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Youth and Money Matters

May 4, 2018 - 12:45pm

When you were in middle or high school, did you learn money basics? Did you take a personal finance class? If so, you were among the less than half of Americans who did. Today, only 17 states require high school students to take a personal finance class before they graduate, and only about six test students on what they’ve learned.

As April was National Financial Capability Month, it was the perfect time for the Department to turn its attention to financial literacy for youth and what it could do to promote best practices and support a network of policymakers and practitioners across the country

The Department, in partnership with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC), organized a special convening entitled “Financial Education in America’s Schools.” The goal was to engage the education community, local and state stakeholders, financial institutions and others in building strong, permanent partnerships that immerse youth in financial concepts.

In addition, the Department encouraged states to participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international survey administered to 15-year-olds that includes a component on financial literacy. PISA results for 2015 showed that students who had a bank account scored higher than their peers who didn’t have one.

The daylong program, held in the Department’s Barnard Auditorium, brought together financial experts; researchers, both inside and outside the Department; elected officials; community stakeholders; and others from across the country to discuss ways to improve students’ financial IQ.  All told, nine federal agencies, 11 states, and dozens of national organizations participated in the convening.

The event opened with welcome remarks from Secretary DeVos and U.S. Department of the Treasury Treasurer Jovita Carranza. Among the topics discussed were ways that state and local stakeholders could work together with financial institutions, non-profits and others to create safe, low-cost banking and savings opportunities for students, including economically vulnerable populations such as foster youths, justice-involved youths and youths in military families. For students preparing for college, topics focused on ways to help them and their parents evaluate higher education financing options and available partnership opportunities to help inform and simplify postsecondary decision making. In addition, attendees addressed ways to engage state and local stakeholders, community organizations, financial institutions and others in creating youth employment opportunities through job pathways, internships and apprenticeships, as well as collaborative ways to support age-appropriate entrepreneurship education and connections to supportive resources.

Teaching students how to make smart decisions about money from an early age will help ensure that they make informed decisions about pursuing and paying for college, and planning for their future. Secretary DeVos encouraged schools, communities and stakeholders to find ways to take on the challenge of youth financial literacy, and to look to community partners for support.

Bottom line: Youth need to know how to budget, manage money and pay bills. Across the country, states like Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, Kentucky and Wisconsin have recognized the importance of teaching young people sound money management practices. The need for youth financial education and savings programs is well-documented. According to Youth.gov, many youth are ill-equipped to make sound financial decision because they have not received either formal or informal guidance on financial matters, and parents often fail to talk about money with their children.

To learn more, the Department’s Homeroom Blog has several posts, along with resources, that address the importance of financial literacy for students and their parents.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Soliciting Input for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers

May 2, 2018 - 7:31am

The United States Department of Education (Department) recognizes that family engagement in school is an important component of student success. As schools improve their efforts to engage families, we know that some schools, districts and states may need additional support and technical assistance. Through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, Congress has authorized funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers Program.  Title IV, Part E, Sections 4501 – 4506 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, is intended to provide financial support to organizations to provide technical assistance and training to State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.  The Secretary is authorized to award grants to statewide organizations (or consortia of such organizations) to establish statewide family engagement centers that (1) carry out parent education, and family engagement in education; or (2) provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to State educational agencies and local educational agencies, schools, organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other organizations that carry out such programs.

Because the Department is very interested in your input, we are posting the legislation as part of this blog post.  We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments pertaining to the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program in the comments section below.  This document will be posted for public comments until 5:00 PM EDT on Friday May 11, 2018, at which time the response section will be closed and we will begin considering input received as we develop the requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions.  Though the Department will not respond to comments, the Department will read and consider all comments in finalizing the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program and competition design.  In early summer, we will publish a notice inviting applications in the Federal Register.

This is a moderated site.

That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print

Please understand that posts must be related to the new competition and program, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. ED will not respond to individual posts, and these posts may or may not be reflected in the policies and requirements of the program. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this opportunity to support family engagement in student learning. We look forward to hearing from you.

Department of Education’s linking policy

Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement




SEC. 4501. (20 U.S.C. 7241) PURPOSES.

The purposes of this part are the following:

(1) To provide financial support to organizations to provide technical assistance and training to State educational agencies and local educational agencies in the implementation and enhancement of systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement.

(2) To assist State educational agencies, local educational agencies, community-based organizations, schools, and educators in strengthening partnerships among parents, teachers, school leaders, administrators, and other school personnel in meeting the educational needs of children and fostering greater parental engagement.

(3) To support State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, and parents in developing and strengthening the relationship between parents and their children’s school in order to further the developmental progress of children.

(4) To coordinate activities funded under this part with parent involvement initiatives funded under section 1116 and other provisions of this Act.

(5) To assist the Secretary, State educational agencies, and local educational agencies in the coordination and integration of Federal, State, and local services and programs to engage families in education.


SEC. 4502. (20 U.S.C. 7242) GRANTS AUTHORIZED.

(a) STATEWIDE FAMILY ENGAGEMENT CENTERS.—From the amount appropriated under section 4506 and not reserved under subsection (d), the Secretary is authorized to award grants for each fiscal year to statewide organizations (or consortia of such organizations), to establish statewide family engagement centers that—

(1) carry out parent education, and family engagement in education, programs; or

(2) provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools identified by State educational agencies and local educational agencies, organizations that support family-school partnerships, and other organizations that carry out such programs.

(b) MINIMUM AWARD.—In awarding grants under this section, the Secretary shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a grant is awarded for a statewide family engagement center in an amount not less than $500,000.

