Edcamp Goes to Washington


It’s been a few weeks since I attended Edcamp at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, DC, which has given me time to soak in the experience. Over 750 Edcamp events have been held around the world, and this is the second to be held at ED.

Being one of the 100 selected educators to attend Edcamp US DoEd out of 800 who entered the lottery to attend, was not only one of the highlights of my professional career, but it also afforded me the priceless opportunity to explore our nation’s capital. Having met several attendees in the Twitterverse and other digital spaces, I eagerly anticipated the face-to-face, sit-down connections, conversations and collaborations that awaited me.

The event itself—hosted at ED headquarters—was monumental, in my mind. Here we were, in a federal building, greeted by welcoming ED staff, convening to discuss, brainstorm, share and learn about issues pressing us all in education nationwide.

Sandwiched between a sincere welcome from ED staffers and a final heartfelt thank you from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, were far too many sessions (all attendee-created, mind you) from which to choose.

Luckily, for digital tools like Twitter (#EdcampUSA), Periscope (Twitter’s live-streaming app) and Google Docs, collaborative notes were shared so that learning could take place far beyond the one-day time frame of Edcamp. Although each session I attended was rich with conversation and ideas, some of the most value-laden connections took place in the hotel lobby, during lunch, and social gatherings outside of the day itself. It was during those “extra innings” of Edcamp US DoEd that I discovered my most impactful connections.

As an educator of over 25 years, my biggest takeaways from Edcamp US DoEd were numerous and far-reaching; however, one that still has me thinking (and acting) include the powerful connections made. I arrived to a room full of strangers, and I left with a plethora of additions to my PLN and yes, those I would consider friends.

Secondly, as an Edcamp attendee (as opposed to Edcamp planner) I witnessed firsthand the power of learner voice. As my fellow Wisconsinite attendee, Tammy Lind, stated, “It’s incredible what happens when we take time to listen to each other!” That sticks with me. What if we took time to truly listen to our teachers? What if we took time to truly listen to our students?

Lastly, the takeaway that will likely impact me the most was the mind-numbing potential of leveraging the Edcamp model of professional learning on students, when you put 100 (or whatever number) educators in a room for a day of focused, intentional and purposeful learning.

No telling what can happen when we intentionally and purposefully unite for one basic thing: Doing Better. For Kids. I eagerly await the ripple effect as I continue my look back into the Edcamp US DoEd reflection pool.

Kaye Henrickson is an Instructional Services Director for Digital Learning at CESA #4 in West Salem, WI. She serves 26 school districts in West Central Wisconsin.

Together for Tomorrow: Connecting the Dots

We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Staff with panelists

A primary key to strong partnerships is examining and truly understanding what it is like to function in a role different than one’s own where expectations and priorities may differ.  Recently, at the Institution for Educational Learning’s (IEL’s) National Family and Community Engagement Conference, The U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (ED CBNFP) created the space for such an opportunity where CBOs, families, and educators gathered to understand how to 1) become more sympathetic and empathetic regarding another’s needs, requests, and concerns in the educational sphere and 2) foster an atmosphere more conducive to initiating and maintaining long lasting relationships and partnerships that benefit students and promote high academic success.

The workshop entitled, Together for Tomorrow:  Connecting the Dots, included education advocates and employees from various backgrounds who demonstrated how educational improvement is everyone’s responsibility – including students, principals, teachers, school staff, families, CBOs and volunteers.  The workshop provided its attendees a) specific examples of where communities and schools have connected the dots and b) general guidelines for successful partnerships.

