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Updated: 21 min 52 sec ago
Last August, President Obama outlined an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in postsecondary education. There were a number of commitments he made in his proposal, and, today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing further action on the President’s initiatives.
President Obama told students and families that helping to ensure their debt is manageable is a priority, and equipping counselors and advisers with the resources they need to help students prepare for higher education and understand college costs is a key component. To meet these goals, the Department has launched a “one-stop shop” for guidance counselors, college advisers, mentors and volunteers to assist students through the process of choosing and financing their higher education.
The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database. That makes it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support students on their path to college, including details on how to apply for financial aid along with presentations, brochures and videos.
By equipping counselors and advisers with financial aid information in an easy-to-use format, we can help to ensure that current and potential students get the assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of planning and paying for a postsecondary education.
Request for input on college ratings
President Obama also directed the Department of Education to develop a ratings system to identify colleges that provide a good value and to increase college affordability information available to students.
This fall, Department officials have been traveling to cities across the country, listening to hundreds of students, parents, college leaders, state officials, education organizations and many others about their ideas on how to best craft a college ratings system that would better inform students and encourage institutions to improve. This week the Department will submit a Request for Information (RFI) to publish in the Federal Register asking experts and researchers to weigh in.
This RFI will complement the ongoing engagement efforts to inform the development a college ratings system that is useful to students and takes into account the diversity of America’s colleges and universities. The Department will continue to encourage the public to share ideas through email@example.com.
Call for new ideas and innovations in higher education
Another major component of President Obama’s plan is to encourage innovation. More Americans are looking for college options that offer a good education at an affordable price. Innovation offers the potential to dramatically reshape and improve postsecondary education in ways that increase value by raising quality and decreasing costs. This is a pivotal moment, and we want to do all that we can to encourage responsible innovations in higher education that build on promising practices and develop an evidence base so that the highest-impact practices can be identified, replicated and eventually brought to scale.
To encourage innovation, the President directed the Department of Education to shine a light on effective, innovative practices and challenged leaders from across the nation to accelerate innovation and build on success. Further, he directed the Administration to encourage these ideas by removing regulatory hurdles, increasing access to federal databases and simplifying pathways to higher education. To do so, the U.S. Department of Education will launch a limited number of “experimental sites” to test new ideas. This authority under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) allows the Secretary to waive specific Title IV, HEA requirements regarding the federal student financial assistance programs to allow for responsible innovations coupled with evaluations of their effectiveness. Today, we are asking the public, including the higher education community and others with a stake in a more educated workforce and society, to send us ideas for experimental sites.
We invite input from a diverse array of stakeholders on topics to spur responsible innovation that increases college value and affordability. In August, President Obama identified several promising areas where innovative practices could do so. These include:
- Enabling students to earn federal student aid based on how much they learn, rather than the amount of time they spend in class, including through competency-based programs that combine traditional credit-hour and direct assessment of student learning.
- Enabling high school students to access Pell Grants to take college courses early so they can earn a degree in an accelerated time frame.
- Allowing the use of federal student aid to pay for assessments when students seek academic credit for prior learning as part of a program of study.
These are just some of the many areas where innovative experiments could advance our evidence base about approaches to increasing college value and affordability. We look forward to receiving your additional ideas. For more information on how to submit an idea, please review this Federal Register notice or the Department’s Dear Colleague Letter. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2013.
The U.S. Department of Education seeks to launch experiments that allow innovation to flourish, while also protecting taxpayer resources and building the research base for what works. In all of the Department’s efforts to encourage innovation and enable colleges and universities to increase quality while reducing costs, we value the input and partnerships with the postsecondary education communities and stakeholders so ultimately, millions of Americans can access a high-quality higher educationMartha Kanter is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education and David Soo is the Senior Policy Adviser, Office of the Under Secretary
Last week, The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, announced the finalists for the Innovations in American Government Award. From a pool of more than 600 applicants, the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is one of five finalists being recognized for the positive impact it is having on neighborhoods – and people – across the nation. Neighborhoods like Minneapolis’s Northside, which has the city’s highest rate of crime and can be a dangerous place to live, work, and go to school, but the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and its partner in the North4 program are working to change that. With assistance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, the community is countering the pull of gangs and crime with job training, paid internships, and wrap-around support for gang-involved youth ages 14 – 21.
Since receiving its Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant in December 2011, NAZ has enrolled more than 500 families into its cradle-to-career pipeline of services and family supports and is reaching more than 1300 kids. Each family is assigned a NAZ Connector, someone from the neighborhood, who works with the family to identify needs and barriers, set family goals, encourage behaviors that support academic outcomes, and connect them with promising and proven strategies to support success.
In addition to the Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Northside community is receiving support through the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, DOJ is helping NAZ increase public safety in the neighborhood with a $320,000 supplement to the original grant. This investment is being used for a multi-year expansion of the North4 program for young men like John, a high school senior with a history of gang involvement. The first year of the North4 expansion has provided John (and 32 other youth from North Minneapolis) with job training, paid work experience, and skills development. After graduating from the North4 program, John was automatically enrolled in NAZ. With the help of Bruce, his NAZ Connector, John has secured stable housing for his family and is setting academic, career, and financial goals for himself. But the benefit doesn’t end there – John’s mother, toddler son, and sister are all NAZ connected now and they’re getting the support they need to for a brighter future.
Jane Hodgdon is an education program specialist at the U.S. Department of Education
If you love data, and especially open data, there’s a good chance you also care about quality metadata. We have some exciting news: the Department of Education launched a new ED Data Inventory!
