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Blending a traditional liberal-arts education with practical real-world projects can make students more valuable contributors to the organizations they will work for when they graduate, says David P. Angel, Clark University’s president.
One senator asked the Education Department’s top civil-rights official if her office needed more enforcement power. Another suggested it had overstepped its bounds.
“I ask you to hear my remarks not as information, nor as argument, but as a call to action.” Secretary Arne Duncan, National Convention of the Parent Teacher Association, Austin, Texas, June 20, 2014
Secretary Arne Duncan spoke these words today during the National Convention of the Parent Teacher Association, when he addressed a crowd of about 1,200 parents, teachers, and students gathered in Austin, Texas. The Secretary outlined the changes needed to improve public education and talked about the need to challenge and prepare students for their future, taking questions and sharing his vision for moving education forward.
The Secretary shared stories of his experience as a parent and the state of education nationally. He urged parents to work together to create the types of schools that will meet the needs of future careers by advocating for the advancement of the teaching profession, as well as college- and career-ready standards, preschool for all, and college affordability.
As I listened, I thought of all the volunteers that have come through my classroom and of my own young niece and nephews and the paths that lay ahead of them as they begin school. As a teacher, PTA member, and proud aunt of preschool and public school children, I share Secretary Duncan’s call to action to improve education and his invitation to work together.
My mother was my class’s “room mom” throughout my elementary school experience and both my parents actively supported schools throughout the time they had kids in public schools. My mom and dad still volunteer and support my classroom, and they’re also involved in their grandchildren’s school lives. They have always been models for me regarding the importance of service to others and have demonstrated how to be involved and supportive without becoming “helicopter parents.”
Parent volunteers have been a lifeline for me and have enriched my classroom more than they will ever know. Every time a parent volunteers to take a task that saves a teacher time, he or she enables that teacher to be a better educator. Parents have raised money to fill in budget gaps and have routinely provided items not in the budget. I am so thankful for parents that have dutifully read e-mails, checked homework, attended parent conferences, and kept their children reading through the summer, all to support their child and their school.
Parents, you are important learning partners and teachers are so thankful for all you do!
Yet parents have another valuable role, and that is in making their voices heard regarding education policy. I am so thankful that my parents taught me how to be my own best advocate and demonstrated for me the importance of speaking up. During his speech, Secretary Duncan urged parents to use their collective voice to support ideas to build schools that will meet the needs of the next generation.
So, what exactly can parents do? Here are some suggestions:
- Be a voice for higher expectations;
- Be a voice for elevating the teaching profession; and
- Be a voice for the kinds of changes our schools must make to truly prepare our young people for the future they will face.
Improving schools is an important job and one that teachers, parents, and policymakers should do together.
JoLisa Hoover is a 2008 and 2014 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow and educator in Leander, Texas.
My belief that a failing education system is one of the biggest problems faced by many societies is what compelled me to pursue an internship at the Department of Education. Working in the international affairs office (IAO) has offered me the perfect opportunity to combine my two passions: international affairs and education policy.
I have learned more about improving access to a quality education and that education can be an effective tool in eradicating poverty, advancing gender equality, ensuring healthy lives, supporting environmental sustainability, promoting good governance, and enhancing peace and security.
Engaging with numerous organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Organization of American States (OAS), and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has provided me with a substantial body of knowledge.
As an intern, I am exposed to the multifaceted ways ED engages with the international community to improve education.
During my first couple weeks, I was able to meet the Chinese Vice Minister of Education and his delegation during a meeting to discuss issues such as student exchanges, K-12 policy development, and higher education collaboration. I also met representatives from the Center for Universal Education, Save the Children, and Women Thrive Worldwide to discuss post-2015 education goals and targets to enhance equitable education for all.
I’ve seen the IAO’s involvement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and the Peace Corps, and I have worked on updating and developing new content for the APEC Education Wiki that spans decades of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. I believe education initiatives within APEC are particularly important and timely, as President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” stresses the significance of enhanced partnerships and diplomatic ties in the region. I am so humbled by this experience and I feel as though I’ve already become a more globalized citizen — and this is only the beginning.
