Know It 2 Own It: Students Reflect in a Time of Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving around the corner, people across the country will be reflecting on the things they are most grateful for. During this time, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education would like to recognize and express gratitude to the teachers, parents, coaches, mentors, and others who have made a difference.

One of the ways we do this is through our ongoing Know It 2 Own It campaign. We want to encourage young adults to learn about the history of the disability rights movement and for those with disabilities to understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We also want to hear from young adults with disabilities who are working to make a difference in their communities.

As we have demonstrated in past blog posts, disabilities don’t all look alike. Each month we strive to tell different stories about challenges and successes within the disability community.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. We recently invited students and young adults living with epilepsy to express their appreciation for those who have helped them along the way. Below are some of the compelling responses we received:

Dalton lauded his camp counselors. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

Dalton thanks his camp counselors. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

My name is Dalton, I am 19 years old and live in Texas.  I can’t honestly narrow down a mentor to just one person.  My mentors were my camp counselors Jonathan, Jake and Ryan at the summer camp I attended in 2008 for children with epilepsy.  When I first arrived I was nervous, homesick and withdrawn.  I had hardly opened up with anyone since my diagnosis two years earlier.  After spending one week with them my life completely changed for the better.  I realized that epilepsy was not going to keep me from living my life and that I could have friends and have fun just like any other kid.  Because of camp, I joined the football team and then became a pole vaulter!  Now I am a camp counselor just like they were, and even was a head counselor last summer!  I hope to make a difference in a kid’s life, just like they did mine. (Dalton, Texas)

Ryan was diagnosed at the age of 14. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

Ryan is inspired by his teachers and counselors. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

I had just begun high school when at the age of fourteen, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I had never heard of the condition, wasn’t familiar with the causes, and didn’t know which treatment option to select. My teachers and counselors not only offered valuable advice but helped me navigate the fears I had. When I needed them most, they were there, and I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them. (Ryan, Missouri)

Jarin honored his friends. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

Jarin thanks his friends. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

My friends always support and encourage me. They will do epilepsy runs with me and remind me to take my meds. My friends are trained to know what to do if I have a seizure and to recognize symptoms. My friends encourage me when I participate in sports and don’t make me feel like I can’t do what they are doing because I have epilepsy. (Jarin, Wisconsin)

Abie touted her mother as her biggest source of support. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

Abie says her mother is her biggest source of support. (Photo credit: Epilepsy Foundation)

Throughout my 4-1/2 year journey with epilepsy, one important person in my life comes to mind that has supported, helped, encouraged and cheered me on to speak up, speak out and be bold about my diagnosis. To share my story with the world so as to help other teens and families going through the same roller coaster ride of emotions that me and my mom have lived every day since my diagnosis. My mother, she has been my biggest and strongest advocate. Watching how she has taken this bull by the horns instead of letting epilepsy drag us by the tail, has shown me her strength, determination and — biggest of all — her unwavering faith that we will live life exactly as God has planned for us.I may never fully understand why I was given epilepsy but as I always say, “God gave me this life because He knew I was strong enough to live it.” He has put people and opportunities in my path over the years where I can use my voice to tell my story and to help inspire other teens like me not to fear the diagnosis but to have Hope for our futures. (Abie, Texas)

The testimony above showcases the resiliency of young people with disabilities and the value of their support networks. We want to continue to highlight stories like those above – and want to hear from you. Please continue to share your stories with us on social media by using the hashtag #know2own. And view past blog posts for additional inspiration.

Alexis Perlmutter is a Special Assistant in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

Ensuring a Global Education for All Students

Our world has never been more interconnected or interdependent. We’re all global “neighbors,” and each of us can make a commitment to understanding each other and working together.

Each November, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and State invite educational institutions and cultural programs to celebrate how they prepare people to become effective global citizens and attract students from abroad to study, learn, and share ideas with their peers in this country.

This year, International Education Week runs from Nov. 17 through 21.

Here at ED, I work in the International and Foreign Language Education office researching our grantees’ practices and successes, particularly related to outreach to minority serving institutions and community colleges, local teachers, and colleges of education.

Dillon_photo

Katrina Dillon is a former teacher who is helping educators to foster global understanding in their students. (Photo credit: University of New Mexico)

To learn more about how our university partners work to foster global understanding on the local level, I recently interviewed Katrina Dillon—a former teacher—who is helping educators to foster global understanding in their students.

During her time as an elementary and middle school teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dillon used to struggle to find content that reflected the diversity in her classroom, which includes a large number of Latino students.

“Students need to see themselves in the curriculum, and as their teacher, you feel responsible for filling in those gaps in content,” Dillon explained.

Today, Dillon works at the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) at the University of New Mexico, where she develops resources that teachers around the country can use to infuse their K-12 curriculum with rich, culturally appropriate content. The LAII is one of 100 National Resource Centers supported by grant funding from ED under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. As part of the outreach at the LAII, Dillon said, “We’re trying to create materials with content we feel is relevant across the board for students.”

The Institute’s offerings include the Vamos a Leer blog and a monthly book club that highlight Latino and indigenous literature, as well as resources such as ¡Viva la Revolución! An Educator’s Guide to the Mexican Revolution. These works contain lesson plans, background information, activities, and novel and film guides to help educators incorporate Latin American history and culture into the classroom. The Institute also hosts workshops with topics like, “How to Teach About El Día de los Muertos,” to train teachers to bring Latin American content into the classroom.

Dillion working with teachers during the “How to Teach About El Día de los Muertos” workshop. (Photo credit: University of New Mexico)

Dillion working with teachers during the “How to Teach About El Día de los Muertos” workshop. (Photo credit: University of New Mexico)

In addition to her work at LAII, Dillon is a doctoral candidate in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico. After graduation, she hopes to continue working with students in teacher education programs to advance the mission of ensuring a global education for all students.

Through my studies, my internship at the Department, and in talking with educators like Katrina Dillon, one thing has become increasingly clear—rich, international education is necessary. In a country as diverse as ours, students can benefit from learning to interact comfortably and confidently with people from all backgrounds and points of view. Our students also can benefit from understanding their own cultures and backgrounds, and how their histories and values contribute to the richness of the American experience.

Kaley Palanjian is a junior at Georgetown University studying linguistics, with a minor in education, inquiry, and justice. She is interning in the Office of Postsecondary Education for the International and Foreign Language Education office.

ConnectED to the Future Convening Brings Together Future Ready Superintendents at the White House

Today, President Obama will host “ConnectED to the Future,” a convening with superintendents and other educators from across the country, who will lead their schools and districts in the transition to digital learning.

The convening builds on the momentum of the President’s ConnectED Initiative, a plan to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, with the launch of the Future Ready Pledge. By signing on to this pledge, superintendents recognize the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning. Superintendents from districts across the country have signed the pledge. By doing so, they are demonstrating a commitment to work collaboratively with stakeholders to set a vision for digital learning; to empower educators through personalized, professional learning; and to mentor other district leaders in their transition to digital learning.

As part of today’s convening, the President will lead a digital pledge-signing ceremony, which will include the President and more than one hundred superintendents, who will be joined virtually by hundreds more education leaders from across the country.

During the convening, the U.S. Department of Education also will announce the release of two new publications, a toolkit called  Future Ready Schools: Empowering Educators through Professional Learning and a technical assistance guide called Future Ready Schools: Building Technology Infrastructure for LearningThe toolkit focuses on how districts can use technology to connect educators and provide tailored professional learning experiences to students. The technical assistance guide outlines specific and tangible examples that will help schools to improve their technological infrastructure.

The Department also will highlight a Dear Colleague Letter that identifies specific ways that districts can allowably and effectively use existing sources of federal funding for technology that can provide high-needs populations with personalized digital learning tools.

Over the next year, the Department, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, will host 12 Future Ready Regional Summits around the country to support district leaders in using technology to transform learning. The summits are designed to help districts create and implement district-wide action plans to fulfill their pledge to use technology to personalize learning. The summits will be open to all district leaders that take the Future Ready Pledge.

Since the President’s call to action in support of the ConnectED Initiative, more than $4 billion in public and private funding has been committed to the effort to expand high-speed Internet connectivity and wireless access in America’s schools and libraries.

Watch live at www.whitehouse.gov/live and connect with us via Twitter by following @OfficeofEdTech and #FutureReady.

Sara Trettin is Digital Engagement Lead in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Strengthening the AAPI Community Through New Bullying Prevention Efforts

Cross-posted from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders blog.


