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Updated: 27 min 10 sec ago
Like many around the country, parents in Nevada’s Clark County School District are hungry for information about how they can support their children’s education. At a recent event hosted by the school district and its community partners, Las Vegas-area moms and dads had the chance to learn new information and find practical answers to their questions in a supportive atmosphere. “Family Enrichment Day provides an opportunity for families to connect to learning and to foster school-to-home relationships,” said Eva Melendrez, the District’s Parent Services Coordinator. “The event makes learning fun, through interactive workshops and activities for the entire family,” she added.
The Clark County School District focuses on increasing parent participation in a number of ways, with community partnerships and Parent Centers and Family Resource Centers on several campuses. Staffed by AmeriCorps volunteers, the centers focus on communities experiencing high dropout rates. They also have a district-wide Parent Engagement Forum that provides valuable two-way information and feedback concerning social and academic issues.
For the first time, the Las Vegas Alliance of Black School Educators was a co-sponsor of the event. “It was a great experience for us to start getting more African American parents and families to participate,” said Tracey Lewis, local chapter president. “We are looking forward to continuing this collaboration with the district and expanding our efforts,” she said. “This is about getting important information to families in clear, understandable ways,” she added, “so they can prepare their students for college.”
Over 400 parents representing 53 schools joined students at the Clark County family engagement fair. Staff from the U.S. Department of Education were on hand with a clear message: parents are critical partners in the educational success of their children. “We must teach our children to be critical, creative thinkers, problem solvers who will invent the next great things, who will fearlessly attack the challenges of our time and those of the future,” said keynoter Helen Littlejohn, the Department’s communications director for the western states. Littlejohn led a chant of “¡Tú tienes la fuerza!” – “You have the power!” – and shared stories of parents in communities of color supporting education.
Participants were entertained as well as informed. The day was packed with academically enriching activities in math, science and literacy, in addition to a “Let’s Go to College!” session offered by the state-funded campaign Go to College Nevada. Parents also learned some effective ways to engage with teachers, in order to better support their students.
The event was held on a college campus, to “demystify” the college environment and allow participants to grow comfortable navigating the grounds. For students and parents alike, the day at UNLV underscored the importance of great teaching and learning, and fostered the desire to finish high school and pursue higher education. Participating parents gave the day high marks, and highlighted what they’d learned, from the importance of reading with their children, to a new found confidence that the students in their family could earn a college degree.
While Nevada moves forward in developing evaluations that will hold teachers and administrators accountable for family engagement, officials are working to design additional opportunities for district-wide parent engagement, as well as supporting schools as they create school-family engagement plans. As Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky says, “Together, we can ensure the success of every student in every classroom – without exceptions, and without excuses!”
Department of Education Staff
Today, Secretary Duncan announced that ED is offering states flexibility around high stakes personnel decisions and double testing—a decision greatly influenced by educators’ voices.
His decision addresses two areas. First, states will be able to ask for an extra year beyond current plans for teacher evaluation systems before data from new assessments impacts personnel decisions for educators.
Second, during next school year (2013-2014), some schools will field test new assessments. ED will work with states to avoid double-testing students. Over-testing is a very real concern, and schools participating in the field test will receive the option to administer only one assessment in 2013-2014 to any given student— either the current statewide assessment or the field test.
Dan Brown, a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF), interviewed Secretary Duncan on his decision.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Secretary Duncan’s decision doesn’t come out of the blue. In fact, it was significantly influenced by discussions with teachers around the country. As full-time TAFs, teachers on temporary release from our schools to bring teacher perspective to federal policy-makers, we were literally at the table— and consistently asked to provide educator voice to the high level discussions being held.
In the interest of hearing and elevating teachers’ voices, the 12 members of our TAF team (six full-time Fellows and six part-time Classroom Fellows) traveled to 34 states over the past year and held discussions with well over 4,000 teachers. Teachers, who are the actual implementers for these reforms, are uniquely positioned to offer candid, authentic advice about how to make these urgently needed reforms work best for students.
As Arne describes in the video, we heard from teachers over and over about the unprecedented level of change and reform going on throughout the country as states transition to new standards, new assessments, and new teacher evaluation systems.
Overwhelmingly, we heard support from teachers around the country for raising standards that will ensure students can compete in the global economy. At the same time however, we also heard widespread concern that teachers need time, models, and quality professional development to teach to the new standards effectively. In states where there is a strong commitment to collaboration, teachers feel more empowered, supported, and positive about the current state of reform efforts.
From our vantage point, we believe that the Department and Secretary Duncan are committed to learning from educators. This offer of flexibility reflects the Department’s responsiveness to teachers’ voices. Whether states request the flexibility or not, we hope that we all hear the needs expressed by teachers across the country to make this significant transition sustainably, with room and support for innovation and cycles of professional learning.
Cynthia Apalinski, Jennifer Bado-Aleman, Dan Brown, Kareen Borders, Lisa Clarke, and Marciano Gutierrez are the 2012-2013 Full-Time Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education.
Over the last four years, states and school districts across America have embraced an enormous set of urgent challenges with real courage: raising standards to prepare young people to compete in the global economy, developing new assessments, rebuilding accountability systems to meet the needs of each state and better serve at-risk students, and adopting new systems of support and evaluation for teachers and principals. Meeting this historic set of challenges all at once asks more of everybody, and it’s a tribute to the quality of educators, leaders, and elected officials across this country that so many have stepped up.
