Open Education Week 2015

Cross-posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog.

As we celebrate Open Education Week 2015, we look forward to implementing the new U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan to promote Open Educational Resources and building momentum for Federal open education initiatives. The availability of high-quality, low-cost digital content in our schools is a priority for the President and a pillar of his ConnectED Initiative. Fostering the use of Open Educational Resources in our nation’s K-12 and post-secondary classrooms can help meet this goal.

Open Educational Resources are learning tools that reside in the public domain or that have been released with intellectual property licenses allowing their free use, continuous improvement, and modification by others. Open Educational Resources can deliver two great benefits for students: lower cost in obtaining the educational resources needed to succeed in school, so that students and schools can redirect funds for other instructional needs; and access to a universe of high-quality, updated content that can be tailored minute-by-minute by educators to reflect new developments and current events.

The Department of Labor has been at the forefront of advancing Open Educational Resources.  The Department recently developed new granting policies for its Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Training Grant Program (TAACCCT), which aims to expand post-secondary education and training capacity.  For the first time, the Department has incorporated requirements for grantees to openly license all educational content created with grant funds, promoting institutional collaboration and sharing of Open Educational Resources. Since the program’s inception, grantees at over 700 colleges have launched over 1,500 new programs of study, including degree and certificate programs that prepare students for careers in emerging and expanding industries. By requiring all content, curricula, and learning objects created using TAACCCT funds be licensed using a Creative Commons Attribution license, the Department of Labor is investing in the world’s largest collection of Open Educational Resources.

The Department of Education’s Learning Registry project is another example of Federal efforts to increase the discoverability of open educational content, particularly for use in K-12 contexts, by aggregating and sharing data about online educational content through an open source platform. Several states, including Illinois and California, have built portals that allow educators to search, save, and share Learning Registry resources from institutions including the Smithsonian, National Archives, and NASA.

In the coming year, we will continue to build on these successes at the Federal level as we look to promote the use of Open Educational Resources. Current plans include launching an Online Skills Academy to leverage free and openly-licensed learning resources and using technology to create high-quality, low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials. In addition, the Department of State will conduct three overseas pilots to examine new models for using Open Educational Resources to support learning in formal and informal contexts. The results of the pilots will be shared later this year at a workshop – co-hosted by the Department of State, the Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy – on challenges and opportunities in open education.

We look forward to working together to advance these initiatives.

Sara Trettin is Digital Engagement Lead in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

Dipayan Ghosh is a Policy Advisor in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Student Aid Bill of Rights: Enhancing Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

The single most important investment anyone can make in their future is to pursue higher education. But the one thing I often hear from families is that they are worried about the cost.

Too many students are graduating from college feeling burdened by their student loan debt. The Obama Administration has – and will continue to – make college more affordable through increased Pell Grants and education tax credits, while improving transparency so that students and families have the information they need to select schools that provide the best value. Today, we are building on the Administration’s success helping students manage their debt and stay on track.

My team at the U.S. Department of Education has been working with our federal partners to make sure that student loan borrowers are getting accurate information about how to avoid – or get out of – delinquency and default. And we’ve been doing more to improve student loan servicing and protect borrowers so they receive the treatment and respect they deserve, regardless of the type of loan they have.

But across the Administration, we want to do more.

That’s why today, President Obama has proposed a new Student Aid Bill of Rights that outlines a series of new actions that direct the Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Social Security Administration, to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans.

studentbillofrights

Working together, the Obama administration will:

  • Develop a state-of-the-art – and simple – process for borrowers to file complaints involving their federal student aid, and working with a team across the federal government to figure out the best way to address those complaints.
  • Make sure the banks that service federal loans are held to high standards and provide better information to borrowers; and raising the bar for debt collection to make sure that fees charged to borrowers are reasonable and that collectors are fair, transparent, and help borrowers get back on track.
  • Use innovative strategies to improve borrowers’ experience and improve customer service. At the Department of Education, we are committed to finding new and better ways to communicate with student loan borrowers and to creating a centralized, easier process for repaying loans. And we will see what changes to regulations and legislation, including bankruptcy law, may be necessary to protect borrowers – regardless of the type of loan they have.
  • Work across the federal government to see what lessons can be learned from similar situations, like mortgage and credit card markets and other performance-based contracts, to help us make sure that ultimately, we are continually strengthening consumer protections for students.

It is our responsibility to make sure that the more than 40 million Americans with student loans are aware of resources to help them manage their debt, and that are doing everything we can to be responsive to their needs. The Student Aid Bill of Rights builds on the efforts our Administration has been taking over the last several years to make college more affordable and continues to chip away at the burden of student debt – so no one should feel overwhelmed by their student loans.

Agree with me? Take the pledge for a Student and Borrower Bill of Rights:www.whitehouse.gov/college-opportunity

Arne Duncan is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Beyond High School Diplomas: Educators Aim Towards College Completion

Nationally, just 18 percent of all 9th graders complete four year degrees within 10 years. There needs to be a real sense of urgency as we move forward in creating and sustaining greater college access and completion for all students, which is why it is so important that we address this issue at the federal, state and local levels.

As we prepare students to succeed as adults, we know that most will need advanced learning beyond their high school diplomas to get good jobs. For some, that may mean completing professional certificate programs. Others will go on to earn advanced degrees. Schools and community partners need to track and support students’ completion of advanced learning beyond high school as the new aspiring standard for public education.

This was the most important message that we took away from the “On Track to College Completion” forum hosted by the U.S .Department of Education’s regional office in Chicago on Feb. 25.  

As educators from Rockford Public Schools 205, we had the chance to connect with leaders of other school districts and partner organizations from 17 communities spanning Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Led by Greg Darnieder, senior advisor for college access to Secretary Duncan, we discussed current innovations and practices for college access and completion.

This forum began with an authentic example of how Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has progressed toward that new standard. The district’s efforts over the past nine years have led to a near-doubling of its percentage of 9th graders earning a four-year college degree within 10 years of starting high school, according to research from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR). Darnieder, Jenny Nagaoka, deputy director of CCSR, and Aarti Dhupelia, chief officer for college and career success for CPS, discussed how the district’s progress came about, and what it means for other schools and students throughout the country.

Since 2011, RPS 205 has worked with community partners to redesign our five high schools into college and career academies that are better preparing students for college and the workforce. This effort is beginning to reap great results: More 9th graders are on track to graduate in 4 years, attendance has improved and graduation rates have increased.

The session helped us make some much needed connections. For example, RPS 205 is working with Alignment Rockford, a community partner, to develop a site-based scholarship program modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise, which funds college for Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates. This forum gave us the opportunity to meet Janice Brown, founder of the Kalamazoo Promise and get her direct insights about starting a similar initiative.

The session was also a catalyst for sharing information about effective college access and completion resources. They included data sources like the National Student Clearinghouse and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which may be used to collect and monitor college completion rates, as well as the federal GEAR UP program, which helps low-income middle and high school students to enter and success in post-secondary education.

This is very rewarding work, but it’s not easy. We’re all experiencing some of the same challenges to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy. Exchanges like this one are vital to leverage best practices and to collaborate to develop new strategies.

David Carson is Executive Director of College and Career Readiness for Rockford Public Schools 205 and Janice Hawkins is Principal of Guilford High School in Rockford Public Schools 205.

My Brother’s Keeper: A Year of Progress

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative one year ago, he did so with a powerful call to action to help more of our young people stay on the right track and achieve their full potential. Too many young people, including boys and young men of color, face daunting opportunity gaps and, like all of us, the President knows that America will be most successful when its young people are successful.

At the launch of MBK, the President called for government, businesses, nonprofits, schools, districts, and individuals, to commit to making a difference in the lives of our nation’s young people. Since then, nearly 200 cities, counties, and tribal nations from 43 states have accepted the MBK Community Challenge, a call to build and execute locally driven plans with a focus on achieving excellence and equity from birth through adolescence and the transition to early adulthood.

Last May, I joined young men in Denver, an MBK Community, for an open and honest discussion about their lives – their challenges, support systems, and visions for the future. So many of their stories – both heart-wrenching and inspiring – stick with me, but what perhaps struck me most were the words of Elias, who was once told he was “an exception to his race.” The words weighed heavily on him, as they did on me.

