What is ESEA?

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The law represented a major new commitment by the federal government to “quality and equality” in educating our young people.

President Johnson, Johnson, seated at a table with his childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, delivered remarks during the signing ceremony for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (Photo credit: White House Photographer Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library & Museum)

President Johnson, seated at a table with his childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, delivered remarks during the signing ceremony for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. (Photo credit: White House Photographer Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library & Museum)

When President Johnson sent the bill to Congress, he urged that the country, “declare a national goal of full educational opportunity.”

The purpose of ESEA was to provide additional resources for vulnerable students. ESEA offered new grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for textbooks and library books, created special education centers, and created scholarships for low-income college students. The law also provided federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

In the 35 years following ESEA, the federal government increased the amount of resources dedicated to education. However, education remains a local issue. The federal government remained committed to ensuring that disadvantaged students had additional resources, however, because as a nation we were falling short of meeting the law’s original goal of full educational opportunity.

No Child Left Behind

In 2001, with strong bipartisan support, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to reauthorize ESEA, and President George W. Bush signed the law in January 2002.

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. (Photo credit: Paul Morse/White House)

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002. (Photo credit: White House photographer Paul Morse)

NCLB put in place important new measures to expose achievement gaps, and started an important national dialogue on how to close them. By promoting accountability for the achievement of all students, the law has played an important role in protecting the civil rights of at-risk students.

However, while NCLB has played an important role in closing achievement gaps and requiring transparency, it also has significant flaws. It created incentives for states to lower their standards; emphasized punishing failure over rewarding success; focused on absolute scores, rather than recognizing growth and progress; and prescribed a pass-fail, one-size-fits-all series of interventions for schools that miss their state-established goals.

Teachers, parents, school district leaders, and state and federal elected officials from both parties have recognized that NCLB needs to be fixed. Congress was due to reauthorize the law in 2007, but has yet to do so.

Flexibility Under NCLB

In 2012, after six years without reauthorization, and with strong state and local consensus that many of NCLB’s outdated requirements were preventing progress, the Obama Administration began offering flexibility to states from some of the law’s most onerous provisions. To receive flexibility, states demonstrated that they had adopted and had plans to implement college and career-ready standards and assessments, put in place school accountability systems that focused on the lowest-performing schools and schools with the largest achievement gaps, and ensured that districts were implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems.

The flexibility required states to continue to be transparent about their achievement gaps, but provided schools and districts greater flexibility in the actions they take to address those gaps.. Today, 43 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico have flexibility from NCLB.

Looking Ahead

President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan remain committed to reauthorizing ESEA to ensure that all young people are prepared to succeed in college and careers, that historically underserved populations are protected, and that schools, principals, and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.

President Obama poses with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama poses with students at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.”
(Photo credit: White House photographer Pete Souza)

Some have suggested that the new version of ESEA, which would replace NCLB, should roll back the accountability requirements for states, districts and schools, and allow states to shift funds from lower-income to higher-income districts. With graduation rates at an all-time high and improving for all groups of students, such changes would turn back the clock on the progress our country has made in closing achievement gaps.

In January 2015, Secretary Duncan laid out the Administration’s vision for a new ESEA. The vision includes an ESEA that expands access to high-quality preschool; ensures that parents and teachers have information about how their children are doing every year; gives teachers and principals the resources and support they need; encourages schools and districts to create innovative new solutions to problems; provides for strong and equitable investment in high-poverty schools and districts; and ensures that action will be taken where students need more support to achieve, including in the lowest-performing schools. Learn more about the new vision here.

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Working to Stop Sexual Violence on U.S. College Campuses

Secretary Duncan heard from students from campuses across the country during a recent Student Voices session. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan heard from students from campuses across the country during a recent Student Voices session. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

One sexual assault is too many, which is why the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) are playing a strong role in working to address and prevent sexual assault on college campuses.

As part of these efforts, Secretary Duncan recently hosted a Student Voices session with students from campuses across the country to listen to their concerns and learn about the promising actions their colleges and universities are taking to tackle this pressing challenge.

The students represented institutions from California to Georgia and North Carolina to New York.

Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon joined Secretary Duncan for the discussion.

“This roundtable is an opportunity for [us] to hear from diverse students from multiple institutions in order to inform our work. We hope this is the kind of conversation that can happen across all of our institutions – one that continues the work of identifying best practices, and increasing the focus on keeping students safe,” Mitchell said.

The roundtable allowed for young leaders – like Raymond Smeriglio, Temple University’s Student Body President – to share his school’s efforts to create awareness and tackle this troubling problem.

“Temple recently conducted a six-month review of the school including three months of groundwork to see what additional resources were needed on campus, and what the campus was already doing right,” Smeriglio explained.

Students also discussed the most effective ways to align awareness efforts between K-12 and institutions of higher education.

Youth leaders like Kevin William Harvey, a senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, shared what their schools are currently doing to help build strong partnerships with city leadership, raise awareness, and collaborate with experts in the local community.

Molly Walker, from Duke University, shared that many Duke students participate in a program called “Duke Splash,” where students have taught weekend classes to high school youth about gender violence.

Spelman College’s Briana Brownlow discussed her school’s Survivor organization, which coordinates a mentorship program using the arts to help elementary school students begin to be aware of the issues surrounding sexual violence.

Students also talked about the many ways the Obama Administration engages students to address this problem, including the recent launch of the“It’s On Us” campaign, which encourages all members of campus communities to actively think about ways to prevent sexual assault.

The Administration is very concerned about sexual violence on U.S. campuses, and has launched several initiatives to address this issue. In January 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

In April of that year, the Task Force released its first report to the President, which includes recommendations to colleges and universities on how to eliminate sexual violence on their campuses. In conjunction with the release of this report, ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a frequently asked questions document to follow up on our Dear Colleague Letter. The Task Force also created NotAlone.gov, which the students praised for including resources from across the government on preventing and addressing sexual assaults in schools.

OCR has also increased transparency around its investigations of this issue. For the first time, the office made public the list of colleges and universities under investigation for their handling of sexual violence complaints.

No one should feel the threat of sexual assault as they pursue their education. This country’s college campuses should be free of violence, and it is our shared responsibility as a nation to end this outrage.

As the students and Department staff who attended this important Student Voices session agreed, finding the solution really is on all of us.

Devon King is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach and a senior at Boston University.

Developing for Impact: Making Meaningful Change, Not Just More Apps

Cross-posted from Medium.

Secretary Duncan speaking at the ASU+GSV Summit. (Photo credit: Joe Portnoy/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan highlighted the power technology holds for closing the opportunity gap. (Photo credit: Joe Portnoy/U.S. Department of Education)

The demand for high-quality educational apps is increasing as communities become more connected, devices become more affordable and teachers and parents are looking for new ways to use technology to engage students. Yet many existing solutions don’t address the most urgent needs in education.

That’s why this morning Secretary Duncan announced the release of a new resource: The Ed Tech Developer’s Guide: A Primer for Developers, Startups and Entrepreneurs. Created with input from knowledgeable educators, developers, and researchers who were willing to share what they have learned, we designed this guide to help entrepreneurs, app developers, and educators apply technology in smart ways to solve persistent problems in education. It is our hope that the guide will answer key questions and highlight critical needs and opportunities for developing digital tools and apps for learning.

The guide highlights 10 specific areas where developers can focus their efforts for greatest impact. These opportunities represent some of the most urgent needs expressed by educators, parents, and students across the country. These stakeholders are seeking educational apps that improve mastery of academic skills, foster and measure non-cognitive skills, improve assessment experiences, engage families, support college and career planning, provide meaningful professional development for educators, improve teacher productivity, increase access for all students, and close achievement gaps.

Secretary Duncan highlighted the power technology holds for closing the opportunity gap, and meeting the needs of all students, regardless of geographic location, family income or any other demographic factor. All students have the right to an equitable education, and technology can be a powerful tool for making that a reality. For example, apps can provide access to virtual science labs and equipment that may not be available in schools, or digital connections to experts that may not otherwise be able to engage with students.

The guide also discusses some common pitfalls to avoid. For example, the value of technology for transforming learning is lost if it is only used to digitize traditional materials (e.g. scanning worksheets makes them digital, but doesn’t improve the learning experience). Instead, we encourage developers to think about innovative approaches that allow students to engage differently. What does technology make possible that could not be done before?

School leaders also report that developers often rely too much on what they remember about school from when they were a student and fail to address the complex, interrelated needs of today’s education system. Creating high-impact educational apps takes a whole community working together; in particular, educators must be involved at every stage of development for tools and apps to align with their priorities and effectively mesh with their daily workflow. The guide provides examples of successful collaborations between developers and educators to create meaningful educational apps.

Developers and entrepreneurs who choose to apply their talents to build tools for learning have the ability to help transform education in America and exponentially increase opportunities for all students.