(c) MATCHING FUNDS FOR GRANT RENEWAL.—Each organization or consortium receiving assistance under this part shall demonstrate that, for each fiscal year after the first fiscal year for which the organization or consortium is receiving such assistance, a portion of the services provided by the organization or consortium is supported through non-Federal contributions, which may be in cash or in-kind.

(d) TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE.—The Secretary shall reserve not more than 2 percent of the funds appropriated under section 4506 to carry out this part to provide technical assistance, by competitive grant or contract, for the establishment, development, and coordination of statewide family engagement centers.


SEC. 4503. (20 U.S.C. 7243) APPLICATIONS.

(a) SUBMISSIONS.—Each statewide organization, or a consortium of such organizations, that desires a grant under this part shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may require, which shall include the information described in subsection (b).

(b) CONTENTS.—Each application submitted under subsection (a) shall include, at a minimum, the following:

(1) A description of the applicant’s approach to family engagement in education.

(2) A description of how the State educational agency and any partner organization will support the statewide family engagement center that will be operated by the applicant including a description of the State educational agency and any partner organization’s commitment of such support.

(3) A description of the applicant’s plan for building a statewide infrastructure for family engagement in education, that includes—

(A) management and governance;

(B) statewide leadership; or

(C) systemic services for family engagement in education.

(4) A description of the applicant’s demonstrated experience in providing training, information, and support to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, parents, and organizations on family engagement in education policies and practices that are effective for parents (including low-income parents) and families, parents of English learners, minorities, students with disabilities, homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students, including evaluation results, reporting, or other data exhibiting such demonstrated experience.

(5) A description of the steps the applicant will take to target services to low-income students and parents.

(6) An assurance that the applicant will—

(A) establish a special advisory committee, the membership of which includes—

(i) parents, who shall constitute a majority of the members of the special advisory committee;

(ii) representatives of education professionals with expertise in improving services for disadvantaged children;

(iii) representatives of local elementary schools and secondary schools, including students;

(iv) representatives of the business community; and

(v) representatives of State educational agencies and local educational agencies;

(B) use not less than 65 percent of the funds received under this part in each fiscal year to serve local educational agencies, schools, and community-based organizations that serve high concentrations of disadvantaged students, including students who are English learners, minorities, students with disabilities, homeless children and youth, children and youth in foster care, and migrant students;

(C) operate a statewide family engagement center of sufficient size, scope, and quality to ensure that the center is adequate to serve the State educational agency, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations;

(D) ensure that the statewide family engagement center will retain staff with the requisite training and experience to serve parents in the State;

(E) serve urban, suburban, and rural local educational agencies and schools;

(F) work with—

(i) other statewide family engagement centers assisted under this part; and

(ii) parent training and information centers and community parent resource centers assisted under sections 671 and 672 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1471; 1472);

(G) use not less than 30 percent of the funds received under this part for each fiscal year to establish or expand technical assistance for evidence-based parent education programs;

(H) provide assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations that support family members in supporting student academic achievement;

(I) work with State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, educators, and parents to determine parental needs and the best means for delivery of services to address such needs;

(J) conduct sufficient outreach to assist parents, including parents who the applicant may have a difficult time engaging with a school or local educational agency; and

(K) conduct outreach to low-income students and parents, including low-income students and parents who are not proficient in English.

(7) An assurance that the applicant will conduct training programs in the community to improve adult literacy, including financial literacy.

(c) PRIORITY.—In awarding grants for activities described in this part, the Secretary shall give priority to statewide family engagement centers that will use funds under section 4504 for evidence- based activities, which, for the purposes of this part is defined as activities meeting the requirements of section 8101(21)(A)(i).


SEC. 4504. (20 U.S.C. 7244) USES OF FUNDS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Each statewide organization or consortium receiving a grant under this part shall use the grant funds, based on the needs determined under section 4503(b)(6)(I), to provide training and technical assistance to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and organizations that support family-school partnerships, and activities, services, and training for local educational agencies, school leaders, educators, and parents—

(1) to assist parents in participating effectively in their children’s education and to help their children meet challenging State academic standards, such as by assisting parents—

(A) to engage in activities that will improve student academic achievement, including understanding how parents can support learning in the classroom with activities at home and in after school and extracurricular programs;

(B) to communicate effectively with their children, teachers, school leaders, counselors, administrators, and other school personnel;

(C) to become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;

(D) to participate in the design and provision of assistance to students who are not making academic progress;

(E) to participate in State and local decisionmaking;

(F) to train other parents; and

(G) in learning and using technology applied in their children’s education;

(2) to develop and implement, in partnership with the State educational agency, statewide family engagement in education policy and systemic initiatives that will provide for a continuum of services to remove barriers for family engagement in education and support school reform efforts; and

(3) to develop and implement parental involvement policies under this Act.

(b) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a statewide family engagement center from—

(1) having its employees or agents meet with a parent at a site that is not on school grounds; or

(2) working with another agency that serves children.

(c) PARENTAL RIGHTS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of this section—

(1) no person (including a parent who educates a child at home, a public school parent, or a private school parent) shall be required to participate in any program of parent education or developmental screening under this section; and

(2) no program or center assisted under this section shall take any action that infringes in any manner on the right of parents to direct the education of their children.



The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, shall establish, or enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with, local tribes, tribal organizations, or Indian nonprofit parent organizations to establish and operate family engagement centers.



There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this part $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2017 through 2020.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Autism – A Family’s Journey and the Lights Along the Way

April 30, 2018 - 1:10pm

Note: April is National Autism Awareness Month.