The Inventory is available as a searchable website and a JSON file. It contains descriptions about the data the Department collected as part of program and grant activities as well as statistical data collections.
Richer information about the Department’s data makes it more accessible and understandable to researchers, developers and entrepreneurs. Our hope is that users will be able to put this freely available government data alongside other sources of data to advance new studies, products, services and apps. The tools and advances in knowledge and best practices can help American students, parents and educators and continue to improve America’s schools. Empowered with more relevant, timely information, students and families will be able to make more informed decisions about education and preparation for college and career.
The ED Data Inventory is a work in progress. The Department’s Data Strategy Team sponsored a working group that did the heavy lifting on this project under the leadership of Marilyn Seastrom, Chief Statistician for the National Center for Education Statistics. The inventory so far covers 33 data series with a total of 223 component studies or data collections. For each data collection, the inventory includes information on the specific data elements used and their definitions. The descriptions link to accessible, online copies of the datasets and systems. The inventory work is ongoing – the team is still at work adding descriptions of more data series and studies.
The release of the ED Data Inventory is part of the Department’s response to the President’s Executive Order, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, and the Open Data Policy. The content from the ED Data Inventory’s JSON file will soon feed the Department’s content on Data.gov. We have been working with the OMB Office of Science and Technology Policy to make open government data easier for the public and entrepreneurs to find, understand, and use. Check out the new Next.Data.gov, a design prototype of the next generation of Data.gov, and the education community on Next.Data.gov. We provide a list of the 35 datasets accessible via API (application programming interface) at ed.gov/developer.
Learn more and connect with us at ed.gov/data. We look forward to your feedback, questions and suggestions.
Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and a member of the Department’s Data Strategy Team.
Do schools in the United States ask enough of students?
Based on the results of a major new international report, and conversations surrounding its release today, the answer is no.
Every three years, hundreds of thousands of 15-year-olds in more than 65 global economies take the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The results provide a snapshot of how students in the U.S. compare to students around the globe. Earlier today, the 2012 PISA results were announced and Secretary Arne Duncan was on hand with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria to discuss the results and what it means for education in America.
Duncan explained that results for the U.S. are “straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation.” However, this is not to say that the U.S. hasn’t made any progress since the 2009 PISA. In the last three years, 700,000 fewer students are in high school dropout factories, college enrollment is up—especially among Hispanics—and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed us that reading and math scores for 4th and 8th graders are up nationally to new highs.
Duncan also talked with a group of foreign exchange students from several countries, in a conversation moderated by author Amanda Ripley. The students said that schools in the United States did not expect as much of students as those in their home countries.
In his remarks, Duncan reminded those at today’s release that the America’s stagnation evident in the PISA results “must serve as a wake-up call against educational complacency and low expectations.”
The PISA results give evidence of America’s troubling achievement gaps, and Duncan acknowledged that we must do better on closing what he calls the “opportunity gap.” “The only way to increase social mobility and strengthen the middle class is through high-quality education,” he said.
But today’s results also show that while white 15-year-olds in the U.S. do better on average than students of color, our white students are still lagging behind the world’s top performers.
So the real educational challenge in America is not just about poor kids in poor neighborhoods. It’s about many kids in many neighborhoods. The PISA results underscore that educational shortcomings in the U.S. are not just the problems of other people’s children.
To correct this, Duncan said that we must invest in early learning, redesign high schools, raise standards and support great teachers.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
Principals are busy. It’s almost a cliché that they are unsung heroes who move mountains every day with very little praise and backbreaking hours. So, when it was time for the culminating event of ED Goes Back to School Principal Shadowing, I worried. As a principal myself, on assignment for the year to serve as a bridge between other school leaders and the US Department of Education, I thought: “What if our 45 area principals were too busy to show up?”
Even if they did come, the stakes were high. Last year’s meeting produced real results. Our Principal Ambassador Fellowship was conceived at this meeting. Now, at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday, we were asking these principals to reach inward and pull off one more success.
My worries, naturally, were misplaced. The room was packed. With organizational help from NAESP, NASSP, and New Leaders, each school leader had been shadowed by someone from the Department. Now the principals and other ED officials were seated around a table with Arne Duncan, Deb Delisle, and Jim Shelton and their shadows. All were there to listen to them, and the principals were as candid as they were thoughtful.
The leaders spoke of disconnects between policy and practice. One principal was asked how much additional time his school system’s new teacher evaluation system was taking him- was it 20 percent, 50 percent more?
“More like 200 percent,” he responded.
That came across loud and clear. Secretary Duncan responded to the conversation, “While I know change is hard and that it takes time, you guys need our help and support if we are going to where we need to be. We know that.”
The group also discussed the many hats a principal wears—teacher, coach, leader, parent. More than anything, the folks at ED who shadowed these principals walked away with a clearer understanding of the principal as the linchpin of a school community. The principals came to ED because they see themselves as essential connectors between the world of policy and the work of teaching and learning. This is their job. They take it very seriously. And they always show up.
It’s my job at ED to use the information gathered from conversations with school leaders to inform our priority to help support and improve their work. As I reflect on the experience with these principals and my ED colleagues, it reinforces the knowledge that these one-shot experiences just aren’t enough. There is an almost desperate need for enhanced connections and cohesion. The shadowing experience is a good start, there is much work to do, and I’m proud to be part of the effort to figure out the right next steps.Joshua Klaris is the U.S. Department of Education’s Resident Principal
In 1985, 14-year-old Ryan White and his family successfully battled myths and hysteria about HIV and AIDS so that he could attend his public middle school. In light of the observation of World AIDS Day this past Sunday, it is useful to reflect on how much has improved over the past three decades when it comes to ensuring people with HIV/AIDS equal access to education. But it’s also important to acknowledge the work still to be done.
