8 Keys to Veterans’ Success Receives More than 400 College and University Commitments

Cross-posted from the White House Joining Forces Blog.

Last August, at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama outlined key Administration priorities that ensure we are fulfilling our promises to those who have served our nation, including supporting our veterans in institutions of higher learning. In his speech, President Obama announced that 250 community colleges and universities committed to implementing the 8 Keys to Success program on their campuses.

Developed by the Administration, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with more than 100 education experts, the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success on campus are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there. Over the past year, the number of commitments have nearly doubled as more than 400 colleges and universities have affirmed their commitment to take the necessary steps to assist veterans and servicemembers in transitioning to higher education, completing their college programs, obtaining career-ready skills, and achieving success.

The strategies within the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success include:

  • Creating a culture of connectedness on campus
  • Coordinating and centralizing campus efforts for all veterans
  • Collaborating with local communities and organizations to align services and supports for veterans
  • Implementing an early alert system
  • Utilizing a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information relating to veteran students (i.e., retention and degree completion)
  • Developing systems to ensure sustainability of effective practices

These common-sense practices should be implemented on every campus across the country.

To view current commitments and check if your school has signed the 8 Keys pledge, click here. If you are an administrator and would like to join the growing list of colleges and universities focused on providing the best environment for your student veterans, please visit the 8 Keys registration site, or email 8keys@ed.gov.

As more servicemembers return to civilian life, the urgency to ensure that they have the support they need to reach their educational and career goals grows each day. We will continue to advocate for the needs of the men and women who serve us so valiantly each and every day.

Robert “Mac” McFarlin is a White House Fellow at the National Economic Council.

A Day in Ohio with Secretary Perez & Secretary Duncan

Cross-posted from the Department of Labor’s Work in Progress blog.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez is traveling with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Toledo, Ohio, today to see first-hand model programs and partnerships that are equipping Americans with the knowledge, skills and industry-relevant education they need to get on the pathway to a successful career.

We want to make sure you see what they see, too. Follow along today to see live updates and highlights from their day.

First stop: The Toledo Technology Academy.

The path to good jobs begins in grade school. Students in grades 7 – 12 receive an intense integrated academic and technical education that prepares them for a rewarding, life-long career in engineering or manufacturing technologies. Along with more “typical” high school classes, they receive hands-on training in plastics technologies, automated systems, manufacturing operations, computer-automated design, electronics and other manufacturing technologies.

The academy works closely with employers – including the local GM plant – to provide students with industry recognized credentials and certification. Students also can earn advanced credit at local 2- and 4-year colleges. In April, the Toledo Public School System was awarded a $3.8 million Youth CareerConnect grant that will expand the Toledo Technology Academy’s model to serve more students.

Joseph Neyhart, a recent graduate of the Toledo Technology Academy, shows off his robotics project. While in high school, Joseph gained hands-on job experience that prepared him for a lifelong career in mechanical engineering.

Alexis Smith, who also just graduated from the Toledo Technical Academy, is planning to attend the University of Toledo to become a biomedical engineer. The hands-on experiences she received in high school spurred her interest in improving medical technologies, including helping people who are claustrophobic in MRI machines. Her advice to other young people? “Think outside the box and don’t be afraid of a challenge.” Through new Youth CareerConnect grants, we’re helping more schools like TTA create programs that prepare young people for #STEM careers.

Second stop: The Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

Opportunities in apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is a tried and true workforce development strategy that’s used successfully around the world, but has been underutilized in the United States. Both the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed by President Obama last week, and the recently released White House report on job-driven training encourage expanding apprenticeships in traditional and non-traditional industries.

The state-of-the-art Toledo facility is run jointly by IBEW Local 8 and the local chapter of the Electrical Contractors Association. Apprentices complete thousands of hours of on-the-job training. They also “earn & learn”: pay starts just over $11 an hour and progresses to a journeyman scale of $37.12, not including benefits.

Wind energy is a growing industry in Ohio. With a need for more wind energy technicians, the facility decided to install a wind turbine for training purposes and to be a source of energy. This means the region will be provided with a workforce that is equipped to install and maintain wind turbines. Secretary Perez gets a lesson in wind turbine safety:

Nathan Eaton, former apprentice who is now in his fourth year as a Wind Turbine Maintenance Program instructor, told Secretary Perez that turbine operation and maintenance is not an easy job. Dealing with electricity means safety is paramount and electrical workers need to be able trust each other. The hands-on job training apprentices receive help them learn the skills that are needed out in the field.

Third and final stop: Owens Community College and an American Job Center strategically located at the college

Community colleges are key partners. Owens is the newest addition to the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium, a bold new model that will allow graduates of Registered Apprenticeship programs (like those from the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee) to turn their years of rigorous on-the-job and classroom training into college credits toward an associate or bachelor degree. Owens also was part of the Cincinnati State Community College Consortium that received nearly $20 million from the Labor Department to expand health care career opportunities.

The American Job Center on-site helps connect job seekers with positions as they become available, and employers with qualified workers. For people looking to improve their skills or start on a new career path, the center offers a wealth of resources on available training and education options.

What about you?

If you have a great program or success story you’d like us to know about, tell us here. Or, if you are looking for a job, to grow your skills or to hire a skilled workforce, find federal resources available in your community here.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Soars to New Heights

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Soaring to new heights at the National Air and Space Museum during a Let’s Read, Let’s Move! event. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The third installment of ED’s summer series Let’s Read! Let’s Move! blasted into space at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on July 23.

Secretary Arne Duncan read The Astronaut’s Handbook, by Meghan McCarthy, with chief curator of the National Air and Space Museum Peter Jakab, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri, and Carla Hall, chef and co-host of ABC’s “The Chew.”

“A book in your hand is more powerful than any space engine,” Jakab said.

With eyes fixated on the rockets and spaceships hanging from the ceiling,  students from youth centers and schools throughout the Washington, D.C., area filed into the Space Race gallery.

Clad in personally decorated astronaut helmets, they listened closely to the book’s themes of hard work, good study skills, and the keys to being a team player.

In addition to the book reading, there was a Mission to Mars puppet show and a question and answer session where kids quizzed the panel on the rules for pets on spaceships and the travel time from Earth to outer space.

Chef Carla’s food demonstration taught kids about fruits and vegetables that can be eaten in space, after she and the MusicianShip marching band led the students to the Let’s Move! activities featuring a group dance.

“It’s wonderful to broaden kids’ minds and to be at an event where you can find education in new ways,” Hall remarked.

The YMCA’s Physically Healthy and Driven program volunteers led the Let’s Move! activities including “exercise like astronauts,” where kids did commander crunches, pilot push-ups and competed in a shopping cart health food races before picking up a book bag and complimentary children’s book donated by Target.

The next and last Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event is scheduled for July 30. The program supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which promotes healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition, while also encouraging strong early learning programs to ensure bright futures for children.

Molly Block is a rising senior at the University of Michigan. She is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Engineering Education: The U.S. Department of Education Releases Innovative Initiatives

The Department of Education (ED) has announced a new round of experimental sites, or ex-sites, to provide flexibility to design programs that serve students better.  The new ex-sites will promote competency-based education (CBE), as well as prior learning assessments and near-peer counseling among college and high school students.  Ex-sites give institutions the ability to be more creative about ways they can reduce costs and increase success in higher education.

Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, said in a video, “To help more Americans succeed – and position our nation to lead – in the years ahead, we need to give students better, faster, more flexible paths to strong academic and career outcomes.”

The Department has had the ex-sites authority since 1992, and last summer, President Obama challenged us to think about how we could use ex-sites to increase innovation in higher education, including through CBE models that make it possible for students to get financial aid based on how much they learn, rather than the amount of time they spend in class. ED put out a request for information last December, asking institutions to send us their ideas about which statutory and regulatory flexibilities would allow them to increase student success.  A range of institutions and other organizations sent in suggestions, which informed the development of this round of experiments.

There are many examples across the country of competency-based programs already serving students, but the new flexibilities ED is providing should allow programs like these to grow with the support of federal student aid.  For example, Western Governors University has long provided students a competency-based program in a wide array of fields.

Southern New Hampshire University was the first to take advantage of a new option called “direct assessment”, which we are making more flexible in this round of ex-sites.  It will allow students to take some classes in the traditional format, while others under the competency-based direct assessment approach.

Other institutions, such as Brandman University in California, the University of Wisconsin system, Capella University, and Lipscomb University in Tennessee have designed new programs that they aim to tailor to work around an individual’s schedule, making them especially feasible to students balancing work and family responsibilities.

By taking down barriers that stand in the way of innovation, we hope to spur more institutions to try new approaches.  Yet at the same time, the flexibilities are coupled with new ways to safeguard federal student aid.    These ex-sites will also have a built-in evaluation component, which will give us insight into the outcomes of these experiments.  We expect that the lessons we learn will inform the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Full details about the ex-sites are available here (and will be published formally in the Federal Register).

Edgar Estrada is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, and a student at the University of California, Irvine.

Secretary Duncan Praises Sustainable Schools and Announces Tour

Secretary Arne Duncan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mark Schaefer and Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots celebrate green schools. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Arne Duncan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mark Schaefer and Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots celebrate green schools. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

For the third consecutive year, a cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Awardees received accolades at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for their sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and sustainability learning. Honorees participated in a celebration offered by the Center for Green Schools and Senator Tom Harkin’s office, where they met their Congressional representatives, and in a  range of tours offered by the National Park Service, the U.S. Botanical Gardens, the Department of Energy, the White House, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, among others.

Joined by Acting Chair of the White House Council for Environmental Quality Mike Boots and U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Mark Schaefer, Secretary Duncan praised these school and district sustainability all-stars at an afternoon ceremony for their efforts to reduce both their impact on the environment and utility costs through conservation and facilities upgrades, keeping students healthy with daily wellness practices, and using environmental education to teach all subjects, especially science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), civics, and green careers.

Secretary Duncan also announced the “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students” Best Practices Tour. The six-state tour will highlight practices that improve the wellness, productivity, and achievement of students and faculty through health, safety, and educational improvements in school facilities, as well as environmental education, nutrition and physical activity. This year’s tour will visit several Kentucky, West Virginia, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado and Maryland honorees from August to October.

What have honorees done to receive this award? They’re turning out the lights, adding insulation, changing light bulbs, implementing building automation, bringing daylight into their classrooms, and installing renewable energy sources, allowing them to save money. Their efforts  ensure healthy, safe air quality, better ventilation, and reduced contaminants, and they regularly maintain building systems, ban idling vehicles, purchase safe cleaning supplies, and implement integrated pest management.

Students also use the school building and grounds as instruments for learning. Using the school building, surrounding natural environments and school gardens as instruments for learning, students are eating healthy, local, and school-grown foods and are getting more physical activity outdoors. Nearly all honorees take advantage of Farm to School programs and through programs like Safe Routes to School or Walking School Bus, students reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of air. Their efforts improve the health of schools, literally helping students and staff to breathe easier. Students in Green Ribbon schools gain life-long civic skills and stewardship values, hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering and math and graduate prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Given all these benefits, it’s not surprising that ED has added a third award category for the 2014-2015 awards cycle. In addition to schools and districts, state authorities are invited to nominate green colleges and universities by February 1, 2015.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees, visit our website. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kyle Flood is a confidential assistant in the Office of the General Counsel and social media manager for the ED Green Team.

Upskill America: Creating Pathways to the Middle Class

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

This week, the President visited Los Angeles Trade Technical College to deliver a clear message: we need to train more hard-working Americans to fill the jobs our businesses are creating. The President explained:

I’m here for every American who works their tail off; who does everything right; who believes in the American Dream and just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families. You are why I ran for President in the first place. 

In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of job training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. That review is complete and earlier this week, the President and Vice President announced significant reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers.