Richard Culatta is Director of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.

A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America

All parents hope their child will start school ready for success. Unfortunately, not every parent can find the high-quality early learning opportunity that sets their child up for success.

Earlier today the U.S. Department of Education released a new report outlining the unmet need for high-quality early learning programs in America. Roughly 6 in 10 four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, and even fewer are enrolled in the highest quality programs.

Unmet Need

While both states and the federal government invest in early learning, these efforts have fallen short of what is needed to ensure that all children can access a high-quality early education that will prepare them for success.

Significant new investments in high-quality early education are necessary to help states, local communities, and parents close the readiness gap that exists between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers.

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For Latino children, the unmet need is especially great. While Latinos are the fastest growing and largest minority group in the United States, making up a quarter of 3- and 4-year-olds, Latinos demonstrate the lowest preschool participation rates of any major ethnicity or race.

And while most children who have access to preschool attend moderate-quality programs, African- American children and children from low-income families are the most likely to attend low- quality preschool programs and are the least likely to attend high-quality preschool programs.

Building on Progress

To address the unmet need for high-quality preschool, states and the federal government have invested in initiatives to expand access. These investments provide a strong base upon which we can build voluntary, universal access to high-quality early education that will prepare our nation’s students for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Over the past decade, governors from both political parties have pushed for the creation
and expansion of publicly funded preschool programs. Since 2003, states have increased
their investment in preschool by more than 200 percent.

The federal government has also worked to improve the quality and expand early learning through the Head Start program. Twenty states have also received support through the Early Learning Challenge program, which helped states improve early childhood workforce preparation and training, and strengthened health services and family engagement.

Congress took an important step in 2014 to address inequities in access to high-quality preschool by supporting the Preschool Development Grants program, a 4-year, federal-state partnership to expand the number of children enrolled in high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities. Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico applied, but due — in part — to limited funding, only 18 grants were awarded.

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Preschool Development Grants will not cover every child in the funded states; however, these states will be another step closer to the goal of expanding access to high-quality early learning across the country. Over the 4-year grant period, and with continued funding from Congress, these states are expecting to enroll an additional 177,000 children in high-quality preschool programs, which will help put children on a path to success in school and in life.

Support for Early Learning

Over the last several years, an impressive coalition of education, business, law enforcement, military, child advocacy groups, and faith-based leaders have joined together to support the expansion of high-quality preschool programs. These groups recognize that investing in high-quality preschool means that more students will graduate from high school, go to college or join the armed or public services, and become contributing, productive members of our society with fewer youth and adults entering the justice system.

The evidence supporting early learning is clear. Research shows that children who participate in high-quality preschool programs have better health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes than those who do not participate.

Expanding early learning — including high-quality preschool — provides society with a return on investment of $8.60 for every $1 spent. About half of the return on investment originates from increased earnings for children when they grow up.

Moving Forward

This year, as Congress seeks to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation is at critical moment. Congress can honor this important legacy and moral imperative – as our nation observes ESEA’s 50th anniversary – by reauthorizing a strong education law. This new law must reflect real equity of opportunity, starting with our youngest children.

By making a significant investment in preschool a key component of ESEA, we can help America live up to its highest ideals, as a place with real equity of opportunity. Congress has a chance to honor and extend the civil rights legacy of our education law by providing all children — no matter where they live or how much money their parents earn — an equal opportunity to begin school ready to succeed.

The Opportunity and Necessity for a New ESEA

Secretary Duncan has called for replacing No Child Left Behind, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), with a law that ensures opportunity for every child, expands support for schools, teachers, and principals, and preserves accountability for the progress of all students.

Secretary Duncan and National Urban League president, Marc Morial, discussed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act after a recent event at the White House. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Marc Morial (MM): It was great to have Secretary Duncan with us and for him to reaffirm his commitment, the President’s commitment to a strong Elementary and Secondary Education Act bill that holds accountability in place but also focuses on equity and equity in terms of funding. So this blueprint that’s being developed in the Congress and the administration’s commitment, Mr. Secretary, your commitment is a lot in alignment with what we at the Urban League think and believe.

Secretary Arne Duncan (AD): The Urban League has just been an amazing partner. And we need to fix this law, we need to fix this in a bipartisan way. We need a law that focuses on equity, more early childhood education, more resources for poor kids. We need a law that focuses on excellence and Mark’s been an amazing champion here. High standards for every single child, assessing progress so we actually know whether we’re making progress or not, and we have to focus on innovation as well.

MM: I’m so glad to hear you emphasize early childhood education. We both know that for poor kids, for urban kids, and for many rural kids, and even nowadays suburban kids, the opportunity to get started on their educational journey early in life… to get the basics of literacy and numeracy down pat when you’re 3, 4, 5 years old is so crucial to later success. The data is so clear but parents know that no matter who I speak to, whether it’s a parent, whether it’s a business leader, whether it’s a community leader, whether it’s a seasoned citizen or millennial. They understand, they know in their basic intuitive gut how crucial education is. That teacher, that coach, that counselor, that some adult in addition to parents and guardians and grandparents who gave them just an inspiration. I mean, I remember my 9th grade English teacher, he was tough, he was mean.

AD: What was his name?

MM: He was a priest! named Father DeRucci. He was tough! And it was honors English but guess what? I remember what he taught us. I understood how impactful that one year was to everything I was able to do later on in college and law school and life. So I really, truly think that we’re at a moment in time where the opportunity and the necessity meet. And the opportunity is a chance to build the bipartisan blueprint that embraces civil rights and equity principles but is founded on the basic foundation of the need for excellence. And the necessity is that a nation that we must compete economically in a global economy.

AD: You said it perfectly. Education has to be the great equalizer, it has to be the thing that gives every child regardless of race or ethnicity or zip code a chance in life. And if we do that we increase social mobility, we reduce poverty, we reduce income inequality, if we do this we compete successfully with our international counterparts. If we don’t do this, our kids lose, our families lose, our communities lose, and ultimately our nation loses. This is nothing political, nothing ideological here. We are fighting for kids, families, and the nation.

MM: We’ve got to view this about how to shape the best partnership for the future and leave behind old debates of exclusivity, sole responsibility. If this is the issue that’s going to define the future of this great nation, then it is everyone’s responsibility.

AD: Amen.

Financial Capability: Important for Students and Communities

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. The Obama administration has worked to ensure all students have a strong foundation and level playing field, no matter where they were born or where they live. This week, President Obama declared that April will be Financial Capability Month.

Now more than ever it is important to ensure that all students are ready for college and careers. A critical component of this readiness is financial capability. This includes sound financial education, but also the skills, dispositions, and access to appropriate financial products—in a consumer-friendly environment—necessary to make informed financial decisions.

It is critical that financial capability is a part of every student’s education, whether they are about to enter the workforce or make the decision about where to go to college and how to pay for it.

The effects of this financial capability, however, stretch beyond the gains that will accrue to the individual. We know that students who learn financial lessons often spread these lessons to their parents, aunts and uncles, and others in their community.

This is why Secretary Duncan recently joined leaders in the city of Chicago as they announced an initiative to bring financial capability to more people throughout the region. John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments and Chair of President Obama’s Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, hosted civic leaders from across the city of Chicago.

Commitments to expand the reach of financial capability were made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City Treasurer Kurt Summers, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and many other civic and community leaders.

Before the event, Secretary Duncan toured Ariel Academy, where all students learn financial lessons starting in kindergarten. He also spent some of the day with Mario Gage, an alumnus of the school, who now works for Ariel Investments.

Chicago is taking great steps forward to increase the financial capability of its citizens. ED plans to continue to highlight similar work being done by other cities that will build the foundation of financially capable students.

For more information on financial capability, see the following resources:

David Soo is a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

What Teachers Read in March

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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.

Increasing Transparency and Accountability for Students

Higher education remains the most important investment any person can make in their future. In the several months I’ve been at the U.S. Department of Education, I have had a number of conversations with students and families that have inspired me to double down on our commitment to making college more affordable and accessible. A big part of our work toward that goal has been to increase both the quantity and quality of information that students, families, borrowers and the public have about higher education.

Today we are taking another step to increase transparency and accountability. We are releasing a list of colleges and universities that are on what we call Heightened Cash Monitoring. There were about 560 institutions on this list as of March 1. The list has been released to members of the press that requested it, and will be published on the Department website in the coming days and updated on a regular basis.

Heightened Cash Monitoring is a step that our Federal Student Aid office can take with institutions to provide additional oversight for a number of financial or federal compliance issues, some of which may be serious and others that may be less troublesome. Institutions may be on this list for a variety of specific reasons – for example, late financial statements, outstanding liabilities, accreditation issues, concerns about a school’s financial responsibility or possibly severe findings uncovered during a program review. For each institution that is on Heightened Cash Monitoring, we are also providing information as to why.

Heightened Cash Monitoring is not necessarily a red flag to students and taxpayers, but it can serve as a caution light. It means we are watching these institutions more closely to ensure that institutions are using federal student aid in a way that is accountable to both students and taxpayers.

Transparency and accountability are priorities for our entire Administration, and this Department and the Federal Student Aid office are no exceptions. We are taking a thoughtful approach to considering what data and information makes sense to provide publicly. Today’s decision follows our own discussions along with those we have had with multiple stakeholders, including news organizations.

From the start of the Obama Administration, we at the Department of Education have been committed to increasing transparency across the spectrum. We have worked to provide more – and better quality – data, including:

We also continually release a wealth of information aimed at helping students and families make smart decisions about where to go to college, including a comprehensive set of data about each institution on College Navigator – which contains enrollment, cost, graduation rates, students’ default rates, and campus security information. In addition, the Department already discloses a number of other pieces of information that can point at an institution’s financial health and other accountability metrics, including Default Rates, Clery Act Reports, 90/10 Reports, Foreign Gift and Contract Reports, Financial Responsibility Composite Scores and Final Program Review Determinations. And, of course, we have undertaken a historic effort to increase transparency and accountability for career colleges through our Gainful Employment regulations.

We have made enormous progress in providing information that helps students, families and borrowers. But we know we still have further to go, and we’re committed to pushing for greater transparency. Every single day we take seriously our commitment to doing more for students, and every action falls within that goal.

Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education.

Teaching and Leading at the 5th International Summit on the Teaching Profession

Each March I look forward to joining colleagues from around the world at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to learn from high-performing and rapidly improving education systems about ways to elevate and enhance the teaching profession in order to improve student learning. I never imagined when we started the International Summit in New York City in 2011 that it would become a vibrant and lasting international community of practice. But the thirst among countries to learn from each other is strong and on March 29 and 30, Canada is hosting the 5th Summit, Implementing Highly Effective Teacher Policy and Practice, in Banff, Alberta.

We’ve learned so much from past Summit discussions and can see a real connection to education policy and practice in the U.S. over the years, as well as significant progress on commitments made by the U.S. delegation at the end of each Summit. I am particularly excited about this year’s Summit because teacher leadership — one of our three Summit commitments last year — will be highlighted this year.

Last week Secretary Duncan reported back on the first year of Teach to Lead, an initiative in partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that is designed to advance the national conversation around the future of the profession and promote meaningful opportunities for teacher leadership that improve outcomes for students. Teach to Lead is teacher-designed and teacher-led and has the support of more than 70 organizations, including the AFT and NEA which, along with Secretary Duncan, are part of the U.S. delegation to the International Summit. As Secretary Duncan said in front of a crowd of thousands, “I was hopeful [about teacher leadership] last year. I am convinced we are onto something really important and special now. Change has to come from teachers who own it and lead it.”

The progress and excitement in Teach to Lead over the past year has been phenomenal. Thousands of teachers have engaged in Teach to Lead through the online ‘Commit to Lead’ community, and more than 500 teachers, administrators, and representatives from supporting organizations have been at our regional summits and local leadership labs. Teach to Lead has truly been about elevating the teaching profession and supporting teachers by giving them opportunities to collaborate, plan and shape their own roles for their own contexts from the school to the state.

A real question for Teach to Lead is — what next? How does teacher leadership expand and grow? This year’s Summit agenda poses three questions that can help the U.S. to reflect on possible future paths.

  • How do high-performing countries promote deeper and more collaborative forms of leadership at all levels within education systems?
  • What strategies allow education systems to exercise consistent and widespread teacher leadership?
  • What should be the role of teachers and their unions and associations in creating conditions for teacher leadership?

Six amazing U.S. teachers who have been actively involved in Teach to Lead – from Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky and Massachusetts — are part of the U.S. delegation to this year’s Summit.   This is an opportunity for them to share their work, to hear what other countries are doing to support and encourage teacher leadership, and to reflect on next steps to elevate and advance teacher leadership back home.

I am eager to learn from our Canadian hosts and other international colleagues and excited to do so with creative, committed teacher leaders from around the United States.

Maureen McLaughlin is senior advisor to the Secretary and director of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education.

The Pathway to Success at King/Drew Magnet High School

King/Drew Magnet High School isn’t just preparing its students for graduation; it’s preparing them for life.

The school may be located in one of the most disadvantaged parts of Los Angeles, California, but its students are reaching for the highest levels in education – and they are succeeding. Students at King/Drew not only gradate in high numbers, fully 90% of those who graduate go on to attend college, including many of the country’s top schools, and they receive millions of dollars in merit-based scholarships and university grants.

“All students should be prepared for college and for careers because they should have all options open to them,” says English Teacher Latosha Guy. Teachers at King/Drew are preparing their students for the future by meeting their full range of needs, from career internships and fairs to after-school health and educational tutoring.

Teachers and students across the country are working together to focus on college and career readiness by setting and reaching higher standards inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers are helping their students succeed by nurturing and building their confidence along the way. As student Symmon-e Scott puts it, “High expectations make me nervous, but I know I can do it if I really put my mind to it.”

In this new video, see how teachers are helping students overcome challenges in the community to succeed at school and in life. Improving Education: A View from King/Drew Magnet High School shows how students truly believe that “there is no other pathway that will bring you success like education.”

We will continue highlighting extraordinary educators doing remarkable things in classrooms nationwide in our video series. To learn more, visit our Partners in Progress page.

4 Reasons to Apply for the 2015 President’s Education Awards Program

Principals! It’s time, once again, to nominate students for the President’s Education Awards Program!

We’ve got four great reasons as to why you should nominate students in your school.

1) Motivation!

Create the defining moment in a student’s life. As a principal, you aspire to make a difference in the accomplishments and success of your students. Through this program, you have the opportunity to be the catalyst that sets them on an upward path. Since 1983, these prestigious awards provide individual recognition from the President and the U.S. Secretary of Education for both student achievement and hard work.

The program has two recognition categories: The President’s Award for Educational Excellence and The President’s Award for Educational Achievement. The criteria for both are rigorous. Students who receive either of these awards know they’ve achieved something extraordinary.

2) Reward Academic Success!

The President’s Award for Educational Excellence recognizes academic success in the classroom. To be eligible, students must meet requirements including grade point average, school-set criteria and choice of states or teacher recommendations. 

3) Honor Educational Growth!

This award recognizes students that show outstanding educational growth, improvement, commitment or intellectual development in their academic subjects but do not meet the criteria for the Educational Excellence Award. Its purpose is to encourage and reward students who give their best effort, often in the face of special obstacles. Criteria for this award is developed at each school.

4) Celebrate Great Students!

Each year, thousands of elementary, middle, and high school principals participate by recognizing deserving students. The school principal determines the number of qualifying students based on program criteria and verifies the order for awards. There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria for each award. Award orders can only be placed by a school administrator.

The award includes a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President, the Secretary of Education, and the school principal. School principals have final authority to determine which students receive an award.

Last year, nearly 3 million students from over 30,000 schools were recognized by the PEAP. 1.7 million students were honored for educational excellence and 1.1 million were cited for outstanding educational achievement.

Recipients of the 2014 PEAP stand proudly at Germantown Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Recipients of the 2014 PEAP stand proudly at Germantown Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Get more information about the program and how to apply.

Frances W. Hopkins is director of President’s Education Awards Program in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Secretary Duncan: “Step Up and Fund Education”

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On Friday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Edwin M. Stanton Elementary in Philadelphia to highlight the need to support teachers and students by investing in our nation’s schools.

During the visit, Duncan joined U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Superintendent of Philadelphia schools Dr. William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera for a community roundtable discussion. Neighborhood residents, parents and teachers talked about how the community came together to keep the small school from closing a few years prior.

Secretary Duncan highlighted the need for equitable education spending in states, and called on Pennsylvania to “step up and fund education.” Recent data shows that students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. In these states, districts serving the highest percentage of students from low-income families are spending fewer state and local dollars per pupil than districts that have fewer students in poverty.

Secretary Duncan visited a Stanton classroom, where students were holding a mock trial for Goldilocks. (Photo credit: Joshua Hoover/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan visited a Stanton classroom, where students were holding a mock trial for Goldilocks. (Photo credit: Joshua Hoover/U.S. Department of Education)

Twenty states also have school districts that spend fewer state and local dollars on districts with a high percentage of minority students, than they do on districts with fewer minority students.

The good news is that nothing is preventing these states from funding education more equitably, and they could quickly join the dozens of states that are ensuring that low-income students are getting the resources and support they need to succeed.

All of us have a role to play when it comes to ensuring that students from low-income families aren’t shortchanged. At the federal level, we’re ready to work with Congress to close the federal loophole that allows districts to allocate funds inequitably.

Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out his vision for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the idea that opportunity for every child needs to be part of our national conscience.

Read more about our recent data and watch highlights of the visit below: