Higher Education News
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and union representatives to hear their varying views on whether the guidance should be kept as is, amended or rescinded.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
The post Betsy’s Blog: Listening Sessions on School Safety and Climate appeared first on ED.gov Blog.
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.
The post Help Secure Your Future by Discovering Financial Literacy Resources Available to You appeared first on ED.gov Blog.