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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Why I Can’t Wait to Get Back to the Green Strides Tour

In June 2013, when we launched the first “Education Built to Last” Green Strides Tour, little did I know that I would be embarking on the best component of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award program to date. The 2013 tour took me to 11 states to engage in 40 events;  spanning Alabama, New England, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, DC.  Like the award, it was a fantastic opportunity to build relationships and make connections at federal, state, local and school levels for facilities, health, and environment.

In 2014, under the theme “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students,” and with an additional 46 events in 6 states, I enhanced my knowledge about green schools practices. From Boulder and Fort Collins, CO to Palm Beach and Broward, FL, from West Virginia to Kentucky, from Prior Lake Savage and Waconia, MN to Maryland, – practices that save money, improve health and achievement, and just happen to help our planet to boot – all of which make sense for school administrators, teachers, and the students we serve.

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Celebrating Five Years of Incentivizing Sustainable School Practices

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012, by defining “green school” according to three Pillars and recognizing 78 schools. In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and honored 64 schools and 14 districts.  It also began an annual tour spotlighting the practices of honorees and launched a Green Strides resources portal for all to employ. The 2013-2014 cycle named 48 school and 9 district honorees and added an honor for state officials. 2015 brought a postsecondary category, honoring 9 colleges and universities, 14 districts, and 58 schools recognized, and saw the revamping of the Green Strides portal.

Watch the Livestream: 

Just as I find it hard to believe my baby will turn one next week, I don’t know how it is that U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) hit five years of operation this one. On Wednesday, we recognized 47 schools, 15 districts, 11 postsecondary institutions, and one state education agency official at a Washington, DC ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic, place-based learning.

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“Advocacy is an Obligation, Not a Choice”: NBCDI Parent Power BootCamp

As President and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) I have the privilege of speaking before many audiences, but I’ve never been more excited to come before a group — and to hear the immediate feedback about the impact of the day — than I was during National Black Child Development Week. Themed “A Week of Action,” the centerpiece of the week was NBCDI’s first Parent Power BootCamp. Held in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the Parent Power BootCamp brought parents, caregivers and advocates together to “Get In-formation” – focusing both on exchanging knowledge and action planning to get in position to do the work of being relentless advocates and accountability agents on behalf of our children.

Caring and concerned adults wrote lessons learned and messages of affirmation to parent advocates across the nation. (Photo credit: National Black Child Development Institute)

Caring and concerned adults wrote lessons learned and messages of affirmation to parent advocates across the nation. (Photo credit: National Black Child Development Institute)

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Building a Summer Stride, not a Summer Slide

Tawana Bostic and students.

Eighth grade Higher Achievement Summer Academy Scholars listen attentively to Center Director, Tawana Bostic, as she reviews Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

School’s out, temperatures are rising, and, for many students across the country, the summer slide has begun. Each summer, low-income students lose two to three months of reading skills and two months of math skills. As the center director for an after school and summer academic program for middle school students in Washington, D.C.’s historically underserved neighborhood of Anacostia, I see these statistics firsthand every day.

Many of the students from the community we serve take one of three paths in the summer. In some of our better case scenarios, students are either required to enroll in remedial classes to move onto the next grade or they sign up for recreational programs that do not have an academic component. At worst, students stay at home where they either watch TV, play video games, or spend hours on the computer. For many of the students in these categories, the only interaction they have with math is getting change from a store clerk when purchasing snacks. Their reading interactions are limited to social media posts – nothing that requires critical thinking skills.

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7 Times Jaime Escalante Taught His Students About the Importance of ‘Ganas’

 

This week, the U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a Forever Stamp in recognition of Jaime Escalante’s life’s work. To celebrate this occasion, we are sharing 7 things this passionate teacher taught us about the importance of will, or in his own words, the importance of ‘Ganas.’


1. That time he taught his students about the importance of being yourself, and owning it:

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Investing In Positive School Climates at Yes Prep

In a June 28 speech at the annual conference for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Nashville, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King challenged charter school leaders to rethink how and why they address student behavior in our schools. Dr. King charged all charter school leaders gathered last week to honestly consider our own approaches. That includes YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, where I am the CEO.

In fact, over the past few years, YES Prep has done just that—and we’ve realized that our approach to student behavior and discipline needs to change. We have an intrinsic responsibility as educators to educate every single student who comes through our doors.

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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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