Let’s Stop Summer Hunger

Let's Stop Summer Hunger GraphicDuring the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced school meals, but during the summer, only 3.8 million participate in the USDA’s summer meals program. This means that too many kids are at risk of hunger because they are out of school. For many students, school meals provide for over half of their daily calories during the school year, which means that providing these children with access to healthy meals is a big priority.

To help prevent summer hunger, the USDA partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to provide free meals to children during the summer.

This means that any child under the age of 18 can go to a designated summer meal site and eat for free. But we need your help in ensuring that no child goes hungry this summer. During Summer Food Service Program Kick Off Week, observed June 1- 5, our colleagues at USDA want to invite everyone to help spread the word about this important program.

How you can help:

Be a Summer Meal champion in your community! Check out USDA’s Summer Meals Toolkit:

  • Get the word out through community-based outreach
  • Find info on program policy and administration
  • Get ideas for planning and collaborating with stakeholders

The USDA also has a Summer Food site finder that will be updated soon.

Learn more about Summer Food Service Program.

Colorado District Delivers Civil Rights Change

Each day we have the pleasure and honor to meet and work with extraordinary school leaders who are working hard to deliver on the hopes we, as parents, have for our own children and for all students in schools. We want to share the story of one such leader in Colorado, whose work we are excited to see, and whose success in supporting parental involvement and engendering community support for schools we’d like to see replicated in more school communities around the country.

In Colorado’s Adams County School District 14, Superintendent Patrick Sánchez has accomplished transformative change against very tall odds. In April 2014, our Office for Civil Rights (OCR) resolved a complaint against the district to fix what had become a very hostile environment for Latino students, parents and staff. During our investigation we confirmed, for example, that the district had prohibited students from speaking Spanish at school, even in social settings. Staff reportedly used racially hostile language toward Latino students and denigrated students’ cultural backgrounds.

A Latino staff member also reported to us that a principal justified messy bathrooms because “Mexicans are poor and don’t use toilet paper,” and “there are few restrooms in Mexico.” As a cause of the racially hostile environment, many Latino staff were forced to resign or were removed from their jobs.

This is the environment that Superintendent Sánchez sought to immediately fix when he took the reins in July 2012, after the previous Superintendent’s resignation following the start of our investigation. Since that time, the Adams 14 district has made impressive gains to deliver equal educational opportunity to the district’s 7,000+ students. Superintendent Sánchez publicly apologized to parents, the community and staff for harm that they suffered in the past, and has made great strides in restoring the community’s trust and involvement in the district.

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Sharing Ideas for Tomorrow’s Students and Teachers

At the 3rd U.S.-China State/Provincial Education Leaders’ Dialogue, education leaders from eight American states and seventeen Chinese provinces shared ideas and discussed efforts to improve teacher professional development and to implement effective student assessments.

U.S. leaders visited schools in Shanghai before the dialogue began and the American delegation was particularly impressed by the students and faculty at Shanghai Shibei Junior High School. The delegates observed English, math, and science classes, interacted with highly engaged students, and participated in discussions about the lessons with teachers in their teacher research groups. China’s teacher research groups, similar to professional learning communities that are beginning to be more common in U.S. schools, have been used for many years and the deep practice was reflected in the quality of the discussion at Shibei Junior High School.

U.S. leaders visited schools in Shanghai before the dialogue began and the American delegation was particularly impressed by the students and faculty at Shanghai Shibei Junior High School.

U.S. leaders visited schools in Shanghai before the dialogue began and the American delegation was particularly impressed by the students and faculty at Shanghai Shibei Junior High School.

Chinese provincial education leaders also identified the shortage of quality teachers in rural areas as an issue they are working hard to turn around, in part through economic incentives, and recognized the need to address the emotional needs of these sometimes isolated educators as well. The U.S. education chiefs talked about similar challenges in attracting and retaining high quality teachers to remote or inaccessible areas, using technology to train teachers, growing teachers from within the community, and developing strong principals and teacher leaders.

Education leaders from eight American states and seventeen Chinese provinces shared ideas and discussed efforts to improve teacher professional development and to implement effective student assessments.

Education leaders from eight American states and seventeen Chinese provinces shared ideas and discussed efforts to improve teacher professional development and to implement effective student assessments.

The U.S. outlined the policy context for assessment in the states and provided a look forward to include Student Learning Objectives and technology based assessments in pursuit of both equity and excellence. The U.S. education chiefs talked about the importance of using assessments formatively to impact instruction and learning and discussed the adoption of higher standards across the country and within their states. In contrast, China’s national assessments, which date back to 605 AD, have traditionally been used to measure academic proficiency and monitor education quality, but current reforms are underway to align them with college entrance requirements and 21st century competencies and to broaden the use of technology in assessment. The rigorous discussion ended with a collective realization that China and the U.S. are in many ways on opposite ends of the assessment continuum and that there are opportunities to learn from each other.

While the education systems in the U.S. and China exhibit a high level of diversity both within and between each country, the dialogue reconfirmed the many common challenges and how the desire to learn from each other brings us closer together. Learning from other countries to improve U.S. education and advance U.S. international priorities is a key objective of the Department’s international strategy.

Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs. Ronn Nozoe is deputy assistant secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education

An Equal Investment in Each Child’s Future

America is built on principles of equality and opportunity for all. In education, that means all our students deserve fair and equal access to strong academic programs, great teachers, new technology, and appropriate facilities, no matter where they live. Those values motivate committed educators and their partner organizations throughout this country.

Yet today, not every child in America gets a fair shot at success, including equal access to educational resources. Many students in high poverty districts are short-changed. Often, their peers in low poverty districts receive more per-pupil funding, and that translates to more resources, more opportunities, and better access to effective teaching.

For our nation to be strong, we must offer a real opportunity to every child – it’s a moral imperative and an economic necessity. Yet wide gaps continue to prevail in how we fund schools for rich and poor students. Low-poverty districts spend, on average, 16 percent more per student than high-poverty districts. In some states – like Pennsylvania, Vermont and Indiana – the gaps are much wider.

These gaps should spur bold action by all of us — educators, district leaders, community members, and elected and appointed officials. And there are examples throughout the country of just that kind of collective action.

Just outside D.C., in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the education budget trails far behind those in neighboring districts like Montgomery County, or Virginia’s Fairfax County. But in Prince George’s, advocates are considering bold steps to close some troubling funding gaps, target more resources for struggling schools, and boost academic achievement.

Faced with limited state funding and longstanding local shortfalls, the county executive and the local school board have proposed a significant budget increase to better meet the needs of the district’s students.  They also plan to address a-decades-old property tax cap that has squeezed tax-based contributions to their schools.

The approach is backed by community leaders and stakeholders who want to see their county flourish as neighboring counties have under new education efforts that support all students.  Additional dollars could help increase per-pupil spending, raise teacher salaries which lag behind those in nearby counties, and expand full-day pre-k programs.

For instance, James Madison Middle School, in Upper Marlboro, serves nearly 800 students, most of them African American and roughly 45 percent from low-income families. Under the proposed budget, the school would receive more than $125,000 to focus on improving essential college and career-ready skills for students.  More equitable funding would allow the principal to hire a literacy coach and an 8th grade digital literacy instructor, to help ensure that every student becomes a strong reader, and can perform well in our technology-rich world, from computer-based tests, to the digital workplace.

In Minnesota, Governor Dayton convened a working group of superintendents, business managers, school facilities directors and school board representatives to develop recommendations to create an adequate and equitable funding formula for Pre-K –12 programs. The group “Schools for Equity in Education” is also working with state officials to draft a budget formula that meets the state’s obligation to provide a uniform quality education to all students. The combination of these efforts, the voice of school leaders, and a strong state-level vision has yielded remarkable progress. In the latest legislative session, lawmakers drafted plans to expand programs to close the achievement gap and address funding differences between rural and urban school districts.

True leadership by lawmakers, advocates, and civic leaders means taking courageous action to meet the needs of all students. We cannot cut our way to better education. We have to listen to those who know what is needed – superintendents, district chiefs, educators, and parents – and develop laws and policies to support practices that work.

In Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in school funding disparities, local education leaders recently convened to tackle this issue collaboratively. At the same time, the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has hosted statewide conversations to increase community participation in developing recommendations for the legislature. And, in late April, community members, superintendents and educators came together to discuss the problem of unequal funding between well-off and poorly funded districts. When teachers and students have the support they need, everyone does better.  The wealthier counties are joining the conversation and developing solutions alongside high-poverty districts.

I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for all of us, at all levels, to join with and support those leaders who are willing to take on the toughest conversations and the most challenging issues.

We now face a crucial national opportunity to advance equity, as Congress debates reauthorizing the most important national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’ve called for scrapping the current law, known under the label No Child Left Behind, and replacing it with one that expands funding and support for schools and educators, and maintaining high expectations for students.

The nation faces clear choices here. Some proposals under discussion could exacerbate existing inequities by allowing funds to move out of high poverty schools into wealthier ones.  Other, better proposals would take important steps to ensure all students have the resources and support they need, closing a longstanding loophole in order to ensure that funding intended for the neediest students actually reaches them.

Wise proposals would also help to close opportunity gaps by ensuring an equitable distribution of resources. It’s basic: no matter where they are – in Prince George’s County, in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in this country – kids should have access to challenging, high-level classes and technology, and teachers should have the resources they need to their jobs.

When we adults do our civic duty and take strong steps to ensure that all our children have equal access to a great education, we improve their chances to succeed in college, careers and life – and our own future, as well.

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

Working to Protect College Students from Unfair Banking Practices

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is cracking down on school-bank partnerships that unfairly target college students receiving federal student aid. Last Friday, ED announced proposed regulations that would ensure students aren’t required to receive their federal student aid on prepaid or debit cards that charge fees for overdrawing the accounts. Other proposed changes would:

  • Provide protections against unreasonable account fees
  • Strengthen account transparency offered to students, and
  • Protect their personal information from being shared without their consent.

The proposal will impact over nine million postsecondary students receiving about $25 billion in Pell Grants and Direct Loans by providing tougher standards and greater transparency between colleges and companies in the rapidly expanding college debit and prepaid marketplace.

Additionally, under the proposed regulations, the Secretary would have the right to establish a method for directly paying credit balances to student aid recipients if the Department determines that student and taxpayer interests would be better served.

Some schools across the country are entering into agreements with financial institutions that require students to receive their financial aid on a prepaid or debit card offered only by that financial institution. U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said that the proposed rules would give students flexibility. “Students need objective, neutral information about their account options,” he said. “Students should be able to choose to receive deposits to their own checking accounts and not be forced to utilize debit cards with obscure and unreasonable fees.”

Ultimately, the proposed regulations are about accountability and fairness. Given the number of students affected by the emergence of these troubling practices, the amount of taxpayer-funded assistance at stake, and the expanding scope of the market, regulatory action became necessary.

The Department welcomes input on the proposed regulation and comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov for the next 45 days. The Department’s regulations are subject to the Higher Education Act’s “master calendar,” which means that any final regulations published on or before November 1 are effective on July 1 of the following year.

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

Help Us Get the Word Out About Tools and Resources for Student Loan Repayment

Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid (including federal student loans) in the country. Once it’s time for borrowers to repay their student loans, we’re also here to help with free tools and resources to make the repayment process easier.

Federal Student Aid recently launched a student loan repayment campaign to educate borrowers about affordable repayment options and to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions. We need your help to spread the campaign’s important messages!

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Direct student loan borrowers to StudentAid.gov/repay to learn more about the affordable repayment options we offer.
  • Visit FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov/repayment to explore plug-and-play resources you can use to educate borrowers about student loan repayment. Some examples of what we offer include social media content, fact sheets, infographics, videos, and repayment calculators.

On the Financial Aid Toolkit page, we’ve got a section,3 Easy Ways to Spread the Word,” that provides a rotating selection of shareable content you can use to help borrowers better understand their repayment options. Every two weeks, we will refresh this section with updated information such as a short video, a popular tweet, or a link to a blog post. We encourage you to share this content with individuals and organizations in your network through e-mail, social media, your website, and any other channel that works best for you.

Our campaign runs through June 30, but valuable, free repayment resources are always available at StudentAid.gov/repay for borrowers and at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov for mentors and advisors.

Thank you for your support!

Wendy Bhagat is Director of Awareness and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Bullying Rates Drop

Bullying remains a serious issue for students and their families, and efforts to reduce bullying concern policy makers, administrators, and educators. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially. The Department, along with our federal partners and others, has been deeply involved in the fight against bullying in our nation’s schools.” This is why we are so pleased to share that, after remaining virtually unchanged for close to a decade, new data indicate that the prevalence of bullying is at a record low.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics latest School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2013, the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent since 2005.

“The report brings welcome news,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.  “Parents, teachers, health providers, community members and young people are clearly making a difference by taking action and sending the message that bullying is not acceptable. We will continue to do our part at HHS to help ensure every child has the opportunity to live, learn and grow in a community free of bullying.”

Bullying can occur anywhere and to any student. There are three types of bullying: physical, relational (or social) and verbal. Research shows that students who are bullied are more likely to struggle in school and skip class. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed, and are at higher risk of suicide.

Since 2010, the Department of Education along with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice, have acted to combat bullying and cyberbullying through work such as StopBullying.gov. However, it is the work of educators, bus drivers, parents, and students, that have taken a stand to put an end to bullying. Your hard work and dedication is making a difference!

To learn about bullying and how to take action to end bullying, please visit StopBullying.gov and join the conversation on the StopBullying.gov Facebook page!

Sarah Sisaye is a Management and Program Analyst in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Goodbye, Federal Student Aid PIN. Hello, FSA ID!

FSA ID Blog Post Image

If you’re a student, parent, or borrower and you’re logging in to a U.S. Department of Education (ED) website – like fafsa.gov, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) at www.nslds.ed.gov, StudentLoans.gov, StudentAid.gov, and Agreement to Serve (ATS) at teach-ats.ed.gov – you will be asked to create new log-in credentials known as the FSA ID.

The FSA ID – a username and password – benefits you in four ways:

  • It removes your personally identifiable information (PII), like your Social Security number, from your log-in credentials
  • It creates a more secure and efficient way to verify your information when you log in to access to your federal student aid information online
  • It gives you the ability to easily update your personal information, like your phone number, e-mail address, or your name
  • It allows you to easily retrieve your username and password by requesting a secure code be sent to your e-mail address or by answering challenge questions

Creating an FSA ID is simple and only takes a few minutes. You’ll have an opportunity to link your current Federal Student Aid PIN to your FSA ID. Doing so allows you to use your newly created FSA ID almost immediately to log in to the five ED websites listed above. Even if you’ve forgotten your FSA PIN or don’t have one, you can still create an FSA ID.

The final step in creating an FSA ID is to confirm your e-mail address. You’ll be sent a secure code to the e-mail address you entered when you created your FSA ID. Once you retrieve the code from your e-mail account and enter it – to confirm your e-mail address is valid – you’ll be able to use this e-mail address instead of your username to log in to the five ED websites, making the log-in process EVEN simpler!

Remember, your federal student aid account information is valuable. Only the owner of the FSA ID should create and use the account. And you should never share your FSA ID.

For more information about the FSA ID, please visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

April Jordan is a senior communications specialist at Federal Student Aid.

Thanking Teachers Personally During Teacher Appreciation Week

ED staffers called 380 teachers from across the nation. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

ED staffers called 380 teachers from across the nation. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The Department of Education really looks forward to Teacher Appreciation Week every year!

Beginning in February, officials start planning events to let teachers know that ED respects those who make a difference in the lives of children on a daily basis. Each year a new, novel idea pops up on how to express our gratitude and this year was no different. In response to the teachers who wanted authentic engagement, our team at ED called teachers personally to thank them for their contributions.

Forty-one staff members, several of them former teachers, called 380 teachers from across the nation to express gratitude for educating America’s children. Phone numbers were obtained through recommendations of employees who have interacted with teachers that are making a difference and exemplify teacher leadership in the classroom. Employees also referred their favorite teachers from their days as students.

During the phone calls, ED staff asked the teachers for feedback. Sharla Steever of South Dakota told us that she is working hard on a new Native American initiative and was glad to participate in the Teacher Leadership Lab in South Dakota last week. Haydee Taylor-Arnold of Missouri asked us to support foreign language programs so students could become global citizens. Haydee also told her caller that having the support of Secretary Duncan as a teacher leader has been especially meaningful for her. Kathy Hopee in New York wanted us to know about our efforts to increase student engagement in STEM education programs.

Not only were teachers excited to get a call from the Department of Education, ED staff was energized by the connections. Several individuals remarked that their ability to have a conversation with teachers was the best part of their day. Dr. Khalilah Harris of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans remarked “We should do this all the time!”

Cheers to a new tradition!

Mia Long is a Lee Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Supporting Innovation in Higher Education through First in the World

The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to access and complete a postsecondary education. In an era of rapid change and innovation, we have sought to encourage those colleges and universities developing new ways to serve students better, especially low-income and first-generation students.

