2022 RISE Awardee Announced

By Andrea Suarez Falken, Director of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award 

2022 Rise Awardee Announced

Feeling the love this month? Initiated by Congress in 2019, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees recognition award is intended to honor one extraordinary education support professional annually and to generate appreciation for all classified school employees. This is the second year of the award, with nominations from governors and state education agencies, often working together, due by November 1 annually.

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CTE Pathways to Quality Jobs

By Sharon Lee Miller, Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education

The Department of Education is committed to expanding career pathways to quality jobs of the future, and the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) provides a powerful opportunity to do so. The law reflects a broad bipartisan commitment to providing students with quality career and technical education (CTE) programs, ushering in a new data-driven process to better prepare students for high skill, high wage, in-demand jobs. And many states and localities are leading the way, utilizing this new process to increase access to quality jobs.

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ED Invites Applications from States to Support Innovation in Assessment Systems

By Donald Peasley, Assessment Team Lead, School Support & Accountability, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

ED invites applications from states to support innovation in assessment systems

Over the past two years, the pandemic has brought immense challenges to our nation’s students, schools, and communities. Just one year ago, only 46% of our nation’s K-12 schools were open for in-person learning, and countless students experienced traumas, mental health challenges, and academic disruptions. Some students fell behind, and some disconnected from their schools altogether. That’s why since Day One of the Biden Administration, the Department of Education has been focused on reopening our schools safely, getting more Americans vaccinated, and addressing the impacts of the pandemic on students of all ages. As part of this effort, we invested $130 billion in America’s K-12 schools through the American Rescue Plan, and we allowed for unprecedented flexibilities in our K-12 assessment systems, so schools and districts could focus on getting students back in classrooms safely, first and foremost.

The Department of Education is proud that in just one year, we have returned to pre-pandemic levels of schools being open. Today, nearly all school districts are back to in-person learning five days per week. We are seeing students every day interacting with their teachers, peers, and school staff, receiving the academic and mental health supports they need to recover. And while this pandemic has underscored just how important it is for our students to be receiving in-person instruction to ensure all students are receiving high-quality, equitable education, it also has made clearer the gaps in our education system—and presented an opportunity for us to recover stronger than we were before.

That’s why today the U.S. Department of Education is releasing the 2022 notice inviting applications for the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program, a program designed to enhance the quality of state assessment systems to better reflect the needs and experiences of our nation’s students and communities. The program will allow for states to continue to use assessments to quantify the impacts the pandemic has had on our nation’s students, identify gaps which may have gotten worse, and explore ways to direct resources and funding to address those gaps and roadblocks to student achievement. The program will also allow the Department to identify, lift up, and help scale innovative approaches to assessments that advance teaching and learning that can better meet the needs of our evolving education system.

The program will award up to $17.7 million in grants to 4-6 state educational agencies, with estimated grant awards of up to $3 million per grantee. Grantees will use these grant funds over a period of up to four years. The program will focus on assessment systems based on multiple measures, competency-based education, and improved reporting of assessment results to parents and educators.

State educational agencies (or a consortium of state educational agencies) are invited to submit applications that 1) develop or implement assessment systems that use multiple measures of academic achievement; or 2) develop or implement comprehensive academic assessments that emphasize the mastery of standards and aligned competencies in a competency-based education model. The program also includes a competitive priority that focuses on improving how assessment results are reported to parents and educators, so members of school communities can better support how instruction is designed to meet the academic needs of children.

Applications will be due on April 18, 2022. Successful applicants will be selected, and awards will be made, by September 2022. Officials from the Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will also conduct a webinar for potential applicants in the coming weeks. Registration information for the webinar, the application for this grant program, and additional information about the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program is available at https://oese.ed.gov/offices/office-of-formula-grants/school-support-and-accountability/competitive-grants-for-state-assessments/applicant-information/.

As we continue our work to support our nation’s students in their recovery from the pandemic, we look forward to working in partnership with schools, families, educators, and communities to strengthen our assessment and education systems, so every student has the opportunity to succeed academically and thrive.

Every State Plan for American Rescue Plan Funds to Support Students & Families Experiencing Homelessness Approved

Every State Plan for American Rescue Plan Funds to Support Students & Families Experiencing Homelessness Approved

This week, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) approved all remaining American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund (ARP-HCY) state plans. With today’s approval of Mississippi’s state plan, all 52 ARP-HCY state plans are approved by the Department. The $800 million in funding provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will continue to identify and support students experiencing homelessness and connect them with necessary resources and supports, and work to enable them to attend school and fully participate in school activities.

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Cultivating Mentorship Opportunities in Hayward Promise Neighborhoods

cultivating mentorship opportunities in hayward promise neighborhoods

By Edgar Chavez, Executive Director, Hayward Promise Neighborhoods

Mentorship is an opportunity to help others feel seen and explore all possibilities for their future. Reflecting on my work with young people for over a decade, I didn’t always see the power of these principles. As leaders, we tend to lead with outcomes rather than relationships. To see ourselves and others in our wholeness means also understanding past and present forces that shape our everyday experiences so that we may be open to new possibilities, especially during these anxious times.  

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Community Violence Intervention: Equity and Justice for Every Student

by Loredana Valtierra

Gun violence has become an all too common part of American school life. Yet the gun violence we often associate with schools, mass shootings that make headlines and capture the national psyche, are rare. While the possibility of mass shootings is a fear among educators, the reality is that many educators work in schools at risk of a more constant threat to their students – community violence. A 2020 GAO study found that most shootings that occur on school campuses are related to interpersonal conflict and occur outside the school building. Community violence is a persistent, daily threat in lower income and mostly of color neighborhoods that doesn’t receive the same level of attention and action that mass school shootings do.

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Mentoring Matters: The Critical Need for a Rural Leaders Network of Support

blog title: Mentoring matters the critical need for a rural leaders network of support

by Melissa A. Sadorf. Ed.D.

Ten years ago I was hired by a rural school district in Arizona to serve as Superintendent. In my first year, I was learning the intricacies of the superintendency, was responsible for mentoring a first-year principal, and was learning the roles of Business Manager and Federal Grants Director. Nothing in my educational background and coursework prepared me for the many hats that I would be required to wear. In fact, when my husband learned I would be responsible for managing an $8 million budget, he looked at me askance and said, “You can’t even balance your own checkbook!”

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Building Back Together: Project SAFE Community Conversations Tour: NC and GA

by Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten 

This past year-and-a-half challenged everyone on such a huge scale. And our students were among the hardest hit by the disruptions of the pandemic. Without in-person classes, Friday night football games, spring musicals, and so many other opportunities to develop deep and nurturing in-person relationships and make lasting memories in school, it was a challenge to create a strong sense of community. As a former administrator and teacher, I understand how important that feeling of togetherness is to achieving school success.

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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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