U.S. Department of Education Blog

Subscribe to U.S. Department of Education Blog feed
Updated: 24 min 47 sec ago

My Art Is a Reflection of My Story: National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase at ED

February 13, 2018 - 12:55pm

Student artists whose works focused on the theme “What Is Your Story?” gathered at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Jan. 16, 2018, to be celebrated for their awards in the 2018 National PTA Reflections® Student Arts Showcase program.

Since 1969, the program has annually recognized elementary through high school students from around the country for artistic ingenuity as expressed in film, dance, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. Each year competitors are asked to bring a different theme to life in a way that is personal and meaningful. This is the 11th year ED has partnered with the National PTA to host a ceremony and art exhibit to honor award-winners.

“People who read and see and witness your work performed will create meaning from it, understand the human story, and understand the context in which you created it,” Jacquelyn Zimmermann, director of the Student Art Exhibit Program at ED, noted at the gathering. It drew students from about 25 states, from Alaska to Florida, as well as their families and teachers, arts educators and advocates, and ED staff.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about the importance of the arts in education by noting the national focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and articulating the importance of another view, which includes the arts. “I happen to think that art is pretty important too,” she said. “So I like those who really embrace STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education.” Following DeVos, Jim Accomando, the new president of the National PTA, expressed similar sentiments: “National PTA has long recognized the arts as an essential part of a great education.” As reflected by the top leaders of both organizations, access to and participation in the arts are at the core of an excellent education.

Student views works in the 2018 National PTA Reflections winners’ exhibit, “What Is Your Story?”

Demonstrating the value of the arts for themselves, the student artists shared their stories and reflections.

Demi Adetona, a ninth-grader from Alabama, wrote a musical piece during a plane ride from Nigeria back to the United States. Asserting that the arts have helped her in math, she explained that “[t]he arts and math complement each other because every rhythm is a math problem.”

Nikolus Linnenkugel, a first-grader from Texas and blind in one eye, created the short film “My View.”  The film begins as he engages in normal childhood activities until his partial blindness is revealed. “The most important thing that I learned from my challenge is that the thing that makes me different from other people is just normal for me,” says Nikolus. “Which makes me think, if what’s different to me is normal to other people, we all have our own normal.”

Acacia Wright, a second-grader from Virginia, wrote a short story about her frustration at not finding crayons of an appropriate shade to draw a picture of herself. Acacia typically uses crayons labelled “peach” and “brown” to color her dad and mom. But Acacia’s skin is somewhere in between.  “One day when I was coloring a picture of my family I had a big tantrum because I could not find a right color for me,” she wrote. “Why is there no color of me in the crayon box? My mom tells me that I am a very special color.  I am the color of love. The color of love is any color I want to be.  I like being the color of love.” [NOTE: Much to her delight, soon after receiving an award for this story, Acacia received a box of Crayola’s Multicultural Crayons from a neighbor.]

Caleb Dowden, 2017 dance choreography winner, performs “Anti-Climatic Incline.”

Caleb Dowden from Louisiana and now a first-year student at SUNY-Purchase, and Ari Jazz Hope, a fifth-grader from Alaska, each performed her winning work. Caleb’s dance was inspired by an internal urgency that is “always desiring something else” and in need of fulfillment. Ari’s music composition, “Release Your Feelings,” was motivated by her love of pop and hip-hop music.

When students were asked what inspires them to pursue the arts, their responses varied from family to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Misty Copeland, nature, Hamilton, pets, and favorite shoes. All of these and more are reflected in their artwork, encouraging their audiences to try their hands at their own stories. So, What Is Your Story?  We look forward to reading it!

Student artists open the 2018 PTA Reflections exhibit at the U.S. Department of Education.

Click here for photos of this exhibit opening.

Photo at the top: Acacia Wright reads her winning essay, “My Color in the Crayon Box.”


Chareese Ross is a student art exhibit program associate, writer and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Nancy Paulu is a writer and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

All photos are by ED photographer Joshua Hoover.

ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers with an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors it as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at Jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.

The post My Art Is a Reflection of My Story: National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase at ED appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Why You Should Celebrate National School Counseling Week

February 9, 2018 - 11:28am

It just figures that National School Counseling Week starts the day after the Super Bowl. The country gorges on guacamole-covered chicken wings on Sunday, and when America’s most misunderstood group of educators asks for three nacho chips and a high five on Monday, the country is too tired to party.

In some ways, we don’t mind. The last time we made headlines, most people surveyed felt that school counselors were more of a hindrance than a help in applying to college. Before that, we were the punch line of a car ad — “Your guidance counselor drives a minivan” — or we were known as the washed-up teachers who were given offices close to the principal so he could keep an eye on us.

But Jenny doesn’t see us that way.

Jenny was the quiet, slender girl who didn’t cause anyone trouble, except herself. When two or three students saw Jenny needed help, they went straight to the school counselor, who called Jenny into that office close to the principal to talk about it in a safe, confidential place. Jenny got help, and became an even more beautiful person.

Steve doesn’t see us that way either. Three weeks into school, he had his fifth unexcused absence, and was on his way to flunking a required course. He told his school counselor he was working late to support the newborn son no one knew he had. His counselor asked the teacher to give Steve one last break, but never mentioned why. Steve got it, graduated, and got a full-time job that paid enough to take care of his young family.

If you didn’t know that, you’re not supposed to. When someone’s life slips or they don’t know where to turn, school counselors give them the space for grace and dignity to rebuild and strengthen their lives, all without fanfare. Sometimes, if you don’t know we’re doing our job, we’re doing our job pretty well.

Of course, we aren’t perfect. Most of us work with 450 students at once, and some have twice that number. Since many principals think we should change schedules instead of lives, we don’t have as much time to help students as we’d like, and most of us were never — never — trained how to help students apply to college.

I bet you didn’t know that either.

Old habits die hard — school counselors know that for sure — but if you have a minute this week, stop by and thank your school counselor for everything you don’t know they’re doing, and put in a good word for them with the principal. We might not score winning touchdowns or drive fast cars, but when the goal is to drive 450 students to win their own big game, the minivan really rocks it.


Patrick O’Connor, pictured above, is a 2017-18 School Counselor Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

The post Why You Should Celebrate National School Counseling Week appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Educator Self-Care Is Social Emotional Learning

February 7, 2018 - 2:25pm

Note: February 5-9, 2018 is National School Counseling Week.

Vicarious or secondary trauma invades our classrooms and leaks into the hearts of educators who carry the emotional burdens of their students. If we can honor our educators and their work by giving them the skills and space for their own self-care, then we help them stay whole and enjoy long, healthy careers being present for students and their learning.

As a school counselor, I help teachers understand the most important thing they can do for children is to keep their own mood stable. When I come into their classrooms to teach students about breathing strategies, mindfulness, yoga and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), it is not just for the students but also to offer time for teachers to connect with their own breath.

Addressing our own “caught-upness” and keeping our own mood stable

Emotional awareness, empathy, anger/anxiety management and problem solving are the backbone skills that make up Social Emotional Learning. These are highly honed skills that educators use every day and every minute. When teachers and educators embody compassionate strategies like breathing, stretching and tapping, they increase their capacity and provide safe haven for students to practice these skills.

We can be curious about a child’s behavior. What is the child trying to communicate? We can always pair our curiosity with compassion. There have been times I have felt the same way. How can we serve to help the child communicate his/her feelings more effectively without getting “caught up” in the behavior?

Can we be kind to ourselves when we do get “caught up”?

