Latest “School Days” Video Features Secretary Duncan’s Tribal College Visit

The August 2011 edition of School Days, the U.S. Department of Education’s monthly video journal, is now online.   This month we feature the Obama Administration’s plans to give schools relief from some parts of the No Child Left Behind Act, Secretary Arne Duncan’s first Twitter Town Hall, ED employees talking about the recent earthquake, and a visit to a tribal college in South Dakota.

Watch the August 2011 School Days here.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

“School Days” Video Journal Reports on Activities at ED in July

This week, the U.S. Department of Education released online the July 2011 of edition School Days, ED’s monthly video journal.   Highlights this month include a new web tool for comparing college costs, a visit from the State Teachers of the Year, the announcement of guidelines for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, and the appointment of new Teaching Ambassador Fellows. 

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

School Days Highlights June at ED

This week, the U.S. Department of Education introduces School Days, a quick and casual look back at what went on at ED in the previous month.   The video journal covers a dozen large and small events featuring Secretary Arne Duncan and other ED staff, all in just a few minutes.

School Days’ first installment features Arne announcing the Administration’s plan to provide regulatory flexibility around No Child Left Behind (NCLB) if Congress does not complete work on a reauthorization bill before the August recess; the 2011 Presidential Scholars’ visit to Washington;  a farewell to the this year’s Teacher Ambassador Fellows; a graduation ceremony for the Project Search program for  high schools students with disabilities; and more.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Honoring Exceptional High School Graduates – The 2011 Presidential Scholars

Official Department of Education Photo by Joshua Hoover

“I feel smarter just being in the room with you,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholars at one of the many events held this week to honor the distinguished young men and women for their remarkable academic, artistic, and civic achievements.

The 141 Scholars, whose ranks include graduating high school seniors from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, as well as U.S. families stationed overseas. The Scholars were announced last month after being selected by the presidentially appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars.

Official Department of Education Photo by Joshua Hoover

During their Washington visit, the 2011 Scholars enjoyed a schedule crowded with activities that included a medallion ceremony with Secretary Duncan, where the Scholars had a chance to quiz Arne on issues ranging from school funding to the importance of arts education; a dinner in the Mellon Auditorium at which each Scholar recognized his or her most influential teacher; an opportunity to perform community service with the Horton’s Kids nonprofit organization; and an evening performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featuring the work of the Scholars in the Arts, including actors, singers, musicians, dancers, poets and visual artists.

“Our country has never had so many challenges, but I have never been more optimistic, because of young people like you,” Secretary Duncan told the Scholars at the medallion ceremony. “I’m tremendously optimistic about the future.”

Established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program symbolically honors all graduating high school seniors of high potential.

For more on the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, including a complete list of the 2011 honorees, go to:  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/psp/index.html

ED Asks the Public to Help with “Plain Writing” Effort

Today the Department of Education joined a government-wide effort to improve communication from federal agencies to the general public.

The focus is on “plain writing,” i.e., writing that is clear, concise and well-organized, and avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity and obscurity. Such clear communication benefits the public by making it easier to understand and apply for important benefits and services. And it helps the public meet requirements that apply to them simply because they can now understand what they are supposed to do. ED is joining the plain writing effort not only to meet a legal requirement but also as an essential step in meeting President Obama’s goals for the government of openness, public participation, and collaboration with the American people.

In accordance with the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires agencies to write “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use,” ED has posted a Plain Writing web page and invited members of the public to help us ensure that our documents are clear and accessible. The new web page asks customers to tell us about specific publications that might be hard to understand.

In addition, the Department is announcing plans to train our staff and strengthen our oversight processes to ensure that we use plain language in any document or web page that is necessary for obtaining benefits or services — or that explains how to comply with any requirement that ED administers. Next month, we will post a report detailing ED’s progress in complying with the Plain Writing Act.

Visit our Plain Writing web page.

Lessons from the Heart: 2011 State Teachers of the Year Discuss Their Own Favorite Teachers

What does it take to inspire an award-winning teacher?

Not long ago, the 2011 State Teachers of the Year visited the Department of Education, and we asked them to talk about the teachers who had the greatest influence on them. Some praised colleagues and mentors, and others remembered inspiring teachers from their own days as students.  Their tributes were varied and poignant:  “She treated all of us as though we were her special children.”  “She made me love every piece of literature that at the time I absolutely hated.”  “He thinks the best of his colleagues, and so we want to live up to his expectations and prove that he’s not wrong.”  Now at the very top of their profession, the 2011 State Teachers of the Year surely took lessons like these to heart.

Click here to watch a video compilation of the State Teachers of the Year thanking their favorite teachers.


Click here
to watch a video about the 2011 State Teachers of the Year visit to the U.S. Department of Education.

An Education Masterpiece in Baton Rouge

This week, the Department of Education released a video about a remarkable public elementary school that combines the art of learning with the learning of art.

Produced for ED by the History Channel, the new video tells the story of Forest Heights Academy of Excellence in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—an award-winning public magnet school where students excel in both academics and the performing and the visual arts.

In addition to the standard academic curriculum, Forest Heights students have the opportunity to study instrumental music, visual arts, drama, dance, and vocal music. Their arts curriculum is comprehensive and is based on national, state, and local standards. Kids learn everything from costume design and stage lighting to jazz and tap dance, and the school also has a modern, high-tech theater and arts facility.

At Forest Heights, students also learn math, science, language, and social studies through their study of the arts. Thus, kids encounter mathematical principles through music and learn lessons about history while they work on theatrical productions.

More than half the school’s population is disadvantaged. About 85 percent of the students are African-American.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education named Forest Heights Academy of Excellence a Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor the federal government bestows on schools throughout the country. For a public school to win this award, student achievement must be in either the top 10 percent on state assessments or show improvement to high levels with at least 40 percent of the school’s population from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Earlier this year, Secretary Arne Duncan spoke about the critical importance of an education in the arts:

“First, the arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college. Second, arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a global economy. And last, but not least, the arts are valuable for their own sake, and they empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works.”

See the full text of Secretary Duncan’s remarks on the importance of the arts and a well-rounded curriculum or more information on the Blue Ribbon School’s program.

John McGrath
Office of Communications and Outreach


Click here for an accessible version of the video.

College Is “Un Sueño Alcanzable”—A Possible Dream

These days, a college education is not only more important, but more accessible than ever before. That’s the message of a new video produced by the U.S. Department of Education especially for Spanish-speaking families.

The video profiles Samantha Hernandez, a sophomore at California State University Dominguez Hills, and shows the support she receives as she pursues an education to attain her career and life goals. Samantha’s story is told in her own words, as well as those of her fellow students, faculty advisor, college president, and family members—all in Spanish.

The video shows her on campus and at home in South Central Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother and sisters and documents the financial assistance she receives from the U.S. Department of Education and that California State. The financial aid helps ensure that, once students enroll, they can complete their degrees. The video also demonstrates the critical role that the family can play in motivating young people to attend and succeed in the world of higher education.

Entitled “La Universidad: Un Sueño Alcanzable” (“College: A Possible Dream”), the video runs about 5 minutes and is closed-captioned in Spanish and in English. Just click the “cc” button and select the language option you prefer.


Click here for an accessible version of the video.

John McGrath
Office of Communications and Outreach