By Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program, ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment liaison, and Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award program
Responding to feedback from the 2020 ED-GRS cohort that a recognition award—without a recognition ceremony—doesn’t feel the same, we offered as much in-person recognition as we could for this year’s ED Green Ribbon Schools honorees. On Sept. 28, we recognized 27 schools, three early learning centers, five school districts, five postsecondary institutions, as well as three state education agency officials at a Washington, D.C., ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and authentic place-based learning. Prioritizing climate and sustainability in schools and school systems is central to President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, which includes a $100 billion investment in rebuilding our nation’s public schools to create safe and healthy learning environments for all students.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education awarded 68 new grants totaling $185,511,391 million through the Alaska Native Education (ANE) and Native Hawaiian Education (NHE) programs. ANE grants were made to Alaska Native Organizations and entities located in Alaska that are governed predominately by Alaska Natives and support innovative projects that recognize and address the unique educational needs of Alaska Native children and adults. Similarly, NHE grants were made to Native Hawaiian educational organizations; Native Hawaiian community-based organizations; and public and private nonprofit organizations, agencies, and institutions with experience in developing or operating Native Hawaiian programs or programs of instruction in the Native Hawaiian language address a significant need to assist Native Hawaiians and to supplement and expand educational programs. The American Rescue Plan made available an additional $170 million to support these programs.
In 2011, we launched the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award and began honoring schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions for their work to: 1) reduce environmental impacts and save money; 2) improve health and wellness; and 3) teach effective environmental and sustainability education.
To the educators who are preparing for this upcoming school year or those who have already begun,
After a school year of uncertainty, this is a reminder that you are valid in your feelings about this school year. Whether you are eager to begin or are still recovering from the previous year, I want to encourage you to think back to your “why”. In the midst of it all, it is easy to forget what brought us to this profession. We all have different stories that led us to become educators. So throughout this school year, I challenge you to take a moment and reflect back to the beginning of your story.
Even a pandemic cannot stop the arrival of year two of the newest recognition award at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Designed to shine a spotlight on good work and ignite more positive contributions, while engaging state and local stakeholders, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award is kicking off its second award cycle, with nominations due to ED this fall. ED is also seeking peer reviewers to help select the single national honoree this winter.
This award was inaugurated back in April 2019, when Congress passed the Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act, enabling ED to begin honoring one extraordinary education support professional annually. The subsequent fall, ED officially launched the first award cycle.
By Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., Acting Assistant Secretary for Office of Postsecondary Education, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs
Protecting First Amendment freedoms on public university and college campuses is essential. Whether it is having the freedom to debate the issues of the day, to gather for expressive purposes, or to engage in protected religious practices, safeguarding First Amendment liberties for students, faculty and administrators serves us all.
For some, expressing their faith is an important aspect of their identity as well as their college experience. The United States Constitution provides strong protections for students to express and practice their faith on public college and university campuses. In particular, the First Amendment requires that public colleges and universities not infringe upon students’ rights to engage in protected free speech and religious exercise, such as associating with fellow members of their religious communities and sharing the tenets of their faith with others.
While districts plan and support the return for more schools implementing in person learning across the nation for the upcoming school year, the ongoing pandemic creates unforeseen challenges for schools. The meticulous rollout of safety plan guidelines and methods accommodating academic programming to meet the needs of school communities will require increased efforts of collaboration and discipline throughout the 2021 –2022 academic year and beyond. Embracing these challenges while sustaining work-life-balance for those in the education profession involves an immediate attention to self-care practices and high levels of flexibility and creativity.
Research shows that teachers who identify as leaders are more likely to stay in the profession longer and have a greater impact on student achievement. Teacher turnover and shortages in certain subjects and geographic areas have been an ongoing concern, and there are fears this shortage will continue to spread throughout the country. Recruiting more teachers can’t offset turnover alone, so retaining teachers is important. We know the value of experienced teachers and districts saves money in onboarding and training costs when they are able to keep teachers in the profession. Teacher leadership fosters collaboration, excitement about the profession, increases teachers’ skills, and benefits communities. Donna Harris-Aikens, Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning, met with teacher leaders to talk about the kind of experiences that foster and support teacher leaders in the classroom and throughout their educator networks. Here are the top five takeaways from teachers across the country on engaging and supporting teacher leaders.
By: Amy Loyd, Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently invited students who had attended college-in-prison programs to share their experiences. Their stories were moving; all of the students who attended the virtual roundtable told the Secretary that they truly realized their potential while participating in education while in prison, thanks in large part to the efforts of educational institutions that offered them a second chance. Today, those students have rewarding careers and full lives. Most are also actively engaged, in one way or another, in ensuring that people who are currently incarcerated received a second chance just like they did. Postsecondary educational programs offered in prisons give students who are incarcerated new opportunities to improve their education, obtain employment, reconnect with family, and re-engage with their communities.
Written by Jamila Smith, Director, Innovation and Early Learning Programs, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
The U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the $180 million FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Early-Phase Competition. The EIR program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations aimed at improving outcomes for high-needs students. The program also supports the rigorous evaluation of these innovations. The Department expects that early-phase grants will be used to fund the development, implementation, and feasibility testing of a program.
I can remember being a young teen, living with my mother and six siblings and being locked out of the house until the early hours of the morning on multiple occasions. Abuse was prevalent in my home and trying to navigate school with honors and AP Courses throughout this experience was next to impossible. Eventually, the abuse became so bad that I had no choice but to flee. I searched for alternative housing options, but the only option I could find was an old RV behind my Grandparents’ home. The RV smelled of mildew, had no power or running water, and though it was safer than my home, the nights spent on the small RV mattress still haunt me to this day. I felt incredibly isolated during this time, because I felt I had to do my best to hide the fact that I was homeless. I sometimes look back and wonder how people didn’t know. I would often have to wear the same clothes multiple days in a row and I struggled to meet my basic needs like having access to food and hygiene supplies.
Guest blog by Maureen McLaughlin, Senior Advisor and Director of International Affairs, Office of the Secretary
If it wasn’t already clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now that, in today’s interconnected world, many of our biggest challenges—reducing economic and social disparities, building prosperity, supporting public health, addressing climate change, and maintaining peace—are global in nature. To address these challenges, we must work together—not just within the United States, but also with others around the world.