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Combating Substance Abuse in Schools

January 17, 2019 - 11:15am

In recent years there have been significant increases in alcohol, drug and substance abuse across the country. This abuse has significantly impacted K-12 school-age students as well as those pursuing postsecondary education.

To help combat substance abuse in schools, the Department of Education has developed webinars designed for State-, district- and building-level administrators, teachers and specialized instructional support personnel interested in supporting students and families impacted by the opioid crisis.

In recognition of this year’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) scheduled for January 22-27, 2019, the Department is sharing the signs and strategies to help identify and support impacted students below. To view the webinar on this important topic, click here.

Warning signs that may indicate that a student is impacted by opioids, alcohol and other substance use, include:

Elementary Students

  • Poor mental/motor development
  • Memory and perception problems
  • Speech and language problems
  • Developmental delays
  • Reduced decision making abilities
  • Impaired self-regulation
  • Poor response to stressful situations
  • Impaired school performance

Middle School Students

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Poor hygiene/Changes in physical appearance
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Decline in academic performance or attendance

High School Students

  • Mood and personality changes
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Health and hygiene issues
  • Changes in relationships with friends and family
  • Problems with police
  • Unhealthy peer/dating relationships
  • Disengagement from school
  • Poor attendance or dropping out

Strategies to support students who may be impacted by opioids, alcohol and other substance use, include:

  • Find out what kinds of resources are available in your school or district, so you know where to turn to get help for a student
  • Talk with school counselors, nurses and administrators to find out how best to support students for whom you are concerned
  • Learn to recognize the signs of opioid, alcohol and substance abuse so you can refer students appropriately
  • Integrate basic alcohol and drug prevention skill-building into everyday teaching so student can learn to:
    • Make good decisions
    • Solve problems
    • Become more assertive and practice learning refusal skills
    • Be more self-aware
    • Build positive relationships
  • Help students learn coping and stress management skills such as:
    • Self-control
    • Standing up to peer pressure
    • Time management
    • Dealing with difficult situations like conflict or loss
    • Setting goals
  • Talk with students about opioid, alcohol and substance abuse

Information on how to plan, register and host your own NDAFW event, or to receive free publications, resources and educational activities, can be found at National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers.

To learn more about the U.S. national opioid crisis and find information and resources on how schools, students and parents of students can help fight this epidemic, please visit the Department’s website at Combating the Opioid Crisis: Schools, Students, Families

The post Combating Substance Abuse in Schools appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Federal Employees: How to manage your student loans during the government shutdown

January 11, 2019 - 1:13pm

Are you a federal employee impacted by the partial government shutdown? Here are some options to manage your student loans while you are furloughed or not receiving pay.

1. Postpone Your Payments through a Deferment or Forbearance

If you are a federal employee impacted by the partial government shutdown, you may temporarily postpone making your payments through the use of a deferment or forbearance. In particular, economic hardship deferments, unemployment deferments (if receiving unemployment benefits), a general forbearance, or a student loan debt burden forbearance may be available to you if you’re affected by the shutdown. You should understand, however, that interest generally continues to accrue on loans during deferment or forbearance. When the deferment or forbearance ends, interest will capitalize (compound) if left unpaid and will likely make your monthly payment go up when you restart your payments. You’ll also pay more over time as interest will now accrue on both your original principal balance and any capitalized interest.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Postponing Your Federal Student Loan Payments

Working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?:

If you are working toward PSLF, periods of deferment or forbearance will not count toward the 120 payments needed to qualify for forgiveness under the PSLF program.

2. Enroll in or Update your Income-Driven Repayment Plan

Another option you have while you’re furloughed and not receiving pay is to enroll in an  income-driven repayment plan, which will set your payment according to your income. If you have little to no income, your payment under the income-driven repayment plans could be as low as $0 per month. If you’re working toward PSLF, even these $0 per month payments count toward the 120 payments needed to qualify for PSLF, assuming you meet all the other eligibility requirements.

If you are already in an income-driven repayment plan, you can visit StudentLoans.gov and complete an updated Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request to have your payment recalculated or you can contact your servicer and request to have your payment re-calculated immediately to account for your drop in income.

In either case, after the shutdown ends, you should notify your servicer that you are back to work, and that you are again able to resume making payments based on your restored income.

For information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, visit StudentAid.gov/publicservice.

Contact your loan servicer for more information, or to make any changes to your current repayment plan.

The post Federal Employees: How to manage your student loans during the government shutdown appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Time to Play and Learn: The 2019 ED Games Expo at the Kennedy Center

January 3, 2019 - 12:43pm

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

Every year, the ED Games Expo promotes game-based learning though the display of exciting educational games and technology. With the 6th Annual ED Games Expo taking place next week, here are 5 things to know about this year’s Expo:

1.) The ED Games Expo will take place on January 8 from 4-8PM at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Expo is free and open to the public. Expo attendees can demo 125 educational learning games while meeting the developers. The games and technologies are for students of all ages in education and special education and cover topics including STEM, reading, social studies and social development. Many incorporate emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, 3D printing, engaging narrative adventures and puzzles.

 2.) This year the Expo is hosting activities to showcase the role of STEM and the arts in the development of learning games. On January 7 from 10AM-2PM, eight learning game developers will provide TED-style talks to Washington, DC-area students titled “How The Game Was Made.”  The talks will illustrate the many roles that it takes to develop games, including the concept creator, engineer, coder, web designer, graphics artist, script writer, musician, teacher, education researcher, learning scientist, business expert and more. The talks are intended to inform and inspire students in their own education and future career aspirations, from STEM to literature to the arts to thinking like an entrepreneur. The talks will be live simulcast and available as recordings on the Kennedy Center website.

3.) The Learning Game Awards, a special competition launched this year, will showcase the original “Art,” “Musical Scores” and “Video Demonstrations” in the Expo’s learning games. Be sure to check out the entries and vote for your favorites.

 4.) Many of the games and technologies at the Expo were developed with funding from more than 25 government programs, including ED’s Small Business Innovation Research program, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Office of Special Education Programs, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

 5.) To learn more about the Expo and to RSVP for next week’s event, contact Edward.Metz@ed.gov.


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Categories: Higher Education News

It’s Time to Rethink Career and Technical Education

December 19, 2018 - 1:16pm

A recent state reported data set on CTE participation shows only 8 million of America’s 15 million high school students participate in a CTE course in a given year. Additionally, only 1 in 5 high school students chose to concentrate in a CTE program of study. At the same time, the numbers of transfer students at community colleges are outpacing those enrolled in CTE certificate or associates degree pathways. This results in an America where employers face a profound skills gap and students carry $1.5 trillion in financial aid debt. Too few students are taking advantage of CTE educational opportunities that lead to great jobs and careers. It is time for Career and Technical Education in the U.S. to be the nimble, demand-driven talent development system that it is meant to be.

