, and led by a skilled teacher. The availability of high-quality care and educational services for infants and toddlers is even lower. And the gap is especially pronounced in low-income communities.
Our failure to ensure access to strong preschool is morally indefensible and economically counterproductive. Strong early learning can translate into school success, which can lead to college and good jobs, and ultimately a robust economy. Research shows that every public dollar spent on high-quality early childhood education returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice programs.
That’s why President Obama has announced a comprehensive plan to help every child develop a strong foundation for future success. Recognizing that this is a time for fiscal caution, the President has been clear that, when combined with his plan for balanced deficit reduction, none of these proposals will add a dime to the deficit. But ultimately, this is an investment that we can’t afford not to make. Under his plan, we will work together to:
- Make universal, high-quality preschool available to four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families through a partnership with states, while also expanding these preschool programs to reach additional children from middle class families and providing incentives for full-day kindergarten. This new partnership would provide incentives for states to cover all families who want to send their children to preschool and offer high-quality preschool, with low class sizes, qualified teachers, and stimulating learning experiences.
- Launch a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership to significantly expand the availability of high-quality early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers.
- Expand highly effective, voluntary home visiting programs where nurses, family educators and social workers connect low-income families to health, social, and educational supports.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
These actions build on steps the Administration has already taken to boost early learning for our most vulnerable children, from improving accountability and quality of Head Start services to encouraging more systemic policies and investments that will improve the quality and effectiveness of early education through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, which rewards states that raise the bar on quality and provide links with health, nutrition, mental health, and family supports.
As we move forward with this economically vital effort, we can look to states that have shown the way. In Michigan and Massachusetts, for example, Governors Rick Snyder and Deval Patrick have made expanding access to preschool programs a priority. In Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley has proposed new resources to rapidly expand early education. These leaders represent a bipartisan consensus that America can’t win the race for the future by holding back children at the starting line.
Unfortunately, the blunt, arbitrary cuts that Congress allowed to go into effect through sequestration will do exactly that. President Obama has put forward a balanced plan to replace those cuts and reduce the deficit, which includes spending cuts along entitlement and tax reform. If Congress fails to compromise, up to 70,000 students could be dropped from Head Start and up to 30,000 low-income children would be left without child care subsidies. These cuts jeopardize our children’s futures. America, which now ranks 28th globally in early childhood enrollment, risks falling even further behind the rest of the world in preparing our children for school.
Early childhood education is one of the best investments can make in America’s future. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not cut back. Doing right by our youngest children is essential to America’s middle-class promise. We look forward to working together to make it happen.
— Arne Duncan is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education
— Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
In honor of Black History Month, the White House recently held a Champions of Change event honoring 10 leaders who are working to ensure that African American students in their community receive an education that prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers. Champions of Change are ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things.
Joyce Parker of Citizens for a Better Greenville and Becky James-Hatter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri discussed the importance of nurturing children—“love them, believe in them and let them know you will support their dreams,” James-Hatter said.
As the father of a child with Down syndrome, Michael Graham talked of the challenges parents with children with disabilities face and the importance of parents, families, communities and students having a seat at the table when education decisions are made.
“Let’s talk about the education of our children differently,” said Erin Jones, Director of Equity and Achievement for the Federal Way School District. “Let’s talk about the opportunity gap and not the achievement gap. I don’t have control over how a student takes a test on a particular day, but I absolutely have control over what opportunities I give him to learn the material so that he tests well that day.”
As substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in America’s educational system, significantly improving the educational outcomes of African Americans will provide substantial benefits for our country by, among other things, increasing college completion rates, productivity, employment rates, and the number of African American teachers.
For this reason, President Obama signed an executive order last year establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The initiative will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of educational programs for African American students.
During the Champions of Change event, Secretary Duncan announced the appointment of David J. Johns as the first executive director of the initiative. Johns, former senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said, “I look forward to bringing my experience in the classroom, Capitol Hill, and working with communities throughout the country to make this very important initiative a success.”
Kimberly Watkins-Foote is director of African American Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education
Yesterday, some 6,500 students in Chicago were moving, shaking, jumping and dancing in what may have been the largest coordinated “recess” in history. Why the sudden burst of activity? It has a lot to do with one of the enthusiastic recess leaders: First Lady Michelle Obama.
To mark the third anniversary of her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation, Obama is reaching out to schools. Yesterday, the First Lady announced the launch of Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS), an new collaboration with the private sector to increase physical education in public schools across the country. A $70 million program, the LMAS website provides simple steps and tools to help schools create active environments where students get 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day.
Students spend the majority of their day in or at school, and yet physical education programs around the country are feeling the strain of ever tightening school budgets—just as the country is finally starting to see some signs of progress in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic. Currently, only 20% of school districts require daily recess and only one in three kids is active every day.
“We can’t use tough economic times as an excuse,” Secretary Arne Duncan said on the Dr. Oz show that aired yesterday. “We have to get past this false dichotomy. Some people think, well, we can spend time helping kids be successful academically or we can help them play and be active physically. And that’s a false choice. Those two things reinforce each other.”
At the Chicago event, the First Lady and Duncan joined government officials, business leaders, athletes and Olympians in calling on school staff, families and communities to work together to reach an ambitious goal of engaging 50,000 schools in the Let’s Move! Active Schools program over the next five years. “Helping students become more active physically also helps students become more successful academically,” said Duncan.
For its part, the U.S. Department of Education will continue to support both physical and nutrition education in schools by realigning its $80 million Carol M. White Physical Education Program (“PEP”) to prioritize schools most in need and support applicants with plans to maximize their reach by building cost effective, sustainable programs. Applications for the next round of PEP grants are being accepted until April 13, 2013. For the next round of funding, ED is encouraging alignment with both the Partnership for a Healthier America’s new design filters for effective physical activity programs and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition’s new Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP).
Whether you are a parent, teacher, school administrator or community member, get involved in making your school an active one and visit LetsMoveSchools.org to determine how your school is doing, what you can do to help, and what resources Let’s Move! Active Schools can offer to assist you.
Click here to read more about the launch of Let’s Move! Active Schools.
Don Yu is a special advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education
Brian Will was inspired to investigate careers in family and consumer sciences in seventh grade. Today the Deep Run High School student is a consultant to the FCCLA Virginia state association and on track to pursue college and the career path of his choice.
Alvon Brown found inspiration in the mechanical processes of working with his hands in an HVAC career and technical education program, and is now eager to pursue engineering after graduating from The Edison Academy at Edison High School.
Brian and Alvon’s stories are just two of many that illustrate the impact of early career and technical education awareness. Many similar stories were told about how career and technical education is addressing the nation’s skills gap at a recent ED Policy Briefing to celebration National CTE Month at the U.S. Department of Education.
“The students were spectacular,” Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier said of the panelists at the briefing. “They were poised, articulate, self-confident and spoke eloquently about their CTE experiences and how well prepared they are for college and to pursue the career of their choice.” Also joining Brown and Will on the panel were Natalie Tran, the Future Business Leaders of America chapter president at River Hill High School, and David Kelly, the national president of the Health Occupations Students Association (HOSA) and an undergraduate at New York University.
Dann-Messier and Senior Advisor on College Access Greg Darnieder hosted a pair of conversations – one with educators and business leaders, and a second with Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) participants. Both conversations focused attention on the need for better alignment between high-quality CTE programs and the labor market, more collaboration among industry, secondary and postsecondary education partners, accountability for improving academic outcomes, and the need to support innovation.
Employers are seeking people with the skills to fill more than three million job vacancies each month. Whether you believe there is a skills gap or a training gap, early career awareness is an important part of the solution. Marie Zwickert, a business development manager for Cisco, emphasized the need to address the lack of technical and workforce readiness skills by raising standards and increasing participation in secondary and postsecondary CTE programs.