Neuroplasticity and hope

When educators feel like they belong in a safe, inclusive, and positive school, they are able to structure an environment where students feel safe, included and hopeful about their futures. This is the foundation for emotionally healthy youth and providing a culturally responsive and trauma sensitive world.

Educators are in a unique position where we can role model keeping our body calm in the midst of a child’s storm of dysregulation. By being present, we teach the child resilience and build their capacity for enduring tough moments. We can also role model self-care. We can step back, ground ourselves in the moment, take a deep breath, and say within, “It’s not about me.”


Christy Lynn Anana, M.Ed., NBCT, RYT, pictured above, is a nationally board-certified school counselor, registered yoga teacher and author of 3 books:  I Can Feel Better: A Tapping Story, and A Finder of Lost Things, and Five Best Days to Run Away. She was named 2016 Washington State School Counselor of the Year. 

The post Educator Self-Care Is Social Emotional Learning appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Secretary DeVos Convenes Higher Education Summit: Innovation Blends Technology and the Personal Touch

February 1, 2018 - 1:00pm

“We need to question everything; to look for ways in which we can improve, and embrace the imperative of change. At the end of the day, success shouldn’t be measured by how much ivy is on the wall,” said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “It should be determined by how you’re educating and preparing students for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”

Setting this tone of innovation, Secretary DeVos welcomed over 20 education leaders from across the nation to the Education Innovation Summit on Higher Education, held recently at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington. The agenda included general discussion as well as several featured presentations.

Anant Agorwal, CEO of Boston-based edX, said that our society needs a system where universities and educators can work with learners throughout their careers, not just during the traditional college ages of 18 to 22.

Ben Nelson of the for-profit Minerva Project asked the group to consider what the purpose of higher education is. He submitted that today businesses across various fields want the same thing: employees who have a core skill but can also have the well-rounded education to learn skills in new areas.

Kathleen Plinske of Valencia College in Central Florida recommended simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students with the greatest financial need and recommended that short-term training programs that have already been vetted and approved by another federal agency be eligible for U.S. Department of Education Title IV funding.

Jerry Davis, president of the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, said that his college is a work college. That is, all students are required to work at jobs, leading to the school’s nickname of “Hard Work U.” The school has a student-focused environment where the students’ personal needs are regularly met. For example, one student’s father was in the penitentiary, and the student’s mother had died. The college’s Helping Hand Fund paid $3,000 for the funeral costs of the student’s mother. The student went on to graduate and today is a teacher. “From my own family experience and in work colleges for over 40 years,” Davis said, “I can tell you that not everything can be solved with a computer. Sometimes it takes a personal touch to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks in our society.”

Mike Zeliff, dean of faculty and students at the Jack Welch Management Institute, said, “We treat our students like customers and rely on their willingness to recommend our program and our professors as a key performance measure.  The curriculum is designed to learn it today, apply it tomorrow, and return to the classroom to talk about their observations.”

At the end of the nearly four-hour summit, Secretary DeVos thanked the participants for creatively meeting the needs of the students that they serve. “I welcome your continued input to me and to the department on ways that the federal government can get out of the way on some of the things we need to get out of the way of,” she said. “And tell us the ways we can support meaningfully the things you are doing to serve students.”


Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach

The post Secretary DeVos Convenes Higher Education Summit: Innovation Blends Technology and the Personal Touch appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Secretary DeVos Convenes K-12 Summit: Innovation Starts with a Focus on the Learner

January 30, 2018 - 1:07pm

“There are a number of challenges and opportunities facing American students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “And Washington, D.C. does not have all the answers. But government can be good at bringing people together to highlight their creative thinking and new approaches.”

Secretary DeVos welcomed nearly 20 education leaders and entrepreneurs from Maine to California to the Education Innovation Summit on K-12 learning, held recently at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington.

During the next three-and-a-half hours, the secretary of education listened as extraordinary educators – representing school districts, a university system, a private academy, a state department of education, a non-profit organization, a faith-based school and home schooling – spoke of creativity and innovation inside and outside of the classroom focused on helping each child to realize his or her potential. The common ground was that these educators saw a deficiency; they found the cause; and they found a solution to the problem.

Tom Rooney, superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District in a rural part of Central California, described the experience of a new Lindsay High School principal on the principal’s first day on the job, when he was visited by a father and son. The father said that his son was holding a Lindsay High diploma in his hand.

The father handed a newspaper to his son and said, “Go ahead, son. Read this newspaper out loud for the new principal of Lindsay High School.” After a moment of silence, the son put his head down and started to cry. “Dad, you know I don’t know how to read.”

Rooney said that his district took a good look at where its system had faltered. Looking outside of academia, Rooney noted that at Apple, “Steve Jobs was creating the ideal listening experience. He was not saying, ‘How do I sell more CDs.’ He was saying, ‘What is the ideal listening experience that listeners need?’ That’s innovation.”

At Amazon, Rooney said, “Jeff Bezos was thinking, ‘What are the ideal reading and shopping experiences?’”

Rooney then asked, “What is the ideal learning experience?” With this question, Rooney and his team created a new system based upon engaging their community to take ownership for the learners in the community. In the spirit of Jobs and Bezos, Lindsay Unified School District says it’s all about the learner.

Stephen Mauney, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District in rural North Carolina, spoke about his district’s digital conversion. The program provides iPads in kindergarten and first grade, while making available laptops in second grade through 12th grade. “We wanted to close that digital divide between our students with means and those that did not have economic means to have access to technology,” Mauney said.

But technology is a means and not the end. “Many systems will put devices in the hands of their kids and their teachers, and they see no real change in academic achievement.” Mauney said that Mooresville Graded staff believe that tying academic achievement to a major technology initiative is not just good pedagogy. It’s a moral imperative.

Secretary DeVos thanked the participants for their contributions and summarized the day’s major theme. “We’ve heard from leaders,” she said, “who are asking, ‘What’s the ideal learning experience?’ And we’re trying collectively and individually to answer that question.”


Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

The post Secretary DeVos Convenes K-12 Summit: Innovation Starts with a Focus on the Learner appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

National #SchoolChoice Week 2018: Recognizing the Diverse Career Goals And Academic Needs of Students

January 26, 2018 - 2:18pm

January 21-27, 2018 is National School Choice Week! President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation marking the event.

In the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,

School choice is not about picking this building or that classroom – it’s much bigger than that. It’s about freedom to find the best way to learn and grow. Learning can, should, and will look different for each unique child, and we should celebrate that!

During the week, ED highlighted success stories of students who were able to find the right fit for their educations.

School Choice Opened My Eyes to a Diverse And Culturally Enriched World

“Today, I’m a junior at Howard University. But things could have turned out differently if I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue a different educational path when I was younger.

“Thankfully, my parents were given the option to exercise school choice, which is, unfortunately, not the norm for every student in America.”

Discover more about how Kendra and her family were able to choose the best learning environment for her in our Medium post.


Education is the Ticket Out of Poverty

Toni Airaksinen, a current senior at Barnard College in New York, illustrates the powerful impact of school choice and how a student’s potential for prosperity can be supported with access to educational options.

“My family was constantly faced with difficult situations due to our lack of finances. They didn’t have time to worry about my schooling. But, I knew I wanted something better out of life,” says Toni.

Read more about how Toni’s “humble beginnings did not prevent her from the accomplishment of graduating high school and going on to college” on Medium.


School Choice Helps Student with Disabilities Reclaim the Path to Postsecondary Success

Trevor Beauchamp of La Crescenta, California, was born with spastic cerebral palsy, a condition that severely limits his mobility and requires extra effort, even when walking a few steps. Understanding the importance of education, he willingly embraced the daily struggle to navigate his school campus’s hilly terrain. After he broke his knee and was given little accommodation, he and his mother re-evaluated his school options.

Find out more about Trevor’s story and how he and his mother were able to find the perfect fit for him on Medium.



The post National #SchoolChoice Week 2018: Recognizing the Diverse Career Goals And Academic Needs of Students appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

The ED Games Expo Comes to the Kennedy Center

January 18, 2018 - 2:08pm

Did you know that game-based learning is gaining popularity in education as more young people and adults learn from games in and out of the classroom? Well-designed games can motivate students to actively engage in content that relates to coursework, and to master challenging tasks designed to sharpen critical thinking and problem solving, as well as employment and life skills.

On January 8, 2018, the 5th annual ED Games Expo occurred at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The event was organized in collaboration between the Department of Education’s (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Kennedy Center’s Education team. The event showcased more than 100 learning games, most developed with funding from 17 different government programs within and outside ED. The games were for students of all ages in education and special education and covered topics across STEM, reading, social studies and social development. Many incorporated emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and maker spaces with 3D printing stations, as well as engaging approaches to learning, such as narrative adventures and puzzle games.

A Unique Opportunity

This year the Expo featured panel sessions with game developers and live demos by more than 80 developers from around the country. At a daytime panel session on the Millennium Stage titled “So You Want to Be a Game Developer,” 13 different game developers shared inspiring stories for why and how they became game developers. The audience included more than 500 DC-area school students, many of whom took the microphone and asked questions such as “What is it like to be a game developer?” and “What can I do to be a game developer?”

The live demos of learning games and technologies occurred across multiple galleries on the Terrace Level of the Kennedy Center. Across the day and into the early evening, the students and more than 200 other visitors played games while meeting face-to-face with the developers. The experience provided a unique opportunity for attendees to discuss how the games were developed and to learn about the research findings on how games can impact student performance.

Learning Games Emerge Across Many Government Programs

Along with being a fun and rich learning experience for everyone, the Expo demonstrated the impact of a wide range of government programs that invest in learning games as a strategy to advance their mission to support education and learning.

At ED, seven programs that support such projects were represented at the Expo. Four are operated by IES, through its Small Business Innovation Research Program, Research Grants Programs in Education and Special Education and its Assessment Program. Other ED programs included the Office of Special Education Programs; the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education; and the Ready to Learn program.

Outside of ED, learning games at the Expo were supported by ten different government programs, including the SBIR programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes for Health and research programs at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health. A group of games were also developed from programs at USAID, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lastly, the Kennedy Center joined the Expo this year in recognition of the arts and creativity embedded in the game development process.  The Expo provided tangible opportunities for students to learn directly from game developers how they use the creative artistic process to design multi-modal, differentiated games that are engaging, customized learning experiences for all. Through its Education programs, the Kennedy Center encourages a broad audience of students and stakeholders to consider game development as an opportunity for a range of learning experiences, through concept ideation, design, coding, graphic art creation, musical score writing and performance, or research and evaluation during and after development.


Edward Metz is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Education Sciences within the Department of Education, where he leads the SBIR and the Education Technology Research Grants programs.

Jeanette McCune is the Director of School and Community Programs in Education at the Kennedy Center. 

Follow IES (@IESResearch) and the Kennedy Center (@Kencen) for updates on the next ED Games Expo and other initiatives.

The post The ED Games Expo Comes to the Kennedy Center appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

To Rebuild, Rethink and Renew

January 16, 2018 - 12:58pm

This past fall I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, twice — first, in October, and two weeks later, in the company of Secretary DeVos. There, I saw firsthand the wholesale destruction left by back-to-back hurricanes. The experience was both humbling and uplifting.

During my first visit, I joined the Commissioner of Education for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Sharon McCollum, on a car trip around the Islands. On our way, she noticed the owner of a damaged wholesale club store — he was outside, combing through inventory, trying to salvage any goods that Hurricanes Maria and Irma had spared.

Pausing our scheduled tour, Dr. McCollum stopped the car in front of the store. She began negotiating the sale of cleaning supplies to be used in some of the many schools under her care. Simply getting students physically back to school is a monumental undertaking, she said: they shouldn’t have to fear getting sick from mold and the like once they’ve returned to the classroom.

Her goal that day — as it is every day — was to return a sense of normalcy to the more than 14,000 students whose lives and studies were interrupted by the powerful storms. I learned that, these days, such encounters are an integral part of Dr. McCollum’s day-to-day work: staff told me she can often be found out in the field, exploring the Islands in search of supplies and other resources to help students get back to school and engaged in learning again.

This is a fundamental objective on the Islands, where the scale of devastation from the storms defies description. Surveying the damage by military helicopter, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Roofs had been ripped off houses; stores destroyed; roads impassable. School facilities that had once been home to fine arts and music — integral parts of the culture and education on the Islands — are gone forever, with many well-loved instruments, such as the region’s iconic steel drums, lost.

Read more about Acting Assistant Secretary Botel’s visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Medium


Jason Botel is Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

The post To Rebuild, Rethink and Renew appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Calling Local Heroes Directly into Action; Apply to be an ED School Ambassador Fellow

January 11, 2018 - 1:42pm

“But I’m just a teacher…”

We, teachers, change the mindsets of self-doubters, instill a lifelong love of learning for many, care for the children of others as if they’re our own, and play a major role in creating all other professions. Yet, despite those superpowers, many of us have heard or uttered the phrase ourselves, “But I’m just a teacher,” when we’ve been encouraged to pursue leadership opportunities beyond our classrooms, schools or districts.

I’ll confess that I’ve used that phrase at various points during my career as an educator. While it might be difficult to determine why educators are often less confident in the value of their input, the self-doubt is real.

Perhaps it’s the perception that major policy decisions impacting students and schools often occur with minimum input from teachers. Maybe it’s the manner in which social media has a way of amplifying the most critical voices in any topic, including education. Or, perhaps teachers are feeling overwhelmed and fatigued from being frequent targets of criticism for issues beyond their control.

Regardless of the reasons, the voices of dedicated, creative, and solution-focused educators are often overlooked on issues that impact how they do their jobs and serve children.

Special Opportunity for Educator Input

As I’ve gained opportunities over the years to interact with individuals at the state and federal level concerning education issues, I’ve seen the importance of being in the position to share the stories of those who might not have the ability or opportunity to speak out concerning their interests. The Department of Education values and needs the input of those who interact with students on a daily basis. The School Ambassador Fellowship Program is unique because it gives teachers, counselors, librarians and other school leaders the opportunity to provide input and feedback on policy matters that impact their schools and communities.

Although Fellows will have differing goals and interests, the opportunity to hone leadership skills is a universal aspect of the program. I’ve been fortunate to work in numerous contexts as an educator – from preschool to teaching university students. Those experiences have been gratifying. Nevertheless, I’ve always questioned the lack of diversity in our teacher corps. Simply stated, there aren’t enough Black men leading our classrooms.

James Ford, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, Abdul Wright & Kevin Dua – State Teachers of the Year for NC, WA, MN and MA – discuss their journeys as Black male educators.

