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#RethinkSchool: Minding the Gap

October 18, 2018 - 1:33pm

As the former Superintendent of Education for South Carolina, I worked to transform the information provided and options offered to students and parents. The goal was that each student would leave high school confident about what comes afterwards. While a four-year college degree is the path of choice for many students, many would prefer pursuing vocational experiences and learning marketable skills. Each student is unique and their interests and talents vary accordingly. As educators, we need to embrace these differences and help our students select the path that is best aligned with their skills and aspirations. For some, that is a traditional four year degree, for others, an associate’s degree, or an industry credential.

With this in mind, I approached the “Back to School” tour with the goal of highlighting programs, schools and institutions that are “Rethinking” their approach to career and technical education.

Deputy Secretary Zais visited Anoka –Hennepin secondary technical education program and observed many of the student taking core classes at their high school and technical/manufacturing courses at STEP.

During the week of September 9, 2018, senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education traveled across the country on the Back to School Tour, visiting schools in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I kicked off my part of the tour at the Anoka Ramsey Technical College and Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) in Anoka, Minnesota.  This is a promising partnership between a local community college and the Anoka-Hennepin School District. It is designed to offer high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors the opportunity to explore careers, fulfill high school academic requirements, and earn college credit at no cost. The program is specifically designed for students interested in preparing for highly skilled technical careers. Jessica Lipa, the Director of Career and Technical Education for Anoka-Hennepin Schools, led me through a tour of the nearly 20 different technical career options available. One of the classrooms I visited was a Machine Technology class where the students operated a 5-axis milling machine, one of the most advanced models in the field. Anoka-Hennepin Schools and Anoka Ramsey Technical College have done a commendable job in bringing together the education leaders with members of their business community to create programs aligned with local workforce needs.

Deputy Secretary Zais shakes hands with students at Summit Academy in Minneapolis, MN.

My next stop was a visit to Summit Academy OIC. This is an accredited vocational school located in northern Minneapolis. Mr. Louis King II is the President and CEO. Shortly after my arrival, he shared with me that Summit operates under the mantra “the best social service program in the world is a job”. He has built the academy’s programs around that concept. Summit Academy is “Rethinking” school by offering accredited, 20-week vocational trainings in the construction, healthcare and IT fields. Most recently, Summit Academy has added a graduation equivalency degree (GED) program to meet the needs of their most underserved community members. Summit serves nearly 1,000 people every year, with about 80% students of color.

While touring the facility, I realized that Mr. King and the team at Summit Academy are providing adult learners with an opportunity to gain in-demand skills that will help them enter the workforce immediately. In fact, through partnerships with local businesses, Summit is usually able to place graduates with local employers earning more than $16.00 per hour. After the tour, I participated in a roundtable discussion with some of the students, staff and faculty of Summit Academy, as well as with several elected officials and other members of the community. It was heartening to see so many community leaders come together with the shared goal of preparing underserved populations for a high-paying career.

Our third stop was a visit to the Des Moines Area Community College’s (DMACC) Career Academy at the Hunziker Center in Aimes, Iowa. The DMACC Career Academy provides hands-on technical experience and college credit to area high school students in subjects such as: automotive collision and technology, computer programming and cyber security, diesel technology, fire science and horticulture. After touring several classrooms, I participated in a roundtable with students and faculty. While it was a thoroughly engaging discussion, I was most impressed with the amount of in-field experience possessed by each faculty member present. At one point, Dr. Robert Denson, the President of DMACC, proudly stated that he specifically hired for in-field experience, which he believes pays dividends in the classroom.

After leaving Iowa, my next visit was to Omaha Bryan High School in Nebraska. Before arriving at the high school, I met Matt Blomstedt, Nebraska’s Commissioner of Education, and his Deputy, Deborah Frison, for lunch at a local restaurant. The Commissioner was kind enough to update me on the innovative programs at Omaha Bryan High School and discuss the state of education in Nebraska more broadly.  While I certainly wish he could have joined us for the school visit, I was honored that he and his team took the time to meet with me while I was in their state.

Omaha Bryan High School has built its curriculum around 16 career clusters, designed to equip students with the skills necessary to be successful in the modern work force. During the tour of the facility, I observed the facilities for the school’s urban agriculture academy and viewed their progress in constructing a new warehouse for their Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Academy. Throughout my visit, I was joined by Dr. Cheryl Logan, the Superintendent of Omaha Public Schools, and Mr. John Witzel, the President of the Nebraska State Board of Education. We had an illuminating discussion about how Omaha, the largest city in a state without charter schools, still found ways to embrace a form of choice. Omaha Public Schools accomplished this by working with neighboring school districts to allow students and families to choose the school that was right for them.

The fifth stop on my tour was at Madison High School in Madison, South Dakota. The town of Madison has a population of slightly more than 7,200 people. It’s located in farm country. Upon arriving, I was greeted by the school principal, Adam Shaw, and the state’s interim Secretary of Education, Mary Stadick-Smith.  Together, we viewed a welding classroom that relies on community partners to supply trained professionals who teach students advanced welding techniques. The class can also count for college credit. We then visited a culinary arts classroom where students can earn a certificate allowing them to work in most culinary institutions and restaurants. Overall, I was most impressed with how this small community effectively used its resources by leveraging relationships between the schools and local businesses.

Deputy Secretary Zais visited with students and administrators at New Tech High School in Sioux Falls, North Dakota.

For my final visit, I toured New Technology High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While this school is operated by the Sioux Falls School District, New Technology High School uses their own school reform model and curriculum which highlights cross-discipline study and project-based learning. Secretary Smith and I were joined by Sue Augilar, President of the South Dakota Board of Education Standards. Together, we visited a BioLit (Biology and English II) classroom where we viewed presentations on a project called “Mystery, We Wrote.” The project requires the students to use deductive reasoning, as well as actual forensic methods, to solve a criminal case. The students are then asked to write and perform a skit based around the project. I was most impressed with the level of commitment demonstrated by the students and their willingness to tackle complicated, cross-discipline study. New Technology High School should be proud of their students. They are terrific ambassadors for their school and a testament to the program.

I am honored to have had the privilege of visiting so many amazing schools and programs. Each is an example of how it is possible to rethink school to meet the needs of all students. The most recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau states found that about 33% of American adults have a four year degree. We have a duty to the other 67% to ensure that they are prepared for careers in the modern workforce. The schools I visited, like many others around the country, stand at the forefront of this innovative and flexible approach to learning that is connected to the world of work.  I am encouraged to know that others across the country are also embracing these more personalized approaches.

 

Mick Zais is the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

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. 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: Minding the Gap appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Excelling in the Classroom, Leading the Charge to Stop Bullying

October 17, 2018 - 4:07pm

Students at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were anxiously waiting for Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan to arrive when he walked through the doors on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as part of his Rethink School back-to-school tour. Brogan and other U.S. Department of Education leaders traveled to more than 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to highlight the Trump Administration’s key education initiatives.

Brogan was visiting Ronald Reagan Prep to learn about some of the innovative education approaches at the high school and to hear about its anti-bullying program, which is student led and student focused.

On the way to the library where Brogan sat down with students to talk about their anti-bullying program, he passed through hallways that came to life with stunning pieces of artwork by students. The school deems the arts critical to student growth and development—just as important as math, English and science.

Clearly, the group of students who were chatting with Brogan were proud of their school, a nationally recognized high school by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek and the Washington Post. The school offers a comprehensive IB curriculum and is the only four-year full-IB high school in Milwaukee.

Despite their rigorous coursework and demanding schedules, these students take time to serve as leaders in the anti-bullying program. They want their school to be a safe, caring environment where students can focus on learning and take full advantage of educational opportunities that some of their friends don’t have.

Frank Brogan hosted a roundtable discussion at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School in Milwaukee, WI and discussed the anti-bullying model used within the Milwaukee Public School District.

During a roundtable, Brogan listened to students talk about the program and how it’s making a difference at their school. Called “Reagan Link Crew leaders,” juniors and seniors are paired with incoming freshmen the summer before the latter enter high school. The goal is to serve as mentors and partners—big brothers and big sisters—to help make the transition from middle school to high school easier for freshmen so they can focus on learning in a welcoming, non-threatening environment. The crew leaders even help freshmen study for tests and with homework.

Brogan praised students for their work to curb bullying at their school and for stepping up to take on such an important issue. He also gave them some words of advice. He warned them to be careful of what they put on social media and how their negative online posts could haunt them years later, especially in their careers.

It’s all about judgment,” Brogan said. “Bullying destroys lives. Look at the number of young people we have lost to suicide because of bullying.” Addressing social media, he said, “Once you hit ‘send,’ you can’t take back those words.”

Alanna Bielawski, a senior at Ronald Reagan Prep, said, “When kids are bullied, they can’t learn. They are pre-occupied with their safety. Their minds aren’t open to learning if they feel they aren’t in a safe environment.”