Hines Ward, retired NFL wide receiver and former member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, shares his story on bullying.
Watch on YouTube

More than one-quarter of students between the ages of 12 and 18 reported being bullied at school during the 2010-11 school year — nearly 7 million students. Some Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students face bullying and harassment based on their immigration status, such as Micronesian students whose families have recently immigrated to the continent and Hawaii. Others are bullied for the way they look, such as turbaned Sikh youth, or for their English language skills.

Students who are bullied don’t feel safe, and students who don’t feel safe can’t learn. Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have physical and mental health issues. Being bullied endangers students’ academic achievement and ultimately their college and career readiness. And in some areas, bullying of AAPI students is rampant. For example, one 2014 study found that over two-thirds of turbaned Sikh youth in Fresno, California reported experiencing bullying and harassment. And another recent study found that half of the 163 Asian American New York City public school students reported experiencing some kind of bias-based harassment in a 2012 survey, compared with only 27 percent in 2009.

When children are singled out because of a shared characteristic — such as race, sexual orientation, or religion — or a perceived shared characteristic, the issue not only affects that individual but the entire community. Policymakers believe that AAPI students who are bullied face unique challenges, including religious, cultural, and language barriers. In addition, there has been a spike of racial hostility following the September 11 attacks against children perceived to be Muslim. The classroom should be the safest place for youth, but for some AAPI students, it can be a very dangerous environment.

Unfortunately, this issue of AAPI harassment is nothing new. In 1982, Vincent Chin became a household name in AAPI homes when he was attacked and killed because he was mistakenly perceived to be Japanese. To facilitate a conversation on this issue, in 2011, under the leadership of Amardeep Singh, former member of the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) hosted a Bullying Prevention Summit in New York City.

However, more work needs to be done. Earlier this month, on the fifth anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the White House announced several efforts to address hate crimes, including a new Interagency Initiative on Hate Crimes. As a part of these efforts, WHIAAPI, in partnership with theU.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is launching the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force to proactively address bullying in the AAPI community. In the wake of increasing concerns about the high rates of bullying among Sikh youth and incidents such as the attacks on as many as 30 Asian American students at South Philadelphia High School in December 2009, the AAPI Task Force will help ensure that the AAPI community is aware of federal resources and remedies available to them.

The AAPI Task Force brings together federal experts in civil rights, language access, education, community relations, public health, mental health, and data to find creative solutions to help the AAPI community. These experts will coordinate the efforts of their federal agencies to work closely together with stakeholders to better understand the impediments to seeking relief and support, analyze data regarding the prevalence of bullying in the AAPI community, improve outreach, develop training and toolkits for schools, students, and parents, and explore and recommend policies to address the AAPI community’s growing concerns about bullying of AAPI youth.

Building upon previous efforts and working closely with federal representatives and community leaders, I look forward to seeing the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force make much needed progress on this very important issue in the AAPI community and furthering our commitment to improving the quality of life of AAPIs.

Join the conversation on AAPI bullying prevention on Twitter using hashtag #AAPIstrong.

Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  

Empowering Today’s Economy by Training Tomorrow’s Workforce

Our nation’s prosperity depends on individuals having the education and skills to obtain good jobs and progress along their career pathways, and employers finding workers with the skills to support their growth and the nation’s economic prosperity. How well we educate our citizens and help hard-working Americans in entry-level jobs gain the skills they need to advance in the workplace matters. Together, businesses, working with the nation’s public workforce system, can support our ability to transform low-wage and entry-level jobs into gateways to the middle class.

Vice President Biden recently emphasized the importance of business engagement in his landmark report, Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. The report highlighted seven key elements within a new “Job-Driven Training Checklist.” This checklist will continue to make our federal education, workforce, and training programs more responsive to business needs and more focused on evidence-based practices. Engaging employers is one of the key elements on that checklist, and all federal agencies are being asked to integrate the element across grant programs in workforce education and training.

That’s why we’re excited about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law this July. The overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation represents the most significant reform of job training programs in more than a decade. It emphasizes “upskilling” – working with businesses, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and nonprofits to expand access and opportunity for all Americans.

The Departments of Education (ED) and Labor, together with the Department of Health and Human Services, are working to engage stakeholders across the country and hear ideas about how to effectively implement the new law. We also want to send a special message to businesses nationwide: We want and need to hear from you.

This new law provides an unprecedented chance to engage the business community. For example, there are currently 24 million hard-working Americans who need training that puts them on a pathway to access thousands of vacancies available in more skilled, better-paying jobs. WIOA gives businesses the opportunity to partner with workforce investment boards, school districts, community colleges, and nonprofits nationwide to build career ladders for entry-level and other workers, and to drive and support regional sector strategies that meet the workforce needs of employers. Further, it continues to place businesses at the lead of state and local workforce investment boards, which look at regional workforce needs and strategically invest our nation’s funds.

Here are just a few ways that WIOA can work for your business:

  • Businesses can take advantage of increased access to work-based training. WIOA provides the ability for local workforce investment areas to help employers train their workers.
  • The law also increases reimbursement available for on-the-job training from 30 percent to 75 percent.
  • Under WIOA, businesses can collaborate with American Job Centers, community colleges, and adult education providers to develop integrated education and training programs—including Registered Apprenticeships—at the workplace to help employees gain basic and technical skills and advance to the next level of work. Further, this collaboration can support regional sector strategies and the development of career pathways that support job seekers and help meet the needs of employers.
  • There is an increased focus on serving out-of-school youth in WIOA. The new law requires local communities to spend at least 75 percent of available youth funding, or approximately $500 million, on this population. This provision goes into effect July 1, 2015. By partnering with the public sector to provide apprenticeships, internships, summer jobs, and other on-the-job training experiences, businesses can help the nation maximize opportunities for disconnected youth and build a skilled workforce.
  • Another feature of WIOA requires that the federal government measure the effectiveness of our services. We want to be sure that our programs add value. We need the input of business leaders to help decide on the right metrics.

At both ED and Labor, we value the contributions that business leaders can make in helping to craft workforce development solutions. We know there are many successful models for business and education partnerships across the country. But we also know that there is much more for us to learn.

We want to know about the innovative training solutions that your businesses are undertaking. How can we help you to take advantage of the opportunities under WIOA to train your workforce? What ideas do you have for measuring customer satisfaction?

Last month, during the third National Dialogue on Career Pathways, we heard from David L. Casey, Vice President of Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Caremark, a Fortune 12 company.

Casey shared how CVS Caremark has invested in several training programs to upskill their workers, moving them from welfare to work and from entry-level staff to certified pharmacy technicians. Over the past few years, CVS Caremark has trained more than 90,000 apprentices and employed more than 20,000 students each summer. Importantly, this work was done in collaboration with state and local workforce agency partners.

Casey also issued a call to action to his peers to undertake just one thing—an internship, externship, apprenticeship program, or incumbent training—to increase the vitality and innovation of their workforce.

It’s inspiring to see businesses expand access to training and provide supports for Americans to access pathways into the middle class. By taking advantage of the new opportunities that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides for businesses, business leaders can ensure that our nation’s workforce is highly skilled and competitive. Investing in America’s entry-level workers is an investment in our nation’s economic prosperity. It’s that simple.

We look forward to hearing about your ideas and your innovative training solutions. Send them to AskAEFLA@ed.gov. Together, we can make upskilling everyone’s business.

Thanks for sharing.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education and Tom Perez is U.S. Secretary of Labor.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards: Celebrating Great American Educators

What happens when you bring representatives of 340 exemplary American schools together?

Collaboration and engagement!

Euphoria, emotion, and energy characterized the two-day celebration of the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools in Washington, D.C., on November 10th and 11th. The Blue Ribbon Award recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Aba Kumi presents the 2014 Blue Ribbon School Award to representatives of Tibby Elementary School in Compton, California.  (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Aba Kumi presents the 2014 Blue Ribbon School Award to representatives of Tibby Elementary School in Compton, California. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

More than 800 school representatives and supporters shared stories and ideas with one another and discussed how they could take their success stories to struggling schools across the country.

Secretary Arne Duncan answered questions from the assembled high-powered educators on topics ranging from early college high schools, early childhood education, and academic rigor.

Secretary Duncan high-fives Morgan Taylor, a 6th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Montgomery County, Md., after introducing him. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan high-fives Morgan Taylor, a 6th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Montgomery County, Md., after introducing him. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett kicked off the ceremony with a talk on student equity and empowerment. Former Superintendent of the Year Marcus Johnson rocked the room with stories of the “tenacious love” of school personnel. Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, brought the audience to its feet with his deeply personal account of the instrumental role two high school teachers played at a critical moment in his life.