Elias told me that he doesn’t want to be an exception to his race. Rather, he envisions a system where schools partner with nonprofits and higher education to create a pipeline to success that will work for everybody.

The good news is that Elias’s vision is starting to take shape. Partners from across the country are recognizing the important work of MBK, with more than $300 million independently pledged by foundations and corporations. And, in July, AT&T, the NBA, and the NBA Players Association announced efforts that will expand opportunities for learning, mentorship, volunteerism, and jobs for all youth, including boys and young men of color. From nonprofits and foundations to businesses, private sector efforts are accelerating the work of MBK to promote academic and career success, and mentoring and public engagement.

The Department of Education is doing its part, too, by improving existing programs to better serve our youth, and by creating new and better public-private partnerships that best serve the needs of our young people. And, the Council of the Great City Schools is coordinating the leaders of 63 of the largest urban school systems in the country in an unprecedented joint pledge to change life outcomes by better serving students at every stage of their education.

In December, the Department of Education convened the White House Summit on Early Education, where we announced $750 million in new federal grant awards from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, to support early learning for over 63,000 additional children across the country.

And, I was pleased to join US Attorney General Holder in releasing a Correctional Education Guidance Package, which builds upon the recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report. The guidance will help states and agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to the approximately 57,000 young people in confinement every day.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. The Departments also released additional tools and resources to help schools in serving English learner students and parents with limited English proficiency, including a toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students.

Great efforts are underway in communities across the country – but our young people still face great challenges. To truly change the face of opportunity in this country – to truly make the bounty of America available to the many, and not just the few – we must replicate and expand what’s working.

Our work is far from over. Let’s move forward, together, to do right by all our nation’s young people.

Read the My Brother Keeper’s Task Force one-year progress report to the President.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

#AskDrBiden About Community Colleges at SXSWedu 2015

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Dr. Biden meets with students during her Community College to Career bus tour in 2012. (Gary Fabiano/U.S. Department of Labor)

Dr. Biden meets with students during her Community College to Career bus tour in 2012. (Gary Fabiano/U.S. Department of Labor)

Community colleges have entered a new day in America. They lead the way in preparing graduates in the fields of green technology, health care, teaching, and information technology — some of the fastest-growing fields in America and the rest of the world. Community colleges are able to meet the needs of their community and provide students and workers with the education and skills they need to succeed and to get good-paying jobs to support their families.

That’s why I am excited to attend SXSWedu 2015 to discuss the importance of community colleges to America’s future. I have been an educator for more than 30 years, and I have spent the last 20 years teaching at community colleges. And, as Second Lady, I have traveled across the country to see firsthand the critical role community colleges play in creating the best, most-educated workforce in the world.

Before I get to SXSWedu 2015, I want to hear from you. Starting today, you can tweet your questions about community colleges to me @DrBiden using the hashtag #AskDrBiden. Then, watch here on Tuesday, March 10 at 9 a.m. CST/10 a.m. EST as I respond to some of your questions during a live event moderated by a community college student.

Dr. Jill Biden is a full-time community college English professor and Second Lady of the United States.

Overcoming Challenges through Perseverance and the Arts

Ledbetter creates inspirational artwork in his Studio and Media Art class to encourage students to consider the effects of bullying and to inspire hope. (Courtesy Thomas Ledbetter)

Thomas Ledbetter creates inspirational artwork in his Studio and Media Art class to encourage students to consider the effects of bullying and to inspire hope. (Courtesy Thomas Ledbetter)

At age two, Thomas Ledbetter was diagnosed with Autism and was not expected to be able to speak; however, thanks to a great support system and an incredible amount of work on his part, he managed to overcome many of the obstacles in his life. Thomas experienced bullying throughout elementary and middle school and decided to channel these negative experiences and feelings into positive graphic design.

Thomas had this to say about his piece, “Everyone in this world is like a flower: biologically similar, but personally distinct and beautiful in [their] own way… However these flowers will sometimes go through experiences that will take away their personal happiness, joy.” Using this metaphor, Thomas hoped to create something that, “shed light on the complex and often emotionally ambiguous nature of bullying,” and something that would, “give people hope and help them embrace who they are despite the obstacles standing in their way.”

