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Updated: 31 min 17 sec ago
I spend a lot of time thinking about students with disabilities, their families and their schools. In fact, I believe the disability topic is a natural part of most of our work here at the U.S. Department of Education. I really like finding the connection. Last week, I had the opportunity to travel with U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Director Andrea Falken to visit honorees in southeast Wisconsin, where I learned that disability is, indeed, a real part of the whole ED-GRS initiative. Connected to disability? As we say in the Midwest: You betcha!
First, ED-GRS is about facilities. Any advocate worth their salt knows how facilities affect students with disabilities. When schools think about sustainability, it is natural to think about ways to improve accessibility, whether that means level access for a wheelchair, or natural daylight for students who are hyper-aware of the “buzz” made by fluorescent lights, or reduced chemicals for students and adults with specific sensitivities.
During our visit to Fort Atkinson School District, we visited Purdy Elementary School and the boardwalk and wetland that the school constructed across the street. The wetland was deep enough to allow life other than just cattails to thrive there. The boardwalk provides students or visitors in wheelchairs access to the teeming ecology all around. Imagine using a wheelchair and being limited to paved surfaces or buildings. With access to the wetland the biology books can come alive. To ensure level access, I suggested that the school extend the walk just a few feet on each end.
Second, ED-GRS is about health, wellness and our connection to the land, all especially beneficial to high needs students. Students learn to eat healthy foods and recycle and reuse as much as they can. We saw gardens at every site during our visit, where children can taste a carrot they pulled from the ground, have a chance to play outside, and learn how air, light, and a little dirt are as good for the mind and body as they are for the carrots.
Dimensions of Learning Academy in Kenosha celebrated “Dark Sky Week” by looking at the stars, something foreign to most Americans today. I often wonder: how different would Washington, D.C., be if we could see the vast Milky Way at night and contemplate how small we are in the whole universe? At Westlawn Elementary School in Cedarburg, I spoke with one special education teacher who brought stressed kids from Milwaukee’s inner-city into the woods for a hike and saw their fear and worry melt away as their outdoor competence grew. The woods worked for me, too, when I was a stressed small-town girl from Minnesota. For me, the woods are an essential part of health and wellness.
Third, ED-GRS is about learning: STEM, environmental project-based learning, and civics. I do want to give a shout-out to the grown-ups on this one. During our listening session in Fort Atkinson School District, it was inspiring to hear how school board members, facilities managers, elected officials, business and civic leaders, public utility experts, parents, school administrators, teachers, and others worked together to build a whole district that saves enough in energy costs to hire more teachers. Our country is at its best when we use evidence, analysis, and public discourse to identify solutions to our most pressing problems and take advantage of our most promising opportunities. These are also, of course, critical problem-solving skills to ensuring equal access to healthy, safe, educationally exceptional schools for all students.
I believe the needs of students with disabilities will be met in new ways by schools seeking U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition. We will all benefit when communities have the courage to innovate, which is, of course, what these ED-GRS honorees are all about.
Sue Swenson is deputy assistant secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Fifty years after the March on Washington, President Barack Obama and dozens of other dignitaries paid tribute on Wednesday to Martin Luther King Jr., and those who participated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it does not bend on its own,” Obama said in an echo of King’s words. “To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.”
"Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education." – Martin Luther King Jr. #MLKDream50
— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) August 28, 2013
From the beginning of his term, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has maintained that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and several speakers during the celebration echoed this sentiment, including President Obama who described those who marched five decades ago:
And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.
We can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.
America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there. Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up. That’s how a movement happens. That’s how history bends. That’s how, when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching.
President Bill Clinton noted that there is still work to be done to realize King’s Dream:
We cannot be disheartened by the forces of resistance to building a modern economy of good jobs and rising incomes or to rebuilding our education system to give our children a common core of knowledge necessary to ensure success or to give Americans of all ages access to affordable college and training programs. And we thank the president for his efforts in those regards.
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus:
Dr. King advocated for an America where everyone would be afforded their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; a nation where there would be equal protection under the law; and a country where every person’s right to vote is protected. He dreamed of an America where every child has access to quality schools and an education that prepares them for their future. And he dreamed that we, as a nation, would walk together on the swift path towards justice.
Following his speech, President Obama spoke with Gwen Ifill on PBS NewsHour and said that he would continue to move forward on his economic agenda — including early childhood education — as a way forward in the struggle for equal rights. ”I want to get early childhood education done because we know that’s the single most important thing we can do to increase upward mobility and opportunity for disadvantaged kids,” he said. ”And, if Congress isn’t willing to pass a law, then I’ll start meeting with mayors, and we’ll start meeting with governors, and we’ll start meeting with non-for-profits and philanthropies.”
Earlier in the week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed students and civil rights leaders at the School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., and to students nationwide via live stream. He discussed education as the “civil rights issue of our time” and the progress the country has made toward providing all students an opportunity to succeed through high-quality education.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
I’ve often said that education is the civil rights issue of our time. I’m not the first to say it. But what does that mean?
Civil rights means having the same opportunities that other people do –regardless of what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love.
And in today’s world, to have real opportunity, you need a world-class education.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, how far has the struggle for young people’s civil rights come?
With Jim Crow segregation ended and an African-American president speaking tomorrow at the 50th anniversary of the March, our progress is undeniable.
Yet in a time when so many young people don’t enjoy rights as basic as safety from violence, and when so many children lack the educational opportunities they deserve, there is a lot of work still ahead of us. The vision that electrified the country in 1963 – the vision of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and the other leaders of the March – remains ahead of us. And it will take struggle to get there – a struggle our young people must lead.
Today, I had the privilege of speaking to students and civil rights leaders at the School Without Walls in Washington, D.C., about the state of civil rights for our young people. At the event, hosted by the King Center and Discovery Education, I urged the students to join a heroic struggle that began long before they were born.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
With back-to-school season in full swing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sat down to respond to some pressing education questions from SmartBlog on Education. Below is the full Q&A:
What is the biggest challenge that teachers face as they go back to school this fall? What guidance would you give them to help them meet the challenge?
The large majority of states are now making the shift to the Common Core State Standards, a state-led effort to raise standards for which the U.S. Department of Education has provided some support. Educators across the country have embraced the enormous, urgent challenge that goes with this transition to more rigorous academic standards, new assessments, and updated teacher evaluation systems. Teachers are faced with a level of change and reform in schools and districts that is unprecedented.
Overwhelmingly, I’ve heard teachers say that it’s the professional challenge of a lifetime to raise standards so every American student can compete and succeed in the global economy. In discussions with more than 4,000 educators, my team at the U.S. Department of Education and I also have heard teachers say that it’s imperative that we, as a nation, get this right for our kids.
The Common Core State Standards focus on college- and career readiness and have been adopted voluntarily by a majority of states. The new standards set the bar for student performance high. But they also give teachers the opportunity to go deep into content and innovate. In surveys, three out of four teachers say these standards will help them teach better.
At the same time, I’ve heard that teachers need time, models, and quality professional development so that they may effectively teach to the new standards.
To make this transition, states, districts, and schools should do as much as possible to provide teachers with support for professional learning tied to the new standards. It’s also critical for teachers to connect with and learn from each other.
In states where there is a strong commitment to collaboration, teachers generally feel more empowered and positive about education reforms. I look forward to working together with educators to ensure that all students learn at their highest level.
How can we prepare, support, and retain individuals who will become excellent teachers? What do you see as exemplars in traditional and alternative models?
Every teacher should receive the high-quality preparation and support they need, so that all students have the effective teachers they deserve. Unfortunately, across the U.S., the quality of teacher preparation programs is uneven. Almost two-thirds of novice teachers feel unprepared for the realities of their classroom. That, to me, is unacceptable. Teachers often tell me that they didn’t have enough hands-on experience or time to practice their craft during their initial training.
I’m a big fan of preparation programs that include internships where novices work with master educators in their classrooms over an extended period. Data shows this approach can yield increased teacher retention rates.
Many education schools run exemplary programs rooted in clinical experience, including Emporia State University in Kansas and Hunter College in New York City. The nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago provides a great “alternative” route to the classroom, in which participants complete a yearlong residency working with effective mentor teachers.
Across the country, our schools and districts also have to do a better job of supporting teachers at every stage of their careers, which means providing teachers with a continuum of professional growth. Educators deserve a full career’s worth of opportunities to teach, mentor, and lead. I’m encouraged by “hybrid” positions for teacher leaders in which effective educators work with students and help to strengthen instruction across an entire school.
