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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.