One crucial change has been the state-led effort to voluntarily raise standards. That effort dates back to 2006, when a bipartisan core of leaders – governors, state superintendents, business people — came together because they recognized that America’s students needed to be prepared to compete in a global economy that demanded more than basic skills. They began a movement that has ended up with nearly every state adopting standards that reflect the knowledge and skills young people actually need to succeed in college and careers. Especially in communities where students historically have not been held to high standards, this state-led push is nothing less than a civil rights issue.
To put student learning squarely at the center of school decisions, states agreed to evaluate principals and teachers based in part on student growth, as measured by test scores, along with measures like principal observation, peer review, feedback from parents and students, and classroom work. These commitments became part of waiver agreements that have helped states dispense with the most broken parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The US Department of Education also provided $350 million to two consortia of states to develop online assessments, benchmarked to the new standards, which will improve significantly on today’s “bubble tests.” All but a few states have agreed to implement these new evaluation systems by the 2015-16 school year.
The result of these reforms has been a level of change unprecedented in recent memory. As states and districts implement new systems, teachers and principals are committed to doing this work well, including mastering new standards that, for many, are revamping teaching. In surveys, teachers have embraced these higher standards, and say that a greater emphasis on critical thinking, literature and real-world problem solving speaks to what they love about teaching. We have heard the same thing in hundreds of conversations with educators about this transition.
Yet many educators, and a number of state chiefs, have said: let’s hold off on the consequences for teachers and principals while they come up to speed.
These concerns are real and honest. Some states have actually begun to implement new evaluation systems, others are starting next year, and some are waiting until 2015-16. Our administration wants to be as flexible as possible to address these issues, because it is important that teachers and instructional leaders are comfortable and confident with the new learning materials.
With that in mind, I sent a letter to state chiefs today telling them that our administration is open to requests for flexibility with the deadline for implementing new systems of evaluating principals and teachers. States that request and are given this flexibility can delay any personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new assessments for up to one year, until 2016-17. Some states are well underway and are unlikely to seek a delay. Others may want more time. In a country as diverse as ours, one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work, so we will work with each state individually to find the right path and the right pace. This change affects only the timeline for teacher and principal evaluation; schools and districts accountability timelines will not change.
States must have solid plans to provide teachers support to help them make this transition, and to survey teachers about their comfort with the new standards.
Any delay has real consequences for real students in the real world. Their readiness has real consequences for their lives and the nation’s economic health. Yet this effort will only succeed if all parties – and especially teachers and principals — have the time, resources and support needed to make the journey from the often inadequate standards of the past to the ambitious standards of tomorrow.
I also want to address the issue of “double-testing,” which will arise during the 2013-2014 school year, when some schools will field test new assessments. Often, during a transition from one test to another, some small proportion of students take both tests. While field testing new assessments is necessary for a successful transition to the new tests, this can lead to administering two end-of-year tests to some students in the same year, which can add stress for students. We want to support states that would like to avoid double-testing students. Therefore, we are open to any state impacted by double-testing to request a one-year waiver to allow schools that participate in a field test to have students take only one end-of-year test. In those schools, provisions for school-level accountability would stay the same for a year, as would intervention plans that support low-performing students – we want to make sure there’s no reduction in the intensity of support for such students.
The coming changes will not always be smooth—implementation of changes this significant is hard work. There will be delays and technical stumbles. We recognize that until new assessments are in place, states will continue to use existing tests. Yet we also know that it would be a mistake to simply stop assessment until the transition is complete, because we know that it is our most vulnerable students who are hurt when we fail to assess students’ learning and make decisions based on their growth. And, as standards rise, scores in some states will fall—erroneously suggesting that our students’ performance is headed the wrong direction. That is simply not true; this will give us both a new baseline and a more honest assessment of both student achievement and achievement gaps. The unavoidable truth is that raising standards and improving systems is hard work, requiring collaboration and trust at all levels. There’s not just one answer, and not all states will choose to be part of the process—as is their right.
This is really hard work, but let’s remember what it’s all about. This is about our children and our collective future. This is about raising the bar to ensure they are able to compete in the global economy. This is about strengthening the teaching profession. It’s about creating the systems of feedback and support that teachers want and need to personalize education, focus resources, and give every child the attention he or she needs. This is about holding ourselves accountable at every level for ensuring that all children – and especially those most at-risk – have an opportunity to succeed and compete.
Because students can’t wait, we need states to move forward as fast as possible but to do so in a way that ultimately strengthens teaching and learning.
This decision ensures that the rollout of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace, but that states that need it will have some flexibility in when they begin using student growth data for high-stakes decisions.
Just as I expect that all students in every classroom learn at their highest level, so do I expect our entire system, including myself, to be a great learner. Together with teachers, school leaders, and families, we will continue to learn how to make these changes well, and will make adjustments along the way. It’s what we need to do to get this right.
Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education.
This post also appeared on SmartBlogs on Education.
This was originally posted on the HealthCare.gov blog.
To the Class of 2013:
This is a time when you’re making big decisions about the future. You might be embarking on a new career, transitioning to a different city, and thinking about the start of this next exciting stage in life.
I’m sure the last thing you’re thinking about is health insurance. But unfortunately, the unexpected can happen.
The good news is that now the Affordable Care Act provides protections and benefits that give you greater control of your health care. The law helps you by:
- Making it possible to stay on your parent’s health plan until you turn 26, giving you the flexibility to make choices about your future without worrying about where you’re going to get health insurance.
- Requiring most insurance plans to cover proven preventive services—like birth control and certain cancer screenings—without you paying a penny.
- Barring insurers, beginning in 2014, from denying you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, like cancer, asthma, or acne, or making you pay more just because you are a woman.
- Creating an online Health Insurance Marketplace, where you can find coverage that meets your needs and budget. You can also find out if you qualify for financial assistance.Sign up now at HealthCare.gov for updates; enrollment begins October 1, 2013.
Bottom line: Because of the Affordable Care Act, you’ll be able to begin this next chapter of your life with the peace of mind and security health insurance provides.
Congratulations on your achievement!
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the final day of The Cable Show, the cable industry’s huge annual conference, along with Secretary Duncan and several other colleagues here at the Department. Secretary Duncan delivered the keynote speech and participated in a lively panel discussion addressing, among other things, the potential of technology to be a great equalizer in education. After highlighting technology’s promise, he described the vexing problem that stands in the way of realizing it: most of our nation’s schools don’t have fast enough Internet connections to create 21st century learning experiences using 21st century technology.
At its core, that’s what President Obama’s ConnectED initiative is all about: equipping our schools and our teachers with the tools they need to harness the power of technology to better serve our nation’s students.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Sujeet Rao is a special assistant in ED’s Office of Innovation & Improvement.
As a former middle school math teacher, at the end of every academic year, I worried about what would happen to my students when they entered high school. I often wished they had different options, including more career and technical education (CTE) schools that would prepare them for the demands of a high-tech economy.
Last week, I participated in a roundtable discussion at Aviation High School in Long Island City, N.Y., where Secretary Arne Duncan spoke with students about their experiences. This school is an example of a CTE school I would have loved to see my students attend.
With a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, Aviation High School prepares students for careers in aviation maintenance and the aerospace industry. In addition to traditional classrooms, the school has 17 real aircraft where students practice repairing planes.
Secretary Duncan highlighted this school as a compelling example of what the Obama administration is trying to replicate through the High School Redesign initiative proposal. This new, competitive grant program would encourage school districts to rethink the traditional high school model and focus on providing rigorous real-world experiences to students that will put them on a path for success in both college and careers.
Through grants to local educational agencies in partnership with colleges, universities, and other organizations—such as nonprofits and community-based groups—the High School Redesign initiative will challenge schools to personalize learning. Redesigned high schools will customize content and instructional practices so that students not only master challenging academic concepts and skills, but also pursue their individual interests.
Further, these schools will align teaching and learning so that all students graduate with college-level coursework or college credit and career-related experiences and skills.
Today’s high-tech, knowledge economy requires that our schools connect learning to what students will be required to do in college and careers.
Located close to two New York airports, Aviation High School has strong partnerships with local businesses, such as JetBlue, that provide internships and mentoring for students. As one student said, “What we learn here, we apply it in real world situations.”
During the roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan, Aviation High School students discussed how hands-on experiences through internships and other job-related experiences help them to perform well in traditional academic subjects like physics and math.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew further emphasized this point, “We know students in this program outperform on academics because they are engaged in the learning process.”
Many students talked about the pride and accomplishment they felt as a result of their work at the school. One said, “When you actually work on a plane and watch it take off, that’s a good feeling.”
Students also emphasized how teachers and mentors challenged them and prepared them with skills they planned to use after graduation as they pursue college or aviation careers.
When asked how high schools in the nation could provide similar experiences for other students, one student replied, “You have to start that fire. Get that spark. Make them determined to be successful.” Aviation High School is a powerful model that is clearly sparking so many of its students to succeed.
For more information about the High School Redesign initiative, please see here.
Nicora Placa is a full-time Ph.D student at NYU researching teaching and learning mathematics, and a 2008 Teaching Ambassador Fellow.
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The Department of Education is proud to announce that the first-ever Principal Ambassador Fellowship has officially launched!
The Principal Ambassador Fellowship has been modeled after the Teacher Ambassador Fellowship that the Department has offered since 2008. Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the program to the public at a National Association of Secondary School Principals conference on February 28 this year. The Secretary noted that after Department staff spent a day shadowing principals across the DC area, one of the participants highlighted the lack of principals’ voices in dialogues surrounding education policy. The PAF program is meant to recognize the important impact that a principal has on instructional leadership, the school environment, and talent management.
Like the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows, Principal Ambassador Fellows will spend a year gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies, in addition to the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. Fellows will share their expertise with federal staff members; provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department; and facilitate the involvement and understanding of educators in developing and implementing these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success.
The U.S. Department of Education believes that principals should have meaningful opportunities to both contribute to and understand the policies that impact their students, faculty and staff, and school communities. In order to implement needed reforms, all stakeholders, especially principals, must understand the intent of policy and be engaged in the outcomes.
As the Principal Ambassador Fellowship is just getting underway, ED is only considering Campus Principal Ambassador Fellows for 2013-2014. The Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship enables principals to participate on a part-time basis from their home locations for the Department, in addition to their regular school responsibilities, working in collaboration with the Department’s Regional and Federal Offices.
We recognize that the two programs, the Principal Ambassador Fellowship and Teacher Ambassador Fellowship, will need to differ because of the different nature and responsibilities associated with each job. The first class of Fellows will therefore also be tasked with helping us design and shape the program for future years to be more beneficial for the role of principals.
We invite principals to apply for the 2013-2014 school year by July 16, 2013 at 11:59 PM EDT. To access the application and view eligibility requirements, please visit www.usajobs.gov and apply for the Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship.
We hope you consider applying, and encourage you to share this information with your colleagues! You can also sign up to receive further updates, and call 1-800-USA-LEARN or email us at PrincipalFellowship@ed.gov with questions.
Note: Some schools may use different terminology than “principal.” A candidate is considered eligible despite titling differences, provided that s/he is the highest administrative official in the school building.
Joshua Klaris is the 2013- 2014 Resident Principal at the U.S. Department of Education
“Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge: to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”
- President Barack Obama, February 12. 2013
When President Obama spoke those words in this year’s State of the Union address, I felt like cheering. As a science teacher, it’s my job to help students fall in love with learning and explore important questions about how the world works. I also know the principles and problem-solving skills they’re mastering will help them succeed in today’s competitive global economy, where science, technology, engineering and math (or “STEM”) careers are on the rise. And, through fellowships with the U.S. Department of Education, I’ve been paying even closer attention to how the Obama Administration’s proposals affect my work.
The President’s High School Redesign plan would invest in programs that re-invigorate the American high school experience for the 21st century. Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and collaborating more closely with postsecondary, business and community partners are two ways that high schools can re-think their current model. I recently had an opportunity to visit a school that’s using both of these strategies when I accompanied Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, on a trip to Cleveland High School in Seattle, Wash.
As teachers and school leaders across the country think about implementing the President’s plan, there’s a lot we can learn from schools that have already started down this path. Cleveland High School was restructured as a STEM-themed school four years ago, and according to the principal, Princess Shareef, “There was no template set for us.” Instead, school leaders and staff had the freedom to innovate, meeting every week and including parents, employers and other partners in designing a new approach. The result? A high school in South Seattle that provides a college-and-career-ready curriculum through project-based learning, and connects students with mentors from the surrounding community.
During classroom walk-throughs, we spent time in a computer engineering class and talked with students engaged in a reverse-engineering assignment. In this hands-on design project, students choose an everyday object like a toy car or a mechanical pencil, measure the object using calibration tools, design and draw blueprints, transform the blueprints into multi-view drawings, and create a mock assembly. The students we met clearly understand and excel in their subject. They’re also confident that what they’re learning will empower them in the future.
One student said, “It’s really nice to have experience with the computer-aided design, and this will help with job preparedness. Most [engineering] jobs are looking for experience in graphic design.” Another added, “I’m learning how to solve problems and to communicate with my team every day. This is important for my career in the future.”
These students realize that, in today’s marketplace, they need even more technical skills and experience. The days of working in isolation are over: problem-solving and teamwork skills are essential for success in the 21st century. At Cleveland High School, students learn to be effective collaborators through project-based learning.
As one student explained, “We get graded on work as a team. Communication is important and there are instances when the group doesn’t function and so you have to learn how to communicate in a better way. You also learn how to speak for yourself and develop a voice.” A business leader at the table drew an appreciative laugh from the group by noting, “Yes, just like in the real world.”
Equipped with a full range of academic, technical and employability skills, students at Cleveland High School will be ready for the demands of the world that awaits them after graduation. That’s good news for them and for the employers in their region. It’s also great news for the country.
As Dean of Students Catherine Brown told the assembled students, employers and civic leaders that, by coming together to re-engineer Cleveland High School, “You’re not just thinking of your industry—you’re thinking about the common good of society.” By focusing on relevant, real-world skills; by making STEM-themed learning, wrap-around services and broad-based partnerships a vital part of each school day; and by graduating college-and-career-ready students, this re-engineered high school is preparing the next generation of U.S. leaders in some of tomorrow’s most exciting professions.
Dr. Kareen Borders is a Regional Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education
Today’s Lunch Menu: Tenacious Turkey Chili with a side of Sunshine Fries and a helping of Jalapeno- Infused Peach Crumble for dessert. Sounds delicious, right? Well believe it or not, this mouth-watering meal is not only tasty, affordable, and healthy- but was made entirely by high school students.
On Monday, June 10th, the U.S. Department of Education hosted student chefs from high school culinary programs as part of Cooking up Change, presented by the Healthy Schools Campaign. This healthy cooking contest puts student front and center by challenging them to create a great-tasting lunch that meets nutrition standards on a tight budget. After winning first place in their local Cooking up Change competition, eight teams of student chefs traveled to Washington to lend their voices, and their culinary creativity, to the national conversation about the future of food in our schools.
Picking the winner went beyond the taste buds. Each team was asked to discuss the inspiration for their meal and the various challenges they faced throughout the process. Many cited their culture as the basis for their dish. Team Memphis gave a shout out to famous Southern BBQ with their BBQ Chicken Tacos while Team Los Angeles stayed true to their roots with their Tex-Mex Cornbread and Black Bean Mountain dish- both equally delicious! The challenges were a common theme throughout the teams. Each team was given strict guidelines of 10 ingredients with a budget that mirrors the constraints that schools face across the country. These student-designed meals have been seen on school lunch menus across the country, including their very own cafeterias, proving that cafeteria food can truly be both balanced and delicious!
With full stomachs and smiles all around, the winning team was chosen. Team Orange County, Cesar Amezcua, Cecilia Magana and Carlos Ortiz, culinary students from Valley High School took home the top prize for their dish “Pita Packs a Punch,” with Hot and Sweet Slaw and Delicious Apple Crepes. Not only was their dish healthy and packed with flavor, but their stories were inspirational. The students spoke of their plans to attend vocational colleges to achieve their dream of becoming executive chefs, each will be the first in his or her family to attend college.
“This was so important to us because we want to make a difference in our school”, said Amezcua, and he was able to achieve just that.
Congrats Team Orange County and to all the student chefs! And of course, many thanks to those who help our students learn the importance of healthy lifestyles.
Kelsey Donohue works in the Office of Communication and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
There is so much need, and so much potential, to bring innovation to the learning of our students. Several events over the past two weeks have left me charged with enthusiasm about what’s possible: a real upgrade for the education of all students. From my trip to Mooresville, NC with President Obama last week to my experiences at the Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World conference in Washington, DC on May 28-29, I sense a groundswell of excitement and support for a new approach to learning that is better designed for our times.
We co-hosted the Reimagining Education conference with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation because we know that none of this will be accomplished by government alone. Together, we convened teachers, leaders, academics, advocates and entrepreneurs from many different sectors to think about designing student and teacher learning experiences for today and, more importantly, for a future that we cannot even imagine. The result was a rich discussion and a series of concrete recommendations for new approaches that will better engage, inspire, and prepare students.
Critical to supporting our students’ success is making sure the latest technologies are available and integrated into their learning environments. In this digital age, with tools like open online courses, handheld tablets, and enhanced learning diagnostics, we have the capability to give each student a personalized learning experience tailored to their interests and needs, and the opportunity to give every teacher the advanced tools and training that they deserve.
That is why I was thrilled to join President Obama this past Thursday to announce our plan, called ConnectED, to equip our schools with 21st century technology. The President challenged the nation to work with us to meet the goal of providing high-speed broadband internet to 99% of students within five years. Countries around the world are outpacing us in providing high-speed Internet to their students and their investments are getting results. Through the ConnectED initiative, we can level the playing field and give our students the best chance to succeed in the global economy.
During President Obama’s visit to Mooresville, the words of Professor John Seely Brown resonated with me. He kicked off the Reimaging Education conference by outlining a vision for a dynamic learning environment in which we “teach content, mentor skills, and cultivate dispositions.” This means we must expand our idea of the classroom beyond daily lectures and homework assignments. Our students need to experiment, engage, and create in the areas they find truly exciting. Schools are a crucial part of that vision, and better access to technology and the worlds that technology puts at our fingertips, is an essential part of this work.
To accomplish this, we need mentors, employers and artists working together in new ways to get all of our students involved and interested in their own learning. This doesn’t mean diminishing the role of teachers. Nothing can replace the importance of having a great teacher working with students. This does mean redesigning the school environment and its connection to what takes place outside of school so that teachers are not limited by their classroom. Often it is the limitations of the system and the technology that keep them from getting the access and the support that they need.
I often hear people say that students are dropping out because school is “too hard.” But I think it’s more often the opposite: they think it’s too easy and they do not see the relevance to their daily lives.
In the days since the summit and the President’s call for a modernization of E-rate and a better connected education system, several exciting commitments and projects have been announced that further support this approach of connecting learning to student’s passions and real world experiences. The MacArthur Foundation’s upcoming Summer of Making and Connecting and the Department’s Connected Educator Month, scheduled for October, will provide limitless opportunities to engage students and teachers in their own learning.
The President and I are committed to this work in our budget proposal as well. Our high school redesign proposal—a plan introduced by President Obama at this year’s State of the Union—would establish a $300 million program to support innovative high school models that better link students to college and careers, providing the relevant experiences that our students want and need. The high schools supported by this program would prepare students for both college and the workforce—a preparation that is not an either/or proposition.
These are all steps in the right direction. We’re planting seeds that will bear fruit in the years to come, and we must act now. These changes are about whether we want to be leaders or laggards as a nation in achieving great futures for our students. In order to provide the best education in the world again, we must develop educational opportunities and resources that excite and prepare all of our students. Technology alone won’t solve this, but we also cannot succeed without it.
Teacher José Rodriguez, with whom I participated in a panel discussion at the Reimagining Education conference, best summarized the importance of this work when he said: “Many of my students asked me why I was absent the last two days. As I tried to explain to them my experience at Reimagining Education, I looked them all straight in the eye with excitement and said, ‘I went to their future. What I saw there was beautiful.’” Let’s make that future today’s reality.
Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Every student who wants the opportunity deserves a high-quality postsecondary education. For what? For lifelong success, not only in his or her educational pursuits, but for long-term success in the workforce, in civic life and – ultimately – for the personal and professional rewards that come from living a life of accomplishment, contribution, and satisfaction! At the U.S. Department of Education, we are keenly focused on how to use the various federal levers for change and improvement at our disposal to encourage successful student outcomes and improved educational performance, institutional, state-level and national. As the president has said, we all share responsibility to provide educational opportunity and value. The accreditation community is an important partner in this work and plays a key role both in assuring a basic level of quality and in improving quality.
While the United States has some of the world’s best postsecondary institutions, we also have too many that are of poor quality, with track records that give their students little chance of attaining the postsecondary credentials and preparation that they intended to earn—and that are so vital in today’s society and economy. The College Scorecard that we introduced earlier this year highlights the differences among different institutions related to net price, degree completion and student debt repayment all too starkly. Making performance transparent is a lever we are using to highlight success and fix the most pressing of our problems.
But these indicators are only indicative of a part of educational performance. We also need to know whether students are successfully achieving the level of learning they need for lifelong success in work, civic participation, and life. And we need to ensure that high-quality learning is affordable.
President Obama and Secretary Duncan are strongly committed to strengthening collaboration for results with the nation’s diverse accreditation stakeholders to clarify, simplify and improve accreditation processes, with a more targeted, rigorous focus on value and affordability. When President Obama announced his proposals for the FY2014 budget, he called on the accreditation community to work with the Administration to:
“…consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in making determinations about which colleges and universities receive access to federal student aid, either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results.”
Responding to recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), last week our Department announced its intention to strengthen and better focus the accrediting agency recognition process. Eight regional and 47 national accrediting organizations seeking renewal of their recognition from the federal government will benefit from a streamlined review process, which will focus in more depth on about 25 of up to 93 criteria that are most relevant to assessing institutional quality and the quality of student learning. This will result in a better, more targeted process that is simpler and less burdensome for accrediting agencies, NACIQI and the federal government. It is our hope and expectation that these improvements will also enable the postsecondary institutions they accredit to focus additional time and effort on quality enhancement and value.
With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act commencing next year, the Department is also eager to engage in broader conversations with the postsecondary education community and its stakeholders (e.g., students, families, businesses, non-profits, states, philanthropies, etc.) about proposals to improve the accreditation processes to increase quality—with particular attention to value and affordability.
If we define value as high quality at an affordable cost, how can we help to ensure that we achieve it? We are looking to the accreditation community and stakeholders to help us understand and measure such concepts as “quality,” “affordability” and “value” in ways that honor and preserve the diversity of our postsecondary landscape, yet hold all of us accountable for learning and completion outcomes and their improvement. We need far more attention to qualitative and quantitative methods that can strengthen institutional quality and student learning outcomes.
This effort to strengthen the accreditation process is just one example of how the Department is working to improve quality, while also increasing access, affordability, and completion. We will also continue to address value by encouraging innovation, whether through new developments in competency-based education, new validation models that can demonstrate what students know and can do, new attention to the faculty role in high quality learning, and/or alternative accreditation systems designed to produce high quality student outcomes at an affordable price. Experimentation, innovation and reliable evidence must drive the effort to achieve better student outcomes, both in terms of completion and in terms of demonstrated achievement; thus the great need for more and better postsecondary R&D.
In the months ahead, we look forward to engaging in an ongoing and robust national dialogue with our partners and stakeholders about accreditation and other ways we can improve quality in America’s postsecondary education, with a far clearer understanding of, and focus on, value and affordability.
Martha J. Kanter is the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and David Soo is a Policy Advisor for the Office of the Under Secretary.
Yesterday, President Obama and Secretary Duncan launched the ConnectED initiative—a call to connect 99 percent of schools across the country to broadband Internet within five years. The President issued this challenge while visiting North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District, one of the most heralded examples of tech-infused education in the country. Mooresville, one of the lowest-funded districts in North Carolina, invested six years ago in a district-wide “digital conversion,” and has since leapfrogged to top of the state rankings.
The Internet is a powerful tool for putting engaging learning resources, on-demand explanations of concepts, and primary documents and tools for solving real-world problems into the hands of students and teachers. Yet today, most US schools lack the bandwidth to support using these digital learning resources in the classroom.
President Obama described fixing that problem as an essential step in the high-quality education that will keep America a leader in an increasingly competitive global economy.
“Today, the average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home,” the President said in Mooresville. “Only around 20 percent of our students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classroom. By comparison, South Korea has 100 percent of its kids with high-speed Internet. … In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”
Because of those digital deficits, the learning experience in these schools is the most un-connected part of the day for many students and teachers. Without broadband access, students can be constrained by the limits of resources at their specific schools. Yesterday, the President has called on all of us to close that gap and ensure that all students and teachers—regardless of geography or income—can access the rich opportunities afforded by digital learning that the students and teachers from Mooresville have enjoyed.
But this is not just about cables and wires. As Mooresville superintendent Mark Edwards has explained, “It’s about changing the culture of instruction—preparing students for their future, not our past.” Ensuring connectivity in the hands of students and teachers is a catalyst for reimagining the learning experience itself by enabling personalized learning and connectivity to experts.
“Imagine a young girl growing up on a farm in a rural area who can now take an AP biology or AP physics class, even if her school is too small to offer it,” President Obama said in his Mooresville remarks. “Imagine a young boy with a chronic illness that means he can’t go to school, but now he can join his classmates via Skype or FaceTime and fully participate in what’s going on.”
The ConnectED initiative will also invest in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training to use technology to help improve student outcomes. The Department of Education will work with states and school districts to better use existing funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to strategically invest in professional development to help teachers keep pace with changing technological and professional demands.
The following are the key elements of the ConnectED initiative outlined by the President:
Upgraded Connectivity: Within five years, connect 99 percent of America’s students and teachers to broadband and high-speed wireless at speeds no less than 100 Mbps. The President called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately modernize and leverage the existing E-Rate program, and leverage the expertise of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to deliver this connectivity to states, districts, and schools.
Trained Teachers: The ConnectED initiative will invest in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training to use technology to help improve student outcomes. The Department of Education will work with states and school districts to better use existing funds through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to strategically invest in professional development that supports teachers to provide a technology-enabled education to their students.
Build on Private-Sector Innovation: These investments will allow our teachers and students to take full advantage of feature-rich educational devices that are increasingly price-competitive with basic textbooks and high-quality educational software providing content aligned with college- and career-ready standards being adopted and implemented by states across America.
Today’s teachers face the responsibility of preparing students to thrive in a world of ever-rising expectations and an ever-widening pool of international competition for jobs. In response to the widely recognized need for increased rigor, 46 states and the District of Columbia are currently in the process of transitioning to new, college- and career-ready standards. We can’t afford to deny teachers the tech-supported teaching tools they need to ensure that students achieve to these standards and do their best work every day.