Even though I have grown up during a time where Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and smart phones are the norm, I’ve never questioned that we are more interconnected today than ever before. But accepting how inextricably tied we are to each other can be daunting. I can confidently say that interning in the IAO has already strengthened my ties to the world outside of Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
After graduation, I plan to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant in the Asia-Pacific region so I can utilize the skills I am acquiring during my internship within the framework of a totally new education system.
In the long-term, I plan to be a lifelong international nomad in hopes that I can continue to learn about the people and cultures with whom we share this earth. In a society running toward innovation and advancement, there is no telling where we will be decades from now. To quote Secretary Duncan, “expanding educational attainment everywhere is the best way to grow the economic pie for all.”
Wherever we go from here, we’re going together as an interconnected network of nations. I’m excited to see what’s to come.
Rebecca Nasuti is an intern in the International Affairs Office at the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department of Education has redesigned its website!
As you’ve probably noticed at first glance, our entire site has a more modern look and feel. We’ve also streamlined a lot of our site navigation elements, which we encourage you to explore.
We’ve also improved our site search. We’re now using DigitalGov Search, GSA’s free search box solution that allows users to search all of our public-facing content. Additionally, the tool is powered by Bing’s index.
Our site is also now completely mobile-friendly. We know that the general public is increasingly accessing all sorts of websites on their phones, and we want to make sure that you can access all of our information, even when you’re on the go. This latest website facelift now makes it possible for you to read our content on your smartphone or tablet without having to pinch and scroll.
We’re not done improving our website, though. Coming later this summer all of our blogs will have a new look and feel. And coming in early 2015, we will have completed redesigning our homepage to make it even easier for you to find what you’re looking for.
Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and co-chair of the Department’s Open Government Working Group.
Today we join hundreds of communities and programs across the country in celebrating National Summer Learning Day, a recognized national advocacy day to spread awareness about the importance of summer learning to our nation’s youth—specifically, in helping close the achievement gap and supporting healthy development.
Summer learning is everywhere; it’s happening in cities and towns all across the country. Today in Fayetteville, NC, the local university is opening its doors to local youth to learn about its College Readiness Summer Institute and how they can participate. In Louisville, KY, Mayor Greg Fischer joined other prominent local figures to kick off Every 1 Learns, a citywide summer learning effort designed to provide access to academic support and meaningful work experience for Louisville youth.
Find more summer learning opportunities across the country on our interactive Summer Learning Day Map.
Last month, I blogged on HomeRoom about how families can keep their teens learning and preparing for college and careers this summer. A few weeks later, First Lady Michelle Obama joined students in San Antonio to highlight her college access initiative Reach Higher. She is supporting President Obama’s “North Star” goal of returning the U.S. to being the leader in college graduates by 2020. One of the core solutions in achieving that goal is summer learning. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is excited to partner with the First Lady in helping teens “Reach Higher” all summer long and beyond.
Today it is a true honor to share the stage with the First Lady at the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate National Summer Learning Day. Bringing together high school students and education leaders from across the country, our event highlights the critical role summer learning plays in preparing young people for successful college entry and completion.
The First Lady and other guests will see and hear from young people about the incredible things they learned last summer, like how to write a personal statement, teach and mentor younger youth, dance, cook healthy meals, apply for financial aid, and even dissect a sheep brain.
The 100 youth joining us today have the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in exemplary programs, and we hope to extend that opportunity to all young people who need and want that experience. Across the country, we’re beginning to see school districts partner with institutions of higher education and other nonprofits to offer rigorous coursework, counseling, and meaningful work experience for young people in the summer, and it’s changing lives.
There’s great reason to believe that summer learning opportunities can increase college access and completion among first generation college students. We’re thrilled that Mrs. Obama has taken notice of the importance of summer learning, and we’re honored to work with her on such an important issue for our nation’s youth.