Although I’ve had numerous wonderful experiences thus far as a Fellow, it has been extremely rewarding to do work supporting others who also have a desire to increase our percentage of Black male educators. Whether through work as a Teach to Lead critical friend, or as a presenter at the inaugural convening of Black Male Educators for Social Justice, the ability to develop my leadership skills while addressing that topic (and others) has been extremely rewarding. Other Fellows have addressed areas that represent their interests in education, like special education and career readiness.

Elephant in the Room

Let’s be honest. For any number of reasons you might feel that applying to represent teachers on behalf of the Department of Education is just something you don’t feel you can do. And, if your primary reason for applying to the Fellowship is based exclusively on how you feel about issues, it might be best to pursue other opportunities where you can impact our field. However, if you desire to be a voice for the students and families you support at the national level, consider applying. For me, the best time to be a true advocate for my students and my families is, always, right now.

There were 6 Fellows selected for the 2017-2018 cohort. Does that mean you have to be the BEST at something in order to be selected? Not necessarily.

Must you be creative, passionate and eager to contribute to conversations around improving the outcomes of all students? Absolutely!

Most teachers have those skills and many more to spare. They’re our local heroes. What’s your superpower? More importantly, are you willing to share it?

Apply to be a School Ambassador Fellow for the 2018-19 school year through January 31, 2018.


Elmer Harris is a 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

The post Calling Local Heroes Directly into Action; Apply to be an ED School Ambassador Fellow appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

“The Spirit is There”

January 10, 2018 - 1:32pm

“When can I go back to school?”

When that experience is disrupted, getting back to school can mean everything to students. And the adults who care for them — parents, educators and civic leaders — feel a special urgency.

For our fellow Americans in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, including more than 410,000 students in grades K-12, the 2017 hurricane season severely disrupted those reliable routines. First Irma hit, leaving more than one million people — nearly a third of the population on an island the size of Connecticut — without power. Two weeks later, María followed: one meteorologist likened its impact to a tornado, 50 miles wide, cutting a path of devastation through cities, towns and countryside.

In a three-week period, I travelled twice to visit Puerto Rico — the second time with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

We wanted to see conditions on the ground in the aftermath of the worst storm to hit the island in nearly a century, and provide support to the Puerto Rico Department of Education in its efforts to rebuild.

Since Irma and María slammed the region, our Department team has been in near-daily contact with local officials, coordinating closely with other federal and relief agencies. We’ve provided technical assistance and waived burdensome regulations that would increase costs and slow down recovery. We’ve provided an initial grant and are working with the White House and Congress to provide much greater emergency funding.

We’ve sent staff — thus far, dispatching ten Department employees on temporary assignment to support revitalization efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Still, we knew we needed to learn firsthand how the Federal government, with a host of national, State, local and charitable organizations, can best help the people of Puerto Rico get back to school, get back to normal and emerge stronger than before the storms.

Read more about Acting Assistant Secretary Botel’s visits to Puerto Rico on Medium


Jason Botel is Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

The post “The Spirit is There” appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

ED’s School Ambassador Fellows Connect with #FellowsAtED Twitter Chats

January 3, 2018 - 1:59pm

It took me a while to feel comfortable with Twitter. I opened a personal account years ago, but I just didn’t see what all the buzz was about.

Once my district started encouraging teachers to build their Professional Learning Networks, however, I reluctantly created a professional account.  I was a little skeptical that it would be more of a distraction and less of a genuine resource, but it didn’t take long to convince me otherwise. I only spend an average of five minutes a day on Twitter, and in that short time, I find new ideas, get the most recent news in education, research the latest best practices, discover the most cutting-edge apps and read inspirational quotes that remind me why our job is so important.

As it turns out, Twitter is a place for teachers to share, to learn, to grow and to connect, which is exactly what we encourage our students to do. I read a great article on teachthought.com called, “What if Every Teacher Tweeted?” and it got me thinking about the people I’m representing this year as a Teacher Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.

The 2017-18 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows are always looking for ways to connect and collaborate with other educators to bring practitioner perspective to leaders at the federal level, and social media makes it easier than ever. As a way to reach those beyond our own networks, we will be hosting #FellowsAtEd chats through @usedgov the first Wednesday of each month.

Highlighting STEM

We kicked off the series in December with a STEM focus in honor of Computer Education Week. We wanted to know how people are innovating STEM education in their schools and classrooms and communities so we could highlight those practices at the Department.

Without the Twitter chat, we never would have known that Sarah Gross’s (@thereadingzone) students from High Tech Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ have a camera trap project. They wrote a grant, set up cameras on campus as a biology research project and blog about the fascinating wildlife. Or that a group of girls from the same school started a STEMinist club.

We also learned about some incredible tools Audra Damron (@audra_damron) uses to introduce coding to preschoolers. These are successes we should be celebrating and finding inspiration from, and we are grateful to find them through the power of a hashtag.


If you have something to share or want to be inspired by new ideas, we invite you to engage in #FellowsAtED by joining our next chat on Wednesday, January 3rd through the @usedgov Twitter account. The topic is social and emotional learning because we know, as educators, how important it is to focus on the whole child, and we want to hear how you and your schools are meeting your students’ needs in innovative ways.

I don’t consider myself a techie, but I understand the importance and value of using technology to connect to the rest of the world. If we expect our students to challenge themselves with technology, we should embrace that for ourselves and our colleagues.

Educators across the country are already connected by our desire to make an impact on our students and their futures. Let’s make it official. Let’s do this TOGETHER. Learn from each other. Inspire each other. Lift each other up when we are feeling down. Push each other. Make each other better. #FellowsAtED can make us one colossal classroom. Let’s get connected.

Applications for the 2018-19 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows are open now through January 31st.


Melody Arabo is a 2017 Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education and was honored to serve as the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year. She has been a third grade teacher at Keith Elementary in Walled Lake, MI since 2002.

Photo at the top: The 2017-18 cohort of ED School Ambassador Fellows

The post ED’s School Ambassador Fellows Connect with #FellowsAtED Twitter Chats appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Coding and Collaboration with a Buddy System

December 21, 2017 - 8:54am

For several years our kindergarten and third grade students were accustomed to pairing up as reading buddies to improve their literacy skills through a mentee/mentor relationship. As a result of that success we decided to use a similar model to encourage our kids to collaboratively explore coding.

Students Engaged Quickly

The first step was to find a coding platform that was best suited for our students, one that fosters creativity and diversity and encourages students to drive their own creations and progress at their own pace. It was easy to research and there are several options that are tailored to a school setting.

Once we selected one, we quickly watched our students engage with it after only a short introduction, which was amazing.  You just don’t get that level of engagement, cooperation and excitement in young students with traditional teaching practices like paper and pencil work. Our students were paving the way and creating their own content. Whatever our students imagined soon became reality on the screen.

There was always bustling around the classroom, with students exclaiming, “Wow, how did you do that? Can you show me?” We created a “Code and Tell” component at the end of our coding time, so students could share something they discovered with the class and teach each other something new while building on their oral presentation skills.

In an effort to show students that coding can have real life applications and to provide them an authentic audience with leaders in our district, we developed the Operation Code Happiness project. Through this project, a third-grade student could write a letter of introduction, including a short survey, to members of our school district’s leadership. These administrators, also known as VIPs, were asked to complete and return the survey. Upon receiving information from the VIPs, such as their favorite color, song or photograph, coding buddies worked collaboratively to design aproject specifically with their VIP in mind.

Huge Leaps of Growth

In the spring, each set of coding buddies had an opportunity to present their creation to a room full of VIPs and others interested in learning more about the students’ creative process and experience with coding. Through this effort, we saw huge leaps of growth in students’ problem solving and resilience in the face of difficult coding challenges.  It often took several attempts before coding buddies would get their creation to look, sound and move just right.  Students were motivated to complete their project as they had envisioned it for their VIP. They also leaned heavily on each other to learn new elements and build outstanding projects.