That message was echoed by students throughout discussions with Brogan, who was joined at the roundtable by Milwaukee Superintendent Keith Posley, Regional Superintendent Jennifer Smith, Principal Mike Roemer and other local and school educators.

One student said, “We are all connected, so we look for ways to get all kids involved in something here at school. We want freshmen to know that we care and that we are paying attention to them. If they start missing classes or school, we let them know that we miss seeing them. Knowing that someone is paying attention to you and genuinely wants you to succeed cuts down on feelings of isolation and bullying.”

Kudos to Ronald Reagan Prep for creating an inclusive environment where students are excelling in the classrooms and leading the charge to stop bullying.

 

Jo Ann Webb is a member of the press team at the U.S. Department of Education.

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. 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: Excelling in the Classroom, Leading the Charge to Stop Bullying appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: From Language Skills to STEM to Industrial Training, Preparing AAPI Students for the Next Step

October 16, 2018 - 11:31am

I remember the excitement of going back to school after the long, hot summers in Texas where I grew up. Preparing for the first day back to school meant getting the book bag ready with new school supplies, selecting an outfit and thinking about all the familiar and new faces I would be seeing. That was a generation ago. Although the students going back to school now prepare in a similar way, they (and their parents and guardians) have a whole host of other things on their minds – school safety, being selected in special programs, college readiness and how to prepare for the workforce needs of the future.

For this week’s back-to-school tour, I visited six unique schools in the western part of the country to address how schools are rethinking the education that students receive, including how Asian American and Pacific Islander students’ needs are addressed.

Students in an advanced math class at Coral Academy of Sciences in Las Vegas, NV.

We kicked off the tour with a visit to Coral Academy of Sciences, a K-12 charter school, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Coral Academy of Sciences opened its doors in 2007 with one campus. Today, there are six campuses throughout the Las Vegas and Henderson areas emphasizing math, science and technology. We were greeted by Executive Director Ercan Aydogdu and Principal Yolanda Flores at the Sandy Ridge campus and a “robotic” welcome by students. We learned about the academy’s history, growth and how it is preparing students for STEM-related fields and careers. Over a quarter of the students are Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander – all highly engaged and proud to showcase their work during our visit.

Visited with Native Hawaiian students along with Stacey “Dallas” Johnston with the NV Department of Education and Cimarron-Memorial High School Principal Lori Sarabyn in Las Vegas, NV.

We also visited Cimarron-Memorial High School in Las Vegas, a school with a 2% Native Hawaiian student population. Clark County has seen a large volume of Native Hawaiians migrating from Hawaii with opportunities for employment, improved education and lower costs of living. Principal Lori Sarabyn provided a briefing of the high school and its programs. We toured the vast campus, making note of the diverse student population, including Native Hawaiian amongst the sea of students. Two percent is a small population for any school, however, when less than 10% of the population in Hawaii identify themselves as native, then 2% is a substantial volume outside of the islands, including within a school. A roundtable discussion was held with faculty and students sharing how the student-centered programs at Cimarron-Memorial will prepare them for what’s next after high school.

A third grade class learning math at Rose City Park Elementary in Portland, OR

From Nevada, we visited schools in Oregon – ranging from an elementary school with a specialized language immersion program to a technical high school that partners with community colleges to build a pipeline of skills for the future professional. Our visit to Rose City Park Elementary School in Portland was a treat, seeing eager and enthusiastic K-5 students engaged in classroom activities and excited about visitors to their school. Rose City Park Elementary School recently re-opened and is one of a handful of public schools across the country that offers a Vietnamese language immersion program. Clackamas County has seen an increase of Asian Americans moving into the area, especially Vietnamese Americans where the children are native speakers. A program such as the one offered at Rose City Park Elementary School allows the young students to formally speak, read and write in Vietnamese while they continue to develop  English proficiency. The individualized and personalized learning experience at this elementary school is addressing students’ needs to help them succeed.

Executive Director Holly Ham and RN National Co-Chair Ben Raju with senior administrators at Sabin-Schellenberg school in North Clackamus County in Oregon.

We also visited Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center of North Clackamas Schools in Milwaukie, Oregon. Sabin-Schellenberg is a public specialized high school that is educating America’s future with career and technical programs with hands-on, performance-based learning where students earn high school and college credits simultaneously. Students choose an education pathway – agriculture and food, industrial and engineering systems, health services, business and management, digital design, or technology – that can lead to success in high school, college, and their chosen professional career. Although students have not returned to school based on the quarter system, we toured the South Campus and met with Asian American students. These young students shared their experiences as they learn about health services, computer science, and education.

One of the key technical programs at Mt. Hood Community College is the Machine Tool Technology Program.

One of the community colleges that the Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center partners with is Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. At Mt. Hood, students can earn degrees and certificates in 19 different fields. Similar to Sabin-Schellenberg, the college is on a quarter system so it was quiet around the campus when we visited. A group of Asian American and Native Hawaiian students shared their incoming experience from various parts of the country to Mt. Hood Community College, highlighting the college’s Diversity Center’s focus on helping students adapt and engage. Faculty and staff from the machine tool technology, automotive technology and shield metal welding programs provided a tour of their classrooms and training facilities, highlighting state of the art equipment used in today’s real world workplaces. Preparing the student of today for near future careers is a primary focus of the schools we visited in Oregon.

Executive Director Holly Ham and Senior Advisor Debra Suarez, Ph.D. with
Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap, Ed.D, President of South Seattle College and the AANAPISI Center team in Seattle, WA

We concluded our weeklong back-to-school tour at South Seattle Community College in Seattle, Washington. Chancellor Shouan Pan and President Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap greeted us, a rare site to have Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as top officials at an institution of higher education. Since coming on board in 2016, Chancellor Pan has been laser-focused on making Seattle Colleges the most transformative and the most relevant community college system in the country. Seattle Colleges is a flagship community college district in the state of Washington, and Dr. Pan’s goal is to provide excellent, accessible educational opportunities to prepare students for a challenging future. We toured the AANAPISI Center where they showcased programs that serve AAPI students at South Seattle Community College and facilities that provide a welcoming and supportive environment every day. At the college’s Georgetown Campus, we toured an apprenticeship program of cement masons in session. The hands-on skills that students learn coupled with critical thinking, problem solving and teaming skills will prepare these students well for their professional lives.

The leaders at the schools and programs we saw this week have been rethinking how they educate and serve our students. From language skills to industrial training, students at the schools that our team visited this week will be better prepared for the next steps in their education or vocation.

 

Holly Ham is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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. 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: From Language Skills to STEM to Industrial Training, Preparing AAPI Students for the Next Step appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Highlighting STEM Research and Education Programs in DE and MD

October 15, 2018 - 2:10pm

During the Back to School tour, Diane Auer Jones visited colleges in Delaware and Maryland to celebrate successful institutions and meet with students as the new academic year begins. As the principal Deputy Under Secretary, Delegated to Perform the Duties of Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Auer Jones visited colleges with high performing STEM programs and STEM-based career and technical education programs.

Diane’s first stop was at Delaware State University (DSU). DSU, located in Dover, is an Historically Black College that excels in competing for STEM research grants and engaging

Diane Jones visited with student neuroscience researchers at Delaware State University.

undergraduate and graduate students in research experiences.  She met with students working in a neuroscience laboratory and a plant molecular biology laboratory and viewed some of the presentations students had delivered at recent conferences.  She also visited the campus’s impressive aquaculture facility and visited the USDA Food Safety Laboratory housed on the campus.  She also met with campus leaders, including the President and Provost, and with a group of energetic and impressive student leaders who made great recommendations for how the Department could help students better understand Federal Student Aid programs.

Next, Diane traveled to the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), where she once served on the faculty of the Biology Department.  While on campus, she visited the new, state-of-the art science education building, as well as the campus’s high tech cyber security laboratory, its aviation technology program and its Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory), where students, faculty and members of the community can access laser cutters, 3-D printers, computer-controlled advanced manufacturing equipment and other

Diane Jones visited the Community College of Baltimore County’s aviation technology programs.

sophisticated instruments to develop new devices, technologies and prototypes to support new inventions.  A student group recently used the tools and equipment in the Fab Lab to develop a prototype for a newborn neonatal incubator that can be assembled in the developing world for around $200, thereby improving healthcare in regions where commercial neonatal incubators are unaffordable.  Diane also met with staff in the financial aid office to better understand how the Department could do more to support students and help institutions meet student financial need.

To wrap up her tour, Diane visited the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). UMBC is led by President Freeman Hrabowski, who is world-renowned for the Meyerhoff Scholar’s Program, a program which has consistently resulted in the country’s highest rate of African American students getting into MD-PhD programs. While there, Diane met with the President’s Council, toured the biology building, visited a state-of-the-art interactive chemistry learning center, and discussed the institution’s new cyber security apprenticeship program. She also met with President Hrabowski to discuss a number of the Secretary’s higher education priorities.

Over the course of these visits, Diane was able to interact with and listen to educators, students and administrators to better understand how the Department can support innovation, expand postsecondary options and reduce regulatory burden and help students succeed.

