Debunking Common Myths Behind U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask? Read on!

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask? Read on!

Five years ago, I was tasked with developing what came to be called U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS).  You may have heard of it.  The recognition award is now known for honoring sustainable schools annually.

What is a “green” or “sustainable” school, you ask?  Well, we established a federal definition when we created the award.  That federal education definition includes three broad areas that we call PillarsPillar I is ‘Reducing Environmental Impact and Costs‘, including waste, water, greenhouse gases, energy, and transportation. Pillar II is ‘Improving Health and Wellness‘, including physical activity, nutrition, and environmental health. Pillar III is ‘Teaching Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education.’

Read More

Finding My Voice and Sharing My Story with Secretary King

Jamie Talley (in white), a NAEHCY scholarship recipient, sharing her views with Secretary King.

Jamie Talley (in white) is a NAEHCY scholarship recipient.

My name is Jamie Talley, I am a National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) scholarship recipient. I experienced homelessness, and I work every day to make myself someone different than the family I was born into.

I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Washington D.C., with other NAEHCY scholars. There is one moment that I will remember forever.

You’ve been given the opportunity to sit at the table and make a difference, so make it count.

That moment was when it actually dawned on me just what was taking place. These may not have been his exact words, but this was the point Sam Ryan, Special Assistant and Youth Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, was making just before Secretary John B. King, Jr., entered the room.

Read More

Announcing the New Pay for Success Competition for Early Learning

Expanding access to high quality early learning is one of the smartest investments we can make, but we should – and can – do more. Here at the U.S. Department of Education, we’re committed to helping ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten and beyond.

We should have a greater focus on evidenced-based practices, on measuring and improving outcomes for our youngest learners, and more incentives for promoting innovative approaches that promise to further improve child outcomes.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce today a new grant competition, the Preschool Pay for Success (PFS) Feasibility Pilot. This is an opportunity for state, local and Tribal governments to explore how to use Pay for Success to expand access to proven programs. It’s also a chance for them test other innovative promising approaches — all with a focus on improving outcomes for our children and society.

Read More

Wherever You Are – Let’s Read, Let’s Move

Students gathered at the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens to listen to Secretary King and others read out loud.

Students gathered at the National Arboretum to listen to Secretary King and others read out loud.

Reading over the summer makes students more prepared when the new school year begins. That’s why the U.S. Department of Education (ED) makes an annual call to action that encourages more reading time out of school, especially over the summer months. Two events held last week celebrated reading and physical activity and aimed to increase awareness about the critical importance of summer learning.

The Olympic anthem rang out. Played by a band from MusicianShip, a D.C. nonprofit that facilitates music opportunities for students, it set the stage for this year’s Let’s Read, Let’s Move event at the U.S. National Arboretum. Dignitaries and special guests proceeded to the garden that served as the reading area, followed by pre-k to 6th grade students who carried flags representing their “Olympic” teams: Bursting Beans, Outgoing Onions, and Helpful Honey Bees among them.

With extreme energy, each VIP, including Secretary King, White House Executive Director of Let’s Move! Deb Eschmeyer, White House Chief Horticulturist Jim Adams, Chef Carla Hall, from ABC’s “The Chew” and Brian Mihelic, Washington, D.C. Youth Rugby, read a portion of Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. It was difficult to tell who was more enthusiastic – the special dignitaries and guests who incorporated movement into their reading or the children who followed directions, paid attention and asked probing questions afterwards. Do worms really think baseballs are rocks? Do worms really eat paper? In the story, the worm eats his homework, which causes some trouble for him, and students agreed that would cause trouble for them, too.

Read More

ED Seeks Winter/Spring Interns

Former interns participating in a listening session with the Secretary.

Former interns participating in a listening session with the Secretary.

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!

Read More

How to Apply for a PLUS Loan

How to apply for a PLUS loan

If you’re a parent of a dependent undergraduate student or if you’re someone planning to attend graduate school, you’ve probably heard of the PLUS loan. The Direct PLUS Loan is a federal loan program that’s available specifically for these two groups of people to help cover the remaining cost of attending school after all other financial aid has been applied. Below we’ll explain the requirements, application process, and some tips if you’re considering getting a PLUS loan.

Requirements to Receive a PLUS Loan

No Adverse Credit History
A credit history is a summary of your financial strength, including your history of paying bills and your ability to repay future loans. To qualify for a PLUS loan, you cannot have an adverse credit history.

Read More

Making the Impossible Possible as a Migrant Student

Blog author Yesenia Solis. (Photo courtesy the author)

Blog author Yesenia Solis. (Photo courtesy the author)

Months ago, traveling to Washington, D.C., seemed unbelievable to me, but recently this is exactly what I did. I am a rising senior from Avenal, California, and I want to someday be part of the government to make a change. So, thanks to the Ivy League Project – a program that encourages economically disadvantaged students to apply to the most prestigious universities in America – I was able to travel across the country to visit the Department of Education and several famous schools along the East Coast.

Read More

National Summer Learning Day at an Oasis of Hope in Indianapolis

The program at Westminster Neighborhood Services serves as an oasis of hope, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children. (Photo courtesy Westminster Neighborhood Services)

The program at Westminster Neighborhood Services serves as an oasis of hope, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children. (Photo courtesy Westminster Neighborhood Services)

“Something on the inside, working on the outside. Oh, what a change in my life!”

These words from a song I used to sing in church rang through my ears as I walked through the halls of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. This church, situated on the corner of State and Sturm Roads, houses one of the hidden treasures of the Near Eastside of Indianapolis.

Recently, I spent National Summer Learning Day witnessing some of the work being done by Westminster Neighborhood Services, Inc. (WNS). Summer Learning Day activities happen across the country annually, with events highlighting the importance of keeping all children learning, safe and healthy every summer.

WNS has established relationships with a wide range of partners, such as the public library, museum, churches, local government, the business community, civic groups and many individuals to provide supportive services to families in the community.

Read More

A Celebration of Professional Careers in the Arts With Savanah College of Art and Design

On July, 21, 2016, the Department of Education’s (ED) newest student art exhibit — featuring works crafted by both B.F.A. and M.F.A. students in painting, photography, printmaking and illustration from Georgia-based Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) — was unveiled as opening ceremonies took place at ED’s headquarters.

Throughout the proceedings, SCAD demonstrated the qualities that cement its position as a top-tier college of the arts, and the essence of its mission statement — that the Savannah College of Art and Design exists to prepare talented students for professional careers, emphasizing learning through individual attention in a positively oriented university environment — shone through to all the guests.

If one thing stood out above all else on opening day, though, it was the deep and undeniable impression that SCAD leaves upon its students. In addition to SCAD artists’ mastery of their mediums, unveiled at the opening, they benefit from the college’s full commitment to supporting their continuous growth and aiding them in developing their career paths beyond graduation.

Attendees at the SCAD art exhibit opening take a moment to appreciate and admire the new pieces of art on display.

Attendees at the SCAD art exhibit opening take a moment to appreciate and admire the new pieces of art on display.

Read More

PLUS Loan Basics for Parents

PLUS Loan Basics for Parents

Your child is going to college or career school—that’s great! But you may have questions about how to pay for it. If your child hasn’t completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), ask your child to complete it today. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives your child access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school, including loans YOU can receive.

After applying for financial aid, your child may receive an aid offer from the school that includes grants, federal work-study, scholarships, school and state aid, and federal student loans. Those federal loans may include a Direct PLUS Loan that you can get as a parent borrower. PLUS loans are an excellent option if you need money to pay your child’s education expenses, but you’ll want to make sure you understand the loan terms before you get one. Once you’ve taken out a PLUS loan, you must repay it, even if your child doesn’t complete their degree, can’t find a job related to their program of study, or if you or your child are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan.

Read More

Building the Next Generation of Assessments in Education

Cross-posted from the White House blog.


Summary: Thanks to recent advances in technology and in the data sciences, a new era of assessment is on the way in education.

In October 2015, in a Testing Action Plan, President Obama called for a new approach to testing and assessment to better serve students.  The plan outlines a set of principles to reduce the time spent on standardized tests, and improve the quality and usefulness of tests for students and educators, including building new and more innovative technological-based assessment tools.  More recently, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released its proposed regulations on assessments under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which the President signed in December 2015, to clarify how states can utilize a number of innovative approaches to assessment, including better integration of technology.  ED also published draft regulations for public comment on the Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority under Title I part B of the ESSA, which will allow states to pilot new approaches in a subset of districts as an alternative to statewide tests as they work to scale innovative tests statewide.  Read more here.

These steps by Congress and the Administration are creating conditions whereby educational technology can help transform how tests are delivered while reducing the amount of classroom time spent on assessment.  With the emergence of next-generation web- and app-based assessments, students are now engaging in activities and games that measure knowledge and performance in real time and provide immediate results. These new forms of technology regularly track progress toward mastery of grade level content, adapt and support learning to meet individual needs, and generate teacher reports to inform instruction.  The best learning games allow students to play through hard, complex challenges and demonstrate mastery by succeeding at the game itself, making assessment engaging and rewarding.

Read More

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Postponing Your Federal Student Loan Payments

Deferment and Forebearance

If you’re having difficulty repaying your federal student loans, then you might want to consider a deferment or forbearance. These two temporary solutions allow you to stop making or, in some instances, to lower your monthly federal student loan payment. While both can be helpful solutions if you’re experiencing temporary hardship, they aren’t great long-term solutions because they can be costly, and if you aren’t careful, your loan balance could be higher when your deferment or forbearance period ends.

Before you apply, here’s some information that can help you decide if deferment or forbearance is the best option for you.


1. Should I choose a deferment or forbearance?

The two main differences between deferment and forbearance are

  • the situations under which you may qualify, and
  • whether or not you’ll be charged interest when you’re not making payments.

Most borrowers first apply for a deferment because it’s usually the best option and then if they aren’t eligible for it, their loan servicer (the organization that manages your student loan) may grant a forbearance.

Read More