As we talk to other teachers in our school and at technology conferences, we know this is only the beginning of coding in our classrooms. Our students are excited by this unique opportunity to take charge of their learning and to weave coding throughout multiple disciplines. As teachers, we know that it’s not our job to have all the answers all the time. It is our job to supply the right learning tools and environment to set our students up for the best learning experience possible. Coding is the perfect tool to help create a collaborative and creative environment, no matter what the age or grade level.


Juliann Snavely is a Kindergarten Teacher at Keith Elementary located in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She has been an early childhood educator for nineteen years and has been learning to code with her students since 2014. Juliann was honored to be selected as a Michigan Voice Educator Fellow (2015-16) and as the Keith Elementary Teacher of the Year (2008).

Angela Colasanti is a 3rd grade teacher at Keith Elementary in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.  Angela is a MI Educator Voice Fellow, a Galileo Teacher Leader and is passionate about coding with her students.

The post Coding and Collaboration with a Buddy System appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Public Comment Sought for Report on Obtaining Input from Rural Schools and Local Educational Agencies

December 19, 2017 - 3:36pm

SUMMARY:  In accordance with section 5005 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Secretary seeks information from the public regarding actions the Department of Education (Department) can take to improve how it considers the unique needs of rural schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) as it develops and implements its policies and programs.  The Secretary intends to use this information in issuing a final report, required under section 5005, describing the actions it will take to increase the consideration and participation of rural schools and LEAs in the development and execution of the Department’s processes, procedures, policies, and regulations. (Preliminary report in pdf format)

DATES:  We must receive your comments no later than February 18, 2018.

ADDRESSES:  Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, hand delivery, or email.  To ensure that we do not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID (ED-2017-OCO-0139) at the top of your comments.

Federal eRulemaking Portal:  Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically.  Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on the site under the “Help” tab.

Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, Hand Delivery, or Email:  The Department encourages commenters to submit their comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.  However, if you mail or deliver your comments in response to this request, address them to Michael Chamberlain, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, room 5E260, Washington, DC 20202.  If you email your comments, send them to rural@ed.gov.

Privacy Note:  The Department’s policy is to make all comments received from members of the public available for public viewing in their entirety on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov.  Therefore, commenters should be careful to include in their comments only information that they wish to make publicly available.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Michael Chamberlain, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, room 5E260, Washington, DC 20202. Telephone:  (202) 453-7527 or by email:  Michael.chamberlain@ed.gov.

If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf or a text telephone, call the Federal Relay Service, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.


Background:  Section 5005 of the ESSA (Pub. Law 114-95), which was enacted on December 10, 2015, requires the Department to:

“review the organization, structure, and process and procedures of the Department of Education for administering its programs and developing policy and regulations, in order to—

(A) assess the methods and manner through which, and the extent to which, the  Department of Education takes into account, considers input from, and addresses the unique needs and characteristics of rural schools and rural local educational agencies; and

(B) determine actions that the Department of Education can take to meaningfully increase the consideration and participation of rural schools and rural local educational agencies in the development and execution of the processes, procedures, policies, and regulations of the Department of Education.”

Section 5005 also requires the Department to publish a preliminary report containing the information described above and provide Congress and the public with 60 days to comment on the proposed actions.  Thereafter, the Department must issue a final report to the Department’s authorizing committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and carry out each action described in the final report or explain to the authorizing committees the reason for not carrying out any action described in the final report.

Request for Information:  Since the passage of the ESSA, the Department has been engaging in the required review and report, including conducting listening sessions on issues facing rural schools and LEAs and ways the Department can address those issues.  It gives a brief overview of how the Department is organized and describes how the Department solicited and incorporated input from rural stakeholders as it developed the preliminary report.  Additionally, the report explains the processes we currently use to incorporate the rural perspective into our policies and procedures, including processes we have recently implemented in response to stakeholder input, and describes additional proposed actions we can take.

While we invite comment on the entire report, we particularly encourage comment on the proposed actions, as described in the section of the report titled “Additional Actions the Department Can Take to Increase Rural Stakeholder Input.”  Specifically, we request feedback on whether:

  1. The actions described in the preliminary report will meaningfully increase the consideration and participation of rural schools and LEAs in the development and execution of the Department’s processes, procedures, policies, and regulations; and
  2. There are other actions the Department can take to achieve this goal.

Accessible Format:  Individuals with disabilities can obtain this document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, audiotape, or compact disc) on request to the program contact person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Electronic Access to This Document:  The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register.  Free internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available via the Federal Digital System at:  www.gpo.gov/fdsys.  At this site, you can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Portable Document Format (PDF).  To use PDF, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the site.

You may also access documents of the Department published in the Federal Register by using the article search feature at:  www.federalregister.gov.  Specifically, through the advanced search feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published by the Department.

(Copy of the preliminary report in pdf format)

The post Public Comment Sought for Report on Obtaining Input from Rural Schools and Local Educational Agencies appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Fighting Off the Wolves: ED and HHS Host Landmark Human Trafficking Prevention Event

December 15, 2017 - 9:44am

Human trafficking, exploiting people through forced labor and commercial sex, is modern-day slavery.  ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students maintains that schools can and should be safe places where students can thrive.  Unfortunately, the trafficking of America’s students, both for labor and for commercial sex, is a dark presence in our nation’s schools, jeopardizing the health, safety, and the very lives of students.

In late October, ED hosted a powerful event in tandem with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), during which a panel of parents, survivors, and subject matter experts, along with representatives from ED, HHS, and the community, discussed ways in which we all need to be working to keep our children out of harm’s way.  In addition, attendees were privileged to view an advance screening of “I Am Little Red,” a groundbreaking short film co-written by young trafficking survivors and aimed at students.

Human trafficking involves exploiting a person through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, commercial sex, or both.  Victims of human trafficking include men, women, boys, girls, and transgender individuals from other nations lured by the promise of a better life in the United States, as well as adults and children who were born and raised in the United States.  In fact, many child victims of human trafficking are students in the American school system.  School administrators and staff need to be aware that cases of child trafficking are being reported in communities throughout the nation.  No community—urban, rural, or suburban—school, socioeconomic group, or student demographic is immune.

Federal Actions to Combat Human Trafficking

At ED’s event, which focused on trafficking awareness and prevention, officials from ED and HHS opened the session by discussing actions the federal government is taking to combat trafficking, as well as future plans for policies and procedures.  David Esquith, the Director of ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, spoke about ED’s role in working with school communities.

“We inform school communities about the problem,” he said.  “We provide technical assistance; we encourage [schools] to embed human trafficking into their emergency operations plans.  And we work with partners at the federal, state and local level to come up with solutions to this very serious problem.  We’ve put out a guide called Human Trafficking in America’s Schools.  It’s intended to address and help schools respond to this issue, to recognize the problem, and to take the proper course of action.”

He also called out the multi-pronged approach ED is using in the fight against trafficking.  “We host webinars, we use social media, and we present at national conferences,” he said, pointing to four technical assistance centers based in OSHS: the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments,, the National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth , the National Center on Homeless Education, and the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center.

Grassroots Activity

Esquith then shared success stories, noting that individuals in school communities already have been spurred to action as a direct result of working with ED.  “Upon reading the guide, we had one parent inspired to set up an organization called Impact Virginia,” he said.  “She is planning a summit in 2018.  It’s that kind of grassroots activity that we hope the work at the Department and our partners at HHS have inspired and supported.”

“When schools reach out to us, to all of you, we have to be there for them,” he said, charging the audience to view trafficking as a human rights crisis.  “It’s our responsibility as not only the adults, but as the professionals in this field.  That’s why we’re here today.”

Modern Day Slavery

Charles Keckler, an associate deputy secretary at HHS, reflected upon our nation’s great orators to conceptualize the scale of the problem.  “Trafficking is modern day slavery, and it put me in mind of what Lincoln said:  If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong,” Keckler said.  “That tells us, if trafficking is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

Keckler outlined the steps HHS is taking as they approach trafficking from a public health perspective, discussing the programs of the Office on Trafficking and Persons, which funds a national network of victim assistance programs to support survivors of trafficking, and collaborates with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide resources and information on trafficking through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.  He also mentioned that the HHS-funded National Human Trafficking Hotline increasingly is expanding beyond just a voice number to texting and social media strategies to engage youth affected by human trafficking.

Keckler also commented that HHS is paying close attention to the potential for trafficking in the nation’s child welfare system, commenting on how HHS’s Children’s Bureau manages grants to address trafficking in the child welfare system.  The Family and Youth Services Bureau also addresses issues of human trafficking that involve runaway and homeless youth.

“The people and the children that are affected by trafficking are far too often those who, to put it simply, don’t have somebody looking out for them,” Keckler noted.  “So… what we have to do as a government, as a department, and as a society, is to help them look out for themselves, and to provide resources and people and communities who can help look out for them.”

“Because, as we can see today, the wolves are out there.”

Movie Sneak Preview

The session then segued to the exciting advance screening of “I Am Little Red,” by filmmaker Mary Mazzio.  Mazzio introduced the eight-minute short by discussing why she wanted to create a product that would speak directly to children.  “We’ve heard from survivor after survivor that none of them had a clue that this was happening, and they turned around and there it was,” she told the audience.  “Many of these children were three to six months in to what seemed to be a relationship with a close friend, friend of a brother, or friend of an uncle, without understanding.”

“Then, all of a sudden, they were in a room all alone with two adult men.”

To achieve her goal, Mazzio worked directly with young trafficking survivors, who gave her specific situations and language to use.  She also consulted with parents who had experienced trafficking of a child, and trafficking survivors who now are parents seeking to break the cycle of intergenerational abuse and trauma.  As a result, “I Am Little Red” uses the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood to depict four common situations that can lead to trafficking, and to help young children recognize warning signs.

Panelists Share Their Stories

Following the screening, a panel of parents, survivors, and subject matter experts shared their perspectives on how trusted adults can prevent trafficking.  The panel consisted of Yvonne Ambrose, whose 16-year old daughter became a victim of human trafficking; Elizabeth Corey, a former trafficking victim who now is an advocate and life coach for trauma survivors; and Savannah Sanders, a former trafficking victim who founded the resource website Sex Trafficking Prevention.  Each woman shared the similarities and differences in their stories, emphasizing what could have been done differently to help them.

Ambrose, who recently testified before the Senate, talked about how trafficking can lurk anywhere, even in places that look innocuous, and on websites that sound harmless.  Ambrose’s daughter, Desiree Robinson, was led into a trafficking situation through a classified advertising website.  When Robinson realized what was happening and tried to escape in December 2016, she was violently beaten and murdered.

Corey emphasized the idea that children can be trafficked anywhere, commenting that traffickers can lurk in schools and in average communities.  “A lot of times when I speak with people who are just hearing about trafficking for the first time, the first thing they say is ‘Oh yeah, I hear that happens in Asia,’ ” she said.  “Or, if we’re really lucky, they might see media of it happening in the U.S.  They’ll say ‘Yes, it happens to foster children, right?  I think I saw something on that.’  This is about bringing it to everyone, so that those people who are parents in the schools, around the country can understand that this is happening in their child’s school.  It is happening.  I don’t care what school it is, it’s happening in their child’s school.”

Elaborate Cross-Section of Victims

The panelists shared with the audience the necessity of not viewing trafficking victims as a homogenous group with a specific profile.  Sanders pointed out that the elaborate cross-section of victims creates complexity in looking for red flags, because exploitation can happen in many different ways.

“We often kind of see this ideology of what trafficking is, with stories about pimps with stables and multiple young girls, but… it can be parents that are trafficking their children for rent, drugs, or money,” she said.  “It can be something that happens to somebody that’s experienced abuse.  It could be somebody that’s recruited online.  It’s not a simple issue.  We have to look at the complexities of children and their families and their systems, and we have to start creating change within an entire system.”

She also pointed out how many victims are trafficked by a familiar person.  “A lot of my work in training parents is actually trying to break that mentality of stranger danger,” she observed.  “We tend to focus on the people that might look different from us, or act different from us, or have different jobs than us, but … over 90 percent of victims know their abuser.  It’s about what they’re doing, not what they look like.”

Interconnected to Other Forms of Trauma

Corey then shared part of her story, which was unique in that her biological parents were her traffickers.  While her life looked perfect from the outside, there were unimaginable horrors occurring on the inside.

”My parents were married, and they were people in society that everybody thought were powerful and great and good,” she told the crowd.  “I grew up while being trafficked in that type of home, and nobody was really paying attention.  I really want to stress that we have to take the spotlight off of trafficking just by itself, and really look at the way trafficking is interconnected and interrelated to other forms of trauma.  There was plenty of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect that was happening within my house.  Not all parents have the best interests of their child at heart.”

Sanders outlined how in her situation, a long history of sexual abuse and trauma made her a prime target.  “When I was trafficked at 16, I was trafficked by a gang, because I had a long history of sexual abuse and trauma,” she recalled.  “One of the things that I talk about in my book is the way a trafficker can spot a vulnerable child from a mile away, yet most of the adults in their lives cannot spot that vulnerable child.  By the time I met the man that would traffic me, I was so broken down, so vulnerable, so hurt, and in so much pain, he didn’t even have to use any of those tactics.  He just simply put his hand on my back and told me I’d be working for him.  My life to that point groomed me for that moment.”

“We have to flip that script,” she continued.  “Instead of a vulnerable child being available to be exploited, we need to be seeing that vulnerable child so we can love the hell out of them while they grow up and release those vulnerabilities.”

Educating Ourselves

Corey noted that educators have the best opportunity outside of the family to recognize trauma.  “Educators … have a lot of responsibility to see the traumatic behaviors,” she said, even as she acknowledged that teachers already have full plates, and it is asking a lot to challenge them to step into the realm of recognizing traumatic home lives.  “Yes, I’m putting a ton on you, but it’s so important that we educate ourselves as to what it looks like.  Trafficking, sex, internet safety — all of these things come into our schools.  The more we can get kids to disclose if something is wrong at home, the better.”

The panelists examined the role technology and social media are playing in sex trafficking today, observing that children are exposed to technology at ever-younger ages, and that the anonymity of the internet creates dangerous situations, such that parents need to be well-versed in the potential dangers accessible on every computer and mobile device.  “Nowadays, with social media, you don’t know who’s on the other side talking to you,” said Ambrose.  “It could be an adult, or it could be another kid who is trying to befriend you to traffic you.  We need to educate ourselves, we need to educate our educators, and we need to educate our health care providers as well.”

A Hopeful Note

The hopeful note on which all three panelists agreed was that a child at the intersection of trauma and trafficking has the opportunity to avoid danger if an adult in their life can reach out a hand.  “I’m not expecting teachers to be therapists,” said Sanders.  “Every single classroom in America [contains] traumatized children.  There’s no way to get around that.  But what are we doing to incorporate support systems in our schools for trauma?  It’s about identification.  It’s about just seeing a child.  Now that I’m an adult and I look back on my life, I know who my abusers were.  I know what they did to me.  It was horrific and it was sad.  But do you know who I remember?  I remember every safe person that came into my life through that process.  They saw me and they loved me.  When I felt seen, I felt connected.  That’s my call to action.”

Read the HHS story on this event.

View the event in its entirety on Mediasite.


Jennifer Padgett is the deputy director of internal communications in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

The post Fighting Off the Wolves: ED and HHS Host Landmark Human Trafficking Prevention Event appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Very Special Student Artists Display Vision, Imagination in VSA Exhibit at U.S. Department of Education

December 5, 2017 - 1:03pm

Seventeen-year-old Keevon Howard has mastered one cardinal rule laid down by his high school art teacher, one that resonates beyond the classroom. “Don’t erase,” his teacher counselled — accept the mistake and weave it into your composition. Coping is a vital life skill, she said, so whatever you put on the paper, that’s what you deal with.

Keevon was at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the opening of the 13th annual VSA exhibit, a joint project of ED and the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center. His collage is on display at ED through December, along with the works of other students with disabilities from five countries. The opening, and the panel discussion, “Changing Lives Through Arts Education,” drew artists and their families, ED staff, representatives from VSA and the Kennedy Center, and arts educators and advocates.

“You can express yourself better with art than with words,” the Rhode Island teen said. In his collage, light and dark scraps of newsletter are crowded around the heads of a nuzzling mother and child. “The dark surroundings symbolize all of the problems in the world,” he explained.

Amid the chaos, however, the mother and child, illuminated by yellow paint, remain connected. Keevon’s mother, Kinya Howard, said her son has behavioral issues and created his artwork during a time when the two often clashed. Struggles notwithstanding, Keevon’s bond with his mother has blossomed.

Keevon Howard and his mother, Kinya Howard, with his collage “Strength in the Face of Hardship”

The exhibit is titled “Ubuntu: Yo Soy … Je Suis … I Am … Because You Are.” A South African concept, “Ubuntu” colloquially translates to “my humanity is connected to yours.” Like Keevon’s work of art, all of the pieces in the show explore this relationship among humans via a variety of visions and of mediums. Click here for photos of the exhibit.

During the panel discussion, the hopes and goals of the student artists and people close to them came through forcefully: to develop a voice, to connect and to communicate.

“The world can be very hard and very harsh on those who are different from the mainstream,” said Jeannine Chartier, executive and artistic director of VSA Arts Rhode Island. Chartier has a personal link to her vocation; the limp with which she walks is the result of childhood polio.

Another panel member, 25-year-old Mara Clawson, a 2016–17 winner of a VSA Kennedy Center Emerging Artists with Disabilities award, has a neurogenetic disorder, as well as developmental delays. “Her first language was sign language, and we didn’t know if we’d get beyond ‘I want more,’” Mara’s mother, Michelle Marks, explained.  When Mara was about 11, however, a teacher placed newsprint and pastels in front of her, “and the world came out in an amazing conversation of stories about eggs falling out of nests and bowling pins flying,” Marks added. “We had no idea that this was inside of her.”

The artistic capacities of special education students are often underestimated, according to panel member Carmen Jenkins-Frazier, a D.C. arts teacher at the School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens. “If you have patience and your children are able to trust and understand that you are there for them, and they feel secure in your space — then anything is possible in that classroom.”

The panel moderator was Mario Rossero, senior vice president of education at the Kennedy Center. From his experience in this role and as a former arts teacher, Rossero offered these thoughts: “When students create artwork it plays a critical role in their learning, growth, development, and ability to make connections; they are often able to communicate complex ideas that would be difficult to say through other means.”

Kimberly Richey, ED’s acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitation services, said, “Our partnership with VSA allows us to say to all of our employees and all of our visitors every day that arts education develops knowledge for all people, no matter their differences — cultural, geographic, abilities, age, gender — and that we each have a lot to learn from the artists, not least of which is about having the courage to be creative in our life’s work.”

Following the panel discussion and the ribbon-cutting ceremony by the students, attendees reflected on what they had learned at the opening.

“I liked the focus on artists with disabilities,” Kali Wasenko, an external engagement specialist at the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities, remarked. Beyond demonstrating the importance of art as therapy, she added, “the exhibit is very validating of their talents as artists.”


Nancy Paulu is a writer and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Chareese Ross is a student art exhibit program associate and editor in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Photo at the top: A ribbon-cutting signaled the official opening of the Kennedy Center/VSA exhibit. 

All photos are by ED photographer Leslie Williams.

ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers with an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors it as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at Jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.

Click here for a Washington Post article on the exhibit.

Click here to find a teacher resource guide providing visual art lesson plans to engage students with disabilities.

The post Very Special Student Artists Display Vision, Imagination in VSA Exhibit at U.S. Department of Education appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Proud to Serve Again

November 21, 2017 - 1:05pm

Each year our school hosts a Veterans Day assembly and breakfast. After this year’s assembly, a number of students shared how they were surprised and excited to see my military photo during the slideshow tribute. Some were shocked and amused to see a serious looking and clean shaven Master Sergeant Harris instead of their bearded and smiling classroom teacher, Mr. Harris. I suppose the topic of my 22 years of military service and transition to teaching isn’t something I routinely discuss with students.

Teaching is a family tradition for many educators. That’s not my story.

The Idea Is Planted

Teaching was never on my radar while growing up. The idea to teach was planted many

Elmer Harris

years ago while working within a school but in a different capacity. I was a military recruiter in my early 20s and regularly visited local high schools in an effort to enlist young men and women into the Air Force. During visits to one school, one of the guidance counselors would always walk past my table and casually say, without stopping, “You should consider teaching.” I’d always laugh and reply, “No thanks” to his back as he waved and kept moving to another task in his building.

Fast forward several years and it seems that guidance counselor’s not-so-subliminal messages worked. After retiring from the Air Force I eventually began the process to become a teacher through the Troops to Teachers program.

The Joys And Challenges

While many assume that structure and discipline are key traits that make teaching a good fit for veterans, the ability to be compassionate and relatable have been vital to my success with military students and families. I’m able to engage military parents in the education process because I’ve been in their position of feeling slightly lost while continually navigating new homes, jobs and school environments. I also understand and adjust when children occasionally act out of character when their mothers and fathers deploy or return from war zones.

I’ve never had a student who lost a parent, but I’ve met many on their first day of school accompanied by a parent with a prosthetic limb or cane due to war-related injuries. While some may stare and silently wonder what happened, I’m eager to engage and have them share about their time in service. It’s a simple way to quickly establish relationships with military parents.

The Veterans Day assembly was a success. Parents enjoyed breakfast, and my students walked around with their heads high and chests out after their presentations. I was proud as well.

Despite the upheavals and occasional uncertainty faced by my military students and their families, they continue to show amazing resilience. I’m proud that I get the opportunity to support those who continue to serve, and I’m extremely proud and honored to play a role in shaping the lives of their most precious treasure. While it would feel odd to thank another vet or active duty person for their service, I never have a problem routinely asking a very simple question….Have you ever considered teaching?

Elmer Harris is a 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education

The post Proud to Serve Again appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

FLOTUS, Secretary Visit Highlights Anti-Bullying Efforts

November 8, 2017 - 12:41pm

As a School Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, I had the opportunity to help plan and coordinate a visit for First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos to Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, MI. The school was selected because they had pledged their commitment to anti-bullying initiatives promoting inclusion and acceptance. Orchard Lake Middle School prides itself on diversity and anti-bullying programs, so the principal and staff knew that they would be a good fit for FLOTUS’s bullying prevention platform.

Breaking Bully Stereotypes

I have spent the last decade focusing on breaking bully stereotypes and shifting the conversation around such a critical topic, so I jumped at the chance to be part of this work at a national level. Most of the bullying I faced as a student occurred in middle school, so I was shocked to see it happen with my third graders. The most surprising part, however, was when I realized which students were doing the bullying. Some of my sweetest, smartest, and most seemingly innocent kids were often the ones doing the most harm. I see the same trends and patterns with every class.

One thing these kids all have in common is that they do not see themselves as bullies since they do not resemble the exaggerated characters in TV and movies. No one is a bully all the time, and this misconception makes it hard for kids to accept their actions as bullying behavior. This problem can be perpetuated in any school lunchroom when kids are left feeling isolated and excluded, while the classmates doing the excluding don’t understand the harm they cause. Effective anti-bullying initiatives can really help change those dynamics, and having the First Lady and Secretary share that message really helps kids pay attention.

Students Realize the Magnitude of the Event

I was able to be at the school for most of the day, hours before the special guests arrived. I could feel the energy in the building as students buzzed with anticipation. It was fascinating to watch all that happened behind the scenes and the planning and manpower it took to execute a one-hour visit. But the students reminded me why this event was so important. While the adults were scurrying around making sure things were running smoothly, the middle schoolers were enjoying the moment, recognizing the magnitude of what was happening. They knew their school was being highlighted and it meant they were doing something right, and that is an empowering feeling.

Sharing a message with kids about the importance of compassion and kindness is something that everyone should stand behind, and that day, everyone did. It is a big deal to have the First Lady and Education Secretary of the United States at their school, and this is something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. I am quite sure they will also remember that no one should eat alone either.


Melody Arabo is a 2017-18 Washington School Ambassador Fellow.

Photo at the top: A student takes a selfie with First Lady Melania Trump. (Melody: “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the picture at the top is worth a million smiles. It perfectly captures the joy that was felt in the room by students who realized they were experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”)

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post FLOTUS, Secretary Visit Highlights Anti-Bullying Efforts appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Longest Serving Sergeant Major of the Army to Highlight ED Veterans Day Program

November 6, 2017 - 1:00pm

Here at the Department of Education, autumn is more than back to school.  In addition to all the back to school activities, we also host significant events each year tied to our nation’s history.  Veterans Day is one of them and is observed at the Department each year close to November 11.

2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I and Veterans Day originated from that war. November 11 marks the date of the armistice that ended hostilities in 1918.

In fact, President Woodrow Wilson signed the following proclamation to commemorate the first Armistice Day, held on November 11, 1919: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

ED’s 2017 Veterans Day Program

This year’s Veterans Day program theme is “Military members serve with their hearts – We honor them with our thanks.”

The program will be held on Thursday, November 9 at 10:00am in the LBJ Auditorium.  The keynote speaker this year is Kenneth O. Preston, who retired as the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army and was the longest-serving Sergeant Major of the Army.  According to the U.S. Army web page, “There’s only one Sergeant Major of the Army. This rank is the epitome of what it means to be a Sergeant and oversees all Non-Commissioned Officers. The Sergeant Major serves as the senior enlisted advisor and consultant to the Chief of Staff of the Army.”

In that position, Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Preston served as the Army Chief of Staff’s personal adviser on all Soldier and Family related matters, particularly areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life. Throughout his 36-year career, he served in every enlisted leadership position from cavalry scout and tank commander.  SMA Preston holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from TUI University and has earned numerous medals and awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, and the Bronze Star Medal.

This year’s program will include appearances from representatives of the National Security Council and the Veterans Administration.  The University of Maryland USAF Color Guard and the North Point High School ROTC will participate.


Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post Longest Serving Sergeant Major of the Army to Highlight ED Veterans Day Program appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Still Ripe after 100 Years; ED Panel Discusses the Constitution and World War I

November 2, 2017 - 2:38pm

To comply with the law that requires all schools that receive federal funding and all federal agencies to observe Constitution Day, September 17, here at the Department of Education, we focused on the Constitutional issues that arose during World War I. We chose to focus on World War I because 2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into that war.

Secretary DeVos introduced this year’s program, held on September 18, by highlighting the importance of the Constitution with the following comments:

You see, the text of the Constitution is about limiting government, not a so-called living document that can suddenly usurp the power of the people on the whim of any politician or social norm. Yet this self-evident philosophy has been lost somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, too many kids aren’t even at the “School House Rock” level. Broadway elevated Alexander Hamilton’s name to cultural fame but too few know the real Hamilton. The author of the Federalist Papers also wrote that, and I quote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments or musty records, they are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself and can never be erased.”

This year’s program featured two distinguished historians; Edward G. Lengel, Chief Historian at the White House Historical Association, and Tony Williams, Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.  Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project, served as moderator.

Although it has been 100 years since World War I, the panelists agreed that World War I and the issues that arose from that era are very much with us today.

“I think the impact of this war on our society was much, much, much greater than people realize,” said Lengel.  “We have tended to view this war from a distance. We have tended to view it through stereotype – that it was simply a brutal slugfest with millions of casualties with millions of people dying and accomplishing nothing whatsoever.  And we have very little understanding in this country – not just of its impact in Europe, but on its impact on every day people in the United States.”

In fact, many of the issues which are contentious today were issues during World War I as well.   Williams took civil liberties as an example.  In his description, the America of 1917-18 would be unrecognizable to us today.

Two pieces of legislation, the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, were passed in Congress with the intention of limiting free speech.  Williams set the stage by describing President Wilson’s views on opposition to the war:  “Wilson commented several times on dissent against that war and dissenters who voiced their opinions.   He said the opponents of his war policies were ‘pouring the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.  Those creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy, must be crushed now.’”

“The Wilson administration moved quickly, unfortunately, to suppress dissent and civil liberties,” said Williams.  “The Attorney General, Thomas Gregory, drafted the bill that would become the Espionage Act, which made it a crime to interfere with the operations of the military, or to cause insubordination, disloyalty, rioting, or refusal of duty — or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment services of the United States.   The Attorney General on one occasion said, ‘May God have mercy on them for they need expect none from an outraged people or an avenging government.’”

The Wilson Justice Department went into action to enforce the law and “prosecuted 2,000 plus cases under the Espionage Act,” said Williams.  “Congress created the Espionage Act not just to curtail free speech, but more specifically, to prevent interference with the draft or conscription.  Over 1000 convictions were upheld by the courts, including a very famous socialist, Eugene Debs, and leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW.”

Mr. Williams quoted a fellow historian, who said that, during World War I, “liberty and justice were compromised in ways more extreme and extensive than at any other time in American History.”

And so, in wrapping the Constitution with World War I, we acknowledged the men and women who have served in the armed services to defend our Constitution. Although they are no longer with us, their descendants and legacies are, and the legal lessons learned during that period are still very much with us.

View the Constitution Day program.


Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post Still Ripe after 100 Years; ED Panel Discusses the Constitution and World War I appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News