Welcoming Baby Green Ribbon… Sustainably

Over the past five years, I have had the task of breathing life into our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), growing the award to recognize not just schools, but also districts, postsecondary institutions, and state education agency officials, and to encompass social media, newsletter, resource and webinar portal, and annual tour, in addition to recognition award. At the same time, participating stakeholders, feds, states, districts, and schools have taught me about sustainable schools — and sustainable living.

Íñigo Steven Falken joined the Green Ribbon family on July 29.

Íñigo Steven Falken joined the Green Ribbon family on July 29.

Welcoming the other “Baby Green Ribbon” turned out to be a lesson in letting go and in living in accordance with the Pillars of our award. It was only natural that I implement our Pillars as I prepared for his arrival. We skied, swam, practiced yoga, hit the gym, and hiked through the pregnancy (including the day he was born). I investigated early learning centers with a view toward daylighting, nutrition, outdoor time, and walk or bikeability to school. I bought baby clothing and gear pre-loved, and wore a recycled maternity dress to our ceremony. I strove to be more resource efficient, since any single mom can certainly stand to cost-save on utilities.

With the support of supervisors at ED, I found work-life balance running this outreach and engagement initiative on a flexible schedule from Colorado. Now in our fifth cycle of the award, I’ve learned that we can incentivize change, spotlight innovative practices, and connect individuals, but that all of this works best when I push a little less and flow a little more.

Andrea and Íñigo live out the Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award.

Andrea and Íñigo live out the Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award.

Despite all of these gains, I admit that when 41 weeks rolled around, I panicked. Baby Green Ribbon’s lesson was, once again, by straining more, he wouldn’t necessarily arrive faster. Indeed, as I had experienced with both “projects,” patience has an important place in our sustainability work – individually, in schools, and in government.

After 41 weeks and three days, on July 29th, I welcomed Baby Boy Green Ribbon, Íñigo Steven Falken, in water at Colorado’s oldest free-standing birth clinic, Mountain Midwifery Center. Weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and measuring 20 inches, he was well worth the wait.

We are taking a break from the Green Strides Tour this year, but will be back to highlight innovative practices across the country next fall. The announcement of the 2016 cohort will once again take place on Earth Day and we will celebrate honorees at a fifth annual ceremony in July. Íñi can’t wait to meet his green schools family and to learn school and lifelong conservation, wellness, and environmental learning practices.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison. To learn more about U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, visit our website. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

100,000 Children in Over 200 Communities in 18 States Could Lose High-Quality Preschool Under the 2016 House and Senate Spending Bills

Budgets should never just be numbers on a piece of paper; they reflect our values. As the Vice President often says, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you actually value.

One thing we should all value is the high-quality early learning opportunities that are critical when it comes to helping students to succeed in school and ultimately in life. This is true for all of our young people, but especially, especially for those who come from low-income families and who also often start kindergarten between a year and 14 months behind their peers in pre-readings and language skills. So that means of the children who start school this fall, far too many are already a year to 14 months behind.

Unfortunately, the House and Senate are moving forward with partisan spending bills that cut several critically important investments that will support our country’s economic success and expand the opportunity for all, including our Preschool Development Grants. Right now, this grant is helping more than 200 high-need communities in 18 states to build and expand high-quality preschools. In fact, tens of thousands of additional children from low- and moderate-income families will start school in high-quality preschool programs this fall, thanks to these grants.

This week, the Administration released a Fact Sheet that shows by cutting this funding, as the spending bills currently do, Congress jeopardizes state and community plans to serve more than 100,000 additional children in high-quality preschools in the last two years of the grants. Real hard-working American families and their children would suffer. What we need is just a simple common sense approach to the budget, one that reflects the great work is already happening in states – red and blue, Republican and Democrat – across the nation to increase access to high-quality early learning.

Governors across the country, regardless of their party, are ready to join a partnership with the federal government, to invest more and provide high-quality preschool to children who need it and families who want it. President Obama’s proposal outlines how this can be done by calling for the expansion of preschool development grant to serve more than 350,000 additional children over four years.

These grants require a true partnership. Everyone must have skin in the game, with states and community organizations pledging additional matching funds on top of the federal grant, embodying the shared commitment needed to support our youngest learners. Under the President’s budget, states without Preschool Development Grants – states where there’s real need like Mississippi and Georgia and Ohio – could move forward with high-quality preschool.

Sadly, there remains a tremendous unmet need for high-quality preschool. Thirty-six states applied for the grant last year. Yet, we only have funds to support half of those proposals. But if we had the funding in place to award a grant to each state that applied, about 285,000 more preschoolers could have been served over four years.

