The White House College Opportunity Day of Action

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At the beginning of his administration, President Obama set a goal that the U.S. would once again lead the world in college graduates. The President believes that expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class.

The President has already taken important steps to increase college access, including:

  • Increasing Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year
  • Creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth up to $10,000 over four years of college
  • Limiting student loan payments to 10 percent of income
  • Laying out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition

In January, 140 college presidents and other leaders made commitments to support student success at the first White House College Opportunity Summit. To build upon the success of that summit, on Thursday, December 4, President Obama and the First Lady will join college presidents and other leaders making new commitments to improve degree completion, sustain community collaborations that encourage college-going, train high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and produce more STEM graduates with diverse backgrounds.

Here’s how you can participate in the College Opportunity Summit on Thursday, December 4th:

  • Watch the entire summit live here, or at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
    • 9:00 a.m. ET: Opening remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education
    • 9:15 a.m. ET: Panel discussions moderated by Cecilia Muñoz and Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • 11:50 a.m. ET: Remarks by the President Barack Obama
    • 2:45 p.m. ET: Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama
    • 3:00 p.m. ET: Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden
  • Add your voice to the conversation and follow along on social media with the hashtag #CollegeOpportunity.

AM Live Stream: Remarks by Cecilia Muñoz, Secretary Julian Castro, and President Barack Obama:

PM Live Steam: Remarks by the First Lady and Vice President Biden:

Cameron Brenchley is Senior Digital Strategist for the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House.

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.

Ferguson: Broken trust and the urgency of equal opportunity

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, have been on the minds of many of us at the Department of Education. Secretary Duncan addressed the topic in a staff-wide email just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Because of the importance of the topic, we are posting his email below.

Dear Colleagues,

Like many of you, I have been troubled by the death of Michael Brown, the tragic loss to his family and his community, and what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri, over recent months and over the past 36 hours.

We come to work at this agency each day because we believe in the world that is possible when equity and justice and peace and opportunity are a reality in the lives of our communities and our young people.  Thus, it is especially difficult to watch the scenes of violence and unrest in Ferguson.  Evident in those scenes is a broken trust that exists within communities well beyond Missouri, between people – particularly those of color – and the official institutions that are there to serve them.

I must stress that nonviolence is the most powerful strategy and the only path to a real solution.  What we are seeing in Ferguson speaks to some important and deep issues that won’t be resolved just by bringing quiet to the streets there.

For our young people to succeed, they have to be connected, to know that they have a stake, to have opportunities open to them, to trust in our legal system, and trust that the adults and society around them have their best interests at heart.  I worry when young people may have lost their trust in our system of laws and democracy, and become disconnected – from adults, from society, from school, and from the police.  I believe that this alienation, lack of trust, and disconnect is how we start to lose some of our young people, especially in communities of color.  I believe it is our job as adults to do everything we can to rebuild that trust – in Ferguson and throughout the country.

Solving those problems and setting communities on a path to trust isn’t a quick fix.  Relationships are built – or damaged – over time.  We should take away from Ferguson that we need a conversation to rebuild those relationships, throughout the country, and that need is urgent.  It needs to involve everyone – our young people, our parents, our schools, our faith communities, our government officials, and the police.  It needs to happen now.

Moving that conversation forward is part of the work that so many of us do – and in fact, for many of us, it’s the reason for it.  We are together in that effort, and it has never been more important.  Thanks for what you do every day to advance opportunity, cohesion, understanding, trust, and justice.

Finally, as you gather with your families and in your communities for Thanksgiving, let’s all be thankful for our many blessings and hopeful that we can get to a place where all of America’s children feel they have an equal opportunity to succeed in life thanks to a great education, a rewarding job, and the caring of adults around them.

Best wishes,

Arne

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.

Supporting Great Teaching Through Better Teacher Preparation

20141125_TeacherPrep_GreatTeachersMatter_Twitter

Great teachers matter enormously to the learning and the lives of children. Every parent knows it, and study after study proves it.