To address these issues, in July, President Trump signed Perkins V into law. The law requires robust stakeholder engagement to encourage local and state-driven innovation and advancement. Due to its engaged nature, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has released the draft State Plan Guide for public comment and will be issuing the final guide in early 2019. Additionally, OCTAE has gathered teams from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Somoa – each eager to launch their state plan development process and excited about the opportunities the act provides to establish a new vision for CTE.

To continue stakeholder involvement, on Friday, December 14, OCTAE hosted the Rethink CTE Summit. The summit brought together 150 business and industry representatives, associations and educators that demonstrated commitment to preparing America’s future workforce. Five intentionally crafted sessions equipped participants to mobilize their networks to engage with states and local education agencies on the development of their state plans.

Additionally, participants left prepared to ask the tough questions:

  • Why aren’t work-based learning and “earn and learn” programs (like apprenticeships) the rule and not the exception?
  • Why can’t employers play a larger role in preparing students for their futures?
  • Why is CTE for some and not all students?
  • Why do barriers exist between the levels and types of education?

Success for the summit did not rest in answering each of these questions or simply talking about the new law. Rather the summit sought to assist participants in identifying questions that need to be asked at their state and local levels. If the right questions are asked in states across the country, stakeholders will be empowered to find bold solutions in providing students with multiple pathways and better preparation for what comes next!

For more information about how you can get involved in the state planning process, please visit the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, navigate the resources on the Summit website, or reach out to Richard Pettey at Richard.Pettey@ed.gov.


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Categories: Higher Education News

10 Fun Ways to Encourage Learning this Winter Break

December 18, 2018 - 1:49pm

With the holidays quickly approaching, winter break is a time of celebration and relaxation. While the time away from school provides a well-deserved break for your student(s), it also provides the opportunity for significant learning loss. Keeping your student(s) learning this holiday season can be fun and easy while ensuring they return to school both revitalized and ready for a new year of learning.

Here are 10 fun ways to prevent learning loss this winter break:

1.) Giving your student gifts this holiday? Gift your student educational toys/games that will keep learning exciting and fun! Science experiments and scrapbooking kits are great ways to make learning fun and hands-on.

2.) Spending time with others during the break? Ask your friends/family members to bring books to read with your student during their visit.

3.) Is it too cold to play outside? Find free yoga and dancing videos online for your student to follow or dance as a family to encourage movement.

4.) Need an easy way for your student to exercise their knowledge? Have your student play educational video and computer games or watch an interesting historical movie.

5.) Are there free concerts or plays in your community this holiday season? Attend a production to expose your student to the arts.

6.) Feeling crafty? Complete a holiday craft for your student to engage their creative side and for the younger students to practice their motor skills.

7.) Are you traveling this break or staying local? Find and visit a museum or historical site to expose your student to new concepts. Don’t forget to ask about student and teacher discounts!

8.) Need an extra hand in the kitchen? Cook/bake a new recipe for your student to practice their math and measuring.

9.) Do you have family coming over? Include your student in engaging conversations that require them to answer open ended questions and practice their communication skills.

10.) Does your student love their teacher? Have them practice their writing skills by writing a holiday greetings card to their teacher or thank you notes to those they received gifts from.


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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Alaska Magnet School Provides Career Readiness in District the Size of Indiana

December 13, 2018 - 1:59pm

Paul Bartos knew about education in rural America after serving as a 7th grade biology teacher, assistant principal and a principal in Poplar and White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

However, Montana was not considered rural for a majority of the students in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Kotzebue, Alaska. “Kotz” as Alaskans call the town, is home to just over 3,200 residents and 2,000 students. Despite the small population, students are spread throughout an area the size of Indiana. It is here that Paul served as an assistant principal at Kotzebue High School and now serves as principal of Star of the Northwest Magnet School.

Students in the Introduction to Culinary Arts class at Star of the Northwest Magnet School take cheese cake out of the freezer to firm up the icing prior to serving.

Due to the rural nature of the Northwest Arctic district, an important educational need had not been met:

“The greatest piece that was not being met was career readiness or secondary-education readiness. The kids were not ready for the workforce, for the jobs that were in high demand here in our region.”

In response to this need, the regional school board enacted a plan to create the Star of the Northwest Magnet School. Star of the Northwest has partnerships with the Alaska Technical Center and University of Alaska at Fairbanks, designed to provide students with pathways to careers and higher education. Alaska Technical Center provides students with education in process tech (technology needed in the mining industry), culinary art and health care.

Trevor Ayunerak, 12th grade, from Alakanuk, practices basic techniques for his welding class.

“The kids will go to high school, but then they’ll go over to the tech center (four blocks from the magnet school). It’s dual-enrollment credits. They’re earning their certifications and their high-school diploma at the same time. The University of Alaska campus provides Star of the Northwest teachers with certification as adjunct professors. This way, our teachers are able to provide classes in high school for college credits.”

Star of the Northwest also works with Anchorage-based Voyage to Excellence. Typically, a Star of the Northwest student lives with his family in a camp 35 miles up the Noatak River. If the student wants to be a pilot, the curriculum is not offered in Kotzebue but Voyage to Excellence provides the necessary pilot ground school in Anchorage.

Star of the Northwest’s partnerships underscore that this magnet school’s success comes from being part of a team.

“We cannot do what we do without every stakeholder involved – from the parents to the janitor to the neighbors to the mom and dad. To me, it’s unreal when parents say, ‘Yes, we believe in what you’re doing. We trust you with our child. Do what you can to support them.’ I think we do a pretty good job at it.”


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

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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Alaska Magnet School Provides Career Readiness in District the Size of Indiana appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

9 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

December 11, 2018 - 12:40pm

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

  • You can add up to 10 schools at a time.
  • If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.
  • If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.

I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at StudentAid.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

I only have to fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as StudentAid.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!

Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

So what’s next?

Go to StudentAid.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.

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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Struggling Student Discovers Path through Colorado Apprenticeship Program

December 6, 2018 - 12:53pm

Sierra didn’t always dream of working in the insurance business. In fact, until recently, she didn’t even know if she’d finish high school.

But with the help of a caring counselor, a local business and an innovative state effort, Sierra is now thriving in her new role as a full-time employee at Pinnacol Assurance.