Last year, the Obama Administration proposed a blueprint for raising standards and transforming CTE nationally. High-quality CTE programs and Career Academies, like the Cisco Networking Academy, and CTSOs, teach employability skills that include working in effective teams, communications and problem solving, and help to increase students’ technical content knowledge and understanding.
Where rigor and expectations are high, CTE students display a sense of pride that attracts other students to the programs. Students are earning industry-recognized credentials in a wide array of sectors, gaps between college and career readiness are closing, and doors are opening for students to pursue today’s in-demand jobs and the careers of the future.
John White is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education
Yesterday, as education leaders from across the country gathered at the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., we were pleased to announce a new collaboration between our agencies: School Turnaround AmeriCorps.
This competitive, three-year grant program is designed to strengthen and accelerate interventions in our nation’s lowest-performing schools. The new initiative will engage hundreds of AmeriCorps members in turnaround schools across the country. AmeriCorps members will help students, teachers, and principals to transform struggling schools by providing opportunities for academic enrichment, extended learning time, and individual supports for students. These interventions will lead to increased academic achievement and improved high school graduation rates and college readiness among our most disadvantaged students.
We know that students are most successful when they have personal, attentive support. We believe this initiative is an important step forward in the effort to provide our lowest-performing schools with the additional resources that they need to improve.
Turning around struggling schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part – from teachers, administrators, and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector, and community members. This partnership will expand the role of AmeriCorps members in helping students, teachers, parents, and school administrators to transform persistently underachieving schools into models of success.
Public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and other community groups; schools or districts; institutions of higher education; cities and counties; Indian Tribes; and labor organizations are eligible to apply to this program, along with partnerships and consortia of these entities.
A notice of intent to apply must be submitted to the Corporation for National and Community Service by April 2, 2013 via e-mail at: email@example.com. Applications are due on April 23, 2013. Grants will be awarded by mid-July.
Please take a moment to read about the initiative. More information about the notice of intent and application instructions may be found here. Together, we can help all students thrive in school and in life.Secretary Arne Duncan CEO Wendy Spencer Department of Education Corporation for National and Community Service
If Congress fails to reach an agreement before March 1, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts—also known as the sequester—will go into effect. The cuts will have real consequences for real people—especially teachers, young children in low-income families, and students with special needs.
Earlier this month, Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the Senate about the negative effects of sequestration. “When the cuts hit, they will hurt the most vulnerable students worst,” Duncan said during his testimony.
Duncan went on to explain that sequestration would cut Title I by $725 million, affecting 1.2 million disadvantaged students, and risk the jobs of about 10,000 teachers and aides. Other cuts include $600 million in special education, requiring states and districts to cover the cost of approximately 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff. In Head Start, some 70,000 students could be kicked out. “Doing that to our most vulnerable students is economically foolish and morally indefensible,” said Duncan.
President Obama has provided a plan to avoid these cuts using a balanced approach, and the White House has also released state-by-state reports showing how sequester will impact jobs and middle class families.
During a Sunday morning appearance on “Face the Nation,” Duncan noted that “We don’t have to be in this situation. This is not rocket science. We could solve this tomorrow if folks had the will to compromise, to come to the table and do the right thing for children and to try and keep growing the middle class.”
- State-by-State Reports – Overall Impact
- Updated: Estimated Dollar Impact of the Sequester on States under the Department’s 12 Largest Formula Grant Programs PDF (107K) | MS Excel (112K)
- Title I Impact Largest 100 Districts (xls)
- Article: Education Secretary Decries Sequestration
A little more than a week after the State of the Union address where President Obama spoke about redesigning high schools to equip graduates with the skills that employers demand, Secretary Duncan and several Department of Education staff (myself included) visited a school in New York City that meets this challenge head on. Located on Governors Island and accessible only by boat, Urban Assembly New York Harbor School was established back in 2003 with one goal in mind: preparing students for success in college and careers through restoration of the local marine environment.
