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How do we as a country provide supports on college campuses for veterans and ensure they have access to high-quality education at an affordable price? This question helped focus a Student Voices Session that recently took place with Secretary Duncan in Washington, D.C. The goal of the conversation was to understand the issues student veterans face, identify institutions of higher education that are providing comprehensive supports, and take action at the local, state, and federal levels.
The Obama administration is encouraging institutions to sign on to the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success, a voluntary initiative through the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs by which colleges and universities can support veterans as they pursue their education and employment goals. Already, over 1,000 schools have signed on to support service members in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, obtaining career-ready skills, and building toward long-term success.
Abby Kinch, a current Florida State University (FSU) student and former Air Force Cryptologic Linguist, spoke about FSU’s Veterans Center, which provides veterans with a one-stop shop for on-campus support and a place to enhance their development as student leaders. Many of the students in attendance were impressed by the resources available for veterans at FSU and said they would like to see them replicated in their colleges and universities.
Franchesca Rivera, a former Marine and current Art Institute of Washington student and certifying official, passionately spoke about the need for transparency with regard to the cost of college, what the GI Bill will actually cover, and what student veterans should expect to pay. Rivera mentioned that, while most schools serving veterans have a dedicated VA certifying official, the people in this position have a high level of turnover and therefore it is hard to get accurate information.
Veterans Affairs Undersecretary Allison Hickey responded that the VA partially covers the school’s reporting costs and that her office will look into how these positions are trained to ensure certifying officials have the knowledge needed to assist veterans pursuing higher education. Additionally, she notes that the VA has just released a more robust GI Bill Comparison Tool, which will help students find the best programs that fit their needs.
As the secretary was discussing follow-up opportunities, Samuel Innocent, a senior at the City College of New York, suggested that the Student Veterans of America and other student-led veterans’ chapters could create a nationwide student survey to provide tangible feedback on schools’ services for veterans, and on state and federal assistance programs. The goal of the survey would be to strengthen what works and re-tool programs that are not having desired outcomes for meeting veterans’ needs.
This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department in which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.
Samuel Ryan is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education
Reposted from the OII Blog.
As Education Secretary Duncan’s bus tour departed Huntsville, Ala., on September 9th, I remained to explore the STEM and technology education programs in the area. Huntsville, home to NASA’s Space and Rocket Center, has the advantage of being a small city with huge resources to support education. I wanted to see what they were doing that might be exported to a wide range of schools across the U.S.
After Secretary Duncan’s visit to the Space and Rocket Center and its Space Camp, I was greeted by the president of Alabama A&M University (AAMU), Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., along with staff and students. Once on their beautiful campus, Dr. Chance Glenn, dean of the College of Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences, discussed the various programs AAMU has developed to help students pursue and excel in STEM fields.
As of 2012, the college, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, ranked No. 4 of 352 in the production of African American engineers and No. 11 for female engineers. This success is credited to multiple programs that support students at various points in their academic careers. AAMU, for example, provides full, four-year scholarships to 12 STEM Star Scholars, covering their tuitions and fees. The Summer Bridge program, which brings students to the campus for two weeks prior to starting their freshman year, focuses on mathematics, social development, and study skills, as well as a providing a campus orientation.
A roundtable discussion with faculty, staff, and current and past students from engineering, computer science, and the basic sciences concluded a very motivating visit to the AAMU campus.
The following day, I met with the Huntsville City Schools superintendent, Dr. Casey Wardynski, and his staff to discuss their STEM and technology strategies and tour a few of the local schools. At Blossomwood Elementary, I chatted with teachers and students about their work in robotics, information technology, and math. The Huntsville strategy has been to provide iPads for classroom use up to second grade and laptops for the rest of the student population to use at home and in school. Technology use was particularly well integrated in mathematics instruction, but also evident across the curriculum.
At Huntsville Middle School, laptops were again being well utilized in classroom instruction, especially in mathematics. Students were also actively learning to develop computer games in classrooms that have been well adapted for group work. I was particularly impressed by the school’s collaboration with the Elizabeth Forward school system in Pennsylvania. A particularly innovative application developed at Elizabeth Forward was being used to demonstrate linear progressions. In the application, students physically interact with a room-sized screen projected on the floor combined with sensors to track their movements. It’s a very good example of how hubs of innovation in local areas can propagate leading practices and why we need to continue to build opportunities to bring these innovators together.
One of the most interesting aspects of the schools tour was the visit to the Huntsville Center for Technology, where I was introduced to Greenpower Team USA. Last October, Huntsville students competed in an international competition held in the U.K. to design, build, and test electric cars. The cars are built from scratch, including the aerodynamic composite bodies.
The Huntsville team won the Best Newcomer Award and the Siemens Innovator Award their first time out, placing 10th out of 32 competitors in the 90-minute race and 32nd out of 74 competitors in the four-hour race. Speeds average around 30 mph, but duration and durability are the primary goals. They were the only team outside of the U.K. in the finals. Team Huntsville has brought the concept home to the U.S., building test tracks around several Huntsville high schools to increase student participation citywide. And with the U.K. competitions including a category for 9- to 11-year-olds, which uses “Goblin Car” kits that average top speeds of 15 mph, Greenpower is an engaging way for STEM learning to reach a wide age range of students.
Clearly, Huntsville benefits from some unique local assets not available to all school systems, but many others could learn from the city’s leadership in developing technology integration strategies and their hands-on approach to STEM education.
Russell Shilling is Executive Director of STEM in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.
What does it mean to be a “Future Ready” school district?
More than 160 teachers, parents, students, and business and district leaders from across Tennessee recently gathered at the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ Martin Center to discuss the answer to this question and talk about the upcoming Future Ready District Pledge.
The Pledge establishes a framework for districts to achieve the goals laid out by the White House ConnectED Initiative. Some of these goals include: upgrading high-speed Internet connectivity, providing access to educational devices and digital content, and preparing teachers to use technology effectively to improve student learning and their own professional development.
The event – part of the U.S. Department of Education’s fifth annual back-to-school bus tour – was hosted by Kecia Ray, Executive Director of Learning Technology for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Richard Culatta, Director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.
During the discussion, teachers, students, administrators, and community leaders talked about their roles in shaping the way technology can transform learning.
One teacher from the MNPS Virtual School said his staff was already “rockin’ Future Ready but could certainly use the infrastructure attention, as well as community involvement.” Other educators emphasized the importance of professional development and training. One MNPS teacher said teachers needed professional development on how to use devices for specific instructional purposes, while another teacher suggested, “Our perception needs to change from technology being ‘another thing’ we need to learn, to being ‘the way’ we teach and learn.”
The educators expressed the importance of building the right infrastructure, imagining the classrooms of the future, ensuring teachers are ready to utilize and benefit from technology, and bringing into the work parents, community members, school board members, and others . District leaders also recognized the value of mentoring other districts, noting, “The only way to be successful is to collaborate, just like we expect our teachers to do.”
Parents talked about blended learning, which combines classroom and online instruction, noting that without consistency across the country, individual districts would need to clearly define this learning approach for their teachers and students. Some parents also emphasized the importance of understanding what was going on at school, suggesting that “if parents knew what was happening in the classroom, they would know the right questions to ask their students.”
Students also gave their points of view.
Tenth-grade Big Picture High School student Jarred Enyart facilitated a conversation with nearly 30 middle and high school students. The teens expressed excitement about incorporating Future Ready into their learning experiences.
One student wondered, “If students had 45 minutes of rich learning online, would they have more motivation to succeed and learn?” Another offered an example of the personalized learning available in Future Ready schools, noting, “I had maxed out on AP classes and was interested in medicine. I was able to access a variety of opportunities because of the internet.”
