When asked to share their thoughts on the benefits of school choice and their homeschool experience, this military family did what they do every day: they turned the occasion into a learning opportunity. Dan, his wife Jenna, and their six kids gathered at the dinner table to shape a response – as individual, independent thinkers and as a family.
In this interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, the family describes the transformative of impact school choice.
Students need a strong foundation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math, including computer science) education to be prepared for the careers and challenges of the 21st century and beyond. Algebra I is considered the “gatekeeper” course to advanced math and science, with early access and enrollment crucial for students’ future success in STEM. However, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s newly released “data story” , while 80% of public school students are able to take Algebra I early — in 8th grade — only 24% of students actually do so. This “leak” in the STEM pipeline can have long-term effects on students’ education and career opportunities.
When it came time for Miami resident Lily Suquet and her son Ethan to determine which middle school Ethan would attend, they decided to shop around. After looking at five different schools, they finally settled on Jose Marti Mast Academy in Hialeah, a magnet school with a STEM focus, where Ethan is now an 11th grader.
At his old school, Ethan regularly achieved straight A’s, but he knew that a more challenging learning environment would enhance his education and better prepare him for future success, so in choosing Jose Marti, he chose a school that would test his learning capacity.
Throughout the months of September and October, the U.S. Department of Education hosted its Rethink School Tour. This year’s tour consisted of 16 Department of Education officials visiting 46 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia. Department of Education officials met with over 47 national, state and local elected and appointed officials while visiting close to 90 schools and programs throughout the country.
During the tour, Department officials had the opportunity to observe interesting approaches to K-12 and higher education, meet with and hear from students, teachers, parents and administrators and celebrate the many ways rethinking education benefits students everywhere.
Here is what we saw on the 2018 Rethink School Tour.
If you’d met Micah Ohanian before seventh grade, you’d encounter a young man who was struggling to succeed in an assigned neighborhood school, yet, a student who was determined to find an academic environment that truly worked for him.
“School choice benefited me,” he says simply, “in the best way.”
Micah describes the teaching approach at his former middle school as forging ahead from topic to topic on an inflexible schedule, with few accommodations for students with different learning needs.
“There are so many active-duty military families today who are making decisions about how they advance within the military, or where they are going to live… based on educational opportunities for their children,” Secretary DeVos recently said in a conversation with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. “I think we have the opportunity to change the dynamic for them.”
Maddie Shick is from one such family – and, despite being a bright student, she faces challenges that accompany a military-connected lifestyle. A self-proclaimed “professional new girl,” Maddie is now a sophomore at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida.
“North Idaho STEM Academy was created at the request of parents and the community.”
The first line of the school’s promotional video, found on its website, underscores a key – indeed, perhaps the most important — tenet of North Idaho STEM Academy: it was created for the community, and by the community.
Opened in September 2012, the school serves students in kindergarten through grade 12 in Rathdrum, Idaho, and surrounding areas. School leaders don’t consider STEM a “buzzword” or a fad; instead, teachers incorporate science, technology, engineering and math into everything that students learn and do – from kindergarten through graduation.
Thanks to the Professional Performing Arts School – located in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district – New York City is about to be home to a few more young stars.
The high school, also known as PPAS, serves nearly 500 students who dream of pursuing dance, drama, music, or musical theater. Students in grades six through twelve split their days between academic instruction — when they can enroll in Advanced Placement courses or earn college credit through partnerships with New York University, Fordham University, and others — and arts instruction.
As one of more than 400 high schools in New York City, PPAS offers students the opportunity to partner with some of the foremost programs in the city, like the Ailey School, the National Chorale, the Julliard School, the American Ballet Theatre and Rosie’s Theater Kids.
Superintendent Kirk Koennecke smiles as he recounts how his rural school district’s connection with the Lean Six Sigma business process began, as a way to offer new learning options and provide marketable skills for students. When courses in this well-known enterprise improvement approach were offered locally, no adults signed up. But students did – and educators at Graham Local Schools saw an opening.
School leaders seized on Lean Six Sigma training as a way to help more students gain recognized tools for the world of work. Interest has grown, and this year, every junior is scheduled to receive a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt designation through their standard business electives. Seniors from Graham High School now have the option to graduate with Green Belt certification, in addition to their diploma.
The U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the launch of the Comprehensive Center Network (CC Network) website. The CC Network website brings together a compilation of more than 700 resources developed by 23 Comprehensive Centers and over 200 projects currently underway in states across the country and makes searching by state or topic easier.
Through a single website, the CC Network portal, anyone interested in learning more of the broad range of education initiatives funded by the U. S. Department of Education, through the Department’s comprehensive centers, may examine the hundreds of efforts underway, or completed, through the nation’s network of centers. Visit the site today at www.CompCenterNetwork.org and follow CCN on Twitter for important website updates.
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.
The U.S. Department of Education today published a new set of Secretary’s Supplemental Grant Priorities and Definitions for use in discretionary grant competitions. These priorities replaced the priorities published in 2010 and 2014. The Secretary published 11 priorities, each with one or multiple subparts, and a series of definitions that can be used—alone or in combination with one another—in discretionary grant competitions beginning in Fiscal Year 2018. These priorities align with the vision set forth by the Secretary in support of high-quality educational opportunities in support of lifelong learning.
The priorities are:
Priority 1–Empowering Families and Individuals to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Unique Needs.
Priority 2–Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers.
Priority 3–Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills.
Priority 4–Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens.
Priority 5–Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children with Disabilities and/or those with Unique Gifts and Talents.
Priority 6–Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) Education, With a Particular Focus on Computer Science.
Priority 7–Promoting Literacy.
Priority 8–Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools.
Priority 9–Promoting Economic Opportunity.
Priority 10–Protecting Freedom of Speech and Encouraging Respectful Interactions in a Safe Educational Environment.
Priority 11–Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational.