Open Letter Sessions – Jonnai

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.

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Update on the Free Inquiry Rule

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.  

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Meeting the President’s Call to Support the Safe and Sustained Reopening of Schools

Meeting the president's call to support the safe and sustained reopening of schools

By the end of this week, more than 62 percent of students across the country will complete their first day of school. 

As a teacher, a principal, and a parent, I always loved those first few days – students seeing each other for the first time after summer break, getting to know their teachers, reading a book or participating in a club or a sport that sparked a new passion. 

But this year, the joy that students and educators are feeling as they return to in-person learning is mixed with uncertainty and a sense of urgency as a result of the pandemic. As educators, we know in our hearts how important in-person learning is for student success—even before the data emerged on the devastating impact of school building closures during the past 18 months.   

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Cumpliremos con el deseo del presidente de apoyar la reapertura segura y sostenida de las escuelas

Para fines de esta semana, más del 62 por ciento de los estudiantes de todo el país completarán su primer día de clases.

Como maestro, director de escuela y padre, siempre me han gustado los primeros días de clase, porque es cuando los estudiantes se ven por primera vez después de las vacaciones de verano, conocen a sus nuevos maestros, leen sus libros, y se unen a un nuevo club escolar o equipo deportivo.

Pero este año la alegría que normalmente sienten los estudiantes y educadores cuando regresan al aula está ensombrecida por las preocupaciones de la pandemia. Como educadores, entendemos muy bien lo importante que es el aprendizaje en el aula para el éxito de los estudiantes, incluso antes de tener los datos que demuestran el impacto devastador que ha tenido el cierre de las escuelas sobre los estudiantes en los últimos 18 meses.

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New Efforts to Increase Access to Pell Grants for Incarcerated Students

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.

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Innovations in Addressing COVID-19 and Promoting Equity: FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Competition Announcement

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.

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The American Rescue Plan: Building the Bridge to Education and Beyond for Students Experiencing Homelessness

Written By: Chandler K., SchoolHouse Connection Scholar

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.

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A Renewed U.S. Commitment to International Education

Guest blog by Maureen McLaughlin, Senior Advisor and Director of International Affairs, Office of the Secretary

a renewed U.S. commitment to international education

If it wasn’t already clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now that, in today’s interconnected world, many of our biggest challengesreducing economic and social disparities, building prosperity, supporting public health, addressing climate change, and maintaining peaceare global in nature. To address these challenges, we must work togethernot just within the United States, but also with others around the world.

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Next Steps in OCR’s Comprehensive Review of Title IX Actions: A New Q&A and the Public Hearing Transcript

Title IX next steps: A new Q&A and the public hearing transcript

The following is a cross-post from the Office for Civil Rights.

As the Office for Civil Rights continues our comprehensive review of the U.S. Department of Education’s actions under Title IX, the landmark law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in our nation’s schools, we are pleased to share several recent steps—including two taken today.  

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Students, Immigration Status, and the Right to Public Education

Students, immigration status, and the right to public education

The following is a cross-post from the Office for Civil Rights.

An essential part of ensuring equal opportunity is protecting all students in their access to education free from discrimination. This includes the right of all students in the United States to attend America’s public elementary and secondary schools, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

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American History and Civics in Our Schools

The teaching of civics and history – an opportunity to better understand our past and how our government works so we can engage in and influence our future – has long provided the foundation for students to be active participants in society and help our nation live up to its highest ideals. These values have been championed over the years by Americans of all backgrounds, and they are deeply embedded in our commitment to both patriotism and progress.  

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A Summer to Remember

Guest blog by Christian Rhodes

My first “real” job was as a camp counselor at the local Boys and Girls Club in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I spent the summer ensuring middle school students had fun while learning. I would stay up late thinking of new lessons to teach or a motivating message I would recite during our morning check-ins. I appreciated each high five, smile, and even a few tears as camp concluded as I got ready for my next semester at UNC-Chapel Hill. Occasionally, I would see my “students” when I visited home at the grocery store or church. I was always surprised that they remembered our special handshakes, mostly because I had forgotten them. I loved being a camp counselor. I loved the young people I met and hopefully positively influenced.

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