“I created my poster for my Studio in Media Art class. Many people have seen the printed copies of the poster I made in the hallways of the school and have told me how amazing they thought it was and asked me about what the art means. After explaining the message I wanted to convey, they said that they really liked the poster’s meaning and loved how inspiring and poignant it was. I’m glad to see that people understand the message I wanted to send and that they’re being inspired by my poster little by little.”

Thomas’ father, Tom Ledbetter, is a member of the local Board of Education and has been working to increase the surrounding community’s awareness of bullying and how it impacts students. He constantly advocates for, “more comprehensive policies that include educating students and staff about bullying prevention; that create effective counter measures to prevent bullying; and that include consequences that are appropriate, educational and effective deterrents to bullying.”

Thomas’ plans for the future include, “teaching others that people who have a disability [or a difference] are worth just as much as anyone else and that all people have value.” Most of all, he wants to help others overcome adversity and find joy and happiness in their lives.

“My dream job is to become a psychologist, more specifically a neuropsychologist, and even though I want to specialize in helping people with neurological disabilities, I want to be able to help anyone and everyone as a psychologist and give people the ability to see their own value and worth one small step at a time.”

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is strongly committed to preventing bullying of all students, including the 6.75 million public school students with disabilities. ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigates and resolves complaints of disability discrimination at public schools. OCR recently issued guidance to public schools to help school officials understand their federal responsibilities to respond to bullying of students with disabilities. This guidance builds on anti-bullying guidance the U.S. Department of Education has issued in recent years concerning schools’ legal obligations to address bullying, including ensuring that students with disabilities who are bullied continue to receive a free appropriate public education. OCR issued a fact sheet for parents (available in Spanish) that addresses key points of the recent guidance and provides information on where to go for help. To learn more about federal civil rights laws or how to file a complaint, contact OCR at 800-421-3481 (TDD: 800-877-8339), or ocr@ed.gov.

Sarah Sisaye is with the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at the U.S. Department of Education.

The Importance of Early Education for All

It’s time for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. There’s no doubt change is necessary to ensure our children’s civil rights to a high quality education. While the media has focused on the annual assessments mandated by NCLB as being key, I want to highlight another critical improvement needed: high-quality preschool.

We are a family that can speak to the benefits of high-quality preschool for every child. We have lived in the north, south, east, and west. Our whole lives have been about education and overcoming struggle and “the odds.”

LaToyaSmithFamily

(Photo courtesy LaToya Smith.)

I am an African American born to teenage parents thirty years ago in Michigan. Yet, now that I have my own children, I understand how fortunate I was to attend a Montessori program at age three and then preschool at my public elementary school at age four. Since then, excelling in school has been second nature to me. I was high school valedictorian and magna cum laude at a top major university.

I was nearly finished with college in Los Angeles when I got married and my husband and I started our family. I wanted my children to have high-quality preschool like I did, but it came at a steep price. We found the same to be true from California to Mississippi — North Carolina and Michigan.

Three years ago we moved to Washington, D.C., where our three-year-old son could go to school with our five-year-old daughter each day. We were so relieved. He was excelling in many ways — cognitively, socially, and emotionally.

I could see the results of his early learning at home. He was more conversational. He spoke to us about his friends at school. He has learned the alphabet, to count, the names of basic shapes and colors, and so much more. He talked about the stars and the galaxy, and D.C. as the nation’s capital. He knew of President Obama, the names of the First family, including their pets, and even their address — “1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW!” He asked about visiting the White House.

He was excited about learning!

Having my son enrolled in high quality preschool definitely prepared him for kindergarten. I believe he will have a strong start like I did, a life-long thirst for learning, and achieve anything he wants. Regardless of what type of money a child’s parents make, their cultural background, their native language, where they live, as Americans, they should have access to the same high quality education early in life. Why? Because we know it’s what’s best for them, their future, their family’s future, and thus the future of our country. It would be a disservice not to include preschool in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Latoya Smith is the Founder and President of Pros4Kids and Chair of the DCPS Early Childhood Education Policy Council.

