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Updated: 30 min 31 sec ago
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
Earlier this month a group of distinguished counselors, selected as finalists for the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Counselor of the Year and their principals visited ED to share their thoughts on transforming the teaching profession and the critical role of the counselor in fostering students’ academic success, socio-emotional well-being and physical safety.
While national conversations about gun violence continue, school-based staff are faced with what to do now to deal with students’ academic, emotional and physical welfare each day. How do we identify students who need support? How do we go beyond just identifying the issues and provide our kids with the needed help? We may be overlooking our counselors and some of the solutions they could provide.
“I see us as a model of supporting teachers to help them continue their work,” said one school counselor, underscoring the importance of providing students not only with academic and career planning help, but also with emotional supports. Another counselor shared how she created a lesson on reactive emotions to parallel a science lesson on erupting volcanoes; another talked about teaching tech skills while researching bullying. Throughout the discussion, the school counselors highlighted how the social-emotional learning can complement the academic when teachers and counselors work together. Too often, they said, teachers “do not get to utilize the expertise that we have learned about human development.” They stressed that newer models for more “active” school counselors have moved beyond the scheduling duties many may remember from days past; but not everyone knows that.
One counselor described how her school uses their Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, to consider not just the academic concerns, but which students are not connected to their school (and why). “We spend time reflecting on what was happening with these particular students, and then create a plan for next steps,” she told us.
What makes these examples different is that the work of addressing school violence doesn’t just stay with one group on staff. A principal affirmed that, “You need to have all stakeholders at the table to have the conversation” so that everyone knows what to do when a concern surfaces. Sometimes, negative incidents will occur when students know the teacher isn’t most present – in the halls or cafeteria, on the playground or school bus. And yet there are often other adults who are there, such as the custodial staff, support professionals, bus drivers, parent volunteers – and each of these members of the larger school community needs to know how to respond and whom to contact to make sure there is an appropriate resolution.
But in order for these teams to happen effectively, we need to better understand the role of the counselor. For counselors to really be able to make an impact, they need the opportunity to build relationships with students and staff, to use their expertise. And that takes time built into the school day and the willingness for everyone on staff to expect and allow our counselors, like teachers, to be educational leaders.
Jennifer Bado-Aleman is an English teacher on loan from her school in Gaithersburg, Md., while she serves as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the Department. Learn more about the President’s plan to make our schools safer, which includes resources that communities can use for hiring more school counselors.
Today, a class of preschool children at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia, engaged in an interactive lesson on sizes and shapes with a special guest – President Barack Obama. The President toured the center, which serves children from infancy through four years of age, before discussing the importance of quality learning from the early years with a crowd of local educators.
The President elaborated on a new plan for early education, which aims to dramatically expand preschool – a priority for the U.S. Department of Education in the Administration’s second term and a topic that the President emphasized in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
“In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children … studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, [and] form more stable families of their own,” the President stated. “[L]et’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
Despite the benefits of early learning, state funding per child for preschool programs has declined over the last decade, according to data from the most recent State Preschool Yearbook, published by the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Studies also show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education opportunities and to enter kindergarten prepared for success – a situation that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has described as “education malpractice, economically foolish and morally indefensible.” The high costs of private preschool and a lack of public programs also narrows options for middle-class families.
To fulfill a commitment to our nation’s youngest learners at a time when fewer than three in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a quality preschool program, the Administration is proposing a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of learning for children from birth through age five. Major elements of the plan include:
- Providing High-Quality Preschool for Every Child: A new cost-sharing partnership with all 50 states, managed by the Department of Education, will extend federal funds and expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds from families whose incomes are at or below 200 percent of the poverty line.
- Growing the Supply of Effective Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children: A new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership will support communities that extend the availability of Early Head Start as well as child care providers that can meet high standards of quality for infants and toddlers.
- Expanding Evidence-Based, Voluntary Home Visiting: Voluntary home visiting programs enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that can improve a child’s health, development, and ability to learn. The President’s plan extends these important programs to reach additional families in need.
The proposal also encourages states to provide additional opportunities for children to attend full-day kindergarten and extends important investments in the federal Head Start program – managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – which annually serves more than one million children across the country.
The President’s commitment to provide every child with access to quality early education builds upon the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the Department of Education and HHS, which supports state efforts to raise the bar across early learning programs and to close the school readiness gap. Through the President’s proposal, the Department and HHS will continue to strengthen the quality of early education programs and assist states and districts in improving the alignment of preschool with K-12 education.
