Sixth Grader Advocates for School Supplies – President Obama Responds

It’s no secret that schools around the country are facing deep budget cuts, often resulting in layoffs of staff and teachers and putting the burden on teachers to purchase much-needed supplies for their classrooms. The lack of school supplies caused one Lodi, California middle school student to take his case directly to President Obama in a letter.

In the President’s personal response, he thanked Henderson for sharing his ideas and commended him for his commitment to the community. “In America, each of us can write our own destiny,” the President wrote. “So long as you are willing to dream big and work hard, you can accomplish great things and help others to do the same.”

Secretary Duncan calls this tough economic climate for schools “the new normal.” To address the new normal, the Department of Education recently offered promising practices to states and communities on the effective, efficient and responsible use of resources in tight budget times. “We have to continue to invest [in education]” Duncan recently warned. “Budgets reflect our values, they reflect our priorities.”

Read more about James Henderson and President Obama’s response at the Lodi News-Sentinel.

Increasing Educational Productivity: Innovative Approaches & Best Practices

Expectations for students and school systems continue to rise while many states face the toughest financial challenges of recent history. These dual realities mean that policy makers and practitioners must do more with the resources they have during these difficult budget times. Though this “new normal” is certainly a steep challenge, it is one that presents opportunities for states, districts, and schools to innovate, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and accelerate reform.

Increasing educational productivity by doing more with less will not be easy. It will mean graduating a significantly greater number of students—with higher levels of mastery and expertise—at a lower cost per outcome. This will require leaders at every level—from the classroom to the statehouse—to work together to rethink the policies, processes, tools, business models, and funding structures that have been ingrained in our education system for decades.

In March, to help states meet the challenge of doing more with less and to protect public schools from counterproductive cutbacks, Education Secretary Arne Duncan released promising practices on the effective, efficient, and responsible use of resources in tight budget times. Building off of this work, the Office of Innovation and Improvement has compiled additional information to help schools, districts, and states increase educational productivity.

This information has been pulled from a variety of resources, in particular the work of leading thinkers in the field. The information assembled is not intended to represent a comprehensive list of efforts. Instead, it is a collection of ideas and actions from different places and serves as a starting point for additional investigation into the methods being pursued and implemented across the country. To further this work, we would like leaders to share with us the strategies and practices in place to help increase educational productivity. Broadening the dialogue around successful steps to achieve more with less is a critical component of this national conversation.

The information compiled is organized into 10 reform categories, each aligned with various strategies, practices, or approaches that seek to increase productivity by:

  • Improving outcomes while maintaining current costs;
  • Maintaining current outcomes while lowering costs; or
  • Both improving outcomes and lowering costs.

These strategies seek to invest in what works, make better use of technology, reduce mandates that hinder productivity, pay and manage for results, take advantage of existing opportunities, and make short-term investments for long-term results. Guiding these strategies are two underlying principles: putting student learning first and protecting the neediest children and communities. While some of these strategies will have a greater impact on budgets and spending than others, each nonetheless represents a potential opportunity to contribute to improved productivity at the school, district or state level.

Productivity Categories:

Improving Student Achievement

1. Competency-based learning or personalized learning
2. Use of technology in teaching and learning
3. New and alternative sources of student support and funding
4. Better use of community resources

Improving Processes, Systems, and Resource Allocations

5. Process improvements
6. Pay and manage for results
7. Flexibility to ease requirements and mandates

Improving Human Capital

8. Organization of the teaching workforce
9. Teacher professional and career development
10. Teacher compensation

Resources on Framing Educational Productivity

Cross-posted from the OII homepage.

Secretary Duncan on Real Advice and Elevating the Teaching Profession

Secretary Duncan recently sat down to answer a couple of questions received on his Facebook page.

He responds to a question about what ED is doing to provide real advice in these tough economic times. The Secretary states that “given the very tough fiscal reality, there are smart ways to cut and, frankly, dumb ways to cut. First and foremost, we have to do everything we can to protect the classroom, to keep cuts away from students, away from classrooms, away from teachers.”  Duncan also says that it’s important to not cut key investments that are making a difference in the lives of students.

Click here to read the promising practices documents that ED recently sent to state leaders.

The Secretary also answered a question about what ED is doing to support existing teachers.  He noted that through the Recovery Act, the Obama administration has saved hundreds of thousands of teacher jobs over the past two years.  He also explains that one of ED’s top priorities is to continue elevating and strengthening the teaching profession.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Helping States Address Budget Pressures

Across the country, governments at every level are facing enormous financial pressures. Many school districts are facing layoffs, reductions in state funding, and massive budget deficits.

Secretary Duncan calls these challenging financial times “The New Normal,” and to assist states, the Department of Education today released promising practices that offer some options to states and communities on the effective, efficient, and responsible use of resources in tight budget times.

In a letter to governors, Secretary Duncan noted that these options are entirely voluntary and entirely a matter of state and local discretion. He also challenged stakeholders, from elected officials at all levels to school administrators, school boards, and teacher leaders, to work with governors in achieving the very best outcome for students during tough economic times.

Click here to read the documents attached to Secretary Duncan’s letter to governors.