That’s why I’m thrilled that we’ve announced the second round of the First in the World grant program. This year we will award $60 million to colleges and universities to encourage innovative new practices on campuses, including $16 million to Minority Serving Institutions.

Applying for a grant

For the first time this year, the First in the World program will have two tiers: a “development” tier for innovative projects that are supported by “strong theory” (defined in the grant announcement) and larger grants in the “validation” tier will be awarded to applications for interventions supported by significant evidence. Since a key goal of the FITW program is building an evidence base, all funded grants will include rigorous evaluation.

In the development tier, projects will be funded in three areas (with specific descriptions in the announcement):

  1. Improving teaching and learning
  2. Developing and using assessments of student learning
  3. Facilitating pathways to credentialing and transfer

In the validation tier, projects will be funded in these four areas:

  1. Improving success in developmental education
  2. Improving teaching and learning
  3. Improving student support services
  4. Influencing the development of non-cognitive factors

We seek proposals from institutions of higher education, including those that partner with other institutions or organizations. Visit the FITW website for links to the announcements, application information, and webinar details.

Call for peer reviewers

Peer reviewers, not ED staff, review and rate all FITW proposals – they play a critical role! So we need strong, knowledgeable, innovation-minded peer reviewers. If your institution is not applying for a grant, please consider applying, or encourage colleagues with the requisite skills to apply. Information can be found on the FITW website.

Building on success

The Department is excited that by the fall, we will have awarded more than $135 million to support innovation in higher education in the last two years. All of the 24 grants from the 2014 competition are underway. Some examples include:

  • Gateway Community and Technical College (KY) is redesigning programs to encourage students to progress more quickly through college, including by redesigning remediation and classroom spaces.
  • Hampton University (VA) is redesigning many courses, including through the use of project-based learning and the incorporation of technological tools (such as the Khan Academy) into courses.
  • Southern New Hampshire University is developing an online competency-based program to wholly reimagine remediation. It will include modules, assessments, practice opportunities, and games that could be embedded within a student’s academic program.

We are mindful that a key role of the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging innovation, including through funding, regulatory flexibilities, and celebrating best practices. In the FITW program, we look forward to supporting the most innovative new thinking to support first-generation and low-income students.

Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education.

Selma Invites Students to Discuss Education and Civil Rights

President Obama has said, “the story of the Civil Rights Movement was written in our schools.” Secretary Duncan has echoed that, “education is the civil rights issue of our generation.” This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches.

A recent event brought together more than two dozen students from New York and New Jersey high schools to show the film, Selma, with the film’s director, Ana Duvernay. The event was hosted by the United Nations and commemorated the new Memorial to Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The evening aimed to “expose the legacy of slavery,” but also to emphasize the message of nonviolent organizing and the importance of education and civil rights in an international context. Selma tells the story of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery that spurred the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More than a historical narrative, Selma shows how people of all backgrounds and life stories can come together in nonviolence to achieve progress.

Students at the event got to meet and take selfies with director Ana Duvernay. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Students at the event got to meet and take selfies with director Ana Duvernay. (Photo credit: Invision Agency)

DuVernay is the first black woman director to have a film nominated for an Academy Award.  At the event, she announced that a copy of the Selma DVD along with classroom resources will be sent to every U.S. high school, for educators to choose to use in their classrooms. When asked about the power of film in teaching history in the classroom, DuVernay said that “films are really empathy machines; they allow you to walk in someone else’s shoes, to be in someone else’s skin.” The civil rights movement is “furthered and fostered, and how it is advanced and matures certainly is steeped in the classroom.”

Students at the event were reminded of the continuity of history and their responsibility as citizens. Emily, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, said the movie showed that, “you have to get out there and speak for what’s right, especially if you are being oppressed.”

Maisha, another Stuyvesant senior, added that, “the movie very well depicts that peaceful methods of protest work.” A third student, Rabia, noted the power of film in teaching history to students. In Selma, “you can see and feel what [civil rights leaders] were going against, that the odds were not in their favor … [and] you feel what they stood up for … and [believe] that you can also take that risk now to stand up for what you believe in, even if you feel it might not work.”

Philip Mott, a social studies teacher from Stuyvesant High School in New York noted that the civil rights movement “is a legacy that has been passed on to us that we have an obligation to pass on to our students.”