Building and expanding opportunities for learning in the early years is key to fostering a cradle-to-career education system. As Secretary Duncan has noted, “High-quality early learning is what we want for our own children – which means that it must be what we want for all children.”
Academic assessment plays an important role in making decisions about the education of our children. We — parents, educators, and administrators — all depend on valid and reliable data. Yet a series of high-profile cheating incidents over the last several years has raised concerns about the integrity of those testing data. And even though every state has made an effort to prevent cheating, states haven’t always had access to a library of test security strategies that are most likely to work.
The Department asked the public for input on addressing testing irregularities. We received recommendations for policies and procedures from a variety of sources, including educators, academic researchers, testing companies, law firms, and nonprofit organizations. Subsequently, the Department’s National Center for Education Statistics held a symposium on testing integrity in Washington, D.C., featuring 16 expert panelists including many of the best thinkers and practitioners in this area. During the day-long convening, these experts discussed the most effective means to prevent, detect, and investigate testing irregularities in traditional assessment and in the technology-rich assessments of the future.
The Department has released a report summarizing what we heard. This report consists largely of the opinions of experts who presented at the Symposium or responded to our request for information. We hope that this document will be a starting point for further dialogue around the integrity of academic assessments and that it will help State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) identify, share, and implement best practices for preventing, detecting, and investigating irregularities in testing.
Jack Buckley is commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics
“… My administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.” - President Obama, 2013 State of the Union
Too often, students and their families don’t have the right tools to help them sort through the information they need to decide which college or university is right for them. The search can be overwhelming, and the information from different colleges can be hard to compare.
That’s why, today, our Administration released a “College Scorecard” that empowers families to make smart investments in higher education. As the President said last night, we want to help families get the most bang for their educational buck.
The College Scorecard – as part of President Obama’s continued efforts to hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality – highlights key indicators about the cost and value of institutions across the country to help students choose a school that is well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably, and is consistent with their educational and career goals.
The tool is interactive, so students can choose among any number of options based on their individual needs – including location, size, campus setting, and degree and major programs.
Each Scorecard includes five key pieces of data about a college: costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment. These data will be updated periodically, and the Department plans to publish information on average earnings in the coming year.
Get started by visiting whitehouse.gov/scorecard.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
In a State of the Union address focused on growing a strong middle class, President Obama outlined a series of bold proposals that will increase access to high-quality education. Among them were initiatives to make quality early education accessible to every child, to tame the spiraling cost of college, and redesign the country’s high schools to meet the needs of the real world. The President called for a new College Scorecard to show parents and students “where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”
These proposals complemented other efforts to strengthen the middle class, including calls to raise the minimum wage and reform immigration. Education was one of the major themes of the President’s annual speech delivered to Congress and the country.
Educators and students were also well represented as guests to First Lady Michelle Obama. Here are the education excerpts from the speech:
Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.
Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.
In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Building the Skills that Lead to High-Quality, High-Wage Jobs
Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.
In the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class & A Strong America, released in conjunction with the address, the President is calling on Congress to commit new resources to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps, enlisting 10,000 of America’s best science and math teachers to improve STEM education. The President continued by saying,
Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.
We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.
Holding Colleges Accountable for Cost, Value and Quality
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.
Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.
Rebuilding our Schools
The President also proposed a “Fix-It-First” program that would focus on urgent infrastructure repairs, which included schools.
And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.
Read, watch and share your “Citizen Response” to the State of the Union address, and read the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class & a Strong America.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
Have we really been talking about the need to improve teacher recruitment and retention for decades?
Educators meeting in Indianapolis and video-conferencing in from throughout the nation for the 2013 National Agriculture Education Summit said yes, and that it’s time to do something about it.
State agriculture education directors, teachers, principals, and stakeholder groups recently spent two days sketching out action plans to address agriculture education teacher shortages in their states, and they were told to finish by the end of the month. That’s right. The time is now for action.
They have joined the national Teach Ag campaign, which began two years ago as an initiative of the National Council for Agricultural Education. The campaign is led by the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE), which found agriculture teacher shortages in 28 states during its annual survey.