There was a time when I couldn’t even say the word out loud. It was too painful, too devastating to utter. I wanted to believe that if I didn’t say the word, it didn’t exist. But it does exist; it’s real, and it’s beautiful, and it’s challenging all at the same time. And whether I say the word or not, my son Chris has autism.

I’ve been on this autism journey for 30 years now, more than half my life. Back in 1990, when Chris was first diagnosed, there was no autism awareness month, because there wasn’t autism awareness. Family, friends, and neighbors looked at me quizzically when I shared his diagnosis. What does that mean? How did he get it? How do you cure it? But I did not have the answers. Even the multitude of doctors we saw could not provide the answers. Since that time, there has been an exponential increase in the number of children diagnosed, and almost everyone has been touched by autism in some way. So today, when a family shares the diagnosis, others are usually aware of what it means.

As I reflect on the past 30 years I recall so many memories. I remember, as if it was yesterday, sitting in the doctor’s office; the diagnosis confirmed my fears following months of research into what might be causing the unusual behaviors of our little boy.

I remember…calling anyone and everyone I thought might help my family; the feelings of isolation at the playground, Sunday school, birthday parties, and all the other places where we just never seemed to fit in; the stress before every outing, wondering if there would be a meltdown or some other embarrassing event; wondering if my marriage would survive the stress; and the feelings of inadequacy for not parenting my children the way I thought I should have.

I remember the fear, guilt, and sheer terror of not knowing where my child was that day when he wandered off. But I also remember the intense relief and gratitude I felt when he was found.

I remember the vast uncertainty I felt when Chris was diagnosed, wondering what his life would be like as he grew to adulthood. And now that we have reached that point, I want to share some of the bright lights we encountered along the way, especially for those of you who may be new to the journey.

When he was four, I remember watching Chris climb aboard the school bus to begin the 45-minute ride to his “special” school. My gut told me that he needed to be with his community friends, and I spent years trying to persuade my school district to serve him in our local school. I learned about Chris’ right to be included with his neighborhood peers when I attended a workshop hosted by the New Jersey Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), our state’s federally funded Parent Training and Information Center. SPAN became one of the bright lights on our path. The information our family received from SPAN allowed us to develop an IEP (individualized education program) that brought Chris back to our home district for high school. I remember watching anxiously as he disappeared into the building on his first day of high school, also his first day of school in a general education setting. Despite my concerns, I remember how kind and supportive Chris’ peers were to him; serving as beacons lighting our journey. I remember Chris learning math, reading, and how to play an instrument—things I was told he wouldn’t be able to do—and working with teachers who never gave up on him. And I will never forget, four years later, watching him climb into a limo with friends to attend the senior prom. My heart was so full of happiness and pride I thought it would burst.

This journey has taught me a great deal; autism has been my teacher for some of life’s most important lessons:


Autism helps you to be grateful for the small things, the things you might have overlooked had they not been such a struggle to achieve: hugs, first words, friends, independence, general happiness and physical health. I’ve learned to take nothing for granted.


I continue to be in awe of, and inspired by, all the people we’ve met on this journey, most of whom have gone out of their way to help us any way they could: doctors, teachers, therapists, neighbors, friends, strangers, other families on the same path, and my colleagues at SPAN. Today, Chris has a circle of support that makes it possible for him to live a full, rich life. My husband and I appreciate the love and support of family; siblings have been caretakers and cheerleaders, and extended family members step up and help, no questions asked. Autism has taught me that I can’t do it all alone, no matter how hard I try. We need the support of others and must learn to accept it graciously.


Fear is an everyday struggle on this journey. I fear what will happen today and in the near future, and dread what might happen to my child when I’m not able to care for him. I feel trepidation in trying something new, and doubt with every life decision. But sometimes I must take a leap of faith. In this, I have always been rewarded, either with success or increased knowledge, both very valuable. I have learned to trust in myself and follow my gut.


Of yourself and others. Don’t hold onto past mistakes and don’t carry the burden of anger and resentment toward others. Learn to let go, learn from your experiences, and move on.


Laugh at yourself and your circumstances. Laughing releases endorphins and helps you feel good. We can learn a lot by seeing the world through a different lens and by not taking things—or ourselves—too seriously.

In closing, what I want to share with you more than anything is how immensely proud I am of Chris and all he has accomplished. He is a 30-year-old man living with autism, working and volunteering in the community, and often struggling to find his voice and get by in a world that can be overwhelming for him. Yet he manages to do it with dignity and grace, with unwavering support from the circle of love and light that surrounds him—his parents, siblings, and extended family; his peers, support staff, and therapists; our neighbors and friends. I shall always be thankful for Chris and the guiding lights that autism brought into our lives.


Carolyn Hayer is the Director of Parent and Professional Development at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey, an OSERS-funded Parent Training and Information Center. 

Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Bank Accounts, Student Loans, Credit Cards, Oh My!

April 27, 2018 - 1:43pm

In addition to covering my United States Government and Politics curriculum, every year I put my students through a mini “adulting 101” bootcamp. During the first semester of school we focus on basic “adulting” skills like registering to vote, laundry care, vehicle maintenance, building a resume, meal planning, cooking, etc.

During the second semester, I focus on four financial basics that establish a foundation for these students to become financially literate adults.

  • The basics of banking includes checking accounts, savings accounts, writing checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, fees and setting up automatic payments.
  • Understanding credit, credit cards, fees and penalties, interest rates, repayment and credit scores.
  • Borrowing money, interest rates, repayment options and debt.
  • Budgeting, saving and investing.

Initially when I narrowed the focus of the financial literacy portion of my “adulting 101” curriculum, I reached out to my local bank for information and resources. They not only provided me with free resources, they also offered to present to my students. This was an awesome opportunity for a financial professional and community partner to answer questions and provide insight to these young adults getting ready to start the next, but for most, the first financial chapter of their lives.

