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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The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget: Promoting Greater Use of Evidence and Data as a Lever for Advancing Equity


Over the last seven years, the Obama Administration and the Department of Education have pioneered efforts that encourage grantees and practitioners to use evidence of what works in education in ways that can improve student outcomes. A focus on evidence and data also can be a powerful tool to advance equity.

For example, under our new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states will establish new accountability systems that will include indicators of success that reflect a broad picture of how schools are serving all children, and not just in academics. States could decide to look at information about students’ socioemotional growth, for instance, and whether schools are helping children develop skills like resilience and the ability to effectively collaborate with peers. States also could examine data and trends related to chronic absenteeism, and ensure schools are intervening when students are missing too much class time. Educators could analyze students’ academic achievement and better target supports that may help struggling students to master certain skills or become proficient in English. The use of robust information can be leveraged by teachers, local educational agencies, and states to advance equity and excellence throughout our education system.

Both the Administration and the Department have made evidence-based grant programs, such as Investing in Innovation (i3) and First in the World (FITW), a priority and have significantly scaled up the use of evidence-based grant-making. In close partnership with the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), grantees and researchers are working together to draw from—and expand—the body of high-quality research about promising practices and proven strategies in education so that schools, districts, and states can leverage this information in their decision making.

The 2017 budget would support states and local educational agencies both with their use of data and evidence on what works—from research studies and evaluations. For example, funds for IES would be used to improve data-informed decision making at all levels by increasing resources dedicated to research awards that build the evidence base for what works in education.

The priority projects outlined in the budget also would increase data transparency. A great example of this work is the College Scorecard, which was launched in September 2015. The College Scorecard provides students, parents, and the public with unprecedented amounts of information about college costs, financial aid, and graduation rates at colleges and universities—all in one place.

Finally, the budget would strengthen the ways in which the Department shares research and information so that everyone—from educators and students, to policymakers and administrators, to schools and communities—can have greater access to the data and research they need, in digestible formats, to inform everyday decisions.

Here is a quick snapshot of how the 2017 budget invests in evidence and data, across three priority areas:

Increasing Equity and Excellence in Education:

  • $180 million for the Education Innovation and Research program, an increase of $60 million, or 50 percent, for the successor to the Investing in Innovation (i3) program to expand support for evidence-based initiatives to develop, validate, and scale up effective education interventions that will help states and local educational agencies to meet requirements under federal law.
  • $44.3 million for IDEA Technical Assistance and Dissemination, an increase of $10 million, to substantially increase the Administration’s investment in model demonstration projects to build the evidence-base for promising practices in critical areas such as interventions for students with autism who require intensive services and support.

Providing Support for Teachers and School Leaders:

  • $100 million for the reauthorized Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, an increase of $6 million over the comparable 2016 level, to expand support for state and local efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness and help ensure that all students have equitable access to effective teachers and principals. The program would make grants primarily to institutions of higher education and national nonprofit organizations for projects that provide evidence-based professional development activities and prepare teachers and principals from nontraditional preparation and certification routes to serve in high-need local educational agencies.

Expanding Access, Affordability, and Completion in Higher Education:

  • $100 million for the First in the World program for competitive awards to support the development, validation, and scale-up of innovative, promising, and evidence-based strategies to improve postsecondary completion rates for high-needs students, as well as rigorous evaluations to test the effectiveness of these strategies when implemented in varied settings and contexts. The Obama Administration plans to set aside up to $30 million to support the implementation of projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
  • $30 million for the HBCU and MSI Innovation for Completion Fund, a new competitive grant program to foster innovative, evidence-based, student-centered strategies and interventions to increase the number of low-income students and students of color completing degree programs.
  • Of the $900 million included for TRIO in the budget, up to $20 million would be used to support a new TRIO Demonstration initiative designed to give existing grantees the opportunity to compete for increased funding to implement and evaluate additional, evidence‑based, college access and success strategies, and support dissemination of strategies that prove to be effective at scale to all TRIO grantees.

The budget also includes support for InformED, an initiative launched in 2016, that builds on the success of the new College Scorecard by making the Department’s data and research across the education spectrum more available—and actionable—for internal users and the public. The 2017 budget includes $15 million to support InformED to build new infrastructure to manage the collection, quality, release, and analysis of data in innovative and effective ways.

