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.
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.
School dropouts are saddled with so many preconceptions. The popular narrative is that they are either lazy, they give up, or they simply don’t want to go to school.
To many students who decide to leave middle or high school, these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recently, the student-produced documentary Doing it for Me was screened at ED’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The audience was given an intimate look into the personal story of D.C. high school dropout Precious Lambert, and learned how she got back on track and helped her two best friends – Victoria Williams and Jessica Greene – navigate tough life-altering decisions.
Following the screening, Leah Edwards, the film’s co-director; Jessica Greene, who is featured in the film; Maureen Dwyer, executive director of Sitar Arts Center; and former high school dropout and current alternative school student Cristian A. Garcia Olivera, participated in the panel discussion. Before an audience of ED staff and policy makers, they gave examples of how both the arts and the concern of teachers for their students can promote a successful learning environment.
Despite being in the top 2 percent of her high school class, Jessica lacked relationships with her teachers. “It was up to me to drive myself,” she explained. She believed there was a major problem in her education due to poor communication between students and teachers, and discovered that the only way to get back on track was to take personal responsibility.
Jessica found an outlet and a path to success at Sitar Arts Center, a local organization that advances life skills for underserved youth through holistic arts programs. Though she often denied her feelings at home, Jessica said, “At Sitar I could be me; I could let loose.”
Through the work of Sitar Arts Center, Maureen was able to show how the arts are essential to critical and creative thinking — and how arts education can help students at risk of dropping out persevere beyond school. This aligns with the National Endowment for the Arts research that show students with low socioeconomic status perform better when they are engaged in the arts, and are two times more likely to enroll in four-year colleges.
Christian said that when teachers show an interest in their students it can make a huge impact on their lives. He dropped out of his traditional school and is currently (and happily) enrolled in an alternative school. “At alternative schools the teachers are really nice. The classes are really small, with only 20 kids per class, and . . . teachers teach you in a way to get to know you better,” he said.
Getting a second chance can make all the difference in the world for students like Precious, Victoria, Jessica and Christian. An audience member summed up his understanding of the film’s powerful message: “If you’ve made the bad choice, you can still fix it.”
Watch the entire discussion on ED Stream.
This event was a part of the ED Youth Voices Policy Briefing Session program, aimed at providing U.S. Department of Education staff and stakeholders with student perspectives on educational policy issues.
Samuel Ryan is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
As October, National Principals Month, comes to an end, I cannot help but to reflect upon what led me into the principalship.
As a twenty-one year old African American male, I could have very easily become a statistic. Five months after graduating from IUP in rural Pennsylvania, I was shot and left for dead on a football field in Philadelphia.
Many people struggle to recover from such an experience and I am blessed to have a community that rallied around me and refused to let me succumb to the trauma that could have easily overwhelmed me. Instead, I was led to become a career changer, transitioning from counseling adjudicated youth to one of the most important careers in the world-being a principal.
As a teacher leader, my principal, Charles D’Alfonso, supported and encouraged me to take on the immense challenge of becoming a principal. He guided me, connected me with other mentors (like Yvonne Savior, who would serve as my new teacher coach and new principal coach years later), and provided various resources to spur my growth and success. And, although, I viewed myself as a leader of middle school students, my principal saw me as a leader of a school community.
Today, I make it part of my mission to encourage all my peers to mentor the brave, humble, and up-and-coming leaders in the principal pipeline. We need to do this to strengthen our profession and to ensure that there is a higher level of diversity in the principalship. By expanding leadership opportunities for women and minorities, we acknowledge the diversity of the students we serve. By harnessing the unique and life-impacting experiences and perceptions of culturally distinct principals, we will help to strengthen students’ outcomes – including and especially for the most vulnerable students in our communities. We will impact these students in ways that equip the next generation to master the incredible challenges and seize the incredible opportunities of our time.
It’s said Albert Einstein, the great scientist and philosopher, believed that one of the most powerful forces in the universe is the effect of compound interest in finance. I’m not sure if this attribution is true, but I do know that – like the power of earning “interest on interest,” – a great principal is a force that elevates, amplifies, and supports the great work of teachers and other school staff. And, that’s a mighty force! In my experience, it’s certainly one that moves mountains, uplifts communities, and accelerates student achievement.