I believe that many of the answers for continuing to build and nurture our country’s teaching workforce lie with educators themselves. The Department of Education recently released A Blueprint for RESPECT, a framework for elevating the teaching profession developed through discussions with thousands of educators. Their thoughtful recommendations give me great hope for the future of teaching and learning in this country.
The U.S. Department of Education supports Connected Educator Month, slated for October. How can being “connected” help educators navigate the beginning of a new school year?
Online communities and learning networks can help teachers gain new skills and instructional techniques. They also provide “on-demand” access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration and mentorship.
For new teachers, learning and problem solving with other educators through an online forum can reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety they may experience in their first days and months in the classroom.
But many educators aren’t “connected” yet because they haven’t taken advantage of opportunities for professional learning online or they aren’t realizing the full benefits. Many districts and states also haven’t done enough to recognize this essential learning as legitimate professional development.
For these reasons, the Department of Education convened the first-ever Connected Educator Month last August. Due to demand from educators, we’re organizing this year’s event in October, with an emphasis on helping districts to promote and integrate online social learning into their plans for formal professional development.
Technology has enormous potential for providing teachers with targeted support when and where they need it. Technology also can help to personalize the learning experience for students. By blending face-to-face and online learning, for example, students can work at their own pace and teachers can receive “real-time” information about student performance. Yet, today, fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school’s Internet connection meets their teaching needs.
That’s why I’m excited about President Obama’s call in June for a five-year effort that will provide high-speed broadband and wireless to 99 percent of students. The ConnectED initiative also aims to improve the skills of teachers, providing educators with support and training to integrate technology into their classrooms.
I hope that every educator will take full advantage of Connected Educator Month and — as the new school year begins — establish connections with colleagues that will support their teaching practice all year long.
What can educators expect from the U.S. Department of Education this school year? What new initiatives are on the horizon?
This school year, educators and families may hear a lot about the transition to more rigorous academic standards and assessments. Achievement of these standards will help students to thrive in an increasingly competitive, global economy. But, we will do little to put our students on a path to success if we do not make a concerted effort to help every child start out with the same basic competencies through high-quality early learning programs.
Research supports this notion. High-quality preschool can lead to higher graduation rates, less likelihood of being involved in crime or relying on public assistance, and better jobs at higher salaries. These are benefits for kids, families, and our nation.
But, among 4-year-olds in the U.S., fewer than three in 10 attend a high-quality preschool program. This opportunity gap confronts far too many American children — particularly those living in low-income communities. We need to work hard to reach many more students.
President Obama has put forward a plan to make high-quality, full-day preschool available to all 4-year-olds from families whose incomes are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. This plan will help Americans struggling to balance work and family responsibilities and the cost of child care. And, states would receive incentives to provide voluntary, high-quality preschool with qualified teachers, low class sizes, and stimulating learning experiences.
All children deserve the best shot possible to succeed. So with the start of this new school year, I want to encourage every educator to be an outspoken advocate of quality early education programs that can continue to close achievement gaps and provide life-transforming opportunities to our children.
Last week, President Obama also announced an ambitious new agenda to keep college affordable. Through a focus on both ends of the education pipeline — early learning and college — we hope to ensure that education continues to be the ticket to the middle class in this country. The President’s plan will tie federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate that they provide good value to students. The Obama Administration is going to continue doing everything we can to make college affordable, and we’re looking forward to seeing colleges and states do their part as well.
As our students head back to school, we are reflecting on initiatives we saw this summer that can invigorate student engagement and learning year round. As part of Together for Tomorrow –our effort to strengthen partnerships among schools, families, and communities — we visited summer learning initiatives in the South Bronx, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Brenda Girton-Mitchell and I led discussions in these communities to share promising practices and to provide feedback to shape the U.S. Department of Education’s community and family engagement efforts.
These discussions also extended work the Department began earlier this year, along with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, on Reimagining Education. Each place we visited is home to a Hive Learning Network – a collective of organizations, made possible through MacArthur Foundation support, where young people can pursue a diversity of learning experiences in their community. The summer initiatives we explored were anchored by strong collaboration among schools, families, and community-based organizations (CBOs).
In the South Bronx, we visited Summer Quest, which brought together New York City schools, and CBOs to provide learning and enrichment activities for nearly 1,800 elementary and middle school students from low-income families. In preparation for Summer Quest, teachers and CBO staff participated in joint professional development around project-based learning and co-facilitation. Program organizers observed from their experience in 2012 that the deeper level of collaboration between schools and CBOs required by Summer Quest resulted in better-aligned and impactful programming during the regular school year.
We also saw summer programming in action at Iridescent, a science-education nonprofit that has a significant focus on parent engagement and support. Their Curiosity Machine website inspired me and my 7-year-old son to do their stomp rockets activity together and we even made a video as part of the project.
In Pittsburgh, The Sprout Fund and local community and school leaders shared with us summer programming from the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network, a learning initiative joining more than 100 organizations, including schools, museums, libraries, afterschool programs, community centers, higher education institutions, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.
We talked with staff and visitors at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum Makeshop where youth and their parents learn together through designing and making tangible objects. We also saw firsthand how the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab) at Carnegie Mellon University is engaging youth in learning experiences through programs such as Hear Me where students learn about community issues that affect them and use technology tools to have their voices heard.
With summer coming to an end, we visited Chicago to explore the Chicago Summer of Learning where a far-reaching collaboration engaged more than 210,000 young people in learning opportunities provided by more than 100 organizations. Nearly 100,000 badges were awarded to students engaged in a plethora of on-line and on-site learning opportunities across the city.
In each of these cities we discovered inspiring learning opportunities made possible through partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations.
We searched for promising practices in summer learning that could increase student engagement and learning year round. Some common approaches among initiatives matched up closely with the work from our Reimagining Education convening:
- Providing inspiring learning opportunities that connect students to their passions, peers, communities, and careers;
- Allowing students to create and navigate learning pathways that blur the lines between learning in schools, homes, and communities;
- Helping parents to be learning coaches and co-learners with their children;
- Recognizing learning and achievement through competency-based methods like badges;
- Combining online and in-person experiences and using technology for collaboration; and
- Building community partnerships and integrated supports to ensure that all students succeed.
I’m eager to see how the South Bronx, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and other communities build on their summer programming to incorporate these practices into the regular school year.
Michael Robbins is senior advisor for nonprofit partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education
This op-ed originally appeared in August 25 edition of The Washington Post.
The nation’s most sweeping education law — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, better known as No Child Left Behind — is outmoded and broken. Congress has gone home for its summer recess without passing a responsible replacement.
That’s too bad. America deserves a better law.
At the heart of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a promise: to set a high bar for all students and to protect the most vulnerable. Success in that effort will be measured in the opportunities for our nation’s children, in a time when a solid education is the surest path to a middle-class life. Tight global economic competition means that jobs will go where the skills are. Raising student performance could not be more urgent.
No Child Left Behind has given the country transparency about the progress of at-risk students. But its inflexible accountability provisions have become an obstacle to progress and have focused schools too much on a single test score. NCLB is six years overdue for an update, and nearly all agree that it should be replaced with a law that gives systems and educators greater freedom while continuing to fulfill the law’s original promise.
The vision of American education that President Obama and I share starts in the classroom — with fully engaged students, creative and inspiring teachers, and the support and resources needed to get every child prepared for college and career. Students in our poorest communities should enjoy learning opportunities like those in our wealthiest communities. Zip code, race, disability and family income should not limit students’ opportunities or reduce expectations for them. The progress of U.S. students should remain transparent.
Washington’s role is to protect children at risk and promote opportunity for all. The federal government is not, and will never be, in the business of telling states or schools what or how to teach. But it cannot shirk its role of ensuring that schools and students meet the high bar that prepares them for the real world. History shows that, without some kind of accountability, states and districts do not always meet the needs of the most vulnerable students.
Yet the backers of a bill passed by the House last month would use this moment to weaken that role and reverse reforms that carry enormous benefits for children. Others would retreat from ongoing efforts to strengthen and elevate the teaching profession. Neither would be a smart move.
Let’s not kid ourselves that things are fine. The United States once led the world in the proportion of its young people who had completed college; today, we are 12th. Three-quarters of our young people are deemed unfit for military service, in part because of gaps in their education. This is no time to sit back.
States must play the central role in leading the education agenda — and their work in partnership with the Education Department provides a road map toward a better law. These states have established high standards, robust teacher and principal evaluations and support systems, smart use of data, and ambitious learning goals. They have made bold efforts to improve our lowest-performing schools. They are also adopting assessments that move beyond today’s fill-in-the-bubble tests.