For more information about the 2017 budget, visit our webpage.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

La voz de los padres es esencial en la educación

Los padres son un ingrediente imprescindible de la educación. Los padres pueden ser la voz de grandes expectativas para los niños y para apoyar a los educadores en la creación de escuelas donde todos los niños reciban lo que necesitan para tener éxito. Una excelente educación es un derecho civil de cada niño; y mientras que nuestra nación ha dado grandes pasos, incluido una tasa récord de graduación de escuela secundaria, y asistencia a la universidad en máximos históricos, tenemos mucho camino por recorrer para asegurar que todos los niños tengan las mismas oportunidades de aprender.

Los padres pueden desempeñar un papel clave en exigir una educación de clase mundial para sus hijos, como se merecen. Pero, para muchos padres y familias puede ser una tarea incierta determinar cuál es la mejor manera de apoyar a sus hijos o qué preguntas deben hacer para asegurar que sus hijos aprendan y se desarrollen.

Por eso hoy, hablando desde el punto de vista de un padre de dos niños pequeños, el secretario Arne Duncan describió un conjunto de derechos educativos que debe tener cada familia en Estados Unidos, durante su discurso en la Convención Nacional de la PTA en Charlotte, Carolina del Norte. Este conjunto de tres derechos fundamentales que tienen las familias puede unir a todos los que trabajan para asegurar que los estudiantes estén preparados para prosperar en la escuela y en la vida. Estos derechos acompañan la trayectoria educativa del estudiante, incluido el acceso a la educación preescolar de calidad; la participación en escuelas primarias y secundarias seguras, dotadas con buenos recursos, y que requieren un alto nivel de todos los estudiantes; y acceso a una educación superior de calidad a precio asequible.


Los padres y las familias pueden usar estos elementos básicos y necesarios de una excelente educación para construir relaciones más profundas con los educadores, administradores y líderes de la comunidad en apoyo de las escuelas, para que estos derechos se conviertan en realidad. Durante la Convención, el secretario Duncan también declaró su esperanza de que los padres le pidan cuentas a los funcionarios electos y los demás responsables, para acelerar el progreso en la educación y ampliar las oportunidades a más niños, especialmente los más vulnerables de nuestra nación.

Las declaraciones del secretario Duncan sobre este conjunto de derechos complementa el trabajo del Departamento de Educación para llegar a los padres, incluido la iniciativa Marco de desarrollo de capacidad dual para establecer alianzas entre las familias y las escuelas, presentada el año pasado; las herramientas que pueden ayudar a las familias y los estudiantes a seleccionar la universidad más adecuada para ellos; y el apoyo de los Centros de Capacitación e Información para Padres, y otros centros de recursos.

Durante su estancia en Charlotte, el secretario Duncan también participó en el panel “Escuelas Preparadas para el Futuro” (Future Ready Schools) para enfatizar la importancia de integrar la tecnología en el aula, sobre todo como una herramienta para promover la equidad para todos los estudiantes.

Para aprender más sobre los derechos que el secretario Duncan discutió hoy y para encontrar otros recursos para padres y familias, visite la página web del Departamento: Participación Familiar y Comunitaria. También considere unirse al secretario Duncan en una charla en Twitter para continuar el diálogo sobre la participación de los padres en la educación, que se celebrará el 1 de julio a las 1:30 p.m., hora del este, usando #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber es la jefa de personal para Desarrollo de Comunicaciones en el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

The Critical Voice of Parents in Education

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.


Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development at the U.S. Department of Education

Expanding Opportunity for Every American: Education and the State of the Union

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters; and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.” – President Barack Obama

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address. The President’s speech reflected his strong belief that education is a vital investment in America’s economic competitiveness, in its communities, and in its people.

The President discussed America’s economic recovery, noting that since 2010, our nation has put more of its citizens back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.  At a time when millions of Americans now work in jobs that didn’t exist even 10 or 20 years ago, education—particularly higher education—is more important than ever before in the effort to equip our young people with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the well-paying jobs of the 21st century knowledge economy.

In his speech, the President noted the significant educational progress that our nation’s schools, teachers, and students have made – including young students earning math and reading scores at record levels, a high school graduation rate at an all-time high, and more Americans finishing college than ever before.

While celebrating progress, the President noted we must work to ensure that education lives up to its promise of bolstering and expanding the middle class and helping more young people to achieve their greatest potential.

He stated: “America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to step up our game; we need to do more.”

