LGBT Students Work to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for all Students

Yesterday, myself and four other LGBTQ Activists from GLSEN had the honor of sitting down with US Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, in his second to last day in office. Amid a changing administration, the Secretary offered his words of advice, and listened to our experiences as LGBTQ students as well as our hopes for inclusivity in the future of education.  I think all of us, both visitors from GLSEN and the staff at the Department of Education, can agree that we all walked away with valuable information, useful connections, and an even stronger motivation to fight for student’s rights in schools.

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Creating an Educational System that Supports Democracy Through Student Activism

Education is the great engine of our democracy, and the fuel for that engine is the opportunities students have to engage in activism on issues that are important to them. It is the job of adult allies to nurture and support students in this endeavor.  Seven student leaders from across the country came to ED to share  how they successfully accomplished advocacy efforts at their respective high schools and college campuses, specifically identifying the supports they received, and how government–teachers, principals, school board members, public college/university administrators, state legislatures, and yes, federal officials–can best support them in their advocacy efforts.

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A New Principal — Again

Nine times in twenty-eight years of teaching I’ve gone through the training of a new principal in my high school.  Nine times! And to make matters more frustrating, the replacement always seems to be the philosophical and pedagogical opposite of the one he or she is replacing. The gentle farmer replaced by the fire-breathing nun, the retired Navy commander replaced by a Phi Beta Kappan from a Denver suburb, the teacher-friendly curriculum specialist replaced by education’s answer to a prison warden.  You get the idea.  Most recently this trend continued with a beloved, student-centered Principal of the Year being replaced by a National Guard Lieutenant Colonel in the Infantry.  My English department (really the entire staff) looked to me for guidance on how to bridge this transition of power.

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New Report Shows Increased Need for Federal Investments in Early Learning

Are there too many federal early learning programs?  This question has been contentiously debated and discussed in Washington, DC for years.  Are programs that simply permit funding for early learning as a part of a larger initiative, such as Title I or English Language Acquisition grants, considered early learning programs?  Should programs that merely mention the importance of early learning – the Appalachian Area Development grants or Donations of Federal Surplus Personal Property program – be considered early learning programs?  These issues have emerged from a 2012 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report.

A “too many programs” argument has been frequently cited as evidence of government waste, overlap, and duplication and a reason not to provide any new investments to support our youngest children achieve success in school.  However, a recent analysis of federal programs conducted by the Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) make it clear that the investments in early learning are not meeting the needs of families across the nation and many eligible families are not receiving services.

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Believe in Your Power

On Thursday, January 12, thousands of teachers across the nation will receive appreciation phone calls from the Department of Education. These educators were nominated by their colleagues, parents, and students to receive a call. As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I had a chance to read the comments stating why each educator deserved personalized appreciation.

“He has been a beacon of light and hope for my daughter who sometimes struggles but has so much to offer the world. He challenges and educates, but most of all he cares.”

“She is tirelessly dedicated to serving some of the most historically underserved students in our school system, very high needs, minority special education students. She is a true advocate for justice and equity!”

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Photo by: Todd Goodrich, University of Montana.

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Ensuring Education for All Children

For most children, school is their home away from home. There they form friendships, socialize, grow, and learn.  Children and their families rely on teachers, principals, and other school staff to nurture and protect them when away from home.  And families and educators have a shared responsibility to work together and ensure that schools are safe environments for all, including our youngest and most vulnerable children.  We can best meet this responsibility when we have a clear understanding of policies and resources that can support the creation of safe learning environments, and ultimately, children’s development and learning.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) regularly releases resources to help educators, school administrators, and families to protect and ensure equitable access to education for all children, including our most vulnerable student populations.  For example, in the past few years, ED has released several documents that address the needs of immigrant children.  One example is the Newcomer Toolkit ED released in September that provided a one-stop shop for educators who serve newcomer students.  The toolkit both catalogued resources for meeting the unique socio-emotional and academic needs of these students and highlighted the assets that newcomer students bring to the classroom.

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Are you ready to be engaged in education?

With [ESSA], we reaffirm that 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.” — President Barack Obama

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), our national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.  In developing plans and implementing ESSA, stakeholder engagement – including parents – plays a crucial role in improving student outcomes in our schools.

Family engagement is crucial at the national, state and, particularly, local level where you can make a difference in your child’s school and classroom.

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A New Year, A Fresh Perspective

Even though we are halfway through the school year, the start of 2017 is the perfect opportunity for a fresh perspective on my classroom. Just like I did with my home over break, I plan to reorganize my room and purge any resources that I no longer need. If I haven’t used it yet at this point in the year, chances are I don’t actually need it and it should go. Of course, I don’t want to throw out anything that could be useful to someone else, so I will give them away to a teacher, tutor, or student that will put them to good use. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A freshly cleaned classroom is a terrific landscape for exciting new projects.

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A Life Changing Experience

My experience as a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow (TAF) has been life-changing.  I learned that I should be bold and always look for opportunities to elevate the voice of teachers.   In June 2015, I joined an amazing family of Fellows with a wide range of experiences to bring to the table. Some of our common themes of passion included racial equality, fair and quality student assessments, teacher leadership, student efficacy, student advocacy, and a commitment to ensure all teachers not only had a voice but an intentional seat at the table in education discussions.

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Districts Realize the Personalized Learning Vision, See its Future

District superintendents across the country have taken on a range of bold approaches to improving students’ experiences in public education. Across these innovations, districts have embraced the notion that empowering students and their teachers is an effective way to improve student outcomes.

At a Nov. 15 convening, hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) , our nation’s leading district superintendents overwhelmingly expressed an optimistic sense of purpose. Motivated by their successes with personalized learning across schools in their districts, a ringing call to action for these leaders came out of this Washington summit: give more students and educators the opportunity to experience personalized learning.

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Summer 2017 Intern Application

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, education law, business and finance, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and tours of the Capitol, Supreme Court and other local sights.

One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.

ED is accepting applications for Summer 2017 internships through March 15, 2017

If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you. (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
  2. An updated resumé.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Summer Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

 

Students Leading the Way on Finding the Right Balance with Well-rounded Education

Eight incredible student leaders joined in conversation with Secretary John King and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives (DAS), Ary Amerikaner on November 16th, 2016. Students shared their experiences in well-rounded education programs in their own schools, and why these types of programs are important. Student input drove the conversation, as Secretary King and Deputy Assistant Secretary Amerikaner discussed how these students’ experience can help us here at ED support schools and communities as we work to implement ESSA. The session allowed students to discuss issues of funding and inadequate resources that typically bar school districts from implementing or expanding well-rounded education programs.  Most importantly, all were able to discuss concrete goals as they continue their work to provide a quality and rigorous educational experience for students across the country.

Bethany Forbes, Aszana Lopez-Bell, and Secretary King.

Bethany Forbes, Aszana Lopez-Bell, and Secretary King.

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