Approximately 636,000 people in the United States with an AIDS diagnosis have died since the epidemic began. As we strive for a world free of HIV/AIDS, we cannot forget those who are currently living with it. More than 11,000 school-age children in the United States are currently living with a diagnosis of HIV infection or AIDS, as are almost 30,000 young adults (ages 20-24). This disease crosses all socio-economic strata and is not limited to a particular region or zip code in this nation. HIV/AIDS can afflict individuals of every race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age. We as a community must band together to address any myths, misconceptions, stereotypes, and to eliminate discriminatory behavior concerning people with HIV/AIDS.
Most schools have embraced a spirit of inclusion and non-discrimination that allows students with HIV/AIDS to participate equitably in classrooms and extracurricular activities. In some schools, however, myths and fears about HIV/AIDS can still lead to exclusion, discrimination, and bullying. In those instances, schools must be reminded in no uncertain terms that it is illegal under federal civil rights laws enforced by the Department to prohibit a student with HIV/AIDS from attending school or to permit harassment of a student because he or she has, or is regarded as having, HIV/AIDS.
Here are some of the ways you can make a difference:
- Learn the facts about HIV/AIDS, how it is spread and how it isn’t. Find resources and organizations near where you live and help share this information with your fellow community members.
- Arm students, parents, teachers, administrators, and families with tools to stop bullying in schools, including bullying and against students with HIV/AIDS.
- Review the Department’s guidance documents that address when harassment on the basis of disability, including HIV/AIDS, can violate the civil rights laws.
- Understand that students who are living with HIV/AIDS, are regarded as such, or are associated with others living with HIV/AIDS (such as parents, guardians, and other family members), are protected from discrimination under federal civil rights laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Let’s continue to educate ourselves and others about HIV/AIDS. Let’s renew our commitment to support our colleagues, classmates, friends, and neighbors living with HIV/AIDS. Our actions can make a big difference. We owe those living with this disease, and ourselves, no less.Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
Growing up in San Luis, Ariz., a town located near the Mexican border, Jorge Ontiveros never imagined he’d want to become a middle school teacher. His goal was to “follow the money” and become a lawyer or businessman, just like many young men his age had wanted to do. To his surprise, what was initially intended to be a short-term job as a high school football coach, quickly changed his perspective on the teaching profession.
Now in his fifth year of teaching sixth graders at Palomino Intermediate School in Phoenix, Ontiveros is just one of two Hispanic male teachers in his school. Across the country, just seven percent of teachers are Hispanic, and only two percent are males. For the last decade, Hispanic students have represented the largest minority group in our schools—one of every four students in the nation’s K-12 schools. With the Hispanic population projected to represent 60 percent of the population growth by 2050, the importance of recruiting teachers that reflect the diverse student body of our country is not only necessary but critical.
At a time when the high school graduation rate for Latino males is 60 percent and the college enrollment rate is 34 percent, having a teacher that reflects his or her student body may lead to better attendance, fewer suspensions and higher test scores. Ontiveros teaches in the same community he grew up in and he believes his Mexican, Spanish-speaking upbringing allows him to connect to his students and their parents. “Being able to relate and ultimately communicate with parents and students effectively is crucial to the success of the student, both inside and outside of my classroom.”
The U.S. Department of Education also believes in the importance of increasing the number of diverse and qualified teachers in the classroom. Last week, Secretary Duncan participated in the launch of a national teacher recruitment campaign to raise the nation’s awareness on the need to recruit the next generation of great teachers, particularly minority men. Providing students with a diverse representation of teachers who are role models in their communities will be a key component of this campaign’s success.
Ontiveros believes that young men don’t see enough male teachers to consider a career in teaching. “I want them to see a successful, young, male Hispanic teacher, so I wear a dress shirt and tie every day to show that I am proud of what I do,” Ontiveros said. He also asks his students to dress-up each Thursday for what he calls “Professional’s Day.” “Their job is to be good students,” he told us. “They show up to class and do their part, so I treat them professionally, calling them Miss or Mister.”
Ontiveros may have decided not to “follow the money” but being a role model and teaching and coaching students has fulfilled him in more meaningful ways. He talked about his day, his routine, and we listened and couldn’t help but notice the passion and commitment seeping through every word. Teaching clearly has become not only his career, but his life’s mission.Alejandra Ceja is the executive director for the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics
The odds were stacked against Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School.
The nation’s second oldest historically integrated public high school faced a steep dropout rate, scores of students repeating multiple grades and dismal test scores. But with the help of a $4.2 million federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), the 900-student school has cut that dropout rate in half and seen test scores rise dramatically since 2011.
Dr. Antonio Hurt, who took the helm at Douglass during the first year of the school’s SIG program, opened a night school where students can get tutoring or take credit recovery classes so they can graduate on time. He expanded a recording and media production studio and began a law program where career and technical students can train. He created a dual enrollment program where his high school students earn college credit at nearby Baltimore City Community College. Hurt removed more than half the school’s staff in the first year and hired staff focused on creating a college-going culture for every student.
Hurt split the school into two academies: the Academy of Innovation where students develop the courage and intellectual habits to be creative, and the Academy for Global Leadership and Public Policy, designed to graduate future leaders of government, industry and communities.
“We dug into the data. We wanted to make certain we had programs to meet the entire population of kids,” Hurt said.
After the first year of turnaround efforts, the school increased proficiency rates in English language arts from 41 percent in 2011 to 53 percent in 2012. Math proficiency rates rose from 32 percent to 44 percent. While there’s still plenty of work to be done, Hurt says the school’s 2013 numbers are promising, too.
The SIG program is a key component of the Department’s strategy for helping states and districts turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools. Under the Obama Administration, more than 1,500 schools like Douglass have implemented comprehensive turnaround interventions aimed at drastically improving achievement. Despite difficult learning environments, SIG schools have increased proficiency rates in math and reading since 2009, demonstrating the importance of targeted investments over time.
Dorie Turner Nolt is press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education
Graduation rates are an indicator of how well prepared a state’s students will be for college and careers. So, it’s particularly encouraging that many states are improving their graduation rates, according to data released earlier today that details preliminary four-year high school graduation rates in 2011-12. This is the second year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure to indicate how many students receive diplomas.
The data shows that 16 states reported graduation rates at or above 85 percent, compared to only nine states who reported the same graduation rates in 2010-2011 – indicating a small but encouraging sign of improvement. Today’s data release also shows that Iowa’s high school graduation rate was the highest in the country in 2011-12 at 89 percent. Because states are still working out the details of calculating and reporting the new cohort rate, changes in reported rates from 2010-11 to 2011-12 might not represent actual changes in graduates and any year-to-year comparisons should be interpreted with caution.
Building off this newly available data, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will release a report in early 2014 on on-time graduation rates for school years 2010-11 and 2011-12. On-time graduation rate indicators provide a measure of the percent of students that successfully complete high school in four years with a regular high school diploma.
Before last year, the varying methods used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable. The new, common metric – in its second year of use – gives states, districts and schools a chance to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide. There continues to be some variance in how it is implemented in each state, leading to some marginal accounting differences between states.
The transition to a common, adjusted four-year cohort graduation rate reflects states’ efforts to create greater uniformity and transparency in reporting high school graduation data, and it meets the requirements of October 2008 federal regulations. A key goal of these regulations was to develop a graduation rate that provides parents, educators and community members with better information on their school’s progress while allowing for meaningful comparisons of graduation rates across states and school districts. The graduation rate measurement used now also accurately accounts for students who drop out, transfer, or who do not earn a regular high school diploma within four years.
These 2011-12 graduation rates are state-reported data, and states are responsible for verifying the accuracy of these data. The rates are a key element of state accountability systems. States that have been approved for ESEA flexibility are required to use the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as a significant element in their school accountability systems and are currently doing so now.
The 2011-12 data can be viewed here using the Build a State Table Tool, under Achievement Data > Graduation Rate Data > Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates: 2011-12.
Arriving at Chicago’s Wheeling High School on brisk October morning, we sensed that something awesome was about to happen. The anticipated arrival of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other dignitaries generated a palpable energy that spread to us – college interns soaking in the behind-the-scenes excitement at the official opening of the school’s new nanotechnology lab.
However, we found WHS itself — powered by strong leadership — to be a true lightning rod for student success. It has harnessed partnerships with employers to spark students’ interest in nanotechnology and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career pathways – which is also the aim of newly-announced federal Youth CareerConnect grants.
Tucked into a modest community in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, Wheeling is among the first high schools in the nation equipped with a nanotechnology lab. Nanotechnology allows users to examine matter atom-by-atom, and is typically studied only in industry laboratories and on college campuses.
Former principal (now Associate Superintendent) Dr. Lazaro Lopez secured an investment from the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition of businesses, colleges and research labs for the $615,000 lab. The ISTC is partnering with Wheeling HS to coordinate the lab’s use as a regional resource for other schools as well as businesses as part of the Illinois Pathways program, which aligns education, business and government resources to provide students career pathways in high-growth STEM areas. Illinois Pathways is partially funded by an ED Race to the Top grant. Additional funding for the lab came from District 214.
Nanotechnology is just the latest element of Wheeling’s structure to support STEM careers, spearheaded by Lopez beginning in 2007. Named Illinois’s 2013-2014 Principal of the Year, Lopez wanted “kids to graduate from Wheeling High School with a future.” HIs vision is becoming a reality.
While still in high school, students can gain real-world experience in STEM fields, from nursing to manufacturing, and now nanotechnology. Through a dual-credit partnership with nearby Harper College, students are often able to transition out of high school with industry certification or college credit – an impressive feat for a school with 40 percent of its students classified as low-income.
Since the school began its STEM focus, students have earned during their years at WHS:
- 108 industry certifications
- College credit for 460 dual credit classes
- College credit for 3,171 Advanced Placement classes, which have had enrollment spike by 161 percent at Wheeling since 2005.
Noting the widespread excitement surrounding Wheeling’s innovation, Secretary Duncan told reporters that it “isn’t just about jobs.”
“It’s about being excited about coming to school every day,” he said. “It’s about having relevance to the real world.”
Lopez seemed thrilled but not surprised by the impact of his vision turned into reality.
“I knew that our teachers could deliver, and our students could take the leap,” he said, during a panel discussion with the Secretary, and a teacher and students.
As two college students – a physics major and a future educator – we certainly hope that other high schools follow Wheeling’s example. We’re excited that the U.S. Department of Labor’s new $100 million Youth CareerConnect grant program that will help many schools to make that leap!
Aliana Piatt and Elliott Washington are interns in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach in Chicago
To kick off International Education Week 2013, the U.S. Department of Education cohosted the release of Mapping the Nation, an innovative online resource developed by Asia Society, Longview Foundation and SAS. Using an interactive map and infographics, Mapping the Nation shows how connected each state and county is to the rest of the world. With nearly one million data points related to economics, demographics and education, we can see how prepared our states and local communities are to operate effectively in an increasingly interconnected world.
I decided to look at the data for Virginia, where I live. As a state, we are highly global: an increasing percentage of the state’s population is foreign born and we have substantial engagement in international trade. The map shows, however, that there is quite a bit of variation within the state. This new interactive online map and the infographics are powerful because they bring the data together in one place and highlight facts in a visual and compelling way, providing the spark for analysis, discussion and action.
In Secretary Arne Duncan’s introductory remarks during the release, he said that “tools like this will help us to better understand the current and growing demand for globally-competent workers. … This type of information can help inform bold education reform and workforce development strategies in our states and communities, in ways that will grow the available talent and better meet our employer needs.”
During the event we heard from an esteemed panel about how the map can inform and help advance efforts at the national, state and local levels. We heard how important it is for a state to prepare a globally competent talent pool in order to attract international business and investment. For example, we learned how businesses like SAS are looking for technical skills, but in conjunction with second languages and cultural awareness, since many staff will work with teams in other countries. We also heard that Kentucky is working to develop a global competency diploma that would recognize students who have studied world languages and other coursework with strong global implications.
Another suggestion was to share the map with teachers so they can understand what is happening in their communities and see how it links to what is happening in schools. If teachers are convinced of the importance of global competency and are globally competent themselves, they will more easily impart that to their students.
The data highlight different patterns across communities—some have high concentrations of international students and scholars; some have diverse immigrant populations who are spread across the wider area; some have highly concentrated immigrant populations; and some have little diversity. These different patterns have quite different implications for business and education.
I’m optimistic that Mapping the Nation will spark conversations across the country–with teachers, students, parents, business leaders, policy makers and others—and challenge all of us to work more effectively to build a stronger pipeline of globally competent young people.
Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs
If you are a young woman entering college, there is at least a one in five chance that you will be the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault.
Although colleges and universities have taken recent steps to address and prevent sexual assault, instances of sexual violence have long-term effects for victims and communities, fostering a climate of fear and disrespect and damaging the physical and psychological health of victims. Sexual assault creates an environment that can limit learning and undermine students’ ability to achieve their full potential.
At the Department of Education, we understand that victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer academically, to experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to contemplate suicide. We also know there’s a need for improved victim services and support, increased accountability for those who commit acts of sexual violence, and stronger efforts to ensure that colleges and universities comply with federal laws that aim to make our campuses safer.
Research and best practices coming out of the field of public health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support the need for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to violence prevention. The Department of Education encourages campus and community efforts to increase awareness and engage in primary prevention campaigns.
Some key elements of effective prevention
Objective 1. Engage the college community in prevention efforts
- Establish a distinctive and positive brand for the campus prevention and support campaign
- Devote adequate staff time for meaningful engagement across the learning community
- Make this campaign a clear and visible priority for leadership
- Increase options and opportunities for engagement around the issue
- Formally and informally embed prevention across the entire ecology of the college, for example:
- Curriculum infusion
- Internships and partnerships across campus
- HR manual and policy changes, as needed
- Faculty and coach toolkits
Objective 2. Change the current norms from bystander inaction to engagement
- Establish a distinctive and positive brand for bystander engagement
- Invite a critical mass of community members to attend a research-informed, data driven bystander program
- Infuse positive bystander messaging across formal and informal mechanisms for shaping community norms (admissions policies, freshman trips, classrooms, residential life, student groups, athletic teams, etc.)
Objective 3. Promote a culture of victim support and reporting
- Establish a distinctive and positive brand for victim-assistance efforts
- Shift responsibility to report and seek support from victim to bystander
- Offer response services
- Establish a fair and effective judicial system
- Increase doors of access for victims to engage, for example:
- Arts and advocacy
- Volunteer opportunities
- Empowerment through engagement
Our colleagues at the Department of Justice are also focused on this issue. We have included links to some of the exciting work they have done to provide schools with resources and to build on existing efforts:
Eve Birge is a education program specialist in the Office of Safe and Healthy Students
Our National Parks have been called “America’s Best Idea” by novelist Wallace Stegner. Congress’s vision was to set aside our most significant places as public lands for all to enjoy, in contrast to monarchies that sequestered spectacular properties for the the few and privileged. Nearly 100 years later, we are learning that these 401 sites, ranging from soul-stirring Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields to the grandeur of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite, are outdoor classrooms that can inspire and engage a generation of students in ways that no other experience, in or out of the classroom, can.
As states throughout our nation transition to new, higher learning standards and new, more challenging assessments, we should also be addressing what all children truly need, in their academic, social, and emotional lives. This larger view can be vital to their success. But for too long, we’ve held to a much narrower view that teaches children, as Sir Ken Robinson says, only “from the neck up.”
The National Parks Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and Everglades National Park represent the spectrum of what students can learn. The former confronts the story of slavery and our nation’s continuing struggle to address race and human diversity; the latter displays the wonder of and need to preserve biodiversity. These experiences address the “whole child,” their hearts, as well as their minds, combining outdoor physical activity, real-world relevance, and learning with a larger community of peers, teachers, parents, Park Rangers, and partners who specialize in STEM, history, and culture.