What Teachers Read in February

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Here are the top 10 stories teachers read this month, based on clicks from one of our most popular newsletters, The Teachers Edition.

Not signed up for the Teachers Edition? Here’s how to stay connected!

Dorothy Amatucci is a digital engagement strategist at the U.S. Department of Education.

Visit to Virginia Elementary School Underscores Commitment to Early Ed

Secretary Duncan walks and talks to a student at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. (Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan walks and talks to a student at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. (Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Arne Duncan and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Learning Libby Doggett stopped at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Alexandria, VA., Wednesday to talk about the importance of early education with a group of parents, teachers, local administrators and community leaders. The school runs a PreK-5 program and has eight preschool classes.  Teachers at the event didn’t hide their enthusiasm for the benefits that preschool brings to their classroom.

“The majority of my students this year have attended preschool. And I have not had a classroom like this. Ever,” said Lori Shabazz,  Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teaching Award winner in 2014 and kindergarten teacher at the school. “I’ve been teaching kindergarten for 19 years.”

In years past, she had to devote most of her time to remediating students who weren’t ready for kindergarten. Students came to her class unprepared both academically and socially—up to 86% of them failed assessments. But this school year has been different. For the first time ever, she has been able to dedicate most of her class time to a kindergarten appropriate curriculum. And the results have been remarkable.

“Each kindergarten teacher should get this experience. That has a class that’s ready for kindergarten,” she said.

Duncan used the opportunity to not only learn more about how the early learning program has transformed the school culture, but also to talk about the administration’s vision for changing the education landscape in the country through ESEA reauthorization. A critical component of the plan includes expanding early learning opportunities for children nationwide—especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We as a nation can take the next step… And work together to make sure every child enters kindergarten ready to be successful. And our kindergarten teachers around the nation will tell us when that happens, amazing things happen in classrooms,” he said.

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach

New Guidance to Help Protect Student Privacy in Educational Sites and Apps

When signing up for a new technology, digital service, or app, there’s a simple little check box near the end that most of us don’t give much thought. But for schools and districts, agreeing to a terms of service agreement could have big implications for student privacy.

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education released model terms of service guidance to help schools identify which online educational services and apps have strong privacy and data security policies to protect our students.

Some terms of service agreements are a tough read, even for lawyers, so the hope is that our new guidance will help school officials decide what’s right for their school and students.

Today’s guidance helps officials look for provisions that would allow the service or company to market to students or parents, provisions on how data is collected, used, shared, transferred, and destroyed, and it also guides schools on making sure they’re satisfying parental access requirements, as well as proper security controls.

Read the entire guidance here, and check out the training video below:

Learn more about student privacy by visiting the Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center.

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness for America’s Students and Families

In a recent video, the New York City Rescue Mission proved just how invisible America’s homeless are. Have the Homeless Become Invisible? illustrates the challenge. In this social experiment several people came face to face with their relatives and loved ones dressed as homeless persons on the streets of Soho. Not one individual recognized his or her loved ones.

Imagine walking past your brother or sister, homeless and on the streets, and not knowing them. Most Americans don’t want to believe it but homelessness in our country is tragically pervasive. And according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 41% of the homeless population is comprised of families with children. is comprised of families with children. The National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that more than 2.5 million children experience homelessness each year.

But, there’s good news: communities aren’t standing idly by as homeless students and their families struggle. Recent briefs issued by the National Center for Homeless Education demonstrate that collaborations between housing authorities and school districts can help to break the cycle of homeless for families and children.

Schools are probably a family’s most trusted institution and when local housing agencies and foundations enter into partnership with them, they can reach families earlier in their housing crisis. These collaborations also provide school leaders opportunities to deal more effectively with the academic and social needs of the students

A pilot program at McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington is an example of a partnership between the school, the local housing authority, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and several other local agencies. This project brought fifty families to the school, attending conferences, volunteering, and working with caseworkers. In return, these families received vouchers to help cover the cost of housing.

During the course of the program, parents have made considerable progress toward financial stability, family incomes have almost doubled, and students have made gains in educational performance. Between the first and second years, the percent of students in the program reading at grade level nearly doubled and remained on par with all McCarver students in year three.