Every year I invite my local bank representative to introduce financial literacy to my students. I follow up with a series of mini lessons on each topic that tie in hands-on activities that incorporate real world scenarios. It is kind of like the young adult version of The Game of Life.

Among other activities, students learn how to write checks and deposit slips and balance a ledger. They research credit cards, fees, rewards and calculate total repayment costs compared to paying cash. They research different types of loans, how they acquire interest and repayment options. And they create personal budgets to deal with projected living expenses, bills and unexpected financial situations like doctor bills, blown out tires and birthday presents.

Standing at the starting line of adulthood can be an overwhelming experience for many of my senior students come spring. College applications have already been submitted, some have been informed of and accepted early admissions, but many of them are making their pros and cons lists between their top choices for university.

This process almost always leads into a conversation about the cost of attending university, in conjunction with how to pay for it. These conversations remind me of my own experiences as a senior, excited and a bit scared, sitting around the kitchen table on numerous occasions with my mother who helped me navigate the financial world for the first time.

Now, around the tables in my own classroom, I get to pay it forward to my own students. One lesson at a time, helping to build confident, knowledgeable, financially literate adults.


Yamilza Rivera Negron has taught AP Psychology, Student Leadership, and United States Government and Politics in the Clark County School District, Nevada, for the past 11 years.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Honoring MLK Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success

April 26, 2018 - 1:04pm

To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., earlier this month the U.S. Department of Education hosted the Honoring MLK Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success event. Honoring Dr. King at this time held even more significance because the following day was the 50th anniversary of his assassination, which shook the world on April 4, 1968. Although his fight for justice and peace was cut short, celebrating his legacy reminded us what it means to be persistent and righteous leaders for change, especially for the benefit of our youth in communities and schools across the nation.

Recognizing the Drum Major Spirit

ED’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans honored members of communities across the nation who have upheld Dr. King’s legacy through their extraordinary everyday acts of service, especially benefiting youth and education. These distinguished honorees received the 2018 MLK Jr. Drum Major Innovation Service Award.

As Dr. King once said, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness.” The award recipients demonstrated the drum major spirit in their own way, whether as a school administrator, faith leader, community leader, parent or other engaged leader.

“You Matter”

One award recipient who really touched the hearts of audience members shared his story of a trying educational journey, overcoming life challenges and achieving a purpose-driven life. Stacey L. Young, now a college professor, author, radio host and founder of a community organization, did not have a traditional educational experience. After barely graduating high school and dropping out of college – twice – he now has a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees.

Mr. Young spoke of the importance of engaging with students in the classroom and getting to know them beyond test scores. He credits his ability to stand with us today, to tell his story and to give back to students, to someone once telling him, “You matter.”

The idea that students need to know that they matter – that their education matters and that we are willing to address their specific needs to help them succeed – was one of the greatest takeaways of this event. Mr. Young explained that if he had more educational supports, engagement and options while struggling in school, it would not have taken him as long to finish and achieve in school and through postsecondary education.

Speed Mentoring for Students

The last session of the event was tailor made for the students who joined us. Speed Mentoring for Students matched each student with six professionals. Students were able to voice their opinions about how the school system can better serve them, as well as utilize this network of established professionals.

Some of the questions the students posed related to how to strengthen relationships between educators and students. Students also received advice about how they can make a change for the better on their respective campuses.

For instance, Joshua, a high school junior from Maryland, really soaked in the discussion. Rather than simply collecting cards and exchanging emails, he challenged the professional educators of the group.

He offered his advice for how teachers could better engage their students. He also participated in a discussion regarding how college students could help to affect change on their campuses.

This session ended with each adult panelist offering a piece of advice to the student in their group. Xavier Richardson, Executive Vice President and President of Foundations of Mary Washington Healthcare, who had taken a genuine interest in some of the comments Joshua made, explained the importance of networking to Joshua and challenged the student to use some of the business cards that he received that day.

Secretary DeVos Congratulates the Recipients

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos joined the award recipients on stage to deliver closing remarks. The Secretary congratulated the 2018 MLK Jr. Drum Major Innovation Service Award recipients and thanked them for honoring the legacy of Dr. King through their contributions to youth and their communities.

She shook hands and took pictures with each of the award recipients as well as with the student participants.

One program attendee who was especially pleased by the presence of Secretary DeVos was Dr. Annie Mable McDaniel Abrams, a civil rights leader and retired educator from Arkansas. Dr. Abrams was pleased to share her experiences about growing up during the civil rights movement and the progress that she has seen over time in education. But she also acknowledged there is still work to be done.

Dr. Abrams expressed her belief in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the responsibility we all have to continue to provide quality educational opportunities for our youth, even as times change. Dr. Abrams and Secretary DeVos discussed the meaning of this event as they stopped for pictures on stage.

The Honoring MLK Jr.’s Drum Major Legacy: Innovative Pathways to Success event was truly impactful and allowed us to honor the amazing work that is being done to support the education of our youth and those who are committed to their achievement. We appreciated the opportunity to honor MLK Jr.’s legacy, inspire participants and engage with students.


Naya Patterson and Freddy Ryle are student interns for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Another Journey

April 24, 2018 - 12:15pm

The Bae family during trip to England

Note: April is National Autism Awareness Month.

Just like any other school day, Eugene, my son with autism, left on the bus this morning to go to a day program provided by our school district. For the last 20 years, he and I wait for the bus by sitting on our front porch. As he steps on the bus, he shouts at me with his happy high-pitched voice, “Bye Mom!” This is our ritual to begin each new day, to meet that day’s challenges, emotions, promises and hopes.