Consider the new teacher and principal evaluation systems that Tennessee has pioneered. Not only has student proficiency improved in every area — but so has teachers’ support for these rigorous new systems, according to an independent survey. Massachusetts has used its greater flexibility to target federal funds to improve the lowest-performing schools, with significant success.
Such progress offers a vision of what the core principles of a new elementary and secondary education law should be. It must set states free to use their best ideas to support students and teachers. It also must align student learning and growth with career- and college-readiness.
Yet some in Congress would reduce the federal government to a passive check-writer, asking nothing in return for taxpayers’ funds. And they would lock in major cuts to education funding at a time when continued investment in education is the only way we can remain globally competitive. Far better ideas, which build on state and local reform efforts, can be found in the bill passed in June by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
In the months ahead, I will ask Congress to listen to those doing the real work of education change. Principals, teachers, governors, state education chiefs, superintendents, parents and students themselves know what is and isn’t working. They can guide us to a better law.
Lawmakers in both chambers and parties should agree on a bill that raises the bar, protects children, supports and improves effective teaching and school leadership, and provides flexibility and supports good work at the state and local level. We should give them the resources and the flexibility and make sure we all are accountable for the job we are doing on behalf of our children.
We are fighting not just for a strong education system but also for our country. A good law is part of that fight.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
I’m thrilled today that President Obama is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to make college more affordable for every American. We know that higher education is more important than ever, but we also know it’s never been more expensive. We have heard from students and families across the country who are worried about affording college, and we believe that higher education cannot be a luxury that only advantages the wealthy.
College must remain an accessible and affordable opportunity that provides a good value for all Americans. We want college to be a secure investment for every student from every background who is willing to work hard, an investment that prepares our nation’s students for a good job and a bright future.
We believe the cost of college is a shared responsibility among the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and our students and families. Since 2009, the Obama Administration and Congress have worked together to make historic investments in higher education. We raised the maximum Pell Grant grant award by more than $900, created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, now offer additional loan repayment programs that help students manage their debt, and enacted landmark federal student aid reforms that eliminated wasteful bank subsidies and increased by more than 50 percent the number of students attending college from low-income families.
There are remarkable examples of states and institutions across our nation who have taken innovative steps to help American families afford college. New York has committed to restraining tuition growth in its public community colleges and universities over five years, and the University of Maryland system, which operates an Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative, has saved more than $356 million and helped stabilize tuition for four straight academic years.
But we need to see more innovation and initiative to ensure that college remains a good value for students and families, and that’s what the President’s announcement today is all about. Earlier today at the University at Buffalo, the President laid out a plan with three concise steps to make college affordable. The steps are outlined in this White House fact sheet, and include:
- Linking federal financial aid to college performance, so colleges must demonstrate they provide good value for the investment students make in higher education
- Sparking innovation and competition by shining a spotlight on college performance, highlighting colleges where innovations are enabling students to achieve good results, and offering colleges regulatory flexibility to innovate
- And – because we know that too many students are struggling to repay their debt today – President Obama is committed to ensuring that students who need it can have access to the ‘Pay As You Earn’ plan that caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, so students can better manage their debt
We need more colleges and universities to keep college affordable while delivering a high quality education, not only for students who are first in line, but for all, especially students who are first in their families to enter college, students from disadvantaged circumstances, students with disabilities and veterans who chose service before completing their education. We need states to increase higher education funding, with proven strategies for student access and success. And we need to make sure that our annual investment of over $150 billion in federal student aid is achieving all that it can to ensure the economic and social prosperity of our nation.
The Obama Administration is going to continue to do everything we can to make college more affordable, and ensure students and families get as much value possible from their investment of effort, time and money in higher education. We’re looking forward to seeing states and institutions do their part, as well.
Additional reading: President Obama Explains His Plan to Combat Rising College Costs.
Martha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education
Cross-posted from the White House Blog.
Today, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are hitting the road to discuss a new plan to combat rising college costs and make college affordable for American families. Tomorrow from the White House, Secretary Duncan will join a virtual conversation with Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, to talk about the future of education and steps we can ensure all Americans have access to a high quality education.
Khan Academy is an organization on a mission with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. The website provides a library of free education resources, including more than 100,000 Math practice problems and over 4,500 videos covering topics from K-12 math to finance and history.
We hope you’ll join the conversation with Sal and Secretary Duncan. Here’s how you get involved:
- Right now, you can ask questions for Secretary Duncan on Twitter with the hashtag #DuncanKhan and on the Khan Academy facebook page.
- Tomorrow, Friday, August 23rd, watch the full interview on KhanAcademy.organd at WhiteHouse.gov
Learn more about the President’s plan to make college more affordable.Kori Schulman is director of online engagement for the White House Office of Digital Strategy
As Secretary Duncan has noted, the Department of Education is committed to making sure that all of our young people grow up free of fear, violence, and bullying. Bullying not only threatens a student’s physical and emotional safety at school, but fosters a climate of fear and disrespect, creating conditions that negatively impact learning—undermining students’ ability to achieve to their full potential. Unfortunately, we know that children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by bullying.
Factors such as physical vulnerability, social skills challenges, or intolerant environments may increase the risk of bullying. Students who are targets of bullying are more likely to experience lower academic achievement, higher truancy rates, feelings of alienation, poor peer relationships, loneliness, and depression. We must do everything we can to ensure that our schools are safe and positive learning environments—where all students can learn.
To that end, today, ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance to educators and stakeholders on the matter of bullying of students with disabilities. This guidance provides an overview of school districts’ responsibilities to ensure that students with disabilities who are subject to bullying continue to receive free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA, States and school districts are obligated to ensure that students with disabilities receive FAPE in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This guidance explains that any bullying of a student with disabilities which results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit is considered a denial of FAPE. Furthermore, this letter notes that certain changes to an educational program of a student with a disability (e.g., placement in a more restricted “protected” setting to avoid bullying behavior) may constitute a denial of FAPE in the LRE.
Schools have an obligation to ensure that a student with disabilities who is bullied, continues to receive FAPE as outlined in his or her individualized education program (IEP). IEPs, as well as 504 plans, can be useful in outlining specialized approaches for preventing and responding to bullying, as well as providing additional supports and services to students with disabilities. This guidance also offers effective evidence-based practices for preventing and addressing bullying.
“This guidance is a significant step forward for students facing bullying,” said Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a leading national advocacy organization. “We applaud and commend the Department for reinforcing that when a child is being bullied, it is inappropriate to ‘blame the victim’ and remove them from the general education classroom. School districts have an obligation to address the source of the problem –the stigma and prejudice that drives bullying behavior.”
Bullying of any student simply cannot be tolerated in our schools. A school where children don’t feel safe is a school where children struggle to learn. Every student deserves to thrive in a safe school and classroom free from bullying.
Please see the Dear Colleague Letter on bullying and its accompanying enclosure below or on this OSERS policy letters page.
Michael Yudin is acting assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
It’s back-to-school time, which means that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior ED officials are hitting the road once again for the Department’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run September 9-13 and includes visits to states throughout the Southwest with stops in the following cities:
- Santa, Fe, N.M.
- Albuquerque, N.M.
- Socorro, N.M.
- El Paso, Texas
- Columbus, N.M.
- Tucson, Ariz.
- Tempe, Ariz.
- Scottsdale, Ariz.
- Yuma, Ariz.
- Chula Vista, Calif.
Each stop will highlight the importance of ensuring that all students benefit from high-quality educational opportunities, including Preschool for All, college affordability, ConnectED, first-term education efforts, and comprehensive immigration reform’s impact on education.
This is the fourth back-to-school bus tour for Secretary Duncan. Last year, the Department’s tour took us coast to coast, in 2011, the tour rolled through the Midwest, and in 2010, Duncan and his team visited the South and the Northeast.
Check back soon for additional information on the tour, or simply sign up to receive Strong Start, Bright Future tour updates in your email inbox.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
August 13, 2013, was a big day: the ‘Education Built to Last’ School Facilities Best Practices Tour visit by the U.S. Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency, beginning at a Staten Island ED-Green Ribbon School (Hubert Humphreys) and continuing to three ED-GRS honorees in northern New Jersey. While I drove the 70 miles to the event through pouring rain and high winds, I was secure in my belief that, at the end of the day, my feelings toward school facilities would be unchanged. After many years of designing, building, managing, reviewing, and approving school facility projects for the State of New Jersey, I believed that my “Theory of Beige” would remain intact.
The “Theory of Beige” is quite simple. At one of the school districts where I was previously employed, all the classrooms were painted beige. They were intended to be neutral and unnoticed. As long as the walls remained in their beige state, they never received criticism. They were only noticed when they became damaged from desks or chairs scuffing the paint, water leaking through the ceiling, or graffiti marring the walls. Over many years of working for the district and attending more than 200 school board meetings, I do not recall a single instance that someone praised the pristine condition of the beige walls. They did, however, complain about dented walls, dirty floors, broken lockers, and the like.
From this experience, I concluded that the best a school facility could hope for was to remain anonymous and that, likewise, the best the facilities director and staff could hope for was that no one knew who they were. To be known meant that something diverged from beige.
The first tour stop on the School Facilities Best Practices Tour began with the introduction of dignitaries, remarks, and appreciation all around, followed by a school tour. We moved to the next school and enjoyed a wonderful healthy lunch and interactive tour. Then, we had a chance to listen to a presentation by five of the six New Jersey ED-GRS honorees from the first two years of the program. The day ended in late afternoon, after the fourth school tour of the day, at a school challenging itself to become a Living Building, with everyone tired but satisfied with what was seen and heard.
As I began my way back home, I mulled over the events of the day. My “Eureka” moment came while I was enjoying a mid-trip respite afforded by stopped traffic on Interstate 287. I realized that U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools had poked holes into my “theory of beige.”
What had been a traditional classroom was now a sustainability and art studio; a standard science lab had been transformed into an environmental science resource; and a school roof became an energy source, teaching tool, and opportunity to get students outdoors. A courtyard where trash once accumulated was transformed into a productive garden that provided a native habitat to local wildlife, a site for student-constructed rain barrels, and a place to cultivate mushrooms and learn about composting. A dreary corridor was transformed into solar heat sink to absorb sunlight in the winter months and slowly release the heat later in the day. The school grounds now allowed the underground to be used as a source of heating and cooling, an energy efficient way to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment and outdoor classroom for students and staff.
In short, the dull, anonymous, beige school facility has become a relic of the past. The ED-GRS recognition has spotlighted a new type of school facility, one that serves as a critical teaching tool, uniquely designed and integrated into the educational programs offered by the school. After decades of working on school facilities, my conclusion is that this integration of facility and instruction is truly the best way to deliver an ‘education built to last.’
Now that my “theory of beige” has been eliminated, I will have to adopt a new theory. Maybe I’ll look into a new theory about the “Jersey Devil.” I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Bernard E. Piaia, Jr. is director of the Office of School Facilities for the New Jersey Department of Education
Back to Healthy School Meals: USDA Congratulates Six States for Nearly 100% of Schools Meeting New Meal Standards
As we continue to combat childhood obesity in America, I am proud to say that this Back to School season our school cafeterias are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids. Students and schools are embracing the healthier lunches offered through the National School Lunch Program that, together with the healthier breakfasts offered through the School Breakfast Program beginning this school year and the recently announced “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards that kick in next year, continue our children on the path towards future health and happiness.
So how are school cafeterias faring with all the meal updates across the nation? Like I said, they are putting their hearts into it.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Colorado, where all or nearly all school cafeterias are now serving meals that meet the new standards. Kudos to them!
In fact, at the end of this past school year, 79 percent of all participating school districts across the country had notified their states that they were meeting the new standards! This represents a significant achievement for the first year of implementation. We are confident that the remaining schools will make the changes needed to qualify for the performance based reimbursement in the coming year.
In Colorado, for example, Jane Brand, Director of the Office of Nutrition at the Colorado Department of Education, tried several innovative approaches to become the first state to complete certification and validation of all schools. Initially, the Colorado staff mailed jump drives with all the paperwork and instructions to each school district. Some schools were better than others at mastering the system and utilized the jump drives. For the rest, Brand and her staff hit the road and met face to face with dozens of districts small and large across Colorado. The hands-on approach worked to relieve the stress many districts felt in getting through the process. Brand also cross-trained her staff and encouraged school districts to share ideas and information on how to master the process.
The best news is that changes in schools are expected to have a positive impact. Research shows that school-based programs that encourage healthy eating, physical activity and positive body image attitudes are among a range of actions that can help reduce levels of childhood obesity. We are already seeing a promising reversal in childhood obesity rates, and this fall, with a return to healthy eating in schools, I expect nothing less than more progress.
Dr. Janey Thornton is Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture