Our 10 Favorite Photos from 2014

2014 was an eventful year for Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education. Below are some of our favorite photos:

The Importance of Early Learning: Secretary Duncan  visited the Child & Family Network Centers in Alexandria, Va., in March to discuss the President’s budget proposal for early learning. In December, 18 states were awarded Preschool Development Grants. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The Importance of Early Learning: Secretary Duncan visited the Child & Family Network Centers in Alexandria, Va., in March to discuss the President’s budget proposal for early learning. In December, 18 states were awarded new Preschool Development Grants to increase access to high-quality preschool programs. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Education for All: Secretary Duncan stopped by Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, Mass., in March as part of the Partners in Progress tour, highlighting America’s ingenuity in education at work. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Education for All: Secretary Duncan stopped by Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, Mass., in March as part of the Partners in Progress tour, highlighting America’s ingenuity in education at work. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Secretary Duncan joined Attorney General Eric Holder in March of this year at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to announce the findings of expansive survey of America's public schools and discuss the importance of universal access to preschool, the need to reduce unnecessary and unfair school discipline practices, and address other barriers to opportunity for students that may prevent them from reaching their full potential at all levels of education. (Photo credit; U.S. Department of Education)

Ensuring Civil Rights in Education: Secretary Duncan joined Attorney General Eric Holder in March of this year at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to announce the findings of expansive survey of America’s public schools, including the need to reduce unnecessary and unfair school discipline practices. (Photo credit; U.S. Department of Education)

 

Teacher Appreciation Week: ED employees across the country visited classrooms and shadowed teachers, principals and educators during May 5-9 of this year. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Teacher Appreciation Week: ED employees across the country visited classrooms and shadowed teachers, principals and educators during May 5-9 of this year. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Cooking Up Change: In June, ED hosted the finalists of Cooking Up Change, a culinary competition sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, a non-profit Chicago organization. The meals were required to be between 750-850 calories and needed to cost around one dollar per meal, showing the possibility of executing nutrition, taste, and low budgets. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Cooking Up Change: In June, ED hosted the finalists of Cooking Up Change, a culinary competition sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, a non-profit Chicago organization. The meals were required to be between 750-850 calories and needed to cost around one dollar per meal, showing the possibility of executing nutrition, taste, and low budgets. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Reflecting on Civil Rights: On Wednesday, July 2, ED commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a Civil Rights Bus Ride. Some of the original Freedom Riders and current student leaders took a trip from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia, for a symbolic and celebratory returning ride. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Reflecting on Civil Rights: On Wednesday, July 2, ED commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a Civil Rights Bus Ride. Some of the original Freedom Riders and current student leaders took a trip from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia, for a symbolic and celebratory returning ride. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Let's Read, Let's Move!: The third installment of ED’s summer series Let’s Read! Let’s Move! blasted into space at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on July 23. Learn more about First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and our Let's Read, Let's Move! events. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Let’s Read, Let’s Move!: The third installment of ED’s summer series Let’s Read! Let’s Move! blasted into space at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on July 23. Learn more about First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and our Let’s Read, Let’s Move! events. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Partners in Progress: 'Lemme take a selfie!' Secretary Duncan poses with two students during his visit to Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., in August. The HBCU was the first stop during the 2014 Back to School Bus Tour. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Partners in Progress: ‘Lemme take a selfie!’ Secretary Duncan poses with two students during his visit to Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., in August. The HBCU was the first stop during the 2014 Back to School Bus Tour. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

Building Strong Foundations: Secretary Duncan discussed the importance of investment in early learning during an event on Capitol Hill in September. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Building Strong Foundations: Secretary Duncan discussed the importance of investment in early learning during an event on Capitol Hill in September. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

#BlackLivesMatter: On Saturday, December 13, Secretary Duncan joined the Rev. Al Sharpton, Marc Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, and hundreds of protestors during a #BlackLivesMatter march in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Joe Portnoy/U.S. Department of Education)

#BlackLivesMatter: On Saturday, December 13, Secretary Duncan joined the Rev. Al Sharpton, Marc Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, and hundreds of protestors during a #BlackLivesMatter march in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Joe Portnoy/U.S. Department of Education)

Want more great images? Check out our Storify account and our Flickr page!

Now is the Time for Safe and Equal Access to Education for All Children All Over the World

On October 9th 2012, Malala Yousafzai was on a school bus returning to her home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. A masked gunman boarded the bus and asked for her by name. When her classmates could not help but to glance at her, the gunman approached Malala and shot three times, hitting her in the head and neck. She was 15 years old and her only crime was advocating for equal access to education for all children.