Sarah Pitcock is CEO of the National Summer Learning Association.
New scrutiny on federal payments to Corinthian’s campuses adds to the company’s financial problems and prompts it to warn that it may be forced to close.
Calls for simplifying the application for federal student aid are not new. Now two senators are seeking to legislate it.
Two years ago, an advisory committee suggested mostly minor changes. Now it’s asking bigger questions, including whether accreditors should remain the gatekeepers for federal student aid.
Dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking would join the types of incidents that colleges would be expected to monitor, prevent, and resolve.
The plaintiffs have poked holes in some of the association’s arguments, but several of its key witnesses have yet to appear.
At a "student-success summit," the colleges are told how to compete with wealthier institutions that can "out-HBCU HBCUs."
The energy at the end of the day was infectious. To hear Emily Davis from the U.S. Department of Education speak with such passion about what had occurred at ED that day was both encouraging and inspiring. In lieu of the traditional Edcamp smackdown to wrap up the day, 100 educators from around the nation discussed the day’s impact of the first ever EdCamp USA. In reflecting on my time at the department on June 6, and having co-facilitated four sessions throughout the day, I left with the following five main takeaways:
Innovation Leadership Manager at PennGSE
1. Relationships and Culture Matter at ALL Levels - Throughout each of the four sessions I was a part of and regardless if we were discussing digital leadership, being connected, or a tool such as Voxer, educators continuously shared how relationships and school culture are a difference maker. Personally, how will I foster relationships with those at the ED, those in Congress and the Senate, State Departments of Ed, so that we can collectively work to provide students with the access they need and staff with the professional learning needed to effectively shift instructional pedagogy? What tools can we use to form bonds with other educators both near and far? How can I encourage other educators to do the same?
2. Connected Educators are My Educational Family - Prior to being connected with educators around the world on Twitter, I felt like a man on an educational island. The role of the principal was one that was often professionally lonely and challenging. After becoming connected on Twitter with some of education’s best and brightest, I became encouraged, inspired, and professionally challenged to be better for kids. Over time these relationships have fostered incredible friendships. Being able to spend quality time with educators I may see only a few times a year reminds me that these high quality relationships are not just part of my professional learning network, but my educational family. A special thank you to Joe Mazza, Steven Anderson, Adam Bellow, Susan Bearden, Katrina Stevens, Tom Whitby, Erin Klein, Bob Dillon, Jerry Switak, Patrick Larkin and Kristen Swanson, who were all at #edcampusa, for this reminder and for pushing me to be better for the kids we serve, all while having an incredible amount of fun in the process.
3. It’s not about the technology; It’s about the learning - During session 4, Joe Mazza (@joe_mazza) and I co-facilitated a session entitled, “From DM to Voxer”. In using this tool, we reached out to and received feedback from about 15 educators across the world (including Australia) regarding how the use of such tools can connect educators to help problem solve, form relationships, discuss topics and trends, etc. Although it could appear that such a session would be tool focused, it’s about the end game; the learning and connecting that come from its use that’s ultimately most important.
4. Personalized PD is Essential - Session after session, the topic of high quality professional development was discussed or brought up by someone in each group. Simply put, the traditional, top-down, one-size fits all approach to PD is outdated and a waste of time. It must be replaced with a model that is meaningful, engaging and relevant, where teacher voice is an important part of the process and owership is shared by all. There is little arugment to the fact that professional development is a key to moving our students to higher levels of achievement.
5. We have a Leadership Crisis Upon Us - Similar to professional development, many identified issues throughout the day, seem to come back to one key area; the need for high-octane educational leaders who create environments that promote risk-taking and innovation in their schools, who focus on the whole child not just state test scores, and who are models for the staff and students they serve.
Like any professional learning experience, what matters most is what happens from this point forward. So I will personally and publically commit to the following:
Continue to work to develop high quality relationships with those in State Departments and Districts across the nation.
