A Bold New Plan to Protect Students

Recently, the Department of Education announced our support for a deal that will strengthen the education prospects of nearly 40,000 college students on 56 Everest and WyoTech brand campuses, currently owned by the for-profit network Corinthian Colleges Inc. Under this plan, the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) Group’s new nonprofit education arm, Zenith Education Group, will buy the campuses from Corinthian and transform them from for-profit into nonprofit schools.

There has been considerable attention paid to this important and complex action, and it is essential that everyone have the facts. So I would like to explain why our Department decided it was necessary to take action on Corinthian, why we are supporting this sale, and what the results have been so far. I am proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in protecting students.

This is the latest step in a case that began when Corinthian failed to respond to the Department’s repeated requests for answers about questionable practices, including concerns that Corinthian was using false and misleading job placement data to market its schools and recruit students, and that it might be changing student grade and attendance data to hide performance problems. Following intense and thoughtful deliberations, the Department made the decision that we believed would most effectively prevent further damage and took action to heighten our oversight of Corinthian, ultimately leading to an agreement with the company that will end their ownership and operation of these schools.

From the start, we have kept students and their interests at the heart of every decision we have made about Corinthian, and charted a careful course through what threatened to be a major collapse of a large institution. We worked to avoid immediate closure of all Corinthian schools and prevent the sudden disruption of education for 72,000 students and the jobs of 12,000 employees. And, to defend student and taxpayer interests, we have put an independent monitor in place to oversee Corinthian’s actions as the company begins to sell and wind down its campuses. We selected the respected firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, under the leadership of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, for this vital role.

ECMC has never run a college campus before, and I think everybody recognizes that improving Corinthian campuses will be a serious challenge. But there are many reasons why we feel this new agreement will particularly benefit students, and why we are confident they will receive a better education under ECMC and Zenith’s leadership:

Lower college costs. Students who attend the newly purchased campuses will receive a 20% cut in tuition.

Matching training numbers with real-world needs. For a college program to be truly worth the time, cost and effort, there must be jobs openings in students’ fields of choice when they graduate. Under this new plan, ECMC will work to balance the number of students enrolled in specific career programs with local and regional labor market trends – so students can understand which career fields have the greatest demand for workers, and gain the skills they will need for actual, available jobs.

Closing low-performing programs. At the same time, the Zenith Education Group will begin weeding out poor performers in Corinthian’s portfolio of programs, and steering students toward higher-quality programs. Students that are in poor performing programs will have several choices, including the possibility of transferring to other Zenith programs or receiving a partial refund of their costs.

Fresh leadership. No senior executive from the former Corinthian group will remain when the campuses are acquired by ECMC – making a clean break from previous management and from the types of practices that put the schools and students in jeopardy.

An unprecedented – and voluntary – commitment to oversight. As part of the acquisition and transition plan, the ECMC has agreed to hire a monitoring firm. The monitor will have access to Zenith’s data to ensure that the ways they recruit potential students, how they market their services, and the data they report on performance, especially on student outcomes, are fair, true and accurate. By volunteering for this level of review, Zenith is showing a strong commitment to transparency, and to sharing the types of information that help students and families make good decisions about the schools and programs that will best serve their needs. And the hiring of a monitor demonstrates just how serious ECMC is about remedying the past problems of Corinthian, and charting a new course.

This purchase plan also fends off disastrous consequences. First and foremost, students who are enrolled in Corinthian programs will have the opportunity to complete their education and receive the degrees and certificates that they have worked so hard to obtain. This sale, if ultimately approved by the Department, accreditors, and state authorizing agencies, will avoid disruption and displacement for tens of thousands of students – approximately 22 percent of whom are within 3 months of graduating.

Throughout our interactions with Corinthian, we have been guided by the belief that the best path forward for these students would be helping them to stay in school and complete their programs. Higher education can help students tremendously in fulfilling their career and life goals. And while all postsecondary students face unique challenges and hurdles, those who are enrolled in for-profit and career training programs are often among the most vulnerable. In many cases, they are juggling classes as well as a job (or two) and a family. Some have tried before to earn a degree, and found the courage to return to school even though earlier efforts didn’t work out. These are the students who most need the opportunities that higher education can bring.

The last thing we want to do is make them start over, especially when so many are close to finishing. They have already invested thousands of dollars and hours of their time earning credits that may not transfer to new programs at other schools. It would be unacceptable for any of them to be left holding public or private student loan debt, with no degree or certificate to show for it. We could not afford that risk with tens of thousands of students.

ECMC has made good commitments to safeguard the way forward for these students, and its nonprofit will operate independently from the larger corporation. We want to make sure ECMC does what they have said they will do – and we will watch them carefully. But we should all give them a chance to keep their promises and help make these students’ lives better.

This agreement lets students transition from a problematic for-profit company to a nonprofit that is committed to giving them a new start and better chances to succeed. We will also keep close track of sale or wind-down efforts on Corinthian’s other campuses, so students in programs that won’t be acquired as part of this deal can also finish their education without interruption. Ensuring that all students are served well remains our top priority, and we will continue to work on behalf of students and taxpayers.

We have posted the full list of schools that ECMC Group intends to buy here. All of Corinthian’s students can find more information on the Department’s website at www.studentaid.gov/Corinthian.

And, as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to promote quality and accountability in higher education, the Department has announced a federal interagency task force – which I will lead on behalf of Secretary Duncan – to help ensure proper oversight of for-profit institutions.

A quality education that leads to good outcomes – like a well-paying job and a strong future – is still the best investment anyone can make. Students seeking a better life shouldn’t pay a penalty for following their dreams. We cannot – and we will not – let their efforts go to waste.

Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education.

ED Celebrates Student Art with ‘Yo soy … Je Suis … I am … My Neighborhood’ Exhibit

The entrance halls and ground floor public spaces of the U.S. Department of Education are filled year-round with color, creativity, and powerful ideas, thanks to the talents of young artists from the United States and around the world. In November, ED conducted a host of special activities celebrating the 15th anniversary of International Education Week, including an opening reception and ribbon cutting for the 2014 VSA international children’s art exhibit Yo soy…Je Suis…I am…My Neighborhood, presented by the Office of Very Special Arts (VSA) & Accessibility and the Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program. Each year VSA, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, receives over 700 international and national entries from students with disabilities, ages 3–22, and competition winners display their artwork at ED.

Caption: P.S. 177 Technology Band member Jeremiah Estick appreciates the exhibited work of visual artists from Singapore and the United States. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

P.S. 177 Technology Band member Jeremiah Estick appreciates the exhibited work of visual artists from Singapore and the United States. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

The event featured a robust lineup of speakers, including education leaders as well as a student, teacher, and parent. Highlights also included a performance by the NPR-acclaimed P.S. 177 Technology Band, made up of nine students from a school in Queens, N.Y., for students with disabilities. The exhibit featured art pieces by students from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Saint Lucia, Taiwan, and the United States, depicting the importance of their neighborhoods. 

ED and the U.S. Department of State established International Education Week in 2000 to promote and celebrate the role that education plays worldwide. Maureen McLaughlin, director of ED’s International Affairs Office, spoke about the importance of arts education in supporting international cultural awareness: “Visualizing our neighborhoods allows each of us the opportunity to show the people and places that we love.” Emphasizing the exhibit’s importance, she stressed that “[l]anguage can be a barrier, but pictures bridge that gap.”

In a recorded message, Secretary Arne Duncan highlighted the value of international study programs in fostering cultural understanding, social development, and economic health. He said, “The ways in which citizens interact with each other … have fundamentally changed,” and emphasized the importance of education as we “redefine what it means to be ‘neighbors’ in an increasingly interdependent world.”

To be a neighbor also means to ensure access to success, regardless of background or ability. Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, championed the values of inclusion, equity, and opportunity: “It starts with expectations, with high expectations. If we have high expectations for kids with disabilities, we have high expectations for all of our kids.” He emphasized ED’s focus further, saying “[I]t’s making sure that we’re focusing on results and better outcomes for our kids.”

Adam Goldberg, music teacher and founder of the P.S. 177 Technology Band, exemplifies what it means to set high expectations and foster opportunity for students with learning disabilities to dream big and succeed. Through Goldberg’s inspired teaching, students not only develop musical skill but also social awareness and confidence. Student performer Denzel Jackson commented, “I’ve learned to play rhythms within a steady groove. … It’s all about watching, listening, and feeling the music.” Hyacinth Heron Haughton, mother of band vocalist Jason Haughton, stated, “With the help of Mr. Goldberg [my son] has excelled tremendously.”

In addition to using traditional instruments, students used iPads to produce complex musical arrangements. The band performed three musical selections. When You Come Back, written by South African artist Vusi Mahlasela, had the audience clapping to its soulfulness. Though the lyrics for Being Me were written by Goldberg, the melody was inspired by student vocalist Jason Haughton. An instrumental version of the opera classic Nessun dorma (None Shall Sleep), an aria from Puccini’s Turandot, was the most difficult to perform because the beat fluctuated, requiring students to follow the conductor intently. Of his students’ success Goldberg declared, “I am so proud of them. … Every time we do this song … it gets better and better and better.”

Adam Goldberg conducts a musical arrangement performed on iPads by members of the P.S. 177 Technology Band. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Adam Goldberg conducts a musical arrangement performed on iPads by members of the P.S. 177 Technology Band. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

After each performance the audience applauded the band with loud cheers and standing ovations. Tobi Lakes, the band’s keyboardist, surprised the crowd with his spontaneous post-performance speech when he excitedly yelled, “We are incredible! Yes! We did it! We made it! We have been working very hard since the beginning of the year, and we got it! Thank you!”

P.S. 177 Technology Band member Tobi Lakes celebrates the band’s performance success. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

P.S. 177 Technology Band member Tobi Lakes celebrates the band’s performance success. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

This event culminated with the traditional celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the student art exhibit to the public. Though this year’s International Education Week activities and celebrations have come to a close, the exhibit will be on view through Dec. 31 as a vibrant testament to the power of high expectations, diverse student voices, and art’s capacity to unite individuals and nations.

Proud members of the P.S. 177 Technology Band participate enthusiastically in the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Proud members of the P.S. 177 Technology Band participate enthusiastically in the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

View more photos from the event.

Isadora Binder and Asheley McBride are staff in the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), and Olivia Murray is an OII intern from the University of California San Diego.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov.

Testing: Can We Find the Rational Middle?

Recently I visited Glen Iris Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama to meet with a group of teachers and their principal. I was in Birmingham as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow and it was highly recommend by local educators that I visit Glen Iris while in Birmingham to see the incredible work going on at the school. During my visit I learned about the school’s focus on project-based learning, how it energizes teachers and promotes cross-curriculum connections and implementation of college and career ready standards in a way that has significant meaning for students and the surrounding community. I learned how this type of learning relies on several factors including the internal capacity among teachers to lead and bring others along in this work and a supportive principal who will work to make sure the resources needed are provided (even grow a beard and sleep on the school roof to fundraise if necessary!). I also learned about their school garden, which was a sight to behold and a powerful a lesson for how to keep learning focused on developing the whole child.

The assessment culture was also very different at Glen Iris Elementary. It was clear that every teacher in the room agreed that we can and should measure learning, but, also, that current “tests” were measuring learning. When I asked Principal Wilson to share his views on testing he looked at me very calmly said, “There is more than one way to measure the standards. We have to be ever-growing.”

Since returning from Birmingham, much has happened in the “testing” world.

Recently, the Foundation for Excellence in Education came out with an analysis of district testing calendars from the 2013-14 school year. The foundation looked at 44 districts and found huge variation; some required as few as eight tests on top of required state assessments – and one required 198 additional exams. In addition, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Secretary Duncan have shined a spotlight on testing and are asking states and districts to have difficult conversations about the quantity and quality of tests administered to students. Also in recent weeks, several school districts in Florida have moved to cut down on testing. Miami-Dade County cut 24 interim assessments, adding 260 minutes of instruction back into the schedule, while Palm Beach County cut 11 diagnostic tests and made all district-level performance assessments optional. Moreover, Hillsborough County school district leaders are calling on the state to reduce the amount of testing in schools while several school officials have already eliminated final exams at middle and high school levels, as well as reduced the number of assessments for elementary grades in math, science and language arts.

I recently sat down with Secretary Duncan to hear his perspective on the current state of testing and accountability. While the testing pendulum has swung from one side to the other, my hope is that we will land somewhere in the rational middle. And as I continue in my education journey, I will forever keep those timely words of Dr. Wilson at the forefront of my mind and will challenge all of us to be “ever-growing.”

Emily Davis is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Future Ready: Why Action Today is Required to Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow

John Hutton

Superintendent John Hutton participated in the President’s “ConnectED to the Future” at the White House on Nov. 19. (Photo credit: Gurnee School District 56)

I had the opportunity to join the President at the White House recently to sign the Future Ready pledge for transforming education through increased digital learning. The convening drew 109 fellow superintendents in person, and thousands of others virtually. My selection as an attendee was based on the incredible transformation Gurnee District 56, north of Chicago, Illinois, has made in establishing a student-centered learning environment. Buoyed by a 1:1 iPad initiative and a supportive school culture, personalized learning, self-paced instruction, and digital and open source content have become the norm in our school district.

The accolades we have received are based on very real progress which is directly related to how we use technology. Last school year our K-8 students achieved unprecedented targeted growth proficiency in reading, from 56% to 63.5% and math, from 56% to 71%. In recognition of our accomplishments, the district received the Apple Distinguished Program award in November of 2013 and in the spring of 2014, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, lauded the district in his annual speech to shareholders.

As the President said in his speech, we are losing ground in this race to ensure that our children can compete in the 21st century global economy. To reverse this, students must have access to a rich digital learning environment. I have always believed that in order to create change of this magnitude, and compete with countries that are currently Future Ready, we must establish a sense of urgency and make it clear to everyone that nothing less will solve the problem.

The President challenged all of us to carry the torch on behalf of our nation’s children to ensure that we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. After his speech—and I believe that I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues—we were convinced of the need to be Future Ready and eagerly accepted his challenge to join him on this journey.

It is now time for us to continue this conversation. As Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton asked, “What will Future Ready look like when we accomplish it?”

Consider these questions:

  • Does Future Ready apply to our technology, curriculum, students, teachers, parents, the nation? If so, how will we be able to, in specific terms, describe what Future Ready means?
  • How do we make Future Ready an important concept to those school districts that are not even close to being Future Ready?
  • For those of us who are committed to this path, how do we ensure that our conversations are practical rather than philosophical?
  • How committed are we to helping others rather than spending all of our time and attention on our own school districts?

The President has made it clear that the time to act is now. I look forward to working in unison with my colleagues to make sure that Future Ready is a road map that will protect the greatness of America.

John Hutton is superintendent of Gurnee School District 56 in north suburban Chicago, Illinois. He participated in the President’s “ConnectED to the Future” convening at the White House on Nov. 19.

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.