Depending on the state, schools have difficulty finding qualified and effective agriculture teachers for high school programs that are vital to the agriculture industry, including:
- Animal and Plant Science;
- Crop Science;
- Agriculture Mechanics;
- Biotechnology; and other areas.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack welcomed the opportunity to work with the Teach Ag campaign, the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and all partners to recruit and retain the next generation of great teachers.
Our nation struggles with teacher shortages across many subjects and with developing teachers for students with special needs. However, the challenge of improving teacher recruitment and retention goes far beyond supply and demand.
As a nation, we must elevate the teaching profession and give teachers the respect they deserve if we are to solve this annual dilemma.
Research shows that the teacher is the single most important factor in a student’s academic success. For this reason, President Obama has requested Congressional approval for an unprecedented $5 billion to support states and districts willing to pursue bold reforms that can help better prepare, support and compensate ALL teachers in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
The Department of Education’s 2013 budget proposes a new 25-percent set-aside in Title II funds – $640 million – for state grants to create and expand high-performing pathways into teaching and school leadership, enhance the profession, and reduce shortages of teachers in science, technology, engineering and math – including agriculture.
If we are going to educate our way to a stronger economy, we must work with teachers, principals, colleges of education, and employers to strengthen teacher preparation. We must find mutually agreeable solutions to the thorny issues of evaluation and compensation.
And we must reengineer our most important profession to make teaching our most sought after profession. Why? Because we need the smartest, most talented people we can find teaching our students.
That’s how we will educate our way to a stronger economy and a more prosperous future.
John White is ED’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach.
States and their schools are breaking free from the restrictions of No Child Left Behind and pursuing new and better ways to prepare and protect all students, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a Senate committee Thursday.
In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Duncan promoted the value of providing flexibility to states under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which the Department of Education began offering in 2011. Duncan said that granting states new flexibility through waivers was not his first choice—he would have preferred that Congress reauthorize, or amend the law instead. But in light of congressional gridlock over reauthorization, Duncan said that he was “not willing to stand by idly and do nothing while students and educators continue to suffer under NCLB.”
NCLB is the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). And Duncan said that NCLB has become a well-intended, but overly-prescriptive law that created incentives to lower standards, encouraged teaching to the test, mislabeled many schools as failures, and prescribed a one-size-fits-all accountability system that failed to support local solutions and innovation. With ESEA years overdue for congressional reauthorization, the Obama Administration sent Congress a Blueprint for Reform of ESEA in 2010.
Nearly two years later, after Congress failed to authorize ESEA, the Administration offered states the chance to pursue waivers to NCLB in September 2011. Duncan told the committee that “providing waivers was always, always our plan B.”
In his testimony, and during questions from the Committee, Duncan outlined in detail the ways in which the waiver approach, or “ESEA Flexibility,” – has strengthened accountability for at-risk students, improved evaluation and professional development for teachers and principals, and unleashed a wave of state-led innovation.
ESEA flexibility supports states and districts in replacing the “one-size-fits-all” interventions of NCLB and empowers states to tailor reforms that meet the needs of their students. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have been approved for ESEA flexibility, and nine states, plus Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education, have pending requests.
Duncan noted that states receiving NCLB flexibility “must demonstrate a commitment and capacity to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.”
Multiple Measures of Growth and Gain
One of the unintended effects of NCLB is that it provided incentives to lower academic standards—and 19 states actually lowered their standards after NCLB was enacted in 2001. The law’s narrow measures for school progress—annual reading and math test scores and high school graduation rates—also prompted teaching to the test and an overly simplistic model for assessing school progress. “Under No Child Left Behind there was far too much focus on a single test score,” Duncan said. “I’m more interested in outcomes,” Duncan added. “If you have the best third grade test score in the world but 50 percent of your students are dropping out of high school, you are not changing student’s lives. You can’t get a job with a third grade test score.”
Under ESEA flexibility, states are using multiple measures of growth and gain in student learning, rather than NCLB’s narrow measures. “This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Duncan. “All of the leadership, all of the creativity, is coming from the states.”
Better Serving At-Risk Students
At the hearing, Duncan said he was surprised to learn that under NCLB, low-income and minority students, English learners, and students with disabilities were “invisible” because schools were not held accountable for the performance of subgroups of students if there were not enough students in their subgroup to “count” under state rules. Duncan explained during his testimony that under flexibility, these students are no longer invisible, which “is a significant step in the right direction,” he said.
One example of how flexibility is helping at-risk students can be found in Arkansas. Under ESEA flexibility, Arkansas is now holding more than 1,000 schools accountable for subgroups that weren’t accountable under NCLB. Across all states receiving waivers to date, at least 9,000 additional schools are now accountable for subgroups for which they weren’t accountable before.
Duncan pointed out that states with waivers have set aggressive performance targets for all subgroups. They are using performance targets to tailor local interventions, rather than as a tool to label schools as failures. Waiver states are expecting progress for all subgroups–but much faster rates of progress for those that are furthest behind.
Recognizing and Rewarding Schools for Progress and Success
Under ESEA flexibility, states are recognizing a school’s student growth and success–and supporting interventions that work. Secretary Duncan cited the example of Columbus Park Preparatory Academy in Worcester, Mass. Under NCLB, the school was deemed to be among the bottom 20 percent of schools in the state, despite the fact that it was making significant progress in boosting achievement for traditionally low-performing students. “That school’s not a failure,” Duncan said. “That school’s a success … think of how demoralizing it is to teachers who are working so hard to be labeled a failure when you are seeing improvement each year.”
Supporting Teacher and Principal Effectiveness
“Talent matters tremendously in education,” Duncan said in talking about the new and far more robust evaluation systems that states are building under flexibility. States are developing evaluation systems that go far beyond NCLB’s minimum “highly qualified teacher” standards, and are using systems that measure and support effective teaching and leadership based on multiple measures, including student growth. “Great principals lead great schools. Great teachers do miraculous things with children,” he said.
Duncan described how Tennessee has been at the forefront of improving teacher and principal evaluation systems with the input from 17,000 teachers and administrators. The state also continues to receive feedback so it can refine and improve its evaluation system. “I have yet to meet a teacher who is scared of accountability,” Duncan said. They just want it to be fair. They want it to be honest.
Providing States with Flexibility to Move Forward With Reform
The federal role in education is relatively narrow, Duncan told the committee. “What’s exciting about ESEA flexibility, is that states are leading the way in strengthening education for all children,” he said. In explaining the federal role, Duncan said:
The federal government does not serve as a national school board … We don’t dictate curriculum, levy school assessments, or open and close schools. We don’t specify the content of academic standards or negotiate teachers’ contracts. We do have a responsibility to set a high bar to protect the interests of students, especially at-risk students. But how to reach that bar, I believe, should be left to the states.
Duncan concluded his testimony by noting that in a time of partisan rancor, ESEA waivers had an unusual bipartisan appeal in statehouses across the country. He observed that “we approach this work with both a tremendous sense of excitement, coupled with a real sense of humility.”
In the end, Duncan said, he didn’t have “a moment’s doubt” that state flexibility “is a major improvement for children and for adults over NCLB.” But he stressed the need to learn from any mistakes in the waiver process, correct them quickly, and share that learning across the country. “We can never let the perfect become the enemy of the good,” he cautioned.” And that is what we have done for far too long in education.” Ensuring a world-class education for every child, Duncan added, “is both a demanding challenge and an urgent imperative for our nation, our communities, and our children.”
Read the Department’s recently released publications highlighting ESEA flexibility.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
During a speech announcing the Department’s National Education Technology Plan, Secretary Arne Duncan noted that “technology empowers teachers like never before.” Once such teacher is Chicago’s Jennie Magiera. This is her story.
“Just bells and whistles.”
That’s how elementary math teacher Jennie Magiera described her feelings about the limited value of educational technology three years ago.
Today Magiera serves as Digital Learning Coordinator for the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s network of 25 Chicago Public Schools (CPS). As she trains others to use technology effectively, it is hard to imagine a time when she was so dismissive about technology in the classroom.
When iPads first came on the market, Magiera said, “I would openly mock my friends,” pointing out that they had just bought a “giant iPhone that can’t make calls.” The three computers in her classroom—clunky PCs that sat heavily on tables—were so old that one smoked when anyone dared to turn it on.
So how did this technologically impaired teacher come to be an advocate for digital learning in schools? For Magiera, the shift began in 2010 when 32 iPads arrived in her classroom. She admits that while she thought that technology wasn’t as amazing as a teaching tool as others seemed to believe, she still had a sense that her kids needed access to some devices to be successful. So Magiera applied for a grant to get a class set of tablets, pretty certain she would not get it.