For eight principals, the ceremony occasioned a well-deserved moment in the spotlight as they were recognized with the 2014 Terrel H. Bell award for outstanding school leadership. The award, named for former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel Bell, honored these exemplary principals:

  • Alicia Aceves of Andrews School in Whittier, CA brought her extensive reading background to focus intensely on student’s reading and writing skills through a school-wide Professional Learning Community and a daily intensive reading and writing block.
  • Candis Hagaman of Caldwell Early College High School in Hudson, NC restructured the rural high school to challenge students with college-level courses and create a robust, transparent, community of practice among faculty. Caldwell now graduates 100% of seniors.
  • Kathy Hunt of Edmond Doyle Elementary School in McAlester, OK, also the school’s arts teacher, has used an all-hands on deck approach, engaging all adults in her school and the business community to focus on improving student achievement in a high-needs community.
  • Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut of Houston Academy for International Studies in Houston, TX began the school in 2006 to provide opportunities for first-generation college-goers and equips students with national and international travel experiences and rigorous project-based learning.
  • Robert Kern, Jr. of Nazareth Area Middle School in Nazareth, PA, came on board as the school was rebuilding its physical plant and struggling to exit academic warning status. Kern finessed both and introduced daily remediation/enrichment, character education, and a focus on the arts and health.
  • Robert Lyall of St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Kingman, KS led his rural school through its demolition and reconstruction as a high-achieving school that now trains other schools in data use and differentiated teaching. Tapping his staff’s expertise, he has created a safe, culturally rich environment.
  • Mario Marcos of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Compton, CA, focuses his school’s turnaround efforts around a philosophy that “Excuses Perpetuate Failure” and has rallied staff, families, and students to develop afterschool academic supports, project-based learning experiences, and character education.
  • Britani Creel Moses of LaVace Stewart Elementary School in Kemah, TX closed her school’s achievement gap by introducing a two-way bilingual Spanish-English curriculum, a vibrant pre-K program, a summer program for struggling students, and mentoring programs for both students and teachers.
The 2014 Terrel H. Bell Awardees, L-R: Kathy Hunt, Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut, Mario Marcos, Candis Hagaman, Robert Lyall, Alicia Aceves, Britani Creel Moses, Robert Kern, Jr. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

The 2014 Terrel H. Bell Awardees, L-R: Kathy Hunt, Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut, Mario Marcos, Candis Hagaman, Robert Lyall, Alicia Aceves, Britani Creel Moses, Robert Kern, Jr. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Aba S. Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program at the U.S. Department of Education.

3 Ways to Get Your Loan Out of Default

You didn’t pay your federal student loan for several months, and now a collection agency is calling you telling you your loan has defaulted. If you’re like many borrowers in this situation, you are probably freaked out and don’t know what to do.

options

Don’t worry — you still have options to remedy your situation. You don’t have to run from your debt; you can face it head-on and we can help you.

When you default on a federal student loan, you have three basic options to get your loan back in good standing:

  1. Loan Repayment: You can repay your defaulted loan, but just know that your lender will ask for the full amount. When you default, the entire balance of the loan is due immediately. If you are able, you can pay by check, money order, or credit or debit card. Get more info on where to send your payment. If this isn’t an option for you, keep reading.
  2. Loan Rehabilitation: You can rehabilitate your loan by voluntarily making at least nine payments of an agreed-upon amount over a 10-month period. You can choose your due date, and your payment has to arrive at the Department payment center within 20 days of that due date. You and the Department of Education must work together to agree on a reasonable and affordable payment plan. After you’ve successfully rehabilitated your loan, you may regain eligibility for benefits such as choice of repayment plan, loan forgiveness, deferment, and forbearance. However, it is possible that your monthly payment could increase after you make those initial nine payments due to the additional collection costs that are added to your principal balance.
  3. Loan Consolidation: You may be able to combine all of your federal student loans, including defaulted loans, into a new Direct Consolidation Loan. Usually, you are required to make at least three consecutive, voluntary, and on-time payments on your defaulted loans prior to consolidating. Please note that the principal balance of your new Direct Consolidation Loan may include accrued interest and collection fees. There is also an option to consolidate without making any payments; however, you must agree to one of our income-driven repayment plans as part of this consolidation, and you are required to complete income verification documents. Learn about your options for consolidating.

