Standing on the Shoulders of Many

The 2008 Metro Detroit General Election Obama Staff.

The 2008 Metro Detroit General Election Obama Staff.

With regards to August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Denzel Washington referenced their short but impactful time on this earth as “concentrated dose[s] of life” going on to say that “these people didn’t have water added to their lives…they were here and they were intense for a short period of time…but they live on…for generations, for centuries hopefully…”

This is what working for the Obama administration has felt like to me and so many Black appointees: an intense and purposeful eight years of work done for the betterment of our future generations.

I am a first generation college graduate who was a Head Start student and a Pell grant recipient. When I completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the first time and saw my “expected family contribution (EFC)” would be $0, my resolve to receive a college education was solidified. From the time of my birth until my first job after graduating from Howard University, I lived in a household at or near the poverty line, which qualified me for financial aid and allowed me to have a better chance to achieve the American Dream. Had it not been for the opportunity a college education afforded me, there is a real possibility that my own children would have been born into that same generational cycle of having the talent and will, but not the financial way.

Of the many incredible memories I have of serving this President, my favorite involves my nephew, Drake. Drake was four years old and spending part of the summer with my husband and me in 2013. While watching Independence Day, I noticed a confused look on his face. I asked him what was wrong. “Tee-Tee that is not the President.” “And how do you know?” “The President is Marack O’Momma”.

The author's nephew, Drake, at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

The author’s nephew, Drake, at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Now eight, Drake can accurately pronounce the President’s name, but I will forever treasure that memory. The realization that there is a whole generation of young boys and girls whose only reality has been one where Barack Obama is the “real” President of the United States, has affected me deeply.What a mighty concentrated dose of life witnessed by young Drake and children all over the world.

There have been many historical celebrations during President Obama’s administration. In 2014, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 60th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Ruling. And in 2015, while celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights act-we also witnessed the passing of our beloved national treasure Julian Bond.

From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” blossomed Barack Obama who planted seeds for Acting Secretary John King, Tia Borders, Saba Bireda, De’Rell Bonner, Tenicka Boyd, Casimir Peters, Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Raymonde Charles, Denise Horn, Alise Marshall, Chris Robinson, Aketa Williams, James Cole, Kimberly Morton, Angela Tennison, Michael Brown, Ursula Wright, Monae White, Jim Shelton, Christina Cue, Tyra Mariani, Stephanie Sprow, Michael Smith, myself and countless other Black Appointees to grow. We dared to join the North Star journey of electing and serving the first Black President. We all started in different parts of this country. Some of us began this journey during the South Carolina primary in 2007, while others of us joined the “Obama” train further up the Ohio River in Kentucky.

As a field organizer working in my home city of Detroit in 2008, I welcomed neighbors from Canada that were eager to volunteer for the campaign even though they could not vote in our election to ensure Barack’s ascendency to the highest job in all the land. And when Barack Obama was elected President, we all made it to the White House. Not just those of us who had volunteered and mobilized to make history …but also those who came before us. The humanity of an invitation to work for the first Black president granted honor to our great grandmothers and grandfathers, and the spirits of our ancestors, whose shoulders we had to climb upon in order to make it to this extraordinary moment in time. And our humble service in the birth of this nation granted dignity to those who once served, unwillingly, building this country on their backs with their blood, sweat, tears and lives.

It has been an incalculable privilege to be of service to this President and our incredible First Family. I am forever grateful for this intense opportunity; this concentrated dose of time in my own life that I will one day share with my own children and their children as well.

Russella Davis-Rogers is Chief of Staff of the Office of Strategic Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Girls and Coding: Seeing What the Future Can Be

From left to right, Gilliam Jacobs, Brittany Greve, Andrea Chaves, Noran Omar, Angela Diep.

At the White House for the White House Champions of Change for Computer Science Education! From left to right, Gilliam Jacobs, Brittany Greve, Andrea Chaves, Noran Omar and Angela Diep.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

This is a common expression that, perhaps like me, you’ve heard many times. For the girls at the Young Women’s Leadership school where I teach in New York City, this is – sadly — the case. My students couldn’t see themselves as women in STEM careers, and in fact, knew little about the opportunities offered within the field.

That’s why I made it my mission to bring computer science to our school.

My principal was excited at the idea of incorporating computer science (CS), but took me by surprise when she said I would have to teach it. As a certified Spanish teacher, I had no background in CS other than being digitally competent. But, after starting to learn through an online training program, I decided to blend computer science into my advanced Spanish speakers class because I figured why not have students learning Spanish dive into coding, too.

On the first day of class, I announced to the girls in Spanish that we were going to do tons of reading, writing and editing – but in a language called JavaScript. I made it clear that I wasn’t fluent in this language, but reassured them that we were on this journey together.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the gender gap is not due to women lacking STEM-related skills, but rather because young women are conditioned to believe that careers in technology and science are reserved for men. That’s part of why I also decided to start two after-school programs: a partnership with an existing organization, Girls Who Code, which works to inspire and educate women to pursue careers in technology and my own program, TechCrew – an internship program that exposes girls to coding, graphic design, animation and film.

Watch the girls in Chaves’ class who created the nutrition game, Healthy Bunch, which won the MIT-sponsored competition “Dream It. Code It. Win It.”

Each club started with eight girls, but TechCrew now includes 30 girls working collaboratively to create and produce technology-driven projects. Students have coded video games and apps about recycling, healthy eating habits, carbon footprints, space debris, learning Spanish and more. As one of my students, Brittany Greve, says, “Computer science has allowed me to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and use logic to come up with innovative solutions.”

My students have also become leaders within the CS community. We’ve worked together on all sorts of projects, such as a summer coding camp in Queens where girls learned to build apps that advocate for social justice. Additionally, my TechCrew is currently leading 50 girls in the creation of a Digital Dance, in which dancers, filmmakers, graphic designers and coders are bringing together their expertise to create a beautiful piece of art.

Watch Chaves’ students talking about why they love to code and how coding has influenced them (in English).

Watch Chaves’ students talking about why they love to code and how coding has influenced them (in Spanish).

I am a Spanish teacher by training, but I took a risk to integrate CS into my curriculum and learned that this language does not have to stand on its own. It can be infused into any subject in any classroom. All it takes is a little innovation, trust and risk-taking.

One of my students put it best, “CS has opened a new pathway in my life. It has made me discover a part of who I am that I didn’t know existed. I can now see what I would like my future to be,” she said.

Andrea Chaves is a Spanish and computer science teacher and creative director at the Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria, New York. She was recently named a White House Champion of Change.

3 Types of FAFSA Deadlines You Should Pay Attention To

Sample FAFSA Deadlines

Click to enlarge

Ah, deadlines. The sworn enemy of students across the nation. When you’re busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life in whatever time you’ve got left, it’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. All of a sudden, your U.S. history paper is due at midnight, and you still don’t know Madison from a minuteman. We get it.

Nevertheless, we’re here to point out a few critical deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss: those to do with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). By submitting your FAFSA late, you might be forfeiting big money that can help you pay for college. Luckily for you, you’ve got just three types of deadlines to stay on top of. Now if only your Founding Father flashcards were that simple.

Here are those three deadlines:

  1. The College Deadline

The first type of deadline comes from colleges themselves, and—spoiler alert—it’s typically pretty early. These deadlines vary from school to school, but they usually come well before the academic year starts, many in the neighborhood of early spring. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, be sure to look up each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.

Many of these FAFSA due dates are priority deadlines. This means that you need to get your FAFSA in by that date to be considered for the most money. Many colleges have this date clearly marked on their financial aid pages. If you can’t find it, a call to the college’s financial aid office never goes amiss.

  1. The State Deadline

The second deadline is determined by your home state. This deadline varies by state and can be as early as February 15 of a given year’s FAFSA application cycle (What’s good, Connecticut?). Some states have suggested deadlines to make sure you get priority consideration for college money, and some just want you to get the FAFSA in as soon as you can. States often award aid until they run out of money—first come, first served—so apply early.

You can check the deadline tool at fafsa.gov to see what the deal is in your state. You can also find that state-specific information on the paper or PDF FAFSA. In many cases, it turns out that state and school deadlines occur before you’ve even filed your taxes. If that’s the case, learn how to submit your FAFSA if you haven’t filed taxes yet.

  1. The Federal Deadline

This last deadline comes from us, the Department of Education, aka the FAFSA folks. This one is pretty low-pressure. Our only time constraint is that each year’s FAFSA becomes unavailable on June 30 at the end of the academic year it applies to.

That means that the 2016–17 FAFSA (which became available Jan. 1, 2016) will disappear from fafsa.gov on June 30, 2017, because that’s the end of the 2016–17 school year. That’s right; you can technically go through your entire year at college before accessing the FAFSA. However, a few federal student aid programs have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can. Also, as we said, earlier deadlines from states and colleges make waiting a bad idea.


Why so many deadlines?

All these entities award their financial aid money differently and at different times. What they all have in common, though, is that they use the FAFSA to assess eligibility for their aid programs. So when a college wants to get its aid squared away before the academic year starts, it needs your FAFSA to make that happen. If you want in on that college money, you need to help the college out by getting your information in by its deadline. Same goes for state aid programs. Additionally, many outside scholarship programs need to see your FAFSA before they consider your eligibility for their money. If you’re applying for scholarships, you need to stay on top of those deadlines, too.

What happens if I miss the deadlines?

Don’t miss the deadlines. Plan to get your FAFSA in by the earliest of all the deadlines for your best crack at college money. By missing deadlines, you take yourself out of the running for money you might otherwise get. Some states and colleges continue awarding aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often less if you do get aid. It’s better just not to miss the deadlines.

If you miss the end-of-June federal deadline, you’re no longer eligible to submit that year’s FAFSA. Did we mention not to miss the deadlines?

Across the board, the motto really is “the sooner the better.” So put off the procrastinating until tomorrow. Apply by the earliest deadline. Get your FAFSA done today!

Drew Goins is a senior journalism major at the University of North Carolina. He’s also an intern with the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office. Likes: politics, language, good puns. Dislikes: mainly kale.

ED Seeks Summer Interns

interns

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court and other local sights.

One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.

ED is accepting applications for Summer 2016 internships through March 15, 2016.

If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you. (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
  2. An updated resumé.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Summer Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Large School Districts Come Together to Prioritize Sustainability

I once heard a student ask: “To change everything, we need everybody to take action. How will you engage others in developing a brighter, more just global community?” When I think back to that student’s question, I’m pleased to now report that 21 large districts have come together with the support of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) to collaborate on more sustainable school options.

Represented by their sustainability personnel, these districts have formed the GSA District Collaborative to accelerate hands-on environmental action in school communities across the nation. Over the years, district sustainability officials had shared frustrations over higher prices for more sustainable products and policies that encumbered their work. This sparked a conversation about collaborating to affect major change, particularly in purchasing. Instead of creating their own separate association, they asked the Green Schools Alliance to house the coalition.

The Collaborative is comprised of 21 U.S. school districts – eight of which are among the 12 largest districts in the country. Collectively, these districts affect the lives of 3.6 million children in 5,726 schools with more than 550 million square feet of building area. The school districts have committed to working together and joined the Alliance as individual members, pledging to reduce their climate and ecological impact; connect their students to nature; and educate and engage their communities on climate and conservation. The charter members of the District Collaborative are:

  • New York City Department of Education, NY
  • Chicago Public Schools, IL
  • Clark County School District, NV
  • Broward County Public Schools, FL
  • Houston Independent School District, TX
  • Orange County Public Schools, FL
  • Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
  • The School District of Palm Beach County, FL
  • The School District of Philadelphia, PA
  • San Diego Unified School District, CA
  • Denver Public Schools, CO
  • Austin Independent School District, TX
  • Virginia Beach City Public Schools, VA
  • San Francisco Unified School District, CA
  • Boston Public Schools, MA
  • District of Columbia Public Schools, DC
  • Oakland Unified School District, CA
  • Detroit Public Schools, MI
  • Lincoln Public Schools, NE
  • Fayette County Public Schools, KY
  • Kansas City Public Schools, MO

These districts concur that every child has a right to learn, engage, and play in a healthy and sustainable environment where every person is aware of and accountable for their impact. Together, they will work in four key areas:

  • Leveraging collective purchasing power to increase access to sustainable alternatives;
  • Influencing local, regional, and national policy decisions;
  • Building and sharing district-level best practices; and
  • Contributing to the development of district-level sustainability programs.

The Collaborative is excited to be working within the GSA to develop programs that directly impact students, including project-based STEAM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Art-Mathematics) initiatives and leadership training programs for middle and high school students.

Later in 2016, the Green Schools Alliance will be releasing a new version of its online community, still based on its long-term goals of peer-to-peer networking and best practices sharing. The new community will enable students and school professionals to more easily search for resources to make their school more sustainable and learn the leadership skills to affect that change. The second phase of the online platform will include a web-based measurement and reporting platform/dashboard that will improve data collection and reporting of resource efficiencies and other sustainability programs in member schools.

District Collaborative membership is open to districts with more than 40,000 students. For more information, visit www.greenschoolsalliance.org/district-collaborative. If your district has less than 40,000 students or you are part of an individual school, you can still benefit from the work of the Collaborative. See http://www.greenschoolsalliance.org/membership for more information.

Dr. Sharon Jaye, D.Ed., SFP is Executive Director of the Green Schools Alliance and former Director of Sustainability for New York City Department of Education.

SBIR Women Developers Got Game

Cross-posted from the SBIR blog.

On December 9, 2015, 30 technology developers from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (link is external) and five other Federal agencies came together for ED Games Day (link is external) in Washington DC. The highlights of the day included a morning meeting at the White House and an evening Expo featuring learning games for education, health, and the military.

While the emerging field of learning games was the day’s focus, the visibility of women game developers – excelling as scientists and in business – deserves attention.

At the White House, US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith talked about Grace Hopper, who broke the mold in the 1940s as a pioneer for inventing programming languages and through an illustrious career as a computer scientist. Smith noted the national need to repair the representation gap among girls, women, and minorities following in the path of Hopper. Educational games and access to low-cost maker technology such as Raspberry Pi (link is external) offer partial solutions to this complex problem. At the Expo, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras Sweet toured the hall and spent time chatting and learning the stories of SBIR women game developers, including Kara Carpenter of Teachley and Maria Burns-Ortiz of 7 Generation Games.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet meets with Maria Ortiz Burns of 7 Generation Games.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet meets with Maria Ortiz Burns of 7 Generation Games.

SBIR has been identified (link is external) as one national initiative that holds promise for catalyzing the women developer movement. With women in leading development and research roles for half of the 30 games, the ED Games Expo demonstrated that SBIR is already starting to deliver on this promise.

From left: Melissa DeRosier of the 3C Institute, Tory VanVhooris and Anne Snyder of Second Avenue Learning, Leah Potter of Electric Funstuff, Kara Carpenter of Teachley, & Maria Burns-Ortiz of 7 Generation Games.

From left: Melissa DeRosier of the 3C Institute, Tory VanVhooris and Anne Snyder of Second Avenue Learning, Leah Potter of Electric Funstuff, Kara Carpenter of Teachley, & Maria Burns-Ortiz of 7 Generation Games.

Many of the women at the Expo founded their small business with a mission to create opportunities for girls to learn STEM, and others act as key project team members. The women at the Expo were:

Several other women were represented at the Expo, including Monica Trevathan of Tietronix (link is external), Carol Stanger of Attainment Company (link is external), Brooke Morrill of Schell Games (link is external), Leah Potter of Electric Funstuff (link is external), Martha Riecks of Mid School Math (link is external), and Heather Weyers of Kinection (link is external).

In the next few months, SBIR Pulse will release a series of Q&A interviews with many of these developers. We look forward to learning the stories of why and how these trailblazers got started, what role SBIR played, and what they see as keys to girls in STEM and women in business. Stay tuned!

Edward Metz is the Program Manager of the SBIR Program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Betty Royster is the Communications Specialist for the National Institute of Health’s SBIR and STTR Programs.

Shannon Rhoten is a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Our Teachers Edition Newsletter Will Now Feature ‘Voices from the Classroom’

For teachers. By teachers.

Imagine if all of the policies that affect our classrooms were written by teachers. All the assessments, too. Anyone who spends their days in America’s classrooms knows we’re a long way away from achieving that vision. Despite that, as an elementary school reading teacher in New Haven, Conn., I know that the best success I’ve had has been with lesson plans I’ve written with my colleagues, assessments we’ve created together.

I’d bet you feel the same way.

That’s why one of the most important features of the weekly Teachers Edition newsletter has always been that it is written by teachers and for teachers. Moving forward, you’ll see that even more clearly. For months, a committee of classroom teachers has been talking with colleagues and reviewing back issues with an eye toward making the newsletter more valuable for busy teachers. Expect to hear our voices some more — the voices of classroom teachers just like you, sharing the joys and struggles of our classrooms. Expect to see fewer headlines and more opportunities to engage with us, to share your thoughts and your stories. With Acting Secretary John King focused on how to lift up the voices of teachers, this is just one strand of a ramped-up strategy to digitally engage teachers: keep an eye out for Twitter chats and other opportunities for ED and your colleagues around the country to hear your voice.

You’ll also notice Teachers Edition’s new slimmed-down look this week. Most of our editions will feature a Voice from the Classroom article written by a teacher sharing his or her experience. Often, it’ll be written by a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, a teacher who spends a year sharing his or her experiences with ED; other times, it’ll be written by another teacher from across the country — maybe even you.

We’re working to strike a balance between features that inform (this week, a look at the 2016 Teacher of the Year finalists and a study of what’s inside the textbooks used by teacher prep programs) and those that entertain (this week’s wisdom from America’s oldest teacher and a video of the hoverboarding principal). You might also hear our voices a little bit more when we reflect on what’s in the news.

We know teachers don’t have a lot of free time. That’s why every feature that makes its way into Teachers Edition will face an initial test: would a teacher want to read this? As you scroll through this week’s edition, we’re hopeful you’ll find a lot that passes that test.

Matt Presser is an Instructional Literacy Coach at King/Robinson School in New Haven, Connecticut, and a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Hearing from First-Generation Immigrant Youth and Parents About Education

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to convene an intimate meeting at the Department of Education (ED) with a group of first-generation immigrant students and parents for a conversation with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Acting Secretary John King to discuss their experiences as they try to assimilate to their new country and education system. As a first-generation American whose own family emigrated from Brazil sixteen years ago, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to shine a light on stories of other immigrant families. While their personal experiences and perspectives differed, they all shared a common thread: the desire to achieve the American Dream through obtaining a good education.

Immigrant students and their families face numerous hurdles in our nation’s schools including integration, English language acquisition and access, and cultivating quality parent/teacher relationships. Although ED has worked to ensure that all students have equal access to school resources and that all parents, regardless of the language they speak, are equipped with the information necessary for their children to fully participate in and benefit from their educational programs, some families still face hurdles in their quest to thrive within the education system.

Zoila Fajardo shared a story that was not much different than what my mother experienced when trying to matriculate my siblings and me into school. When she first arrived in the United States, Zoila attempted to enroll her kids in school. Her limited fluency in English, however, caused communication issues with school administrators. They told her that they could not understand her and therefore could not enroll her kids. Zoila was able to turn to her community for support and they directed her to a new school, where her kids were welcomed with opened arms. They not only provided Zoila and her family with all the information she needed to ensure her kids were successful in school, but they also continued to keep her engaged in her children’s learning.

During the meeting, former Secretary Duncan and Acting Secretary King also heard from local high school students, who, in addition to navigating the system with limited to no English proficiency, had to adapt to different social norms. Despite the challenges they faced while trying to assimilate to a whole new culture, the students said they understood that their education was the foundation of their bright future.

Supporting immigrant families is crucial to ensuring our country’s long-term prosperity and is a key part of ED’s mission to ensure equity and opportunity for all of our nation’s children. We will continue to encourage students and their families to share their ideas on how to increase dialogue and the visibility of their experiences through future meetings, like Student Voices sessions, webinars and conversations with advocacy groups. These ongoing conversations have been the foundation of many resources, including the EL Toolkit, which we released with the Department of Justice in September, 2015.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department through which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies.

Melina Kiper is a confidential assistant in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education.

ED Games Day Comes to Washington, D.C.

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has increased its commitment to exploring the potential of learning games and researching their effectiveness, highlighted by initiatives such as ED Games Week, the White House Education Game Jam, the Games for Learning Summit at Games for Change, and a mini-conference focused on games for learning at E3.

Keeping the momentum going, on December 9, 2015, representatives from the Department of Education and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) collaboratively organized a day of events to build capacity for and showcase learning games. In all, 45 game developers participated, 30 of whom were recipients of awards from the Small Business Innovation Research programs at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and five other federal agencies.

Games for Assessment meeting participants.

Games for Assessment meeting participants.

Games For Assessment Working Meeting

In the morning, more than 20 members of the game-based learning community gathered at the White House to focus on the potential of games for assessment. Participants discussed the state of the field and opportunities for researching and developing new game-based assessment models and engines that can support teachers by providing real-time progress reports and insights on student mastery of content.

Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OTSP, discussed the potential of games to transform traditional methods of testing. Roberto Rodriguez, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, said the Every Student Succeeds Act calls for new types of assessment, many of which could be accomplished with well designed game-based assessments, and highlighted the need for more rigorous research in the area of games for learning and assessment. And Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, talked about the need to create more opportunities for girls and students of all backgrounds to code and develop games for learning.

Games for Learning Stakeholder Meeting

In the afternoon, the group gathered for a series of short briefings from stakeholders in the educational technology games space. A few of the presenting organizations included BrainPOP, EdSurge, Games for Change, PBS Learning Media, 1776, and the Consortium of School Networking. The goal was to increase collaboration and strengthen approaches for the broader creation, dissemination, and use of quality games in classrooms and beyond.

ED Games Expo attendees play games while interacting with the developers. (Photo credit: Emily Stack)

ED Games Expo attendees play games while interacting with the developers. (Photo credit: Emily Stack)

ED Games Expo 2015

In the evening, the ED Games Expo provided a forum for all 45 developers to demo their games. More than 200 individuals attended, met face-to-face with the developers, and played games that covered a range of topics in areas such as STEM, history, and coding. The free event was co-sponsored by 1776 and the Entertainment Software Association. The event was highlighted by a visit from the Small Business Administration’s Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who spent time chatting with several developers about their learning games.

A few examples of SBIR games demoed at the Expo included:

  • Happy Atoms, where students learn about chemistry by using modernized ball and stick models with an augmented reality interface.
  • Eco, where students collaboratively build a virtual world to learn about ecosystems.
  • Kiko’s Thinking Time, where young children solve challenging tasks to strengthen cognitive skills related to executive functioning and reasoning.

For videos of all of the SBIR games for learning that demoed at the Expo (and more), see this playlist.

ED is committed to growing the ecosystem for high-quality learning games, researching their effectiveness, and assisting developers in building games that reflect effective pedagogy and engaging game mechanics to expand and improve in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students.

Follow us on Twitter at @IESResearch and @OfficeofEdTech for the latest.

Edward Metz is the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Joseph South is the Acting Director of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

James Collins is the Internal Liaison of Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Erik Martin is an intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In Ferguson, Missouri, Community and Schools are Working Together

Cross-posted from the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog.

Ferguson-Blog-Photo-1

On a recent trip to Ferguson, MO, my office colleague, Dr. Ken Bedell, and I had the opportunity to visit with community leaders. The trip supported Secretary Duncan’s promise that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) would not forget this community.  Our recent visits to the city have strengthened relationships and created partnerships that are already making an impact in Ferguson schools.  When the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) requested assistance regarding its Summer STEM Program, we connected them with Hope Worldwide, an international charity dedicated to delivering sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to distressed communities.  Hope Worldwide helped supply FFSD with robotics kits to replicate the District’s STEM efforts and provide equitable learning to its students.  Additionally, our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FFSD, and local community-based organizations for the Summer Meals Program increased the number of students receiving meals.

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We also hosted a meeting of community leaders committed to making Ferguson a safe and healthy environment for youth and their families. It was exciting to hear about the local efforts of these organizations.  Church groups are supporting the development of small businesses in Ferguson. Ernst and Young has initiated a mentorship program. The Urban League has created an Empowerment Center in Ferguson to better serve the surrounding neighborhoods in North St. Louis County.  Pen or Pencil, a National Alliance on Faith and Justice (NAFJ) service learning program, is mentoring and working to reduce dropouts and prevent crimes. Other federal agencies are providing services to the school, including AmeriCorps Vista, which has placed volunteers within schools, and the National Parks Service, which is working to increase the educational opportunities and capacities of students.

Dr. Joseph Davis, the new Superintendent of FFSD, and Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations, shared the FFSD’s vision: to 1) create an elite K-16 S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) school, 2) enhance professional development and educational opportunities for teachers, 3) train parents to become educational professionals in their own households, and 4) strengthen family and community engagement to establish a culture where education is understood as a shared responsibility by all community members.

Our perspectives from Ferguson echo the remarks of Secretary Duncan following his visit to the city:

Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future. I don’t believe that we are going to solve the challenges in Ferguson and places like it from Washington alone; but, we can be part of the solution if we listen closely to the people living in these communities. Making things better for kids, their families, and their schools will take all of us working together. We can—and we must—get to a better place.

As we continue to listen and work with FFSD, we can ensure that every student has the chance to achieve his or her hopes and dreams.

Eddie Martin is a Special Assistant for the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

“The hard work of teachers, administrators, students and their families has made these gains possible and as a result many more students will have a better chance of going to college, getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family. We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.” 

– Secretary Arne Duncan

America’s students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, reaching 82 percent in 2013-14!

What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas continues to narrow, and traditionally underserved populations like English language learners and students with disabilities continue to make gains, the data show.

Check out the data for yourself on the NCES website.

Minority Serving Community Colleges: Meeting the Future Now

Cross-posted from the OCTAE blog.

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted the first Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges on November 16th and 17th. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the representatives of MSIs, the experts from academia and the philanthropic sector, and the staffs of the White House, Congressional legislative staff and the many federal agencies, including the Department of Education, who collaborated to make this convening such a success.

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.

As our nation becomes more diverse, a growing number of community colleges are designated as, or are eligible to be designated as Minority Serving Institutions. These colleges play a key role in the higher education completion agenda and have a lot of hard-earned wisdom, experience, and knowledge about student success that needs to be shared. Our work on November 16th and 17th was a major step in the right direction. OCTAE hosted over 120 institutions. More than 250 participants in the convening exchanged practices with peers, networked with representatives from 13 federal agencies, and discovered how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with several different divisions within the Department of Education and with Congressional staff. A panel of excellent students provided their perspectives.

This conference built on the foundation of work these institutions have already established to help their students to be successful. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was inspiring and I am looking forward to the work ahead.

Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice, some of which had been established prior to the convening by volunteer leaders at various community colleges across the country. These communities will continue to exchange promising practices, share invaluable experiences, and connect with federal agencies in an online format.

If you are interested in joining one of the communities of practice or want to discuss other matters with us, please email me at Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov.

With this said, let me once again take the opportunity to thank the attendees for their participation in the convening, for the ideas and aspirations you shared with us, and for your continuing commitment to the well-being and success of your students.

Mark Mitsui is the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges.