Planning for Potential Lapse in Funding

As many of you are aware, annual funding for the government expires on Dec. 9.  The Administration strongly believes that a lapse in funding should not occur.  There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations.

However, prudent management requires that we be prepared for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur.  As we saw in 2013, a lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding, and that a number of employees would again be temporarily furloughed.  To prepare for this possibility, we are working to update our contingency plans for executing an orderly shutdown of activities that would be affected by a lapse in appropriations.  To that end, we are posting our shut down plan here.

Committing to More Adult Schools by 2020

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Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin, Chief of Staff Carmen Drummond, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Ford listen to Carlos Rosario student Senovio, a student in the culinary arts program.

Over the last few months, staff of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) visited adult charter schools and schools for disconnected or opportunity youth in the D.C. area. We were inspired by the dedicated students, faculty, and staff and saw the need for more high-quality and adequately resourced adult and family charter schools, pilot schools, or other blended learning or hybrid schools for adults and opportunity youth in the United States. There are currently 36 million adults and 5.3 million disconnected or opportunity youth in the country who could benefit from access to such schools.

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Ensuring Every Student Succeeds

As we reflect on the important work that we have been able to do throughout the Administration, we wanted to highlight some of our key messages. This is part of a reflection series presented by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Ensuring educational access for all youth requires partnerships beyond the classroom. Educators have partnered with youth, families, faith-based and community organizations to create a culture of educational excellence and academic achievement. It is this intentionality of partnership that has created vibrant and cohesive school communities across the country. These communities provide a space and place necessary for academic achievement. The Department of Education Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships (ED Center) plays a key role in promoting student achievement by connecting schools and community-based organizations, both secular and faith-based.

Through Together for Tomorrow, promising practices for educational achievement are shared among schools, families, national service programs, and community-based organizations. These practices continue to propel improvement of our lowest-performing schools. This partnership is possible with the cooperation of the Corporation for National and Community Service and community partners such as, the Boys and Girls Club, United Way, and National Center for Families Learning.

In addition, the ED Center formed an Memorandum of Understanding with the National League of Cities Institute, to increase visibility, understanding and appreciation of the role that mayors can play in leading educational change in their communities by advancing strong early childhood opportunities, citywide high-quality afterschool programs, and strategies to improve postsecondary success rates.

Resources and tools provided through the Department of Education have helped faith-based and community organizations, educators and families address challenges like “bridging the word gap”; improving parent and family engagement and other items in the Education Matters bulletin.

As educators and communities begin implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act we know that continued partnerships, between schools and community-based organizations, both secular and faith-based, will be crucial to fulfilling our shared vision of, in the words of President Obama, the “fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will through education.”

Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell, J.D. is the Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Raising Expectations and Rethinking Discipline

Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series about rethinking discipline in charter schools.

I remember when my 6th grade teacher challenged my class to read a 1,000 page novel—something I knew even then was well beyond what most 11-year-olds were usually asked to do.

At the time, I grumbled about why Ms. Soberman was making our class work harder. Later, when I became a teacher myself, I realized that by assigning such a challenging book, it was Ms. Soberman who was working harder. By raising the level of expectation, she was increasing the likelihood that each of us might struggle – and that she’d have to figure out how to help each of us with our particular challenge.

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Transformative School Leadership – A Principal’s Perspective

Recently, the Department of Education released new guidance on Title II that explains how states and districts can use these federal funds to better prepare, support, and retain teachers and school leaders, especially those who serve our most vulnerable students.

Like many principals, I try to be as informed as possible about anything that affects my building, my teachers, and our students. Oxon Hill High School in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Md., where I have served as principal for the last seven years, is renowned in the district for ensuring that students’ voices on social justice issues are heard, and I’m also proud of the broad range of teacher leadership opportunities that we have made available and that, I believe, have led us to great success.

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Teach with Corazón and a Lot of Ganas

I began teaching roughly 10 years ago. With nothing more than a teaching certification and a lot of ganas or desire to be successful, I was hired at César Chávez High School. At the end of the interview, I remember the principal telling me that I had answered every single question incorrectly, but that he saw potential in me and was willing to give me a chance. One of the questions he asked me was if I wanted the students to like me. I was quick to respond — no. I was there to teach students, not to be their friend. Boy, have I come a long way!

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Ensuring Equity Across Rural Schools

During my 11 years as a classroom teacher, I have learned that many things shape the learning opportunities available to a child. These factors can range from the abilities of the classroom teacher, to the climate of the school, to the leadership and vision of administration. We rightfully spend a lot of time discussing how to ensure our children receive the very best in all of these areas. However, last week I encountered one factor we don’t talk about nearly enough, something that can make a more profound difference for children than all others. What is this difference? 23 miles.

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A Second Chance for an Education

The Obama Administration is committed to creating a fairer, more effective criminal justice system. We want to lessen the impact of mass incarceration on our communities and help the men and women who rejoin society from our jails and prisons to build successful, crime-free lives.

Today, we’re announcing the selection of 67 postsecondary institutions to participate in the Second Chance Pell Program, which will evaluate the impact that Pell Grants have in helping incarcerated men and women pursue and attain a high-quality postsecondary education.

In total, nearly 12,000 students at more than a hundred federal and state correctional institutions will access approximately $30 million in Pell Grants, across 27 states in every region of the country.

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What College Accreditation Changes Mean for Students

Editor’s note (10/25/16): On Friday, Oct. 21, ACICS  appealed the senior Department official’s decision to uphold the NACIQI and Department staff recommendations to end the agency’s federal recognition. The  appeal will be decided by the U.S. Secretary of Education; there is no deadline for the Secretary to render a decision. Until he decides, there is no change in federal student aid eligibility for ACICS-accredited institutions.

Editor’s note (9/22/16): Today, the designated senior Department official upheld the NACIQI and Department staff recommendations to end recognition of ACICS. The agency has ten calendar days to inform the Department of their intent to appeal the decision to the U.S. Secretary of Education if it wishes to do so.

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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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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Strengthening Accreditation to Protect Students

As I wrote back in February, accreditation plays a critical role in protecting students and taxpayers. Students and families trust that approval from an accrediting agency means that a school or program prepares its graduates for work and life. The federal government also relies on accreditation to affirm that the education provided by that institution or program is a worthy investment of taxpayer dollars.  Unfortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen far too many schools maintain their institutional accreditation even while defrauding and misleading students, providing poor quality education, or closing without recourse for students. This is inexcusable. Accreditation can and must be the mark of quality that the public expects.

That’s why the Department has been working to strengthen the accreditation system. We have published information about accreditors’ standards and the student outcomes at the institutions and programs they have approved. We are taking steps to increase transparency around accreditors’ reviews of institutions and resulting actions. We will soon publish guidance to encourage accreditors to use the flexibility they have in order to target their resources to problematic and poorly performing institutions and programs. And we are increasing our focus on outcomes in our own process of recognizing accreditors.

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