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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Working to Prevent Discrimination Involving Religion at Schools and Universities

No student – whether Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or of any other religious background – should experience barriers to learning and success in school because of who the student is or what the student believes.

That’s why last month, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights participated in a community forum in Palo Alto, California, on religious discrimination in schools and universities. This roundtable built on an event in Newark, New Jersey, in March, where the Department of Education joined the Justice Department in announcing the launch of Combating Religious Discrimination Today, a new interagency community engagement initiative designed to promote religious freedom, challenge religious discrimination and enhance enforcement of religion-based hate crimes.

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A Second Chance for an Education

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The Obama Administration is committed to creating a fairer, more effective criminal justice system. We want to lessen the impact of mass incarceration on our communities and help the men and women who rejoin society from our jails and prisons to build successful, crime-free lives.

Today, we’re announcing the selection of 67 postsecondary institutions to participate in the Second Chance Pell Program, which will evaluate the impact that Pell Grants have in helping incarcerated men and women pursue and attain a high-quality postsecondary education.

In total, nearly 12,000 students at more than a hundred federal and state correctional institutions will access approximately $30 million in Pell Grants, across 27 states in every region of the country.

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A View from the Field: Building Comprehensive ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind and reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, presents an opportunity to continue making progress towards educational equity and excellence for all. For the first time, the reauthorization of the nation’s defining elementary and secondary education law explicitly supports a preschool to college- and career-readiness vision for America’s students. It also creates the flexibility for states, districts, and educators to reclaim the promise of a quality, well-rounded education for every student while maintaining the protections that ensure our commitment to every child — particularly by identifying and reporting the academic progress of all of our students and by guaranteeing meaningful action is taken in our lowest performing schools and school with low performance among subgroups of students.

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It’s Time for Some Stability

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Class act! Principal Nauiokas and students at Mott Haven Academy in the Bronx. (Photo courtesy Jessica Nauiokas)

Every year, hundreds of thousands of youth enter the foster care system in America and become one of our most vulnerable groups of students, as each move from home to home is frequently accompanied by school transfers and educational disruption.

As the principal of a school specifically designed to meet the needs of children in foster care, Mott Haven Academy in the Bronx, I have seen how factors like unnecessary school transfers and untrained educators allow child welfare-involved youth to fall through the cracks. As a result the country’s half-million foster children have poorer attendance rates than their peers, are less likely to perform at grade level, are more likely to have behavior and discipline problems, are disproportionally assigned to special education classes, and are less likely to attend college.

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Kids Cook Up Change in ED’s Kitchen

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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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Beware! You Don’t Have to Pay for Help with Your Student Loans

Beware of Scams

I bet many of you have seen ads on Facebook that sound something like this:

“Want Student Loan Forgiveness in Two Weeks? CALL NOW!”

“Apply for Obama Loan Forgiveness in 5 minutes!”

Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  There are countless ads online from companies offering to help you manage your student loan debt…for a fee, of course. While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) does offer some legitimate student loan forgiveness programs and ways to lower your student loan payments, they are all free to apply for. Don’t pay for help when you can get help for free!

If you’re a federal student loan borrower, ED provides free assistance to help:

  • lower your monthly payment;
  • consolidate your loans;
  • see if you qualify for loan forgiveness; and
  • get out of default.

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How to Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Student at a computer in a classroom.

Everyone wants their student loans forgiven. The perception is that very few qualify. But did you know that there is one broad, employment-based forgiveness program for federal student loans? Let me break down some key points of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) to help you figure out if you could qualify.


[ 1 ] Work for a government or non-profit organization

Qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness is not about your job, it’s about who your employer is. In order to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you must work for a “public service” employer. What does that mean? Everyone has a different definition.

Employers who qualify based on our definition:

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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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What College Accreditation Changes Mean for Students

Editor’s note (6/24/16): Yesterday, NACIQI – the independent board that advises the Department of Education on accreditation – voted 10-3 in support of the Department’s recommendation to end recognition of ACICS. As noted in the post below, that was the next step in the process after the initial recommendation for Department staff. The recommendations now come to a senior official here at the Department, who has 90 days to make a decision. After that, ACICS will have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Secretary of Education if it wishes to do so.

For millions of Americans, federal student loans and grants open the doors to a college education. That critical federal aid must be used at a school that is (among other things) given the seal of approval by an “accrediting agency” or “accreditor” recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s one of the safeguards in the system. Accreditation is an important signal to students, families, and the Department about whether a school offers a quality education. Accreditors have a responsibility under federal law to make sure colleges earn that seal.

But what happens when the Department stops recognizing an accrediting agency?

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Chronic Absenteeism: The First-Order Challenge Facing Our Nation’s Schools

Principal Manko and students are all smiles! (Photo courtesy Joseph Manko)

Principal Manko and students are all smiles! (Photo courtesy Joseph Manko)

Principals like me in schools around the country face a daunting challenge. While the national conversation focuses on test scores, school performance, and academic growth, one key question that has been absent is — how do we move kids academically, when they don’t show up to school?

Chronic absenteeism – missing over twenty or more days of school in a typical 180-day year – is rampant across the country and particularly so in high poverty schools where obstacles like inadequate housing, transportation, unforgiving work schedules, and improper health care make regular attendance difficult. In my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, some schools have chronic rates of close to 30%. That means that one third of the students are missing over 10% of the school year – begging the question of how meaningful academic growth is even possible.

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