Higher Education News
Secretary King and senior officials got on the bus and went back to school this week during #OpportunityTour, which visited exemplary PK-12 schools and institutions of higher education and celebrated local ideas and initiatives across several southern states, including Alabama. This week’s edition of Voice from the Classroom brings us perspective from the 2008 Alabama Teacher of the Year, Dr. Pamela Harman.
After teaching for more than 20 years, I can say that everything about a new school year is exciting (except maybe having to wear shoes).
When I was a new teacher, the beginning of the school year intimidated me. I was nervous about both my content knowledge and my pedagogy. So my goals for the year focused on improving my practice and strengthening my teaching skills. I worked to deepen my science content knowledge, and I developed a repertoire of instructional skills and habits of mind necessary to promote my students’ success and capacity for life-long learning. It was difficult for me to push students’ learning because I was still honing the skills I needed to teach and evaluate it.
Now, with 20 years under my belt, I still want to improve my teaching, but my primary objective for the year is about my students — how I can push them beyond what they think they can learn. As a science teacher, I want to help my students develop the skills to master the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards require students to critically evaluate content, data and ideas, and communicate their learning through argument-driven inquiry. My primary goal is to create a classroom culture that supports students as they ask questions, collect data, summarize the evidence, and craft arguments to justify their answers to their questions.
The pressure is on me, but it’s an exciting, positive pressure. This is not how I learned science. It is more rigorous and challenging. Many students are not accustomed to taking ownership of their learning in this way. Some are reluctant to accept that they have something valuable to contribute.
From experience, I have learned that every student has untapped learning potential. This potential is released when students gain confidence in their abilities, as I continually support their learning. My hope is that I will be able to help my students move ever closer to their best version of themselves; that they will learn more than they thought they could; and they will come to expect even more from themselves. My hope for this year is that students will recognize the potential I already see in them — and strive to exceed it.
Dr. Pamela Harman is the 2008 Alabama Teacher of the Year and a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). Dr. Harman holds a Doctorate in Teacher Leadership, a Master of Geosciences from Mississippi State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Earth and Space Science from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been teaching in the Hoover City School system for 20 years. She is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps and a National Board Certified Teacher.
Even though my father was a guidance counselor, choosing a college was still an overwhelming process. There were few independent reviews of colleges and no real way of knowing if the information I found was accurate. Unearthing lesser known, high quality colleges outside of my region was tough. It was even tougher to figure out if a college’s students found jobs after graduating or even graduated at all. In short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
The College Scorecard, called for by President Obama, solves this challenge by giving everyone – students, families, guidance counselors and non-profits – access to a whole host of data verified by the U.S. Department of Education on thousands of institutions across the nation in an easy-to-use online tool. College is still the best investment a person can make in them self—bachelor’s degree-holders earn roughly $1 million more over their lifetimes than high school graduates. The College Scorecard makes choosing between thousands of institutions easier by providing simple to understand information on institutions’ incoming students and the graduating students’ outcomes. Along with 1.5 million other folks, I’m using the Scorecard as I help my daughter in her college search.
Today, we updated the Scorecard as a part of our first annual data refresh. It includes updates to our data on college completion, debt and repayment statistics, and post-college earnings. This refresh now brings the College Scorecard to 19 years of higher education data that is made available, encompassing over 1,700 data points across 7,000 institutions. Also, we highlighted key efforts to measure accurate completion rates and other student outcomes, including the Student Achievement Measure and the Voluntary Framework of Accountability.
Since its redesign in September 2015, the Department has improved the Scorecard to make it better for you. For example:
- In December 2015, we held a Technical Review Panel with representatives of institutions, researchers, web developers, higher education associations, and other experts, where we talked about improvements to the College Scorecard website, data, and Application Programming Interface (API) – a tool to make our data more easily accessible for the development of new applications and tools by outside developers (to date, over 600 developers have accessed the Scorecard API).
- In January 2016, we added nearly 700 additional institutions that predominately grant certificates to the Scorecard for users to have even more options when searching the website.
- In March 2016, through an interim data update, we removed closed institutions and updated our “caution flags” for schools facing financial or federal compliance issues. Providing information about institutions under review by the Department helps ensure accountability for schools and protect the interests of students.
And we’re not done yet. The higher education landscape is changing, and this tool will itself change over time. We’re working to integrate the College Scorecard into the FAFSA; considering other cautionary indicators that students should be aware of before enrolling in an institution, and continuously improving the quality of our data, particularly around completion rates.
We’re working hard to make sure the Scorecard keeps up with students’ needs. Check out the updated College Scorecard and stay tuned for more!
Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education.
The post Choosing a College Easier with the College Scorecard appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
You might have heard that the next FAFSA® will be available on October 1, 2016 as opposed to January 1, 2017. Well, it’s not a myth! If you (or your child) are planning to go to college during the 2017–18 academic year, you’ll want to make sure you have your facts straight. Check out the 7 myths about the FAFSA below.MYTH 1:
I used 2015 tax information last year and didn’t get any aid, so it’s pointless to fill out the FAFSA again.
FACT: Not pointless! Your aid award could be different this year.
If you filed a 2016–17 FAFSA and received an award letter from your school, don’t assume that next year’s financial aid award will be the same. We ask you to complete the FAFSA annually because the factors used to calculate your aid could change each year. Things like your year in school, family income, and cost of attendance at your school are just a few factors used to determine your aid. You never know what aid you may get if you don’t complete the FAFSA, so don’t let last year’s award deter you from potential aid you may receive this year. Even if you did not get the Federal Pell Grant last year, you could still be eligible for other types of aid this year. This includes work-study and low-interest loans. Also, many states, schools, and private scholarships require you to submit the FAFSA to be considered for their aid as well.
I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with 2016 data after I file taxes.
FACT: Nope! You won’t need to update your FAFSA since you will be using your 2015 tax information.
Unlike the FAFSA in the past, you won’t have to use estimates or make updates after filing taxes. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 income and tax information which you should already have. Moving forward, the FAFSA will always ask for older tax information. For instance, the 2018–19 FAFSA will ask for 2016 income and tax info.
I can choose which year’s tax information I provide on the FAFSA.
FACT: No, you won’t be able to choose.
The FAFSA has always asked for one specific tax year to be reported. The 2017–18 FAFSA will ask for 2015 tax information, and that’s what you have to provide. You can’t choose to provide 2016 information if you feel it’ll benefit you in some way. If your income was lower in 2016 than in 2015, you still need to provide 2015 tax information, and then you can contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend and let them know your situation has changed. They have the ability to review your situation and consider making adjustments to your FAFSA.
I will get an award letter from my school earlier.
FACT: That’s really up to the school.
Some schools may send you an award letter earlier, while other schools may stick to the timeline they have used in the past. Remember that your school disburses your aid, not FAFSA, and each school has a different schedule. Contact your school for details.
I can re-use my 2016–17 FAFSA since my 2015 income and tax information will be the same.
FACT: No, you still need to submit a renewal or a new 2017–18 FAFSA.
But, there’s a bonus this year! You will be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to electronically import your 2015 taxes right away. If you’re eligible to use the IRS DRT, this will speed up your FAFSA completion process.
Doesn’t matter to me that the FAFSA is available in October, I still have plenty of time to file.
FACT: States, schools, and the federal government each have their own financial aid deadlines.
While the 2017–18 FAFSA deadline for federal aid is June 30, 2018, your state and school probably have earlier deadlines to receive their aid. For some states, their deadline won’t be a date, but it’ll be “as soon as possible after October 1” which means they have a limited pool of funds that may run out if you wait until the last minute to apply! If you want to maximize your potential aid, you should submit a FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.
I can’t file my FAFSA in October because I haven’t applied to any schools.
FACT: You can still file as long as you list at least one school on your FAFSA.
It’s OK to complete your FAFSA before turning in college applications. On the FAFSA, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. If you’re on the fence about a particular school, add it anyway. Doing so will hold your place in line for financial aid in case you end up applying for that school. You can also add or remove schools to your FAFSA later.
Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.