#RethinkSchool: Rethinking Education in the Wake of Devastation

For me, and for many, the Back-to-School season evokes nostalgia.  It is not unusual for adults and children alike to remember their first days of school as students.  As a former school teacher and principal, I recall the Back-to-School season as the most exciting time of year!  I am pleased that in my role as the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the season continues to be full of the hope and promise of the opportunities that lie ahead.

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#RethinkSchool: Minding the Gap

As the former Superintendent of Education for South Carolina, I worked to transform the information provided and options offered to students and parents. The goal was that each student would leave high school confident about what comes afterwards. While a four-year college degree is the path of choice for many students, many would prefer pursuing vocational experiences and learning marketable skills. Each student is unique and their interests and talents vary accordingly. As educators, we need to embrace these differences and help our students select the path that is best aligned with their skills and aspirations. For some, that is a traditional four year degree, for others, an associate’s degree, or an industry credential.

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#RethinkSchool: Excelling in the Classroom, Leading the Charge to Stop Bullying

Students at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were anxiously waiting for Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan to arrive when he walked through the doors on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as part of his Rethink School back-to-school tour. Brogan and other U.S. Department of Education leaders traveled to more than 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to highlight the Trump Administration’s key education initiatives.

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#RethinkSchool: From Language Skills to STEM to Industrial Training, Preparing AAPI Students for the Next Step

I remember the excitement of going back to school after the long, hot summers in Texas where I grew up. Preparing for the first day back to school meant getting the book bag ready with new school supplies, selecting an outfit and thinking about all the familiar and new faces I would be seeing. That was a generation ago. Although the students going back to school now prepare in a similar way, they (and their parents and guardians) have a whole host of other things on their minds – school safety, being selected in special programs, college readiness and how to prepare for the workforce needs of the future.

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#RethinkSchool: Highlighting STEM Research and Education Programs in DE and MD

During the Back to School tour, Diane Auer Jones visited colleges in Delaware and Maryland to celebrate successful institutions and meet with students as the new academic year begins. As the principal Deputy Under Secretary, Delegated to Perform the Duties of Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, Auer Jones visited colleges with high performing STEM programs and STEM-based career and technical education programs.

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#RethinkSchool: Bringing Hopes and Dreams to Those Most in Need

Like moths to a light, people from all over the country gravitate to Washington, D.C. – longing to make a difference, witness history and understand the complexities of the political process. I am like many young transplants that moved to D.C. for work and began to understand the social justice issues that threaten those who are native to our nation’s capital.

However I, unlike many other young transplants, had to quickly navigate the complexities of the education system. From my own experience, I know the difference a quality education and support system can make on students growing up in poverty.

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#RethinkSchool: AZ, UT, CO, and WY Lead the Charge for English Learners

As a former English learner, teacher of English as a second language, administrator of migrant education, and now director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, I approached my Back to School Tour with the goal of visiting places that #RethinkSchool for bilingual and multilingual students.

Dr. Mark Sorensen, the co-founder and CEO of the Service to All Relations (STAR) charter school in Flagstaff, AZ picked me up at the airport and drove me to his pride and joy. As we headed in the direction of the Navajo’s sacred mountains, he told me the story of STAR’s humble beginnings. Mark and his wife wanted to serve children from the Navajo reservation.

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#RethinkSchool: Practicing STEM Education in Idaho

As the school year begins around the country, it is important to rethink the innovative ways we can best educate every student. Many schools in the United States are transforming their curriculum, classrooms and teaching methods to better prepare students for the modern workforce. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, one of our nation’s schools that is improving our K-12 education system.

The Academy, located in Rathdrum, Idaho, is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focused charter school serving K-12 students. It goes further than simply focusing on STEM education…they practice it every day. Their school day is split between core curriculum and “projects curriculum.”

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#RethinkSchool: Creating an Ecosystem of Innovative Learning

To rethink school, each of us needs to contribute to creating an ecosystem of innovative learning. Apprenticeships can be a key cornerstone to providing innovative opportunities for students to take learning outside the classroom walls. Knoxville Leadership Foundation partners with local businesses to offer apprenticeships for their students to learn how to build homes for families in need within their community. This innovative public/private partnership affords the opportunity for students to learn multiple “hands on” home building techniques along with providing soft skills that guide students toward successful apprenticeship experiences. As students are building homes for families, this community is partnering to build an apprenticeship-friendly ecosystem.

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#RethinkSchool: Waking the Sleeping Giant: Regional and State Leadership to Improve HBCU Competitiveness

The 2018 National HBCU Week Conference, titled “HBCU Competitiveness: Aligning Institutional Missions with America’s Priorities,” focused efforts on how HBCUs help improve regional, state and U.S. competitiveness.

The White House Initiative on HBCUs (Initiative) is intentional about the use of the term “competitiveness.” Words matter. Competitiveness embodies our nation’s best education and economic opportunities. Unfortunately, far too many of the students, people and communities HBCUs principally serve are missing out on top opportunities. As part of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s “Rethink School” tour, reflecting our commitment to the conference theme, I visited three HBCUs with the goal to help elevate the institutions in their regions and states, aiding their perception as providers of unique competitive advantages around which innovative new public-private partnerships and other collaborative efforts should form. In other words, we want to wake the sleeping giant of public and private, regional and state engagement with HBCUs.

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#RethinkSchool: Creating Pathways and Closing the Skills Gap

During the Back to School tour, I had the pleasure of touring the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita, Kansas on my first stop on my tour through Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee. The National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) offers a variety of aviation degree and certificate programs to students who can begin their path toward becoming skilled professionals in an aviation-related field. NCAT prides itself on its state-of-the-art aviation training facility and its ability to provide quality experiences and skills that prepare students for future careers in aviation such as Aerostructures, Avionics, Composites and Aviation Maintenance. NCAT was primarily funded and built by Sedgwick County, Kansas to meet aviation manufacturing workforce demand. Wichita Area Technical College (WSU Tech) serves as the managing partner for the Center, partnering with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, to provide industry-driven training courses.

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#RethinkSchool: Reconnecting with What Matters Most

It seems like yesterday that I began my career in higher education in a financial aid office in Upstate New York. It was challenging work, but especially fulfilling to see—every day—the very students whose lives were changed after receiving federal student loans, grants, or work-study funds.

On the Back to School tour, I met some hard-working, caring financial aid administrators, who are providing access to education to some remarkable young people pursuing the dream of higher education.

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