As Secretary Duncan put it to reporters aboard Air Force One yesterday, technology is “a game changer” that empowers students and helps teachers. “Teachers can collaborate across the country with their peers. They can individualize instruction in ways that just hasn’t been able to happen historically… If we can invest to create access to high-speed broadband, we open up a new world of educational opportunity.”
Richard Culatta is the acting director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.
As a teacher, I have an axe to grind with how teachers are perceived by many folks outside the education system. Too often we are caricatured as either saviors or deadbeats, and both outsized images impoverish the discourse on how to improve education for all students.
As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education— a teacher on release from my school for a year to help bring educator voice to the policy world— I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary Duncan to pick his brain on perceptions of teachers and how he thinks we can improve them.
His answers, seen in the video below, touch in part on the recently released RESPECT Blueprint, a framework for elevating the teaching profession, developed over the past two years through discussions with thousands of educators.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Your comments and questions for future segments of #AskArne are most welcome. Feel free to add them in the comments section here, on Facebook, or on Twitter at #AskArne.
Dan Brown is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education for the 2012-13 school year. He is a National Board Certified Teacher at The SEED Public Charter School of Washington, D.C
The consensus is in: High-quality preschool provides our country’s children with the social, emotional and academic skills needed for school and for life. This is also the message that individuals and organizations across the country are highlighting today as part of the national Early Learning Day of Action. Bringing attention to high-quality early learning in important because not only do these programs help close the school readiness gap, but they place our children in the best position possible to succeed.
In this new video below, educators provide personal testimony on how high-quality early learning positively affected their students. The teachers speak passionately about how students who had access to pre-K were ahead of their peers socially and academically. (You’ll also hear some early learners talk about why they like preschool.) Watch and listen for yourself:
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Read about President Obama’s proposal to dramatically increase access to high-quality preschool and expand early learning and support services for infants, toddlers and families. You can also see how the proposal would affect your state by checking out these state-by-state fact sheets.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education
The Department of Education (ED) is the place where you can explore your interests in education policy research and analysis, or intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or even work with social media while learning about the role Federal Government plays in education.
If the above appeals to you, then an internship at ED may be right for you. Not only will an internship at ED provide an opportunity to learn first-hand about federal education policy while developing a variety of other skills, including writing, researching, communication and time-management skills, but interns also participate in group intern events, such as brownbag lunches with ED officials, movie nights and local tours. One of the many advantages to an ED internship is the proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the metro.
ED is accepting applications for Fall 2013, starting June 1st through July 15th. If you are interested in interning for the upcoming fall term, there are three materials you must send before being considered for an interview:
- A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the line of education, if any. Include here what particular offices interest you, keeping in mind that due to the volume of applications received, you may not be awarded with your first-choice office upon acceptance.
- An updated resume.
- A completed copy of the Intern Application.
Once these three documents are finalized, prospective interns should send them in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Fall Intern Application.
(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel (OGC), please see application requirements here)
An internship at ED is one of the best ways a student can learn about education policy and working in the civil service, but it is not limited to this. Your internship at ED is where you will develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose, and it is also where you will meet fellow students like yourself, who share your passions for education, learning, and engagement.
Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.
De’Rell Bonner works in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach
Every parent wants their child to have opportunities for lifelong success – and that starts with getting kids off to a strong start. All of our nation’s students deserve a chance to compete on a level playing field, but too many children – especially those from disadvantaged communities – start kindergarten already behind.
We know expanding high-quality early learning opportunities is simply one of the best investments we can make as a country, and President Obama has proposed to dramatically increase access to high-quality preschool and expand early learning and support services for infants, toddlers and families.
Today, the White House released state-by-state fact sheets, outlining what states could expect to receive in federal funding to expand these early learning initiatives in their states.
The President’s proposal builds upon the strong work already done by states across the country. Governors from states as diverse as Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia all called for expanded access to preschool to more 4-year-olds. These state leaders – regardless of party affiliation – recognize that early learning helps prepare young children for educational success, provides crucial support for families, and ultimately strengthens our nation’s economy.
The White House fact sheets explain how the President’s plan will:
- provide high-quality preschool for all 4 year olds,
- invest in high-quality infant and toddler early learning and development and
- expand effective parent and family supports.
These investments – financed through a mixture of federal funding and a partnership with states – will help close America’s school readiness gap and ensure that children enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
The benefits of investing in early education are well-documented. Research has shown that high-quality early learning programs and services improve young children’s health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes; enhance school readiness; and help close the school readiness gaps that exist between children with high needs and their peers.
President Obama understands that the stubborn opportunity gap that confronts far too many American children and limits their life chances often begins before they even enter school kindergarten.
Together these investments can continue to close achievement gaps, provide life transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class.
Cameron French is the deputy press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education
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During our recent visit to San Antonio, we had the opportunity to learn how community organizations and schools are working together to engage families in education.
We heard from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro how the community has rallied to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten education. In November, San Antonio residents approved funding for Pre-K for San Antonio that will provide over 22,000 four year olds with high-quality pre-K. President Obama has put forth a “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which calls for a partnership with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school.
We joined a family engagement convening hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and we were able to see first-hand the work of two-generation approaches to education development at AVANCE and the Intercultural Development Research Association.
During our visit to the Eastside Promise Neighborhood we learned how family and community engagement efforts being led by the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are moving forward the three goals of Together for Tomorrow:
- They are laying the groundwork by dedicating staff and volunteers to cultivate and sustain partnerships;
- They are focusing on the ABCs, Attendance, Behavior, Course Performance, and College Access through things like parent volunteers doing visits to homes when students are repeatedly absent; and
- They are celebrating and inspiring families and community members to get involved through events that are organized and executed by parents.