Dr. William Truesdale, Principal of Taylor Elementary School in Chicago, spoke about his role in integrating families into the school to participate in advancing the school’s mission.  He mentioned how he framed the engagement around six fundamental human needs as expressed by Steven Covey and Tony Robbins. Ms. Jamillah Rashad, Elev8 Director who serves as a community liaison and parent/student advocate for the Marquette School of Excellence, voiced how the power of one-on-one relationships can strengthen efforts in raising school achievement.  As an example of how these relationships work, Ms. Rashad directed the audience to engage in a brief conversation with someone with whom they were not familiar as a demonstration of the role and importance relationship building plays in helping schools and students thrive.  Becoming a Man (BAM), an organization which currently serves over 2,400 young males in 20 schools in the Chicago area in an effort to “develop social-cognitive skills strongly correlated with reductions in violent and anti-social behavior” in “at-risk male students,” also presented in the workshop.  Led by Youth Counselor, Zachary Strother, who expounded upon how BAM’s six core values positively impacted its students, four BAM youth expressed how the organization has helped to improve their success in the classroom and changed their lives for the better.

One of the most important takeaways from the workshop was that parents and extended family members can serve as bridge builders between schools and community groups.  They often serve as leaders or members of CBO’s that can partner with schools.  The session allowed both its participants and audience members to leave with a greater confidence in their own ability to encourage and support school, family, and CBO partnerships that support student success.

Eddie Martin is a special assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Fixing ESEA: Looking Out For All Students

The demands of the real world have changed – and with them, the educational needs of our young people.

This week, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will make important decisions that will have real impact on our children’s learning—and whether high expectations and equal opportunity for all groups of students will translate into action, or just a talking point.

As families everywhere recognize, success in today’s world is no longer just about what you know. It’s about what you can do with what you know—it’s about creativity, critical thinking, and teamwork to develop new solutions to new problems. Success for our nation depends on providing every student in this country with the opportunity to learn at high levels—and on an expectation that, when schools or vulnerable groups of students fall behind, leaders will take action.

Low-income children now make up the majority of our nation’s public school students. Leaving them behind is no longer just a moral failing, it’s also an unmitigated disaster for America’s ability to compete in the global economy.

We join with numerous other civil rights, education and business groups in urging Congress to make a critical choice for our children—whether or not to roll back important federal protections for vulnerable students. It’s a deliberate choice for excellence and equity–to insist that all children deserve a world-class education, no matter their background, family’s income, zip code, or skin color.

Both the Senate and the House are debating whether or not to gut the most important tool the federal government has to ensure that all students have a fair shot, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. The law today doesn’t serve states, educators or students well, and it’s time to fix what’s broken.

But as that change happens, Congress faces a choice that has profound moral and economic consequences. Congress must not compromise the nation’s vital interest in protecting our most vulnerable, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and providing educators and schools with the support and resources that they need to do their vitally important work.

For decades, this law has provided funds and set guidelines to help ensure that factors such as poverty, race, disability, and language don’t limit the education that a child receives. And it has aimed to protect students who are most in need of additional supports so that they, their families, and their teachers have the same prospects and access to resources as their more advantaged peers.

There are many praiseworthy aspects of the bill that the Senate will consider this week, but if ESEA is to live up to its legacy as a civil rights law, both the Senate and House bills must do much more to ensure accountability for the lowest-performing five percent of schools, schools where groups of students are not meeting academic goals, and those where too many students are not graduating.

All parents and communities should be guaranteed that if schools are not sufficiently supporting students to graduate from high school ready for college and career, states, districts, and educators will implement interventions that correct course. They should be guaranteed that there will be additional resources and supports in those schools, with especially comprehensive supports in the lowest performing schools.

Without those guarantees, high expectations could become a matter of lip service rather than a reason for action—with dangerous consequences for individuals and our society.

We applaud the leadership of Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Senator Patty Murray, the Committee’s senior Democrat; and the other members of the HELP committee for the important steps that they’ve taken to advance a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize ESEA. But we urge them and their colleagues, as they begin to debate the bill this week, to make critically needed improvements.

Every school in every city and town across the country should be a hub for success. This is the essential step we must take for the reality of America to live up to the promise that is America.

In this country, education always has been a bipartisan cause—and it must continue to be. Unfortunately, the version of ESEA reauthorization that the House of Representatives is considering this week is a bill that has been written with virtually no bipartisan input, and would represent a major step backwards for our nation and its children.

At a time when our public schools are more diverse than ever before and our nation’s welfare depends to an unprecedented degree on developing the potential of every student in America, we must demand an education law that provides meaningful accountability and upholds principles of equity and excellence for all students. We urge Congress to pass a law that does just that.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education, Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League, and Wade Henderson is the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Take the Summer Reading Challenge

Two Children ReadingSummer break is an exciting time for students to go on vacation, spend time with their families, and get involved in sports and enrichment activities. The summer is also a great time for students to experience new and stimulating opportunities to learn.

Often times the former overshadows the latter, but when families engage in summer reading together they are able to create new memories, meaningful conversations, shared adventures and experiences to cherish while also making an impact on their child’s learning.

Studies show that reading daily during summer break is the most important activity to prevent summer learning loss, especially for younger children. Children who have parents that read to them five to seven nights a week do exceptionally better in school and are more likely to read for fun throughout the rest of their school careers. Even if children are able to read on their own, reading as a family has a positive effect on their knowledge of social and cognitive skills.

Throughout the summer many organizations are encouraging students and their families to participate in summer reading. Here at the U.S. Department of Education we are holding Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events around Washington, D.C., to increase awareness about the critical importance of summer learning, nutrition and physical activity.

Organizations such as the National PTA have launched a Family Reading Challenge through July, Book It! Summer Reading Challenge runs through August, and the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge launched in May. These challenges are designed to inspire families to read together. The National PTA is using social media to encourage families across the country to explain in their own voices why reading together is a fun and rewarding family activity, in the summer and throughout the school year. Scholastic is awarding the highest scoring elementary and middle schools the opportunity to meet with authors. With the Book It! challenge young readers will have the opportunity to chat and earn daily rewards.

Many other organizations have an array of summer reading resources to keep kids reading, including Reading Rockets, PBS Kids, Reading is Fundamental, and Common Sense Media, among others. Young readers have many options to choose from when it comes to reading.

Children look up to their parents and often mirror many of their habits later in life. Make reading for fun one of those habits. Take time today to head to a local library or bookstore and find an exciting book to read.

Chareese Ross is Liaison to National Organizations on the National Engagement Team at the U.S. Department of Education

Leaders Supporting Teachers: The Lehigh Way

The field of education requires MANY “tools for the tool-belt.” Whether educators need to learn how to manage a classroom of students or to learn how to engage students more fully, continual learning is simply required! So often today I find teachers who have the heart and desire to impact students; they are just unequipped with the knowledge or skills to fully engage students in rigorous learning. As a leader, it is my number one priority to support teachers, so they don’t drown as educators. It is all comes down simply to systems for support. We call this The Lehigh Way.

How does it work?

Our keys to success at Lehigh Senior High School:

  • Empower teacher leaders to model and support other teachers.
  • Identify weaknesses and provide learning opportunities.
  • Coach and mentor teachers to lead them to success.
  • Provide continuous, ongoing professional development.
  • Build focused and productive Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to increase collaboration.

Create Specific Systems:

Our systems at Lehigh Senior High School:

