ED’s Second Annual Jazz Informance Celebrating America’s Music and Values


As part of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), the Department hosted its second annual jazz informance (an informational performance) on April 4th with a full house of D.C. public charter school students, educators, arts leaders, and ED staff—jazz lovers and jazz novices alike. Under the direction of J.B. Dyas, vice president for education and curriculum development at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, students from Arts High School in Newark, N.J., part of the National Performing Arts High School Jazz Program, and special guest recording artist, trumpeter Terell Stafford, director of Jazz Studies and chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, performed during the event.

ED’s acting General Counsel Phil Rosenfelt gave opening remarks on how the Department’s inaugural Monk informance in 2013 broadened his musical horizons and finally allowed him to appreciate jazz—something that had eluded him his entire life. “I saw the individuality and the unity, working together, in innovative ways, to address a common goal. I finally got it. And it was special that I got it at the Department where we value learning so much—breaking out of our barriers and stereotypes and comfort zones … and that’s what jazz and the Department are all about,” said Rosenfelt.

In the informational portion of the event, Dyas explained that jazz was born in America and is, “America’s greatest artistic gift to the world,” enjoyed by people of every ethnicity on every continent. He described the improvisational process—90 percent of every jazz performance—as a conversation, both among the musicians and between the musicians and the audience, using music instead of words. Dyas later asked the musicians to illustrate this conversation as they “talked” to one another with their instruments.

As Dyas said, jazz represents important values that students need to learn, such as “teamwork and unity with ethnic diversity.” Students from the Monk jazz program, in a recorded video, spoke of the many positive qualities they have learned through playing jazz.  Among them are:

  • A sense of responsibility within a group
  • Drive to become a better musician
  • Ambition to pursue music education in college
  • Greater knowledge of other cultures
  • Collaboration

The Arts High Jazz Quartet comprising Rahsaan Pickett on guitar, Galo Inga on piano, Joseph Quiles on bass, and Derek Fykes on drums, joined by Stafford, played an up-tempo selection of tunes.  These included Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island, Dexterity by Charlie Parker, and Ask Me Now by Thelonious Monk. The playing was lively and nicely balanced, while solo breaks gave each performer a chance to shine.  The performers created a textural, musical journey with variances in speed, tempo and rhythm over a sustained steady flow.

After the informance, the student performers answered questions from the students in the audience, including, “Why did you start playing music?” Fykes’ answer: “It’s something I love. It has to be a passion.” And, “How much do you practice?” Answer: Several hours daily, including doing a lot of listening.

All in attendance thoroughly appreciated hearing such great music and learning how it is performed, as evidenced by the frequent toe-tapping and spontaneous applause!  And another jazz convert was born.

Sarah Sisaye of OESE wrote: “Before today, I wasn’t too crazy about jazz. I grew up listening to it, but having played the flute for 9 years, I am more comfortable with classical music. However, the performance/lecture today, made it very accessible. I will definitely be listening to more jazz! I even won a poster [of John Coltrane] and was able to get all the musicians to sign it—I’ll be hanging that on my wall!”

For more about the Department’s involvement with JAM, click here.

View photos from the event.

Nicole Carinci is a management and program analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach

The President’s Budget: Early Learning

Fifty adults — including the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) — visited the newest preschool among the Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) to observe a quality bilingual program in action and to discuss President Obama’s newly released budget request for Fiscal Year 2015.

The children and their engaging teacher, Tonya Johnson, showed us, once again, how much young children learn through play and working together in a stimulating environment. Even with 15 visiting adults in the room, the children stayed on task, interacted positively with each other, and went about their business of learning.

I had as much fun listening to the happy sounds of learning from these joyful preschoolers as I did hearing from some of our country’s leaders, as they discussed how early education is represented in the federal budget requests for both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The President’s budget proposes $500 million — double last year’s funding — for Preschool Development Grants and reintroduces the Preschool for All initiative, with an initial $1.3 billion investment. There is additional funding in the budget request for Head Start, child care, Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, and the new Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grants.

Margaret Patterson, the Executive Director of the CFNC told the group how 30 years ago, eight parents of children who had failed kindergarten came together to assure their children gained the skills to succeed in school and in life. Thirty years later, ten CFNC centers are spread across Alexandria, Va., in close proximity to where some of the poorest families in the city live.

