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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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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When Everyone Owns the Place of the Arts

Boston is known as the “birthplace of public education” in America, so it’s only fitting that the Boston Public Schools (BPS) was celebrated at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) with an opening reception and ribbon cutting to highlight its student art exhibit, A Brighter Boston: Inspiring Creative Minds. The exhibit, now in ED’s headquarters, features 68 2-D and 3-D pieces from K – 12 students representing 17 Boston public schools. BPS received over 125 entries from teachers, which a panel of judges adjudicated.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. delivered the opening remarks. King was a teacher and an education leader in the state, having cofounded Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, a Boston middle school that became Massachusetts’ highest-performing open-admission urban middle school. In his remarks, King stressed the importance of the arts for providing a well-rounded education, acknowledging that there is not enough emphasis on the fact that “a well-rounded education is an excellent education.” This echoed his messages earlier in the month, at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, to advocate for a well-rounded education for all students.

U.S. Secretary of Education John King delivers opening remarks.

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Equity is the Theme Every Week, but Especially This Week

From its first day, the Obama Administration has worked to ensure opportunity for all students – no matter their zip code. Educational equity underscores the work of the U.S. Department of Education, and this week offers a glimpse into the far-ranging work of the Department as we support schools, families, communities and states in ensuring every student has the opportunity to be successful.

We start the week with an event at the White House with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz the discrimination, harassment and bullying of Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian – known as MASSA – students in schools. The event will give us a chance to hear directly from educators, students, parents and community members about how to best create safe and supportive learning environments for all students.

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Youth Formerly in Foster Care Help Create Federal Foster Care Transition Toolkit

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Being a youth in foster care can be difficult. Some youth in foster care often experience trauma before entering into the foster care system. Once youth enter foster care, there are often a lack sufficient role models and resources are either scarce or spread out. Gaining access to information about even the simplest things, like opening a bank account, can be a real hurdle. That’s why the recently released Foster Care Transition Toolkit is so important.

The toolkit was first envisioned in 2015 at a roundtable at Cincinnati Community College. During this meeting, students from the Columbus State Community College Scholar Network urged the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and other agencies to help them and other youth in foster care across the country better transition to college, successfully navigate through college and then to a career.

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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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ED Seeks Fall Interns

stu voices with kingAre you interested in serving in the final term of the historic Obama administration at the U.S. Department of Education? 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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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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