As a result of this review, the Administration is kicking off a significant new public-private effort to help hard-working Americans get ahead through an initiative we are calling “upskilling”: working with employers, educators, tech innovators, unions, training providers, cities, states, and non-profits to help turn low-wage and entry-level jobs across the country into stepping stones to the middle class.

We will be doing this in a number of ways. Increasing access to high-quality education and training is an important component, and new federal investments in an online skills academy will leverage technology to offer open online courses of study, helping students earn credentials online through participating accredited institutions. These investments also will expand access to curricula designed to shorten the time it takes to complete training, enabling workers to efficiently develop skills in demand by employers. We will also build partnerships across the public and private sectors to provide opportunities for low-wage and entry-level workers to gain the skills required to be competitive in the workforce.

Research shows that an individual’s skill level strongly affects her or his social mobility: the economic payoff to individuals with higher skills is greater in the United States than in almost any other OECD country. In fact, studies have found that wages increase by 28 percent with an improvement in numeracy skills alone.

Most training in the United States occurs at the workplace (Robert I. Lerman, Signe-Mary McKernan, and Stephanie Riegg, “The Scope of Employer-Provided Training in the United States: Who, What, Where, and How Much?” Job Training Policy in the United States(2004)), but the vast majority of employers’ investment in education and training is focused on more highly skilled employees. In fact, in 2012, only 21 percent of adults with the lowest measured level skills were participating in job-related education and training, compared to 69 percent of adults with the highest level skills (“Survey of Adult Skills,”The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013)). And despite significant investments by the Federal government, the current federally-funded adult education system reaches fewer than 6 percent of the 36 million adults with severe deficits in workforce literacy (“Adult Education Basic Grant Program Factsheet,”Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (June 2014)).

The good news is that there are emerging career ladders for entry-level workers who have access to the right educational content and receive some on the job training, and clear success stories. Take Enisael Aguilera, a Wisconsin resident, who spent years repairing shipping and storage pallets before deciding to improve his skills in order to obtain better paying employment. As he studied to pass the GED exam at Waukesha County Technical College, Enisael earned the Metal Fabrication Technical Diploma and became aware of its associated Career Pathway. After finishing the course, he began work at the Wausau Equipment Company as a finish welder, and shortly thereafter received his “welder registration” from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, gaining a 12 percent pay-raise in just his first-year on the job.

Similar pathways are available in other sectors, too. In industries as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing, and insurance, many skilled technical workers are nearing retirement, and employers need to diversify their talent base. To stay competitive, employers will need to tap into the abilities of all Americans, including their own entry-level workforce.

Our goal is to get 24 million low-wage, hard-working Americans the training that puts them on pathways to fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies employers have right now in mid-skill, better-paying jobs. As the President said this week and has stated many times before, our focus is on ensuring that every American who works hard and plays by the rules gets a fair shot. Entry-level jobs should be stepping stones to robust career pathways into the middle class, and to the American dream.

Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education. Jeffrey Zients is Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy

 

Privacy & Transparency: New Resources for Schools and Districts

We all know how important it is for parents to have open lines of communication with their children’s school. Parents want to be champions for their children and to protect their interests and to do this they need information. When it comes to information that is stored digitally, parents often ask questions such as:

  • What information are you collecting about my child?
  • Why do you need that information, and what do you use it for?
  • How do you safeguard my child’s information?

I’m pleased to announce the release of new Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) guidance regarding transparency best practices for schools and districts. This document provides a number of recommendations for keeping parents and students informed about schools’ and districts’ collection and use of student data.

The recommendations can be divided into three main categories: what information schools and districts ought to communicate to parents; how to convey that information in an understandable way; and how to respond to parent inquiries about student data policies and practices.

Some of the best practices covered in the document include:

  • making information about student data policies and practices easy to find on districts’ and schools’ public webpages
  • publishing a data inventory that details what information schools and districts collect about students, and what they use it for
  • explaining to parents what, if any, personal information is shared with third parties and for what purposes
  • using communication strategies that reduce the complexity of the information, and telling parents where they can get more detailed information if they want it.

The document also encourages schools and districts to be proactive when it comes to communicating about how they use student data.

We’re also pleased to direct you to the new website for our FERPA compliance office, the Family Policy Compliance Office, or FPCO. The new website is more user-friendly and will help school officials, parents, and students find the information they are looking for. It’s still a work in progress and we have many new features that we hope to launch in the coming weeks. We will soon begin posting FPCO’s decision letters from prior complaints and we will be launching an online community of practice for school officials to share information, templates, and lessons learned.

Kathleen M. Styles is Chief Privacy Officer at the U.S. Department of Education.

AANAPISIs: Serving a Critical AAPI Student Population

Recently I had the distinct privilege to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he met with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander education stakeholders to discuss a number of education issues affecting the community.  They presented a range of issues, such as the importance of data disaggregation, addressing bullying/harassment, and serving native populations, as well as the significance of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) in educating low-income, first generation college students, and helping to achieve President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

Attendees requested a clear statement that AANAPISIs are indeed within the same class of institutions as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions under the Higher Education Act. Community members relayed that because of this lack of clarity, higher education institutions, advocates, and even federal agencies were uncertain whether AANAPISIs could qualify or apply for federal grant opportunities across the federal government.

In response to these concerns, the Department has updated its website.  To the extent federal agencies utilize this statutory authority to target grants and programmatic opportunities, we recommend and encourage listing “Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)” along with the other classes of schools delineated under the HEA.  In addition, the website clarifies that the specific definition of “Minority Institutions” (MIs) applies only to the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) and other programs that reference the same MI definition, which includes Pacific Islanders but not Asian Americans.

AANAPISIs, and other postsecondary institutions enrolling populations with significant percentages of undergraduate minority students, play a critical role in our higher education efforts.  AANAPISIs serve almost 40 percent of the nation’s AAPI student population, and are predominantly community colleges.  Take a look at this video and share it with schools, advocates, and students to better understand what AANAPISIs are:

We hope this clarification encourages higher education institutions that meet this designation to research and apply for opportunities across the federal government to support their student body and the communities in which they reside.  And we are hopeful that agencies and departments will utilize this information when making federal grants and opportunities available to underserved populations.

Jamienne Studley is Deputy Under Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

My Brother’s Keeper D.C. Data Jam Announced

Cross-posted from ED’s My Brother’s Keeper website.

The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and agencies across the U.S. government are leading an effort to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, and to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential — the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK).

Georgetown University, in partnership with the Department of Education, is co-hosting a series of Data Jams to bring together developers, designers, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, researchers, statisticians, policy makers, educators, and students to create data visualizations of current challenges and build new tools in order to create ladders of opportunity for all youth, including boys and young men of color.

An Invitation

Come join us for the first My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam at Georgetown Downtown (640 Massachusetts Ave NW) on Saturday, August 2. We are bringing together a group of practitioners, experts, researchers, students, and educators to study the data and create inventive visualizations of the problems facing the young men and boys of color in our nation.

We hope to convene a diverse group of stakeholders to the MBK Data Jam and would greatly appreciate your sharing this event with anyone you think might be able to provide a unique perspective or add value (be it through expertise, past experiences, or a current skill set).

Resources & Get Involved

Nominate a Data Jammer: Form Here

Register for the Event: Event Registration Form

Join the MBK Data Jam Community: MBK Meetup Group

#code4MBK

Know It 2 Own It: Celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act

This week, we celebrate the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. This landmark legislation was the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities. It prohibited discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.

Earlier this year, during a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, President Obama said, “For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms — they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith.”

The President’s words also ring true for the disability community and the ADA.

Over the next year, we will be posting monthly blogs featuring people who participated in and led the disability rights movement, as well as young adults and students working to make a difference in their communities.  Together, we carry the torch forward. When we know our history, we can own our rights. As we often say, to know it is to own it.

During this time, we encourage you, your friends, and your family to learn about the disability rights movement. We want to hear from you. Please let us know how you are working to bring about positive change in your community by sharing your story on social media with the hashtag #know2own.

Check out our first video blog with Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon and Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services:

Sue Swenson is Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

The Civil Rights Act at 50: Arne Duncan at Howard University

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 laid the groundwork for a much broader mission to fulfill the American promise of equal opportunity – and that is why it is not just part of our history but part of our future.

Students of color have made enormous gains since 1964. And yet the rising significance of education in the global economy has made America’s remaining achievement gaps so much more consequential.

In 1964, fewer than half of young black adults completed four years of high school; in 2012, about 70 percent of black students graduated from high school on time.

Yet despite that and other progress, it’s still not enough to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Act. America today still has serious achievement gaps and opportunity gaps.

Since 1991, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black students who attend highly-segregated schools, where 90 percent of more of students are students of color. Millions of students today lack the opportunity to benefit from attending racially diverse schools. Disproportionate discipline extends to preschool.

America needs the abilities and talents of all its children to succeed and thrive. Our children, and our nation, deserve no less.

A year after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, President Lyndon Johnson spoke at Howard University, saying that freedom alone is not enough to fulfill the rights set forward in the Act.

Johnson told the Howard audience that “you do not wipe away the scars of centuries” of discrimination and bring a person “up to the starting line of the race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” He continued, “The next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights” is not “just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

On Tuesday, July 15, at Howard, Secretary Arne Duncan reflected on why civil rights issues remain urgent today at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary Duncan talked about the progress America has made, and explained why education is the civil rights issue of our time. Watch the speech or read the transcript.

 

U.S. Supreme Court Hosts “Let’s Read! Let’s Move!” Event — An Historic First

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Students walk toward the Supreme Court for the second Let’s Read, Let’s Move! event of 2014. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The second Let’s Read! Let’s Move! session of this summer took place at the U.S. Supreme Court on July 16. It was the first time the literacy and enrichment event was held at the historic location.

With the Capitol dome as the backdrop, students from Washington, D.C.-area schools exited their yellow school buses, squinting as they peered in awe at the massive columns of the Supreme Court.  Students hailed from William Paca Elementary School, St. Philips Child Development Center, the Metropolitan Day School, the United Planning Organization, and Judith P. Hoyer Montessori School.

A young girl got into the Let’s Move! spirit, counting as she climbed the steps to the courtroom, “…35, 36, 37, 38—wow!” Extending their arms towards the ceiling to take in the size of the vast space in the Great Hall under the rotunda, children peeked into the courtroom on their way to the East conference room.

Secretary Arne Duncan, joined by Marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court Pamela Talkin, and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, read Marshall the Courthouse Mouse: A Tail of the Supreme Court. Phrases from the book, such as “voting unani-MOUSE-ly,” generated laughs from everyone in the room.

Secretary Burwell kneeled with the children to show the illustrations in the books and to point out that each page had hidden turtles—symbols of longevity, and the slow, yet deliberate pace of justice.

During the question-and-answer session, a child asked, “Why is the courthouse so pretty?” Talkin explained, “It is made to look special so every citizen understands how important the law is, as [the law] covers everyone from children to grown-ups, protecting our rights. It is a beautiful building because it does a beautiful thing, and we have a system that works.”

Energetic shrieks could be heard as the Let’s Move! activities commenced in the courtyard with joyful children participating in Supreme Court-themed activities emphasizing teamwork.

Children participated in the Scales of Justice Bean Bag Balance, the Majority Rules and Statute Stackers Relay Race, the Bill of Rights Frenzy, and they “exercised” their rights with the YMCA’s Physically Healthy and Driven program volunteers.

When I asked some students about their favorite part of the event, many responded, “Having the book read out loud.” In the courtyard, a student shrieked, “I found the turtles!” Sure enough, under the antique lamp posts were turtle sculptures.

The summer learning continued as interns, YMCA volunteers, and ED staff entered the courtroom for a lecture about the judicial functions of the Supreme Court and the building’s history.

The next two Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events will be held on July 23 and July 30.

Viviana Altamirano is a rising junior at Middlebury College. She is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.