Ironically, the grant readers at CPS called her bluff.
A Technology-Driven Class. Magiera’s first steps with the iPads were quite shaky—“a disaster,” she said. She spent most of her time looking for apps that met the state’s teaching standards and focusing on how to prevent her students from damaging the devices. At best the iPads were being used to digitize workbooks and at worst they were little more than video games in the classroom. She lived in fear that those who gave her the grant would drop by unexpectedly to observe her use of the iPads and demand their technology back.
Looking back, Magiera says the issue wasn’t that she didn’t know how to use the technology, but that she was not sure how to use the devices to teach differently. She was digitizing the same old pedagogy. Instead of playing a math game with a deck of cards and a set of dice, students played a math app on the iPad. Students also annotated PDFs instead of working in curriculum workbooks, but this slight change did little to elevate the rigor or learning.
After about three months of seeing little progress, Magiera realized she needed to rethink the way she was using these devices. She talked with colleagues about ways she could transform her class, how she could move away from her usual bag of tricks and create new opportunities for her students. She also discovered the SAMR Model, an innovation continuum created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, which helps teachers design, develop and integrate digital media to increase academic achievement. She found that when she was able to employ the iPads at the highest level of the continuum—for their ability to help her students create and collaborate—she was able to maximize the technology’s potential.
By the end of the year, Magiera had developed systems to push the rigor in her classroom, engage students in their own learning and develop their self-efficacy, creation and collaboration. The students now started their math lesson on their iPads by completing a mood check and logging into a learning management system to get their individual assignments. Each assignment was personalized–based on how well they had done on a teacher-created, web-based assessment given moments earlier. The tight feedback loop let students know where they stood and what their next steps were. Some might watch a video demonstration created by the teacher; others might work in small groups to create their own digital content; still others might get live support from the teacher. Following instruction, the class often participated in activities to dig deeper into the content. They might have a “silent discussion,” sharing on their iPads their thinking about the math work, or join forces with other students to solve an authentic math problem. Prior to taking a class trip, for example, Magiera asked the fifth graders to figure out how many busses she needed and how much she should budget for the trip.
How much impact did the technology make on her students’ learning? Previously, the cohort of students in their fourth grade year had produced only one student score Above Grade Level. However, in this iPad pilot year, these same students blossomed under Magiera’s new methods. At the end of their fifth grade year, 10 times as many students as the previous year scored Above Grade Level on the NWEA Assessment.
Real Professional Learning. So what happened? Magiera says that what turned her teaching around was not just the presence of the iPads in her classroom, but the professional learning she participated in that helped her to leverage them.
As part of her grant award, Magiera had received two full days of training before the school year began. This helped her to learn the basics. What truly transformed her teaching, though was the on-going bi-monthly collaboration she participated in with others in her cohort, about 10 teachers from other schools who had received the same grant. In these meetings off campus, she learned to use the technology to teach her content area, but, more importantly, she began to assess her use of technology and to push herself. She also allowed observers into her classroom to give her feedback on how to get better.
Training teachers is the key, Magiera says, because, “The tool is only as powerful as the user.” Doing this work at a high level is not intuitive. Teachers need professional development—including time to collaborate with colleagues—to gain a host of technology teaching skills, including:
- understanding the philosophy of how to use technology to truly transform teaching and learning
- developing a solid pedagogy of technology use,
- learning how to set up and use the devices,
- troubleshooting problems with technology (and teaching students to troubleshoot),
- managing the devices (including how to pass out, collect, maintain the devices),
- determining and managing workflow,
- grading and giving students assessment and feedback
- becoming aware of the applications available, as well has how to evaluate and select them,
- and accommodating students who don’t have technology at home.
The Role of the Teacher in the Technology-Driven Class. If all of this scheduling and personalizing of lessons seems like a lot of work, Jennie Magiera is here to confirm, “It is.” In addition to all there is to learn and create for students to grow, she says that during class teachers still must be alert and sensitive to students’ needs. “Just like a car driven by someone who doesn’t know how to properly operate it, an iPad in the classroom can be a dangerous thing,” she warned. Without careful planning and classroom management, relying on technology such as iPads without understanding how to leverage them well can waste students’ time, reinforce bad behaviors, and isolate learners.