Her journey from struggling student to working professional began when Sierra’s counselor approached her with a new opportunity through CareerWise, a Colorado nonprofit that helps businesses recruit talent through paid apprenticeships that begin in high school.

Sierra (center) speaks in a meeting with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

“I was stuck. My life is kind of different. I have no parents, so I am really on my own,” said Sierra. The Colorado resident says she spent her early years being “tossed around a lot” without a stable home to ground her academically or personally – so she planned on dropping out.

Despite Sierra’s reservations, her counselor thought the program would be a “good fit.” So the high schooler conducted research and then attended a presentation by Pinnacol, a Denver-based insurance company. Work at the company had exciting benefits, including a tuition reimbursement program.

“I knew I had to have this opportunity,” said Sierra. “I grabbed it.” During the first year of the program, CareerWise students attend high school classes three days a week and participate in on-the-job training for up to 16 hours per week. By the third year, students have finished their formal academic classes, and begin working 32 hours or more.

Work-based learning opportunities like Sierra’s are part of a statewide push to promote apprenticeships. By strengthening the talent pipeline, state leaders believe Colorado can build a competitive economy now, and maintain that edge in the future.

The Business Experiential Learning Commission – a state effort – travelled to Switzerland in 2016 to learn about the country’s successful apprenticeship model and find ways to adapt what’s working there for Colorado businesses, communities, and students. Since then, the Commission has developed a work-based learning system – including apprenticeships – that prepares residents to meet the demands of today’s economy.

Students with Senator Bennet

Sierra learned about those demands firsthand – among them, communication and collaboration. “Looking back even in pictures — even the way I held myself — to seeing it now, I see how I’ve drastically changed,” said Sierra. “I’ve seen it in myself.” After a challenging start at Pinnacol, Sierra now identifies herself as a “professional.”

“[Apprentices] provide a lot of energy and new perspectives,” said a Pinnacol representative. “They are more tech savvy than a lot of our employees.”

Drawn from a pool of both struggling and high-achieving students, apprentices are highly motivated to succeed – motivation they might not find in traditional classroom settings. Coupled with on-the-job training, their skills fill much-needed gaps in a variety of fields.

“[Apprentices] are better consumers of their education because they’ve been in the workplace and know exactly how to apply that education,” said Hollis Salway, Director of Development for CareerWise. “We really have to get away from the traditional concept of school… and away from the ‘four-year college path only’ concept.”

For Sierra, a career at Pinnacol truly is the perfect fit.  The company certainly agrees.

“When I got hired full-time, I cried,” said Sierra. “It’s unbelievable to think that this opportunity is mine.”

In Colorado, opportunities like these are helping to strengthen the prospects of individual businesses, and the state’s economy. And, whatever her career holds, one thing is clear to both employee and employer: Sierra has a bright future.


Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Struggling Student Discovers Path through Colorado Apprenticeship Program appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

How Computer Science Encourages Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

December 4, 2018 - 2:31pm

Five years ago, I sat in front of my computer with my 7-year-old daughter and completed the Hour of Code. She absolutely loved the idea of typing something and seeing animation as a result. This was the first time she was exposed to computer science and coding.

We spent hours completing various activities online and seeing things move, jump and make sounds. I have always loved technology, so seeing my daughter enjoy it made me proud.

However, after a while, I noticed she didn’t enjoy typing on a computer as much as I did. We were missing a physical component, beyond the visuals on the computer screen.

Then, I saw the trailer for the LEGO Movie and it came to me. I went out, purchased several LEGO sets and told my daughter to think about using the LEGO blocks like she would use “blocks of code” to create something.

I soon realized the LEGOs targeted her spatial thinking, which was sparked by her coding. She wanted something more tangible than typing on a keyboard. Like many of her female classmates, she wanted a more hands-on experience, which students are unfortunately not often afforded. Additionally, nearly all the LEGO sets and coding activities, such as Minecraft, were targeted toward the male student population from their characters to their design colors.

Despite this, my daughter started asking me questions like “Can I be an engineer, architect, or even a programmer?” I emphatically responded “YES” and have always tried to let her know that she can be anything she wants.

During the summer of 2014, I saw a special research institute set of LEGOs that had female scientists focused on STEM careers. To my knowledge, this had never been done by LEGO. I was so excited when I ordered and surprised my daughter with the set. She could hardly contain her excitement either! It reminded me of the first time we sat down to code and her eyes lit up with the joy of learning something new.

Since then, LEGO has released a Women of NASA set (which my daughter told me I had to buy). With my daughter’s continued passion for coding and love of LEGOs, we have started to look at more advanced projects that have both a computer science and a physical, hands-on component.

I am happy to see my daughter interested in STEM careers because of the computer science component. This all started with my daughter learning how to type a few lines of code and now a world of opportunities await her!


Snehal Bhakta (@Snehalstocks) works in the Career and Technical Education Department of Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada. Snehal leads CCSD’s Non-Traditional Careers initiative and his exciting work particularly focuses on women and girls in STEM and Technology. Over the last 3 years, he’s had the pleasure and opportunity to lead the school district’s efforts to engage and encourage more young women to consider STEM and Technology career fields.  With the help of his daughter, he uses the combination of computer science and physical activities like LEGOs, to inspire, encourage and bring awareness of STEM careers to all girls in CCSD.


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Categories: Higher Education News

15 Fast Facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Program

December 3, 2018 - 12:45pm

This morning, the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Commerce joined the Swiss government in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on apprenticeships. This agreement will build upon ongoing collaboration between the United States and Switzerland to encourage businesses and stakeholders to promote the value of apprenticeship programs and develop effective strategies to increase awareness of and access to work-based learning.