In National Parks, students literally “come to their senses.” Through a group called Spoke ‘N Revolutions, teenagers from Chapel Hill, N.C., biked 1,800 miles of an Underground Railroad Trail, from Mobile to Niagara Falls. They visited museums and safe houses, stayed with local families, and, in tracing the paths followed by slaves bound for freedom, discovered some hidden personal resources of their own.
Even our best and brightest college students have often led narrow lives devoted to grades and test scores. When a group of Stanford sophomores spent two weeks rafting the Colorado River, arguably America’s most important river, hiking and camping in the company of faculty experts on environmental law and American history, they returned with first-hand knowledge of water issues and a deeper understanding of themselves.
The National Parks are a key institution in the redesign of our American educational system, recognizing that higher standards require more and different types of learning time, in school, after school, and out-of-school. The U.S. is uniquely positioned with informal learning institutions that are the envy of the world–from museums and libraries to youth development groups and our National Parks.
The National Park Service has led a renewed emphasis on learning in and through its parks, including:
- NPS Director Jon Jarvis’s 2009 creation of a Directorate for Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers to coordinate national efforts from Washington, D.C., with the appointment of Julia Washburn, a former NPS interpretive ranger and executive at the National Park Foundation as its first Associate Director;
- Signing of a 2012 memorandum of understanding between the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior, leading to an historic first meeting between Secretaries Duncan and Salazar and Director Jarvis, with agreements to work on teacher development and integration of STEM, civics, history, and environmental education;
- Launching of a redesigned education portal in 2013 providing lesson plans, workshops, and online Ranger chats.
A 28-member education committee of the NPS Advisory Board is providing ongoing advice and support, with leaders from national education associations, schools of education, agencies such as the Smithsonian and NASA, educators, and researchers. I’ve been honored to chair this committee, which held its annual meeting this month at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. We laid plans for “21st Century interpretation” to address complex topics such as climate change and addressing diverse audiences and stories; improving technology access in Parks and harnessing the world of apps for mobile learning experiences; and planning an education summit on the evolving role of the National Parks.
Public surveys repeatedly find NPS to be the public’s favorite federal agency. As it approaches its Centennial in 2016, “America’s Best Idea” is becoming even better in the lives and learning of its children. Watch this performance by students from Watkins Elementary School in D.C. on stage at Ford’s Theater. They are performing the words of Abraham Lincoln that led to his Gettysburg Address 150 years ago, standing in one National Park site inextricably linked to another.
Dr. Milton Chen, a senior fellow at The George Lucas Educational Foundation and chairman of the Panasonic Foundation, is a member of the NPS Advisory Board and a former trustee of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
This week’s announcement of U.S. Department of Labor’s $100 million Youth CareerConnect initiative is exciting news for our nation’s high school students, employers, and communities.
At Jobs for the Future, we believe all high schools can benefit from partnering with employers, colleges, and the workforce system to build seamless pathways through college and into technical careers. And thanks to funding from Youth CareerConnect, 25 to 40 school districts will soon join this growing movement.
For over 10 years, we have seen students excel in early college high schools that enable them to earn up to two years of free college credit or an Associate’s degree. These schools engage, support, and challenge all students—especially low-income and first-generation college goers—to pursue higher education, with excellent results.
We also see promising employer/high school partnerships nationwide, including:
- Carrollton, Georgia’s 12 for Life program (supported by Southwire, a leading wire manufacturer) where students have access to classroom instruction, on-the-job training and certificates, skill development, and employment opportunities.
- West Springfield, Massachusetts’ Pathways to Prosperity project, where students pursue careers in advanced manufacturing on pathways that connect West Springfield High School with Springfield Technical Community College and local manufacturers.
- And of course, Brooklyn’s well known P-TECH Early College High School.
We need more of these partnerships in this country to help ALL young people succeed in today’s economy and to address America’s skilled worker shortage. Youth CareerConnect can help provide a boost we need to ensure quality pathways to postsecondary credentials and high-demand careers.
Marlene B. Seltzer is President/CEO of Jobs for the Future
We have a tendency in our fast-moving world to focus on controversial-sounding soundbites, instead of the complex policy debates that underlie them. Unfortunately, I recently played into that dynamic. A few days ago, in a discussion with state education chiefs, I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret – particularly because it distracted from an important conversation about how to better prepare all of America’s students for success.
In talking about the importance of communicating about higher learning standards, I singled out one group of parents when my aim was to say that we need to communicate better to all groups – especially those that haven’t been well reached in this conversation. I have not been shy in letting the country know the enormous value of the state-led movement to prepare young people for college and careers. My goal was to urge elected leaders and educators to be more vigorous in making that case, too, particularly when recent polling shows that a majority of Americans may not even know what these higher standards are.
More rigorous standards for what students should know and be able to do have the potential to drive much-needed improvements in America’s classrooms. The state-created standards known as the Common Core are widely supported by teachers—three-quarters of whom have said in surveys that higher standards will improve instruction—and by leaders from both sides of the aisle. Republican Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, has written, “From an economic and workforce development perspective, these standards are critical.” Democratic Governor Jack Markell of Delaware has said these standards emphasize “the ability of our next generation of workers – your kids, our kids – to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world situations.”
I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation’s schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities.
This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement. Raising standards has come with challenging news in a variety of places; scores have dropped as a result of a more realistic assessment of students’ knowledge and skills.