More than ever, in technology-driven classrooms, teachers are the glue that holds the class together and keeps the students moving forward. Teachers still have to know their students well and use their intellect and creativity to design learning experiences that work for them all. It is complex work requiring a skilled practitioner leading the learning.
In short, technology does not reduce the need for great teaching. If anything, it amplifies the need for great teaching and empowers teachers who know how to use it well. In a technology-driven class, the role of the teacher shifts from one who dispenses knowledge to one who coaches, curates, mentors, and helps students. This work is critical because, according to Magiera, if educators are asking students “to create, innovate and be outstanding as graduates entering a terrifying job market, then our classrooms should be creative, innovative and outstanding places to learn. Every day.”
Laurie is the Department of Education’s Teacher Liaison. Prior to this, she taught for 14 years in Asheville, N.C.
Check out Jennie Magiera’s “Must reads” for technologically savvy teachers, and peruse her blog that includes 10 iPad Tips and Free Apps: Teaching Like It’s 2999. Connect with other teachers on Digital Learning Day.
Today is Digital Learning Day! As teachers across the country welcome powerful learning technologies into the classroom, students are engaging and benefitting from enhanced opportunities to achieve.
Access to technology has become as important to learning as access to a library, yet teachers remain the critical link between students and the content. As new, more mobile technologies have entered the classroom, often in the backpacks of students, teachers become orchestrators of projects and seek the best emerging digital environments for improving motivation, relevance and depth of learning.
Teachers are setting expectations for multiple revision cycles of student productions, made possible with professional tools for writing, composing music, creating video documentaries, and design. They are learning along with their students and modeling good questioning and Internet research strategies, assigning more complex and challenging projects and facilitating communication and collaboration even across borders.
Age used to be considered a barrier to technology use in the classroom, and we would call teachers “digital immigrants” and young students “digital natives.” But teachers have evolved especially as technology has become increasingly easy to use and available. Like most educated adults, teachers use technology for personal activities – reading, writing, shopping, communicating with family and friends, seeking health advice and more – and they are also using technology for professional growth. In addition to finding resources on myriad education related topics, they are joining communities of practice to learn with peers and publish and share their ideas and expertise.
Teachers unions and professional associations are supporting the inclusion of digital learning. The American Federation of Teachers launched Share My Lesson, “a place where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources.” The National Science Teachers Association maintains one of the most robust online communities supporting thousands of science teachers nationwide.
Last August, we launched Connected Educator Month. Over 150 organizations participated, offering close to 100,000 hours of online professional learning, with offerings such as book groups, challenges and contests, discussions, webinars, as well as interactions focused on everything from how to manage the first six weeks of school to how to create your personal learning network. The archives of the sessions are all online. The most common sentiment we heard was that “every month should be connected educator month”. Yes, and every day should be Digital Learning Day!
The education profession is as complex and challenging as it is rewarding. There is plenty to learn but luckily, the opportunity to learn has never been greater. And today – Digital Learning Day – we celebrate and thank all those educators who are leading the way.
Read Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton’s “Digital Learning Day: No Better Time to Consider Our R&D Investment in Technology and Education.”
Karen Cator is director of the Office of Educational Technology.
This month, students, educators, stakeholder groups, and even regulators will highlight what works in career and technical education (CTE).
The U.S. Department of Education has joined the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) to celebrate February as National CTE Month. Each organization has assembled a month-long schedule of activities that focus on outstanding programs. ED also will draw attention to the need to transform secondary and postsecondary programs that are no longer relevant in today’s marketplace.
The 2013 celebration marks a pivotal moment for CTE. This year, we all have a chance to work together to promote an increase in rigor and relevance and to support replication of programs that work. As a nation, we cannot continue to allow some youth and adults to be stuck in outdated vocational courses that do not prepare students for in-demand careers.
Which path the nation takes will be determined during the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process and whether Congress takes up reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which provides federal support for secondary and 2-year postsecondary programs.
Last spring, the Obama Administration released a blueprint for transforming CTE. Through a $1 billion investment in CTE and an additional $1 billion career academies initiative, the Obama Administration’s 2013 budget proposes to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Act and support CTE in four key areas:
- Alignment: Ensuring that the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors.
- Collaboration: Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE programs offer students high-quality learning opportunities.
- Accountability: Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, that they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build technical and job skills.
- Innovation: Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level.