During the event at the preschool,  Rep. Moran lamented the lack of educational funding for our youngest children, noting that “you would never plant a seed and then fail to water it.” Senator Warner observed how the children playing at the sand table reminded him of his job in the Senate— cooperation and sharing are key to getting things done, and, in the process, you had better make sure that you don’t get sand in your eyes. Secretary Sebelius reminded us of the importance of parents in their children’s lives and discussed the President’s proposal to increase funding for home visiting. Secretary Duncan closed the meeting by iterating the importance of quality programs and reminding us of the huge unmet need for preschool in our country.

Watch a clip of the visit below, and visit ed.gov/early-learning for more information.

Libby Doggett is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education

Engaging Students to Improve Environmental and Outdoor Education

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a 13-agency initiative, aims to stimulate local economies, create jobs, improve quality of life, and protect health by revitalizing urban waterways and the communities around them, focusing on under-served urban communities.

Currently, the partnership has 18 locations across the nation. These locations have or will build partnerships among local, state and federal stakeholders – as well as schools. Here is just a sampling of how students are getting in on the Urban Waters action:

Anacostia StudentsAt Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Bladensburg, Md., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters team assists Neval Thomas Elementary school students, parents and teachers as they paddle along the Anacostia River during the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile on October 22, 2013.

During the visit, the students had an outdoor education experience learning about canoeing, stormwater pollution and nesting bird species. The Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile spent the entire week in DC and explored the Anacostia River with approximately 500 of the area’s public school students.

To view upcoming Wilderness Inquiry opportunities and events across the country, view their website: http://www.wildernessinquiry.org/

In the New Orleans region, students and teachers have an opportunity to explore and learn about southeastern Louisiana’s coastal wetlands at the University of New Orleans Shea Penland Coastal Education and Research Facility (CERF).

NOLA studentsThese K-12 grade students engage in hands-on experience in the basic estuarine processes, coastal environmental science, and coastal restoration with a focus on the values of the wetlands and the issues that face them through field trips and workshops. In addition, the students meet and learn from the professionals at Louisiana’s State and Federal agencies and local partner organizations that protect coastal wetlands. For more information on CERF, visit their website at http://pies.uno.edu/education/cerf_coastal_education_and_research_facility_louisiana.htm

Resources are also available to teachers, parents and others, including data on water quality and health aspects of the wetlands through another partner; the Coastal Wetlands, Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act program. View curricula and other activities, including an interactive educational and entertaining CD on Louisiana wetlands here. To learn more about how these partners and CERF engage local public schools and their students, view this YouTube video.

Denver StudentsAlong the South Platte River in Denver, Colo., the Greenway Foundation motivates young public school students to engage the outdoors through environmental education programs. The Greenway River Ranger Internship Program introduces high school students to natural resource careers through environmental education training, hands-on teaching experiences with elementary students, job-readiness workshops and outdoor learning such as water quality sampling at Denver public parks along the South Platte River and its tributaries. The program aims to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and motivation to become stewards and informed decision makers.

The Greenway Foundation has been connecting tens of thousands of Denver youth and their families to urban waterways through school based field trips, summer camps and community events through its education arm, South Platte River Environmental Education (SPREE). For more information and videos, visit their website.

Through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and the 18 local partnerships, federal agencies are engaging America’s students in order to improve environmental and outdoor education in urban communities, allowing students to reconnect to our nation’s treasured rivers and lakes.

Call with Education Grantmakers

On October 26, the Department of Education hosted a quarterly conference call for education funders with Secretary Arne Duncan.

Secretary Duncan talked about the American Jobs Act and the Obama administration’s new proposal to allow about 1.6 million students to cap their loan payments at 10% starting next year and for about 6 million students and recent college grads to consolidate loans and reduce their interest rates.

Read the transcript, or listen to the call Audio icon.

Back-to-School Tour Highlights from Day Two

The second day of the “Education and the Economy” Midwest Back-to-School Bus Tour saw Secretary Duncan and other ED officials meeting with education stakeholders in Michigan, Indiana, and other points of the compass. Check out some of the day’s noteworthy items.