Taylor Owen Ramsey is an education program specialist in ED’s New York Regional Office.

U.S. Educators Leading on the World’s Teacher Leadership Stage

The following is compiled from reflections from the six teachers and one principal who attended the International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2015 (ISTP 2015) as representatives of the U.S. Delegation. The teachers have all been active in Teach to Lead and are members of three of the initiatives’ key support organizations – the Hope Street Group, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and Teach Plus. Sharif El-Mekki, the author, is a Principal Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.

Seeing the sights in Banff. Front row from left to right: Secretary Duncan, Pam Reilly, Wendy Bandi, Jennifer Aponte; Back row: Joseph Fatheree, Sharif El-Mekki and Mark Sass. Not Pictured: Natalie McCutchen (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Seeing the sights in Banff. Front row from left to right: Secretary Duncan, Pam Reilly, Wendy Bandi, Jennifer Aponte; Back row: Joseph Fatheree, Sharif El-Mekki and Mark Sass. Not Pictured: Natalie McCutchen (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

It was wholly evident to us at ISTP 2015 that great teaching is increasingly being recognized worldwide – and rightfully so — as a key catalyst to improving trajectories for individual citizens and whole countries. The theme of the summit, Implementing Highly Effective Teacher Policy and Practice, focused on: developing and promoting effective leadership among principals, teachers, and administrators, valuing teachers and strengthening their sense of effectiveness or “self-efficacy;” and encouraging innovation in the 21st-century classroom. As guests of the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan invited us to attend, learn and contribute.

Being party to this international conversation was exciting. As Jennifer Aponte, a K-12 teacher from Boston said, all the countries and delegates “should be commended for tackling the most complex educational issues.” These are not easy issues and it is such a tremendous opportunity for countries to learn from one another. However it was Secretary Duncan’s decision, Joe Fatheree, 2007 IL Teacher of the Year, noted to add “an authentic teacher’s voice to the conversation” that, “helped enrich the dialogue between global leaders on the importance of teacher leadership and innovation.” A key theme of the summit was teacher leadership and by inviting teachers and a principal, the Department of Education continued promoting educators as leaders and demonstrated its leadership on this issue.

Throughout the event, we were surprised that the sessions and panels did not include active practitioners nor highlighted active teachers as experts. As Wendi Bandi, 3-4th math teacher from Fall River, MA, put it, “the format of the summit did not reflect the ideas being discussed.” Mark Sass, a high school history teacher from CO observed, “teachers were continually referred to in the third person.” While ISTP 2015 had several experts about the field share useful analyses, there were no experts in the field lending their experience and expertise. Natalie McCutchen, a middle school math teacher from KY, remarked, “I was in awe…but one aspect of ISTP that kept resonating with me was that teachers should be in the forefront of the summit; teachers needed to be the ones delivering firsthand accounts of the initiatives and programs that have proved successful in their schools… teachers need to be the voice, face, and the experts of education.”

In an unusual move, Secretary Duncan insisted that the seven us be in the room to help shape the U.S. Delegation’s commitments for 2015 and asked that Jeff Charbonneau, the 2013 National Teacher of the Year, present our commitments to the international community. This symbolized that educators were both an integral part of creating the United States’ commitments, as well as key to meeting them. In doing so, “Secretary Duncan modeled what teacher leadership looks like when you cultivate and empower teachers to flourish as visionary leaders and not just part of the backdrop,” said Pam Reilly, the 2014 IL Teacher of the Year. Indeed, the seven of us felt very empowered, and in the pursuit of continuous improvement, convened a meeting with the other teachers from around the world. Collectively we committed to supporting teachers becoming an integral part of the 2016 International Summit on the Teaching Profession. 

Next year, at this time, each country will travel to Berlin to share the progress they made towards and lessons learned from the commitments they announced in Banff. How the summit is formatted will also tell a story about countries’ commitment to teacher leadership. It is exciting that so many great minds are devoted to tackling some of teaching’s most complex issues. We are confident that we can build on the successes of the 2015 Summit and include more practitioners among those great minds. As leaders in U.S. schools, we are committed to help make this happen.

Sharif El-Mekki, is principal of Mastery Charter School – Shoemaker in Philadelphia and a 2013-15 Campus Principal Ambassador Fellow of the U.S. Department of Education.