After Hurricanes, USVI Residents Choose Hope

After three devastating hurricanes struck the Caribbean, the Department of Education undertook a series of actions to support the U.S. Virgin Islands through their recovery process. As part of that effort, ED staff committed to travelling to the Islands to provide resources, assistance, and expertise.

In November, as the ED team began their descent into the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the large-scale devastation left by Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria became alarmingly clear. Once lushly green, the landscape had turned muddy and brown. Roads were washed out entirely; buildings were roofless or pushed off their foundations; parts of the islands were left in total darkness. Businesses — the lifeblood of an economy so reliant on tourism — were shuttered.

The team, which included Iyauta Green (Risk Management Service), Joy Medley (Office of School Support and Rural Programs), and Mark Robinson (Risk Management Service), then began a five day trip to assess the damage that the storms had left behind.

They also spoke with administrators — including private school headmasters — teachers, students, and staff at the Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) administration, including Commissioner Sharon McCollum. From them, ED staff learned about the many needs facing the Islands and their students.

The storms hadn’t just created immediate, physical interruptions. They’d also halted progress toward a larger priority for the USVI: to diversify the workforce. Dr. McCollum had long wanted to keep the local economy competitive, and was concerned about students leaving the island — and taking their skills and talents with them. Instead, post-hurricanes, nearly 10 percent of students had left the USVI to continue, or finish, their education.

And students still on the Islands were required to adapt to a “new normal.” Many school buildings were either closed or operating on split schedules. At Ulla Muller Elementary School on St. Thomas, children ate FEMA packets instead of hot lunches.

Read more about the ED team’s visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands at Medium…

 

ED Releases Secretary’s Proposed Priorities for Competitive Grant Programs

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the Secretary’s proposed priorities for ED’s competitive grant programs and launched the 30-day public comment period. Once we consider the comments received and issue the Secretary’s final priorities, the Secretary may choose to use one or more of them in competitions for new grant awards this year and in future years. These priorities align with the vision set forth by the Secretary in support of high-quality educational opportunities for students of all ages.

Read More

ED Provides Information Site, Activates Emergency Response Contact Center in Response to Hurricane Harvey

In response to the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Department of Education has activated an emergency response contact center and created an information page on the ED website.

ED’s Hurricane Harvey Information webpage contains relevant information from the U.S. Department of Education as well as links to other Federal resources to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The website will be updated as new information is received so users are urged to continue checking the site for the latest.

Read More

What the World Can Teach Us: International Lessons on Choice and Innovation in Education

Every student in the United States deserves a great education. And, every parent in this country – regardless of background, income or zip code – deserves the right to choose the school that is best for his or her child.

To achieve that goal, Secretary DeVos has called for “a transformation that will open up America’s education system.” If we’re going to meet the diverse needs of today’s learners, we need fresh thinking and innovative approaches.  There’s plenty we can learn from other countries, as they strive to prepare their students for 21st century realities.

Those lessons were the subject of a recent briefing at the Department – the first of a new series of learning sessions the Secretary has launched, focused on effective, student-centered education. The speaker was Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Read More

Staff Selfies with Secretary DeVos

As new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been settling in to her new job, she has been meeting ED career staff and learning about their contributions to the agency.  Several quick-fingered staffers have snapped fun, informal photos and selfies with ED’s new leader, and Inside ED has collected several of their smiling photos here.

Carolyn Dempster of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer shows off her one-handed selfie skills with DeVos.

Read More

Secretary DeVos Joins Ivanka Trump, Astronaut in Women’s History Month Celebration at Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

The Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures chronicles the inspiring story of three brilliant African American women mathematicians who, despite the barriers put in their way, played a pivotal role in one of our nation’s greatest achievements. These “human computers” performed by hand the complex mathematical calculations required to put a man into orbit around the Earth.

To commemorate Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM) hosted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Ivanka Trump, Astronaut Kay Hire, women from NASA and more than 400 local students at an event celebrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that culminated in a viewing of the film.

The students, from a number of D.C., Maryland and Virginia schools, were treated to exhibits celebrating space exploration, motivational presentations and, of course, the movie.

Read More