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.”
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.
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.
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’sNational Institute for Aviation Research, to provide industry-driven training courses.
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.
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.