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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Finding Success with Afterschool Physical Education Programs

The bell rings and they can’t wait. After a long day in the classroom, kids of all ages race to open fields on the other side of the school parking lot. That’s the goal, anyway. But for many kids, daily opportunities for fitness are a far cry from reality.

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Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say school-age children should be physically active at least one hour a day. Most 9- to 13-year-olds do get their daily dose of physical activity, with more than three-quarters exercising throughout the week. But that percentage significantly declines as children grow older. In 2013, less than a third of high school students met the one-hour mark or attended physical education classes during an average school week. As children become more sedentary, their risk grows for developing chronic health problems down the road. The problem is especially acute for children from low-income families.

How do we make sure every young person — no matter where they live or their family’s income — has the opportunity to be active and healthy every day? We believe schools are an important part of the answer. Simply put: children go to school five days a week, so schools are in a unique position to help kids exercise regularly. Plus, physical activity helps kids concentrate on classroom tasks and improve their standardized test scores. That means schools have a vested interest in keeping kids active so they’ll do better academically.

Unfortunately, many school districts lack the resources to offer robust physical education programs. There are lots of reasons schools have had to cut back on physical education classes and recess: not enough funding, few safe spaces to play, the need for more classroom time to make sure every child is given educational opportunity. The number of things schools have to accomplish every day is enormous.

And that’s where the U.S. Soccer Foundation comes in.

Recently leaders from our organization met with staff at the Department of Education to discuss our partnerships with schools across the country, especially in underserved communities. We offer proven youth development programs, build fields where children can play safely, and supply much-needed athletic equipment. Afterschool programs like ours not only give students a physical outlet, they also increase the effort kids put into school, keep them from skipping class, and boost their academic confidence.

An independent evaluation of our Soccer for Success afterschool program found that 89 percent of children who started the program overweight or obese left it with improved or maintained aerobic capacity. When it came to school, 89 percent of students said they tried harder as a result of the program, and 85 percent said they tried harder to avoid violence and fighting.

We love talking to teachers about how our programs turn their students around. To enhance our children’s academic performance and help them feel more engaged in the classroom, we as a community have to do more to bring physical activity and academia together. We look forward to hearing from schools and educators about your vision for ensuring that every young person has the chance to live a full and healthy life.

Wylie Chen is Vice President of Programs and Grants at the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

8 Common Student Loan Mistakes

8 Common Student Loan Mistakes

Mistake #1: Letting your contact information become out-of-date

Moving away from campus?

Changing your cell phone number or e-mail address?

Make sure you let your loan servicer know. Their services are provided free of charge, but they can only help you if they can reach you.


Mistake #2: Paying for student loan help

You may have seen an ad on Facebook, or gotten phone calls or letters from companies offering to help you lower your payment or apply for loan forgiveness for a fee. If someone asks you to pay for these services, you are not dealing with the U.S. Department of Education or our loan servicers.

We don’t charge application or maintenance fees.  If you’re asked to pay, walk away (or hang up).

Contact your loan servicer for free student loan help.

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Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act to Enhance Equity and Excellence

So much of the strength of our communities, and our country, is derived from the promise of opportunity—the idea that if you work hard, you can make of your life what you will.

For that promise to be realized, we must be committed to providing all students—regardless of their background or circumstances—with a high-quality college- and career-ready education. As President Obama has said, this is the civil rights issue of our time.

Our new, federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides a powerful opportunity for educators, administrators, school leaders, parents and families, and everyone who works on behalf of our children’s future, to ensure excellence and equity in our public schools—and to reclaim the promise of a truly high- quality, well-rounded education for every student.

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Teacher-Powered Innovation: the Value of and Opportunity for Teacher Leadership in Schools and Policy

When we do everything right in schools, our students move closer to that peak on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – self-actualization. It sounds pretty awesome. I’d like to achieve self-actualization too. But when you’re a student facing poverty, racism, family trouble, or just life as a kid growing up, that peak starts looking like K2.

The question then becomes what changes can we make in our systems so that schools can support students in meeting their basic needs while still pushing them to make academic gains that will impact their future choices and opportunities? For me, answering that question starts with the people who are with the students every day – their teachers.

As a founding teacher on the Design Team for the pilot high school, Social Justice Humanitas Academy (SJHA) in Los Angeles, last week I was invited to join a small group of teachers and principals in a Tea with Teachers meeting with Secretary of Education John King to discuss the value of teacher leadership in schools and in educational policy-making. SJHA is a Teacher-Powered School, and as such is driven by teachers and their connection to students. The school was founded by a group of teachers who envisioned a school centered on building our students’ humanity through curriculum that is rigorous and relevant to our students.

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Teachers discuss teacher leadership with Secretary of Education John King during a Tea with Teachers session.

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