Privacy & Transparency: New Resources for Schools and Districts

We all know how important it is for parents to have open lines of communication with their children’s school. Parents want to be champions for their children and to protect their interests and to do this they need information. When it comes to information that is stored digitally, parents often ask questions such as:

  • What information are you collecting about my child?
  • Why do you need that information, and what do you use it for?
  • How do you safeguard my child’s information?

I’m pleased to announce the release of new Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) guidance regarding transparency best practices for schools and districts. This document provides a number of recommendations for keeping parents and students informed about schools’ and districts’ collection and use of student data.

The recommendations can be divided into three main categories: what information schools and districts ought to communicate to parents; how to convey that information in an understandable way; and how to respond to parent inquiries about student data policies and practices.

Some of the best practices covered in the document include:

  • making information about student data policies and practices easy to find on districts’ and schools’ public webpages
  • publishing a data inventory that details what information schools and districts collect about students, and what they use it for
  • explaining to parents what, if any, personal information is shared with third parties and for what purposes
  • using communication strategies that reduce the complexity of the information, and telling parents where they can get more detailed information if they want it.

The document also encourages schools and districts to be proactive when it comes to communicating about how they use student data.

We’re also pleased to direct you to the new website for our FERPA compliance office, the Family Policy Compliance Office, or FPCO. The new website is more user-friendly and will help school officials, parents, and students find the information they are looking for. It’s still a work in progress and we have many new features that we hope to launch in the coming weeks. We will soon begin posting FPCO’s decision letters from prior complaints and we will be launching an online community of practice for school officials to share information, templates, and lessons learned.

Kathleen M. Styles is Chief Privacy Officer at the U.S. Department of Education.

El Departamento de Educación publica el Proyecto para la Participación de los Padres y la Comunidad

El cuarto trimestre del año escolar es generalmente un tiempo de preparación en las escuelas y distritos, ya que se planifican los presupuestos, los horarios escolares, y el desarrollo profesional para el próximo año. En este período de preparación, es importante que las escuelas y distritos discutan cómo apoyar a los padres y a la comunidad para que puedan contribuir al éxito estudiantil.

Para ayudar en esta labor, el Departamento de Educación de EE.UU. se enorgullece en presentar su proyecto para que las escuelas y las comunidades puedan promover la participación de los padres y la comunidad. fce-frameworkEn nuestro país, menos del 25 por ciento de los residentes son menores de 18 años[1], y todos tenemos la responsabilidad de ayudar a que las escuelas tengan éxito. El proyecto de Capacidad Dual es un proceso que muestra a las escuelas y al personal de los distritos cómo promover de manera eficaz la participación de los padres en las escuelas para aumentar el rendimiento estudiantil, y también proporciona un modelo que las escuelas y los distritos pueden utilizar para fomentar la participación de la comunidad, y para que las escuelas sean el centro de nuestras comunidades.

En mi ciudad natal de Baltimore hay un buen ejemplo de cómo los elementos del proyecto pueden conducir a mejorar la participación. Las Escuelas Públicas de la Ciudad de Baltimore dio apoyo a 12,000 hogares con niños en kindergarten y preescolar para involucrar a las familias en las prácticas de alfabetización en el hogar. Cada semana los estudiantes recibieron una bolsa con diferentes libros infantiles galardonados. Así, los niños leyeron aproximadamente 100 libros durante el año. Además de la repartición de libros, también se dio información de capacitación a los padres y cómo compartir los libros para promover la alfabetización en la primera infancia y fomentar el amor por el aprendizaje. Con el programa, las familias también se conectan con las bibliotecas públicas y escolares. Al concluir el programa, los niños reciben su propia bolsa para guardar sus libros y continuar la práctica de préstamo de libros y el hábito de la lectura.

Para obtener más información sobre el Proyecto de Capacidad Dual, y un video presentado por el secretario de Educación, Arne Duncan, por favor revise detenidamente nuestro sitio web, http://www.ed.gov/family-and-community-engagement. En los próximos meses, proporcionaremos recursos e información adicional para que las escuelas, distritos, comunidades y padres puedan aprender más sobre cómo participar en la educación, y cómo compartir la maravillosa labor que desarrolla la capacidad de los padres, escuelas y la comunidad en el apoyo a todos los estudiantes.

Jonathan Brice, subsecretario, Oficina de Educación Primaria y Secundaria, Departamento de Educación de EE.UU.


[1] http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=PEP_2012_PEPAGESEX&prodType=table

Department of Education Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework

The fourth quarter of the school year is generally a time of preparation for schools and districts as they finalize next year’s budget, student and teacher schedules, and professional development for the upcoming school year. During this time of preparation, it is important that schools and districts discuss ways that they can support parents and the community in helping students to achieve success.

fce-framework graphicTo help in this work, the U.S. Department of Education is proud to release a framework for schools and the broader communities they serve to build parent and community engagement. Across the country, less than a quarter of residents are 18 years old or younger, and all of us have a responsibility for helping our schools succeed. The Dual Capacity framework, a process used to teach school and district staff to effectively engage parents and for parents to work successfully with the schools to increase student achievement, provides a model that schools and districts can use to build the type of effective community engagement that will make schools the center of our communities.

An example of how the elements of the framework can lead to improved engagement is exhibited in my hometown of Baltimore. Baltimore City Public Schools worked to support 12,000 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten homes, and to engage families in home-based literacy practices. Each week students received a different bag filled with award-winning children’s books, exposing children, on average, to more than 100 books per year. The book rotation also includes parent training and information on how to share books effectively to promote children’s early literacy skills and nurture a love of learning. Through the program, families are also connected with their local public and school libraries. At the culmination of the program, children receive a permanent bag to keep and continue the practice of borrowing books and building a lifelong habit of reading.

For more information on the Dual Capacity Framework, as well as an introductory video from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, please take some time and review our website at www.ed.gov/family-and-community-engagement. In the coming months, we will provided additional resources and information, so that schools, districts, communities, and parents can learn more about family and community engagement, as well as, share the wonderful work they are doing to build parent, school, and community capacity that supports all students.

Read a Spanish version of this post.

Jonathan Brice is deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Stopping the Summer Slide

Summer is the perfect time for students of all ages to relax, but it’s also a time when summer learning loss can occur. This learning loss is called the “summer slide,” and happens when children do not engage in educational activities during the summer months.

Let's Read Event

Members of the Washington Kastles get kids moving during the Department of Education’s annual Let’s Read, Let’s Move event. The events focus on keeping children’s minds and bodies active during the summer.

While summer vacation is months away, many parents are starting to plan for summer now. As you’re thinking about your plans for the upcoming summer break, we’ve gathered a few ideas and activities that you and your children – no matter their ages – can complete throughout the summer.

For Elementary and Middle School Students:

  • Parents of younger students can create a summer reading list with their children, and then reward them when they finish each book.
  • Additionally, parents can encourage their kids to think outside of the box with arts and crafts. Sites such as kids.gov and NGA Kids have great ideas that will let any child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity.
  • Summertime can be a great time to teach healthy eating habits. Parents can get ideas for tasty and nutritious meals at Let’s Move! and kidshealth.org. There is also information available about the USDA Summer Food Program, which was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

For High School Students:

  • Summer can be the perfect time for high school-aged children to prepare for college, and setting aside at least one day a week to keep math and science skills fresh is an excellent way to start off the summer. Local libraries are an excellent place to find books full of practice problems – and they’re quiet and often air-conditioned too!
  • Summer is also a good time to sit down and discuss financial aid and other expenses. Our Office of Federal Student Aid has prepared checklists geared toward students of all ages.
  • Many high school students might also want to take the time to start developing their professional resumes. Finding a part-time job can help students gain valuable experience and line their pockets with a bit of extra cash.  Visit www.wh.gov/youthjobs for more information.
  • Volunteering is also an option. Youth-oriented summer camps, local museums, animal shelters and, of course, libraries are often looking for extra help during warmer months. This experience is not only valuable for personal and professional development, but it often looks good on college applications. Find opportunities at volunteer.gov.

Share your own summer tips and resources with the hashtag #SummerSuccess on Twitter, and look for more information from the U.S. Department of Education in the coming months as we count down to Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20.

Dorothy Amatucci is a new media analyst in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Taking Time to Talk with Your Child about Tests

Assessments are part of life at school, but they don’t have to be a source of stress. Helping your child prepare properly for an exam is important, and the conversation doesn’t have to stop after the test is complete.

PencilsBelow are some tips parents might consider discussing with their child:

  • Let your child know that you are proud of his/her achievements and together you will work on troublesome subject matter.
  • Learn about the type of tests the classroom teacher is using to prepare the children for the tests.
  • Learn about the type of tests the school, district, and state are using to measure the achievement of your child.
  • Find the school, district, or state website for information on the test. Samples of previous tests given may also be found at the website.  Use as practice items for your child to prepare them.
  • Be familiar with the terms used on the test (such as proficient, percentile, and norm-referenced) and be prepared to ask what those terms mean when talking with the classroom teacher, counselor, or principal.
  • If needed, schedule a meeting with the teacher to discuss your child’s test results.
  • Ask your child’s teacher for tips and ideas about working with your child at home. Are there specific packets or materials available that will help your child improve?
  • Ask the teacher if a private tutor might be available. Are there resources the teacher can provide?
  • Create a plan with the teacher to periodically check on your child’s progress in deficient areas.