While you may be familiar with apprenticeship programs in the United States, there is a lot to know about Switzerland’s programs. In recognition of this morning’s MOU signing, here are 15 fast facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Program:

  1. Most Swiss vocational programs are dual-tracked. Students participate in an apprenticeship for 3 to 4 days a week to gain hands-on experience and receive classroom instruction for the remainder of the school week.
  2. Vocational training is an integral part of the Swiss education system. Nearly 2/3 of young people in Switzerland choose to pursue a vocational program.
  3. The most popular Swiss vocational programs include: health care workers, social care workers, electricians, cooks, and IT specialists.
  4. Swiss upper secondary students can choose from approximately 250 vocational education programs. Some programs take 2 years to complete; other may take up to 4. All programs lead to an officially recognized diploma or certificate.
  5. A defining feature of the Swiss vocational education system is its close correlation with the labor market. Training is geared to actual demand for vocational qualifications and to available jobs.
  6. Swiss students who hold a vocational diploma or certificate can choose to further pursue professional education and training (PET), which provides specialization in a given field and preparation for highly technical and managerial roles.
  7. In Switzerland there are approximately 400 federal professional education and training (PET) examinations and 57 college degree programs.
  8. Swiss students who hold a federal vocational baccalaureate are entitled to enroll in any of Switzerland’s universities of applied sciences without having to take an entrance exam.
  9. 93% of Swiss students who are enrolled in pre-vocational or vocational programs are enrolled in joint vocational programs which combine both school and work-based elements.
  10. Swiss companies spend almost 1% of GDP/year on apprenticeships.
  11. Among reported companies, there is a 50-80% retention rate among apprentices.
  12. Companies start recruiting students in the 7th grade with apprenticeships starting in 10th grade.
  13. Even at a cost of $50K-$150K over 3-4 years, the businesses get a full return on their investment.
  14. Apprentices have multiple pathways post-apprenticeship including university, professional college, the workforce and more.
  15. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos visited Switzerland in June and identified many ways Americans can learn from Switzerland’s Apprenticeships.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Exemplary Student Art and Writing Honored at U.S. Department of Education

November 30, 2018 - 5:10pm
Scholastic, Association of Art Museum Directors, Encourage Students’ Education Through the Arts

The braces aren’t immediately detectable, tucked inside the pant legs of their owner, 17-year-old Tim Farmer. They are a vital part of Tim’s life, however, and are the focus of his photograph and essay on display at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Tim travelled recently from Bentonville, Arkansas, to attend a joint celebration at ED of exceptional student art and writing. Some of it, like Tim’s, came to ED from 11 museum members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), which views art education and the promotion of student art as central to its and its members’ mission; others won top honors in the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition. On hand for the art exhibit opening were student artists and writers from across the country, their families, arts educators and leaders, congressional staff, and ED staff.

Tim has worn braces since the fourth grade, when cancer led to damaged nerves in his legs. Today, he walks with a limp. When his 10th-grade English teacher (who has expertise in integrating arts into core classroom subjects) asked students to write about something affecting their everyday lives, Tim created “What a Day in My Shoes.”

“If you were to walk a day in my braces you will find out that not every day is comfortable. . . . Sometimes people look at you a little funny or ask you what happened. . . . It affects how you do certain activities like soccer and basketball. . . . I want you to remember that just because you do something a different way . . . doesn’t make it bad or weird but makes you more unique. What a day in my shoes.”

Tim Farmer with his photograph of his leg braces and accompanying essay

Tim shot the photograph of his braces after his teacher took the class to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to view its portraits collection through the double lens of portraiture and empathy. The museum then submitted Tim’s work for national viewing. The museum is among 241 domestic members of the AAMD, which annually serves about 40,000 schools. (An additional 20 AAMD members are in Canada and Mexico.) As part of its education mission, the organization and the National Art Education Association recently completed a large-scale study investigating the impact of museum visits on students in grades 4–6. At the opening, researchers for the study held a panel discussion to share the results with the audience.

The AAMD exhibit also includes two creations by youths incarcerated in a California juvenile detention center served by the San Diego Museum of Art. Its museum educator, Rogelio Casas, believes that if these teens “have turned off to school and things seem hopeless, creating art is a great stimulus for positive change.”

Chinese brush painting on hosho paper by a youth incarcerated in a California juvenile detention facility

The other works in the show were done as a result of programs at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Frist Art Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, Princeton University Art Museum, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, RISD Museum, Seattle Art Museum and Shelburne Museum.

The second exhibit features 65 works of 2- and 3-D art that received awards in Scholastic’s 2018 competition and scholarship program, which drew about 350,000 entries. This year marks the 96th anniversary of the competition. Previous high school honorees include Robert Redford, John Updike, Robert McCloskey, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Alan Arkin, Joyce Carol Oates, Marc Brown, Stephen King, Ken Burns, Zac Posen and Lena Dunham.

Like many Scholastic award recipients, 16-year-old Alex Bullock from Washington, D.C., says she has loved to draw and paint “my entire life” (since preschool), and that her interests and skills have been honed by the guidance and encouragement of art teachers. They were “always so positive,” and “gave me great feedback,” Alex said, conduct that paved the way for her creation of “Finding Where the Road Takes Me.”

Alex Bullock with her portrait “Finding Where the Road Takes Me”

Alex’s portrait began as a black-and-white sketch of a live model, whose head she then superimposed on a map of the American West and Midwest. She used an orange paint marker to delineate roads, illuminate contours of the model’s face, and form interconnecting puzzle pieces. The portrait’s title provides clues to understanding it. But, Alex explained, “[the portrait] is open to interpretation. I like that people can view it with their own eyes.”

Another mixed media creation, by 14-year-old Zhou Zhang, shows a dog and a homeless man seated together on a bench in a snow storm. The man is underdressed for the weather as he has removed his coat to wrap around the dog. Behind the bench are a street sign reading “Wall Street” and a running bull. Zhou’s artwork shows, in the context of great wealth represented by Wall Street, the willingness of some people with few material possessions to share what they have with others, the New Jersey youth explained.

Zhou Zang with his award-winning mixed media artwork “Wall Street”

Scholastic honors student creativity in 29 categories, including ceramics and glass, editorial cartoon, fashion, film and animation, jewelry, journalism, novel writing, painting, personal essay and memoir, poetry, science fiction and fantasy, sculpture, short story and video game design.

An essay, “Last Words,” by 17-year-old Laila Shadid from Massachusetts, helped her piece together a life upended by the death of her journalist father in the Middle East. She was 10 years old at the time. Laila explains what drew her father away from the family he loved to the risks of Iraq and Syria — how his profession merged sacrifices and joy. She wrote, too, about her goal of carrying on his legacy by becoming a journalist, while asking herself, “But how could I be attracted to the art that killed my father?” (A collection of other award-winning writing from the 2018 Scholastic competition is available here.)

Laila Shadid with the anthology of award-winning writing from the 2018 Scholastic competition

The ED program included a workshop presented by Matt Wuerker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American political cartoonist and creator of editorial cartoons for Politico. Participating students and educators learned the history of cartooning, as well as how to make caricatures of Obama (draw big ears) and Trump (draw big hair). Those attending the opening program also heard remarks from Lisa Ramirez, deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs in ED’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers; and Madeleine Grynsztejn, AAMD president and Pritzker director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Annie Castillo read from her winning poetry as a 2017 national student poet.

The program ended with a ribbon cutting to mark the official opening of the exhibit. This is the 15th year of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program, which its director, Jackye Zimmermann, launched in 2004. This is the last of 100 exhibits that she has overseen as she is retiring at the end of 2018. The program will continue under the direction of Juliette Rizzo.

Jackye Zimmermann, founder and director of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program, is retiring at the end of 2018.

To view all of the photos from the opening, click here.

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

All photos are by ED photographer Paul Wood.

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 Juliette Rizzo at juliette.rizzo@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.

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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: iLEAD Academy Students Take the Lead in Northern Kentucky

November 29, 2018 - 10:23am

“Strangely, I’ve started a school, and I am not an educator,” said Alicia Sells, founder of iLEAD Academy, a STEM high school in northern Kentucky.

Sells’ background is in public policy. She noticed that neighboring Kentucky school districts of Gallatin, Carroll, Henry, Owen and Trimble did not offer a dedicated STEM program and, as a result, many students’ needs were not met in their preparation for the workplace.

iLEAD Academy is in session as students receive instruction, have discussions, and create in the maker spaces. (Photo credit: Alicia Sells)

Robert Stafford, superintendent of Owen County Schools, is the only current superintendent among the five districts who was present at the creation of iLEAD Academy. “When we initially got together – the five districts – we wanted to offer a really robust STEM program in engineering. It was driven by Alicia [Sells] pulling us all together to create the iLEAD Academy,” Stafford said.

Sells and the district superintendents worked with the Kentucky General Assembly and the Kentucky Department of Education to obtain the program flexibility to start a new school. They asked students what the students would change about their high-school experience; the answer was more-practical, hands-on experiences. In response, Sells and the districts discarded the traditional model of high school and started the iLEAD Academy as a stand-alone school and not as part of any one district. “We have a board that is constituted of the five rural district superintendents,” Sells explained. “And each district contributes $95,000 a year to the operation of the school.”

“The iLEAD Academy is in a strip mall. It looks a lot like a Starbucks. There are no desks, no books, no bells. It has a common area where students take classes and have classroom instruction with teachers,” Sells said. “And there is a very large maker space to fabricate projects, giving students hands-on, real-world experience.”

Students at iLEAD Academy, a STEM high school in Carrollton, Ky., fabricate a boat that they designed. (Photo credit: Alicia Sells)

Larisa McKinney is director of iLEAD Academy. She has 10 years of teaching experience and holds a master’s degree. “First and foremost, we’re a career academy. We focus on students being career-ready and also the opportunity to graduate high school with an associate’s degree,” McKinney said. “We could also say that we have been building the plane as we fly it, trying to keep our focus as a career academy. Most importantly, we make decisions based on the individual student, not based on what the system tells us to do.”

But it was not all smooth sailing. Sells told of early resistance to iLEAD from elected officials who said that the academy would prepare students to leave Kentucky for high-tech jobs on the West Coast. “We overcame that concern by engaging students with their home communities,” Sells said. “That’s a key part of their grade [in class] to give ongoing service to the home community.”

The iLEAD Academy is prepared for its first graduation in May 2019, when 26 of the school’s 29 students are scheduled to leave with a diploma and an associate’s degree. For many, Sells explained, graduating with an associate’s degree will be a poverty cycle-breaking experience.

Superintendent Stafford emphasized that iLEAD offers students an opportunity that could not be provided by an individual, small school district. “And I think for the students it’s an opportunity to learn from others outside of the county system, to aspire to work at a high level, and to achieve.”


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

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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.



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Categories: Higher Education News

The 5 Most Helpful Federal Student Aid Blog Posts

November 28, 2018 - 1:32pm

Not attending the FSA conference this week? Learn from home using these resources.

With Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) Annual Conference in full swing in Atlanta, we understand that not everyone is able to attend and learn from financial aid experts. However, you don’t have to be a financial aid professional to become a FAFSA expert.

Here are the Top 5 FSA blog posts to help students and parents become FAFSA ‘pros’:

1. 11 Common FASFA Mistakes

Mistakes happen, but checking out this post before you submit your FASFA form will help you avoid some of the common FASFA mistakes.


2. 7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2019- 2020 FASFA Form

Before you complete your FASFA form, take the time to make sure you’re prepared with what you’ll need. This post will ensure you’re ready to apply.


3. 8 Steps to Filling Out the FASFA Form

Not sure how to start a FASFA form or what the next steps are?  Here, FSA breaks down the FASFA application process into 8 easy steps.


4. The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FASFA Form

While the FAFSA form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow the steps spelled out here.


5. 3 Types of FASFA Deadlines You Should Pay Attention To

Deadlines – the sworn enemy of students across the nation. It’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. We get it. This post points out a few critical FASFA deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss.

While we have only shared the top FSA posts, Federal Student Aid has dozens of articles to reference and learn from here at ED’s Homeroom blog.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Secretary DeVos Warns of Student Debt Crisis

November 27, 2018 - 12:07pm

Secretary DeVos delivered the opening remarks at this year’s Federal Student Aid Training Conference, raising “a warning flag with American students and American taxpayers.” While noting that “our higher ed system is the envy of the world,” she also cautioned, “if we, as a country, do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer, and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy.”

In addition to her warnings about the looming student debt crisis, the Secretary also recognized administrators for their valuable work and shared some of the ways the administration is rethinking financial aid.

If you missed the Secretary’s speech, here are the three greatest takeaways for financial aid administrators.

The myStudentAid mobile app

We did what was alleged to be impossible: we made a government form look almost appealing! Seriously, we did more than make it look good. There were plenty of folks who declared it could not be done. They said the Department was “overpromising what it could deliver.” That what was required was “overwhelming” … the time frame was “impractically” ambitious.

As you know, the myStudentAid app launched exactly on schedule. And it’s already making an impact.

It has been downloaded nearly 250 thousand times and more than 375 thousand FAFSAs have been submitted on a mobile device! I’ve met with a number of students across the country, some of whom have given great feedback for tweaks and improvements, and others who’ve shared how happy they are to have this tool at their fingertips. I hope you’ve heard similar stories.

Today the app makes it easier for students to complete their FAFSA. In the near future, a student will be able to see how much he or she owes at any moment in time, what repayment options are available, and how those options will impact the total amount owed over time.

Overall, these NextGen initiatives are the most significant changes to Federal Student Aid… ever. And we’re only getting started.

Financial Literacy

Imagine how students would benefit if they could easily and continually plan and budget for their education, if they could seamlessly access personalized insights about the outcomes of the program they are considering or in which they are enrolled. Think about the power of having hard numbers, and how having that information could help a student make more informed – and better – decisions.

