Higher Education News
Doing it for Me: A U.S. Department of Education Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion on Personal Struggle and Supporting Youth
School dropouts are saddled with so many preconceptions. The popular narrative is that they are either lazy, they give up, or they simply don’t want to go to school.
To many students who decide to leave middle or high school, these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recently, the student-produced documentary Doing it for Me was screened at ED’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The audience was given an intimate look into the personal story of D.C. high school dropout Precious Lambert, and learned how she got back on track and helped her two best friends – Victoria Williams and Jessica Greene – navigate tough life-altering decisions.
Following the screening, Leah Edwards, the film’s co-director; Jessica Greene, who is featured in the film; Maureen Dwyer, executive director of Sitar Arts Center; and former high school dropout and current alternative school student Cristian A. Garcia Olivera, participated in the panel discussion. Before an audience of ED staff and policy makers, they gave examples of how both the arts and the concern of teachers for their students can promote a successful learning environment.
Despite being in the top 2 percent of her high school class, Jessica lacked relationships with her teachers. “It was up to me to drive myself,” she explained. She believed there was a major problem in her education due to poor communication between students and teachers, and discovered that the only way to get back on track was to take personal responsibility.
Jessica found an outlet and a path to success at Sitar Arts Center, a local organization that advances life skills for underserved youth through holistic arts programs. Though she often denied her feelings at home, Jessica said, “At Sitar I could be me; I could let loose.”
Through the work of Sitar Arts Center, Maureen was able to show how the arts are essential to critical and creative thinking — and how arts education can help students at risk of dropping out persevere beyond school. This aligns with the National Endowment for the Arts research that show students with low socioeconomic status perform better when they are engaged in the arts, and are two times more likely to enroll in four-year colleges.
Christian said that when teachers show an interest in their students it can make a huge impact on their lives. He dropped out of his traditional school and is currently (and happily) enrolled in an alternative school. “At alternative schools the teachers are really nice. The classes are really small, with only 20 kids per class, and . . . teachers teach you in a way to get to know you better,” he said.
Getting a second chance can make all the difference in the world for students like Precious, Victoria, Jessica and Christian. An audience member summed up his understanding of the film’s powerful message: “If you’ve made the bad choice, you can still fix it.”
Watch the entire discussion on ED Stream.
This event was a part of the ED Youth Voices Policy Briefing Session program, aimed at providing U.S. Department of Education staff and stakeholders with student perspectives on educational policy issues.
Samuel Ryan is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
The rule was expected to hold programs accountable for borrowers’ default rates. But that metric has been dropped.
Four California universities want to create a stronger sense of community for black and Hispanic doctoral students in science and engineering.
As for-profit higher education’s fortunes fade, an institution explores a conversion to appeal to Christian philanthropists.
An award from two city-improvement groups focuses on higher education. Our accompanying map shows changes in numbers of degrees awarded across the country.
A new plan to lure foreign students with generous scholarships by China's eastern Jiangsu province, has sparked anger over resources being directed towards "wealthy foreigners" while Chinese students struggle with a rising fee burden.
What major evaluations could have the biggest impact on preschool through Grade 12 (P-12) education—providing information that could drive significant improvement in the ways that teachers, principals, and policymakers provide education to American students?
The U.S. Department of Education is committed to helping schools, districts, states, and the federal government use funds as wisely as possible – which means in ways that yield better results for students. As part of that, we are working to build evidence of effective practice – and one of the ways we do that is through conducting evaluations that offer useful guidance for future investments. We are looking to the field to help figure out what evaluations are most useful.
The Congressionally enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 allows the Department to strengthen the impact of our evaluation work by pooling resources across Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs. This makes it possible to fund rigorous evaluations of individual Federal education programs that currently lack sufficient evaluation dollars, and to evaluate the impact of various strategies that cut across a wide range of ESEA programs.
Specifically, we are asking your help to identify what the most pressing education policy and/or practice questions are and how answering them could provide needed information to educators, parents and local, state, and federal governments to enable significant improvements in education. Our goal is to support the development of findings that have the rigor and power to inform significant improvements in how schools, districts, states, and the federal government provide services to students. We are seeking public input on the following questions:
- What are the most critical P-12 questions that are still unanswered?
- How could answering these questions provide information that could be used by schools, districts, and States to improve student outcomes for all students and/or particular groups of students?
- What type of study could answer these questions and produce findings that are reliable and generalizable?
- What implications would these findings have for existing practices, policies, and federal programs? Please mention the specific practices, policies, and programs by name if possible.
Submissions can be posted either publicly through the comment section of the blog or by email to email@example.com by Monday, December 1, 2014. Any evaluations funded with pooled money should be relevant to P-12 programs authorized under ESEA. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. As such, the Department will not provide formal responses to ideas submitted and submissions may or may not be reflected in the final decisions. If including additional information beyond the above four questions, this information should be accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, and should not include links to advertisements or endorsements. Any advertisements and/or endorsements will be deleted before submissions are posted.
Emily Anthony is senior policy advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education.
A political-science study that involved a deceptive mailing to Montana voters raises questions about a new research trend.
Revelations at Chapel Hill spur officials elsewhere to shift pay incentives for coaches and raise alert for signs of academic fraud.
A Deeper Shade of Green: A District Sustainability Plan Encompasses Facilities, Operations, and Instruction
Note: The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching environmental education. To share innovative practices in these three ‘Pillars,’ the Department conducts an annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of honorees.
Making the decision to “go green” is an important step toward building 21st-century school systems in this country. And, as our decades-long experience in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) shows, it takes commitment, collaboration, culture change, and comprehensive planning to turn a deeper shade of green.
MCPS’ commitment to good environmental stewardship spans more than 35 years. We began laying the foundation for sustainability in the 1980s and 1990s through dedicated energy and utilities management, including automation of building systems, lighting retrofits, and energy efficient design in new constructions. Today, we have a district-wide sustainability plan championed by the superintendent of schools and it’s implemented at every level of our system.
We’re working hard. We’re getting results. And, we’re getting noticed.
We’re proud that MCPS has received the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award and four school awards since 2012. These honors are the result of tremendous collaboration among many offices and departments, including Facilities, Materials Management, Transportation, Information Management, and the Office of Curriculum and Instruction.
We’re integrating operations with instruction in several ways:
- Building and grounds provide a safe and healthy environment for students;
- Resource-efficient and renewable energy technologies offer authentic learning; and
- Conservation practices help the school system save money on operations.
Our district-wide focus on sustainability creates opportunities to involve students in conservation practices as they learn the why and how of those practices.
We have found that a key to the cultural change required for a sustainable school district is getting buy-in from the school community: convincing the staff and students at every school that conservation pays off – quite literally.
A major step forward in this effort was the formation of School Energy and Recycling Teams (SERTs), which are comprised of students, teachers, and administrators at each school. Empowered with quarterly energy use reports to monitor usage and recycling scores, school teams create and implement plans for continued improvement. District-wide savings generated by improved energy and waste management practices are returned to schools, creating further incentives to reduce their utility bills.
Our SERT program unleashes creativity, enthusiasm, and resourcefulness on the part of students and staff. It complements the MCPS K-12 environmental literacy curriculum by providing practical stewardship projects, like those showcased during this month’s Green Strides Best Practices Tour of Francis Scott Key Middle School, one of 14 LEED Gold Certified schools in MCPS. During the tour, Francis Scott Key students spoke about their role in recycling materials at their school and described how they monitor lighting and computer status in classrooms after school. The school features geothermal heating and cooling, a 100 KW solar photovoltaic system, occupancy sensors, and a state-of-the-art storm water management system, all of which provide authentic lessons and project opportunities for teachers and students to explore, research, and analyze.
In MCPS, our Environmental Sustainability Management Plan outlines our goals, strategies, actions, and measurements for a whole array of sustainability areas including energy, transportation, information technology, recycling, and cleaning. Perhaps most importantly, it includes a strong focus on environmental literacy. The plan is a working document that will evolve as new sustainable technologies and practices are invented, and it will continue to help students become better environmental stewards of the world they will inherit.
Laurie Jenkins is Supervisor of Environmental Education Programs and Sean Gallagher is Assistant Director of Facilities Management at Montgomery County Public Schools.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month!
In 1945, Congress passed a law declaring the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word ‘physically’ was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the observance to a month and changed its title.
This year’s theme, “Expect, Employ, Empower,” is a reminder that every American has a right to dignity, respect, and a shot at success in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees equal opportunity for everyone who is willing to work hard; and, over the past 25 years, Americans living with disabilities have achieved amazing things. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of students living with disabilities still do not go on to experience steady, gainful employment. Transition planning and related programs can give young people with disabilities the opportunity, skills, and experience needed to make that move from student to employee.
A good example of this type of programming is Project SEARCH. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) partnered with the District of Columbia Public Schools and the District’s Department on Disability Services to host a Project SEARCH class. The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations. Now in its fifth year at ED, almost 50 students have graduated from the program. Many have gone on to find competitive employment. These young adults are living examples of the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act and, as a result, are able to lead independent lives.
To learn more about Project SEARCH at the Department of Education, check out this month’s “Know It 2 Own It” video:
“Know It 2 Own It” is a campaign to encourage the general public to learn more about the disability rights movement and history that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please let us know how you are working to bring about positive change for individuals with disabilities in your community by sharing your story on social media with the hashtag #know2own.
Click here to view September’s “Know It 2 Own It” blog.
Alexis Perlmutter is a Special Assistant in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.
The deal The Baffler struck with the press in 2011 helped keep the publication alive. Now the journal has negotiated an exit.
Rejected by the University of Illinois for tweets critical of Israel, the scholar ponders his next move.
As October, National Principals Month, comes to an end, I cannot help but to reflect upon what led me into the principalship.
As a twenty-one year old African American male, I could have very easily become a statistic. Five months after graduating from IUP in rural Pennsylvania, I was shot and left for dead on a football field in Philadelphia.
Many people struggle to recover from such an experience and I am blessed to have a community that rallied around me and refused to let me succumb to the trauma that could have easily overwhelmed me. Instead, I was led to become a career changer, transitioning from counseling adjudicated youth to one of the most important careers in the world-being a principal.
As a teacher leader, my principal, Charles D’Alfonso, supported and encouraged me to take on the immense challenge of becoming a principal. He guided me, connected me with other mentors (like Yvonne Savior, who would serve as my new teacher coach and new principal coach years later), and provided various resources to spur my growth and success. And, although, I viewed myself as a leader of middle school students, my principal saw me as a leader of a school community.
Today, I make it part of my mission to encourage all my peers to mentor the brave, humble, and up-and-coming leaders in the principal pipeline. We need to do this to strengthen our profession and to ensure that there is a higher level of diversity in the principalship. By expanding leadership opportunities for women and minorities, we acknowledge the diversity of the students we serve. By harnessing the unique and life-impacting experiences and perceptions of culturally distinct principals, we will help to strengthen students’ outcomes – including and especially for the most vulnerable students in our communities. We will impact these students in ways that equip the next generation to master the incredible challenges and seize the incredible opportunities of our time.
It’s said Albert Einstein, the great scientist and philosopher, believed that one of the most powerful forces in the universe is the effect of compound interest in finance. I’m not sure if this attribution is true, but I do know that – like the power of earning “interest on interest,” – a great principal is a force that elevates, amplifies, and supports the great work of teachers and other school staff. And, that’s a mighty force! In my experience, it’s certainly one that moves mountains, uplifts communities, and accelerates student achievement.
My fellow Ambassadors Jill Levine and Rachel Skerritt and I have visited many cities and schools over the last several months, and we’ve spoken with over 875 principals. Research is clear about the tremendous lever that principals represent in school improvement efforts. Our conversations with our colleagues around the nation affirm the research below.
- Principals’ actions have a have influence on why 70 percent of our best teachers leave the classroom
- There are 90,000 principals, for 98,706 schools, employing 3 million teachers all of which serve the 55 million students in American public schools. On average, then, each principal impacts 611 students, each day, of each year, over their life at a school.
- Principals account for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement, second only to teachers
- Principals can have enormous impact on all students because principals ensure effective instruction year to year across the entire school
I am humbled and inspired daily by the work that we do and the impact that we have. As principals, we must continue to identify and develop those leaders in our buildings that can join us in this mission of the principalship – just as Charles D’Alfonso did twenty-two years ago.
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, PA, and a 2013-15 Campus Principal Ambassador Fellow of the U.S. Department of Education. El-Mekki serves on Mayor Michael Nutter’s Commission on African American Males and is an America Achieves Fellow.
City College’s fight for its life has become a "cauldron of politics and emotion."
A sortable table showing the race, ethnicity, and gender of students at a broad range of two- and four-year colleges.
Successful STEM programs have focused on students' strengths rather than their weaknesses.
Ryan Charles Hynd talks about how the more math courses he took, the farther he found he could go.