As the event concluded, one student offered some excellent advice, urging the participants to use technology “as a tool, not a crutch.”
We will continue to bring you details about the Future Ready pledge. Follow the hashtag #FutureReady on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
James Liou is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.
Note: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognizes schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching environmental education. To share innovative practices in these three ‘Pillars,’ the Department conducts an annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of honorees.
September 17th was a time of celebration for Colorado as we became the focus of the Green Strides Best Practices Tour. Andrea Suarez Falken, ED Green Ribbon Schools Director, and other federal, state, and local government officials, visited schools and districts throughout the state that have demonstrated sustainable practices and environmental leadership in public education. As a science teacher and school administrator at Kinard Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was honored to have these visitors witness firsthand what we have accomplished and celebrate our commitment to environmental stewardship, health, and environmental education.
At Kinard Middle School, we believe in providing students with an authentic, engaging learning environment that reflects the civic responsibilities they will face in the real world. It is our responsibility as teachers to empower students to own their learning through practical applications that let them impact their school and community in meaningful, healthy ways. This is what gets me out of bed every day: I want students to leave a lasting legacy on their world.
Eight years ago, my students and I initiated an environmental leadership class at our school called Kinard C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Action, Results, Environment, Service) focused on inspiring change in our school and community through service-learning projects. The effort has resulted in composting over 20,000 lbs. of food waste each year at our school and diverting approximately 70 percent of our trash from the landfill each year.
Our environmental leadership curriculum replaces the traditional “learning silos” with an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on the complexities of systems in the real world. We are developing 21st century skills through team-building exercises to promote creativity, innovation, problem solving, and effective communication, as demonstrated by our students during a guided tour of school facilities.
When I heard that the Green Strides Tour was coming, it was a no-brainer that students would lead the event. Visitors were impressed with how articulately they described unique energy features like geothermal heating and cooling, wind-powered electricity, and natural daylight, all of which contribute to make Kinard the most energy- efficient school in the state of Colorado. This wasn’t rote learning; students clearly showed that they owned these concepts and their school as well as any architect or designer.
The group also visited two of our neighboring schools: Wellington Middle School and Lesher Middle School. At Wellington, the school’s Eco-Club is made up of students who work to keep the school focused on saving energy, recycling, and tracking the school’s wind turbine energy data. Students visit a local dairy, and sewage and water treatment facilities to experience first-hand the concepts they learn in classes, and is host for Innovation Camp, a STEM camp for middle school students across northern Colorado. At Lesher, we heard about an impressive Bike-to-School Week, when 40 percent of students and staff log 4,000 miles, an Iron Viking Adventure Race, a sustainability class, and a 2006 $3.7 million remodel resulting in a new media center, fitness center, art room, and general education classrooms with energy-efficient features, including unit ventilators, solar tubes, double-pane thermal windows, solar shades, and new lighting.
In creating a comprehensive green school, my colleagues and I helped students identify how their actions influence our interconnected world; maximized learning with collaborative green building practices and conservation behaviors; discovered that student success is a product of a healthy school environment; and ultimately realized that the three Pillars of ED-GRS are profound guideposts for all schools, whatever their starting point.
Here in Poudre School District, the tour felt like a celebration and culmination of the vision we’ve been striving for over many years. I’ve never been more proud of our students and the work that they have contributed to our school culture.
Chris Bergmann is Assistant Principal at Kinard Core Knowledge Middle School in Fort Collins, Colorado.
As the school year gets into full swing, it’s worth reflecting on a couple of historic milestones that make this year unique.
For the first time in our nation’s history, America’s public school population is majority-minority, according to this Department’s projections. Actual counts will come after a year or more, but we estimate that as of this month, non-white students make up 50.2 percent of all public school students.
Secretary Duncan announced this shift in April during a speech to the Grad Nation Summit, noting the growing imperative to serve all students better.
“All — all — of America’s children are our children,” he said. “When we think about preparing our young people today for the possibilities of tomorrow — which increasingly means preparing them for some form of college — then that’s about all our kids. This is about both equity and excellence. And I believe it’s going to take a sea change in our classrooms to get there.”
Fortunately, there are signs that change is under way, as shown in another vital statistic: the highest high school graduation rate in America’s history – 80 percent. Graduation rate increases between just 2008 and 2012 helped an additional 100,000 Latino students and an additional 40,000 African-American students to graduate from high school.
“As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, administrators, and families whose hard work made [this] achievement possible,” Secretary Duncan said.
ED used the cohort graduation rate, the most accurate measure of high school graduation rates, to calculate the 80 percent. First reported on the state level in 2012, the cohort rate is a common metric for states, districts, and schools to promote greater transparency and accountability. The measure also accounts for students who drop out, or who don’t earn a regular high school diploma.
But Duncan also said that success rates for some students, including those of color, must improve. Hispanic and African-American students graduated at lower rates than their peers – 76 and 68 percent, respectively.
We continue our work to address these prevailing achievement and opportunity gaps today. To level the playing field, we will continue to promote equitable access to high-quality preschool, strong teachers, and advanced coursework; to speak out against unfair disciplinary practices; and to ensure students in all zip codes have access to advanced technology.
Meredith Bajgier is a member of the Communications Development Team in the Office of Communications and Outreach.
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Games and play are a central part of childhood and can stimulate creativity and learning. As technology grows as a tool for teachers, one question has been: what role might educational video games play in the classroom?
Today, increasing numbers of teachers are incorporating games to supplement and enrich classroom instruction. In addition, students of all ages are developing their own games, as showcased in competitions and hackathons in communities across the country.
Ed Games Week brought the discussion on educational games to Washington, D.C. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) collaboratively planned a series of events including the Ed Games Expo, the Ed Games Workshop, and the White House Education Game Jam.
The Ed Games Expo
The Ed Games Expo showcased 25 newly developed learning games developed with funding from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at ED’s Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR) and other federal programs. More than 150 attendees met face-to-face with the developers and played games that covered a range of topics – from STEM, history, and foreign languages – and used a wide variety of genres for gameplay. For example:
- Addimal Adventure challenges children to solve mathematical equations with support of friendly characters.
- Zoo U helps grade school students navigate a series of challenging social situations.
- Reach for the Sun encourages deep understanding of photosynthesis as students grow a virtual sunflower from seed to full plant.
For more, check out the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:
Ed Games Workshop
The Ed Games Workshop brought together the Expo game developers and a team of federal experts. Workshop collaborators strategized exciting possibilities to create regional, national, or even international STEM game competitions featuring games that motivate as well as teach, such as through an X-Prize model. For more, see this article on the Clinton Foundation blog.
The White House Education Game Jam
Ed Games Week wrapped up with a 48-hour Education Game Jam that brought together over one hundred veteran and independent game developers, teachers, and students with the goal of creating educational games that make challenging K-12 topics easier for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Organized by the White House and Department of Education, developers were challenged to develop playable prototypes during the event. On Monday, Sept. 8, Game Jam participants presented videos of their games and demonstrated the prototypes at the White House. Twenty-three educational games were developed over the weekend including:
- Grub Run, a health and fitness game by Team Pixelopus
- President of the Galaxy, a game about the dynamics of U.S. presidential elections by Team 1st Playable
- Land Grab, a game highlighting a conceptual social behavioral model called the tragedy of the commons, by Team Filamentarians
You can find videos of all the game prototypes on the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:
ED is committed to tracking the emergence of technology-based games in education as a way to enrich in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students. Follow @OfficeofEdTech and @IESResearch on Twitter for the latest!
Ed Metz is a developmental psychologist and the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.
Russell Shilling is an experimental psychologist and the Executive Director of STEM Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.
Mark DeLoura is Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.