On December 8th of this year, UNICEF declared that 2014 was a devastating year for children. Two years after the brutal attack on Malala, as many as 10,000 children have been recruited to fight by armed groups in the Central African Republic. In Syria, there have been more than 35 attacks on schools and 1.7 million children are now refugees. And a mere eight days after the UNICEF report was released, Taliban gunman launched an unimaginable attack on a Pakistani school, killing 132 students.

These are just some of the challenges that world leaders and non-governmental organizations face in their efforts to establish a new set of sustainable development goals. Technical experts and advocates from Save the Children and other groups are engaging in a series of global consultations on post-2015 education indicators. What has emerged is this: the only way to offer children a future free of violence and extreme poverty is to provide every child safe and equitable access to quality education. Simply counting the number of children in schools is not enough.

Of course, violence against children is not limited to countries outside our borders. Speaking to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in October, Secretary Arne Duncan referenced the impact violence has had on his own experience. He said, “I saw children who happened to come from a very violent community; who happened to all be African-American; who happened to be very poor. Despite many real challenges, many went on to do extraordinary things.”

Duncan also pointed out that students of color in the U.S. are more likely to be assigned inexperienced teachers; that they have less access to advanced classes; and that they are more likely to go to schools with lower-quality facilities, such as temporary structures. These are circumstances we can and must change.

In October, ED’s Office of Civil Rights issued guidance to states, school districts, and schools to help ensure students in the U.S. have equal access to educational resources. Initiatives such as My Brother’s Keeper and Excellent Educators for All are designed to help level the playing field for U.S. students who face an uphill battle in attaining an education. The goal is to ensure that our children – no matter their circumstances – have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

In the wake of the brutal attack in Peshawar and the seemingly never-ending violence against children in our own country, there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done. It’s in our nation’s best interest to prepare all of our children, not just a privileged few, for the challenges of the global economy. With the world’s focus turned to safe and equitable access to quality education, now is the time for us to make good on our promises.

Rebecca Miller is an International Affairs Specialist in the International Affairs Office at the U.S. Department of Education.

Progress Toward Designing a New System of College Ratings

This is the third in a series of posts about the Department’s new college ratings system.

Read the first blog in this series.

Read the second blog in this series.

female indian university student using laptop

In today’s world, college should not be a luxury that only some Americans can afford to enjoy; it is an economic, civic and personal necessity for all Americans. Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy with a thriving middle class and critical to ensuring a strong democracy. That is why President Obama believes the United States must lead the world in college attainment, as our country did a generation ago.

Since the President took office, the Administration has increased Pell Grants by more than $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, capped student loan payments to 10 percent of monthly income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to keep college affordable. We have focused on improving college performance, promoting innovation and competition that can lead to breakthroughs on cost and quality, and helping students and families manage their student loan debt after college.

The development of a college ratings system is an important part of the President’s plan to expand college opportunity by recognizing institutions that excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds; focus on maintaining affordability; and succeed at helping all students graduate with a degree or certificate of value. Our aim is to better understand the extent to which colleges and universities are meeting these goals. As part of this process, we hope to use federal administrative data to develop higher quality and nationally comparable measures of graduation rates and employment outcomes that improve on what is currently available.

Over the past year, we’ve had many conversations with a wide range of stakeholders including colleges and universities, students and parents, researchers, statisticians, economists, and advocates. Together, we considered tough questions that needed to be thoughtfully addressed in designing a meaningful system of ratings that meets the aims of: (1) helping colleges and universities measure, benchmark, and improve in fulfilling the principles of access, affordability, and outcomes; (2) helping students and families make informed choices when searching for and selecting a college; and (3) developing a framework that could eventually align the incentives and accountability provisions in the federal student aid program with these key principles.

The Department has now published a framework and questions for public review and comment at www.ed.gov/collegeratings. We’ve also posted a fact sheet that summarizes the basic rating categories, institutional groupings, data, metrics, and tools we are currently weighing in designing the system. This is our next step in designing the college ratings system, and the framework lays out the options and questions we are actively considering.

Our thinking has been informed by insights from stakeholders and experts about how best to use transparency and accountability to achieve our goals using available and attainable data. With this release, we have tried to be clear about pros and cons of alternatives; to explain what data are available and what analyses are underway to inform development of the ratings; and to invite comment on specific issues. Throughout our conversations, we’ve been urged by the field to move forward carefully and to share the evolving approach to the ratings methodology widely. We are therefore seeking public feedback on our proposed approach and potential metrics before analyzing actual data and generating specific institutional ratings.

At the same time, we deeply appreciate that a simple quantitative system will not capture all the benefits and outcomes of postsecondary education. Wide discussion of the college ratings proposal has already helped deepen the national conversation about our shared commitment to college opportunity and other significant measures of postsecondary education success – both tangible, like obtaining a diploma or job, and intangible, like increasing knowledge and skills, civic engagement, workforce resilience, and confidence.

An important part of the continued national conversation must focus on those broad benefits and contributions of higher education in the United States.

We welcome input from students, institutions and the public about the types of tools and formats that could be part of the system that the Department plans to release by the 2015-2016 school year. Submissions can be provided through this online form or by email to collegefeedback@ed.gov.

A college degree has never mattered more to the success of individual Americans, to our democracy, and to the prosperity of our nation and our economy. But we all – students and families, institutions and researchers, policymakers and elected officials, taxpayers, philanthropies, and states – need new ways to compare the accessibility, affordability, and outcomes of different schools to make good investments and wise decisions for the future.

With this latest release, we feel confident that we are closing in on that goal.

Jamienne Studley is Deputy Under Secretary of Education.

2015-2016 Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program Applications Now Available!

“The Ambassador Fellows are a critical investment in ensuring that the decisions affecting students are informed and implemented by our nation’s best teachers and leaders. The answers to our most challenging educational problems lie in the voices of the courageous principals and passionate teachers our Fellows bring us every day.”
– Secretary Arne Duncan

Teaching Ambassador Fellows gathered at the Teaching and Learning conference for the announcement of the Teach to Lead initiative earlier this year. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Teaching Ambassador Fellows gathered at the Teaching and Learning conference for the announcement of the Teach to Lead initiative earlier this year. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Applications for the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015-2016 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows opened on December 18, 2014 and are scheduled to close on January 20, 2015 at 11:59 pm EST. For more information about the application process, visit our Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows program pages or go directly to the applications for the Teaching and Principal Fellowships on USAJobs.gov.

Since 2008, the Department has employed 87 outstanding teachers on a full- or part-time basis through the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program. Last year, ED piloted a Principal Ambassador Fellowship that brought three highly-talented principals to work for the Department on a full- and part-time basis.

Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are outstanding educators, with a record of leadership in the school community, strong communication skills, and insights on education policy based in their school and classroom expertise. They come with networks of support from their professional communities and have participated in a variety of activities that have prepared them to write and speak frequently about instruction, school culture and climate, educational leadership and policy.

Both of the highly selective programs reflect the belief that teachers and principals should have meaningful opportunities to learn about and shape the policies that impact students and school communities nationwide. As teachers and principals are often the most trusted sources of information about education policy for parents, community members, colleagues, and students themselves, it is imperative to create more ways to link the Department’s programs, policies, and resources directly to the field.

The 2013-2015 Principal Ambassador Fellows and Secretary Duncan. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The 2013-2015 Principal Ambassador Fellows and Secretary Duncan. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The Ambassador Fellows have directly contributed to hundreds of activities at the Department and captured the voices of thousands of teachers and principals from every state. They were particularly instrumental in the RESPECT project and in inspiring and executing the Department’s current Teach to Lead initiative. They were also critical partners in offering flexibility around tying teacher evaluations to new assessments and addressing a culture of over-testing.

There are two different options for candidates. The Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment, based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington. The Classroom Fellowship, on the other hand, enables teachers and principals to participate on a part-time basis, while still allowing them to fulfill their regular school responsibilities.

All Teaching Ambassador Fellows spend one year learning about key federal programs and policies, sharing their expertise with federal staff members, and providing background on federal initiatives to other educators. This helps teachers better understand and implement these efforts at the federal, state and local levels. For the Fellows, the program provides greater knowledge of federal educational policy, strengthens their leadership skills, and gives them the firsthand opportunity to address some of the  challenging issues facing education today.

“Being a Teaching Ambassador Fellow has been the best professional learning of my career,” says Tami Fitzgerald. “I have learned about educational policy, but more than that, I have discovered that my voice can be heard, and our collective voices can make a difference.”  Principal Ambassador Fellow, Rachel Skerritt adds, “The Principal Ambassador Fellowship is intended to be a beneficial resource to the Department, allowing ED to hear valuable input from school leaders. However, the experience has been just as beneficial to my own learning and leadership. I constantly bring back best practices to my own school, having had the privilege of meeting passionate principals nationwide.”