Now that you understand your options, it’s time to take action. First, contact the agency that is billing you to explain your situation, ask for more information on your options, and let them know that you want to work out a plan to get your loan back on track. In no time, you will be out of default and your loan will be back in good standing.

Tara Marini is a communication analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Domestic, Dating, and Sexual Violence: Resources and a Call to Action

Americans nationwide are helping increase the awareness of domestic violence. The issue has dominated headlines recently in the wake of multiple incidents involving professional athletes in addition to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. It is a far-reaching crisis that can have life-altering and often deadly consequences.

If you, a friend, or a loved one, is in an abusive relationship, the National Dating Abuse Helpline will offer immediate and confidential support. To contact the helpline, call 1‑866‑331‑9474, text “loveis” to 22522, or visit LoveIsRespect.org.

Every year, on average, more than four people  a day are murdered by their romantic partners in the United States. Men and women of all ages are at risk for domestic and sexual violence and its effects, which include: long‑lasting pain, increased risk of substance abuse, depression, poor academic performance, suicidal ideation, and future violence. Sexual and domestic violence are linked to a wide range of reproductive health issues including sexually transmitted disease and HIV transmission.

The fight against sexual violence on campuses is gaining momentum. Universities are working to educate students about Title IX through innovative new programs and reviving old ones, and students are increasing awareness and placing pressure for change on institutions. ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has published new guidance assisting counselors and advocates in helping and supporting victims. OCR has an increasingly important role in helping universities take responsibility for sexual misconduct on their campuses and in the reevaluation of sexual misconduct policies.

East Tennessee State University, for example, started an outreach and awareness program: Sexuality Information for Students; George Washington University is launching a new response committee to stop sexual assault on their campuses; the California State System is hiring a system-wide Title IX Compliance Coordinator; and in Kansas, the Board of Regents met with six state universities to coordinate their action to prevent offenses.

ED is dedicated to working with students, families, educators, and communities to prevent abuse and support survivors. The department, federal partners and countless schools and colleges nationwide continue to raise awareness, develop effective prevention strategies, and educate young people about healthy relationships. They recognize that the real work of preventing domestic violence, teen dating violence and sexual assault, happens at the local level, in schools, in homes, and in community centers across the nation.

Schools must clearly communicate that they will not tolerate violence of any kind, they will respond to any students who report it, and they will hold offenders accountable. ED is also vigorously enforcing compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act—laws that help make our schools safer.

The following resources provide more information to support schools and communities in their efforts to create safe, healthy learning environments and identify, investigate, and remedy domestic violence, teen dating violence and sexual assault:

Sarah Harris is an intern in the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at the U.S. Department of Education.

More States with High Graduation Rates

As a nation, it is critical that we prepare all students for success in college, careers, and in life. High school graduation is a vital point along that path, and the latest state-by-state graduation rates demonstrate our continued progress as a nation tackling this challenge.

This is the third year that states are using a common method, called the adjusted cohort graduation rate, to calculate four-year high school graduation rates. The new data, for the 2012-13 school year, indicate that 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85 percent, up from 16 states in the 2011-12 school year and nine in 2010-2011. This progress is a tribute to the tireless efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and other educators and staff, and of the students themselves. In this progress is consistent with the announcement this year that the nation’s overall graduation rate has hit 80 percent – the highest in our history.

It’s also worth noting the performance of individual states with the highest graduation rates, both for all their students and for traditionally underserved populations:

  • For the third year in a row, Iowa has the highest overall high school graduation rate at 89.7 percent
  • Kentucky, at 85.4 percent, had the highest graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students
  • West Virginia leads the nation with an 83 percent graduation rate for English Language Learners[1]

These 2012-13 graduation rates are state-reported data – states are responsible for verifying the accuracy of these data. States that have been approved for ESEA flexibility are using these four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates as a significant element in their school accountability systems.

In 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics will release a report updating the national on-time graduation rate for school year 2012-2013. These on-time graduation rates provide a measure of the proportion of students who successfully completed high school in four years with a regular high school diploma.

To explore the 2012-13 data use the ED Data Express Build a State Table Tool, and navigate to Achievement Data > Graduation Rate Data > Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates: 2012-13. This tool will also provide State Snapshots, and allow you to build cross-state comparisons using the Data Element Explorer.

Joshua Pollack is in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. 


[1] Although the adjusted cohort graduation rate provides a common measure of 4 year graduation rates for all states, there are still some differences across States in how they implement the rate, particularly for English learners and students with disabilities.

Continuing to Serve: The Path from Afghanistan to the Front of the Classroom

“Mr. Thompson! What does this book have to do with you being in the Army?” asked a curious Suzanne.

I had prepared a special lesson for my tenth grade world history class around Veterans Day; students were assigned several artifacts to analyze from my years of service with the 82nd Airborne Division. Suzanne noticed other groups handling more enticing objects like my helmet, which had once protected me on parachute jumps and dismounted patrols.

“I want to see the helmet, not this book,” demanded Suzanne.

She was about to put the book down, initial curiosity having given way to clear disappointment, when I provided some needed redirection.

“Remember, Suzanne, that a historian is like a detective. There’s always more to investigate; don’t give up,” I urged.

Suzanne still visibly frustrated, opened the paperback edition of Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, which details the author’s experiences as a high school teacher at several New York City schools. McCourt, who is known for his Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes, would have understood my challenge with engaging Suzanne in the lesson.

Brian Thompson in Afghanistan.

Brian Thompson in Afghanistan. Over the next several years, the number of service members transitioning from military to civilian life is expected to increase significantly.

The book was among many items—AA batteries, beef jerky, headlamps, candy, magazines, powdered drinks, socks—my mom carefully packed up in hundreds of boxes. She would make weekly trips to her local post office in Tucson, Arizona, for 13 consecutive months, fill out a customs form, hand over the package to a supportive postal employee, and it would always find its way to my small outpost in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.

Suzanne’s curiosity returned as she opened the book and looked at the inside cover. She read my mother’s inscription to me out loud, “You would make a terrific teacher — just like Mr. McCourt — especially with that sarcastic sense of humor.”

Suzanne smiled and looked up at me and without any hesitation asked question after question about my mom, the book, and my time in the military. Suzanne was now acting like a good detective, and with her interrogation nearing its end, asked one final question.

“Did you become a teacher because of this book?”

It was an excellent and timely question.

Over the next several years, the number of service members transitioning from military to civilian life is expected to increase significantly. A growing number of these veterans will be enrolling at colleges and universities as they seek to become career-ready and improve their future prospects for employment.

I know firsthand about this transition. While deployed, I often thought about my life after the Army, and I wanted to do something where I could still continue to serve my country. After reading Teacher Man, I realized the best way to do just that was to go back to school, so I could one day stand in front of a classroom as a teacher.

I encourage my fellow veterans to consider teaching as your next career step; you will realize soon after leaving the military that the passion to serve others does not subside when you take off that uniform. You will not only discover that teaching provides a sense of challenge and purpose that you once thought could only be found with a career in the military, but you will also be surprised just how good you are at doing it.

The skills you learned in the military—whether the leadership you experienced conducting patrols or the teamwork you developed fixing helicopters—will translate to success in the classroom. It was my own experience in the military that contributed in my development as a teacher and led to my 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. There are many stories of other veterans succeeding in the classroom such as Air Force veteran Daniel Lejia who was the 2011 Texas Teacher of the Year. The anecdotal evidence and academic research proves that veterans make great teachers.

Brian Thompson at school. (Photo courtesy of Standing Ovation for DC Teachers)

Brian Thompson at school. (Photo courtesy of Standing Ovation for DC Teachers)

The good news for veterans interested in pursuing a teaching career is they can turn to programs that are designed to help them get in front of a classroom. ED is a proud supporter of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Troops to Teachers (TTT) program. TTT provides counseling and referral services for interested veterans to help them meet the education and licensing requirements necessary to secure a teaching position. Since 1994, TTT has helped over 17,000 veterans become teachers. Even non-profit organizations have launched initiatives designed to bring more veterans into the teaching profession such as Teach for America’s “You Served America, Now Teach for America.”

Sid Ellington, who made the transition from Navy SEAL to teacher and now directs the initiative, has said, “Students will greatly benefit from a veteran’s depth of experience, strength in leadership, and desire to serve their country.”

Suzanne was one of these students. After the school bell ended the day’s lesson, she approached me with an interesting idea.

“I like your mom, Mr. Thompson. I’m glad she sent you that book because you make history interesting. I think more veterans should teach.”

I encourage my fellow veterans to consider teaching as a way to continue serving this great country and making an impact on the lives of students like Suzanne.

Brian Thompson is a Presidential Management Fellow with the Military Affairs Team in the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. He served as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army.

Higher Education Programs Make A Difference

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small team to visit Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College. We were there to meet with faculty and campus leaders who are administering Department-sponsored programs that support student success. I was impressed with their understanding of the student population, the variety of programs they were using to support degree attainment, and their collective commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students they serve.

My favorite part of site visits is the opportunity to meet with students. During this visit, I had the chance to talk with students from a variety of backgrounds, all of whom face serious barriers to obtaining a college degree. Some were veterans struggling to afford college, children of migrant workers, or adults recovering from addiction, while others were technically homeless or battling learning disabilities. All of these students made it clear that the help they received from Department-sponsored programs was giving them the tools, resources, and guidance they needed to obtain a college degree. Setting my federal position aside, as a human being I was moved by their optimism, resilience, persistence, and dedication to obtaining a college education. Each of them made a direct connection between postsecondary education and the ability to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

The Department-funded Higher Education Programs I visited support these students and their successes. The students on these two campuses are among millions who benefit from our initiatives. There are a range of competitive and formula-based programs and student support services across the United States and its territories that are federally funded. Many of these initiatives aim to improve the capacity of colleges and universities to provide essential support to students and aid them in graduating.

In preparation for our 2015 grant competitions, the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education recently posted an eligibility notice for the Title III and V programs in the Federal Register. Across these grant programs, we’ll target over $400 million to U.S. colleges and universities, resulting in over 1,000 new and continuing grants. That’s a big opportunity for those who seek government assistance to improve, accelerate, evaluate and expand their efforts. These programs include the Strengthening Institutions Program, Predominantly Black Institutions Program, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program and many others designed to improve affordability, quality, retention and completion.

We encourage all institutions to review our grant programs and submit an eligibility application by December 18, 2014.

We know these programs make a difference, and we are encouraged by students across the United States and its territories, whose progress reaffirms our work each day.

To learn more about OPE visit our web page or follow us on Twitter @EDPostsecondary.

Dr. James T. Minor is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs at the Department of Education.

Missed a Few Student Loan Payments? We Can Help You Get Back on Track.

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You’ve recently missed a few payments on your student loan. It might not seem like a big deal, but you are responsible for repaying your federal student loans and when you don’t, you could face huge consequences. You don’t need me to tell you about those; you probably already know what they are. (If you don’t, you can read more about those here.) Instead, let’s talk about how you get back on track. It may be easier than you think.

One of the many benefits of having federal student loans is the flexibility of repayment options. You owe it to yourself (and your credit score) to take advantage of these options.

First things first: whenever you are unable to make your federal student loan payments, you should contact your loan servicer. Your loan servicer can explain your options for lowering or temporarily postponing your payments and help keep your loan in good standing while you get your finances in order.

Here are some options that your servicer may suggest to help you:

  • Switch your monthly payment date: You may be able to change the date that your monthly payment is due. For example, if you get paid once a month on the 1st, you may request your federal student loan payment is due on the 2nd of the month instead of the 28th.
  • Switch your repayment plan: You may be able to change your repayment plan to one with lower monthly payments. Just beware that lowering your monthly payments may result in paying more over the life of the loan. You can compare your payments under each repayment plan using our Repayment Estimator.
  • Ask about income-driven repayment plans: You may qualify for a repayment plan that bases your monthly payment amount on your income. Depending on your income, your initial payment could be as low as $0 per month. This is a good option if you cannot afford your current monthly payment amount. Just note that income-driven repayment plans usually end up costing you more over the life of the loan.
  • Consolidate your loans: If you have multiple federal student loans, you may consider combining them into one loan. A Direct Consolidation Loan often results in a lower monthly payment, but does extend the amount of time you have to repay your loan which causes you to pay more over the life of the loan. Find out more about the .

If the options described above won’t work for you, there are a few other options to consider:

  • Ask for a deferment or forbearance: deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments. You may qualify for a deferment or forbearance for a variety of reasons, including financial/economic hardship, unemployment, or military service. It’s important to note that, in most cases, interest will continue to accrue on your loans when they are in a deferment or forbearance status (except for subsidized loans in deferment).

For more information about options for successfully managing your loans, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans or contact your loan servicer.

Tara Marini is a communication analyst at the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.