Remain connected with educators from around the world and engage with them. I commit to continuing to share my learning, push the thinking of others, allow my own points of view to be challenged, and to help others get connected and see the value in learning alongside others.
Continue to keep my focus on the learning, and not on devices, tools, and the latest tech fad.
Continue to work with state leaders in my new role as the State and District Digital Learning Director, helping them transform professional learning at their levels, so that educators are engaged and the time is well spent.
Find ways to cultivate leaders around our nation. Our children need incredible educational leaders serving them at all levels.
I want to commend Secretary Arne Duncan, Director of the Office of Educational Technology Richard Culatta, and Teacher Ambassador Emily Davis, all from the US Department of Education, for their work to make the first EdCamp at the Department a huge success. The kids of our nation will benefit from this opportunity. Thank you.
To those that I learned alongside of at the ED, what is it that you’ll publicly commit to as well? Leave a comment in the section below. Don’t let this past Friday be just another day day of PD. Let it be a difference maker for those that we serve.
We can do this!
Tom Murray is the State and District Digital Learning Policy & Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established by executive order of the President fifty years ago this month. The program recognizes and honors some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors and was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative, and performing arts.
Each year, 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the program, ED has collected reflections from past winners, who explain how the program influenced their life and career.
Cornelia A. Clark, Class of 1968
In 1968, as a then-resident of Atlanta, Georgia, I was honored to be named a Presidential Scholar from Georgia. That June, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the assassinations of both Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert Kennedy coincided with the Poor People’s Campaign and the construction of Resurrection City. This was when I visited the Supreme Court, Congress, and the White House for the first time and got a close-up political view of a country in the midst of crisis at home and abroad. President Lyndon B. Johnson told our class of scholars that we represented the best and brightest hope for the future of the world, and that we must live the rest of our lives in a way that would honor the recognition we received.
I have carried that challenge with me throughout my career. Each time I have accomplished something meaningful in my personal or professional life, President Johnson’s words have come back to me, especially during the time from September 1, 2010 — August 31, 2012, when I served as Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. I believe that that achievement, as well as many others, came in part because of the encouragement I received in 1968.
For me, the distinction as Presidential Scholar was life changing. Each year now I locate at least one new scholar who resides near me and tell her why I hope it will be for her as well.
Cornelia A. Clark is a former Justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court
Sankar Swaminathan, Class of 1975
Many years later, when I look back at having been a Presidential Scholar, I still see the long hair and dated clothes that we were wearing. It was 1975, and Washington D.C. and the nation were still in turmoil from the effects of Watergate. Despite the politics of that summer, being invited to the White House was a great honor for all of us. I think the students and their parents were somewhat awed by being guests at the State Department and visiting the Rose Garden. But I also remember that it was a lot of fun.
What does it mean to have been a Presidential Scholar? Few people know what it represents, but when they see it in your CV, many ask about it. I tell them, with a little embarrassment, that it is given to two high school students chosen from every state, to honor scholastic and personal achievement.
At the time, as a seventeen year old, I was very grateful for the award and activities of those few days. I remember my fellow Scholars as excited to be there, and despite having received this prestigious award, being very down-to-earth and friendly. It inspired me to be worthy of being chosen to be among them, and to continue to try to meet such interesting, intellectually engaged and morally committed people. There really were a lot of idealists at that time. I hope that today’s awardees feel as fondly about the experience in forty years as I do today.
Sankar Swaminathan is a Don Merrill Rees Presidential Endowed Chair and Professor of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Department of Medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine
Christine Théberge Rafal, Class of 1984
Our local newspaper interviewed me about my selection as one of New Hampshire’s 1984 Presidential Scholars. An angry principal called me to the office for the first time in my life: “What? You never thought of yourself as an intellectual because your school doesn’t support intellectuals?”
“Well, morning announcements only ever mention my track performances, never my math meet scores, which are much better,” I replied.
My mother reported that the conversation made a difference for my younger brother and schoolmates in subsequent years, with the school making real efforts to acknowledge academic accomplishments.