  • Common Planning PLCs: All of our teachers of like subject areas have common planning. This means that all algebra one teachers are off the same period. PLCs are much more than teachers’ meetings. Once a week, educators meet to unpack their standards, create common assessments, share and review data and to create engaging lessons. They work off of shared norms, set goals, talk through challenges and make plans to solve them.
  • Instructional Leaders: Each department has an instructional coach funded through the Teacher Incentive Fund, TIF Grant. This grant allows us to recruit our most talented teachers to teach half of the time and share their gifts to help other educators the remaining time. These model teachers lead common planning groups to a path of success and spend time in the classroom coaching and supporting teachers with the implementation of good strategies.
  • Strategy Walks. Each month the administration and instructional leaders discuss what areas need support based on our classroom visits. We then identify teachers in the building that can model exceptionally well the teaching strategies our teachers need. Then we provide teachers with options to visit classrooms during their planning time and watch the strategies in action. Teachers are empowered to be leaders by seeing a strategy in action with real students, as well as providing support to those teachers needing growth opportunities.
  • Targeted Weekly Training. Each week we provide optional training after school on Wednesdays, so that teachers have the opportunity to build upon the “tools in their tool-belt.” During coaching sessions, the administration or instructional leaders may suggest certain opportunities to teachers or teachers may go to engage in learning on their own.
  • Apples Program. Our district has a great first-year teacher induction program, called Apples. We meet with our Apples once a month and deliver hands-on professional development. Novice teachers walk out with relevant strategies they can take back to the classroom. They are also provided with an experienced mentor teacher who assists them as they build classroom systems and coaches them during their first year.
  • Coaching: The leaders in our building function as coaches. Our top priority is visiting classrooms frequently and having ongoing discussions about teaching and learning. Whether a new or veteran teacher, all teachers need to experience affirmation and opportunities to grow. We coach and build trusting relationships with teachers, offering constructively and meaningful feedback.
  • Culture for Learning: We are an AVID National Demonstration School. We frame all of our instructional practices around WICOR: Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading. Teachers in our building work hard to develop lessons and focus their development around learning content-specific strategies connecting to these five areas. We open our doors to other educators to come and learn best practices real time in our classrooms, creating a collaborative culture focused on continual learning.

In an ever changing hyper-connected global society, we educators must continue to embrace learning. It is the only way we will be able to prepare ourselves with the skills to meet our student’s ever changing needs. Education is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition, and students don’t thrive under teachers who stand and deliver. When our teachers need preparation, we as leaders must prepare them. We cannot rely on post-secondary programs, as they are outdated at an ever-increasing rate, unable to keep up with the increasing demands. It is our job as leaders to stay current and support teachers with continuous learning and development. Not too ironic, considering we are educators!

Jackie Corey is the principal of Lehigh Senior High School in Lehigh Acres, Florida.

Ron Thorpe, In Memoriam

In March 2015, Secretary Arne Duncan presented a lifetime achievement award to Ron Thorpe, a courageous and thoughtful leader of educators and a good friend to many of us here at ED. Secretary Duncan’s words are posted here today in respectful memory of Mr. Thorpe, who died last night. His legacy will live beyond him.

We’ve spent a little bit of time here talking about the leadership of all of you and before I get out of here I just want to take one minute and talk about this man’s leadership. For decades, thousands and thousands of people in this Country have benefited from and relied upon Ron Thorpe’s wisdoms and ideas and his commitment, and I just thought it was appropriate for us to take a minute now and say thanks.

Visionary is a word that sometimes overused but in Ron’s case, I think it’s exactly the right one. He’s deepened the understanding of this field, not just for our Nation but across the globe. He has helped us to understand why med schools and Ed schools have to have more in common. One profession works to save lives, the other to transform them. And the training for all of this critical work should be equally rigorous.

Over the past nine years, America’s teachers and the broader education community have come together to celebrate and strengthen the teaching profession, and over this time, nearly 50,000 educators have had the opportunity to share ideas and debate important topics and learn from one another. As a result of teaching and learning, the international summit on the teaching profession developed a couple years ago. We had our first session in New York. We’re now traveling across the globe, which I had the pleasure to participate that. We’ve been working with our peers from dozens of countries around the world. This is continued with summits when we go into other capitals like Canada as I said earlier in just a couple of weeks.