 

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. 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: Highlighting STEM Research and Education Programs in DE and MD appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Bringing Hopes and Dreams to Those Most in Need

October 12, 2018 - 3:14pm

Like moths to a light, people from all over the country gravitate to Washington, D.C. – longing to make a difference, witness history and understand the complexities of the political process. I am like many young transplants that moved to D.C. for work and began to understand the social justice issues that threaten those who are native to our nation’s capital.

However I, unlike many other young transplants, had to quickly navigate the complexities of the education system. From my own experience, I know the difference a quality education and support system can make on students growing up in poverty.

So, when I moved to D.C. as the sole caregiver for my teenage sister, I knew exactly what she needed to be able to thrive. She needed a quality education, healthy community and individuals who could serve as mentors. As I researched areas to live and send my sister to school, I discovered Anacostia is home to some of D.C.’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods. From food insecurity to lack of affordable housing, the residents in this community are confronted with daily obstacles.

When I got word that a new charter school, Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA), was opening in Anacostia, I was curious. I wondered if the founder received the same information about the area that I had. I wanted to know her hopes for the school and dreams for the poverty stricken community. Most of all, how they were going to Rethink School.

A student during computer class at the Digital Pioneer Academy

DPA founder Mashea Ashton is a longtime advocate for charter schools. She has worked to highlight the inequalities between district public schools and charter public schools, the myths surrounding charter schools, and the best practices to share with other school leaders. She believes that all students, regardless of where they live, should have access to a high-quality education, be it private, charter, or district schools.

In New Jersey, Ashton served as CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF), a foundation established by Sen. Cory Booker to facilitate the growth and quality of charter schools in Newark. In a recent interview with Sen. Booker, he attributed the successes of Newark Public School to the extensive education reforms he helped bring about with NCSF. Upon returning to D.C., her goal was to bring high-quality education options to many disadvantaged D.C. children so that they can compete in the changing economy.

Students during computer class at Digital Pioneer Academy

DPA recently opened on August 20, 2018 in Ward 7, D.C.’s second poorest neighborhood. The school is the first middle school in D.C. with a focus on computer science. DPA serves 150 students and expects to add one grade per year. The school provides a unique, personalized educational experience that integrates best practices from schools across the country, preparing students to be innovators and active citizens in our technology-driven world. According to their website, there are more than 10,000 open computer jobs and 65% of children today will end up in one of those jobs in the future.

Ashton’s goals are to have all of her students achieve 2 years of academic growth each school year, be ranked as a Tier 1 school by their third year of operation and always have a student body that reflects the Anacostia community.

Rethink School means to question everything so that nothing limits students from being prepared for what comes next. A growing number of educators, parents, community leaders and entrepreneurs are being empowered with flexibility to innovate and provide students with increased education options within the public school system.

Thanks to a growing number of leaders, like Mashea Ashton, more low-income families living in neighborhoods like Anacostia will have more access to high-quality educational opportunities in their communities.

 

Denisha Merriweather is a Confidential Assistant in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

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. 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: Bringing Hopes and Dreams to Those Most in Need appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: AZ, UT, CO, and WY Lead the Charge for English Learners

October 11, 2018 - 3:21pm

As a former English learner, teacher of English as a second language, administrator of migrant education, and now director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, I approached my Back to School Tour with the goal of visiting places that #RethinkSchool for bilingual and multilingual students.

Dr. Mark Sorensen, the co-founder and CEO of the Service to All Relations (STAR) charter school in Flagstaff, AZ picked me up at the airport and drove me to his pride and joy. As we headed in the direction of the Navajo’s sacred mountains, he told me the story of STAR’s humble beginnings. Mark and his wife wanted to serve children from the Navajo reservation.

The needs of these students were not being met; about half of them weren’t graduating from high school. So they bought a junk yard, cleared it out and built their school. Seventeen years and many awards later, the STAR school is a model of innovation and customized learning. The Pre-K through 8th grade teachers promote literacy by integrating the Navajo language and traditional cultural knowledge into writing and science learning objectives. Because of the limited written Navajo text, the educators use full oral language immersion which includes the use of sign language. The Navajo culture is felt throughout the building and beyond. The students reach out to their reservation which sits just outside the school. Their approach to STEM directly impacts their community. A few of their meaningful projects include the creation of a large filter housed in an old school bus to solve the problem of the reservation’s contaminated well water, they developed economical cooling systems for homes using 5 gallon buckets so families can endure the hot summers, and the students harvested fruits and vegetables from the green house they built on campus to share with hungry families. STAR school’s culturally responsive approach to education is nimble, pertinent and exciting!

Jose Viana visits with a first grade English speaker/Spanish learner at Mill Creek Elementary in Millcreek, UT.

Would you like to experience a high-quality Dual Language Immersion Program where the subjects are taught half the day in English and the other half in Spanish? Then you have to go to Millcreek, Utah; yes, Utah.  Of the over 66,000 students enrolled in the Granite School District, 36% of them are English learners, speaking almost 160 different languages. The district has tackled this challenge by offering Dual Language Programs in 224 public schools in which ELs who speak a heritage language at home and monolingual English speakers take classes together with the goal of becoming fluent in both languages.  I had the opportunity to visit Mill Creek Elementary and see the local and international teachers in action. I am a native Spanish speaker, and after a tour through the classrooms from 1st grade to 6th grade, I could not tell which students were the English learners and which ones were the Spanish learners; they were more fluent in both languages than I was at their age. The bilingual students at Mill Creek are not only experiencing academic achievement, but cultural competence as well; and I quickly became really excited about our nation’s future. But the staff doesn’t do it alone. After the parent roundtable, one thing was very clear, the parents and teachers are working together to help the children discover their full potential and cultivate their creativity. There is no limit to what the Mustangs can accomplish! Fantástico.

Jose Viana met with Escuela Valdez School’s PTA, Principal and District Leaders.

I was talking to the treasurer from Escuela Valdez’s PTA, and when I asked her about the school’s parent liaison, she quickly corrected me and said, “You mean our angel.” During my time in Denver, I was able to experience Escuela Valdez’s commitment to its diverse community and their culture. This focus is embodied in their “angel,” who has established a true collaborative parent committee representing all the school’s races and ethnicities. When I asked her about this accomplishment, she simply said, “The power of together.” One of Secretary DeVos’ priorities is to empower families and individuals and improve family engagement in schools; Escuela Valdez exemplifies this philosophy. Together, parents and staff promote effective instruction by providing culturally relevant, individualized education for all learners through their innovative programs which include dual-language classrooms. Go Panthers – adelante!

Jose Viana with State Superintendent, District Leaders, Munger Elementary Principal, Jackson Hole High Principal and School staff at Munger Mountain Elementary in Jackson Hole, WY.

Principal Scott Crisp, who is a 2017 School Ambassador Fellow at the US Department of Education, hosted me at his school, Jackson Hole High. Everyone in his diverse school community is both a teacher and a learner! I had the pleasure of speaking to one of his 200 Latino students. He has lived in this country for only a couple of years and because of Jackson Hole’s academic rigor for all students, especially their English learners, he is quickly acquiring fluency while also participating in a couple of the school’s many AP courses. With innovative programs in engineering, robotics, fabrication, performing and visual arts, just to name a few, it’s no wonder why Jackson Hole is the number one high school in Wyoming and in the top 3% in the United States. The learning environment at JHHS is agile, relevant and exciting! Their motto, “Bronc pride” is right on point! How fortunate I was to also visit the only dual immersion magnet school in Wyoming. The school leaders and teachers at Munger Mountain Elementary in Jackson prepare bilingual and biliterate global citizens who achieve academic excellence and sociocultural competence.  Los Lobos meet the unique needs of their students and their community every day!

Jose Viana visits with a fifth grade Spanish speaker/English learner at Afflerbach Elementary in Cheyenne, WY.

I will always treasure my day visiting Laramie County Schools in Cheyenne. They empowered English learner families by facilitating a roundtable discussion with parents, students, teachers and school leaders from Afflerbach Elementary, Johnson Junior High and South High School. After I listened to their challenges and successes I had the opportunity to give them a preview of OELA’s new English Learner Family Tool Kit, which will help parents and guardians understand the U.S. education system. This unforgettable visit was deeply moving.

I feel honored to have toured these amazing schools. Each of them is rethinking education by using innovative approaches to meet the needs of their bilingual and multilingual students.  It was a privilege to encounter people doing life-changing work every day.  I came back to D.C. inspired and ready to share everything I learned. I am truly excited about our nation’s future because Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming are leading the charge for our English learners.

 

Jose Viana is Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition at the U.S. Department of Education.

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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. 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: AZ, UT, CO, and WY Lead the Charge for English Learners appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Practicing STEM Education in Idaho

October 10, 2018 - 2:01pm

As the school year begins around the country, it is important to rethink the innovative ways we can best educate every student. Many schools in the United States are transforming their curriculum, classrooms and teaching methods to better prepare students for the modern workforce. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, one of our nation’s schools that is improving our K-12 education system.