By the end of this decade, two in three jobs will require some form of higher education. Yet, as the President noted, too many bright, hard-working students are priced out of college. In his address, the President laid out his top priorities – all aimed at expanding opportunity and opening the gateway to the middle class to more Americans.

He committed to his recently announced America’s College Promise proposal, which would make two years of community college free for responsible students; and he asked more businesses to offer educational benefits and paid apprenticeships, giving workers the chance to advance in their careers, even if they haven’t achieved higher education. The President also pledged to make quality childcare more available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children, and to extend the reach of technology and the Internet into every classroom.

Each year, the First Lady invites exceptional Americans—whose stories often reflect key themes in the speech—to join her in her viewing box. This year, several educators and students were selected. Learn more about these special guests.

Below are education excerpts from the speech:

Higher Education:

“… I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.

Keep in mind: forty percent of our college students choose community college.  Some are young and starting out.  Some are older and looking for a better job.  Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market.  Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.  Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.  Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible.  I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.  Let’s stay ahead of the curve. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”

Job Training and Workforce Development:

“… To give working families a fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest.”

“[T]o make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills. …

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.  Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.”


“I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

Early Learning/Childcare:

“First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change.  That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year. …

In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.  It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have.  It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.  And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.”

State of the Union Resources

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development at the U.S. Department of Education.

New Preschool Grant Program Will Expand Opportunity to More of America’s Early Learners


Secretary Arne Duncan interacts with a student at the Hug Me Tight Childlife Center in Pittsburgh. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Across the country, there is a great need for early learning. But the need isn’t just for preschool seats — it’s for high-quality early learning programs that can put children on the path to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Research has shown the powerful benefits of high-quality early education. Children who receive rich early learning experiences are less likely to need special education services. They’re in better health, and they get better jobs. Yet, today, only 30 percent of 4-year-olds in the U.S. participate in state preschool, and 10 states don’t offer it at all. Among other industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks 25th in enrollment of 4-year-olds in early learning.

President Obama has issued a call to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. Yesterday, an important down payment was made toward that goal when Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced the availability of funds through the Preschool Development Grants program.

This new $250 million federal program will support states to build, develop, and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families. It will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. All states — including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — are eligible to apply by Oct. 14, 2014.

Secretary Duncan noted, “Through the Preschool Development Grants, we continue our efforts to create educational opportunities that prepare our youngest Americans for success in kindergarten, through elementary school and beyond. This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program — a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families.”

He added, “We urge states and communities to seize this opportunity, form partnerships, and begin drafting their proposals for the Preschool Development Grants program, because providing high-quality early learning opportunities is the most important single step we can take to improve the future of our young people.”

Secretary Duncan highlighted the new grant program yesterday during a trip to Pittsburgh, where he joined Mayor William Peduto in a visit to the Hug Me Tight Childlife Center and a community conversation at Hill House’s Kaufmann Center.

While at Hug Me Tight, Secretary Duncan toured classrooms, met with early childhood education providers, parents, and community members, and engaged in arts activities with some of the city’s youngest learners. Following the visit to the center, Secretary Duncan and Mayor Peduto participated in a discussion on early learning hosted by the city of Pittsburgh and the National League of Cities.

For more information about the new Preschool Development Grants program and how your state may apply, visit here. For more information on early learning at the U.S. Department of Education, visit here.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development at the U.S. Department of Education. 

Supporting Educators to Innovate Through Technology

OpportunityTechnology offers extraordinary opportunities and capacities to teachers. The breadth and depth of educational materials and information available on the Internet can break boundaries, making any subject accessible anywhere, and providing students with access to experts from across town or across the globe. New technologies also give teachers tools and flexibility to engage students, personalize the learning experience, and share resources or best practices with colleagues.

President Obama’s ConnectED initiative aims to provide high-speed Internet to every school in America, and make affordable computers, tablets, software, and other digital resources widely available to educators. Yet innovative technologies offer their greatest benefits only when teachers and principals have the skills and supports to leverage them. The ConnectEDucators plan will help educators to grow those skills. Watch this video to learn more:

Tiffany Taber is senior communications manager in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Partners in Progress: Turning Around a Washington, DC School Takes Teamwork and Joy

City Year

National and local education leaders met at the DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School, where 18 City Year corps members currently serve. The visit included a roundtable discussion on the school’s turnaround effort and the importance of partnering with key stakeholders to achieve education reform. (Photo courtesy of City Year/Elliot Haney)

There’s a transformation occurring at an elementary school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation’s capital and it begins, each day, with chants and song. “Stand up!” and “C-O-L-L-E-G-E! College is the place for me!” ring out of the cafeteria where students gather for a daily morning ritual of activities designed to build school culture and student confidence. Just a few years ago, DC Scholars Stanton Elementary struggled with chronic underperformance and was long known as a place ruled by chaos, where neither students nor educators felt it was possible to focus on learning. Today, the school is turning around. With the help of strong partnerships and engaged stakeholders, chaos is being replaced with joy, as educational outcomes improve for the school’s young “scholars.”

On Monday, Secretary Arne Duncan visited DC Scholars Stanton to observe the school’s progress and to participate in a roundtable discussion, highlighting the importance of partnerships in the effort to dramatically improve teaching and learning in persistently low-achieving schools.

Secretary Duncan joined a group of local leaders and stakeholders including District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) CEO Wendy Spencer, and City Year Co-Founder and CEO Michael Brown, for the visit.

City Year Group Photo

(Photo courtesy of City Year/Elliot Haney)

Three years ago, DCPS engaged in a partnership with Scholar Academies, a national nonprofit education management organization, to run Stanton. As Chancellor Henderson noted, “Back then, there was a sense that if you went here, you were coming because you could go nowhere else.”

Third grade teacher Sheryl Garner spoke poignantly about the school’s transformation. She remarked that before the turnaround, almost daily she was “kicked and punched by students,” many of whom had difficult backgrounds and limited understanding of how to manage their emotions in school. She said, “I’m glad I decided to stick with it because I’ve seen so much growth here.”

Now, there is order in the classrooms where university pennants line the walls, reminding students that higher education is within their reach—and a goal that they can strive for each day. In addition to college banners and achievement awards, it’s not uncommon to see students working in classrooms and hallways with City Year AmeriCorps members—who represent another key element in the story of progress at DC Scholars Stanton.

City Year has partnered with the school for six years; but this year, DC Scholars Stanton was able to double its number of City Year service members. These young people provide intensive before-, during-, and after-school support to students in reading, math, and social-emotional skills development. Principal Rena Johnson and Assistant Principal Sanja Bosman also credit City Year members with helping to improve overall school culture.

Eighteen City Year AmeriCorps members work at the school now through a federal School Turnaround AmeriCorps grant, jointly administered by the Department of Education and CNCS, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the AmeriCorps program this year. Wendy Spencer, CNCS CEO, noted, “This partnership expands the role of AmeriCorps members in helping students, teachers, parents, and school administrators transform schools into models of achievement.” With the help of Jeff Franco, executive director for City Year-Washington D.C., approximately 150 City Year members serve in more than a dozen schools across DCPS.

Students and families at DC Scholars Stanton also benefit from a home visiting program, coordinated by the local Flamboyan Foundation, a private, family organization focused on improving educational outcomes for children. Through the program, teachers are trained to visit families and build relationships with parents and caregivers, with the aim of helping students to succeed in school.

Secretary Duncan acknowledged the efforts of all the partners at DC Scholars Stanton, saying, “Turning around a school is some of the hardest, most controversial, and yet most important work in the country. … Together, you are doing something remarkable.”

The hard work is beginning to show results. Since 2011, students at DC Scholars Stanton have improved their proficiency rates in mathematics from 10 to 42 percent. Reading proficiency rates have doubled from 10 to 20 percent.

As Mayor Gray stated, “Education reform is never done.” There is still much to do to ensure all Stanton scholars achieve to their fullest potential. But, even though the work is ongoing and challenging,  Lars Beck, CEO for Scholar Academies, summed up the experience, saying, “You might think it’s crazy, but working together to turn around schools is … exciting and exhilarating … it can even be joyful.”

Tiffany Taber is senior communications manager in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Making High-Quality Early Learning a National Priority

Secretary Duncan with preschool students at Edgewood Prep Today, a class of preschool children at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia, engaged in an interactive lesson on sizes and shapes with a special guest – President Barack Obama. The President toured the center, which serves children from infancy through four years of age, before discussing the importance of quality learning from the early years with a crowd of local educators.

