What You Missed: Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan Answer Your Questions on Early Education

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Grammy award-winning artist Shakira took to Twitter to answer your questions about the early childhood education.

Shakira, who is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and a strong advocate for high-quality early education, joined Duncan in highlighting $1 billion in new public and private commitments that were announced as part of today’s White House Summit on Early Education.

At the Summit, President Obama reiterated his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every kid in America, and announced the launch of the Invest In Usinitiatitive. The new initaitive challenges public and private partners, business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials, and individuals to build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education.

Take a look at the full #ShakiraEdChat Q&A below, or over on Storify, and check out Shakira’s new PSA videos on InvestInUs.org.

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

Join Shakira and Secretary Duncan for a Twitter Q&A on Early Education

For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these kids as adults.

Early education is one of the best investments our country can make. Participation in high-quality early learning programs—like Head Start, public and private pre-K, and childcare—provide children from all backgrounds with a strong start and a solid foundation for success in school.

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Learn more about the President’s plan to expand access to high-quality early childhood education, and then join Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

This post originally appeared on The White House blog.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At the beginning of his administration, President Obama set a goal that the U.S. would once again lead the world in college graduates. The President believes that expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class.

The President has already taken important steps to increase college access, including:

  • Increasing Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year
  • Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $10,000 over four years of college
  • Limiting student loan payments to 10 percent of income
  • Laying out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition

In January, 140 college presidents and other leaders made commitments to support student success at the first White House College Opportunity Summit. To build upon the success of that summit, on Thursday, December 4, President Obama and the First Lady will join college presidents and other leaders making new commitments to improve degree completion, sustain community collaborations that encourage college-going, train high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and produce more STEM graduates with diverse backgrounds.

Here’s how you can participate in the College Opportunity Summit on Thursday, December 4th:

  • Watch the entire summit live here, or at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
    • 9:00 a.m. ET: Opening remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education
    • 9:15 a.m. ET: Panel discussions moderated by Cecilia Muñoz and Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • 11:50 a.m. ET: Remarks by the President Barack Obama
    • 2:45 p.m. ET: Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama
    • 3:00 p.m. ET: Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden
  • Add your voice to the conversation and follow along on social media with the hashtag #CollegeOpportunity.

AM Live Stream: Remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Secretary Julian Castro, and President Barack Obama:

PM Live Steam: Remarks by the First Lady and Vice President Biden:

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

More than 1,200 School Superintendents Take the Future Ready District Pledge

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.

Earlier today, speaking to more than 100 school superintendents in the East Room of the White House, President Obama launched a new effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning with the Future Ready Digital Pledge.

The Future Ready Digital Pledge is part of the President’s ConnectED initiative, which empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content. ConnectED also seeks to connect 99 percent of America’s students with high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries.

During his remarks, the President highlighted the significant gains our country has made in improving education during the last six years:

“Dropout rates are down. The graduation rate is the highest on record. More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.”

But he also noted that in a 21st century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge — and the capacity to learn new knowledge — we still have work to do:

Right now, fewer than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed Internet in their classrooms — less than half. That’s not good, since we invented the Internet. That’s not good. It means that in most American schools, teachers cannot use the cutting-edge software and programs that are available today. They literally don’t have the bandwidth.

And even in schools where there is high-speed Internet, so often there aren’t enough computers to go around, so only a small percentage of our classrooms have the one-to-one ratio of students to computers or tablets. And that means that, in too many schools, if a teacher wants to use the Internet for a lesson, then kids have to crowd around one desk to follow along, or they have to break up into groups and sequentially come in.

More than 1,200 school superintendents have already signed the pledge, and have agreed to:

  • Foster a culture of learning through technology across their schools
  • Assist their students and families in the transition to high-speed connectivity
  • Provide their learners greater access to high-quality digital devices and content
  • Provide teachers and principals the support needed to use technology in innovative ways

Together, they will reach approximately 10 million students across more than 16,000 schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”

Today’s “ConnectED to the Future” convening also featured new commitments from private and non-profit partners and from the U.S. Department of Education to support educators as they transition to digital learning. Learn more about today’s commitments here.

The President called the Future Ready Digital Pledge “a vision for digital learning in classrooms across America,” but cautioned that the pledge can’t stop with the superintendents:

Every kid needs every superintendent in America to sign this pledge — and then follow through on the pledge.  Our kids need every school district to make these commitments. Every child — whether they live in a big city, quiet suburb, the furthest reaches of rural America, poor districts, rich districts — every child deserves a shot at a world-class education.

That’s the promise we make as a nation great. That’s what makes our nation great — this fundamental belief that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, you can make it in this country if you work hard. You have access to the tools to achieve. If we keep working at this, that’s a promise we can make real for this generation and generations to come.

Read the Future Ready Digital Pledge here, and find out more about the ConnectED initiative here.

Joplin High School: A Living Symbol of the Community’s Values

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gaves remarks and introduced Vice President Joe Biden at the Joplin High School Homecoming and Ribbon Cutting ceremony, in Joplin, Missouri, on Oct. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gives remarks and introduces Vice President Joe Biden at the Joplin High School Homecoming and Ribbon Cutting ceremony, in Joplin, Missouri, Oct. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22, 2011 lasted 32 minutes and caused damage for 13 miles. At its widest point, the path of the tornado stretched a full mile. The EF5 Tornado — the most destructive on the Enhanced Fujita Scale — left a city nearly destroyed. More than 15,000 vehicles were carried away, nearly 7,000 homes were completely destroyed, and 161 people lost their lives.

The destruction of Joplin High School took place just minutes after a graduation ceremony for seniors. The ceremony was held off campus, at Missouri Southern State University. When the tornado hit, around 150 people were still in the arena, and Dr. Kerry Sachetta, the high school principal, led those individuals into the basement. But others were already on the road or back in their homes. The tornado claimed the lives of seven students (including one of the graduates) and one high school staff member.

In the months following the tornado, Secretary Arne Duncan joined then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to tour the city and the destroyed high school, and last week, Duncan returned to Joplin with Vice President Joe Biden for the dedication of the new state-of-the-art Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center.

Secretaries Duncan and Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Serino visit Joplin, Mo., to learn about recovery efforts from the May 2011 tornado. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Secretaries Duncan and Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Serino visited Joplin in Sept., 2011. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Referring to his previous visit three years ago, Secretary Duncan spoke of how he left inspired and full of hope, and that he is not surprised at Joplin’s dramatic recovery. “In that one day [in 2011], I had some sense of the fiber and character of this community,” he said.

“It would have been much easier to build a high school that just built upon what was here in the past. This community decided that the children of Joplin deserved something much better. So they built a high school not for yesterday, not for today, but for tomorrow. In blending vocational education and college education, [and] making sure we’re not tracking children into one path or another, but giving them the option to develop for college and for careers.”

Going forward, many of Joplin’s graduates will enter college with two years of college credit under their belt, saving students and their families thousands of dollars in tuition.

“This is a vision of what high schools all across America should be doing and can be doing.”

The new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center isn’t just a new building, but a new vision of education for the community’s students. The opening also marked the launch of the Career Path curriculum. Students attending JHS/FTC can choose one of five Career Paths, which are developed and implemented by school, community, and business representatives, centered on core foundational knowledge and skills, plus the soft skills employers demand from their employees.

“But as powerful and as inspiring as this high school is,” Duncan said during the dedication homecoming. “For me, the building is simply a living symbol, a physical manifestation, of this community’s values.”

Cameron Brenchley is a Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

President Obama at My Brother’s Keeper Town Hall: “America Will Succeed If We Are Investing in Our Young People.”

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama visited the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, D.C., to participate in a town hall with youth, and to announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

As the President said, “We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America. And it’s possible if we’ve got the kind of team that we set up today.”

Watch President Obama answer questions during the town hall:

In February, as part of his plan to make 2014 a year of action focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans, the President unveiled the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

The Administration is doing its part by identifying programs and policies that work, and recommending action that will help all our young people succeed. Since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions, who are already taking action.

Now, leading private sector organizations announced independent commitments that further the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and directly address some of the key recommendations in the Task Force ReportThese commitments include:

  • The NBA, the National Basketball Players Association, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association announced a five-year commitment in partnership with MENTOR: The National Mentoring PartnershipTeam Turnaround, and the Council of Great City Schools. The partnership will focus on recruiting new mentors and work with educators in at-risk schools to provide incentive programs that increase attendance and improve overall school performance.
  • AT&T announced an $18 million commitment to support mentoring and other education programs with a mentoring component.
  • Becoming A Man (B.A.M.) and Match tutoring programs announced $10 million in new funding to expand to 3-5 new cities over the next three years and support a large-scale study on the programs’ long-term effects.
  • Along with their partners from Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, will collaborate with districts and educators to launch a competition to find and develop the best designs for next generation high schools. Together, they will contribute $50 million for this effort.
  • Citi Foundation is making a three-year, $10 million commitment to create ServiceWorks, a national program to help 25,000 young people in ten cities across the U.S. develop skills they need to prepare for college and careers.
  • Yesterday, the leaders of 60 of the largest school systems in the country, which collectively educate nearly three million of America’s male students of color, have joined in an unprecedented pledge to change life outcomes of boys and young men of color by better serving these students at every stage of their education.
  • The College Board is investing more than $1.5 million for “All In,” a national College Board program to ensure that 100 percent of African American, Latino, and Native American students with strong AP potential enroll in at least one matched AP class before graduation.
  • Discovery Communications will invest more than $1 million to create an original independent special programming event to educate the public about issues related to boys and men of color and address negative public perceptions of them.

Learn more about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, including previous commitments and steps the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force is taking.

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist in the Office of Digital Strategy.

#ThankATeacher and Share on Teacher Appreciation Day

ThankATeacher

Peter Markes (@PeterMarkes) the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, and Edmond North High School Orchestra Director, tweeted his #ThankATeacher sign during a visit to the U.S. Department of Education headquarters.

Tuesday, May 6, is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and we want your help in thanking a teacher that has inspired you. Click below to download our “#ThankATeacher” sign, fill it out, and on Tuesday, May 6, post your picture on social media using the hashtag #ThankATeacher.

There’s no doubt that teachers deserve a special week and day, but our appreciation and support for teachers needs to be a year-round effort. At the U.S. Department of Education, one of our top priorities is to continue to strengthen the teaching profession. Read more about the Obama Administration’s plan to improve teacher preparation, leading from the classroom through Teach to Lead, and the RESPECT proposal to elevate teaching and leading so that all of our students are prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Download your #ThankATeacher sign!

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education.

 

Show Your College Pride with First Lady Michelle Obama

As part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to encourage children to reach higher and pursue higher education, she will be visiting San Antonio on Friday to speak at the city’s College Signing Day.

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with students in a pre-K classroom at the Yu Ying Public Charter School, a Chinese-immersion, International Baccalaureate elementary school in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

College Signing Day is part of Destination College, a week of events started by Mayor Julián Castro to celebrate San Antonio as both a college town and a college-going town. To celebrate their commitment to higher education, San Antonio residents show their support by wearing college apparel on Signing Day. (Watch a video of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attending a Signing Day in San Antonio).

To inspire students across the country to consider applying to college, we’re encouraging journalists, celebrities, government officials, and YOU to wear college gear on Friday, May 2. It can be as simple as a hat, tie, sweatshirt or socks–anything to help get the word out. We would be honored if you would join this effort and wear your college apparel on Friday and share photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine or any social media platform using the hashtag #ReachHigher.

In her remarks on Friday, the First Lady will highlight the significance of pursuing and completing some form of higher education and the importance of students doing their part to answer the President’s ‘North Star’ Education Goal that by the year 2020, America once again has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Teaching English Learners: A New Educator’s Practice Guide from the What Works Clearinghouse

We have better, stronger evidence about teaching academic content to English learners than we did a decade ago. That’s the conclusion of a new guide for educators from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse. The guide — Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle Schoolrecommends four practices for instructing English learners and provides advice on how to carry out the practices, including sample lessons. The guide is geared to a wide spectrum of educators who are not necessarily specialists in instructing English learners: classroom teachers, content-area teachers, special education teachers, administrators, para-educators, and instructional coaches.

EL-guide

To produce the guide, the What Works Clearinghouse engaged a panel of eight distinguished education researchers and district-based curriculum experts to review and rate the research evidence, develop the recommendations, provide concrete examples of the recommendations in action, and summarize tips for successful classroom implementation.

The guide offers four recommendations. They are: 1) Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities; 2) Integrate oral and written English language instruction into content-area teaching; 3) Provide regular, structured opportunities to develop written language skills and 4) Provide small-group instructional intervention to students struggling in literacy and English language development.

Each recommendation is accompanied by tips on carrying out the recommendations.  For example, to implement the first recommendation, the guide suggests choosing brief, engaging informational text that includes academic vocabulary and selecting a set of academic vocabulary words for in-depth content instruction. The guide recommends teaching the vocabulary using multiple modalities and word-learning strategies—such as context clues, word parts and cognates—to help students independently figure out the meanings of words. Each of these suggestions is amplified by even more detailed guidance and lesson plans that further illustrate the recommendations in action.  A “Putting It All Together” section at the end of each recommendation incorporates all of the “how-to-steps” into a lesson cycle, to be implemented over a few days, that demonstrates the lesson in its entirety.  All in all, the guide has over 20 supplemental activities for instructors. And because the panelists are familiar with the difficulties of implementing new practices, each recommendation is followed by a section called “Roadblocks and Solutions,” which anticipates potential hurdles and offers advice on how to get over them.

This guide is one of 18 Educator’s Practice Guides published since 2006 by the What Works Clearinghouse.  Each guide addresses a practical education topic related to classroom instruction, school organization, or keeping students on track. Other recent guides have addressed teaching math to young children and writing instruction in the early elementary grades.

Be sure to register for our May 1 (3pm EDT) online presentation and discussion on the guide with panel members Scott Baker, Nonie Lesaux, and C. Patrick Proctor.  The hosts will discuss the recommendations and answer your questions. Register here.

Vanessa Anderson is a research scientist and project officer at the What Works Clearinghouse

Taking Action to Improve Teacher Preparation

Recruiting, preparing, developing and supporting great teachers has a direct impact on the learning and success of America’s students. Research confirms that the most important in-school factor in a student’s success is a strong teacher, and excellent teachers are especially important for our neediest students. However, the vast majority of new teachers – almost two-thirds – report that their teacher preparation program left them unprepared for the realities of the classroom.

President Obama believes that we need to give schools the resources to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best ones, and give teachers the flexibility to teach with creativity and passion. Earlier today, the President directed the U.S. Department of Education to lay out a plan to strengthen America’s teacher preparation programs for public discussion by this summer, and to move forward on schedule to publish a final rule within the next year.

Teacher Prep StatsThe Administration’s plans will:

  • Build on state systems and efforts and the progress in the field to encourage all states to develop their own meaningful systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs across all kinds of programs, not just those based in colleges and universities.
  • Ask states to move away from current input-focused reporting requirements, streamline the current data requirements, incorporate more meaningful outcomes, and improve the availability of relevant information on teacher preparation.
  • Rely on state-developed program ratings of preparation programs – in part – to determine program eligibility for TEACH grants, which are available to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income school, to ensure that these limited federal dollars support high-quality teacher education and preparation.

These critical changes will help to increase recognition for high-performing teacher preparation programs, and create a much-needed feedback loop to provide information to prospective teachers, schools and districts, and the general public, and drive improvement across programs.

Read more about the Obama Administration’s proposal, get a pdf copy of our teacher prep infographic, and visit ed.gov/teaching to learn about additional ways the administration is ensuring that teachers and leaders have the support they need from preparation and through their careers.

How Can the Department of Education Increase Innovation, Transparency and Access to Data?

Despite the growing amount of information about higher education, many students and families still need access to clear, helpful resources to make informed decisions about going to – and paying for – college.  President Obama has called for innovation in college access, including by making sure all students have easy-to-understand information.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education needs your input on specific ways that we can increase innovation, transparency, and access to data.  In particular, we are interested in how APIs (application programming interfaces) could make our data and processes more open and efficient.

APIs are set of software instructions and standards that allow machine-to-machine communication.  APIs could allow developers from inside and outside government to build apps, widgets, websites, and other tools based on government information and services to let consumers access government-owned data and participate in government-run processes from more places on the Web, even beyond .gov websites. Well-designed government APIs help make data and processes freely available for use within agencies, between agencies, in the private sector, or by citizens, including students and families.

Read More

Listening and Learning at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession

ISTP 2014

Delegations from high-performing education systems across the globe gathered for the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New Zealand.

At the end of March, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and I joined delegations from high-performing and rapidly improving education systems across the globe for the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Whether large or small, highly decentralized or not, countries share a common desire to create a high-quality education system that prepares all children for success in their personal and professional lives. The summits provide a unique opportunity for education ministers and teacher leaders to come together to learn from each other, share best practices, and look for ways to replicate or adapt back home what other countries are doing well.

New Zealand welcomed us with a powhiri, the traditional Maori ceremony, which is something most of the international guests and I had never seen. It was a beautiful and moving welcome and I was honored, as the host of the first summit in 2011, to accept the New Zealand challenge for a successful 4th summit on behalf of the international community. Many thanks to New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata and her team for being gracious hosts during the summit.

This year’s summit focused on Excellence, Equity and Inclusiveness. There was complete agreement that where you live or what your parents do for a living should not determine your access to a quality education. We need to invest in education to close opportunity gaps that exist for too many children and create learning environments that allow all children to thrive. Using PISA 2012 data, OECD showed that there’s a false choice between equity and excellence: education systems as diverse as Korea and Canada can, and do, achieve both.

Maori Welcome

The International delegations began the summit in New Zealand with an official Maori welcome ceremony.

The countries represented at the summit stressed strong support for early interventions to help children start school healthy and ready to learn—one minister even suggested early learning as the focus of the next summit. Many of the countries around the table, including our New Zealand hosts, have a stronger commitment to early childhood education than we do in the U.S. Young children in New Zealand can receive 20 hours of free early learning opportunities each week. Data show that 95 percent of New Zealand children have had some early childhood education when they start school. The U.S. rate of 65 percent pales in comparison.  

During the summit, we also talked a lot about teacher leadership and collaboration. For example, Canada involves teachers in making and implementing policy. Representatives from Singapore talked about the importance of consultation and feedback, as well as the country’s three career tracks, which provide different options for teachers’ career progression. New Zealand discussed its proposed program to create new roles and pathways, while Hong Kong mentioned a new school leadership program. These interventions and many others confirmed to me that our new Teach to Lead (T2L) initiative and our ongoing labor-management collaboration mirror what high-performing systems are doing.

I came away from the summit discussions with a renewed energy and commitment to early learning teacher leadership and collaboration, and to continuing the challenging work of education improvement. The U.S. delegation committed publicly to:

  • Continue to work to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,
  • Increase opportunities for teacher leadership,
  • And, support labor-management collaboration to increase learning for all students.

Dennis, Randi, Chris and I are already moving ahead on our commitments and will report back on our progress to the international community next year at the 5th summit in Alberta, Canada.  Little did we know three years ago, when we hosted the first international summit, that it would become an international community of practice dedicated to enhancing the teaching profession to improve learning for all students. Now, let’s get to work.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education