We also organized a community discussion to share about Together for Tomorrow, to learn more about local promising practices and examples of school-family partnerships, and to gather feedback to shape the Department’s family engagement efforts. Hedy Chang from Attendance Works joined us to announce a new toolkit, Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence
The event was live streamed and the video is available here. We were joined by our partners, the National Center for Family Literacy, and will be working with them over the coming months to deepen our family and community engagement efforts with Together for Tomorrow.
Brenda Girton-Mitchell is director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education
Today, a group of over 300 business leaders representing 44 states signed a letter calling on President Obama and Congress to invest in early learning programs. These CEOs, chambers of commerce and business roundtables represent large companies like Delta Airlines and PNC Financial Services Group and smaller companies like Scope View Strategic Advantage in Charlotte, NC and C.H. Briggs Company in Reading, PA. Regardless of their location, size or scope of business, all agreed on one thing; investing in early childhood education is the right thing to do for our nation’s children.
“We rarely have the luxury,” their letter says, “of making business investment decisions with as much evidence as we have to support the economic value of investing in early care and education.”
Earlier this year, President Obama put forth a “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, and the Department is currently seeking input from stakeholders on the president’s plan for the federal government to partner with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America.
The President’s proposal is for a deficit-neutral investment of $75 billion over 10 years to create new partnerships with states to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds. An additional $750 million will provide competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems. Combined, the proposal will raise the quality of all early learning programs and will align current investments, including home visitation, creating a birth to age 5 pipeline of services and support that prepares children for kindergarten and beyond.
This plan is entirely consistent with the business leaders’ declaration that, “Early care and education is not a partisan issue. It is an American competitiveness issue that impacts all of us,” and with their support for the adoption of policies that “give all children the chance to fulfill their potential and create the best workforce and economy in the world.”
Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school. And because behavioral skills highly valued by employers, such as self-discipline, persistence and cooperation, start in the youngest years and last a lifetime, President Obama and Secretary Duncan agree that quality early childhood programs have a significant and positive impact on the American workforce, customer base, economy and nation we need in a 21st century environment.
For more information and to read the full text of the letter, please visit: www.readynation.org/signatories-business-letter
Cameron French is the Deputy Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education
Recently, President Obama delivered the commencement speech for the 2013 graduating class of Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia.
The President, a longtime supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) chose to deliver this commencement address at Morehouse because of its rich history and legacy of graduating generations of leaders including Maynard Jackson, Julian Bond, Shelton “Spike” Lee, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Institutions like Morehouse, play an important role in producing skilled college graduates and reaching President Obama’s ambitious goal for the United States to lead the world in number of college graduates by 2020.
In his commencement address, President Obama spoke of the values necessary for the graduates of Morehouse to succeed in the 21st century global economy. He discussed individual and collective responsibilities for Morehouse men, who are advocates and holders of the “power of example”. President Obama encouraged the graduates to use their power for “something larger than yourself.”
President Obama stated:
“Whatever success I have achieved, whatever positions of leadership I’ve held, have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of connection and empathy, the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most; people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had—because there, but for the grace of God, go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me…”
The President used these words and his entire speech to outline the important steps all graduates must make as they enter the workforce and begin their contribution to the larger society. The overarching message was simple and familiar; we are all in this together.
The Morehouse graduate of today is the role model of tomorrow. The President remarked that the graduates before him were part of, “A legacy of leaders—not just in our black community, but in our broader American community.”
The message the President communicated was important for graduates and students around the country to hear. They heard the leader of our country deliver a personal account of how the choices he has made over his lifetime have impacted his ability to succeed. Through the President’s leadership, to make college more affordable and strengthen standards across the educational spectrum, today’s college graduates are able to enter the workplace prepared for a global marketplace and will continue to succeed at changing negative stereotypes and addressing critical global challenges.
Andrew Edghill is a senior at Savannah State University majoring in Political Science. He is currently a summer 2013 Intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on the Responsibility of the African American Communal to Educate Others
Recently, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a passionate speech to 600 graduates and several thousand supporters at the historically black, Bowie State University (BSU) commencement ceremony, in Maryland.
After being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from BSU, Mrs. Obama spoke to the graduates about their perseverance. She called upon a communal responsibility to serve and support others, making it very clear that our lives depend on the fight to educate ourselves and our youth for future generations to come.
“More than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of ‘separate but equal,’ when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper. Recognizing that there is still so much work to do the First Lady acknowledged that today, one in three African American students drop out of high school, and only one and five African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 have received a college degree. The President has worked alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan to help reverse this trend. Since the year 2000, the number of students attending “dropout” factories has been reduced by a million and the number of African American students enrolling in college has grown nearly 10%.
Citing abolitionist Frederick Douglas, First Lady Michelle Obama reiterated his point that “education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of the truth, the only light by which men can be free.” This is a message that helps to guide President Obama’s ambitious goal for America to have highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
One of the summer interns in our office, a student at Howard University, had the opportunity to witness the First Lady’s speech and said it “more than just words. She encouraged young African American students, at all institutions to make education—educating ourselves and others in our community—a priority.”
The First Lady charged the 2013 graduating class to continue the legacy of Bowie State’s founders who viewed education as “freedom… political empowerment… [an opportunity] to articulate an informed opinion.” Both the President and the First Lady recognize that these graduates are the most recent examples of excellence.
Daion Stanford is a Junior Administration and Justice student at Howard University. She is currently a Summer Intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.