The President elaborated on a new plan for early education, which aims to dramatically expand preschool – a priority for the U.S. Department of Education in the Administration’s second term and a topic that the President emphasized in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

“In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children … studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, [and] form more stable families of their own,” the President stated. “[L]et’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

Despite the benefits of early learning, state funding per child for preschool programs has declined over the last decade, according to data from the most recent State Preschool Yearbook, published by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Studies also show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education opportunities and to enter kindergarten prepared for success – a situation that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has described as “education malpractice, economically foolish and morally indefensible.” The high costs of private preschool and a lack of public programs also narrows options for middle-class families.

To fulfill a commitment to our nation’s youngest learners at a time when fewer than three in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a quality preschool program, the Administration is proposing a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of learning for children from birth through age five. Major elements of the plan include:

  • Providing High-Quality Preschool for Every Child: A new cost-sharing partnership with all 50 states, managed by the Department of Education, will extend federal funds and expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds from families whose incomes are at or below 200 percent of the poverty line.
  • Growing the Supply of Effective Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children: A new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership will support communities that extend the availability of Early Head Start as well as child care providers that can meet high standards of quality for infants and toddlers.
  • Expanding Evidence-Based, Voluntary Home Visiting: Voluntary home visiting programs enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that can improve a child’s health, development, and ability to learn. The President’s plan extends these important programs to reach additional families in need.

The proposal also encourages states to provide additional opportunities for children to attend full-day kindergarten and extends important investments in the federal Head Start program – managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – which annually serves more than one million children across the country.

The President’s commitment to provide every child with access to quality early education builds upon the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the Department of Education and HHS, which supports state efforts to raise the bar across early learning programs and to close the school readiness gap. Through the President’s proposal, the Department and HHS will continue to strengthen the quality of early education programs and assist states and districts in improving the alignment of preschool with K-12 education.

Building and expanding opportunities for learning in the early years is key to fostering a cradle-to-career education system. As Secretary Duncan has noted, “High-quality early learning is what we want for our own children – which means that it must be what we want for all children.”

Department Releases New Publications Highlighting ESEA Flexibility

With 34 states and the District of Columbia approved for ESEA flexibility, the U.S. Department of Education released a series of new publications this week, describing the flexibility program and the ways in which some participating states are advancing important education reforms.

ESEA Flex LogoESEA flexibility enables states and districts to maintain a high bar for student achievement while better targeting resources to schools and students most in need of additional support. The publication series includes a brochure and fact sheets on topics that relate to five priority areas under ESEA flexibility (pdf files):

  1. Continuing to expose and close achievement gaps;
  2. Advancing accountability for graduation rates;
  3. Turning around the lowest-performing schools;
  4. Protecting school and student accountability; and
  5. Supporting teachers, leaders, and local innovation.

The Department announced voluntary ESEA flexibility in September 2011 in the absence of a reauthorization – or congressional update – to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The most recent update to the federal education law – the No Child Left Behind Act – was due for reauthorization in 2007, but has governed a changing national education landscape for more than a decade. ESEA flexibility allows states and districts to replace the “one-size-fits-all,” prescriptive provisions of NCLB with state-led reforms tailored to address their most pressing education challenges.

For more information about ESEA flexibility and to access the new brochure and fact sheets, please visit this Web site.

Tiffany Taber is senior communications and events manager at the U.S. Department of Education

Strumming and Drumming with Local Students and Music Educators at ED

The percussive rhythm of tambourines and African drums as well as the sound of ukuleles and acoustic guitars filled the outdoor plaza at the Department of Education on Tuesday, May 10, when the nonprofit National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) brought its “Strumming and Drumming for Music Education” program to Washington. The event aimed to promote local student talent and raise awareness about the importance of music education in our nation’s schools.

Students from George Fox and Lime Kiln Middle Schools in Maryland showed off their skill in a large drum circle, led by musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, a two-time Grammy-Award-winning duo.   Joining the students in their music-making were NAMM representatives; local music educators; former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley; former New York Yankee Bernie Williams; as well as Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary of communications and outreach; and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary of innovation and improvement. ED employees and passersby were encouraged to pick up a ukulele or drum and join in the outdoor jam session.

Earlier this month, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) released its landmark report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools. The culmination of 18 months of research, meetings with stakeholders, and site visits throughout the country, this report reviews the current condition of arts education in America’s schools and reaffirms recent studies that have shown a link between high-quality arts programming and increased student achievement.

For more information about NAMM and its initiatives, please visit here. For additional details regarding the PCAH report and its findings, please select this link.

See photos

Tiffany Taber
Office of Communications and Outreach