Every parent wants the best for their children. Every parent deserves accurate information about how their kids are doing in school. And every community can be doing more to challenge all its students and bring out their individual brilliance.
As a parent of two children in public school, I know no one enjoys hearing tough news from school, but we need the truth – and we need to act on it. The truth is we should be frustrated that as students, parents, and citizens, we’ve been hiding the educational reality, particularly as other countries are rapidly passing us by in preparing their students for today and tomorrow’s economy. However, we should use this passion to say that the status quo is not acceptable and that we want more for all students.
Good communication matters, because the transition to higher standards isn’t easy. While the work of implementing reform is absolutely challenging, it’s time to come together to do what’s necessary to provide all our students the educational opportunities they truly deserve.
Let’s get back to that conversation, because it’s an important one for our country.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
Secretary Arne Duncan joined members of Congress, business and military leaders, law enforcement officials, educators and parents last week, to voice support for a landmark early learning bill. Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), the Strong Start for America’s Children Act would improve and expand high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five.
Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a new partnership with states that would provide universal, high-quality, full-day preschool for 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families. The new bill, if signed into law, will accelerate the progress that states already are making to implement high-quality preschool programs and ensure that these programs are accessible to children who need them the most.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Meredith Bajgier is a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Department of Education
In today’s increasingly competitive, global economy, we must deliver a world-class education to all students—regardless of the circumstances that they bring to their learning. This is a promise we must keep to our nation’s English learners, and to all of America’s learners. Working together at the federal, state, and local school levels, I know that we can achieve this goal.
I am committed to making this goal a reality as a researcher, educator, and as the newly appointed assistant deputy secretary and director of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) at the U.S. Department of Education. OELA supports high-quality instruction for linguistically and culturally diverse students as well as professional development programs for teachers of English learners. Our programs are supporting progress in classrooms across the country, but I know we have so much more work to do.
Recently released results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—also known as the Nation’s Report Card—show us why. Students, including English learners, made modest performance gains in reading and math. But a wide achievement gap between English learners and their English proficient peers persists. Particularly worrisome is a 45-point gap in achievement in eighth grade reading, given the importance that reading skills play in literacy development and accessing knowledge in other subjects.
I was especially disappointed that the NAEP results reflect a persistent wide achievement gap between English learners and English proficient students, portending diminished socioeconomic opportunities for the nation’s fastest growing population of students—which numbers approximately 4.7 million, or 9.4 percent of K-12 enrollment.
The achievement gap and its potential impact on our nation’s economic competitiveness serve as a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do. Ensuring that English learners are supported and educated to achieve the same rigorous learning standards for all students is not only a moral obligation; it’s an economic imperative.
America’s long-term prosperity is linked to whether English learners attain the knowledge and skills they need to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate and enter a fulfilling career that will not only afford them an enhanced lifestyle, but also ensure that they are productive contributors to our society.
This is why the Department remains committed to the advancement of English learners by including this population in large-scale education reform initiatives, such as Race to the Top, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Investing in Innovation program.
Since 2001, OELA has provided national leadership in helping to ensure that English learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success with appropriate social, emotional and cultural supports. OELA continues to oversee a number of federal funding programs that aim to improve instruction for English learners and assist educators who work with this student population.
For example, OELA’s National Professional Development (NPD) program helps to train teachers so that they may facilitate and accelerate students’ progress toward English language and academic proficiency. To date, the NPD program has achieved tremendous outcomes with more than 7,200 pre-service teachers having completed programs that led to teaching credentials. More than 6,700 in-service teachers have completed programs that have led to bilingual or English as a Second Language certification and hundreds of bilingual paraprofessionals are enrolled in and completing associate degree programs.
Another example of OELA’s support to the field includes the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School (NAANCS program. This initiative provides grants to eligible entities that support language instruction projects for limited English proficient children from Native American, Alaska Native, native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander backgrounds. The program is designed to ensure that limited English proficient children master English and meet the same rigorous standards for academic achievement that all children are expected to meet.
I’m also pleased to announce that OELA recently awarded a new contract for the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA). Under the terms of the new contract, NCELA will be given a fresh, newly designed website that will be more interactive and will include an upgraded and updated resource library. The new clearinghouse will collect, analyze, synthesize, and disseminate information about the latest research and best practices for educating English learners.
Through the new clearinghouse, OELA reaffirms its continued commitment to supporting research, technical assistance and teacher professional development. We hope that the information and resources will spur meaningful progress that moves us closer to the goal of ensuring every student’s success.
–Libia Gil is the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education
Several months ago, Vanneur Pierre, Haitian Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, invited me to visit his country and see firsthand a glimpse into the Haitian education system. Since the devastating earthquake hit in 2010 the U.S. Government has pledged its support as Haiti seeks to rebuild its economy and infrastructure, including its education system. The two days I spent in Haiti were inspiring and heartbreaking. From a school that is educating kids that live on the streets during the day to a hundred children crammed into a 7th grade classroom, the thirst and hunger for learning was incredible.
Along with visiting three schools, I had the opportunity to join USAID Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein and Senior Advisor for International Education Christie Vilsack to announce a multi-million dollar program in Haiti for USAID’s Room to Learn. This program will help to support equitable access for vulnerable children.