We are working to bring new tools like these online soon, so that in partnership with you, we can all fulfill our charge to help students earn their degree and be positioned to succeed when they enter repayment. Because this higher education crisis is borne out in more than just numbers.

Student Loans

I’m here to raise a warning flag with American students and American taxpayers: We have a crisis in higher education. Our higher ed system is the envy of the world, but if we, as a country, do not make important policy changes in the way we distribute, administer, and manage federal student loans, the program on which so many students rely will be in serious jeopardy.

This crisis demands the attention of Congress, the American taxpayer, colleges and universities, parents, and students. In a word, everyone.

Federal Student Aid was established to come alongside students who lack financial resources to pursue higher education. Since its first iteration in 1965, however, it has outgrown its structure and its governance. That reality has increasingly significant implications for American families and the American economy.

The Secretary continued:

Today, FSA’s portfolio is nearly 10 percent of our nation’s debt. Stop and absorb that for a moment… ten percent of our total national debt.

The student loan program is not only burying students in debt, it is also burying taxpayers and it’s stealing from future generations.

The parade of programs, repayment options, and complex rules serves no one well. Everything has become more cumbersome and confusing for everyone.  The government monopoly has proven costly to taxpayers and it hasn’t been a panacea for students either. We know students are having poor experiences. With more than 30 variations of 10 different repayment plans, each with their own set of burdensome requirements, it’s no wonder this government maze doesn’t work.

The annual FSA Training Conference continues all this week in Atlanta. Around 6,000 financial aid professionals are expected to attend this conference, which provides attendees with the opportunity to network, participate in hands-on sessions, hear from financial aid industry leaders and learn more about federal regulations and legislation. The U.S. Department of Education and Federal Student Aid are looking forward to another invigorating FSA Training Conference as administrators from across the country continue to serve, educate and support students on their lifelong learning journeys.


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Categories: Higher Education News

ED’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives Hosts Opioid Prevention Listening Session

November 20, 2018 - 3:07pm

In 2016 alone, 42, 249 Americans died of opioid overdoses.  President Donald J. Trump declared the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017 as the crisis continued to persist.  More than 300,000 Americans have died from overdose since 2000 and this public health emergency has had a profound effect on students and families.  Opioid addiction and overdose has been coined the “crisis next door” as it plagues American communities from cities to suburbs and rural areas.  On October 2, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (CFOI) hosted an opioid prevention listening session with faith leaders who work with students in opioid abuse prevention and recovery to educate and engage stakeholders.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include those legally available by prescription, such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone, as well as illicit drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.  This class of drugs can be natural or synthetic chemicals and are intended to reduce feelings of pain.  Opioids can be highly addicting and can lead to dependence.  The opioid misuse, overdose and addiction rate is alarming and must be addressed by continuing to empower teachers, educators and community leaders to educate youth against opioid abuse vulnerability.

The opioid listening session presenters included esteemed authors, inspirational advocates and community leaders who shared prevention techniques and how to build resiliency among youth and adults who may be at risk for opioid abuse and addiction.  Their diverse experience working in the opioid prevention and recovery space moved participants as they discussed how their work and relationships have positively impacted children, teens and youth who have overcome trauma, violence, drug abuse and misfortune.

Central themes of the opioid listening session included education and empowerment, building genuine and meaningful relationships, spirituality and resiliency.  Roswell Smith Jr., Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Washington, D.C. discussed sports being one of the largest influences of American culture as many youth see athletes as role models.  Sam Ryan of ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) Youth Engagement attended the listening session and identified with “developing youth in the locker room.”  Ryan serves on the ED Opioid Prevention Task Force and found the speakers engaging and a complimentary testament to the various departmental and interagency opioid prevention activities.

In addition to the CFOI listening session, additional work at the Department to equip local leaders and communities to prevent opioid addition impacting students continues. Elyse Robertson from the Department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students and Michael Chamberlain from OCO hosted Federal Prescription Drug Take Back Day at ED’s headquarters on October 24, allowing ED employees to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs and learn more about the opioid crisis.  Federal agencies and community organizations also participated in Federal Take Back Day and more than 631 pounds of opioids were collected at 42 federal sites.  Earlier this year, ED launched a website Combating the Opioid Crisis: Schools, Students, Families at www.ed.gov/opioids. More information and resources on opioid prevention from ED and other federal agencies can be found at this site.

If faith leaders have additional opioid prevention strategies that could help empower parents or local communities and would like to share with CFOI, please send the information to EdPartners@Ed.gov.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group Releases Rural Resource Guide

November 19, 2018 - 12:04pm

The Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group recently released a Rural Resource Guide to help rural communities address the opioid epidemic. The guide is “a listing of Federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities. The Rural Resource Guide to Help Communities Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse (PDF, 1.7 MB) is a first-of-its-kind, one-stop-shop for rural leaders looking for Federal funding and partnership opportunities,” according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

ED is one of more than a dozen federal departments and agencies represented on this working group, which is co-chaired by USDA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Others include the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

As explained by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos,

The opioid crisis has produced broken families, shattered lives and indescribable tragedy throughout the United States. Drug overdoses have claimed more than 300,000 lives since the year 2000 and have become the leading cause of injury death in the country. In 2016, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids. No community is immune to this “crisis next door.”

The Secretary also described ED’s two-pronged approach to the crisis.

First, we are helping to educate students, families and educators about the dangers of opioid misuse as well as the importance of prevention and recovery. We are also supporting State and local prevention and recovery efforts and highlighting successful practices by schools.

The Rural Resource Guide, as USDA’s press release explains, is also part of a broader effort by the Trump administration.

President Donald J. Trump has mobilized his entire Administration to address opioid abuse by directing the declaration of a nationwide Public Health Emergency. For a rural community or county already struggling to attract new – or maintain existing – businesses, the impact of opioid misuse on the quality of life and economic prosperity can be enormous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in October 2017 that death rates from drug overdoses in rural areas have now surpassed drug overdose death rates in urban areas.

The Rural Resource Guide to Help Communities Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse was developed by the Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group. In May 2018, the ONDCP stood up the Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group to help address the opioid crisis by improving coordination and reducing potential overlap among federal agencies responding to the crisis in the Nation’s rural communities.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Sustainable School Successes in the “Show-Me” State

November 16, 2018 - 11:53am

Imagine asking a group of urban students how they upcycle. I assumed I would get answers such as, ‘We keep scrap paper and use it for other projects’ or ’We reuse cardboard paper towel inserts for various projects in our classes’. However, after participating in this year’s “Living School Grounds” 2018 Green Strides Tour in St. Louis, Missouri and seeing the innovative efforts of nine unique schools, I have a new understanding of what it means to be green.

Each of the schools we visited on the 2018 Green Strides Tour demonstrated progress in the three Pillars of ED-GRS: 1) sustainable facilities and grounds, 2) health and wellness and 3) environmental and sustainability learning. These award Pillars are excellent areas to tackle if our overarching aims are to advance student and community engagement; reduce school operating costs and improve health.

Students are involved in garden, lunchroom, and worm bin composting at Green Trails Elementary School in Chesterfield, MO.

Over the last several years, nine schools in the St. Louis area, including four schools in the Parkway School District, have been named U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS). ED-GRS is a federal recognition award that honors innovative practices in sustainable school facilities, health and environmental learning. Schools apply through their states for nomination and are selected by the U.S. Department of Education.

The tour began in Parkway School District where, at Bellerive Elementary in Creve Coeur, visitors learned about permeable pavers, native plant landscaping that makes irrigation unnecessary, districtwide energy management efforts,

Many U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools incorporate movement throughout the day. At McKelvey Elementary School, students practice teamwork and communication with daily yoga and mindfulness. Photo credit: Hope Gribble

tower gardens and meticulous waste sorting. At McKelvey Elementary School in Maryland Heights, students demonstrated yoga poses that facilitated wellness, mindfulness, communication and team building throughout the day. Green Trails Elementary in Chesterfield, home to an outdoor classroom with composting and rain barrels, provides food to nourish students in the cafeteria while offering an alternative learning environment for students with sensory processing challenges. At Parkway North High School in St. Louis, tour-goers got a glimpse of the school’s solar panels and learned how students pitched and implemented a districtwide composting initiative.

At Keysor Elementary School, science and math concepts, such as the rain cycle or Fibonacci Sequence, are integrated into the outdoor structures. Photo Credit: Hope Gribble

In the Kirkwood School District, Keysor Elementary School’s Project IDEA is the centerpiece of its outdoor learning efforts. These living school grounds benefit from tremendous community support and include a dry creek, several raingardens, a student seed-stomped prairie, pollinator gardens, bird and bee habitats, food gardens, sensory gardens, a greenhouse and other outdoor structures. Students use the outdoor space to tag butterflies, observe bees, exercise their senses and play music. Inside, a motor hallway housing ten different stations facilitates students’ movement during the day.

The College School students share about their greenhouse, wind turbine, and solar panels, among other sustainability projects and features. Photo credit: Hope Gribble

The College School, a private school in Webster Groves, incorporated renewable energy and a permeable parking lot to mitigate the effects of runoff into the streams nearby. Additionally, it featured an early learning playscape, an outdoor water play area and a greenhouse for learning and food production. Students learn civic, math and business skills by developing sustainable business models and engaging in micro-lending in lesser-developed countries. They frequent The College School’s environmental learning center, where the Jan Phillips Learning Center has been built to meet the Living Building Challenge, one of the highest green building standards.

Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School learn physics through tree climbing and cultivate chickens. Photo credit: Hope Gribble

Students at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School learn physics through tree climbing and cultivate chickens. Photo credit: Hope Gribble

A highlight of the tour was visiting the Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School, where visitors enjoyed apples and honey from the school’s orchard and bees. Visitors participated in tree climbing, visited chickens and sampled vegetable pizzas made in the school’s outdoor wood fired oven.

Crossroads College Prep, located near Forest Park on the western edge of St. Louis, was built in an old grocery store, repurposing materials for construction and furniture. Passionate student docents explained how wood from the meat cabinets in the grocery store was refurbished to construct tables. In the newer science and English language arts wings, designers used healthy, safe and often recycled materials; large numbers of high efficiency paned windows and solar tubes to allow natural sunlight into the building.

Visitors can’t keep their hands off the Saint Louis University High’s gigantic crop of sweet potatoes!

Another highlight was visiting Saint Louis University High School, where guests sampled school garden grown fried green tomatoes and mixed greens. They learned about students’ high efficiency race car design effort and visited an expansive garden with bee hives and composting, as well as some winning sweet potatoes!

This two-day tour of nine schools was a reminder that schools, districts and postsecondary institutions honored as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools do not operate in a vacuum. They are successful thanks to the hard work and dedication of many in their buildings and the partnerships that they develop in their local communities.

What a way to show off sustainability successes and community engagement in the “Show-Me” state!

Learn more about one pathway to nomination, Missouri Green Schools, here. Read more about U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools here.  Find resources for all schools to advance toward sustainable practices here.


Kristen McKinney is Science Coordinator at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Military Family Finds Homeschooling to be Just the Right Fit

November 15, 2018 - 10:46am

When asked to share their thoughts on the benefits of school choice and their homeschool experience, this military family did what they do every day: they turned the occasion into a learning opportunity. Dan, his wife Jenna, and their six kids gathered at the dinner table to shape a response – as individual, independent thinkers and as a family.

In this interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, the family describes the transformative of impact school choice.

1) Why did we decide to homeschool?

Our initial decision rested within the goal of protecting the health of our oldest child, who has Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In CF, each sickness (especially respiratory) contributes progressively to degrading lung function. It was obvious to us that keeping her out of a classroom, where sickness seems to rule the winter, would greatly benefit her long-term health. We are thankful to report that she has been healthy so far.

Another important influence on our decision to homeschool stems from Dan’s career as a U.S. Naval officer. This career dictates a move every two to three years. Moving six children is a huge undertaking in itself. However, knowing we homeschool diminishes the stress and chaos of “new school,” and increases our flexibility and adjustability as to when we move and when we can logistically start our school year! Homeschooling has proved efficient and seamless as we take our curriculum with us everywhere we go.

We have seen a few of our kids struggle with learning challenges. Homeschooling has allowed us to slow the pace in applicable subjects. Likewise, in subjects where a child may be excelling, we have the freedom to move ahead much faster – sometimes allowing them to work a grade or two ahead, as we watch their natural gifting and passions grow. Additionally, in the case of attention difficulties, we can craft our days to include many physical education breaks where needed.

We are Christians and believe it is important to adequately share that worldview with our children. We appreciate that we have choice over our curricula. We do openly discuss various worldviews with our children, which often results in healthy discussions, as we examine issues from all sides. Ultimately, though, our school reflects our family’s worldview and values.

2) Can you tell me about your school?