Involvement before and after any test can help children achieve their goals in the 21st century classroom.

Check out our Parent Power booklet for more information. Additional practice information can be found at the NCES Kids’ Zone.

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

Helping Your Student Plan for College and a Career

Preparation is the key to success in any task, and preparing for success in college and careers should start as early as possible. This is not a task that children can do alone: a parent’s guidance and direction is needed. And, it’s never too soon to start planning for a bright future.

Help your children take the right steps to apply for the college, university, or technical training program of their choice, so they can move forward on the path to a fulfilling career.

Below is a list of things you can do together.

Read More

Parents: Tips To Help Your Child Complete the FAFSA

Parent Blog Image

If you’re a parent of a college bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming.  Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size?  How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year?  Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:

Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?

While we provide over $150 billion in financial aid each year, the federal student aid programs are based on the assumption that it is primarily your and your child’s responsibility to pay for college.  If your child was born after January 1, 1991 then most likely he or she is considered a dependent student and you’ll need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM).

Who’s considered a parent when completing the FAFSA?

If you need to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help you:

  • If your legal parents (your biological and/or adoptive parents) are married to each other, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If your legal parents are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
  • If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
  • If your parents are divorced or separated, follow these guidelines.

More information on who’s considered the parent can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/1fdcCy2

Who’s considered part of the household?

When completing your child’s FAFSA, you should include parents, any dependent student(s) and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you in the household size.  Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.

Do I need to wait until I file my income taxes?

In some states there are deadlines for additional monies so you’ll want to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st.  You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return.  If you haven’t done your taxes by the time you complete the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed.  After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information.  If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.

Do I need to do this every year?

Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid.  The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!

What else do I need to know before I begin?

You’ll need to get a PIN and have all the necessary documents before you begin.  Here’s a handy checklist: http://studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out

Susan Thares is Digital Engagement Lead at the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.

Five Tips to Keep Kids Learning During the Holidays

Holiday and winter breaks are just weeks away, and while students and teachers will get a well-deserved break from the classroom, it doesn’t mean children need to stop learning. Here are a few tips to keep children’s minds sharp and challenged during their break, and it might just prevent cabin fever:

    • ReadingAsk your child’s teacher or search online for worksheets or projects that can be done over the holidays. For 20 to 30 minutes a day, review with your child math concepts, spelling words, or sentence structure. You can also work together in starting a cool science project.
    • Have your child read to you daily from the newspaper, a magazine, or excerpts from their favorite book, and let your child see you reading.
    • Use the winter break to strengthen your child’s vocabulary. This is a perfect time to start a treasure chest of words, by having your child look up new words, then write the word and definition on 3×5 cards. Use the word in a sentence or have them write a story based on the word. This exercise will reinforce reading comprehension and writing skills.
    • Give your child an opportunity to appreciate the arts by attending free events like concerts or plays during the holidays, or stop by a local museum.
    • Give a book or educational gift that will keep on giving throughout the year.

Don’t forget to thank your child’s teacher with a special present, gift card or note before the holiday break.

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

Family and Community Engagement: The Ultimate Back-to-School Supply

In the last few months, all across the country, millions of students headed back to school. For many, this was a season of memorable experiences: having their fathers accompany them to their classrooms on the first day, pick them up from their first afterschool activity, and help them study for their first test. Activities like these highlight an important pillar of this Administration’s education agenda: encouraging caring adults – especially parents, and dads in particular – to take an interest in the academic performance of every child.

Family and parent engagement is a leading driver in students’ academic success. Research has linked meaningful family engagement to results like improved grades, higher achievement test scores, lower drop-out rates, increased confidence and ability to learn, and a stronger sense of the value of education.  For these and many other reasons, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supports opportunities for fathers, families and communities to engage with students throughout the school year.

Last December, the Department released a draft framework emphasizing the importance of building effective school, family and community partnerships to support learning and development for children. Created at the Department’s request by Dr. Karen Mapp, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this framework encourages schools and districts to include parents and families as partners in the learning process. The framework suggests strategies like professional development, effective communication, and engagement strategies directly tied to student learning, as ways to work meaningfully with families. And, this is a two-way partnership. It’s vital to equip districts, school leaders, teachers and school staff to work with families.  It’s equally important for families to feel comfortable and welcome in their children’s schools, and to play an active role in supporting their academic success.

Read More

Cities Announced! 2013 Back-to-School Bus Tour

Bus Tour MapIt’s back-to-school time, which means that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior ED officials are hitting the road once again for the Department’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run September 9-13 and includes visits to states throughout the Southwest with stops in the following cities:

  • Santa, Fe, N.M.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Socorro, N.M.
  • El Paso, Texas
  • Columbus, N.M.
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Tempe, Ariz.
  • Phoenix
  • Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Yuma, Ariz.
  • Chula Vista, Calif.