Each school we visited, while lacking modern amenities was full of an entrepreneurial spirit and will to learn. The school buildings were unlike anything we could imagine in this country. Most were semi-outdoor structures with little or no electricity and stark dusty walls with paint generations old. No fancy gyms, libraries or cafeterias to see, only brick, mortar and gravel to make up the landscape. Each student sat at a desk or on a bench attentively looking towards the front of the room. Classroom after classroom, student after student, each was focused on the lesson plan of the day. When the teacher spoke, you could hear a pin drop.
The first school we visited was Ecole St. Jean de Dieu, which is part of the Minister’s initiative to promote access for vulnerable school-aged children who are outside of the education system. Most of the students at this school are homeless and live on the streets during the day but attend classes in the afternoons. I met 16 year olds who were in the second grade, far behind where they should be but trying to get an education to build a better life.
While traveling through Haiti I also had the opportunity to visit the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP) program which provides university scholarships in Haiti for straight-A students from disadvantaged backgrounds. One student, overcome by her past, cried as she told me about her life’s journey. I sat and listened to the passionate and personal stories of students in this program discussed how their world was changed as a result of the opportunity to continue their education.
I visited another school, Ecole Nationale de Tabarre, an outdoor set of buildings, where I witnessed students reading books in their native tongue of creole donated by USAID’s read to learn program to make education more accessible for all children. From there we went to Lycee de Petionville, one of Haiti’s model high schools. I saw a classroom of over 100 7th graders packed into a room built for 30-40. After visiting some classrooms, I joined the basketball team for a brief scrimmage in the school’s cement courtyard and basketball court. It was a remarkable sight to see, two and three stories up an entire school looking down on the court.
The future of Haiti was looking down on me. I saw hundreds of eyes, full of optimism and hope for a better tomorrow recognizing that having a strong education can put you on a path to a better life. These children, like other Haitian children across the country, want an education and are willing to try despite the odds against them.
It’s inspiring to see so many children, teachers, and national leaders committed to making much needed investments in Haiti’s next generation. Parents and leaders in the U.S. and Haiti share a common desire to create a high quality education system for all that adequately prepares our children for success in their personal and professional lives. A strong Haiti can be built by a strong education system and a strong ministry of education. I want to continue being a good partner with President Michel Martelly, Minister Pierre and the entire Haitian government to strengthen the nation, one child at a time.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education
Cross-posted from the Joining Forces Blog.
Yesterday, Dr. Jill Biden joined Google for their announcement of a Global Impact Award to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Student Veterans of America, the Posse Foundation and Veterans of Foreign Wars to help ensure colleges and universities have the information they need to help veterans succeed in obtaining higher education.
“I have seen it in my own classroom — veterans bring the same determination and focus to their studies that they brought to serving our country,” said Dr. Biden, a lifelong educator and military mom.
Dr. Biden said the efforts were “exactly what the First Lady and I hoped to see when we started our Joining Forces initiative two years ago … individuals, businesses, and nonprofits working with the public sector to step up and do what they do best to help veterans and military families.”
Over the next few years, more than a million service men and women will end their military careers and transition back to civilian life. For many, education will be at the front line of that transition. Ensuring that our returning veterans and military families have access to the programs and resources that will help them successfully navigate their educational paths is critical.
As Dr. Biden noted, many of the student veterans she has met face unique challenges – they differ from their classmates in terms of age and experience, they often find a more relaxed schedule on campus to be very different from the rigid military schedule they are used to, and are juggling multiple priorities outside of school.
As part of Joining Forces, Dr. Biden plans to visit programs at colleges and universities around the country who are supporting veterans and military families to learn more about how successful programs can be replicated at other institutions.
One perk of having a federal student loan instead of a private student loan is that you are not required to start making payments right away. In fact, many federal student loans have a grace period*, or a set amount of time after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before you must begin repaying your student loans. For most student loans, the grace period is 6 months but in some instances, the grace period could be longer. The grace period gives you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan.
Here are four things you should do now, before your first student loan payment is due:
1. Get Organized
Start by tracking down all of your student loans. Did you know that there is a website that allows you to view all your federal student loans in one place?
Note: Don’t forget to check your personal records to see if you have private student loans.
2. Contact Your Loan Servicer
Your loan servicer is the company that will be collecting payments on your federal student loan on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. They are also there to provide support. Your loan servicer can help you choose a repayment plan, understand loan consolidation, and complete other tasks related to your federal student loan, so it’s important to maintain contact with your loan servicer. If your circumstances change at any time during your repayment period, your loan servicer will be able to help.
To find out who your loan servicer is, visit nslds.ed.gov. You may have more than one loan servicer, so it is important that you look at each loan individually.
3. Estimate Your Monthly Payments Under Different Repayment Plans
Federal Student Aid recently launched a Repayment Estimator that allows you to compare our different repayment plans side by side. Once you log in, the repayment estimator pulls in information about your federal student loans, such as your loan balance and your interest rates, and allows you to estimate what your monthly payment would be under each of our different repayment plans. It also allows you to compare the total amount you will pay for your loan over time depending on the repayment option you choose. Try it!
4. Select The Repayment Plan That Works For You
Some of the greatest benefits of federal student loans are their flexible repayment options. Take advantage of them! Although you may select or be assigned a repayment plan when you first begin repaying your student loan, you can change repayment plans at any time. There are options to tie your monthly payments to your income and even ways you can have your loans forgiven if you are a teacher or employed in certain public service jobs. Once you have determined which repayment plan is right for you, you must contact your loan servicer to officially change your repayment plan.
* Not all federal student loans have a grace period. Note that for many loans, interest will accrue during your grace period.
Nicole Callahan is a new media analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.