We would describe our homeschool as academically rigorous, but eclectic and fun. We spend time researching and selecting curricula that best fit our family and our days together. Reading, writing, arithmetic, speaking, history, science, foreign language are all very important to us. Our ultimate goals, though, are that our kids would love (and know how) to learn, love to read, and love to see the beauty of the great things in life – God, nature, literature, art, music, recreation, travel, people, relationships.

Our kids are heavily involved in music and they enjoy athletic activities. We travel in the areas we are stationed, as well as when the Navy moves us to our next destination. We’ve had wonderful learning experiences in national parks and historical landmarks, as well as museums and nature.

Family read-aloud books are integral to our teaching and learning, even though our kids range in age from two to fourteen years. In fact, on Fridays, we parents read through Shakespeare with our three oldest kids. For us, the greatest part of exercising this school choice of homeschooling is getting to spend ample time as a family.

3) What does school choice mean to you? What about parental privilege?

School choice allows us the freedom to engage in the aforementioned activities and educational methods amidst health concerns, military moves, learning and behavioral challenges, and curriculum choices based on our worldview. We are extremely thankful for the privilege we have to homeschool. We believe all parents should understand, and be made aware, that they have the option to exercise this right of choice.

We suspect many parents don’t even know there are alternatives (like homeschooling) outside the traditional school model. For some families, a child who really struggles in the traditional mold could possibly be rescued and inspired in his or her education, simply by changing the child’s educational environment.


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Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

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Categories: Higher Education News

National Apprenticeship Week: The Time to Rethink Apprenticeships is Now

November 14, 2018 - 11:28am

In June of 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” This order called for the creation of a special Task Force to identify strategies and proposals to promote apprenticeships in the United States. To meet this challenge, Department of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta brought together representatives from companies, labor unions, trade associations, educational institutions and public agencies. On May 10, the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion submitted a report to the President that provided a strategy to create more apprenticeships in the United States through an Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship model.

The centerpiece of the proposal is to build on the traditional registered apprenticeship concept by creating a pathway to new, industry-recognized apprenticeships. The final report lays out that proposal as the first step toward the goal of expanding apprenticeships broadly over the next five years. Secretary DeVos helped lead the Task Force, saying, “Apprenticeships give students proven and meaningful ways to gain skills and kickstart fulfilling careers…We must continue our efforts to strengthen workforce readiness and increase the number of pathways available to students after high school.”

Families across the country are recognizing the importance and influence of apprenticeships.  The Department of Labor currently reports over 530,000 active registered apprentices in more than 2,300 programs. Employers are recognizing the value added by apprentices, with 42 percent more apprentices now than five years ago. These are students obtaining the skills they need to succeed while earning the wages needed to build financial security and families who are choosing not to add to the $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student debt.

Not only are families recognizing the need for another workforce development and education solution, so are America’s business leaders. It is widely recognized that our country has a workforce skills gap—with more job vacancies than Americans with the skills needed to fill them. The Business Roundtable warns that the skills gap is holding our economy back and threatening our economic future. Among the gaps the roundtable emphasized was the lack of workers with specialized skills needed to fill many trade positions, such as advanced welders, energy service technicians, mechanics, electricians and tool and die makers. A 2015 Deloitte survey of manufacturing executives found that 84 percent believed there was a skills gap in the U.S. manufacturing industry and 66 percent had difficulty finding candidates for skilled production worker positions. Additionally, Deloitte estimated there will be 3.4 million vacancies in the manufacturing industry between 2015 and 2025 and 60 percent of these jobs—2 million jobs—will go unfilled due to the skills gap.

In the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, we recognize the importance of work-based learning opportunities for students. Young people cannot aspire to work in emerging career opportunities unless they have abundant chances to learn about them. This is why we support individual state efforts to expand apprenticeship opportunities for high school students. The purpose of the Pathways to STEM Apprenticeship for High School CTE Students grant program is to support state efforts at improving the transition of high school CTE students to postsecondary education and employment through apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Funds were awarded to six state departments of education for a three-year project period: Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee. These states are working with area employers, local school districts and postsecondary partners to build apprenticeships in STEM fields for high school students.

Apprenticeship programs, when implemented effectively, can play a role in closing the skills gap. They equip students with skills that meet the needs of employers without burdening them with student debt. They provide students with more career pathways and post-secondary opportunities and leave students workforce ready. When done right, students seamlessly transition from high school into an apprenticeship, allowing them to quickly obtain a well-paying job in an in-demand field. Our country is at a crossroads.  How many more pathways could we create for young people and how many jobs could we fill by more easily enabling apprenticeships? The time to rethink the way we do education and workforce training is now.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement

November 13, 2018 - 12:59pm

Each year in November, we pause to celebrate International Education Week (IEW), a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of State and Education. This week recognizes the important role education plays in connecting us across the globe and highlights the benefits of international education and the exchange of ideas, cultures and languages.

On this occasion, the U.S. Department of Education has updated its international strategy, Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement, which reaffirms our commitment to preparing our students for an interconnected and competitive world. It lays out the three key objectives of our international work: increasing global and cultural competencies for all students, learning from and with other countries to strengthen U.S. education, and engaging in education diplomacy.

Secretary Betsy DeVos has emphasized the need to fundamentally rethink education so that each student, at every age, is prepared for whatever comes next. To that end, we are focusing attention on preparing all of our students for careers in the global economy.  We need more individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset to foster a new generation of innovators, inventors, and job creators who will unleash their ingenuity worldwide.

Now, more than ever, we must aim to develop globally and culturally competent students. It is not enough to focus solely on ensuring that students have basic reading, writing, and math skills. Today’s world also requires critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and cultural intelligence to face challenges head on.

Education is critical to economic growth. But no economy can reach its capacity without enlisting the talents of all members of society.  Empowering each individual to excel — including creating new pathways to success in the critical STEM fields, and securing more world-class learning opportunities for women around the globe — can unlock human potential on a transformational scale.

While we focus our attention on international education this week, we recognize that every week is international education week — an opportunity to start learning a new language, explore a new culture, engage with someone from a different background and open doors to a world of possibilities.


Maureen McLaughlin is Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Director of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education.

Rebecca Miller is an International Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo at the top: #CTEGlobalized panel discussion on the intersection of Career and Technical Education and Global and Cultural Competencies. From left: Maureen McLaughlin, Senior Advisor and Director of International Affairs, U.S. Department of Education; Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education; Mauro Moruzzi, Ambassador, State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland; Robert Burch, Acting Director, Office of Education, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment (E3), USAID; and Stephanie Zhang, Junior, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Alumna.

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Categories: Higher Education News