My fellow Ambassadors Jill Levine and Rachel Skerritt and I have visited many cities and schools over the last several months, and we’ve spoken with over 875 principals. Research is clear about the tremendous lever that principals represent in school improvement efforts. Our conversations with our colleagues around the nation affirm the research below.
- Principals’ actions have a have influence on why 70 percent of our best teachers leave the classroom
- There are 90,000 principals, for 98,706 schools, employing 3 million teachers all of which serve the 55 million students in American public schools. On average, then, each principal impacts 611 students, each day, of each year, over their life at a school.
- Principals account for 25 percent of a school’s total impact on student achievement, second only to teachers
- Principals can have enormous impact on all students because principals ensure effective instruction year to year across the entire school
I am humbled and inspired daily by the work that we do and the impact that we have. As principals, we must continue to identify and develop those leaders in our buildings that can join us in this mission of the principalship – just as Charles D’Alfonso did twenty-two years ago.
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, PA, and a 2013-15 Campus Principal Ambassador Fellow of the U.S. Department of Education. El-Mekki serves on Mayor Michael Nutter’s Commission on African American Males and is an America Achieves Fellow.
Note: U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognizes schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching environmental education. To share innovative practices and widely-available resources in these three ‘Pillars,’ the Department conducts an annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour of honorees. A state and local official write about the honorees visited on the tour in Kentucky.
Kentucky schools have been working to make our facilities more sustainable, and to ensure that they support student wellness and environmental literacy. But it was U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) that provided the framework our state needed to address these areas cohesively. The award prompted an open dialogue and helped us reach new stakeholders who might not have otherwise been engaged in sustainability.
Ultimately, each conversation that we have about building performance, student wellness, or environmental learning is rooted in the understanding that they are most effective when addressed together. To bring all of our many partners together and highlight this coordinated work, Kentucky was pleased to co-host the first leg of the second annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour.
Kentucky’s districts that integrate the three pillars of ED-GRS let students take ownership of their school facilities and well-being.
In Scott County, students at Northern Elementary explained to guests how they measured the brightness of their classrooms and then removed overhead bulbs to save money and ensure a better learning environment. At Georgetown Middle School, school leadership emphasizes comprehensive health, ensuring that students have adequate physical activity and nutrition — even outside of school hours — with breakfast, dinner, and weekend meal programs.
At Rosa Parks Elementary in Fayette County, visitors saw the results of the students’ campaign to reduce car idling near school in order to improve public health. The Wellington Elementary School Living Lab team then taught visitors about their sustainable building’s features, including photovoltaic solar panels, a rainwater capture and reuse system, a thermal hot water system, permeable pavers, a rain garden, automatic lighting controls, native landscaping, and an outdoor classroom.
At Locust Trace Agriscience Farm, a student guided visitors through the net zero-building that opened in August of 2011. The school featured permeable pavement, solar panels, solatube daylighting, a green roof, and a constructed wetlands waste disposal system. This low-environmental impact, low-utility cost facility supports green agricultural career paths ranging from Agricultural Power Mechanics to Veterinary Science. Additionally, the small school has formed unique partnerships on the 82-acre farm that benefit other nearby organizations, including culinary and horse training programs.
The tour was a powerful reminder of how Kentucky’s independent programs for sustainability, environmental education, energy management, and health at diverse statewide and local organizations have come together in one unified effort to support schools moving toward the Pillars of ED-GRS.
Seeing the tremendous positive impact this approach has on student achievement in our state, we’re more committed than ever to making our school campuses greener and healthier, and our students more environmentally literate. In order for our community to collaborate in ensuring that all students achieve at high levels and are prepared to excel in a global society, the choice is clear.
Elizabeth Schmitz is Executive Director at the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, part of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Tresine Logsdon is the Sustainability and Energy Curriculum Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools in Lexington, Kentucky.
On January 31, the Department of Education hosted its quarterly conference call for education funders. Secretary Arne Duncan addressed the Department’s priorities as highlighted in the President’s State of the Union address, providing more details on the Administration’s initiatives to promote college affordability, a robust and respected teaching profession, and career-oriented education and training that will lead to employment. The Secretary also discussed the progress of Race to the Top states and the effective involvement of the funder community in support of statewide efforts, as well as the application process for states pursuing ESEA flexibility.
Teachers are doing “the most important work…in our country today,” Arne Duncan says in a new video for the Teaching Channel that is timed to the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Secretary also encourages Americans to thank a teacher on Nov. 25 as part of the “National Day of Listening” organized by the StoryCorps oral history project. On this day — the day after Thanksgiving – Americans of all ages are invited to talk with or about a favorite teacher.
Teacher Question (TQ): What is ESEA Flexibility, what some are calling Waivers?
Answer: ESEA Flexibility is the opportunity for states to seek relief from some of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law that aren’t working. Until Congress passes a law that fixes NCLB, states are being given the chance to request waivers of certain portions of the law. To qualify for flexibility, states must have plans in place to better prepare our children for college and careers.
TQ: Who can apply for ESEA Flexibility? My state? My school? My union?
A: The federal Elementary and Secondary Education law (now referred to as No Child Left Behind) gives states the responsibility for monitoring compliance with the law. Under the ESEA flexibility plan, only a state can apply. However, states will be creating flexibility plans on behalf of themselves and their districts. States will be encouraged to work closely with their districts to ensure a comprehensive plan that truly increases the quality of instruction and improves academic achievement for all students. Currently, more than 40 states have indicated their intent to request ESEA Flexibility.
TQ: Does ESEA Flexibility require states to make judgments and decisions about my teaching based on a single test?
A: No. Just as a good teacher would never assess a student one time to determine a grade, schools and districts must have multiple ways to assess a teacher’s effectiveness. Under the ESEA flexibility plan, states must use multiple measures of professional practice in teacher evaluation plans, such as portfolios, meaningful observations, peer reviews, parent and student surveys, or other locally developed instruments. The measures must include, as a significant factor, data on student growth. In some cases, this will be means data from state assessments).
TQ: Does testing change under ESEA Flexibility?
A: States will be required to continue measuring students’ achievement annually in at least reading/language arts and math, and to measure students’ achievement in science once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school. However, rather than mandating that all students reach an arbitrary achievement bar on a low-quality test, the flexibility focuses on ensuring that all students are making progress by requiring higher-quality assessments that measure student growth and truly reflect whether or not a student is on track for success in college and a career.
TQ: What will ESEA Flexibility do to change the curricula that teachers use at my school?
A: No Child Left Behind created unintentional incentives for states to water down and narrow their curricula. ESEA Flexibility does not require states or districts to adopt specific standards or a particular curriculum, but it supports states and districts in moving towards higher standards and a meaningful, rigorous and well-rounded curriculum.
With more rigorous standards in place, students can expect more individualized instruction. Furthermore, ESEA Flexibility will promote a well-rounded curriculum by basing accountability decisions on student growth and progress in addition to other measures of student learning and school progress beyond traditional assessment results. States will be able to assess a school’s success by looking comprehensively at how schools are serving their schools and communities in areas like school climate, access to rigorous coursework, and providing a well-rounded education.
TQ: Does ESEA Flexibility mean that states are given a pass on accountability for closing the achievement gap?
A: No. Both the President and the Secretary of Education believe strongly that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. The Department of Education exists to ensure that every child has access to a quality education. States that do not demonstrate a commitment to closing achievement gaps will not be granted flexibility.
Turning struggling schools into vibrant community hubs was the focus of Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin’s Wednesday morning stop on the back-to-school bus tour.
Yudin visited Lincoln-West High School (home of the Wolverines), met with students and teachers, and hosted a roundtable discussion with fifteen principals working to transform some of Ohio’s persistently lowest-achieving schools, with federal dollars from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.
Yudin’s tour was led by students from the school’s themed academies: international studies, wraparound services, and computer programming and software development. The school also houses academies that provide support for ninth-graders and immigrant families.
The principals who joined the roundtable lead a wide range of schools, covering grades P-12. All are in their first or second year of a three-year SIG grant. As the principals shared their vision, challenges, and successes thus far, Yudin connected their work to Ohio’s future success – and the nation’s. “All of you are strong leaders, and I applaud your commitment to improving outcomes for your students,” he told the group.
The panel discussion brought out several strategies that can help turn around low-performing schools, including offering students extended learning time, improving students’ access to educational technology tools, using data to drive instruction and decision-making, improving instructional practices, and building strong teacher-led accountability teams. All the principals noted the importance of creating safe, welcoming learning environments for students and their families.
“These school teams are working to build positive cultures and climates for learning,” Yudin said. “They are coordinating all the supports and resources they can, to make these schools the strong centers – the beacons of hope – of their communities.”
Point them to these FAFSA Resources!
As a high school English teacher in a rural section of North Carolina, I often found that my students avoided college preparatory classes because they believed, erroneously, that a college education was out of the question for them financially.
It didn’t help when I brought out pie charts demonstrating that of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in America, half require a bachelor’s degree or more. For them, the expense of tuition, fees, books, and board made college seem like a pipe dream.
If I could change one thing for these students, after working at the U.S. Department of Education since July 2010, it would be to let them know that even if they are the first person in their family to seek higher learning, there is money to finance their college dreams.
The federal government awards $150 billion annually in financial aid to students who might not otherwise be able to afford college. This aid takes the form of federal grants (like the Pell Grant, which doesn’t have to be paid back), federal work-study programs, and low-interest federal student loans. For students who have the desire to attend and the skills to succeed, college is absolutely possible, regardless of race, gender or income.
During class, I would also want to point my students to the following resources that can help them to make a plan to pay for college.
Current high school seniors should, if they haven’t already, go to the Federal Student Aid FAFSA site and apply for aid. The federal government has a very generous 18-month timeframe to submit the FAFSA (from January 1 of every year through June 30 of the following year) but many states and postsecondary institutions have earlier deadlines, so it is critical that high school students apply as soon as possible after Jan. 1 of their senior year. The FAFSA application form as been recently redesigned so that it is easier to complete.
Students in grades 6-11 can go to the FAFSA Forecaster, which enables them to predict what kinds of financial aid they may qualify for so that they can begin college planning.
All students may also be interested in the College Preparation Checklist, which is a “to do” list, starting with elementary school, to help students prepare academically and financially for education beyond high school. Each section is split into subsections for students and parents, explaining what to do and which publications or websites might be useful to them.
The College Board also houses a College Matchmaker that enables students to enter in characteristics of schools that interest them—such as size, location, majors available, etc.—and be matched with schools that meet their needs.
Teachers wanting to help motivate students to think about college may want to direct students to “I’m Going to College” on Federal Student Aid’s site. This site includes testimonials and a motivational video.
Students having questions or needing assistance completing the FAFSA can call toll-free: 1-800-433-3243.
At the end of their time with us, all teachers want our students to learn more, to go to a college, university, or community college. We want them to have satisfying work and financially secure futures. Pointing them to these resources is one step in the right direction.
Laurie Calvert is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Buncombe County, N.C.
Join educators and students across America to participate in the National Financial Capability Challenge, where high school students can learn about how to take control of their financial futures. Lesson plans in the Challenge can help students make positive decisions about spending, saving, borrowing, and protecting against risk.
The program, which includes a free, voluntary, online exam, runs through April 8, 2011 and includes valuable information for students to learn about their finances. Certificates will be given to participating educators, and to top scoring students who take the online exam. For more information, go to challenge.treas.gov and check out the video message from Secretary Duncan encouraging teachers to sign up.
Click here for an accessible version of the video.
Cross-posted from the White House blog.
The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is back and we’re asking public high school students from across the country to tell us about ways their school is preparing them for college and a career. In return, we’ll make sure one high school has a graduation they’ll never forget – including a commencement address by President Obama himself.
President Obama and our Administration believe education is key to winning the future. In order to ensure our long-term economic success, we need to focus on out-educating and out-competing the world. That means helping to prepare students today for the jobs of tomorrow. It means equipping students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the 21st Century economy – encouraging them to be creative, to solve problems, to work together to design solutions to important problems.
The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge is just one of the many ways we’re encouraging young people to actively engage in their educational success. Last year, over 1000 schools applied. This year, we hope to continue encouraging applications from students from across the country. The deadline has been extended to Friday, March 11 to ensure that all interested schools have the chance to apply. Applications are available at WhiteHouse.gov/Commencement.
Apply today and don’t miss this opportunity to have an unforgettable high school commencement.
Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council