For Ron, it’s been a labor of love celebrating the great, great work of America’s teachers. And now as we head into the ninth year of teaching and learning, we would like to recognize Ron for his tireless commitment to leadership. To be an accomplished teacher, one has to commit to a lifetime of learning and that’s what Ron is all about, from his beginnings in the classroom to his work in philanthropy and the media and now here at this incredibly vibrant event. Ron knows and appreciates that teachers and educators deserve conferences like this, filled with chances to learn from one another. Ron’s been the genius behind bringing the world’s fair the dabbles of education to tons of educators. Perhaps most fundamentally, Ron knows it is not enough to believe in the potential of great teaching that it takes tireless and committed effort to realize the hugely important potential.

And I’m so grateful to call Ron a friend, a partner. His integrity and his courage inspire me every single day. It’s because of his bold vision that I think we all should honor Dr. Ronald Thorpe with the National Board’s first ever Award for Distinguished Service in Teaching and Learning.

New Measures to Combat Sexual Violence

College campuses should be safe places where all students are free to focus on the joy of learning, forge lasting friendships, and explore the interests that lead to lifelong callings and careers. Even one sexual assault at our nation’s colleges and universities is too many.

This is an issue of great concern for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and all of us at the Department of Education. In hearing from many dedicated men and women from across the postsecondary and law enforcement communities — from college presidents, trustees, deans, and student affairs professionals, to attorneys and campus security staff, to student advocates, we know that many of you are devoting significant efforts to ending this threat because you are deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of our students and communities.

These cases are often difficult, complex, and emotionally harrowing. And we recognize that the problem of sexual violence doesn’t begin on college campuses, nor is it isolated to them. As we work to keep college students safe, we must also work more broadly, as partners – across the education pipeline, and throughout society – to address the issue, including by identifying and disseminating promising practices.

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” method to tackling this challenge, and our Department supports a variety of approaches. In addition, there are many different types of campuses and institutions. Some serve 800 students, others serve 80,000. Some have residential communities, some are exclusively commuter campuses.

In 2014, the President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, co-chaired by the Office of the Vice President and the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Task Force recommendations have led to:

  • The creation of the NotAlone.gov website for students and schools to access resources on responding to and preventing sexual violence;
  • The compilation of effective training materials for students and for school, health center and victim services staff;
  • A sample memorandum of understanding between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies; and
  • The clarification of schools’ reporting obligations under all the applicable laws.

As an agency, we’ve worked to improve the coordination of our enforcement efforts. Our Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in particular, has taken steps to:

  • Issue policy guidance on schools’ obligations under Title IX to prevent and address sexual violence;
  • Provide resources and technical assistance, through our headquarters and regional offices, to inform school officials, parents, students, and others of their rights and responsibilities under the law;
  • Engage in more robust enforcement of Title IX through our complaint and investigation process;
  • Improve coordination between our Federal Student Aid office and OCR for Clery and Title IX compliance; and
  • Increase transparency by posting resolution letters and agreements with recipients on our website and NotAlone.gov, and by making public, for the first time, a list of colleges and universities under OCR investigation for their handling of sexual violence complaints.

And, today, July 1, 2015, final regulations take effect implementing the changes made to the Clery Act by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. These new regulations reflect extensive public comment and the consensus of a broad-based negotiated rulemaking committee.

We will soon be sharing additional information with the higher education field to support implementation, including a summary of the final regulations. We are in the process of updating the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, reflecting the new requirements, and we will be reaching out to the field for help with the revisions. To help address questions about the final regulations, we will provide support and hold other public opportunities to assist the field.

The final regulations:

  • Increase transparency by adding dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking to the list of crimes about which an institution must disclose statistics to the public, its campus community and the Department; and
  • Require institutions to make enhanced disclosures regarding disciplinary proceedings used to resolve allegations concerning these crimes, protective measures provided by the institution following an allegation of these crimes, and the training programs in place to better inform its campus community about awareness and prevention.

In the months ahead, the Department will continue working with institutions, states, advocates and other higher education stakeholders to expand our shared knowledge, identify best practices and prevention models, and increase our capacity to combat sexual violence.

Maintaining our students’ health, safety and wellbeing is our greatest trust, and we’ll continue to make it our highest priority.

Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education

Johan Uvin: Pathways to Citizenship Through Career and Technical Education

June is Immigrant Heritage Month. In recognition of the diverse linguistic and cultural assets of immigrants and the value they have brought and continue to bring to the United States, the Department of Education will share the immigration stories of its staff throughout the month of June.

Johan’s grandparents, parents, and a few of his siblings.

Johan’s grandparents, parents, and a few of his siblings.

I was raised, along with my two brothers and three sisters, just about 30 miles Northwest of Brussels in a small village that has since become part of a much larger medieval city called Aalst, Belgium. My mother stayed home to raise us while my father worked as a laborer in a company that grew cut flowers and experimented with cloning. When we were teenagers my father purchased the same company where he’d been a laborer. This allowed our family to ascend into the middle classes. However, a few years later foreign competition and rising labor costs made it impossible for my father’s company to compete within this changing market. Times were equally hard for workers.

At the time I received my degree to become a middle school Language Arts and History teacher, youth unemployment—even among those with postsecondary education or training—was high. Luckily, I landed a one-year teaching assignment out of school in a vocational school where the students had difficulties learning. I loved it. My students were awesome and although they struggled with literacy and numeracy they were all great at their trade. This experience, along with the perspective I gained volunteering with immigrant youth and low-skilled adults, was a key factor in my commitment to addressing the skill imperative in my community. I created a non-profit for adults without high school credentials and merged it three years later with two other non-profits focused on adult literacy and immigrant language services. Like any young man, I’d worked my fair share of odd jobs to pay the bills, but these opportunities were different. They were more formative and allowed me to work in areas where I felt passionately. Partnering with the other non-profit organizations allowed us to create a municipal education collaborative that subsequently became a fully publicly funded and professionally staffed municipal basic education center. After receiving a Master’s in Teaching from Vermont’s School for International Training, I moved to Boston with Alison, a graduate school classmate who became my wife and the mother of our twin boys, Stephen and Elliot.

Johan Uvin Official Photo

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

It was in Boston that I began my U.S. teaching career at the Y, where I made $120 a week. Alison supplemented that by teaching workplace ESL just across the bridge in Cambridge. I went on to find a full-time job teaching refugees at a program run by the Asian-American Civic Association (AACA) and then began to teach at garment shops and nursing homes before eventually doing program coordination and administrative work. It was a wonderful time. I loved teaching, and still do, because I can facilitate opportunities for hard-working youth and adults to improve their English, literacy, and numeracy skills so they can find pathways into the middle class.

At the encouragement of friends and colleagues, at the age of 40 I went back to school to get a Master’s in International Education and a Doctorate in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. This allowed me to move into new areas of work in the public and private sectors at the local and state levels, and now at the national level.

My experiences as an immigrant—both the challenging and rewarding ones—are always on my mind as I am confronted with daily decisions that affect immigrants, refugees, and other often disadvantaged individuals and communities. In my role as the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, I strive to promote access to, participation in and completion of high-quality educational opportunities for all Americans, including our newest ones. I do this work so that they can obtain the necessary academic and technical skills to achieve the American dream and pursue a pathway to citizenship—like I have been so fortunate to do while serving in the Obama administration.

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

La voz de los padres es esencial en la educación

Los padres son un ingrediente imprescindible de la educación. Los padres pueden ser la voz de grandes expectativas para los niños y para apoyar a los educadores en la creación de escuelas donde todos los niños reciban lo que necesitan para tener éxito. Una excelente educación es un derecho civil de cada niño; y mientras que nuestra nación ha dado grandes pasos, incluido una tasa récord de graduación de escuela secundaria, y asistencia a la universidad en máximos históricos, tenemos mucho camino por recorrer para asegurar que todos los niños tengan las mismas oportunidades de aprender.

Los padres pueden desempeñar un papel clave en exigir una educación de clase mundial para sus hijos, como se merecen. Pero, para muchos padres y familias puede ser una tarea incierta determinar cuál es la mejor manera de apoyar a sus hijos o qué preguntas deben hacer para asegurar que sus hijos aprendan y se desarrollen.