Today, nationwide, less than half of our four-year-olds are enrolled in a publically-funded preschool program. This simply isn’t acceptable. We cannot succeed in a 21st-century globally competitive economy if we continue to short-change our students, particularly those who start out life in the most vulnerable situation. When it comes to ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed, we still have a long, long way to go. Investing in high-quality early learning would be a great start and a life-transforming experience.

Its right for our students, their families, and it’s right for our nation. States like New Jersey, Montana, Alabama and Hawaii are moving forward with more access to high-quality preschool and preparing our children for the future. It’s something that should and does concern all of us.

We simply cannot roll back on a progress we’ve made for our younger students, something the House and Senate budget would absolutely do. Instead, we must work together and forge ahead on our shared goal of equipping our babies with a world-class education starting with high-quality preschool.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

The Importance of Rigorous Coursework for All Students: A Teacher’s Perspective

Patrick Kelly, a 2015 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow, begins his eleventh year teaching Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics.

Patrick Kelly, a 2015 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow, begins his eleventh year teaching Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics.

This week, I will be starting my 11th year teaching Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics, and I have seen during that time the importance of a rigorous high school experience in preparing students to succeed in college. That’s why I was excited to see the U.S. Department of Education’s recent announcement of $28.4 million in federal grants to help students access AP classes. These grants are used to help pay for low-income students taking advanced placement tests administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, and Cambridge International Examinations.

As the College Board noted in its 2014 AP Report to the Nation, students who experience success in an AP course are more likely to graduate college on time and earn higher GPAs. Beyond the numbers, I have seen the positive impact of rigorous coursework in the stories of my students.

One of my greatest joys each year is to receive emails, calls, and visits from former students, and they frequently note how well their AP coursework in high school prepared them for a collegiate learning environment. In addition, an overwhelming majority of my students have performed well enough on the AP exam to receive college credit, which, in turn, has given them increased freedom and a leg up in their collegiate studies.

I also know my students are uniquely fortunate, as my home state of South Carolina pays the fee for each student in an AP course to take the exam. The cost to take an exam is nearly $100, and, while the College Board provides a reduced fee for students with financial need, the cost for these students is still over $50. As a result, this fee becomes a major obstacle to accessing a rigorous curriculum for many students in the 38 states that don’t pay for AP exams.

Currently, over 20 percent of our nation’s school-age children come from households living in poverty, and, for these children, paying the fees to take even one AP exam is simply not financially possible. However, this inability to pay does not mean these children lack the ability to thrive and succeed in rigorous coursework. I have taught numerous students who were in poverty or homeless, and they excelled in their coursework and earned college credit via the AP exam just like their more advantaged peers.

By distributing The Advanced Placement Test Fee grants announced last week, the Department of Education is extending opportunity to thousands of students around our country.

In the 21st century, student access to rigorous coursework is an essential right to prepare students for the workforce, and programs like this one are an important step in the right direction. There is still more work required in order to provide students from underprivileged backgrounds with the types of academic supports and systems necessary to succeed in challenging coursework, but eliminating barriers to accessing rigor is an essential first step. The Department of Education’s efforts to provide that access to more students is exactly the type of initiative that will help us reach our nation’s common goal of producing “college- and career-ready” students.

Patrick Kelly is a teacher in Richland County School District Two in Columbia, SC and has been selected as a 2015 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Suicide and Race

This post originally appeared on the SAMHSA blog.

In 2013, there were more than 41,000 deaths as a result of suicide in the U.S.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, claiming more lives each year than death due to motor vehicle crashes. Especially alarming, it is the second leading cause of death for young people age 10 to 24.

Suicide rates vary considerably within different population subgroups and are affected by factors such as socioeconomic status, employment, occupation, sexual orientation, and gender identity. For example, the rates of suicide were almost four times higher for men than for women and were highest among Whites. In 2013, suicide rates were 11.7 per 100,000 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 6.0 per 100,000 for Asians/Pacific Islanders, 5.3 per 100,000 for Hispanics, and 5.4 per 100,000 for African Americans.

However, racial and ethnic disparities can be deceptive.

In July of this year, JAMA PediatricsExternal Web Site Policy published a research paper analyzing childhood suicide trends from 1993 to 2012. One critical issue the authors found was that while school-aged suicide trends have stayed constant, trends on a racial level have changed substantially. In fact, the stable overall suicide rate has “obscured a significant increase in suicide incidence in black children.”

