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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to Serve Rural Schools: Listen

Students gather in class at Owsley County Elementary School in Kentucky.

Students gather in class at Owsley County Elementary School in Kentucky.

When it comes to serving schools across rural America, it’s important to remember that no two rural communities are alike. From the remote fishing villages in Alaska, to the sugar maple towns of Vermont, to the American Indian reservations in Montana, America’s rural communities are incredibly diverse. Nationwide, rural America contains over 70 percent of our landmass, one-third of our schools, and 59 million Americans, according to the 2010 Census. In addition to the need for the same educational opportunities as urban and suburban students, we recognize the unique challenges faced by many, if not most rural students: high rates of childhood poverty, limited health care, fewer career opportunities, isolation from basic services, as well as schools that don’t have the necessary transportation, technology, teachers, courses, and resources to provide students with a truly 21st century education they deserve.

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33 Voices from the Classroom

Substantial conversations about teaching and schools cannot happen without the voices of teachers and principals. It seems obvious. Yet in too many places, educational policies are being written without our input, panels at education conferences are held without any teacher-speakers, and teacher expertise is routinely called into question.

For the last seven months, ED has taken one small step by publishing on our blog more first-hand accounts from practitioners than virtually any other source – pairing major policy announcements with powerful Voices from the Classroom written by teachers and principals who describe why these policies matter. When the Secretary announced a plan to make teaching in high-needs schools the best job in the world, we published a narrative from a teacher in the Bronx who shared how teaching there allows her to be an agent of change and to support her students in becoming agents of change too. When ED proposed a new rule to combat disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, two special educators shared why such an action would make a difference in their schools.

Secretary King chats with teachers during ED's most recent 'Tea with Teachers' - regular gatherings hosted by our Teaching Ambassador Fellows.

Secretary King chats with teachers during ED’s most recent ‘Tea with Teachers’ – regular gatherings hosted by our Teaching Ambassador Fellows.

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5 Things You Should Know about WIOA

Friday marked the two-year anniversary of President Obama signing into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (or WIOA for short).  Last month, the Departments of Labor and Education, in close collaboration with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development, made publicly available the final rules implementing WIOA.  We are excited to continue the conversation around WIOA and we are committed to making sure WIOA works for all job-seekers, workers, and employers as the departments implement the final rules.

Here’s what WIOA means and why it matters:

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Protecting Students of All Religious Backgrounds from Unlawful Discrimination

All students—regardless of race, national origin, religion, disability, or sex—deserve access to a high-quality education, from preschool through college. Throughout the last seven-and-a-half years, the Obama administration and the Department of Education have worked to safeguard the rights and protections of our students by enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws and implementing regulations that prohibit discrimination and providing additional support to educators to prevent such discrimination.

Building on these critical efforts, today, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched a webpage that consolidates resources from across the Federal government about religious discrimination. The new page links to OCR’s relevant policy guidance and case resolutions involving religious discrimination claims, as well as resources in various languages and from other Federal agencies.

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