In June this year, he will age out from the district program. I cannot help being emotional whenever I think about his first day of preschool and the journey that Eugene and our family have been on since then. On that day, I cried in the car for two hours after separating from my miserable, crying child.

Since that first day, school has been a challenging place for both Eugene and me. While Eugene was learning the alphabet and phonics, I studied the never-ending list of special education acronyms.

Just like other special education moms in this world, when my child cried about his school work, I wept on my steering wheel, but when he was happy in school, I felt like I had the world on a string. At times, figuring out how to navigate the world of special education for our son with autism while struggling with his atypical behaviors seemed like a brutal mission for a family like us, and we often felt we were not understood, not just because of our heavy Korean accents

However, our fundamental concern has not changed in these 20 years, and that is to help our son reach the final destination for his journey – Eugene being able to live an independent and inclusive life in the community. Of course, this is the same concern shared by thousands of moms and dads who have children with disabilities.

Young and Eugene Bae

As a family we have had to adjust the sails of our ship quite a lot to reach this destination. We had to get past phrases like “below average range” or “socially maladjusted” since they were not helpful in steering the path for our son. As a family, we now see more clearly the incredible strengths and positive qualities of a young man who is able to say proudly “I am a person with autism.” We have learned that it is more helpful for us to make sure that Eugene is in the center of all service plans than putting systems first and having him fit around these systems.

Because of putting Eugene at the center, we have become more efficient in figuring out how to change the world around us and finding the resources we and Eugene need to reach our goal. As Eugene grew, our family grew too and our minds opened up to the new experiences that our son brought us.

I am not completely positive about Eugene’s future in the community. I see and feel the gaps between how my family and how society see the possibility of Eugene becoming a “successful” member of the community, and how we define success.

Many people still have a difficult time moving away from the stereotype that measures people with autism and other developmental disabilities as a social cost. However, I also believe that our society is moving in a better direction, becoming more able to envision a person with a disability as a valuable asset.

We have witnessed the notably increased capacity of our schools and workplaces to accommodate individuals with disabilities since the first form of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act became law in 1975. These accomplishments were not possible without the sacrifices and efforts of so many parents, educators, and leaders of this country. Today, their legacy continues through the next generation of families, educators, and leaders, and it only expands as we as a family sail toward the final destination of our journey.

The next three months will be an interesting time for our family. Frankly, it makes me nervous thinking that Eugene will no longer be in the classroom. There will be no more IEP meetings to attend and no school buses to pick him up.

Eugene and our family know that this is a start of the next stage of journey. However, this time, Eugene will be the captain of the ship, steering us toward that goal of independence and community inclusion. This time, I am not crying; I will take a deep breath to prepare myself for another thrilling sea of possibilities and opportunities.


Young Seh Bae, Ph.D. is Executive Director of Community Inclusion & Development Alliance (CIDA), a federally funded Community Parent Resource Center in Queens, New York. She was a faculty member of Teachers College, Columbia University, and served as president of Korean-American Behavioral Health Association.

Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.

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Categories: Higher Education News

High School Students Take a Unique Approach to Financial Education

April 18, 2018 - 2:15pm

April is Financial Capability Month. To help mark this occasion, two students offer their perspectives on their very different experiences in obtaining financial education.


Samuel Gelb

Growing up, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a father who has educated me on fundamental financial principles. In my house, terms like P/E ratios, EBITDA, ROI and diversification are a part of our regular vocabulary.

From selling lemonade as a young child to buying my first stocks at age twelve, business, entrepreneurship and finance have always been a part of my life. Seeking to expand my love of investing to others, I co-founded an investment club at my school called “The Blake Asset Management Group” in an attempt to give my peers and me a chance to test our investment acumen in a real-world setting.

While I expected our club’s first meeting to revolve around potential investment ideas, I was surprised to see that most of those in attendance actually knew little about stocks, and even fewer knew how to analyze a stock at the most rudimentary level. Most surprising was the number of students who lacked an understanding of broader and more important general financial literacy concepts like interest, diversification, and the importance of saving.

Recognizing that it would be difficult to run a club where few members possessed the necessary knowledge to invest, the leadership team and I restructured our club’s focus. We decided to measure our success not by the investment profits we generated but rather by the number of students we educated. Consequently, I designed and created a financial literacy course and made it available to all students at my high school.

The initiative, which was taught through the club, was a major success. Due to strong demand, what was initially intended to be a 5-week course turned into a 12-week class with interactive lesson plans and guest speakers. Students gained a thorough knowledge of basic financial concepts.

We began the course by educating our peers about general financial literacy concepts: compound interest and the importance of saving were the two most prevalent concepts we examined. After students understood the importance of investing as it pertains to wealth accumulation, we redirected our focus toward actual equity analysis.

Slowly but steadily, the members of the club learned how to evaluate companies and build a safe portfolio conducive to growth. For many of our students, the thought of investing in real companies before their eighteenth birthday seemed like wishful thinking. Our club, however, turned this aspiration into a reality.

While the Blake Asset Management Group has been fortunate enough to actually buy more than ten different stocks and make a substantial investment profit, real money is not required. There are plenty of resources everywhere, such as online investment simulations, that accomplish the task just as well.

Ultimately, the real return on investment comes from turning students into financially literate young adults. Though the undertaking of such an initiative is difficult and time-consuming, it provides these students with skills and knowledge that will benefit them and their families for the rest of their lives. It is incredibly rewarding to improve people’s lives by increasing their financial prospects through education.


Sam Gelb is co-founder and co-president of investment club at his school, The Blake Asset Management Group (BAMG) 2016 – 2018.