Obviously, this finding is concerning on many levels. However, more research is needed to understand the risk and protective factors for African American children and youth and to see if they are experiencing more exposure to violence, traumatic stress, and/or aggressive school discipline. Another example where more research is needed includes studies on earlier puberty in African American children to determine whether it is a risk for depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. Also, more knowledge is needed from the research lens to determine if there is sufficient evidence that religiosity and social support are in fact protective factors for this population or if the protective factors have changed over time.

It is essential to understand how culture and identity impact development and health.  The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans visits communities around the country to engage with students, families, educators and other partners to better understand how we can work collectively to support African American students.  Toxic stress in urban communities as well as stressors such as micro aggressions in affluent ones are regularly raised as issues by students and the caring adults who support them. According to The National Institutes of Health, one in threeExternal Web Site Policy African Americans who need mental health care receive it.  To support President Obama’s goal of restoring the country to its role as the global leader in education, and to improve educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, we must address mental health concerns.

Learning the answers to these and other questions will help us address this troubling trend. Suicide is a serious and preventable public health problem in the United States. SAMHSA is working with our partners across the country on suicide prevention, but we know that we cannot do this work alone and need the help of educators, parents, brothers, sisters, pastors, and many others. Please consider joining the National Action Alliance for Suicide PreventionExternal Web Site Policy. Also know the signs of suicidal behavior and seek help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention LifelineExternal Web Site Policy if you or someone you know is thinking about attempting suicide. If you don’t know where to find help, SAMHSA can help you find local resources for behavioral health through the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator and our toll free helpline 1-800-662-HELP(4357). If you are part of the healthcare and social services workforce, download our newest suicide prevention app Suicide Safe. Together we must address and work to decrease and eliminate suicide in all populations.

Find more information on suicide prevention

Jorielle R. Brown, Ph.D.is Director of the Division of Systems Development at the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Join Us in a Summer Reading Day of Action

RWYA graphic

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” —Mark Twain

The White House and the U.S. Department of Education are launching a Read Where You Are day of action on Wednesday July 29, to draw attention to the importance of summer reading. This is especially important in these remaining days and weeks of summer before students head back to school. Reading over the summer makes a huge difference during the school year, and helps prevent summer learning loss. When students keep reading, they keep learning, catch up, stay sharp and are more prepared when the new school year begins.

Children who don’t read over the summer don’t just feel like they’ve forgotten some of what they’ve learned — they actually do forget it. And the effect builds over time. Kids who lose reading skills over the summer – especially those who are disadvantaged – will be two years behind their classmates by the end of 6th grade. By participating in Read Where You Are, you can help prevent this from happening.

Everyone can and should be a part of this day of action. Here’s how:

  1. Spread the word: Tweet, retweet, post, snap, ‘gram and chat. Use social media and share widely! Make sure to use #ReadWhereYouAre.
  1. Read to the young people in your life and in your community. Take a picture and share it through social media using the #ReadWhereYouAre hashtag.
  1. Visit gov/readwhereyouare to learn more about other ways to keep reading and learning throughout the summer.

So get involved. It’s not just a fun and affordable way to connect with your kids during the summer months. It’s a surefire way to build a strong foundation for our children’s future.

Sweating the Small Stuff is Key to Improving School Climate and Discipline

It was the first day of school for 6th grader Zuliet Cabrera at The Urban Assembly Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, or LGJ, as our school is known in the Bronx and in New York City. She, along with 97 other new 6th graders, stood eagerly, though anxiously, in the lobby waiting for directions. My assistant principals (APs) and I were standing in the lobby to meet new students and welcome returning students back to school.

I looked over at Zuliet with a smile on my face, said good morning, and she immediately burst into tears. One of my APs, Ms. Hernandez, said, “This is Raylyn’s little sister; let me find her.” Raylyn soon arrived and we all talked and welcomed Zuliet to LGJ with hugs all around. It wasn’t too long before tears were dry and Zuliet was ready to move forward.

As districts and schools across the country are rethinking school discipline, it’s important to note that creating a positive school culture—one that is safe and supportive of all students and lays the foundation for high student achievement—is not about creating enough rules to cover every infraction a student could possibly violate. It is about creating systematic routines and rituals that students, faculty, staff, and families are invested in, and that encourage young people and adults alike to always do the right thing, whether the right thing to is follow certain school rules or give a tearful 6th grader a reassuring hug.

