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.

An Educational Experience Second to None for VCU’s Vets

For 70 years, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – known as the “GI Bill” – has provided our nation’s military with higher education opportunities. In an effort to give back to our veterans, the Obama administration signed an  Executive Order 13607, Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members that led to the creation of the 8 Keys to Veterans’ Success (8 Keys).

These are concrete steps institutions of higher education can take to assist veterans and service members on their campus in their transition to postsecondary education. Over 400 universities and colleges across the country have pledged themselves to these 8 Keys. On July 16, Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs Allison A. Hickey sent a joint letter to institutions of higher education encouraging them to affirm support for the 8 Keys.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) offers a view into what it looks like to support veterans through the 8 Keys.

“At Virginia Commonwealth University, we have taken significant steps to ensure that our more than 1,100 veteran, active duty, and military dependent students have an educational experience that is second to none in our nation,” VCU President Michael Rao said. “We are proud of our record in supporting these outstanding students, and we are committed to ensuring that they have every resource to succeed at VCU and beyond.”

From the creation of Military Student Services (MSS) to the Green Zone program, veteran students on campus have ample opportunity to connect with one another. MSS addresses the unique needs of military students during their time at the university. Undergraduate student Scott Seal said, “MSS guided me through every step of the transition process, from utilizing my GI benefits to registering for classes and helping me to navigate the college experience.” The Military Student Service Center (MSSC) works with a number of organizations to help improve the student veteran experience and offers a number of systems that provide students with financial, academic and career advice. MSSC is centrally located and provides military affiliated students with a place to relax, study and socialize with their peers.

Green Zone is an innovative program that trains university faculty and staff members on how to better support veteran students making the difficult transition from service member to student. “The training was immensely helpful and targeted a population of students all too often forgotten. I would recommend Green Zone training to any individual employed in a higher education setting who has contact with active or veteran military students,” said Amy Rostan, a VCU academic advisor. VCU’s efforts are not solely confined to their own campus but have reached other institutions. For example, Green Zone has been shared with approximately 20 other colleges and universities across America.

To join VCU and the hundreds of other schools committing to these principles, to learn more about them, and to electronically upload your institution’s affirmation letter, visit the 8 Keys registration website.

Sydney Mann is an intern for the Military Affairs Team at the U.S. Department of Education.

Students Reflect on #civilrightsride Experiences

On Wednesday, July 2, ED commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a Civil Rights Bus Ride. Some of the original Freedom Riders and current student leaders took a trip from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia, for a symbolic and celebratory returning ride.

Jessica Faith Carter attends the University of Texas at Austin and is from Houston, Texas

I am a first generation college student, a few semesters away from a Ph.D., my fifth degree. For me, education has been a great equalizer and the reason I have been able to transcend some potentially unfortunate circumstances that may come with being born an African American female, in a low-income community. Instead, I have become an accomplished educator and trailblazer. Without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would not have had the opportunity to attend the prestigious institutions of higher education that I have, and I don’t think I would be the leader I am today without the knowledge and experiences that I  gained through education.

On July 2, it was truly life-changing to be in the company of men and women who risked their lives to fight for the rights that I enjoy today. As we rode school buses between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. I was inspired to be among the next generation of leaders who are continuing to advance the work that those luminaries started decades ago. My favorite part of this experience was the dialogue that took place during our journey. Hank Thomas and John Moody — two of the original Freedom Riders — spoke candidly about their experiences as young activists and provided a great deal of insight for future leaders. I stepped off the bus feeling inspired and empowered to continue to work to ensure that every child in this country has access to a high-quality education.

Cindy Nava attends the University of New Mexico and is from Albuquerque, New Mexico

The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an experience that will be embedded in my heart for the rest of my life.

It is important to remember every stone that has been lifted, every tear that has been shed, and every life that has been taken, in order to appreciate the sacrifices of so many and to acknowledge how far we have come as a country.

As a low-income, immigrant child, the daughter of a house cleaner and a construction worker from Mexico, I could have only dreamt of ever having the opportunity to participate in such an event.

The words of advice, encouragement, and faith from the Freedom Riders truly touched my heart. The words of Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon brought a sense of reality and motivation to continue  working toward a better future that represents justice for all. The passion with which Hank Thomas spoke about his days on the freedom buses was inspirational. He brought to life every second of his pain, struggle, and success during the last five decades.

It is time to learn from the successes and the mistakes of past movements. I think that we must operate within the system to create real change, through creation of policy and educational access for all. We must accept the responsibility of continuing to build the bridge for the millions coming behind us, and we must continue work that will connect young with old. By doing this for years to come, we may continue the battle for equality and justice.

For another student’s perspective, check out student blogger Manpreet Teji’s post on the SAALT blog.

Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer 2014 Kick Off

The Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series danced off to the beat of the Native American drum with the Black Bear Singers surrounded by 225 children, ages three to seven, in a continuous round dance at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) on July 9, 2014.

Secretary Arne Duncan was joined by NMAI Director Kevin Gover, Washington Kastles tennis coach Murphy Jensen, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, White House chef, executive director of Let’s Move! and senior policy advisor on nutrition in the Office of the First Lady Sam Kass, and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer. The USDA Power Panther also made an appearance, motivating all in attendance to improve their eating and physical activity behaviors.

Students sang “Happy Birthday” to the museum at the top of their lungs and listened closely as Duncan and his friends read The Butterfly Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa. During the question and answer section following the reading, students quizzed the panel on their favorite books and sports.

Shortly after, the event transitioned to Let’s Move! activities, including a food tasting of banana chips with NMAI Mitsitam Café staff , indoor tennis with Washington Kastles team members Martina Hingis, Anastasia Rodionova, Leander Paes, Bobby Reynolds and Kevin Anderson, igloo building, an obstacle course through “the Wetlands,” complete with a kayak, Yup-ik yo-yo demonstrations, and Hawaiian bowling with the help of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. At the end of the day, each child left with a new book, healthy snacks, and a book bag courtesy of Target and its partnership with First Book.

The next installments of the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series are scheduled for: July 16, July 23 and July 30, in various locations throughout Washington, D.C. 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.

For highlights of this week’s event, watch our Let’s Read! Let’s Move! kick-off video:


Molly Block is a rising senior at the University of Michigan. She is interning with the Web Team in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Celebrating Progress in a Year of Action

As part of his Year of Action, President Obama has taken a series of executive actions to close opportunity gaps and ensure that more students receive the high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and careers.

Promise Zones Launched in Five Communities
On Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zones,” where communities and businesses will work together to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. Three of the Zones involve education-focused Promise Neighborhoods.

My Brother’s Keeper
On Feb. 27, the President joined with philanthropies and the private sector to launch the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, an effort to close persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people who are willing to work hard work are able to reach their full potential. On May 30, the MBK Federal Task Force issued its 90-day report with recommendations to improve preparation and success in early childhood education, 3rd grade reading, high school and postsecondary school completion, job-training and mentorship opportunities, and public safety.

Accountability for Unaffordable Student Debt
On March 14, ED proposed gainful employment regulations to identify career programs that leave students with debts they cannot afford. The regulations would give programs an opportunity to improve, and stop the flow of federal funding to the lowest-performing programs that fail to improve. Many career and for-profit colleges empower students to succeed by providing high-quality education and career training, but too many of these programs are failing to do so – at the expense of taxpayer dollars and students’ futures.

Increasing College Opportunity
The President is asking colleges, universities, nonprofits, and businesses to develop ways to improve students’ access to and completion of higher education, because a college education is a prerequisite for 21st-century jobs.On Jan. 16, more than 100 colleges, universities and other organizations made new commitments to expand college opportunity.

Redesigning High Schools for College & Career Success
On April 7, over $100 million in grants were awarded – using existing Department of Labor funds – to support high school models that better prepare students for college and career. DOL will finance 24 Youth CareerConnect awards to support partnerships between local education agencies, workforce investment boards, institutions of higher education and employer partners. These grants will help provide students with industry-relevant education and focus on engagement with employers through project-based learning, mentoring and postsecondary credit while in high school.

Job-Driven Training
On Jan. 30, Vice President Biden directed a review of all training programs to ensure they are “job-driven” – preparing and matching those who are ready to work with the skills needed to fill good jobs. Two new grant programs were announced on April 16 to spread models of job-driven training and apprenticeships, along with private-sector commitments that build on these efforts.

Teacher Preparation
On April 25, President Obama directed ED to lay out for public discussion a plan to strengthen America’s teacher preparation programs by this summer and to move forward to publish a final rule within the next year.

Making Progress on ConnectED
On Feb. 4, the Federal Communications Commission announced it would invest $2 billion to increase federal investment in school broadband and wireless. This includes commitments from top technology companies to provide free digital devices, content, and wireless access for K-12 students.

Bringing the Tech Revolution to to More Students
As part of the fourth White House Science Fair on May 27, President Obama announced new steps to help more students excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including a new $35 million teacher training competition. The plan also includes a major expansion of STEM AmeriCorps to provide learning opportunities for 18,000 low-income students.