Timo Hemphill

Through my childhood and early teens I was never taught about investment concepts or financial literacy. I had little to no exposure to these topics; at the time, I was barely familiar with the concept of a share of a company. Not until the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years did I begin to develop a devoted interest in finance and economics; I began to realize the paramount importance of learning to be financially independent and literate.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I joined the school’s investment club, The Blake Asset Management Group. Shortly thereafter, I took a genuine interest in what the club had to teach.

In fact, I became so immersed in the topics that I began to supplement the club’s investment, finance and economics instruction by exploring various online resources in my free time. I gradually progressed from understanding basic financial concepts to acquiring the more nuanced knowledge required to analyze individual stocks. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge to not only set up my own brokerage account to begin investing money from my summer job but I also possessed the level of knowledge required to become The Blake Asset Management Group’s next president.

My progression from being completely ignorant to becoming knowledgeable enough to become the next president of my school’s investment club demonstrates that becoming financially literate is not impossible. While it may not be easy, anyone, no matter their background and their current knowledge, can become learned in the areas of finance and economics. Whether or not I end up pursuing a career in finance remains uncertain, but I rest assured knowing the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have developed will be beneficial to my financial well-being, regardless of which career path I may choose.

In the coming years, as I transition into my role as president of the group, I hope to use The Blake Asset Management Group as a vehicle for financial education. I will strive to encourage and inspire members to truly become interested in finance, economics and investing. Most importantly, I will continue to work toward making this goal resonate beyond the walls of my high school by continuing to highlight the positive effects that such a program can have on students.

Financial literacy is of the utmost importance and being financially literate is invaluable. I strongly encourage everyone to become financially literate. Regardless of whether you use online resources, join a school club or find another way to learn, the benefits are immeasurable.

My journey to financial literacy taught me to be a creative and independent thinker, an inspired and driven person and a person who is prepared for the financial responsibilities of adulthood. I hope to continue my work as a member of The Blake Asset Management Group by inspiring and teaching others. I hope to show others that becoming financially literate is truly for everyone, no matter who you are.


Timo Hemphill is the president of The Blake Asset Management Group (BAMG) for the 2018 – 2020 term.

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Categories: Higher Education News

After Hurricanes, USVI Residents Choose Hope

April 17, 2018 - 1:48pm

After three devastating hurricanes struck the Caribbean, the Department of Education undertook a series of actions to support the U.S. Virgin Islands through their recovery process. As part of that effort, ED staff committed to travelling to the Islands to provide resources, assistance, and expertise.

In November, as the ED team began their descent into the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the large-scale devastation left by Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria became alarmingly clear. Once lushly green, the landscape had turned muddy and brown. Roads were washed out entirely; buildings were roofless or pushed off their foundations; parts of the islands were left in total darkness. Businesses — the lifeblood of an economy so reliant on tourism — were shuttered.

The team, which included Iyauta Green (Risk Management Service), Joy Medley (Office of School Support and Rural Programs), and Mark Robinson (Risk Management Service), then began a five day trip to assess the damage that the storms had left behind.

They also spoke with administrators — including private school headmasters — teachers, students, and staff at the Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) administration, including Commissioner Sharon McCollum. From them, ED staff learned about the many needs facing the Islands and their students.

The storms hadn’t just created immediate, physical interruptions. They’d also halted progress toward a larger priority for the USVI: to diversify the workforce. Dr. McCollum had long wanted to keep the local economy competitive, and was concerned about students leaving the island — and taking their skills and talents with them. Instead, post-hurricanes, nearly 10 percent of students had left the USVI to continue, or finish, their education.

And students still on the Islands were required to adapt to a “new normal.” Many school buildings were either closed or operating on split schedules. At Ulla Muller Elementary School on St. Thomas, children ate FEMA packets instead of hot lunches.

Read more about the ED team’s visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands at Medium…


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Categories: Higher Education News

5 Ways to Cut the College Price Tag

April 10, 2018 - 2:02pm

Working as a Financial Aid Counselor, families often ask me how they can pay for college. More often than not this conversation takes place during the student’s senior year in high school. As a first-generation college student, there are things I wish my family and I had known to help us save on our college bill. These are a few things that families can do to help cut the cost of college:

1. Community colleges can be great options

Community college offers the most affordable education out there. At community college you can complete the general education classes that every school requires, and then transfer to a 4-year school where you can take classes specific to your major. Also, community college is a great place to gain technical skills and earn a short-term certificate to get you started in the workforce.

2. Buy used textbooks or rent them

Buy used books or check to see if you can rent textbooks at your school or online. After the class is over, sell your books back online, to the bookstore, or to someone else.

If you do an internet search for textbooks you may find a better deal from an online retailer than from the school bookstore, or you may be able to download a less expensive electronic version.

3. Explore all of your aid options

Apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are several types of aid such as grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. Apply for financial aid every year you are in school and start looking for scholarships early.

Also check with your school’s Financial Aid Office to see if merit-based aid is available. To qualify for merit-based aid, you may need to meet certain criteria, such as specific academic areas or certain sports.

4. Borrow responsibly

Student loans are not free. You must pay back your student loans with interest.

If you have student loan money left over after you pay your school expenses, you do not have to accept that money. It is not free! The less money you borrow now, the less money you will have to repay after graduation.

If you pay the interest while you are in school, you will pay less money in the long run.

5. Avoid dropping classes and focus on graduating on time

Decide what you want to major in early in your college career and decide which career path is right for you. By thinking about this ahead of time, you will avoid paying for classes that don’t end up contributing toward your degree.