Each morning, my three APs and I greet our students and sweat what some might call the “small stuff.” We smile and welcome students to school; check and remind them about dress code; look directly at them for any hint of a problem, worry or concern; and, if we see or sense that one of our students is in need, we ask and address it immediately.

Many of our students’ challenges are identified and addressed because we simply don’t allow anyone to walk by in the morning without greeting them with a smile. Some concerns require a quick conversation, while other issues are more complicated and require the expertise of our social worker. What’s critical is that adults at LGJ work together and quickly so our students aren’t going through the day carrying the weight of worry on their shoulders. Creating a safe and supportive school climate at LGJ would be impossible without constantly communicating about the small stuff.

From Zuliet’s first day at LGJ, our priority was that she and her peers felt safe, supported, and part of our school family. At LGJ, we work to ensure the elements of any strong family – love, care, concern, communication, high expectations, and belief that all members of the family can achieve success.

Zuliet will begin the 10th grade this September. Four years later, we don’t talk much about the tears that flowed on her first day of school. But we often look at each other and share that silent memory, and when we do, she knows the LGJ family is and will always be there for her. And it all started with a hug.

Meisha Ross-Porter is Principal at The Urban Assembly Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice in New York City.

Una nueva guía para padres habilita la participación de las familias en la educación

Como padre de dos niños en las escuelas públicas, aprecio que las escuelas me informan con frecuencia sobre el progreso de mis hijos — a menudo hasta una vez por semana. Pero aun así a veces me pregunto cuál es el nivel de mis hijos en comparación con otros niños de su edad en el distrito, estado y país. Y aun como empleado del Departamento de Educación, no siempre sé cuáles preguntas debo hacer.


Por esta razón estoy contento por la nueva guía para padres que hoy lanzamos en colaboración con America Achieves, el Consejo Nacional de La Raza, National PTA, y el United Negro College Fund. La guía incluye preguntas que los padres deben hacer y recursos que pueden utilizar los padres y cuidadores para asegurar que sus niños reciban la educación que merecen. La guía sugiere preguntas importantes que hacer, consejos para el éxito educativo y recursos para obtener más información.

La guía complementa el conjunto de derechos que el Departamento publicó recientemente, donde se expone lo que las familias deben esperar de la educación de sus hijos. Los derechos se aplican a toda la trayectoria educativa y cubren todos los niveles educativos, incluido el acceso a una educación preescolar de calidad; escuelas primarias y secundarias seguras, con buenos recursos y normas altas de rendimiento para los estudiantes; y acceso a una educación universitaria de calidad a un precio asequible.

La guía sugiere las siguientes “preguntas básicas” que los padres deben plantear a los educadores de sus hijos, incluyendo:

Calidad: ¿Recibe mi hijo una buena educación?

  • ¿Cómo me mantendrán ustedes regularmente informado sobre el progreso de mi hijo? ¿Cómo podemos colaborar juntos si mi hijo se retrasa?
  • ¿Está mi hijo a nivel de grado y en camino de preparación para la universidad y el trabajo? ¿Cómo lo sabré?

Listos para el éxito: ¿Estará mi hijo preparado para triunfar en el futuro?

  • ¿Cómo se medirá el progreso y la capacidad de mi hijo en materias como lectura, matemática, ciencia, artes, desarrollo social y emocional, y otras actividades y materias?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo pasará mi hijo preparándose y tomando pruebas del estado y del distrito? ¿Cómo sabré yo y el maestro de mi hijo cómo utilizar los resultados para ayudar a mi hijo a avanzar?

Seguros y saludables: ¿Se cuida y mantiene seguro a mi hijo en la escuela?

  • ¿Qué programas existen para que la escuela sea un entorno seguro, enriquecedor y positivo? ¿Cuáles son las políticas de la escuela sobre la disciplina y para evitar el acoso en la escuela?
  • ¿Son saludables las comidas y meriendas proporcionadas en la escuela? ¿Cuánto tiempo se dedica al recreo o el ejercicio?

Buenos maestros: ¿Participa y aprende mi hijo en la escuela cada día?

  • ¿Cómo sabré si los maestros de mi hijo son eficaces?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo pasan los maestros colaborando entre sí?
  • ¿Qué tipo de desarrollo profesional hay para los maestros aquí?

Equidad y justicia: ¿Tienen mi hijo y los demás niños de la escuela o programa, la misma oportunidad de triunfar y de ser tratados justamente?

  • Cómo asegura la escuela que todos los estudiantes reciban un trato justo? (Por ejemplo, ¿existen diferencias en las tasas de suspensión o expulsión por raza o sexo?).
  • ¿Ofrece la escuela a todos los estudiantes acceso a las clases que necesitan para prepararse para el éxito, incluidos los estudiantes de inglés y los estudiantes con necesidades especiales (por ejemplo, Álgebra I y II, clases para dotados y talentosos, laboratorios de ciencia, clases AP o IB, arte, y música)?

Guíese por la guía.

Cameron Brenchley es subsecretario adjunto de comunicaciones en el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

New Parent Checklist Empowers Families

As a parent of two children in public schools, I appreciate how often I get updates on how they’re doing in school—sometimes as often as once a week! But it often leaves me wondering how my kids are stacking up against other kids their age in the district, state and country. And even as an employee at the Department of Education, I’m not always sure what questions I should be asking.


This is why I’m excited about a new parent checklist we’re releasing today in collaboration with America Achieves, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, and the United Negro College Fund. The parent checklist includes questions and resources that parents and caregivers can use to help ensure their children are getting the education they deserve. The checklist suggests key questions, tips for educational success and resources for more information.

The checklist follows the set of rights that the Department recently released outlining what families should be able to expect for their children’s education. The rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

The checklist suggests these “key questions” that parents should pose to their child’s educators, including:

Quality: Is my child getting a great education?

  • How will you keep me informed about how my child is doing on a regular basis? How can we work together if my child falls behind?
  • Is my child on grade level, and on track to be ready for college and a career? How do I know?

Ready for Success: Will my child be prepared to succeed in whatever comes next?

  • How will you measure my child’s progress and ability in subjects including reading, math, science, the arts, social and emotional development, and other activities?
  • How much time will my child spend preparing for and taking state and district tests? How will my child’s teacher and I know how to use the results to help my child make progress?

Safe and Healthy: Is my child safe and cared for at school?

  • What programs are in place to ensure that the school is a safe, nurturing and positive environment? What are the discipline and bullying policies at the school?
  • Are the meals and snacks provided healthy? How much time is there for recess and/or exercise?

Great Teachers: Is my child engaged and learning every day?

  • How do I know my child’s teachers are effective?
  • How much time do teachers get to collaborate with one another?
  • What kind of professional development is available to teachers here?

Equity and Fairness: Does my child, and every child at my child’s school or program, have the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly?

  • How does the school make sure that all students are treated fairly? (For example, are there any differences in suspension/expulsion rates by race or gender?)
  • Does the school offer all students access to the classes they need to prepare them for success, including English language learners and students with special needs (for example, Algebra I and II, gifted and talented classes, science labs, AP or IB classes, art, music)?

Check out the checklist for yourself.

Cameron Brenchley is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications at the U.S. Department of Education

Transgender Students Share School Experiences with ED Officials

Transgender students from across America shared their stories with Secretary Duncan. (Photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

Transgender students share their stories with Secretary Duncan. (Photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

ED recently invited a group of transgender students to speak about their school experiences at a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and senior officials.

During the roundtable in the Secretary’s conference room, students expressed the need for greater awareness of and school support for addressing issues affecting transgender students. They emphasized the importance of having their gender identity and expression respected within their learning community and feeling safe in school.

During the discussion, students talked about their experiences in school, such as being prevented from using the proper bathroom as well as being punished as a victim of bullies’ physical assaults. They also talked about what a tremendous difference it makes to their ability to learn and feel safe at school when they have the support of educators who believe in them.

ED officials listened to the students’ recommendations about how we can foster safer educational communities for transgender youth and ensure that all students can learn in safe and healthy environments. Among other things, students advocated for:

  • schools to implement proper bathroom and locker room utilization,
  • consistent recognition of appropriate names and pronouns, and
  • elimination of the school to prison pipeline.

ED welcomed the dialogue and the chance to hear from these students. As one student explained, “It’s all about being true to yourself.” Embracing individuality and authenticity is a lesson that we all can learn from these courageous students.

Samuel Ryan is the Special Assistant and Youth Liaison and Hannah Pomfret attends McGill University and is an intern at U.S. Department of Education.

La voz de los padres es esencial en la educación

Los padres son un ingrediente imprescindible de la educación. Los padres pueden ser la voz de grandes expectativas para los niños y para apoyar a los educadores en la creación de escuelas donde todos los niños reciban lo que necesitan para tener éxito. Una excelente educación es un derecho civil de cada niño; y mientras que nuestra nación ha dado grandes pasos, incluido una tasa récord de graduación de escuela secundaria, y asistencia a la universidad en máximos históricos, tenemos mucho camino por recorrer para asegurar que todos los niños tengan las mismas oportunidades de aprender.

Los padres pueden desempeñar un papel clave en exigir una educación de clase mundial para sus hijos, como se merecen. Pero, para muchos padres y familias puede ser una tarea incierta determinar cuál es la mejor manera de apoyar a sus hijos o qué preguntas deben hacer para asegurar que sus hijos aprendan y se desarrollen.

Por eso hoy, hablando desde el punto de vista de un padre de dos niños pequeños, el secretario Arne Duncan describió un conjunto de derechos educativos que debe tener cada familia en Estados Unidos, durante su discurso en la Convención Nacional de la PTA en Charlotte, Carolina del Norte. Este conjunto de tres derechos fundamentales que tienen las familias puede unir a todos los que trabajan para asegurar que los estudiantes estén preparados para prosperar en la escuela y en la vida. Estos derechos acompañan la trayectoria educativa del estudiante, incluido el acceso a la educación preescolar de calidad; la participación en escuelas primarias y secundarias seguras, dotadas con buenos recursos, y que requieren un alto nivel de todos los estudiantes; y acceso a una educación superior de calidad a precio asequible.


Los padres y las familias pueden usar estos elementos básicos y necesarios de una excelente educación para construir relaciones más profundas con los educadores, administradores y líderes de la comunidad en apoyo de las escuelas, para que estos derechos se conviertan en realidad. Durante la Convención, el secretario Duncan también declaró su esperanza de que los padres le pidan cuentas a los funcionarios electos y los demás responsables, para acelerar el progreso en la educación y ampliar las oportunidades a más niños, especialmente los más vulnerables de nuestra nación.

Las declaraciones del secretario Duncan sobre este conjunto de derechos complementa el trabajo del Departamento de Educación para llegar a los padres, incluido la iniciativa Marco de desarrollo de capacidad dual para establecer alianzas entre las familias y las escuelas, presentada el año pasado; las herramientas que pueden ayudar a las familias y los estudiantes a seleccionar la universidad más adecuada para ellos; y el apoyo de los Centros de Capacitación e Información para Padres, y otros centros de recursos.

Durante su estancia en Charlotte, el secretario Duncan también participó en el panel “Escuelas Preparadas para el Futuro” (Future Ready Schools) para enfatizar la importancia de integrar la tecnología en el aula, sobre todo como una herramienta para promover la equidad para todos los estudiantes.

Para aprender más sobre los derechos que el secretario Duncan discutió hoy y para encontrar otros recursos para padres y familias, visite la página web del Departamento: Participación Familiar y Comunitaria. También considere unirse al secretario Duncan en una charla en Twitter para continuar el diálogo sobre la participación de los padres en la educación, que se celebrará el 1 de julio a las 1:30 p.m., hora del este, usando #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber es la jefa de personal para Desarrollo de Comunicaciones en el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

The Critical Voice of Parents in Education

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.


Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development at the U.S. Department of Education

Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

This blog originally appeared on the White House Rural Council blog.

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX on May 24, 2012. The SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered by the states in which they reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer months. USDA photo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX on May 24, 2012. The SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered by the states in which they reimburse organizations for meals served to children during the summer months. USDA photo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs.

The Obama administration has addressed the challenge head-on, investing unprecedented energy and resources to increasing participation in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

And the impact has been significant. In 2014, in the peak operating month of July, over 45,000 summer meal sites were available across the U.S., a 29 percent increase from 2009. All told, last summer the USDA Food and Nutrition Service delivered 23 million more meals than in the summer of 2009. But we know that in order to get every kid a nutritious meal this summer, we need to get everyone involved, from schools to federal agencies to volunteers in local communities. Check out this handy toolkit to see how you can help!

A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Today, the Administration is making a series of announcements designed to serve more meals this summer in rural and tribal areas.

  • Launching the “Summer Meals Site Finder.” Children and parents can now go to www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks on their computer or smartphone and enter an address, city, state, or zip code to find the location and other information of nearby summer meal sites.
  • Bringing in some help! This summer, certain high-need rural and tribal communities will get the help of 60 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates to help recruit volunteers, raise awareness of the summer meal program, and provide operational support.
  • Partnering with others. We’re teaming up with organizations like the National Football League and Feeding America to help raise awareness, target outreach, and deliver meals in rural and urban areas.

By working together with families, local schools, and private organizations, we are helping to make sure that children can easily get the nutritious meals they need to be healthy and ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.

Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education and Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.