Two other demonstration projects have entered into similar collaborations. Working closely with Boulder Valley School District and the St. Vrain Valley School District, the Boulder County Housing Authority used funds received from a HOME grant to identify families at risk of becoming homeless to set financial and educational goals. Families in the program signed an agreement to allow case managers to work with them to support their children’s academic success. Case managers participate in various school meetings, modeling appropriate behavior for the parents and encouraging their involvement in their children’s schools. This unique support system has resulted in increased financial self-sufficiency and additional academic support, including free and low cost computers and Internet access.

In December 2014, Hamilton Family Center entered into a partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District to address family homelessness in the school system. When a teacher, counselor, social worker, or nurse learns that a family is in crisis, they call the Family Center hotline. Within three business days, staff arrive at the school and work with the family to assist with finding housing.

With funding from Google and other donors, the Hamilton Family Center is able to serve approximately 10 families a month. Through this new partnership, teams work together on issues of educational performance, truancy, and emotional development with homeless or at-risk students.

According to Secretary Duncan, “Schools, with additional support from local community organizations and governments and private foundations, are a critical link to help stabilize the family by reducing mobility, supporting enrollment and attendance, providing homework support, and improving student achievement.”

All families, especially those living in unstable or inadequate housing and high poverty, deserve efficient and integrated resources to help them achieve economic stability and educational success.

Programs like the ones in Tacoma, Boulder, and San Francisco demonstrate that homeless families don’t need to remain invisible. The outlook for these families with children can improve dramatically when the barriers that keep them hidden are removed.

Elizabeth Williamson is an Education Program Specialist in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Communications and Outreach in Philadelphia, PA.

The Importance of Transforming Adult Learning

Several years ago, Carmen — a single, widowed parent — immigrated from Mexico to California to create a better life for herself and her two-year-old son. When she arrived in the U.S., she spoke very little English. She enrolled in ESL classes at New Haven Adult School and then went on to earn her GED. But Carmen soon realized that she needed to acquire more skills in order to find a job that paid a living wage. While working part-time, maintaining a home and raising her children, Carmen went on to earn her Adult Education Teaching Credential. She eventually completed her Bachelor of Arts degree. Today, Carmen is a computer skills instructor at New Haven Adult School, where she inspires ESL students to achieve their most ambitious education and career goals, just as she did.

Carmen’s story illustrates the importance of supporting low-skilled adults who are working hard to support their families. Last year, approximately 1,300 school districts and 370 partner organizations invested $231 million in federal resources and $614 million in state resources for foundation skills training.

While these investments are critical, unfortunately, they are not enough. The international Survey of Adult Skills showed an alarming 36 million American adults have low literacy skills. Since the survey’s release, ED has been hard at work to create a solution at the federal level. Congress also took action, passing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in July 2014, refocusing federal workforce development, adult education, and vocational rehabilitation systems to prepare adults for 21st century work. The Vice President’s office coordinated the Ready to Work job-driven training agenda. Most recently, the President announced the Upskill America initiative to enlist employers in this effort.

But there is still more that needs to be done. The Making Skills Everyone’s Business report, released today, emphasizes that addressing the challenge of adult skill development must be a shared responsibility.

Because the negative effects of low skills ripple through society and the economy, improving the education and skills of adult learners can pay substantial dividends for individuals and families, businesses and communities.

This report lays out seven strategies for establishing convenient, effective, high-quality learning opportunities. It challenges those of us in education to work more closely with employers to prepare students for in-demand jobs with advancement potential. It challenges employers to work more closely with educators to ensure effective training programs that lead to meaningful skill development. And it calls for making career pathways available and accessible everywhere, an effort that will be aided by the implementation of WIOA.

Importantly, this report recognizes the persistent gaps among learners of different races and abilities. As a nation, we must face the fact that achievement gaps, fueled by opportunity gaps, do not close on their own. Rather, they continue to fester and grow, contributing to inequality and unfairness, a widening income gap and inter-generational poverty that threaten our economic and civic prosperity. Educators must reach out to community- and faith-based institutions and employers to design new and scale up promising models that provide youth and adults with skill development and job opportunities.

Ted Mitchell is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education and Johan E. Uvin is Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.