Strengthening Tribal Communities
On June 13, the President and First Lady made their first trip to Indian Country. Building on the significant progress the President has already made in partnering with tribes on a nation-to-nation basis, the Administration announced actions to strengthen Native American communities through education and economic development. These actions include a Bureau of Indian Education “Blueprint for Reform” to provide a world-class education to all students attending BIE schools and listening sessions to identify ways to improve school climate.

Student Debt: Expanding Pay As You Earn
On June 9, the President directed Secretary Duncan to propose regulations that ensure student debt remains affordable for all students who borrowed federal direct loans by allowing them to cap their payments at 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The Department will aim to make the new plan available to borrowers by December 2015. The Administration is also taking additional steps to help students repay their loans, including providing relief to service members, and renegotiating contracts with federal loan servicers to strengthen incentives that help borrowers repay their loans on time.

Max Luong is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

President’s Education Awards Program Honors Student Achievement

The first school in Germantown, Maryland, was built in 1860. The school was just one large room with a wood stove in the center to keep the students warm in the winter, double desks, and a chalkboard. It served a few dozen children from the first to the 8th grade.

The school itself and the students and staff have come a long way since then. Today, Germantown Elementary School serves a diverse student population of about 300 students from Pre-K through 5th grade. And on June 12, I had the honor of joining them to congratulate 32 amazing students who were being recognized for their hard work by earning the President’s Education Award at Germantown’s 5th grade promotion ceremony.

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Recipients of the PEAP stand proudly at Germantown Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Surrounded by excited and teary-eyed parents, I joined Principal Amy Bryant and others to celebrate their academic success and urged them to continue setting an example for other students. As we were told by one of the former students, who had returned to offer words of inspiration, “more homework will come [in middle school] — and along with that is more responsibility.”

The President’s Education Awards Program honors student achievement and hard work in the classroom. This award, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP),recognizes students who meet key criteria. Since 1983, the program has provided individual recognition from the President and U.S. Secretary of Education to those students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence. These students often are pushing the traditional standards of thinking to come up with creative solutions to problems. Overall, these students deliver their best and bring out the best in those around them.

This year’s students received a certificate signed by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as a congratulatory letter signed by the President.

The 5th grade students of Germantown Elementary School have left their mark for the classes to follow. We applaud their success in fulfilling Germantown’s mission: a learning community where students, staff, and parents work together to create a caring, safe, and positive school environment in which everyone succeeds.

Frances Hopkins is director of the President’s Education Awards Program at the U.S. Department of Education.

Become an “Education Coach” and Keep the Summer Slide at Bay All Season

Summer is upon us – and with that comes what some call the “summer slide” in students’ academic skills while out of school. There are things that you as a parent can do, though, to take charge and make learning a priority even as the dog days of the season approach.

Below are some ways you can make learning like a sports game. As an “education coach” you can challenge and encourage any child in your life:

  • Set goals – What will you and your child accomplish by a set time?  Examples:  “After two weeks we will know how to count by twos to 50.” Or “After one week we will know how to print your first name.”
  • Practice – Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to work on each goal. Talk about the importance of practice and grit – patience and resilience — in making steady progress.
  • Put some plays into effect – Look for different ways to apply the skills being developed.  Example: Take your child to the store and have her add up the items you have purchased. Get some fresh and free ideas from FREE (Federal Registry for Educational Excellence).
  • Make some touchdowns that will make a difference in their upcoming school year. Help your child to see how what he has done over the summer will put him ahead in the fall. Get a workbook or reading book at the grade level in which she will be.  By mid-summer take out the book and let her begin to work on the areas she has been practicing.
  • Take your team on the road – Have fun and incorporate learning into a summer adventure. Example: Visit a museum, zoo, aquarium, beach or park. Look at maps together and identify where you will visit and how far you will travel. Have your child draw and write about their favorite parts of the trip in the order the events happened.
  • Celebrate – Have a mid-summer reward and really celebrate at the end of the summer for all the goals set that your champion has accomplished!

Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families at the U.S. Department of Education.

Four-year-old Talks About San Antonio’s Promise Zone

Too many of our children grow up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty where zip codes determine destinies. To address this inequality, President Obama has laid out a comprehensive strategy to create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility.  Education plays a critical role in this strategy, particularly in the President’s Promise Zone initiative.