The Academy, located in Rathdrum, Idaho, is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused charter school serving K-12 students. It goes further than simply focusing on STEM education…they practice it every day. Their school day is split between core curriculum and “projects curriculum.”

Students at North Idaho STEM Charter Academy demonstrate their project for Jim Blew.

Their “projects curriculum” provides hands on experiences to every student, with the goal of providing real world experiences solving STEM related issues. When they say every student, they mean every student. Kindergarten students participate in this curriculum while first grade students are incorporating computer programming into their projects. It is truly incredible what these young students are able to accomplish.

These projects are not only guided by the high quality teachers at the Academy, but by astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and by programs designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Through partnerships with leaders in the STEM field, they are able to offer rigorous and real life projects to their students. One particular partnership had students write code that controlled spheres in the International Space Station. They are not simply learning about space, computer programming and the physics of thrust but are applying them in real ways by coding the spheres to accomplish tasks in the International Space Station.

Perhaps the most impressive function of this curriculum is what it teaches outside of the STEM fields. While students learn about STEM through these projects, they also learn about problem solving, creative thinking and teamwork.

STEM has resurfaced as a national priority in American education, with the goal of preparing students for jobs in the 21st Century. After seeing North Idaho STEM Academy and their “projects curriculum,” I can say they are succeeding in preparing students for jobs that have not been created yet and may not be created until the 22nd century.

 

Jim Blew is Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education.

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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. 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: Practicing STEM Education in Idaho appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Creating an Ecosystem of Innovative Learning

October 9, 2018 - 12:44pm

To rethink school, each of us needs to contribute to creating an ecosystem of innovative learning. Apprenticeships can be a key cornerstone to providing innovative opportunities for students to take learning outside the classroom walls. Knoxville Leadership Foundation partners with local businesses to offer apprenticeships for their students to learn how to build homes for families in need within their community. This innovative public/private partnership affords the opportunity for students to learn multiple “hands on” home building techniques along with providing soft skills that guide students toward successful apprenticeship experiences. As students are building homes for families, this community is partnering to build an apprenticeship-friendly ecosystem.

Innovation sparks innovation. As a part of the “Back to School” week, Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Director of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (CFOI), visited faith-driven institutions and mission-minded organizations practicing innovative approaches to student driven education.

In the Austin area, Ramirez visited an independent Catholic K-8 school where innovation is connected with both technology and service learning. A team of three directors work together to make this innovative approach come to life for students. The director of innovation works with teachers to discuss upcoming learning objectives and then works to create projects that serve the community with both the director of technology and the director of service learning. The campus has a Maker Space where students can design and create modules and products that help their community while learning meaningful skillsets along the way. For example, the students recently built a dog house using the materials and tools in the maker space and are participating in a competition to raise awareness for local animal shelter adoptions.

Dr. Andrea Ramirez attended a second grade class at Little Rock Christian Academy where students built mini-homes with cardboard, tape, and straw to illustrate the “Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs” story.

At Little Rock Christian Academy (LRCA) in Pulaski, Arkansas, juniors and seniors shared how they learned transferable skills from their apprenticeship experiences such as problem solving, patient care, building solid relationships with colleagues and critical thinking. Directors of STEM subjects shared how “Project Lead the Way” has provided professional development opportunities for teachers while allowing students to engage in “design to build” projects. One of their middle schoolers became interested in learning about and building prosthetics. In the process of learning how to build a prosthetic, he discovered that a second grader at his own school needed a prosthetic hand. He was able to design and build a hot pink prosthetic hand that she is currently learning to use. Many teachers at LRCA offer students the opportunity to use 20% of their class time to learn about an individual topic of interest. In roundtables, students shared how they had utilized the time to learn about cooking, robotics and drone building. Creating a problem-solving mentality begins in elementary school at LRCA as second graders build mini-homes with cardboard, tape and straw to illustrate the “Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs” story. Different grades of wind were used in a team competition to see which mini-home could withstand the varying wind levels.

Dr. Andrea Ramirez visited Wilson Central High School, a local public high school that has partnered with Cumberland University.

In Middle Tennessee, a private university committed to being “a part of the community” versus “apart from the community” has partnered with four local public high schools to offer dual-enrollment courses. Ramirez visited Wilson Central High School (WCHS), one of the local public high schools in Wilson County that has partnered with Cumberland University. WCHS students shared that taking college courses on their high school campus has helped them develop self-efficacy toward pursuing multiple pathways to success. The dual enrollment courses are available to public, private and homeschool students. Administrators from both WCHS and Cumberland University attributed strong communication and incorporating suggestions from feedback sessions as being keys to ensuring this partnership thrives. They do not view the partnership as a “public/private” partnership as much as a community partnership.

Dr. Andrea Ramirez visited KnoxWorx of Knoxville Leadership Foundation, a faith-driven non-profit organization, and discussed pre-apprenticeship training.

Apprenticeships can be a key cornerstone to providing innovative opportunities for students to take learning outside of the classroom walls. The last visit on Ramirez’s “Back to School” tour was to Knoxville Leadership Foundation (KLF), a faith-driven non-profit organization, to discuss their efforts in partnering with local businesses in offering apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship training to ensure students have solid footing before entering the workforce. KnoxWorx, an initiative of KLF, focuses on workforce development for youth and young adults that are out of school and/or unemployed. The majorities either dropped out of high school or are coming out of juvenile detention. KnoxWorx leadership shared that in most cases, traditional schooling models were not a good fit for their students. KnoxWorx’s pre-apprenticeship training includes modules covering topics such as punctuality, sociability, interviewing skills, ethics, mental toughness and presentation. Construction students learn skillsets to build and repair houses. KLF has a separate home owning readiness program and the homes that are built in the apprenticeship are available to many first-time home buyers in their local community. In addition, when students are employed or in an apprenticeship, this faith-driven non-profit continues to help walk alongside them to address identified barriers. This innovative partnership affords the opportunity for students to learn multiple “hands on” home building techniques along with providing essential soft skills that equip students toward successful apprenticeship experiences. As students are building homes for families, this community is partnering to build an apprenticeship-friendly ecosystem.  These visits highlighted a few ways educators, administrators and organizational leaders are taking “out of the box” steps to rethink school.

 

Dr. Andrea Ramirez is Acting Director of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.

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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. 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: Creating an Ecosystem of Innovative Learning appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Waking the Sleeping Giant: Regional and State Leadership to Improve HBCU Competitiveness

October 5, 2018 - 1:35pm

The 2018 National HBCU Week Conference, titled “HBCU Competitiveness: Aligning Institutional Missions with America’s Priorities,” focused efforts on how HBCUs help improve regional, state and U.S. competitiveness.

The White House Initiative on HBCUs (Initiative) is intentional about the use of the term “competitiveness.” Words matter. Competitiveness embodies our nation’s best education and economic opportunities. Unfortunately, far too many of the students, people and communities HBCUs principally serve are missing out on top opportunities. As part of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s “Rethink School” tour, reflecting our commitment to the conference theme, I visited three HBCUs with the goal to help elevate the institutions in their regions and states, aiding their perception as providers of unique competitive advantages around which innovative new public-private partnerships and other collaborative efforts should form. In other words, we want to wake the sleeping giant of public and private, regional and state engagement with HBCUs.

Regional and state economies are the building blocks of U.S. competitiveness. During my visits to Kentucky State University, West Virginia State University and Harris-Stow State University, I saw first-hand that these HBCUs are educational and economic anchors for their areas:. I had the distinct pleasure to meet students, presidents and administrators; leaders from business and industry; state and local economic, workforce and education leaders; and other key elected and appointed officials. I learned and shared insights on their education and economic priorities and about areas in which meaningful investments are being made. These are the areas to which HBCUs must align.

Johnathan Holifield speaks at Kentucky State University.

During these highly interactive sessions, we explored and learned about the capacity of HBCUs to contribute to regional and state priorities and how these institutions can lead the way to help more students, people and communities become more competitive in a rapidly and dramatically changing world. We thoughtfully discussed how non-federal action can strengthen the competitiveness of HBCUs, making inquiries such as:

  • Why is now the time for regions and states to creatively engage with HBCUs?
  • How can HBCUs be educationally and economically leveraged as local anchor institutions?
  • What are key insights and lessons learned about the kind of public (executive or legislative) and private sector leadership needed in this area?
  • Why is it so important to embed HBCUs in regional and state competitiveness strategy?
  • The necessity of public-private partnerships and how can we activate them around HBCUs to strengthen institutions, regions and states?
  • How can we nationalize the HBCU competitiveness imperative, linking it to U.S. competitiveness and making it important to the 30 states that do not have an HBCU?