All Harbor School students enroll in the New York State Regents-based academic courses and then select one of six career and technical education (CTE) programs–Aquaculture, Marine Biology Research, Marine Service Technology, Ocean Engineering, Scientific Diving or Vessel Operations. Through a combination of school-based, harbor-based and community-based activities, students build and operate boats, spawn and harvest millions of oysters, design submersible remotely operated vehicles and conduct real-life research. The school boasts a professional advisory committee of more than 60 businesses, industry groups, postsecondary partners and foundations.
Through their courses of study, students earn industry-recognized certifications and licenses, as well as postsecondary credits that will give them a leg up regardless of their immediate plans after high school. Some students clearly had aspirations of on-water careers. (The captain of our ferry over to the island was a Harbor School graduate.) Other students were interested in engineering, architecture or construction. Still others were interested in a completely unrelated field. For each student, what seemed to matter most was the hands-on, real-life application of learning. They indicated that school was exciting, challenging and relevant. Harbor School’s 430 students come from all five of New York’s boroughs, some beginning their trek to Governors Island as early as 5:30 in the morning—first by bus, then subway and, finally, by boat. Now that’s commitment!
At the end of our tour on Feb. 22, one student asked Secretary Duncan what he had learned. With National CTE Month coming to a close, Arne responded by saying that now, more than ever, he is convinced that this country’s debate about whether to prepare students for college or careers is artificial. He indicated that the conversation really needs to shift toward how to prepare all students for college and careers, and that Harbor School was a phenomenal example of just how to do that.
“This school is on to something really, really special,” Arne said. “This is a very different vision of what a high school can be. What if we had more of these?” Graduation rates would go up, he predicted, and dropout rates would go down.
Harbor School matches closely the President’s vision for the future of American high schools. Stay tuned for more details on his plan.
Sharon Miller is director of ED’s Division of Academic and Technical Education in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.
Prior to Secretary Arne Duncan “schooling” the competition during his third appearance in the NBA Celebrity All Star Game in Houston last Friday, he sat down with former NBA All Star Allan Houston, current Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes, and the WNBA’s Maya Moore to speak with five high school student-athletes from across the country during the Department of Education’s first Google Hangout. The discussion centered on the importance of education and how sports can play an important role in maturation on and off the court.
During the live Hangout moderated by CNN’s John King, the students quizzed Secretary Duncan—who played college and professional basketball—and the NBA/WNBA players on how they balanced the demands of education and athletics, as well as discussed the importance of being a leader and a role model in the community.
Sequoia High School (Redwood, Calif.) senior point guard Alaina Woo said it best, “It’s really important that you surround yourself with role models who are passionate about basketball but can go beyond the sport and see the importance in having a balance in life.”
Watch the NBA/Department of Education Google + Hangout here:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Kelsey Donohue is a senior at Marist College (N.Y.), and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
How can we best prepare children and adolescents to thrive in the 21st century—an era of rapidly evolving technology and new opportunities to learn, collaborative and global knowledge work, changing workforce needs, and complex economic and national security interests? Our focus on aspects of academic success such as attainment of content knowledge is necessary, however, creating opportunities to engage and develop a much richer set of skills is critical. Today, this includes exploring the potential of “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to succeed.
The Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education asked SRI’s Center for Technology in Learning to take a close look at a core set of noncognitive factors—grit, tenacity, and perseverance. These are the factors that facilitate an individual’s capacity to strive for and succeed at fulfilling long-term and higher-order goals, and persist in the face of challenges and setbacks. We asked for this work to be done with an eye toward identifying the potential new roles that technology might play.
Last week, OET released Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World, a report that examines the rapid evolution of new technologies to capture, organize and analyze vast quantities of data, and we were interested in the role of new types of data and analytic capabilities in supporting grit, tenacity, and perseverance.
Building from a broad review of the research literature and interviews with thought leaders, this brief examines the extent to which grit, tenacity, and perseverance are malleable and teachable, how to measure these factors, and how to design learning environments that promote them. It includes key conclusions and recommendations tailored to the needs and responsibilities of educators, administrators, policymakers, technology designers, parents, and researchers.
We welcome your input as we continue the dialogue around designing the best possible learning environments for ensuring every student’s success. We are interested in hearing what you think!
Bernadette Adams is a senior policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Education
The need to improve the country’s education system is urgent, according to the Co-Chairs of the Equity and Excellence Commission who formally presented their report to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday. The Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child,” highlights the need to eliminate “education disparities affecting millions of underserved and disadvantaged students.”
The 27-member Commission includes scholars, teachers’ union leaders, state and local education officials, and education reformers and advocates, and was charged to provide advice to the Secretary “on the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to the achievement gap, with a focus on systems of finance,” as well as ways that the federal government can address such disparities.
While the commission was autonomous and its recommendations do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Education, Secretary Duncan said, “The Commission has sounded a powerful and important alarm about the distance we still have to go to improve education for every American child.”
This past weekend in San Diego, I had the opportunity to participate in the 4th Annual National Educator Conference focused on creating safe, supportive, and inclusive schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. A goal of the conference, presented by the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCaL), was to bring together education leaders and LGBT experts to empower and provide educators and school personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to create safe, welcoming and inclusive school environments for all youth, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Additionally, the conference focused on providing educators with the tools and resources to prevent and respond to bullying of LGBT youth, as well as empowering them to make the changes in their schools to make sure all kids are safe and thriving. I met with so many amazing educators; it truly was empowering.
Safe schools are not only free from overt forms of physical violence or substance abuse, but work proactively to support, engage, and include all students. Unfortunately, too many schools are not safe for LGBT youth. According to GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, nearly 8 out of 10 LGBT youth were harassed at school. We know that students who are bullied are more likely to have depression, anxiety, and other health concerns, as well as decreased academic achievement and participation. When students don’t feel safe, they are less likely to learn and more likely to give up on school altogether. Unfortunately, we also know that LGBT youth are disproportionately subject to discipline practices that exclude them from the classroom, and make up close to 15% of youth in the juvenile justice system.
Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that LGBT youth are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide. We need to ensure that educators have the tools and resources to not only protect LGBT students from harassment and discrimination, but to ensure that they thrive in schools, not drop out!
One of the students who attended the event came with his high school teacher from Washington State. He had reached out to the conference organizers after bullying in school left him feeling defeated and isolated. They attended with the hope that it would transform the student’s life in a positive way and enable his teacher to help and learn more to help other LGBT students. In a follow-up to the conference organizer, the student thanked Vinnie Pompei, the Project Director & Conference Chair, for the “awesome” opportunity to attend, and acknowledged that this is a great beginning to share information learned from the conference with students, teachers and others at his school.
Another student who participated in the conference said, “I get bullied every day. This started in 1st grade and I’m in 8th grade now. Suicide was an option…many times. [But] I’m not going anywhere…because I’m stronger than that.”
We need to work together and empower both students and teachers and make sure they have the tools to create changes in schools. I spoke with many educators who perceive stopping anti-gay bullying as risky and fear retribution. Teachers also need support in speaking out.
As I addressed the conference, I asked the individual educators to do four things to help improve the school experience of our LGBT youth.
- Create positive school climates for all students – this happens only through a deliberate, school-wide effort, and with the participation of families and communities.
- Be proactive and visible to LGBT youth – they cannot know they are supported, valued, and appreciated, if the adults in the building aren’t there to tell them so.
- Identify “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where LGBT youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff.
- Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations).
- Understand student mental health issues. Everyone can play a role here; not only school counselors or nurses, but teachers and administrators that can identify warning signs, like sudden changes in behavior.
- And importantly – they are not alone. While educators play a critical role in providing support to LGBT youth, they can build partnerships with local health and mental health agencies, community based organizations, and child welfare. And, there are federal resources to provide guidance and information on how to make schools safe, supportive, and inclusive. For example, check out www.stopbullying.gov.
I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the courageous teachers who are working every day to make this happen. Thankfully, educators have the power to create change in their schools, supporting students and saving lives.
Michael Yudin is acting assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services