Dropping classes will extend your time to completion. The longer you are in school the more you will pay for college. Postponing joining the workforce also means you will be losing out on potential earnings.

These are only some of the things I wish I had known when preparing to pay for my college education. All of the tips mentioned involve planning ahead.

A great way to handle your finances and practice planning is to develop a spending plan. A spending plan can help you manage your financial aid and finances, while helping you figure out your expenses over the number of years that it will take you complete your degree, but that’s a topic for another blog.


Robert Weinert Jr. is a Financial Aid Adviser and is pursuing his Masters in Higher Education Administration Enrollment Management at Bay Path University. He is a 2017-18 virtual intern with the Office of Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Betsy’s Blog: Listening Sessions on School Safety and Climate

April 6, 2018 - 11:07am

Over the past several weeks there has been much discussion around how school discipline policies can ensure a safe and supportive climate where children can learn. While there are many different approaches, everyone agrees that discrimination against any student is abhorrent and wrong. Federal laws prohibit such discrimination in our nation’s schools, and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights vigorously enforces these civil rights laws to ensure equal access to education.

According to the Civil Rights Data Collection, African-American students are subject to exclusionary discipline (such as suspensions or expulsions) at higher rates than white students. The data show similar patterns for other groups: for example, boys are suspended more often than girls, as are students with disabilities when compared to students without disabilities. It was in response to this data that the prior administration issued a Dear Colleague Letter, or federal guidance, to states and school districts instructing them to adopt new approaches to school discipline so as to ensure that these students are not disproportionately impacted. Many in the education community cheered this guidance as a positive step.

But since the guidance was released, many educators, parents and students have raised concerns that schools have actually become less safe by restricting teachers’ and administrators’ ability to maintain order in their classrooms. They claim that the guidance ignores the law and places statistics over students without addressing the behavior of individual students and how educators should respond and discipline students when necessary. They view the guidance as creating an unsafe environment that has harmed learning.

That’s why earlier this week the Department hosted two listening sessions about the 2014 guidance. We brought in teachers, parents, students, administrators, researchers, advocates and union representatives to hear their varying views on whether the guidance should be kept as is, amended or rescinded.

We heard powerful testimony from many individuals. One teacher from Massachusetts told us about the economically distressed community in which she teaches, and how out-of-school suspensions could put students in a dangerous environment with little oversight. A school district representative from Illinois described how implementation of social-emotional learning practices in her district helped students learn to settle their differences without violence, and helped foster a nurturing school environment, which they may not experience at home.

Yet one teacher from North Carolina described how the district’s change in discipline policies imposed severe constraints on teachers’ abilities to control their classrooms. Order in the classroom quickly deteriorated, making it impossible for students to learn. This teacher noted that the unsafe climate in schools caused many teachers to leave the profession in the last few years, further hurting students’ ability to learn and grow.

Another teacher from New York described how students would regularly threaten their peers and teachers, but school administrators would not allow students to be disciplined, citing the need to reduce the number of suspensions. A former administrator from California told us that after her district changed its discipline policies, schools would send kids home informally to avoid impacting the schools’ suspension rates.

These listening sessions made clear that while progress is being made for some students and educators, the situation for others has worsened. We as a country cannot be satisfied until all students have access to a safe and nurturing learning environment where they can grow and thrive. As a country, we must honor that promise to our nation’s students.


Betsy DeVos is the U.S. Secretary of Education

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Categories: Higher Education News

Help Secure Your Future by Discovering Financial Literacy Resources Available to You

April 4, 2018 - 1:17pm

Note: April is National Financial Capability Month.

On August 28, 2017, I accepted an offer to work with the U.S. Department of Education’s  Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) through the State Department’s Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship program. I imagined that I’d be doing typical intern duties, but didn’t foresee how much I’d learn about financial literacy, or the level of understanding I would gain on how to earn, manage and invest money.

I didn’t even know that this was a skill or area of study before last August, and as a third-year undergraduate student at Yale, I wish I could have learned sooner about financial capability – making informed decisions about college access, applying for aid, budgeting and borrowing and managing debt.

Financial literacy, or financial capability, is a very important area of study. Included in the Secretary’s Final Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs from the U.S. Department of Education is a priority area for “[s]upporting instruction in personal financial literacy, knowledge of markets and economics, knowledge of higher education financing and repayment (e.g., college savings and student loans), or other skills aimed at building personal financial understanding and responsibility.”

The President recently recognized April as National Financial Capability Month.

The foundation of American prosperity is the freedom of financial independence.  The inherent right of citizens to determine the best investments for their hard-earned money has spurred entrepreneurship and innovation that makes our country great.  Too many hard-working people, however, struggle to invest in their financial independence, despite working long hours at well-paying jobs.  Our Nation must endeavor to improve the financial capabilities of our citizenry.  During National Financial Capability Month, we affirm the importance of financial literacy and highlight the need for all Americans to plan for their futures.

My School’s Financial Literacy Efforts

When I began researching financial literacy programs on campus, I discovered that my school does provide programming for its students, and spoke with Financial Aid Director Jacqueline Outlaw to learn more. Other institutions may offer similar services and students who are interested should contact their school’s financial aid office for more information.

The primary component of its financial literacy offerings, managed and funded by its Financial Aid Office, is one-on-one counseling. While financial aid personnel are always able to assist students, they also have a paid consultant who provides hour-long sessions during the spring semester.

Additionally, the Office provides two online services to its students, which offer a variety of financial literacy resources – online learning, webinars, opportunities for counseling and coaching by their staffs, etc.

Throughout the academic year, the Office holds 5-6 financial literacy workshops led either by experts in the industry or by knowledgeable faculty. Topics range from loan repayment (the most significant topic) to credit, insurance, and how to dress for success.

When asked what she enjoys about her job, Director Outlaw stated, “I love planning these programs because the information we provide makes [our students] more financially aware and gives them ease. Taking on debt is not something they take lightly. Knowing that I am helping students reach their goals makes me feel really good about the work I’m doing.”

Beyond Financial Aid

My school is not the only one striving for student financial literacy. American higher education institutions have increasingly found ways to support this important initiative, such as by having peer (student-to-student) financial counseling, utilizing expenditure tracking or spending diaries, and requiring financial literacy courses as part of first-year experience programs.

As I’ve learned more about the financial education community these past eight months, it has been heartening for me to see the ways in which individuals and organizations have fully invested in promoting financial literacy. We now have national leaders who realize that financial decision-making impacts students’ lives even beyond the loans they have to repay. Financial literacy involves more than just financial aid.

These leaders and educators across the country and entire bodies of research and resources serve to create not only more financially successful graduates but also – ultimately – more financially secure Americans.


Tran Le is an intern from Yale University at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Educators: Add “Adaptable Skills” to the Educational Mix; Advice From Advanced Placement Capstone Students

March 28, 2018 - 1:44pm

An education committed solely to acquiring skills and knowledge required for specific jobs — calculus, chemistry and American government, for example — has limitations. Schools that also instill adaptable skills students will need in many workplace contexts — written and oral communication, critical thinking and creativity, for example — can provide a better path to 21st-century success.

Five Fairfax County, Virginia high school juniors conveyed this message during a recent visit to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters, where they showcased their Advanced Placement Capstone™ project on how well the United States’ modern education system prepares students for post-college success.

AP Capstone is a two-year course of study developed by the College Board that complements discipline-specific advanced placement classes such as world history or macroeconomics.  The capstone classes equip students with skills increasingly valued by colleges, including an ability to conduct independent research, validate the reliability of sources and work collaboratively. About 1,100 high schools around the U.S. and abroad currently participate in AP Capstone.

The five students who presented their research on education were accompanied by 30 others from Oakton High School, along with their AP Capstone teachers, Elizabeth Snyder and Eliot Waxman. The students gave group presentations on subjects ranging from the competition between brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce, to conservation efforts to end the illegal ivory trade.

Each group selected a research topic that fired its curiosity; the group that chose education did so because “[they] all had some sort of passion” for the subject and shared “a desire to learn about education and to improve the system because it is such a major part of [their] lives,” according to junior Samantha Condro.

Grace Becker, Gabrielle Shapo and Samantha Condro, juniors at Oakton High School, describe what American education can do to better prepare students for the workplace.

After agreeing upon an education focus, the group moved through prescribed steps, which included (1) identifying perspectives through which to consider the topic, (2) delving independently into the research, (3) writing individual papers, (4) sharing findings, (5) synthesizing information, (6) drawing conclusions and (7) collaborating on a presentation.

Facing the ED audience, Samantha described an American education system in which “first . . . we work K─12 to get good grades; then we decide where we want to go to college based on the majors it provides, the size and the location; then we work through college to get good grades; and eventually we graduate and are ready for the workplace.” Recalling much of her education to date, junior Gabrielle Shapo said, “I grew up regurgitating what was on the chalk board.”

With this model, workforce readiness is no guarantee, group members said. Gabrielle cited research from the American Association of Colleges and Universities describing a gap between employers’ and students’ ratings on preparedness: The former gave students low scores and the latter higher ones. Disparities existed in all 17 areas surveyed, including ethical judgment and decision-making, working with people from different backgrounds, and applying knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

In today’s education system, skills and knowledge required for specific jobs trump the teaching of adaptable skills, group members reported. Students acquire some of the latter skills in traditional academic classrooms, but more often in science laboratories and extracurricular activities. Standardized tests, the group noted, assess mastery of the curriculum but not adaptable skills. This can hinder the ability of colleges to gain a complete picture of their applicants, and can thwart employers’ ability to hire students grounded in job-specific expertise and adaptable skills.

Junior Sean Tieff recognizes a place for lecture-based classrooms: “They have gotten their fair share of criticism, but they are a good source of learning,” he said.  Sean noted that creative educators can weave the teaching of adaptable skills into a standard academic curriculum, by, for example,  providing more labs, offering more opportunities to learn and study in  groups (such as via AP Capstone!), and encouraging internships and outside-the-classroom learning.

Juniors Sean Tieff and Alec Stall from Oakton High School discuss the importance of “adaptable skills” in high school and college curricula.


Partnerships of educators and corporate officials can narrow the gap between what students learn and what employers want them to learn, group members suggested; employers can identify omissions (although corporations should not prescribe the curriculum).  Corporations can also fund new teaching methods and training needed for students to learn better adaptable skills.

Following the presentation, group members answered questions from the ED audience and heard suggestions for broadening their research. One questioner suggested group members interview teachers to learn why adaptive skills are not more widely taught.  (The bureaucracy? The budget? Pressure to focus on information in standardized tests?)

A surprise audience member, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, related the students’ ideas about “adaptable skills” with “experiential learning.” Agreeing with its importance, she encouraged them to complete internships and work in their fields as they pursue their education. Junior Alec Stall described positive vibes upon completing the AP Capstone project.  “I am a big procrastinator,” he said. “But this class was really rewarding, because when I got that paper done and I found out how all of my sources connected . . . and how all of the information flowed together . . . that was such a great feeling.”

Secretary DeVos made a surprise visit to the AP Capstone gathering to meet and greet students.


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

All photos are by ED photographer Joshua Hoover.

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Categories: Higher Education News