The promise of these convenings was to win binding commitment from HBCUs and regional and state, public and private partners – the sleeping giant – to undertake development of and execution against HBCU competitiveness strategies. Such new strategies can provide enduring North Star guidance to align HBCU contributions with regional and state education and economic competitiveness priorities. In turn, this positioning helps HBCUs earn and otherwise attract new investment that customarily accompanies compelling public strategy. Frankly, I don’t know of a path in precedent, not a single example, where assets earn sustained investment and provide sustained returns without a robust strategy to accomplish both ends.

Diverse and inclusive U.S. competitiveness is a growing national concern. It’s where the game is. Our hot pursuit of HBCU competitiveness sends an important message to all stakeholders that it’s not business as usual. We are excited to join with our institutions, as well as regional and state partners, to ensure our actions are aligned with the best opportunities our nation has to offer.

 

Johnathan M. Holifield, pictured above, is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

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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. 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: Waking the Sleeping Giant: Regional and State Leadership to Improve HBCU Competitiveness appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Creating Pathways and Closing the Skills Gap

October 4, 2018 - 2:12pm

During the Back to School tour, I had the pleasure of touring the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita, Kansas on my first stop on my tour through Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee. The National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) offers a variety of aviation degree and certificate programs to students who can begin their path toward becoming skilled professionals in an aviation-related field. NCAT prides itself on its state-of-the-art aviation training facility and its ability to provide quality experiences and skills that prepare students for future careers in aviation such as Aerostructures, Avionics, Composites and Aviation Maintenance. NCAT was primarily funded and built by Sedgwick County, Kansas to meet aviation manufacturing workforce demand. Wichita Area Technical College (WSU Tech) serves as the managing partner for the Center, partnering with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, to provide industry-driven training courses.

I was amazed by the quality of the facility and the excellent instruction that was taking place during my visit. Dr. Sheree Utash, President of Wichita State University Technical College, led the tour and I was joined by a number of local school district superintendents and business and industry partners. Representatives from Spirit AeroSystems and Textron talked to me about the workforce pipeline that NCAT has created in Kansas; a pipeline that has been desperately needed due to critical shortages of skilled aviation workers in the United States. In fact, this shortage isn’t just limited to niche industries like aviation. America’s business leaders are reporting that our country has a workforce skills gap—that we have more job vacancies than Americans with the technical skills needed to fill them. The Business Roundtable, the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and other organizations are warning that this skills gap is holding our economy back. Fortunately, in July, President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (also known as “Perkins V”). This legislation amends and extends the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education, the federal government’s principal source of funding for career and technical education (CTE). The program provides more than $1 billion to states, school districts and community colleges annually. The newly reauthorized legislation requires states and local districts to consider local workforce needs and solicit the input of local business and industry when creating their Career and Technical Education State Plans. I was proud to see that NCAT is already doing this—and doing it exceptionally well.

While I was excited to see local industry at the table, the most exciting part of the tour was learning more about the seamless secondary to post-secondary transition that NCAT offers to local high school students. Wichita Public Schools and WSU Tech recently launched the first high school aviation education CTE program and career pathway in the state of Kansas. Students in the Wichita area are able to take classes at NCAT in 9th-12th grade and jumpstart their training and education for a career in aviation. Through these classes, students have the opportunity to earn technical certificates in aviation production and maintenance that will prepare them for employment in aviation, but also allow them to easily transition from high school into post-secondary education. The state of Kansas pays for the postsecondary tuition of high school students enrolled in college-level CTE courses. This initiative, Excel in CTE, has enabled students to begin a CTE pathway while in high school, and has enabled over 2,500 high school students to enroll in CTE courses at WSU Tech. By bridging this gap, students at WSU Tech enter the postsecondary education arena with fewer courses left to take in order to earn their Associates degree and with little to no debt burden hanging over their heads as they navigate life after high school. In fact, Dr. Utash explained to me that many students in the aviation production pathway graduate from high school “workforce ready” and do not need to obtain any further postsecondary education.

As states begin to craft their Perkins CTE State Plans, I hope they will consider the best practices I saw at the National Center for Aviation Training. The new law gives states, districts and community colleges much greater freedom to decide how best to use the federal investment in CTE to prepare young people and adults for careers. I hope that they will be disruptive innovators and #Rethink the ways in which they “do CTE” by bringing workforce and business leaders to the table and building seamless secondary to post-secondary career pathways for students.

Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK)

Eleven months prior to nominating me as Assistant Secretary of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Expanding Apprenticeships in America.” This order called for the creation of a special Task Force, whose job it would be 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, 2018, 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. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who helped lead the Task Force, said of the report: “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.”

The Commonwealth of Kentucky recognized the importance and influence of apprenticeships when it created the Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) program in 2013 as a way to create more career pathways and post-secondary opportunities for students. A partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education and Kentucky’s Department of Labor, TRACK provides secondary students with seamless career pathway opportunities into Registered Apprenticeships. Perhaps one model of what education could be if we Rethink Schools. Given the priorities of President Trump and Secretary DeVos, and the recent reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, I thought there would be no better time than now to visit Kentucky and see the TRACK program for myself.

TRACK was designed specifically to create a pipeline for students to enter post-secondary apprenticeship training while gaining credit for courses taken and on-the-job hours worked in high school. Students are able to try out a skill before committing themselves to a career. When they do commit, students are able to obtain credit toward and gain entry into an apprenticeship program in an in-demand career field as well as gain real-world workplace skills. By allowing business and industry to drive training and program development, TRACK ensures that employers are able to tailor the program for their specific needs. Students develop a solid foundation and interest in a future occupation, and receive a nationally recognized, stackable credential without incurring student debt. In June 2017, the United States Department of Education named TRACK as the top best-practice youth apprenticeship model in the nation. It is safe to say that this program is the real deal.

Scott Stump visited Kentucky’s AMTECK program.

On the Back to School Tour, I joined Mary Taylor, the Training and Development Specialist at the Kentucky Department of Education, Jon Dougherty, the Education Director at AMTECK, and a number of local school superintendents and CTE instructors on a tour of AMTECK, an electrical contracting company that operates throughout the southeastern United States. AMTECK operates both pre-apprentice and apprentice programs through TRACK. I was able to meet and speak with a number of youth apprentices working at AMTECK. Each of these students told me the same thing: apprenticeship is absolutely the best way to learn and earn at the same time. They were so thankful for the opportunity TRACK and AMTECK provided to them. They were excited about the opportunity they have to seamlessly transition from high school into an apprenticeship, allowing them to very quickly obtain a well-paying job in an in-demand field upon graduation. As I reflected on these conversations, I couldn’t help but think about Secretary DeVos’s desire to Rethink School. One of the questions the Secretary has been asking is, “Why do we suggest a college degree is the only path to success?” Through the TRACK program, students across Kentucky are finding excellent life-long careers in fields that make them happy while they are still in high school. I’m thankful for the Secretary’s leadership in asking the hard questions. We must continue to ask them.

What could Kentucky do if more businesses and schools opened their minds to the apprenticeship model? What if programs like TRACK existed in every single state? How many more pathways could we create for young people in this country? I’m going to continue to ask these questions and I hope that you will join me.

 

Scott Stump is Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education

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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. 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: Creating Pathways and Closing the Skills Gap appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Reconnecting with What Matters Most

October 3, 2018 - 11:13am

It seems like yesterday that I began my career in higher education in a financial aid office in Upstate New York. It was challenging work, but especially fulfilling to see—every day—the very students whose lives were changed after receiving federal student loans, grants, or work-study funds.

On the Back to School tour, I met some hard-working, caring financial aid administrators, who are providing access to education to some remarkable young people pursuing the dream of higher education.

Administrators, faculty, and staff at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA; Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, NJ; Monroe College in New Rochelle, NY; and FDNY-Captain Vernon A. Richard High School for Fire and Life Safety in Brooklyn, NY shared with me their ideas and concerns about applying for, receiving, and repaying federal student aid. That feedback—from the people most-impacted by what we do at Federal Student Aid (FSA)—matters, and I’m eager to share it with ED and FSA leadership in the coming weeks.

At each school, I also had the opportunity to tout FSA’s first-ever mobile app, myStudentAid. It was rewarding to see faces light up in each room when I explained that starting on Oct. 1, students, parents, and the individuals who assist them will able to complete the 2019–20 FAFSA® form easily and securely via our mobile app, as well as on fafsa.gov, just like always.

At FSA, we’re working hard to make federal student aid as simple and accessible as possible because we haven’t forgotten that behind every FAFSA form is a student working to achieve a dream. And we recognize that is what matters most.

  • Kathleen Smith met and held discussions with students at Monroe College.
  • Kathleen Smith met with administrators and elected officials at Elizabeth High School Frank J. Cicarell Academy.
  • Kathleen Smith met with Financial Aid Administrators at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Kathleen Smith visited with administrators at FDNY High School.
  • Kathleen Smith visited with administrators at FDNY High School.

 

Kathleen Smith is Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid.