Por eso hoy, hablando desde el punto de vista de un padre de dos niños pequeños, el secretario Arne Duncan describió un conjunto de derechos educativos que debe tener cada familia en Estados Unidos, durante su discurso en la Convención Nacional de la PTA en Charlotte, Carolina del Norte. Este conjunto de tres derechos fundamentales que tienen las familias puede unir a todos los que trabajan para asegurar que los estudiantes estén preparados para prosperar en la escuela y en la vida. Estos derechos acompañan la trayectoria educativa del estudiante, incluido el acceso a la educación preescolar de calidad; la participación en escuelas primarias y secundarias seguras, dotadas con buenos recursos, y que requieren un alto nivel de todos los estudiantes; y acceso a una educación superior de calidad a precio asequible.

DoE-Declaración-de-Derechos-de-los-Padres-v2-3

Los padres y las familias pueden usar estos elementos básicos y necesarios de una excelente educación para construir relaciones más profundas con los educadores, administradores y líderes de la comunidad en apoyo de las escuelas, para que estos derechos se conviertan en realidad. Durante la Convención, el secretario Duncan también declaró su esperanza de que los padres le pidan cuentas a los funcionarios electos y los demás responsables, para acelerar el progreso en la educación y ampliar las oportunidades a más niños, especialmente los más vulnerables de nuestra nación.

Las declaraciones del secretario Duncan sobre este conjunto de derechos complementa el trabajo del Departamento de Educación para llegar a los padres, incluido la iniciativa Marco de desarrollo de capacidad dual para establecer alianzas entre las familias y las escuelas, presentada el año pasado; las herramientas que pueden ayudar a las familias y los estudiantes a seleccionar la universidad más adecuada para ellos; y el apoyo de los Centros de Capacitación e Información para Padres, y otros centros de recursos.

Durante su estancia en Charlotte, el secretario Duncan también participó en el panel “Escuelas Preparadas para el Futuro” (Future Ready Schools) para enfatizar la importancia de integrar la tecnología en el aula, sobre todo como una herramienta para promover la equidad para todos los estudiantes.

Para aprender más sobre los derechos que el secretario Duncan discutió hoy y para encontrar otros recursos para padres y familias, visite la página web del Departamento: Participación Familiar y Comunitaria. También considere unirse al secretario Duncan en una charla en Twitter para continuar el diálogo sobre la participación de los padres en la educación, que se celebrará el 1 de julio a las 1:30 p.m., hora del este, usando #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber es la jefa de personal para Desarrollo de Comunicaciones en el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.

The Critical Voice of Parents in Education

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

DoE-Foundational-Family-Rights-v2-6

Parents and families can use these basic—but necessary—elements of an excellent education to build deeper relationships with educators, administrators, and community leaders to support schools so that these rights become realities. At the Convention, Secretary Duncan also noted his hope that parents will hold elected officials and others accountable for accelerating progress in education and expanding opportunity to more children—particularly our nation’s most vulnerable.

Secretary Duncan’s discussion of this set of rights complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships released last year, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and resource hubs.

While in Charlotte, Secretary Duncan also participated in a “Future Ready Schools” panel to emphasize the importance of integrating technology into the classroom, especially as a tool for promoting equity for all students.

To learn more about the rights that Secretary Duncan discussed today and to find other resources for parents and families, visit the Department’s Family and Community Engagement page. And, consider joining Secretary Duncan in a Twitter chat to continue the dialogue about parent involvement in education on July 1 at 1:30 p.m., ET, using #PTChat.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development at the U.S. Department of Education

3 Options to Consider if You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payment

Frustrated man - 3 Things You Should Do If You Can't Afford Your Student LoansThe U.S. Department of Education offers a number of affordable repayment options for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. The important thing to remember about all the options below is that it’s completely free to apply! Also, if you ever have questions or need FREE advice about your student loans, you can always contact your Department of Education loan servicer.

1. Switch Your Repayment Plan

You may be able to lower your monthly student loan payment by switching to a different repayment plan. Use this calculator to compare what your monthly payment amount could be if you switched your plan.

If you don’t pick a different plan when entering repayment, you are automatically enrolled in the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. However, many borrowers don’t realize that you can switch your plan at any time by contacting your loan servicer.

One of the most popular options for borrowers who are looking to lower their payments is the income-driven repayment plans.

We offer three income-driven repayment plans:

  1. Pay As You Earn
  2. Income-Based
  3. Income-Contingent

Benefits:

  • Your monthly payment will be a percentage of your income. Depending on the plan, that may be 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, or something else. What you ultimately pay depends on the plan you choose and when you borrowed, but in all cases, it should be something you can afford.
  • Your monthly payment amount will be lower than it would be under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan if you qualify to make payments based on your income. In fact, it could be as low as $0 per month!
  • Any remaining balance on your loans is forgiven if your federal student loans are not fully repaid at the end of the repayment period (20 or 25 years).

Income-driven repayment plans are a great option if you need lower monthly payments. However, like all benefits, there are also costs. All of these benefits will ultimately increase the amount of interest you pay over time. The income-driven repayment plans also have tax consequences for any forgiveness received.

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan now

If one of the income-driven repayment plans is not a good option for you, we offer other options. Your servicer can help you identify the best plan to fit your needs.

2. Consolidate your Student Loans

Loan consolidation can simplify your payments by combining multiple federal student loans into one loan. Consolidation can also lower your monthly payment.

Benefits:

  • Can lower your monthly payment by extending your repayment period (spreading your payment out over more years). The repayment term ranges from 10 to 30 years, depending on the amount of your consolidation loan, your other education loan debt, and the repayment plan you select.
  • Will allow you to qualify for additional repayment options. If you have FFEL or Direct PLUS Loans, consolidating your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan will allow you to qualify for additional repayment plans, such as the Pay As You Earn or Income-Contingent Repayment Plans, that you wouldn’t have qualified for if you hadn’t consolidated.
  • Your variable interest rate loans will switch to a fixed interest rate. It’s important to note that consolidation will lock-in interest rates on variable-rate loans, but will not lower them further. This would be a benefit if, like now, interest rates are low.

The benefits listed could provide relief to some borrowers. However, it’s important that you also weigh the costs before consolidating. For example, because you’re restarting and possibly extending your repayment period, you’ll pay more interest over time. Additionally, you may lose borrower benefits, such as interest rate discounts and loan cancellation benefits, offered with the original loans.

Apply for a direct consolidation loan now

3. Postpone your Payments

Under certain circumstances, you can receive a deferment or forbearance that allows you to temporarily postpone or reduce your federal student loan payments.

Deferment and forbearance may be a good option for you if you are temporarily having a difficult time paying back your student loans. Deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions. If you think you’ll have trouble paying back your loans for more than a year or you’re uncertain, you should consider an income-driven repayment plan or consolidation.

Benefits:

  • You do not need to make student loan payments during a deferment or forbearance.
  • The federal government may pay the interest on your loan during a period of deferment. This depends on the type of loans you have.

Again, deferment and forbearance are not good long-term solutions for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. Some reasons why:

  • With a deferment, interest will continue to be charged on your unsubsidized loans (or on any PLUS loans).
  • With a forbearance, interest will continue to be charged on all loan types, including subsidized loans.
  • The interest you accrue during periods of deferment or forbearance may be capitalized (added to your principal balance), and the amount you pay in the future will be higher.

If you can, you should consider making interest payments on your loans during periods of deferment or forbearance

To request a deferment or forbearance, contact your loan servicer

If you need help deciding which of these options is best for you, contact your loan servicer. They can help you weigh the different options based on your unique situation.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.