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Mauricio, a four-year-old student at Tynan Early Childhood Education Center, became the star of the event. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

On June 19, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan traveled to San Antonio, one of the first of five Promise Zones, to participate in a town hall discussion on how the initiative has impacted the community. The discussion took place at Tynan Early Childhood Education Center, where Principal Gregorio Velazquez kicked off the event by introducing an unexpected guest to give the opening remarks and welcome Secretary Duncan. The speaker was Mauricio, a four-year-old student at Tynan who would prove to be the star of the event.

Principal Velazquez describes Mauricio as a remarkably intelligent student. Throughout the school year when he visited Mauricio’s classroom, he was struck by Mauricio’s inquisitiveness and politeness. He stood out among his peers, always asking thoughtful questions and exhibiting extraordinary manners.

The crowd of parents and school administrators was gleaming with pride as young Mauricio, with the help of a step stool, marched up to the podium and confidently began to speak. With incredible poise, Mauricio thanked Secretary Duncan, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and the parents and community members in the crowd for visiting Tynan.

“We will continue to need your support as we move up to the next level of our education,” he read. “We appreciate all you do to help us with our journey on becoming responsible students and citizens.”

As Mauricio finished, the audience erupted with cheering and applause. Secretary Duncan was beaming, clearly moved by Mauricio’s stellar performance. It was not only the eloquence of Mauricio that touched the audience, but also what his performance symbolized.  Mauricio was the epitome of the great success of Tynan and the progress of its surrounding community as one of the Administration’s first designated Zones.  He demonstrated that, especially for early learners, a good education goes a long way and has a profound impact on future success.

To date, the Department has awarded more than $200 million in Promise Neighborhood grants.  The Promise Zone Initiative has worked to foster partnerships between communities and businesses to create jobs; increase economic security; expand educational opportunities; increase access to quality, affordable housing; and improve public safety. The first five zones are in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Promise Neighborhoods will play an important role in several of the zones.

Anna Kamen is a rising senior at Princeton University. She is interning with the Press Office at the U.S. Department of Education.

 

The Importance of Hearing from Teachers Around the World

A sweeping majority of secondary school teachers in the U.S. report that they are satisfied with their jobs — that is one of the main takeaways from a new survey, called the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). The survey provides a unique opportunity to hear from U.S. teachers and to compare the views of educators in this country with those from educators around the globe.

According to the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 89 percent of U.S. teachers are satisfied with their job – nearly the same as the international average of 91 percent. According to the survey, which reflects self-report by “lower secondary” teachers (grades 7, 8 and 9 in the United States), 84 percent of U.S. teachers surveyed stated that they’d choose teaching if they could decide on a career path again. This positive response is higher than the average (78 percent) for other TALIS countries.

In 2013, TALIS surveyed more than 100,000 lower secondary teachers and principals in 34 education systems around the world, asking them for their views on job satisfaction, working and classroom conditions, professional development, teacher appraisal, and more.

Unfortunately, while U.S. teachers and principals are positive about their jobs, their optimism doesn’t extend to believing that society values their work. Only one-third of U.S. lower secondary teachers believe the teaching profession is valued in U.S. society, which is slightly above the TALIS average, but well below other high-performing education systems. In Singapore, 68 percent of teachers believe their society values their profession; in Korea, 67 percent do; and in Finland, 59 percent feel that way.

TALIS shows highs and lows in the area of teacher training and professional development as well. Lower secondary teachers in the U.S. report higher-than-average levels of education and participation rates in professional development (PD), but they are less positive about the impact of PD. For example, nearly all U.S. lower secondary teachers have completed higher education. And, 84 percent of U.S. teachers report that they attend courses or workshops, compared with the TALIS average of 71 percent. But in every PD content category, U.S. lower secondary teachers are less likely to report a moderate or large impact on their teaching.

TALIS also shows that U.S. lower secondary teachers tend to work independently, with 42 percent of teachers reporting that they never engage in joint activities across classes and age groups. Half of U.S. teachers report that they never observe another teacher’s classes or provide feedback to peers.

TALIS presents an opportunity for teachers, principals, policymakers and others to delve more deeply into data that can be beneficial in the effort to support and elevate the teaching profession in this country.

Engaging with teachers in discussions on teacher leadership through new initiatives like Teach to Lead and the Department of Education’s RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching) project are important parts of the effort to make teaching a valued and respected profession on par with medicine, law, and engineering in this country. It’s our hope that the next TALIS survey, which will be conducted in 2018, shows even further increases in teacher satisfaction, collaboration, and their perception about the value of their critical profession.

For more information, please see TALIS data tables at NCES, the OECD’s U.S. country report, and the OECD’s international report.

Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of international affairs and Curtis Valentine is a Council on Foreign Relations fellow working with the International Affairs Office.

2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Reflect on Their Experiences

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established by executive order of the President 50 years ago. The program recognizes and honors some of our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors and was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative, and performing arts.

Each year, 141 students are named Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.

In a previous post, as part of the 50th anniversary of the program, ED collected reflections from past winners. Now we look at reflections from current winners who recently experienced their National Recognition Program.

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First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a group photo with Presidential Scholars in the East Room of the White House, June 23, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Erika Carrera, U.S. Presidential Scholar from Nevada

The Presidential Scholars Program was, without a doubt, the best program I have had the privilege and honor of participating in. I was able to create a permanent connection with so many outstanding individuals, from all across the United States. I learned about other cultures and customs. Although we were all different, we had a unique bond and  unique stories to tell. This program taught me that everyone holds different values and ideas; yet when we come together, it is our differences — our viewing the world from dissimilar perspectives — that helps us solve the problems we face.

Being a Presidential Scholar is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. I only hope to be able to return in future years to help another generation of scholars on their path toward success.

Michael Chen, U.S. Presidential Scholar from Colorado

My favorite part of the National Recognition Program was the diversity of talents and passion that I saw within each individual scholar and in the group as a whole. The incredible performances by the Arts Scholars and the unique presentations of talent at the talent show on the last day, really exemplify what it means to be a Presidential Scholar: we are a group that can succeed at anything we put our minds to. Indeed, I am looking forward to hearing about the amazing things that all of you will do in the future! #psp4life

Ray Lu, U.S. Presidential Scholar from Texas

The National Recognition Program was an experience I will never forget–considering all of the amazing people I met, experiences I had, and thoughts I shared. From inspired and brilliant peers, to congressmen and the First Lady herself, each and every person had a profound impact on me, in terms of understanding other people, recognizing the nuances of the world around us, and discovering more about my passions. The fellow Presidential Scholars I encountered were some of the most engaging individuals I had ever held conversations with, and we had much in common through our virtues and values in life. The Program itself was a catalyst for us to create this network of people that could serve as both a support system and a friend group. Lastly, the pensive atmosphere was enhanced by the questions we asked and the answers we gave in return. The most lasting memory from my time in DC will be a conversation I had late at night on the final day with 20 fellow Scholars. We shared our future goals and gave thoughtful answers to the question, “Why were we selected as Presidential Scholars?” The responses opened my eyes in terms of perspective, and I realized, at the very end, how humanizing the entire process was. In essence, my time at the National Recognition Program was not only a moment of celebration, but also a vivid period of growth as I turn to face what the future holds.

Michael Mei, U.S. Presidential Scholar from Pennsylvania

We met. All fifty states rolled from our tongues and suddenly we felt everywhere at once. We savored the taste of that complete and eclectic cornucopia of places. We relished the “Oh, you know him!?” and the “What’s it like out there?” alike. We knew as we talked that each of us harbored remarkable stories and had done remarkable things. And we knew that even the piles of accolades upon which we sat could not come close to defining us completely. We were defined by our smiles, our reckless aspirations, our passionate and unwavering voices. And we were defined by the solemn and bursting pride with which we received an award, meant not just for us, but also for our parents, friends, and communities. As we stood at the East Room of the White House in our best attire, we had the sense of having arrived, not at a final peak, but at a sort of springboard to higher summits. Some inexplicable and wildly sure sense of hope. And as our senators took the podium and urged us to political engagement, we silently pledged ourselves to new and daunting responsibilities. Most memorable? Seeing the Presidential Arts Scholars perform at the Kennedy Center: their show, at once electric and contemplative, moved some of us to tears. Dances and stanzas poured with terrifying spontaneity, sometimes unfathomable and discomforting (as art should be) but always virtuosic. A performance, I learned, is different when the people on stage are not only the premier young artists of the country, but also good friends. Then, all too soon, the final night: “See all those kids fist-pumping and going crazy?” Someone marveled. “They’re some of the best students in the country.”

Aaron Orbey, U.S. Presidential Scholar from Massachusetts

Having never before toured D.C., I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of visiting our Capitol with such humble and humbling, such inspired and inspiring, new friends—artistic scholars and scholarly artists alike. Exciting too, was the guidance of past scholars serving as advisors, whose presence reminded me that this network of awesome people will continue to grow and stay with us. I don’t ever want to forget the hush of voices as the First Lady strolled into the East Room or the tessellating of shadows on the Kennedy Center stage as the lights dimmed and an audience, enraptured, erupted into applause. But I’m not worried because I think I’ll always remember. And I’m so grateful for the experience.