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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. 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: Reconnecting with What Matters Most appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: OESE’s Midwest Back to School Tour

October 2, 2018 - 1:46pm

My name is Frank Brogan and I am an educator with over 40 years in public service. During my time in public service, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a classroom teacher, principal, superintendent of schools, Florida Commissioner of Education and then Lieutenant Governor of Florida. In my current role as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, I embarked on a week-long, Back to School tour. I visited 9 schools in five days spanning Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Each school was unique but simultaneously showcased innovation. It was important that the Back to School tour my colleagues at the U.S. Department of Education and I completed not only celebrated millions of children going back to school but also celebrated innovative schools in the 48 contiguous states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands.

I kicked off my Back to School tour in Michigan at Clintondale High School. As an educator myself, it was great to be back in the classroom, especially at a high school as innovative as Clintondale. I had the opportunity to meet with Principal Cargill and tour the unique school featuring a flipped classroom model. Students at Clintondale watch their lessons at home and then come to school to complete their “homework.” Clintondale’s faculty are experts in their field; instead of traditional lectures, class time is spent developing critical analysis skills. Following the tour, I observed how class time is utilized and met with Clintondale’s extraordinary students!

During day two I covered the beautiful states of Illinois and Wisconsin. I started at Chicago West Side Christian School (CWSCS). CWSCS has benefited greatly from the Illinois tax credit scholarship program which provides opportunities for children from low-income households to receive a high-quality education. This PK-8 school serves approximately 170 students and promotes a rigorous academic atmosphere where students engage in exploration, research, hands-on activities, creative thinking and problem-solving. Although there are many aspects of CWSCS to highlight, I greatly enjoyed learning about the CWSCS’s travel exposure. For the past 20 years, CWSCS has incorporated a travel experience into their curriculum that provides students the opportunity to travel to Maryland, DC, Virginia, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The students plan the trip, learn how to fundraise and coordinate activities. Aside from travel exposure, students at CWSCS plan and execute a Middle School Diversity Conference. In the past, 180 students from four other schools have attended. Thank you, Principals Mary Post and Jeralyn Harris, for sharing your innovative travel experiences with me!

Next, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School. I was kindly greeted by Regional Superintendent, Jennifer Smith and the administration of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School. We discussed the anti-bullying model used within the Milwaukee Public School District. Thank you Milwaukee Public Schools for showing me RWRCP’s International Baccalaureate program and phenomenal art program. Next stop, Indiana!

On Wednesday, I visited Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Purdue Polytechnic is an innovative high school in partnership with Purdue University. Students at Purdue Polytechnic learn in nontraditional classrooms. Some students sit on sofas, in an open room, or at a table while talking with their teachers. Purdue students have the freedom to schedule and plan their week without a transition bell prompting their movements. Instead, students head to their next “appointment” at their own pace. Thank you to Principal Scott Bess for taking the time to show me all the innovative things you’re doing at Purdue Polytechnic High School. I enjoyed speaking with students in the open room setting and learning about their experiences at Purdue Polytechnic.

For the second half of the Back to School tour, I returned to where my own educational journey began, All Saints School in Cincinnati, Ohio. All Saints is a K-8 Private Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It was great to see how things have changed. I took a tour of my old elementary school and met with Kevan Hartman, Principal of All Saints. Principal Hartman and I walked the halls, toured the building, and spoke with current students. Next, I visited my alma mater, Archbishop Moeller High School. Moeller is a Catholic all-boys school with the mission of forming students into remarkable men. All students must complete required community service projects each year. Moeller also showcased a program where young men can earn up to a year of college credits by taking college courses at regional and local universities. Both All Saints and Archbishop Moeller, where I attended on financial aid, helped me overcome challenges and obtain a college degree. I am proud to see these schools still paving educational pathways for students like myself, today. I had a wonderful school visit with Principal of Archbishop Moeller, Carl Kremer.

I also had the opportunity to visit Summit Elementary School in Cincinnati; the school where I taught while pursuing my degree.Principal Michele Sulfsted and  Tess Elshoff, President of Ohio’s State Board of Education, joined me and re-familiarized me with Summit Elementary.

My final stop on the Back to School tour was at the College of Education at University of Cincinnati. As a proud alumnus and first generation college student, it is always rewarding to visit the university that contributed so much to my career in education. This university prepared me to teach and provided me the opportunities to student teach in two Ohio elementary schools. When I arrived on campus, I met with Dean Lawrence Johnson. We spoke about the innovative programs that create a seamless link between the university and local high schools. We then walked to Hughes School, a high school that allows students to earn college credit in information technology courses and complete paid co-ops while still in high school. Students gain paid work experience for college credit during their summer, which transfers to college credit at the University of Cincinnati while helping students pay for their first year of college. At Hughes School, I had the opportunity to meet with UC’s students in the College of Education and observe a class. Thank you to the University of Cincinnati!

I am so honored to have had the opportunity to tour 9 extraordinary schools in five days. Each school I visited is innovating and changing to meet the needs of the students in their charge. Students are the beneficiaries and the status quo has once again been put on notice that necessary change for children is pivotal to their future. I am happy to see schools organizing around students instead of students organizing around systems. I was certainly impressed!

 

Frank Brogan is Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

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. 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: OESE’s Midwest Back to School Tour appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Time to Head Back to School And Rethink Education

October 1, 2018 - 2:52pm

OSERS Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Richey and I spent the week traveling as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018 Back-to-School Tour. During the week, ED leaders toured the country to get a closer, first-hand look at how schools are meeting the unique needs of students.

Kim and I spent the week in New England visiting traditional public, private/independent, and public charter schools to meet students and educators and to learn how these schools provide supports and services to students with disabilities.

We were encouraged by how these schools are rethinking education to ensure nothing limits their students from being prepared for what comes next in life – whether it is continuing their education, transitioning to a work environment, both, or whatever is their next right step.

We heard from diverse education stakeholders at each school. They provided us with great information, and it was incredibly helpful to benefit from their unique perspectives and experiences. We were reminded again, that those closest to the child really do know best about their education, and that the best ideas and innovations to ensure the success of children come from them, and not from Washington.

Day 1: Maine

First, we visited Maine’s St. George Municipal School Unit and the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science. They knew that science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) initiatives could help their schools better meet the needs of all children.

St. George Municipal School Unit, a public kindergarten through eighth grade school, has employed a “makerspace” for students to experience both high-tech and low-tech tools to learn, explore and share the world around them and turn their imaginations into tangible creations.

The Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, a public charter high school, exposes students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career fields and professionals while still offering students a strong humanities curriculum to cultivate well-rounded individuals and passionate, self-directed learners.

STEAM and STEM activities at these two schools help support students with disabilities build confidence in their own abilities, be introduced to technical skills that they can apply to future career endeavors, and explore possibilities that may not have been available to them if schools did not challenge themselves to rethink how they best serve students with disabilities.

St. George Municipal School Unit and the Baxter Academy are preparing America’s students for professions not yet imagined.

Day 2: New Hampshire

We visited the Regional Special Education Consortium (RSEC) Academy and the Strong Foundation Charter School in New Hampshire Tuesday. These schools know that a one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-most approach to educating students does not work.

The RSEC Academy’s middle and high schools specialize in the education of sixth through 12th graders with learning disabilities as well as other social, emotional and behavioral disabilities. RSEC Academy prepares students to transition from middle school to high school to graduation and beyond by ensuring students have access to educators and staff trained to support individual student needs. We had the opportunity to speak to students, faculty (including their Positive Approach to Learning Disabilities team), and alumni. Each person had a unique story to share, which helped to further emphasize the importance of individualized decision-making related to students’ needs.

The next school we visited in New Hampshire was the Strong Foundations Charter School, a first through eighth grade school whose history highlights the importance for families to choose a learning environment that works best for their student. Founded as a public charter school, Strong Foundations formed in order to provide comprehensive reading instruction to all students and improve student literacy and reading outcomes. New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut joined us as we observed students taking part in structured reading lessons and when we met with teachers, special educators, the school’s principal and board members.

Day 3: Vermont

We had the opportunity to visit traditional public schools, as well as private schools to see how Vermont’s public and private schools’ partnerships are helping to ensure students have opportunities in a variety of school settings.

Johnny Collett and Kim Richey met with special educators and teachers at Hiawatha’s Essex Westford.

We started at Essex Westford School District’s Hiawatha Elementary, a pre-K through third grade public school. We participated in the students’ morning routine including their interactive classroom meeting before observing direct instruction with a student using augmentative and alternative communication. Hiawatha demonstrated the importance of a customized learning experience to improve outcomes for all students. Through our interactions, observations and discussions with the Hiawatha community, we witnessed what is possible when schools work to empower students, give them their own voice and way of communicating, and support individual needs.

Johnny Collett sat with children at Little One’s University.

We followed our visit to Hiawatha Elementary with a tour of Vermont’s Little One’s University, a private preschool that has partnered with its local school district, Essex Westford. Their focus on early childhood education showed how providing early learners, including young learners with disabilities, with the proper educational foundation can set them on a path for success. As part of a private/public partnership, we toured the school and interacted with preschool learners in an inclusive setting with and without disabilities. We were thrilled to have Vermont’s Secretary of Education Daniel M. French join us as we met with a diverse group of stakeholders that included parents, teachers, special education directors and school administrators.

