Building a Summer Stride, not a Summer Slide

Tawana Bostic and students.

Eighth grade Higher Achievement Summer Academy Scholars listen attentively to Center Director, Tawana Bostic, as she reviews Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

School’s out, temperatures are rising, and, for many students across the country, the summer slide has begun. Each summer, low-income students lose two to three months of reading skills and two months of math skills. As the center director for an after school and summer academic program for middle school students in Washington, D.C.’s historically underserved neighborhood of Anacostia, I see these statistics firsthand every day.

Many of the students from the community we serve take one of three paths in the summer. In some of our better case scenarios, students are either required to enroll in remedial classes to move onto the next grade or they sign up for recreational programs that do not have an academic component. At worst, students stay at home where they either watch TV, play video games, or spend hours on the computer. For many of the students in these categories, the only interaction they have with math is getting change from a store clerk when purchasing snacks. Their reading interactions are limited to social media posts – nothing that requires critical thinking skills.

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Investing In Positive School Climates at Yes Prep

In a June 28 speech at the annual conference for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Nashville, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King challenged charter school leaders to rethink how and why they address student behavior in our schools. Dr. King charged all charter school leaders gathered last week to honestly consider our own approaches. That includes YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, where I am the CEO.

In fact, over the past few years, YES Prep has done just that—and we’ve realized that our approach to student behavior and discipline needs to change. We have an intrinsic responsibility as educators to educate every single student who comes through our doors.

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Immigrant Heritage Month: In Their Own Words

Diversity of all types – race, ethnicity, national origin and economic status, family structure and gender identity, sexual orientation and disability status, religion or native language – benefits all students. Diversity is not a nicety but a necessity.

In honor of Immigrant Heritage Month, these educators share their personal stories in their own words:

Celebrating Our Heritage & Student Diversity

My name is Alfonso Treto and I am a first generation Mexican-American and public school teacher. Coming to the United States, my parents had to struggle for the American dream. My mother emphasized the importance of an education. I was raised with the idea that a proper education would create many opportunities for me.

Alfonso Treto

Alfonso Treto

I can say that teaching is a profession that chose me. As a teacher’s assistant, I witnessed students being treated differently which motivated me to become a teacher and provide an opportunity to all students regardless of their background. Many of the students see me as a role model because of the similarities of upbringing.

Working for M-DCPS Title I Migrant Education Program I have had the privilege of serving families from very diverse backgrounds. Recently there has been an influx of unaccompanied minors who have made a treacherous journey by themselves as well as escaping violence and seeking protection in search of a better life. Some students are fearful of what is going on politically however they have learned to respect and celebrate their differences. All students know that with determination (ganas) they can overcome any obstacle.

Alfonso Treto teaches high school students in the Title I Migrant Education Program in Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Miami, Florida. 

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Shattering Stereotypes of Women and Girls in Non-Traditional Career Technology Education

Although progress has been made to ensure all girls and women have access to a quality education, I am reminded that forty-four years after the passage of Title IX, there are still lengthy strides to be made; fewer than two percent of plumbers, and three percent of electricians are women. In contrast, women and girls are disproportionately enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) programs for many traditionally lower-paying jobs.

This is why, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently released guidance to make clear that all students, regardless of their sex, must have equal access to the full range of CTE programs offered.

From left to right: Dr. Joann Fey, Asst. Superintendent ISD, Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Exellence for Hispanics, Andrea Martinez, Architecture Instructor, Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., Samantha Dorwin, Mary Arrasmith, Coordinator of Technical Education in West Baton Rouge Parish, and David Lloyd, Director of Student Success at UDC.

From left to right: Dr. Joann Fey, Asst. Superintendent ISD, Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Exellence for Hispanics, Andrea Martinez, Architecture Instructor, Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., Samantha Dorwin, Mary Arrasmith, Coordinator of Technical Education in West Baton Rouge Parish, and David Lloyd, Director of Student Success at UDC.

Following the White House’s United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C., ED joined other federal agencies and held an event focused on improving the lives of women and girls. In keeping with the theme, “Today, we’ll change tomorrow,” ED hosted over 100 community advocates, government leaders, students, influencers and innovators to discuss how access to CTE is helping all students, including girls and women, change the world.

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Kids Cook Up Change in ED’s Kitchen

challenge1

How does a lunch of Moroccan stuffed zucchini, Moroccan salad and spiced pear cups sound?

This is just one of the 10 creative and delicious school meals cooked up during the Cooking up Change national finals earlier this month at the Department of Education. Cooking up Change is a dynamic culinary competition that challenges student chefs to create healthy school meals that their peers enjoy. Not only are these meals delicious, they also comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) school nutrition standards for calories, fat, sodium, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, including side dishes, which meet USDA Smart Snacks in Schools standards.

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Building a Foundation for Children Starts in Pre-K

codyclassAs a kindergarten teacher, I have seen that attending a high-quality pre-K program makes a significant difference in children’s kindergarten success—and later success as well. This is why I am passionate that access to high-quality pre-K should not be a luxury afforded to some, but an invaluable resource offered to all.

From my experience, there are three major advantages students gain from high quality pre-K program:

They have key social skills.

In kindergarten, children constantly work in groups, whether in small teacher-led instructional groups, at activity learning “centers” or at math and phonics stations. In reading and writing workshop and most other activities, they work with partners or in small groups. This requires kids to negotiate disagreements, understand the social conventions of conversations, and balance their needs with others’. In pre-K, children have had lots of experiences like this.

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Flexible Accountability Systems are a Growth Opportunity — for Teachers and Students

Educators Ashley Millerd (left) and Julia Ryan (right).

Educators Ashley Millerd (left) and Julia Ryan (right).

When our students sit down for state-required assessments, we don’t worry about whether we prepared them. After all, we helped create the tests ourselves.

Our district is one of a small cohort piloting New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment Competency Education assessment system, a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy that replaces some standardized testing with locally managed assessments. As part of this program, we work together with our colleagues across the state to develop, implement, and evaluate performance assessments that measure a student’s mastery of concepts and skills and better connect to what our students are learning.

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From Washington, D.C. to the Reservation: Showing Love for Native Students

Santa Fe Indian School graduation is a celebration of tradition and family. (Photo courtesy: Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican)

Santa Fe Indian School graduation is a celebration of tradition and family. (Photo courtesy: Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican)

I grew up listening to my father sing traditional Acoma songs as we would drive to the mountains; I didn’t understand why until I became old enough to learn that we were going to pray. It took even longer to understand why we pray — and a couple more years to understand that we pray in the following sequence for: the land, the rain, the animals, the world, the country, the Acoma community, our families and finally for ourselves.

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Finding Success with Afterschool Physical Education Programs

The bell rings and they can’t wait. After a long day in the classroom, kids of all ages race to open fields on the other side of the school parking lot. That’s the goal, anyway. But for many kids, daily opportunities for fitness are a far cry from reality.

soccersuccess

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say school-age children should be physically active at least one hour a day. Most 9- to 13-year-olds do get their daily dose of physical activity, with more than three-quarters exercising throughout the week. But that percentage significantly declines as children grow older. In 2013, less than a third of high school students met the one-hour mark or attended physical education classes during an average school week. As children become more sedentary, their risk grows for developing chronic health problems down the road. The problem is especially acute for children from low-income families.

How do we make sure every young person — no matter where they live or their family’s income — has the opportunity to be active and healthy every day? We believe schools are an important part of the answer. Simply put: children go to school five days a week, so schools are in a unique position to help kids exercise regularly. Plus, physical activity helps kids concentrate on classroom tasks and improve their standardized test scores. That means schools have a vested interest in keeping kids active so they’ll do better academically.

Unfortunately, many school districts lack the resources to offer robust physical education programs. There are lots of reasons schools have had to cut back on physical education classes and recess: not enough funding, few safe spaces to play, the need for more classroom time to make sure every child is given educational opportunity. The number of things schools have to accomplish every day is enormous.

And that’s where the U.S. Soccer Foundation comes in.

Recently leaders from our organization met with staff at the Department of Education to discuss our partnerships with schools across the country, especially in underserved communities. We offer proven youth development programs, build fields where children can play safely, and supply much-needed athletic equipment. Afterschool programs like ours not only give students a physical outlet, they also increase the effort kids put into school, keep them from skipping class, and boost their academic confidence.

An independent evaluation of our Soccer for Success afterschool program found that 89 percent of children who started the program overweight or obese left it with improved or maintained aerobic capacity. When it came to school, 89 percent of students said they tried harder as a result of the program, and 85 percent said they tried harder to avoid violence and fighting.

We love talking to teachers about how our programs turn their students around. To enhance our children’s academic performance and help them feel more engaged in the classroom, we as a community have to do more to bring physical activity and academia together. We look forward to hearing from schools and educators about your vision for ensuring that every young person has the chance to live a full and healthy life.

Wylie Chen is Vice President of Programs and Grants at the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

The “Invisible Tax” on Teachers of Color: A Philly Point of View

Fellowship

Bringing together Black male teachers and principals and building a network of learning, support and empowerment is essential, relevant and necessary not only for Black male students, but for all students. This is the essential mission of The Fellowship, a Philadelphia-based group that was founded to support current and aspiring black male educators through advocacy, engaging policy makers, expanding the teacher pipeline, and quarterly professional development opportunities called, “Black Male Educators Convenings” (BMEC).

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ParentCamp International: Engaging Leaders from Immigrant Communities

ParentCamp International included several breakout sessions. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

ParentCamp International included several breakout sessions. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

When I first heard about the first ParentCamp International, I knew I had to be there! As a Hispanic/Latina mother of a son receiving Special Education services and who works closely with international families in schools, I felt I couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet decision makers in our educational system and share stories and experiences of our groups.

It was an eventful day! In addition to hearing from representatives of the White House, Justice Department and Secretary of Education John King, we were able to network and share stories during many breakout group sessions, which were incredibly meaningful.

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The Positive Effect of Physical Fitness and Self-Care in a Dynamic School Community

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, which means it’s time to celebrate physical fitness and how it can transform the classroom experience. Physical fitness promotes teamwork, healthy living and optimism for young learners.

Students practicing mindfulness. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Students practicing mindfulness. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

As a spring intern here at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), I was recently given the chance to accompany ED staff during a trip to the Brightwood Education Campus in Washington, D.C., where the entire community is dedicated to the mission of mind and body wellness. Students in all grades learn coordinated exercises designed to stimulate their bodies and their brains. Students at Brightwood come from many different cultural backgrounds and many of them are English-language learners – and the emphasis on exercise and mental health awareness is just one of the many tools educators use to promote diversity.

During my visit to Brightwood, I saw students leading group stretches with their peers, “tapping” out their stress and taking time to walk around the room to improve their circulation. In a pre-K classroom, the students sat in a circle while one student led the exercises. While they sang traditional songs such as “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” they would do the exercises in sync. The students had just woken up from nap time, so these exercises were intended to reactivate their brains and keep their focus in the classroom. The peer-influence is great to see first-hand because when one student would get off task, their friends would help them get back into the activities. After the exercises the students had a chance to sit up tall, close their eyes, and breathe in unison. Beyond just physical fitness, students and teachers participated in meditation and stretching in order to ease their minds and connect with other people around them.

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