When asked to share their thoughts on the benefits of school choice and their homeschool experience, this military family did what they do every day: they turned the occasion into a learning opportunity. Dan, his wife Jenna, and their six kids gathered at the dinner table to shape a response – as individual, independent thinkers and as a family.
In this interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, the family describes the transformative of impact school choice.
When it came time for Miami resident Lily Suquet and her son Ethan to determine which middle school Ethan would attend, they decided to shop around. After looking at five different schools, they finally settled on Jose Marti Mast Academy in Hialeah, a magnet school with a STEM focus, where Ethan is now an 11th grader.
At his old school, Ethan regularly achieved straight A’s, but he knew that a more challenging learning environment would enhance his education and better prepare him for future success, so in choosing Jose Marti, he chose a school that would test his learning capacity.
Throughout the months of September and October, the U.S. Department of Education hosted its Rethink School Tour. This year’s tour consisted of 16 Department of Education officials visiting 46 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia. Department of Education officials met with over 47 national, state and local elected and appointed officials while visiting close to 90 schools and programs throughout the country.
During the tour, Department officials had the opportunity to observe interesting approaches to K-12 and higher education, meet with and hear from students, teachers, parents and administrators and celebrate the many ways rethinking education benefits students everywhere.
Here is what we saw on the 2018 Rethink School Tour.
During our annual Rethink School Tour, I had the pleasure of joining 16 other Department of Education officials in highlighting a number of interesting approaches to education. The tour covered 46 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia.
I kicked off my Rethink Tour at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia where I learned about the university’s innovative student programs. I was able to interact with developing entrepreneurs who will be future business leaders. Georgia Tech has questioned everything about their current model and is now expanding their online and remote learning opportunities so students with varying needs can pursue a great education. Additionally, I had the chance to see the new MyStudentAid mobile app in action as students enrolled and completed their FASFA form on their phones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”