This month, we will join ACTE and several of their “CTE Works” events, as well as initiate additional conversations about the need for more high quality career training programs that lead to industry recognized credentials, and prepare students for postsecondary education and careers. We encourage you to check back often for upcoming events and activities.
Follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #CTEMonth, and share photos of students and teachers in action to illustrate great CTE programs on Twitter and Instagram.
John White is deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach at the U.S. Department of Education
In only two years, the 12 states with Race to the Top grants continue to show improvements in teaching and learning in their schools. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released state-specific reports for the 12 Race to the Top states, providing detailed, transparent summaries of each state’s accomplishments and challenges in year two, which covered the 2011-12 school year.
The 12 states—Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee—reached a number of benchmarks in year two, as they implemented unique plans built around Race to the Top’s four assurance areas:
- Implementing college- and career-ready standards and assessments,
- Building robust data systems to improve instruction,
- Supporting great teachers and school leaders, and
- Turning around persistently low-performing schools.
Some of the exciting new investments states are making include development of new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools or programs, new pipelines for teachers and leaders, and building robust data systems to improve instruction.
“Race to the Top has sparked dramatic changes, and in only the second year of the program we’re seeing those results reach the classroom,” Secretary Arne Duncan said about the reports. “Comprehensive education reform isn’t easy, and a few states have faced major challenges in implementing their plans. As we reach the halfway point, we need to see every state show results.”
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
Participating in sports – through both training and competition – promotes physical, psychological, and social well-being. Special Olympics not only provides the opportunity for individuals with intellectual disabilities to realize these benefits, but promotes dignity, respect, and the opportunity for fuller social inclusion.
Over the past several days, I’ve been fortunate to join more than 2,300 athletes and their coaches from over 110 countries in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea, for the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games. The Games, which include competition in events such as skiing, skating, snowboarding, and floor hockey, is also a celebration of the spirit of the Special Olympics.
I have had the privilege to meet athletes and their families from towns and cities across the United States, as well as athletes from Morocco, New Zealand, Egypt, Uzbekistan, South Africa, and of course Korea.
One athlete here in Korea is Chase from Salt Lake City. Chase, from the day he was born, wanted to play sports, yearned to achieve and excel in sports. But the community programs just didn’t cut it for him. According to his mom, with Special Olympics, his whole life changed. He has far exceeded her expectations and truly is a “rock star,” she said.
Vivienne from Montana is also representing the United States during the Games. Vivienne’s parents set the bar high for their daughter. The phrase “can’t” was simply not acceptable. As the Olympic torch made its way toward Yongpyong Dome for the Games’ opening ceremonies, Vivienne was there to carry the torch on one of the final legs of the flame’s journey.
While sports provide great benefits, Special Olympics is much more. Special Olympics’ Project UNIFY supports schools in becoming more inclusive to those with disabilities through athletics and other activities. The U.S. Department of Education reinforced this mission last week with new guidance clarifying a school’s existing obligations to provide students with disabilities opportunities to participate alongside their peers in after-school athletics and clubs.
Here in Korea, thousands of athletes, families, students, educators, advocates, and politicians convened to do more than just play sports. It’s a call to action.
It’s estimated that there are approximately 200 million people with intellectual disabilities globally – and too many of them experience poverty and exclusion.
World leaders, such as Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma and President Joyce Banda from Malawi, addressed barriers and social hurdles people with intellectual disabilities face, and importantly, solutions to end the cycle of poverty and exclusion that they and their families face.
During the Global Youth Summit that accompanied the Games, we learned about the latest developments in innovative sports programming for young children with intellectual disabilities ages 2-7, helping these children strengthen physical development and self-esteem. I am truly inspired by the young people from around the world, both with and without intellectual disabilities, who are committed to inclusion and acceptance in schools and communities.
The Summit provided youth with opportunities to acquire and enhance leadership and advocacy skills for themselves, their peers, their schools, and their communities. The summit also included a rally with over 900 young people from Korea and around the world celebrating Special Olympic athletes, and children with and without disabilities around the world.
In a moving speech during the Summit, Rahma Aly, a Special Olympics athlete from Egypt, summed up the spirit of the games and the mission of the Special Olympics. “Love, understanding, believing and willing to accept others, no matter how different they are is my message,” Aly said. “Don’t consider us different, we are part of this society, we can help, participate and succeed.”
Michael Yudin is acting assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services