While in Vermont, we also visited the St. Johnsbury Academy, an independent coed day and boarding school that, in partnership with public schools, provides public school students with an education that best meets their individual needs. The academy offers a variety of educational experiences such as bio-medical and health services certificate, culinary arts, fashion design, and pre-university engineering and robotics. The academy also has on-site adult education courses, including training certificate programs, through a partnership with Vermont Technical College and the Vermont Department of Labor. We met with parents and students to hear why they chose an independent school, and we spoke with representatives from local education agencies in Vermont regarding the public/private partnerships with St. Johnsbury Academy. The insight provided by these parents, students, educators and LEAs offered valuable information on the importance of educational options for students with disabilities and their families.

Vermont offered us a wonderful opportunity for a listening session with administrators, educators, families, students and other special education stakeholders to discuss what excites them and what challenges them about the education of students with disabilities. It was evident that each person was committed to high expectations and improved outcomes for people with disabilities.

Day 4: Connecticut

We spent Thursday morning at the Meriden Public Schools system in Connecticut. Meriden Public Schools offered us a view of services and supports from early childhood education through post-secondary activities.

At Meriden’s Hanover Elementary School we saw the early learning wing, discussed ways they support students with disabilities, and visited their inclusive playground.

We also had the opportunity to hear presentations from students and learn more about Platt High School’s college and career readiness initiatives, which include working with select ninth grade students requiring additional support of the basis of grades, attendance or behaviors to plan their paths for success as a way of helping them set and achieve goals.

In addition to Meriden’s high school initiatives, we learned about their school’s Community Classroom Collaborative (CCC),  a community based program that serves students with varying disabilities ages 18 through 21 in an age appropriate and natural environment, and the Success Academy, a program that provides individualized support and student-centered options for students in the district as they work toward their goal of graduating to receive a high school diploma . We learned how they chose to implement these programs, heard the reasoning behind establishing these programs, and listened to success stories of equipping students with the tools they need for the future. Programs like those in Meriden show there are many avenues for students to find success.

The district’s focus on the individual helps to prepare students for success, no matter what that version of success might look like.

Day 4: Rhode Island

Kim Richey observed individualization strategies at work at Hugh Cole Elementary School.

We visited Rhode Island’s Hugh Cole Elementary school Thursday afternoon. This public elementary school uses data-based individualization within a multi-tiered system of support framework to meet particular intervention needs of its students. While at Hugh Cole Elementary, we observed their individualization strategies, heard about the school’s teacher development/support efforts throughout the years, and how the school makes its practices sustainable and replicable.

Day 5: Massachusetts

Our New England Back to School Tour concluded Friday in Massachusetts. The Reading Public School District showed how their district works with students with disabilities from early childhood through high school.

We had the opportunity to meet with staff from their Respect, Inclusion, Safety, Effort (RISE) Preschool, which emphasizes the needs of individual students. About half of RISE Preschool’s classroom students receive extra support to help them grow and develop based on their needs.

At the elementary school level, we observed co-teaching in kindergarten and fourth grade classrooms in Reading’s Birch Meadow Elementary School. We also spent time at Reading Memorial High School to round out the full picture of the supports and services provided to the district’s students with disabilities. Throughout the day, discussions with various staff including teachers, administrators, the district’s data and behavioral health coaches, and students demonstrated what it looks like when a district thinks holistically about the education of students with disabilities.

Rethink school. Question everything.  Challenge the status quo.

Kim and I traveled to six states in five days and loved the opportunity to visit schools and meet many new people who are committed to doing what is right for each student. Students, parents and school personnel were eager to share their programs and stories with us. What we saw at the schools excites us about the possibilities of what can happen when people challenge the status quo of special education.

This week’s Back-to-School Tour further demonstrated that we must collectively continue to have the courage and perseverance necessary to make needed changes to our systems at the federal, state, and local levels if we are to achieve the goals that we, and most importantly the individuals we serve, envision.

Systems change is not easy, does not happen quickly and is not accomplished by a few. However, it’s worth it because at the heart of the system are the individuals we serve and their futures. The work is too important, the need is too urgent, and the stakes are too high for us to settle for anything less than whatever it takes to deliver on the promises made to students and families.

I’ve been asking people to join me in rethinking special education and in asking difficult questions that challenge the status quo of special education in our country. “Tinkering around the edges” is not going to get us to the goals that we envision.

I look forward to future visits to other states to see and highlight important work being done by states and schools to raise expectations and improve outcomes for children with disabilities.

 
Johnny Collett is the Assistant Secretary Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.
 
Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.
 
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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. 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: Time to Head Back to School And Rethink Education appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

How to Fill Out the FAFSA® Form When You Have More Than One Child in College

September 28, 2018 - 2:30pm

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs now.

Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each of your children’s FAFSA forms. How many FAFSA® forms do we have to complete?

Each student and one parent need an FSA ID, and each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2019–20 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1996, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to go to college or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA® form to another so I don’t have to reenter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. At the bottom of the confirmation page, you’ll see an option that asks, “Does your brother or sister need to complete a FAFSA?” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and select the arrow at the right.

NOTE: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT available on the myStudentAid app at the moment.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

 

Once you select the arrow, a new window will open, allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left (I am the student) in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State) and enter your child’s information.

IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA form says “you,” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top-left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA form and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSA forms.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA® form?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA form. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSA forms.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

  • Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
  • Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute toward the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that as a parent, your annual ability to pay per child decreases as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC 1 $10,000 2 $5,000 3 $3,333 4 $2,500
  • Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs, visit the CollegeScorecard.

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Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: The Life-Changing Difference the Right School Makes

September 27, 2018 - 2:56pm

If you’d met Micah Ohanian before seventh grade, you’d encounter a young man who was struggling to succeed in an assigned neighborhood school, yet, a student who was determined to find an academic environment that truly worked for him.

“School choice benefited me,” he says simply, “in the best way.”

Micah describes the teaching approach at his former middle school as forging ahead from topic to topic on an inflexible schedule, with few accommodations for students with different learning needs.

“We went from one subject to the next,” he notes. “The school’s structure wasn’t giving me an opportunity to actually grasp the concepts.  Also, I was being bullied, and that made everything more difficult for me. I think the only two classes I was passing were art and physical education.”

Micah had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD – and his parents wanted to enroll him in a local public charter school they felt would best meet his needs: San Diego’s High Tech High – a village of thirteen elementary to high schools.  The trouble was students could only be accepted to this highly-competitive charter network by winning a lottery.

“My parents had been trying to get me into one of the High Tech Elementary Charter Schools since second grade,” Micah explains. “I was in the lottery and on the wait list every year. That was really stressful for my parents. I thought the support structure for kids with ADHD and disabilities was much better and I’d achieve there.”

Micah Ohanian

Then at last, midway through seventh grade, a student’s unexpected departure created an opening for Micah.

Within days of his arrival at his new school, his parents noticed a difference in their son. He was happy, with a passion for where he was and for learning. This transformation was a huge relief.

At his new school, Micah felt at home – and flourished. “I was able to come out of my shell.  It was awesome.  By the end of my first week, it felt like it was the only school I’d ever been to.  My grades started rising.”

Still, the road wasn’t always smooth.

“In high school, I dealt with mental health issues, which brought my grades down to a C average. During that rough part in my life, my teachers were very supportive, always helping me out whenever I needed it.  So, they saw me fail at times, but they also helped me succeed.”

Since his pre-teen years, as a result of anxiety and depression, Micah had suffered from auditory hallucinations. He kept these experiences secret until his sophomore year, when he was enrolled at the Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High – located on the same campus as the charter network’s elementary and middle schools.  “When I started talking about it, the school had nothing but support for me.  I ended up checking myself in for treatment, and missed a month of school.  When I came back, they just tried to do what was best for me, and helped me get re-adjusted.”

Today, thanks to personalized support that met his unique needs, right when he needed it the most – Micah is attending community college, doing well, and excited about the future. He knows he can make a contribution to the world, in all his endeavors.

The schools of his choice have prepared him, he says confidently, “not only for college, but for life.”

 

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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: The Life-Changing Difference the Right School Makes appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

September 26, 2018 - 11:34am

Did you submit a 2019–20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form? Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and select “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
   Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100 percent of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10 percent—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered. 3. Apply for as Many Scholarships as You Can

As we mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be on the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2019–20 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2018. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aidnot the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines. 5. Make FAFSA® Corrections if You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about three days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID at fafsa.gov, and then select “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

 

NOTE: Parents of dependent students can’t initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID at fafsa.gov, selecting “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

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Categories: Higher Education News

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 24, 2018 - 3:33pm

If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form. Ready to fill out the FAFSA form? Make sure you avoid these 11 common FAFSA mistakes.

1. Create an account (FSA ID)
  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for us to verify your info before you can use your FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.


IMPORTANT:

Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, not even with each other.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov

The 2019–20 FAFSA form is available starting October 1! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

TIP: If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form.

  • If you are the student: Click “I am the student.” Enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
  • If you are the parent: Click “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.” Provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”

 

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2019–20 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
  • 2018–19 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2018–19 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2019–20 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.

Create a save key

  • Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.
3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents:
Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted). Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information.

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, add every school 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. But, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. 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.

5. Answer the dependency status questions

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.

7. Supply your financial information

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.

8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID at the beginning, you won’t need to provide it again on this page. But, if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID username or password, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

 

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The post 8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

#RethinkSchool: Choice Matters for Military-Connected Students

September 20, 2018 - 11:32am

“There are so many active-duty military families today who are making decisions about how they advance within the military, or where they are going to live… based on educational opportunities for their children,” Secretary DeVos recently said in a conversation with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. “I think we have the opportunity to change the dynamic for them.”

Maddie Shick is from one such family – and, despite being a bright student, she faces challenges that accompany a military-connected lifestyle.  A self-proclaimed “professional new girl,” Maddie is now a sophomore at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida.

Her formal education began in Georgia, but she’s learned across the country and around the world – even moving to Germany, where her father was deployed, for a year.

She’s attended a dozen different schools since preschool – and some of them have provided her with strong opportunities to learn and grow. As a middle school student in Columbus, Georgia, Maddie joined the drama club and performed in West Side Story. The school taught an International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Maddie Shick

The following year, the family moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Maddie had the opportunity to cross-country ski at school. She also joined the wrestling team – and she fell in love with the sport. “Girls can wrestle, too,” Maddie said.

But in Fairbanks, Maddie had to put her love of acting on hold: the school didn’t offer drama, and her family couldn’t find an active children’s theater group in the area.

And when the family next moved to Tampa, Florida, Maddie had to abandon her love of wrestling, too: when she switched schools within the district, she was disqualified from wrestling with her new team.

Maddie took advantage of the opportunity to explore new activities as she moved from school to school – but that also meant giving up ones that she’d once loved.

“There’s good and bad to all these schools,” Maddie said, “But the really bad part is that I don’t ever get to stay long enough to benefit from any one type of school.”

Military-connected students are often required to compromise – on top of the traditional pressures of maintaining good grades, preparing for tests, working, volunteering, and planning for life beyond high school.

Maddie with her family.

“Moving and starting over every two years makes all these pressures worse,” Maddie said. “Now, imagine you have to focus on all these things at three different schools, in three different states, in a four year period. It’s tough.”

Military-connected families deserve the opportunity to attend schools that work for them. They deserve – as the Secretary said – the flexibility to “customize their child’s education.”

That’s why the Secretary has called on all of America to fundamentally rethink school, including asking questions that were once considered “non-negotiable” or too difficult to answer. For example, students like Maddie are often required to fall in line with the pace of a new school – even if she’s ahead of her classmates.

“I was in gifted education for most of elementary school, but when we moved to Alaska I did not qualify for their program,” said Maddie. “Now, I don’t want to even try for gifted programs because I am tired of repeating all the testing every two years and most of the gifted programs are limited anyway.”

Military-connected students and all students should have options – perhaps attending a traditional public school for some classes, and attending an online or charter school for others. Rethinking school means that students, like Maddie, to whom “learning comes easy,” can advance quickly in subject areas that interest them.

“We do live an adventure,” Maddie said. “But some parts are really hard. School is one of them.”

Maddie deserves high-quality opportunities. She deserves the freedom to pursue subjects that interest and challenge her, in an environment that meets her needs.

All students, including those in military-connected families, should be free to learn, grow and thrive.

 

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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 Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 19, 2018 - 12:31pm

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these 8 steps:

1. Create an account (FSA ID)

An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child. Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov
  • Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start Here” under the “New to FAFSA.gov?” heading.
  • Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.”
  • Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
  • Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
    2018–19 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019. 2019–20 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020. Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2018–19 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2019–20 FAFSA form after.
  • Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal?
    If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should select “Start NEW FAFSA.”
  • Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.
IMPORTANT TIPS
— The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours.
When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).
— Avoid simultaneous logins.
Your child should not be filling out their FAFSA online at the same time you are. Your progress can be lost if they click “Save” at a different point in the application.
— If you need help:
Click on the blue question mark symbol at the corner of each question. 3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

After the introduction page, you will proceed to enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

5. Answer the dependency status questions

In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.

  • These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
  • If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip the questions about providing parent information (unless otherwise noted by the school).
6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information. Are you divorced? Remarried? Below is a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form. For specific guidance, review our “Reporting Parent Information” page.

7. Supply your financial information

This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.”

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

NOTE: If you need to save and exit your child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.

8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form

Both you and your child need to sign the FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

If your child is not present, here’s what you do:

  1. Sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID first.
  2. Save and exit the application.
  3. Instruct your child to log in using their FSA ID and sign the FAFSA form.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.

  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

Congrats you’re finished!

Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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The post The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

11 Common FAFSA® Mistakes

September 18, 2018 - 2:14pm

The 2019–20 FAFSA® will be available October 1! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible!

Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form

We hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for “free money” such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It doesn’t take too much time to complete, and there is help text provided for every question.

2. Not Filling Out the FAFSA Form as Soon as It’s Available

If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early.  Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP. The 2019–20 FAFSA form requires 2017 tax information, which you should already have—so there’s no excuse to wait!

3. Not Filing the FAFSA Form by the Deadline

You should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline, and some deadlines are very early. To be sure you are being considered for the maximum amount of financial aid, fill out your FAFSA form—and any other financial aid applications required by your state or school—before the earliest deadline.

4. Not Getting an FSA ID Before Filling Out the FAFSA Form

It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? Well, because when you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent (if you’re considered a dependent student) will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you both want to sign your FAFSA form online. DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other! Doing so could cause problems or delays with your financial aid. Don’t wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

5. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form

When you begin your FAFSA form, you will be asked to identify yourself as one of these:

1.) I am the student
2.) I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State

If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application.  This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.

6. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)

For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2017 tax information into the 2019–20 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!

7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA form, you’ll want to read each definition and each question carefully; sometimes the FAFSA form is looking for very specific information that may not be obvious.

Here are some items that have very specific (but not necessarily intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA:

  • Legal guardianship
    To determine your dependency status, the FAFSA form asks, “Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents—even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardians. Also, you cannot be your own legal guardian.

  • Number of family members (household size)
    The FAFSA form has a specific definition of how your household size or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
  • Number of family members in college
    Enter the number of people in your (or your parents’) household who will attend college at the same time as you. Don’t forget to include yourself, but don’t include your parents in this number, even if they’re in college. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.
  • Taxable college grants and scholarships
    For this question, you report only college grant and scholarship amounts that were reported to the IRS as income. That means you should not use the amount listed on your 1098-T; you should report the amount listed on your tax return. Do not use the number in the adjusted gross income (AGI) field. Here are the tax line numbers you should reference when asked this question. If you didn’t file taxes, you should enter zero.

* If you’re a dependent student, the value of any college savings accounts should be reported as a parent asset, not a student asset.

 

8. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see when people complete the FAFSA form:

  • Confusing parent information with student information
    We know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA form for their children, but remember, it is the student’s application. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter your (the student’s) information. If the form is asking for your parent’s information, it will specify that in the question.
  • Entering information that doesn’t match your FSA ID information
    After you create an FSA ID, your information (name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth) is sent to the Social Security Administration to be verified. If you then enter a different name, SSN, and/or date of birth on the FAFSA form, you’ll receive an error message. This is often the result of a typo or mixing up student information and parent information. To avoid delays, triple-check that you have entered your information correctly. If you encounter an error about information not matching, here’s how you can resolve it.
9. Not Reporting Required Information
  • Additional financial information
    If you follow our recommendation and use the IRS DRT, a lot of the financial information required on the FAFSA form will be automatically filled in for you. However, the IRS DRT doesn’t populate everything; some numbers, including many items in the “Additional Financial Information” section, must be manually entered. If you used the IRS DRT, you’ll see that some boxes in that section are pre-checked and the fields prefilled with “Transferred from the IRS.” However, other items, such as “Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans” and others, cannot be transferred from the IRS. You must manually review each item in the list, check the box if it applies to you, and enter the appropriate amount by referencing your relevant financial records. In the case of payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans, you can find that information on your W-2 form.

10. Listing only one college

Unless you are applying to only one college or already know where you’re going to school, you should include more than one. Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ALL colleges you are considering to your FAFSA form, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.

NOTE:  If you’re a resident of certain states, the order in which you list the schools on your FAFSA form might matter. Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.

11. Not Signing the FAFSA Form

So many students answer every single question that is asked but fail to actually sign the FAFSA form with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons—maybe you forgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID—so your application is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”
  • If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one.

If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, there’s an option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA form has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA form online.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

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