Unfortunately, teachers, principals and researchers have made clear: too many teacher preparation programs today aren’t equipping teachers with the skills they need to be successful. Teaching is one of the most important and challenging careers, yet new research shows that many teacher preparation programs offer easy A’s instead of rigorous learning

That’s why ED today announced new regulations that will build on momentum to improve teacher training. The proposed regulations will be different than current reporting requirements – which focus almost exclusively on inputs – by establishing meaningful outcome indicators, like employment outcomes, teacher and employee feedback, and student learning outcomes.

The proposed regulations will also:

  • Encourage states to develop meaningful systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs across all kinds of programs, not just those based in colleges and universities;
  • Reward only those programs determined to be effective or better by states with eligibility for TEACH grants, which are available to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field and in a low-income school, to ensure that these limited federal dollars support high-quality teacher education and preparation; and
  • Offer transparency into the performance of teacher preparation programs, creating a feedback loop among programs and prospective teachers, employers, and the public, and empower programs with information to facilitate continuous improvement.

The regulations would provide significant flexibility for states, allowing them to set performance thresholds and additional performance categories or indicators. Programs would be assessed using a minimum of four performance levels: exceptional, effective, at-risk, or low-performing.

These changes will not only create a new feedback loop among programs and prospective teachers, employers, and the public, but it will also empower programs with better information to facilitate continuous improvement.

Final regulations will be published in Summer 2015. You can learn more about the proposed regulations on our teacher preparation web page, which includes a printable fact sheet and PowerPoint presentation.

Update: The Proposed Rule on Teacher Preparation Issues was published in the Federal Register. Formal comments are due February 2, 2015.

Re-connecting Youth to Opportunity: ED Announces the Performance Partnership Pilots Program

“We really need to break down the barriers between federal programs so we can better meet the needs of our most vulnerable youth”, says Lori Kaplan, President and CEO of the Latin American Youth Center in Washington D.C. “Many of the young people we serve come to us with a multiplicity of needs. These kids often require multiple interventions, over longer periods of time than is currently allowable under some federal programs.”

Over five million 14-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are out of school and not working. In many cases, they face the additional challenges of being low-income, homeless, in foster care, or involved in the justice system. In response, five federal agencies are coming together to offer a new opportunity to help communities overcome the obstacles they face in achieving better outcomes for these “disconnected youth,” as well as those at risk of becoming similarly disconnected from critical social institutions and supports. Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized the importance of this unprecedented Federal collaboration to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable youth, saying, “We have reduced the dropout rate to a historic low, but we can’t stop there. We need to find better ways to reconnect the millions of young Americans who are not engaged in education, training, or work. This new performance partnership effort gives state, local, and tribal leaders the flexibility to develop innovative solutions to more effectively serve these “opportunity youth”, and put them on a path to the middle class.”

For the next 100 days, state, tribes, and municipalities can apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) to test innovative, outcome-focused strategies for achieving significant improvements in educational, employment, and other key outcomes for disconnected youth. This initiative is one of the more promising and exciting opportunities to move the needle on improving the outcomes for over five million young people in our cities, states, and native communities.

This P3 initiative enables up to 10 pilots to blend together funds that they already receive from different discretionary programs administered by the departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services and the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

P3 allows new flexibility under federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements to overcome barriers and align program and reporting requirements, enabling applicants to propose the most effective ways to use these dollars. In addition, pilots will receive start-up grants of up to $700,000.

Government and community partners already invest considerable attention and resources to meet the needs of America’s disconnected youth. However, practitioners, youth advocates, and program administrators on the front lines of service delivery have let us know that achieving powerful outcomes is still sometimes inhibited by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as poor coordination and alignment across the multiple systems that serve youth and fragmented data systems that inhibit the flow of information. P3 responds directly to these challenges by offering broad new flexibility in exchange for better outcomes.