Detroit, MI
‘New Day’ Dawns in the Motor City

Secretary Duncan joined state and local leaders at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Sciences, urging Detroit to become a national leader in urban renaissance, and calling plans to help more students attend and graduate college ”about the best economic development tool the city can have.” Check out the full post.

The Nerdy Teacher Gets on the Bus.
Between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Secretary Duncan picked up Nicholas Provenzano and his student Teddy, a high school newspaper editor. Provenzano blogs about education issues and Tweets as The Nerdy Teacher. Thursday he posted this summary of his “Day of Epicness.”

Kouts, IN
No Bull.

On his Thursday visit to Kouts, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White heard from third-grader Hayden Landfadt about the student’s plans to go to college. “I’m saving money from raising a cow. Some of it will be for college, some for a car,” Landfadt said. Kouts is a rural Indiana school serving 400 elementary students and 453 in grades 6-12. Read about how “technology took center stage” during ED’s visit to the school.

Bus Tour in the News

During his bus tour to focus on education and the economy Secretary Duncan visited Detroit to recognize progress they have made to identify and improve persistently low performing schools.

“I appreciate the state being willing to step up and say, ‘Our children deserve better,’” Duncan said when he and other ED officials visited schools in Michigan on Thursday.

Calling on Detroit to turnaround schools, Duncan commended a new effort modeled on The Kalamazoo Promise, which has increased enrollment in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, and can help propel education reforms in the communities and school districts.

Meeting with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, and other state and local officials and community leaders Secretary Duncan said that thanks to cooperation among stakeholders, he is more hopeful than ever about the future of Detroit schools.

“Today, you might be able to sit at the front of the bus, but if you can’t read, you’re not free,” Duncan told an overflow crowd at the University of Michigan’s School of Education where he participated in a panel discussion on the importance of teacher preparation.

We need a new generation of great teachers who will be better prepared to start making a difference in kids’ lives on day one, Secretary Duncan told a crowd on his stop at the University of Michigan.

And, Indiana stakeholders responded to the Secretary’s call to turn around low-performing schools and equip students with the college credentials and career skills they’ll need to thrive in the global economy.

Merrillville, IN
Ready For College and Career Success in Indiana

When the Secretary brought his message about education and the economy to Northwest Indiana, he said the state – and the nation – must do better to prepare students to compete in the global marketplace. The community’s response: “we are ready” to help students succeed in college and careers.

Gary, IN
Changing the World.
Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White met with students at Calumet High School, which incorporated the New Tech program to prepare students for college and careers of the future. Using one-to-one computing and project-based learning, Calumet is increasing rigor and teaching students to be “young professionals” who learn problem-solving and shared responsibility by working in teams.  The New Tech program was sparked by business leaders in Napa, Calif. Several students wore t-shirts reading, “Changing Lives. Changing Learning. Changing the World.

Martha Kanter, under secretary of education, speaks to a reporter in Merrillville, Ind., following Secretary Duncan's speech. (Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams)

From the Mouths of Babes. During a student/teacher roundtable discussion at Calumet New Tech High School in Gary, IN, Under Secretary Martha Kanter asked the group, “What would you tell President Obama?” Student Noah Trevino had this to offer: “America used to be an education mecca, and it needs to be again.”

Washington, DC (via Cleveland on Wednesday)
No Teacher Left Behind. Sitting near First Lady Michelle Obama at Thursday’s Presidential address to Congress was Nicole Gentile, a teacher Arne Duncan met on his bus tour in Cleveland. The Secretary tweeted on Thursday that she may lose her job due to budget cuts. He is hoping that the President’s plan to hire more teachers will pass and that the new funding will allow her school to keep her where she is needed most.

Sweet Tweets

@thenerdyteacher: On my way back from #EDTour11. Great conversation with @arneduncan and @usedgov. Maybe I’ll get a follow now. ;-) http://yfrog.com/kjn25srj

@lgoldrick25: MT @usedgov: ED’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows are on #EDTour11 hosting 16+ #teacher roundtables in 7 states. #teaching

@Joy_Resmovits: @arneduncan gets some love from the toledo federation of teachers http://lockerz.com/s/136727717

@jennydemonte: The UMich school of education room is packed, people sitting on stairs, standing, crouching. Plus watching the webstream #edtour11

@delta_dc: I want a summer lab school @GVSU that immerses preservice, inservice & teacher educators & kids in promising practices. #EDTour11

—Laurie Calvert, Sherry Schweitzer, and Melissa Apostolides
Office of Communications and Outreach

Follow the trail of the Back-to-School bus tour at ed.gov/bustour, through #EDTour11 on Twitter and by signing up for email updates from the Department of Education.