Spending Recognition Week in alphabetical order by state, I made lifelong friendships with scholars from Nebraska and Nevada. The student from Nevada and I founded a little Presidential Scholar “posse”. We went to the same college together and stayed in touch over the summer, went to a movie as a group every Sunday night for all four years at college, and a couple of us even went to the same grad school! When a family friend from across the river in Maine was selected and didn’t want to go to Recognition Week, I persuaded him of the value.
Girls and women with ADHD, especially undiagnosed for years (decades) as mine was, often have low self-esteem, but having been a Presidential Scholar, whether anyone else knows it or not, has helped me emphasize my abilities instead.
Christine Théberge Rafal, is a Coordinator for Grants and Evaluation for Artists for Humanity, a non-profit that provides under-resourced youth with paid employment opportunities in the arts
Virgil Calejesan, Class of 1998
It’s an interesting exercise to think back 16 years ago. I find what I remember best are the people – particularly my fellow scholars and our leaders from prior award years that spirited us along from event to event.
I also viscerally recall a string of late nights, constantly amazed by my peers, trying to make connections at every unscheduled moment. I recall standing in line, though that too was quite fun given the company. I remember falling asleep wearing sunglasses at the Degas, At the Races in the Countryside exhibition and awakening to a museum-goer commenting “Pretty amazing, right?” What is amazing is how comfortable that couch was. Did they know I was asleep for the preceding 15 minutes?
If I could sum up National Recognition Week in a word, it would be “honored.” I still have a hard time believing that I deserved such an award, chosen on the basis of “outstanding scholarship, service, leadership, and creativity.” If I’ve learned anything in 16 years, it’s that those words are not achievements frozen in time, but rather a reflection of character. And if I am to accept that honor, then I must also accept the implicit responsibility to continue to deserve it.
That is what sticks with me to this day. And when I think of that museum-goer, maybe, in fact, they weren’t talking about Degas; maybe they somehow knew the impact the Presidential Scholar experience would have on me after all these years.
And they were right: It is truly amazing.
Virgil Calejesan is a designer living in Brooklyn, NY, who specializes in helping to create aerospace safety garments
Nigel Campbell, Class of 2004
(Nigel Campbell’s account is provided courtesy of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Alumni Association.)
Nigel Campbell began studying dance at age 12 at Creative Outlet Dance Theater of Brooklyn. He attended The Julliard School and embarked on his professional dance career after graduation. Here’s how he responds, in part, when asked what stands out the most in his memory about his National Recognition Week trip to Washington, D.C., after being named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts.
“Wow, it was an honor unlike any other,” he recalls. “People – artists – work their entire lives to try to get to perform at the Kennedy Center.”
“And here I was at 17, performing a solo to a packed, sold-out audience with the President and the Secretary of Education and my entire family. And a standing ovation. It was one of those really magical moments that you relive in your head throughout your life. This was, by far, the most special moment of a week that was filled with a lot of really special moments.”
“Being recognized by the Presidential Scholars Program imbued me with a sense of confidence and a sense of my self-worth at a very early age. It really was the affirmation that I really could do this in a real way – that I could do all of the things that I’m doing now.”
Nigel Campbellis a member of Sweeden’s GoteborgsOperans Danskompani, the largest modern dance company in the Nordic region.
Higher-education experts told a committee that advises the education secretary on accreditation issues that the system needs a major overhaul, not just tweaks.
The earnings premium for college graduates is well established, but a degree isn't the only difference between graduates and others. An economist delves into other factors.
Total giving to the humanities from federal, state, and private sources remains below pre-downturn levels, says the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
It would create a unit-record system, broaden refinancing of student-loan debt, and reverse cuts in Pell Grants.
The new partnership between Arizona State University and the coffee company raises an interesting question, given how adjunct instructors tend to be paid.
Higher education can’t seem to agree on how to fix itself. And while the stakeholders argue, it isn’t getting fixed.