As an evidence-based initiative, P3 will prioritize applicants whose proposals draw on existing evidence of what works and show that they will collect and use reliable data for decision-making and accountability. Applicants that propose to rigorously evaluate at least a component of their pilot will receive competitive preference. In order to look across all pilot sites, the Federal agencies will initiate a national P3 evaluation to examine implementation and build the base of knowledge of how to best serve disconnected youth.

In order to test this new authority in diverse environments across America, P3 includes priorities for applicants that propose to serve disconnected youth in rural communities, and applicants that propose to serve disconnected youth in tribal communities.

Applicants will have 100 days to submit their applications, and the Federal agencies plan to announce the pilot sites in late spring 2015. Lead applicants must be a State, local, or tribal government entity, represented by a chief executive. The lead applicant will submit the proposal on behalf of a partnership that involves all public and private organizations (including non-profit, business, industry, and labor organizations) participating in the pilot. Although non-governmental entities are not eligible to be a lead applicant, they may still serve as key partners in designing and implementing pilots.

To hear representatives from Federal agencies present the details of the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) on P3, including application requirements and selection criteria, for potential applicants, please register and join us for the P3 National Webinar on December 1st, from 3:30 to 5 pm EST.

Additional Resources:

Findyouthinfo.gov

P3 Application Package

Johan Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education and the co-chair of the federal Interagency Forum on Disconnected Youth.

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.

More than 1,200 School Superintendents Take the Future Ready District Pledge

Cross-posted from The White House Blog.

Earlier today, speaking to more than 100 school superintendents in the East Room of the White House, President Obama launched a new effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning with the Future Ready Digital Pledge.

The Future Ready Digital Pledge is part of the President’s ConnectED initiative, which empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content. ConnectED also seeks to connect 99 percent of America’s students with high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries.

During his remarks, the President highlighted the significant gains our country has made in improving education during the last six years:

“Dropout rates are down. The graduation rate is the highest on record. More young people are earning college degrees than ever before.”

But he also noted that in a 21st century economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge — and the capacity to learn new knowledge — we still have work to do:

Right now, fewer than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed Internet in their classrooms — less than half. That’s not good, since we invented the Internet. That’s not good. It means that in most American schools, teachers cannot use the cutting-edge software and programs that are available today. They literally don’t have the bandwidth.

And even in schools where there is high-speed Internet, so often there aren’t enough computers to go around, so only a small percentage of our classrooms have the one-to-one ratio of students to computers or tablets. And that means that, in too many schools, if a teacher wants to use the Internet for a lesson, then kids have to crowd around one desk to follow along, or they have to break up into groups and sequentially come in.

More than 1,200 school superintendents have already signed the pledge, and have agreed to:

  • Foster a culture of learning through technology across their schools
  • Assist their students and families in the transition to high-speed connectivity
  • Provide their learners greater access to high-quality digital devices and content
  • Provide teachers and principals the support needed to use technology in innovative ways

Together, they will reach approximately 10 million students across more than 16,000 schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”

Today’s “ConnectED to the Future” convening also featured new commitments from private and non-profit partners and from the U.S. Department of Education to support educators as they transition to digital learning. Learn more about today’s commitments here.

The President called the Future Ready Digital Pledge “a vision for digital learning in classrooms across America,” but cautioned that the pledge can’t stop with the superintendents:

Every kid needs every superintendent in America to sign this pledge — and then follow through on the pledge.  Our kids need every school district to make these commitments. Every child — whether they live in a big city, quiet suburb, the furthest reaches of rural America, poor districts, rich districts — every child deserves a shot at a world-class education.

That’s the promise we make as a nation great. That’s what makes our nation great — this fundamental belief that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, you can make it in this country if you work hard. You have access to the tools to achieve. If we keep working at this, that’s a promise we can make real for this generation and generations to come.

Read the Future Ready Digital Pledge here, and find out more about the ConnectED initiative here.

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.