Great teachers and principals—please consider applying and sharing this information with your colleagues! Sign up for updates on the Teaching and Principal application processes, call 1-800-USA-Learn, or email us at TeacherFellowship@ed.gov or PrincipalFellowship@ed.gov with questions.

Gillian Cohen-Boyer is Director of the Principal and Teaching Ambassador Fellowships Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

Student Voices Session: Shining a Spotlight on Native Youth in Foster Care

Youth from every ethnicity and population group experience challenges. American Indian and Alaska Native youth in the foster care system often also must contend with a disconnection from their tribal communities and cultures.

On Dec. 8th, I attended a Student Voices session at the White House hosted by the Department of Education (ED) and Department of Interior. During this time, I witnessed the Obama Administration turn a corner on an issue that is too often invisible to the general public and politicians – understanding the plight of Native youth in foster care.

Fifteen current and former foster care youth representing American Indian and Alaska Native nations from across the United States sat down with Secretaries Arne Duncan and Sally Jewell/ (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Blog author Seanna Pieper-Jordan (far right) joined fourteen other current and former foster care youth representing American Indian and Alaska Native nations from across the United States in a discussion with Secretaries Arne Duncan and Sally Jewell. (Photo credit: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Fifteen current and former foster care youth representing American Indian and Alaska Native nations from across the United States sat down with Secretaries Arne Duncan and Sally Jewell at the event to discuss the unique struggles that Native youth face.

They all courageously shared stories of survival before entering foster care and of a heartbreaking desire to remain connected to their tribes when placed in foster homes far from their tribal communities. For me, their stories and my own share a key message — take us away from our homes and our culture, and you take us away from our identity and our drive to achieve.

After the meeting, Secretary Duncan asked how ED could help improve academic achievement and the well-being of Native youth in the foster care system.

With 566 federally recognized tribes—each with its own history, language and customs—no one curriculum plan or program can adequately provide the needed emotional, cultural and academic support for all Native youth. Fortunately, numerous tribes and tribal organizations desire a chance to partner with the government to improve the situation. My hope is that new tribal partnerships – specifically for American Indian and Alaska native foster youth – could make schools a safe and trusted alternative to the turmoil these students often encounter outside the school environment.

For me, school was my only haven, allowing me a few hours each day to forget the abuse and neglect I suffered in my most formative years. But, unfortunately, my educational experience is not the norm. My teachers did not address my behavioral problems, frequent absences from school, and lack of foundational skills, such as phonics, because I was always the brightest student in class. I also had thick skin to the racism I experienced in public school. Being Native Hawaiian, as well as American Indian, enabled me to attend Kamehameha Schools, a K-12 boarding-and-day institution that immerses students in Native Hawaiian culture. Kamehameha became my advocate, protector and family. Eventually, my school counselor became my foster mother.

I know firsthand that educational institutions can be not only a source of academic and emotional support for all students with unfortunate circumstances at home, but also a place of cultural opportunity for American Indian and Alaska Native youth disconnected from their tribal communities. So, I am happy to say that my time at the White House and with Secretaries Duncan and Jewell has shown me that the Administration is searching for new ways to improve the lives of Native foster youth. And, more personally, it showed me that people do care about what happens to the invisible.

Seanna Pieper-Jordan is a former foster care youth of Native Hawaiian and American Indian (Blackfeet) descent. She graduated from Yale University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology in 2013 and Kamehameha High School with honors in 2008. She currently works as a public policy specialist in Washington, D.C.

Improving Education One Classroom at a Time

Elise Patterson faces challenges in her classroom every day, but there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing than teaching. Patterson is an English teacher who, like so many educators across the country, is tackling challenges and making a difference in her classroom and in her students’ lives.

Now is a time of profound change in education, perhaps the greatest change in decades. Teachers are leading the change, taking on the hard work of implementing higher standards in their own classrooms, and, like Patterson, discovering that they can do what they love with even greater results for their students.

See what it’s like to teach today through Patterson’s eyes in the first installment of a new video series that takes viewers behind the scenes with teachers and other educators who are doing the hard work to lead change, innovation, and improvement in classrooms throughout the country.

Improving Education: The View from Ms. Patterson’s Classroom, shows how a teacher at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C., is helping her students to excel.

“I’m passionate about teaching because I get to interact with so many people in such a meaningful way,” she says. “The reason I decided to make this my career is because I think there’s such a need for good teaching … [and] because I see how much of a change you can make on a day-to-day basis with individual students.”

Her tips include more collaboration with other teachers and between departments, and really challenging students to improve upon their leadership and critical-thinking skills. Her passion has helped her successfully implement higher standards in her classroom. Learn more about Patterson’s story below:

As we continue to highlight extraordinary educators doing remarkable things in classrooms nationwide we want to hear from teachers. Get in touch with us, and help us share your inspiring stories.

To learn more about Patterson and her classroom tips, visit our Partners in Progress page.

Celebrate Diversity During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a great time for families to celebrate diversity!

Parents and caregivers, you can choose to use this time to teach your children about customs that are different from your own and you can help children to understand and embrace other cultures.

Children learn best by seeing, doing, and being a part of a new experience.

Engage a child through reading.

Engage children through reading.

Engage your child by reading to him or her about how other cultures celebrate holidays during this time of year. The Library of Congress is a great resource for stories about Christmas and Hanukkah. You can choose to search online for resources about observances such as and the way that people in different countries mark the arrival of the New Year. You also can find information about celebrations that happen on or around the winter solstice. Once you’ve read together, encourage your child to create something – like a painting, a drawing, a mask or a sculpture – representing some festival or tradition that interests him or her.

You also can head into the kitchen! Try making a special dish that is served during the holidays in a culture other than your own. Plum pudding or candied yams are just two dishes that come to mind.

Encourage your child to join you in the kitchen!

Encourage your child to join you in the kitchen!

Parents and families can use this time to teach children about the importance of volunteering in the community as well. A visit to a senior facility is one way children can learn about other cultures; the importance of community; and the incredible wealth of wisdom, values, and history that the elder members of any neighborhood have to share with the next generation.

Another fun activity could be exploring how other people and countries celebrate and then creating a list of places to visit.

A trip to your local library is always a fantastic way to find new information and fun activities that will allow your child to discover how wonderful other cultures are. Learning about humanity’s diversity and richness gives us all so much more to celebrate – during the holidays and throughout the year!

Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families at the U.S. Department of Education.

Buffalo Charter Wired and #FutureReady

At the ConnectED to the Future event. (Photo courtesy of Ayinde Rudolph)

At the ConnectED to the Future event. (Photo courtesy of Ayinde Rudolph)

Two years ago when I arrived in Buffalo, we did not have Wi-Fi in our school. The teachers had tablets, but limited access to the web. The only way our students and teachers could access the internet was in our computer labs.

At the ConnectED to the Future event I recently attended in Washington, D.C., President Obama stated, “In a world where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should expect the same in our schools.” He is right. Internet access has become essential and is needed by all, and schools provide an ideal setting for our youngest citizens to gain initial access.

In order to address this challenge, we launched a one-to-one initiative, providing high-speed Internet access to all students and giving each of our third through eighth graders a tablet. We felt this was a journey that every staff member should embark upon, and not just a select few. More importantly, we believed that from an education standpoint, this was the right thing to do, knowing that the digital divide further exacerbates the achievement gap.

This is the journey we’re now on in our part of the Buffalo community. Our goal is to create classrooms where students are given daily learning challenges and are skillfully guided by teachers who support them in sifting through available information toward solutions. For us, technology is a powerful lever to facilitate this kind of teaching and learning.

Our road has been incredibly challenging and messy, but delightful. And we’re still in the early stages. As one of my many colleagues pointed out, the key to our students’ success in Buffalo, and really America, lies in our ability to 1) provide them with the tools to facilitate this learning and 2) give teachers the appropriate professional development to execute this vision for learning.

After attending the event, I feel better about our future prospects. I listened to how other districts are being creative in providing afterhours access. Moreover, I now understand that our pledge to create future-ready students places us on level ground with countries like Singapore and Korea.

It is a long road, but it is definitely a fight worth fighting. After listening and learning from various leaders like President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Richard Martinez, Superintendent of Pomona Unified in California, I realize that this is truly the direction in which education is headed—to ignore it would be detrimental to our students and our country’s prosperity.

Learn more about the #FutureReady Pledge and watch the president’s remarks from the recent ConnectED to the Future event that took place on November 19, 2014 at the White House.

 Ayinde Rudolph is principal of Westminster Community K-8 Charter in Buffalo, N.Y., a Promise Neighborhood school.

What You Missed: Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan Answer Your Questions on Early Education

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Grammy award-winning artist Shakira took to Twitter to answer your questions about the early childhood education.

Shakira, who is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and a strong advocate for high-quality early education, joined Duncan in highlighting $1 billion in new public and private commitments that were announced as part of today’s White House Summit on Early Education.

At the Summit, President Obama reiterated his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every kid in America, and announced the launch of the Invest In Usinitiatitive. The new initaitive challenges public and private partners, business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials, and individuals to build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education.

Take a look at the full #ShakiraEdChat Q&A below, or over on Storify, and check out Shakira’s new PSA videos on InvestInUs.org.

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

Helping States Improve and Enhance Early Education for All

High-quality early education shouldn’t just be a privilege for some children—it must be an opportunity for all children in America. We know the foundation of a thriving middle class is access to a strong education for every child beginning in the first few years of life. But right now, the U.S. ranks 28th in the world in preschool access for four-year-old children.

The Obama administration is working to change that.

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced today that 18 states have been awarded new funding, totaling more than $226 million, under the Preschool Development Grants program.

These grants will reach 33,000 children across the U.S. In the first year of the program alone, more than 18,000 additional children will be served in high-quality preschool. Preschool Development Grants will help the 18 winning states to build or enhance their state early learning infrastructure and expand high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities.

There are two types of grants. Development Grants are for states that serve less than 10 percent of four-year-olds. Expansion Grants are for states that serve 10 percent or more of four-year-olds. Check out our fact sheet (link to pdf here) for more information.

The importance of early learning is clear. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Today’s White House Summit on Early Education convenes state and local policymakers, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and advocates to highlight collective leadership in support of early education for America’s children.

Leaders at the Summit will share best practices in building public-private partnerships that are expanding early education in communities across the country. Participants will discuss effective strategies and programs that support and bring high-quality early childhood education to scale. Follow this discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #InvestinUS.

And, for more information about the importance of early learning and the steps that the Obama administration is taking to ensure access for all children, check out our Early Learning page.

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

Join Shakira and Secretary Duncan for a Twitter Q&A on Early Education

For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these kids as adults.

Early education is one of the best investments our country can make. Participation in high-quality early learning programs—like Head Start, public and private pre-K, and childcare—provide children from all backgrounds with a strong start and a solid foundation for success in school.

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Learn more about the President’s plan to expand access to high-quality early childhood education, and then join Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

This post originally appeared on The White House blog.

Painting a Different Picture of Education in the Juvenile Detention Center

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Secretary Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today announced a Correctional Education Guidance Package aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day.

This guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report released in May to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.” Today’s guidance package is a roadmap that states and local agencies can use to improve the quality of educational services for confined youth.

Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder visited The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School to announce this new guidance. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, the art teacher, writes about the impact of the art program is having on the students in the detention facility.

When envisioning a juvenile detention center, people often think of an institution with barbed wire set away from a populated area; a forgotten place where children go to be punished and removed from the public eye. It certainly isn’t regarded as an educational institution where learning and creativity happen. My goal is to paint a different picture. It’s a picture of a place that offers hope in place of doubt, care in place of harm, and knowledge in place of ignorance.

Ghandi

One student’s artwork at the Norther Virginia Juvenile Detention Facility

The Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School is housed within a single wing of the detention center. As you walk down our school’s hallway, you see artwork displaying where our students have been, where they are now, and where they hope to be in the future. Further down the hall, you might hear students presenting evidence discovered in a science experiment or discussing the personality traits of characters they read about in English class.

The classes at the Center are small, co-taught, and focus on project-based learning. Students receive differentiated instruction and individual attention from every teacher, which helps improve their academic skills. They frequently express that they benefit from this kind of education and insist they would have attended their former schools more regularly if it had been more like this.

The “d-center” school, as it is referred to by staff and students, has grown into a program that has helped students receive their high school diploma, obtain scholarships to community and state colleges, and, ultimately, have a positive impact in their own communities. Here, I have seen students slowly but surely remove the personal barriers they have so carefully built over the years. They trust the education program is here to offer them a chance for change and provide new opportunities. As educators, we realize this may be the first opportunity they’ve ever been given to explore different sides of themselves, tell their story, and truly practice being self aware.

At the end of the day, we measure our success by the small steps we see our students take on a daily basis. For some, it may be the first time they master math concepts, or speak in front of a history class. We don’t view our students as criminals or prisoners; to us they are students who deserve the best education a child can have. We foster an environment that sets high standards and encourages each one to discover their personal best. And in the process, we often end up finding our own personal best.

To learn more about the art education program at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School please visit the Art room website

Kathleen Fitzpatrick works for Alexandria City Public Schools and is an art teacher at the Northern Virginia Detention Center School. In 2013, she received the 2013 Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award.