Education Stakeholders Forum July 14

An Education Stakeholders Forum will be held Thursday, July 14th, 2011, at 2:30 p.m., at the Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This month’s forum will be a listening session with senior Department officials. As part of the President’s administrative flexibility agenda, we want to gather your ideas and suggestions for how the Department can increase flexibility and reduce burden and costs for stakeholders, with the aim of improving results for children.

More information:

Summit Closing Opens Universal Doors

A Rural U.S. Principal Reflects on Collective Lessons from the Closing Session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the closing session of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City on March 17.  I found it encouraging that so many of the goals and concerns of educators in the United States are shared by educators around the world.

As an educator from a rural area In Washington, I often feel that much of the national discussion on education involves issues of our urban areas, but I am beginning to see that the challenges are in some ways universal.  We all face the need to raise student achievement and close gaps, whether in rural or metropolitan settings, in Europe or Africa.

•    One panelist observed that in all countries, the quality of education cannot exceed the quality of our teachers.  This is why it is so important that we all find ways to improve our quality of teacher preparation programs and share with each other what is working.

•    Another panelist reminded educators that student learning is the only real aim of our work, and it seemed that her words ring as true in India as they do in Brazil.

•    One participant commented that the changing times have required her country to focus on transforming the curriculum so that the skills students learn arm them to compete in the globally competitive marketplace.  In rural areas of Washington, I have struggled with limited resources to meet this challenge, but I imagine there are teachers in Japan going through the same thing.

A panelist from Norway encouraged me, when he/she urged that as we seek to improve education reform, we must respect and listen to teachers and give them autonomy while building trust.  Trust is something that is earned every day, vertically and horizontally, among teachers and administrators, working all as professionals.  Trust is a universal value, globally understood and appreciated.

By Tamra Jackson

Tamra Jackson is 2009-2010 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.  She currently serves as the principal Bridgeport High School, a remote rural high school in Bridgeport, WA.

Press release about the Summit
Uncommon Wisdom of Teaching:  Blog Post from the Summit

Secretary Calls Black Men to the Blackboard

Panelists at the Jan. 31 event included Morehouse President Dr. Robert Franklin; distinguished educators from the Atlanta area, Christopher Watson and Derrick Dalton; filmmaker and Morehouse alumnus Spike Lee; and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

ATLANTA—On Monday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan renewed his call for more black men to pick up the chalk and teach.

Joined by filmmaker Spike Lee, Duncan issued the invitation during a town hall meeting and panel discussion hosted by Morehouse College and moderated by MSNBC contributor Jeff Johnson. The event was part of the Department of Education’s TEACH campaign, designed to raise awareness of the teaching profession and get a new generation of teachers to join the ones who are already making a difference in the classroom.

One Morehouse student spoke about the importance of African American students seeing caring, responsible and honest black men in positions of authority, because it helps them to recognize what is possible. The student argued that right now not enough of these positive images are visible to today’s youth.

During the town hall, Duncan stressed that the need for black male teachers is the greatest in elementary and middle schools. Panelists echoed this sentiment, many recalling that they did not encounter a black male teacher until late in high school or college.

Spike Lee represents the third generation in his family that attended Morehouse. Lee has been a strong advocate for black men entering the teaching profession.

An overarching theme of the town hall was the importance of education as a civil right. Georgia Congressman John Lewis remarked on the apt timing of the town hall, taking place on the cusp of Black History Month. He recalled that for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others at the center of America’s struggle for civil rights, education was paramount.  He also recounted the many ways in which Dr. King served as a teacher for those around him.

Morehouse student Anthony Gayles affirmed the importance of education in the struggle for civil rights, saying, “Education is the greatest equalizer…if we are successful in extending quality education to every citizen, there will be no more excuses. No one will be able to say that I didn’t get a chance.”

Gayles and Morehouse student Carlton Collins started the Morehouse Education Association, an organization on campus dedicated to steering new graduates into careers in education.

On a personal note, this was my first visit to Morehouse College—the only all-male historically black college in the country—and I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the students there. Sitting on the campus that produced Dr. King, I couldn’t help but look at this group of smartly dressed, articulate black men and think, “Look how far we have come.” Still, faced with the startling fact that black males represent 6 percent of the U.S. population yet 35 percent of the prison population and less than 2 percent of teachers, I can’t help but think, “How far we have to go.”

If the young men who attended Monday’s town hall are any indication, all of America has reason to be hopeful.

More Photos

Jemal Graham ,Teaching Ambassador Fellow

Jemal Graham is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches math in Brooklyn, N.Y. View video of Jemal speaking about the importance of teaching.

View video of Secretary Duncan’s speech at historically black Xavier University, where he launched the TEACH campaign.

Read Arne Duncan’s “Call to Service” lecture at Harvard University.

Small Town School Beats the Odds with Effective Leadership

A quiet town of hard-working families, Tinicum is committed to educational excellence in the face of a declining tax base to fund its schools.

Motorists driving down Route 95 South past Philadelphia might never know that tucked away off exit 9 B, right before the Philadelphia International Airport, lies a community so dedicated to its schools that it has overcome immense odds in order to make dramatic changes in the way it educates its students.

Tinicum Township is a community hit hard by the economic downturn, where 44 percent of the students receive free or reduced meals. Still, the township has proven that by setting high expectations for all, great things can happen. As proof, this year the 4,400 residents of this blue-collar town are celebrating Tinicum Elementary School’s Blue Ribbon School award for 2010.

Five years ago, only 52 percent of the township’s eighth graders reached proficiency in math and reading. This past year, 83 percent reached proficiency in math and 85 percent in reading.

What made the difference?  Most residents attribute this success teachers who were inspired by a great leader. The school’s principal, David Criscuolo, is credited with creating significant changes on two major fronts, academic and behavioral. In both areas, he has directed the school to use data to gauge the progress of each student.

Assistant Superintendent Lawrence Hobdell explains Criscuolo’s strategy:  “Besides valuing teacher input, Mr. Criscuolo values student assessments to see what the data prove.”

In addition to district-wide assessments, Tinicum School monitors students over short periods of time and provides teachers and parents immediate feedback so that adjustments can be made. Frequently, Criscuolo brings together teachers by grade level to discuss instructional strategies, and he always includes the Response to Intervention specialists and special education teachers in these benchmark meetings.

The school leadership realizes that academic achievement cannot happen without socially and emotionally sound students, so, in addition to academic data, behavioral goals are posted throughout the building, and all families are made aware of these expectations. The information collected reflects individual student behavior, but also areas of the school and times where trouble is most likely to occur. Staff members are encouraged to report and reward positive behavior, and all members of the community work together to provide the best learning environment for the children.

Elizabeth Williamson, Communications Team Lead for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, based in the Philadelphia Regional Office

Elizabeth Williamson is a former public school English teacher and an adjunct instructor of rhetoric at Temple University.

First Stakeholders Forum of 2011

Thanks to those of you who were able to join us for our first Stakeholders Forum of 2011, which featured the Secretary’s summary of our priorities for the upcoming year, an overview of the Education Dashboard, and a preview of the Department’s online map regarding School Improvement Grant activities and progress.

A transcript of the forum’s proceedings can be found here, and a video of the forum can be found here.

Our next forum in February will highlight the President’s FY 2012 budget request. Please check this site for the announcement of that forum.

Education Funders Conference Call

On Monday, the day before the President’s State of the Union Address, the Department of Education hosted the first quarterly conference call of 2011 for education funders with Secretary Arne Duncan.

Secretary Duncan talked about the importance of reauthorizing ESEA, maintaining momentum for state and local education reform when education systems are facing huge budget cuts, the recent Aspen Innovation in Education Forum & Expo, the upcoming conference on Labor-Management Collaboration for Student Success, and the TEACH campaign.

Listen to the call. Audio icon Read the transcript.