My name is Frank Brogan and I am an educator with over 40 years in public service. During my time in public service, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a classroom teacher, principal, superintendent of schools, Florida Commissioner of Education and then Lieutenant Governor of Florida. In my current role as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, I embarked on a week-long, Back to School tour. I visited 9 schools in five days spanning Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Each school was unique but simultaneously showcased innovation. It was important that the Back to School tour my colleagues at the U.S. Department of Education and I completed not only celebrated millions of children going back to school but also celebrated innovative schools in the 48 contiguous states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands.
OSERS Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Richey and I spent the week traveling as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018 Back-to-School Tour. During the week, ED leaders toured the country to get a closer, first-hand look at how schools are meeting the unique needs of students.
Kim and I spent the week in New England visiting traditional public, private/independent, and public charter schools to meet students and educators and to learn how these schools provide supports and services to students with disabilities.
If you’d met Micah Ohanian before seventh grade, you’d encounter a young man who was struggling to succeed in an assigned neighborhood school, yet, a student who was determined to find an academic environment that truly worked for him.
“School choice benefited me,” he says simply, “in the best way.”
Micah describes the teaching approach at his former middle school as forging ahead from topic to topic on an inflexible schedule, with few accommodations for students with different learning needs.
“There are so many active-duty military families today who are making decisions about how they advance within the military, or where they are going to live… based on educational opportunities for their children,” Secretary DeVos recently said in a conversation with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. “I think we have the opportunity to change the dynamic for them.”
Maddie Shick is from one such family – and, despite being a bright student, she faces challenges that accompany a military-connected lifestyle. A self-proclaimed “professional new girl,” Maddie is now a sophomore at Robinson High School in Tampa, Florida.
“North Idaho STEM Academy was created at the request of parents and the community.”
The first line of the school’s promotional video, found on its website, underscores a key – indeed, perhaps the most important — tenet of North Idaho STEM Academy: it was created for the community, and by the community.
Opened in September 2012, the school serves students in kindergarten through grade 12 in Rathdrum, Idaho, and surrounding areas. School leaders don’t consider STEM a “buzzword” or a fad; instead, teachers incorporate science, technology, engineering and math into everything that students learn and do – from kindergarten through graduation.
The most devastating storm in Puerto Rico’s history, Hurricane Maria, blasted the island relentlessly in September 2017, destroying roads, leveling homes, and causing wide-spread electricity blackouts. The schools were not spared as education came to an abrupt halt for thousands of students.
Jorge Bauzo, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, was teaching Spanish and U.S. history at Chipley High School in the rural Florida Panhandle near the Alabama border. He also taught for the Florida Virtual School, which provided online classes. Bauzo closely followed news of the hurricane’s destruction, and when the winds finally subsided, he wanted to help. In his words:
My zoned middle school, in Orlando, FL, made local news with a tragic and terrifying story: a student was taken into the bathroom and raped. That was exactly what my mom was avoiding five years ago, when she diligently fought to keep me out of that school, which had a reputation for being unsafe. Unable to afford private education, thankfully we had another viable option. Howard Middle School, a public magnet school only twenty minutes away from my house, offered a Visual and Performing Arts program.
The high school, also known as PPAS, serves nearly 500 students who dream of pursuing dance, drama, music, or musical theater. Students in grades six through twelve split their days between academic instruction — when they can enroll in Advanced Placement courses or earn college credit through partnerships with New York University, Fordham University, and others — and arts instruction.
As one of more than 400 high schools in New York City, PPAS offers students the opportunity to partner with some of the foremost programs in the city, like the Ailey School, the National Chorale, the Julliard School, the American Ballet Theatre and Rosie’s Theater Kids.
Drawing on a wide-ranging teaching career at the community college level and with students attending Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, Daniele Massey understands that a personalized education can be great preparation for success in college, careers and life.
Today, Massey lives in Virginia with her family. Her husband remains on active military duty. In this interview, she describes her journey and lessons learned.
You’ve had opportunities to work in different school settings and different phases of a student’s life – what has that process been like for you?
Mark Sorensen was fed up with seeing Native American students score lower on standardized tests, graduate at lower rates and be less likely to pursue post-secondary education compared to other groups of students in the U.S.
He had a vision for a charter school that would provide the Native students in his community a culturally inclusive school environment that would motivate them, so he bought a junkyard.
STAR School, located on the edge of the Navajo Nation near Flagstaff, Arizona, serves 145 K-8 students and challenges their application of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to daily life.
“When I was a student at Arickaree High School, we didn’t have a clue as to what was going on in the real world,” said Gregg Cannady, who today heads collaborations and concepts development at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, about 100 miles from his former high school in Anton. That was in the 1970s. “I went to college and found out I was totally unprepared,” Cannady said. “I really didn’t understand any career that wasn’t something that I’d not seen out on the farm.”
You might think that in the 21st century, things would be different in rural education from when Cannady was in high school. But, according to Cannady, a music teacher with 30 years of experience, engaged, job-related education is still lacking in parts of rural America.
When Cannady took his education positon at STEM School in Highlands Ranch, it was to create a music program. But Executive Director Penny Eucker and the Nathan Yip Foundation, a sponsor, urged Cannady to do something also for the state’s rural students.
“One of the workforce arguments is that we’re turning out folks that know how to color in the right bubble on a multiple-choice test, but they don’t know how to do anything,” said Dr. Kim Alexander, superintendent of the Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District in West Texas. In 2012, Superintendent Alexander and his district colleagues started to address this problem by creating an innovative series of apprentice partnerships with local businesses, and today it appears that Roscoe high school students know how to do everything.
Alexander, who is a Roscoe area native, has worked as an educator in the Roscoe District for 32 years, with the last 15 years as superintendent. In 2012, Roscoe was trying to become a STEM academy. “We wanted to have real-world relevance and real workforce readiness, and even job creation,” Alexander said. “One of the rural dilemmas is to have proximity to meaningful [student] apprenticeship opportunities. You have to partner with profitable businesses.”