Each stop will highlight the importance of ensuring that all students benefit from high-quality educational opportunities, including Preschool for Allcollege affordabilityConnectEDfirst-term education efforts, and comprehensive immigration reform’s impact on education.

This is the fourth back-to-school bus tour for Secretary Duncan. Last year, the Department’s tour took us coast to coast, in 2011, the tour rolled through the Midwest, and in 2010, Duncan and his team visited the South and the Northeast.

Check back soon for additional information on the tour, or simply sign up to receive Strong Start, Bright Future tour updates in your email inbox.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Get in Gear for the New School Year: Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Back to school stamp
It’s almost that time of year again. Yes, in a few weeks school will be back in session. Is your child ready to succeed? Are you ready to help?

It’s a fact: Parents who play an active role in their children’s education make a huge difference in their success. Here are some things you can do to help your child prepare for the upcoming school year:

  • Get the children to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your child get used to the back-to-school routine: start the transition now to earlier wake-up times and bedtimes. For more information, visit: http://www.ed.gov/parents/countdown-success
  • Communicate with teachers and the school. Contact your child’s teachers at the start of the school year. Get acquainted with them and let them know you want to be an active partner in helping your student to learn and grow. Plan to keep track of your child’s subjects, homework, activities and progress throughout the school year. And, consider serving on your local PTA or joining other parent groups that engage with and support your child’s school. For additional ideas, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/succeed/succeed.pdf
  • Provide for healthy meals. Hungry kids can’t concentrate on learning, so good nutrition plays an important role in your child’s school performance. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any Child Nutrition Programs, like the National School Lunch Program. Learn more at: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Back-to-School.shtml
  • Take your child to the doctor, and make sure your child has health insurance coverage. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements. And, always keep your own copies of any medical records. What’s more, you can explore and choose the most affordable health insurance options, including free and low-cost coverage for those who quality for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Find more student health resources at: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Back-to-School.shtml
  • Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.
  • Read Together. Take the pledge to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.

Diondra Hicks is a student at Georgetown University and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Free of Fear, Violence, and Bullying

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and staff from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently released an “It Gets Better” video to address the importance of fostering safe spaces for learning across the country. Part of the Department’s initiative is ensuring that students are protected from the harmful effects of bullying within their communities.

Home | StopBullying.govOne of the tools available to help is StopBullying.gov. The site offers a variety of resources for students, teachers, and parents to help with conflict resolution, provide support to those affected by bullying, and promote general acceptance within their local communities for the upcoming school year and beyond. Here are few tips from the site that you might find helpful:

    1. Assessing Bullying and Aiding in Conflict Resolution: It is important to confront bullying at its source and address conflicts between students as responsibly as possible. StopBullying.gov is a fantastic resource for understanding how parents, educators, teens and kids can all play a role in understanding bullying, stopping it at its source and keeping it from escalating further.
    2. Providing Support: It is critical to provide a strong support structure and network of allies for victims of bullying within local communities. Responding to bullying appropriately is critical for the well-being of all students involved.
      • Stop bullying on the spot by intervening and supporting those being bullied immediately if possible.
      • Find out what happened. Determining what actually occurred can help you best support victims of bullying.
      • Support the kids involved, whether this means simply communicating to victims of bullying that it is not their fault, or helping them gain access to counseling or mental health services to cope with the effects of bullying.
      • Be more than a bystander by being an ally to victims of bullying by reporting abuse, helping to resolve a situation, or by simply being a good friend.
    3. Promoting and Guaranteeing Acceptance in Your Community: While bullying in your community may be a local issue, there are many state and federal laws that protect victims of bullying.
      • There are a variety of laws that protect victims of bullying across the country against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion. It is important for students and parents to know their rights and seek out the appropriate support if they feel that their or their child’s civil rights have been violated.
      • Students who identify as LGBT or youth with special needs are more likely to be targets of bullying and have a greater chance of feeling subjugated as an effect. It is important to support the individual needs of these students and there are resources available to help fight for the rights of these groups specifically.
      • Creating student-led organizations such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or Diversity organizations, something that Secretary Duncan underscored on National GSA Day, can help provide critical support for students who feel like they have nowhere else to go. The Equal Access Act of 1984 and many state and local laws guarantee the right to create these types of groups in schools if student need is demonstrated.

We hope that these resources can aid in stopping bullying at its source and give victims strategies to combat bullying, help individuals stand up to injustice in their communities, and ultimately improve the welfare of students.

Secretary Duncan recently noted that “all of us here at the Department of Education are committed to making sure that young people today can grow up free of fear, violence, and bullying and do everything we can to protect them.”

Adam Sperry is a student at New York University and a current intern in the Office of Communication & Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.