Summer Meals Kickoff

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about making sure children have access to healthy meals while school is out. Children who experience hunger in the summer are more likely to suffer from health problems and “summer learning loss,” which interfere with academic success.

Image for Summer Meal Kickoff

To close that gap, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to provide free meals to children when school is out for the summer.

Any child age 18 and under may go to a designated summer meal site and eat for free. This summer, meals will be served at various locations around the country, and the USDA is always seeking new partners to help spread the word and participate in the program.

For more information about helping ensure meals are available to low-income children in your community, visit the Summer Food Service Program page.

Also see the Economic Benefits of Summer Food interactive map.

Five Hot Homework Tips for Parents

Learning doesn’t stop when the last bell rings at school. When students bring work home, it is a great time for parents to play a role in their child’s education. Homework has many benefits, such as providing extra time for research or practice, helping students develop study skills and teaching time management skills. Here are five tips to help your child benefit by the time spent on assignments and maximize their learning.

  1. Boy ReadingStudy space: Set up a quiet, well-lit area for your child to complete his or her homework. Try to remove any distractions from the surrounding area, like televisions, computers (unless used for the assignment) and loud conversations.
  2. Imitation: Children imitate their parents. When your child is focusing on homework, join them in a similar, focused activity. Crack open a favorite novel while they complete their reading assignment, or balance your checkbook while they work through their multiplication tables.
  3. Time management: Teach your child how to manage their time. Schedule events, homework, and tasks at home. For instance, after school, set a specific time as “homework time” and for tasks at home give them time limits.
  4. Encourage independence: Some homework assignments are meant to be done by the student alone, and hovering can take away from the child’s learning process. Try to step back, and if intervention is really needed, make sure to provide guidance, not just answers.
  5. Tackle a challenge: Teach your child how to identify the difference between the “hard” homework questions and the “easy” ones. Have them set aside the easier questions for later and tackle the hard ones first

Click here for more homework tips for parents, and click here for the tips in Spanish.

Margaret Yau is a student at the University of California, San Diego, and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Resources for Parents following Traumatic Events

Here at the Department of Education, as elsewhere throughout America, our hearts ache for the Newtown, Conn., community. In a letter today to school districts around the country, Secretary Arne Duncan noted that, “Whenever a school experiences violence and the lives of children and adults are lost, we struggle to find words to express our emotions and explain how this could have happened.”

Mother talking with childMany parents and family friends are having a difficult time expressing their own feelings of anxiety, worry or sadness, and often we do not know how to talk with children about such a senseless and horrific tragedy.

Below is a list of resources specifically designed for parents and guardians to provide guidance on talking to children following a traumatic event.

For a complete list of resources visit ED’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, and read Secretary Duncan’s “Resources for Schools to Prepare for and Recover from Crisis.”

Click here for more information and to see documents in additional languages.

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

Duncan Tours Neighborhoods and Schools Impacted by Sandy

Duncan visits students on Staten IslandSecretary Duncan talks with students at PS 38 during a visit to Staten Island on Thursday. Photo by Andy Kropa for the U.S. Department of Education.

The wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy are long gone, but the physical devastation and the emotional wounds still linger in the neighborhoods of Staten Island, N.Y. During a visit to Staten Island schools on Thursday, Secretary Arne Duncan listened as students described—many with tear-filled eyes—how Hurricane Sandy has changed their lives. “We saw our house go under,” said one New Dorp High School student, explaining to Duncan that coming back to school and receiving love and support from her teachers has been a “big help.”

Duncan started the day by participating in a roundtable discussion with educators, parents and students at New Dorp High School.  The participants described the important role the school played during and after the hurricane. During the visit, Duncan tweeted that the stories had been heartbreaking and inspiring:

Following the roundtable discussion, Duncan toured the greatly damaged Midland Beach neighborhood with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, and then stopped at PS 38 where he participated in a Toys for Tots distribution for local families.

“Amazing students,” Duncan said of the visit. “I’m so thankful for the help they’ve received, and that they’re actively helping others. The principals and teachers in the schools I visited here have built a remarkable sense of community. The children know they are loved,” he said.

Click here for more information on how you can help the survivors of Hurricane Sandy, and find additional Sandy resources and help at


A New Framework: Improving Family Engagement

Duncan at Stanton

Secretary Duncan visited a classroom at DC’s Scholars Stanton Elementary School. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

For many, it’s just common sense. The more a student’s family is engaged in their child’s learning and in the improvement of their child’s school, the better off the student and the school. On Wednesday, Secretary Duncan joined more than 80 family engagement thought leaders at DC’s Scholars Stanton Elementary School to discuss the strong correlation between family engagement and academic outcomes, and how the Department of Education can provide more support.

Research supports the common sense idea that family plays a vital role in student performance. Yet despite the evidence and logic, many schools and educators struggle with how to cultivate and sustain effective family engagement initiatives. The Department of Education has taken some steps to provide more support in the area of family engagement, but Secretary Duncan readily admits that it hasn’t done enough.

As part of Wednesday’s event, Dr. Karen Mapp of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a consultant to Department, unveiled a draft framework of new ideas about the possible future direction and focus for family engagement at the Department of Education.

The framework had been a year in the making as Dr. Mapp met with a variety of senior staff members to gauge how a framework embedded with research and modeled after best practices would be operationalized at the Department.

Stanton Elementary is an example of how a school can build positive relationships with families and allow teachers to gain family support in and out of the classroom. Stanton’s family engagement strategy is the type of initiative the new framework would endorse. Through a partnership between the Flamboyan Foundation and Scholar Academies, Stanton utilizes Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT), replacing traditional parent-teacher conferences.

Panel at Stanton

Stanton Teacher Melissa Bryant explains how family engagement made her want to keep teaching. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

APTT, developed by Maria Paredes, brings parents into classroom more often than once a year and creates an environment where families work as a team to improve the class’s performance, sharing strategies for supporting their students at home and learning techniques from the classroom teacher. Teachers also visit their students’ families at home, too. Stanton’s success with APTT, as well as help from a Department of Education School Improvement Grant, has contributed to a dramatic increase in the academic performance of students and a cultural shift at the school.

During the visit, which included classroom visits, Secretary Duncan listened to a panel discussion with panelists Principal Caroline John, teachers Melissa Bryant and Megan Lucas, and parents Katrina Branch and Michael Hudson. The panelists spoke passionately in support of family engagement and how it has benefited the entire school community. Bryant said that family engagement “made me want to keep being a teacher.”

Mapp and ED will continue to receive feedback on the framework in the coming year. Stay tuned to the Homeroom Blog for future updates. You can also watch a short video of the APTT model at Stanton.

Education Drives America – Bus Tour Stops in the Midwest

Leaving the Rockies behind, this year’s Education Drives America back-to-school bus tour will head through the Great Plains and on to the Midwest with stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Here are the details released today:

Topeka – Sept. 18

Bus in rural area

ED's back-to-school bus tour--which includes a bus slightly larger than a school bus--will visit both rural and urban areas across the country.

With 1,800 miles of the tour down and 1,100 to go, Secretary Arne Duncan will start this leg of the tour with a visit to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan. Duncan and guests will honor the legacy of hope and courage represented by the U.S. Supreme Court case that ended legal segregation in the nation’s public schools.

Emporia – Sept. 18

After Topeka, Duncan will join National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel for a tour of the National Teacher Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kan. Duncan and Van Roekel will also hold a discussion with students, prospective teachers and community members at Emporia State University.

Kansas City – Sept. 18

Secretary Duncan and other senior Department officials will travel to Kansas City, Mo., where they will host a town hall on education and the Hispanic community at the Penn Valley campus of Metropolitan Community College. Read about additional events in the Kansas City region.

Columbia – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton will travel to Columbia, Mo., where they will participate in a video conference and roundtable discussion with local rural educators and participants in the eMINTS program (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies). The discussion will be held in the Ellis Library on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus.

St. Louis – Sept. 19

Following the visit to Columbia, Miller will host a town hall with community leaders, representatives of faith communities, school officials and students to discuss college access and affordability, especially for African-American students. The town hall will take place at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. He will highlight the Department’s efforts to support communities, states and local schools to reduce dropout rates and increase academic success for African-American students. There are many more events in the St. Louis area, read more.

Mt. Vernon – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary Tony Miller and Sue Liu, special assistant for community colleges in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, will travel to Continental Tire’s production facility in Mount Vernon, Ill., where they will tour the facility and lead a roundtable discussion with representatives from the company, Rend Lake College, and other local business and education leaders.

Evansville – Sept. 19

Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller will visit Glenwood Leadership Academy on Wednesday, Sept. 19 in Evansville, Ind., for a panel discussion on labor management collaboration and community partnership in education. The panel will include Miller, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, and local school officials. The audience will include teachers, union leaders, parents and community members.

Tomorrow we’ll be releasing the details of the bus’s final stops. For up-to-the-minute updates from the road, subscribe to our Education Drives America e-mail updates by clicking here.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement

6 More Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Visit the School

When visiting the school, walk or ride the route your child will take. Speak to your child about talking to strangers, and observe along the route any areas in which your child must exercise caution.

Look for the school patrols, crossing guard, or police officers on the streets near the school. Find out the school’s policy for early arrivals, and if needed, organize with other parents to have adults stationed outside the school to watch the children until the school allows them to enter.

Introduce Yourself

Back to School LogoFind out the school’s entrance procedure before visiting your child’s classroom, and how his/her teacher prefers to be contacted.

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Ask the teacher the times he/she is available to talk to parents.


Now that you know the teacher of your child, offer to help with class trips or with school activities. Are more books needed in the library? Offer to hold a book drive or find a company that will donate books.

Does the teacher need assistance with particular projects in the school? If time permits, offer to be a classroom parent or to organize other parents to help in the classroom or at the school. If you can’t make it to the classroom during school hours, ask if there are things you can do from home or on the weekends that would be helpful.

Afterschool and Extracurricular Activities

If the school offers afterschool and/or extra-curricular activities, find out ways you can assist. If the budget restricts afterschool activities, find ways you or members in the community could assist. 

Make Homework a Priority

Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework.

If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss his or her difficulty. Check with the counselor and the teacher about tutors to get your child help if needed.

Take Charge of TV

Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child’s life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.

When your child is watching TV, watch with him or her when you can. Talk together about what you see. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child’s everyday life.

When you can’t watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he or she is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.

 Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families

Rocky Mountain High – Details for Bus Tour Stops in WY and CO

ED’s third annual back-to-school bus tour is taking Secretary Duncan and top federal education officials across the country for a series of events and community conversations reinforcing the message that Education Drives America. Yesterday we provided details on our stops in California, Nevada and Utah. Here is additional information on our stops in Wyoming and Colorado:

Rock Springs – Sept. 14

After making their way across the deserts of Nevada and through the rugged mountains of Utah’s Wasatch Front, Under Secretary Martha Kanter and Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss will board the Education Drives America bus and head to the Equality State for a stop in Rock Springs, Wyo. Kanter and Weiss will tour career academies and participate in a roundtable discussion at Rock Springs High School. Read about other events in the Rocks Springs area.

Bus Tour MapRawlins – Sept. 14

Later that day, Kanter, Weiss and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White will visit the Carbon County Higher Education Center in Rawlins, Wyo., to participate in a roundtable discussion on the topic of distance learning, with an audience including Wyoming’s state and county school superintendents, local college leaders, and local community college students and teachers.

Cheyenne – Sept. 14

Under Secretary Kanter, and Chief of Staff Weiss will end the week by joining Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier on a visit to Laramie Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., to highlight education successes and lead community conversations about school reform, college affordability and completion, and the link between education and jobs. Read more about other events near Cheyenne.

Denver – Sept. 17

Secretary Arne Duncan will rejoin the Education Drives America tour on Monday, Sept. 17, and will start off with a visit to Lowery Elementary School in Denver, Colo. Duncan will participate in a “Let’s Move!” nutrition event and group fitness activity. Read about other tour events in the Denver area.

Limon – Sept. 17

Secretary Duncan will then make a stop at Limon Public School—a K-12 school—in Limon, Colo., addressing some 200 students, parents, teachers and community members at the school’s Constitution Day celebration.

Next stop, the Sunflower State. Details coming soon.

More specific details about these stops will become available as the time for the events draws closer. For live, up-to-the-minute updates from the road, follow the Education Drives America tour on Twitter using the hashtag #edtour12, and read more about the entire tour at

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

White House Honors Parents as Champions of Change

In a recent speech, Secretary Duncan noted that parents understand better than anyone how important it is that schools prepare students for success in life—not just with academic knowledge, but with the skills needed to succeed in jobs and to be an active participant in society.

Champions of Change logoParents and guardians are key to student achievement, which is why the White House recently recognized the importance of parental involvement by honoring 12 parents as “Champions of Change,” during a recent “PTA Day” at the White House. Over 175 PTA leaders from across the country met with senior officials from the White House and Department of Education to discuss the importance of family engagement.

Meet the 12 PTA Champions of Change. Click on each name to read about the Champion:

Melissa Kicklighterread her blog

Ana Chapmanread her blog

Calvin Endoread his blog

Emily Sackread her blog

Janelle Sperryread her blog

Deidre Pierceread her blog

Sam Macerread his blog

Anne Stafford  – read her blog

Sharon Whitworthread her blog

Sharon Meigh-Changread her blog

Carlina Brownread her blog

Mandy Pattersonread her blog

Visit ED’s new Parents & Family page, and sign up for email updates from our parent engagement team.


5 Ways to Help Your Child Prevent Bullying this School Year

As children head back to the classroom, now is a great time for parents and guardians to talk with your kids about bullying. Here are five tips to help your child prevent bullying and to help them deal with bullying:

Back to School Logo1)     Establish lines of communication and talk for at least 15 minutes a day. Bullying can be difficult for parents to talk about, but it is important that children know they can talk to you, before they are involved in bullying in any way. and our partners at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have easy tips and tools that can help start the conversation.

2)     Make sure kids know safe ways to be more than a bystander. When kids witness bullying, it can affect them too. Helping kids learn what they can do to help when they see bullying can help to stop bullying. Click here for more suggestions on how bystanders can help.

3)     Know your state’s anti-bullying law and your school’s anti-bullying policy. Forty-nine states have laws requiring schools to have anti-bullying policies. Know what your school policy says and how to report an incident of bullying if you ever need to.

4)     Learn how to support kids involved in bullying. When you find out your child is involved in bullying, it is important to know how to respond. Whether your child is bullying others or is the one being bullied it is important to know what steps to take, and which to avoid, in order to resolve the situation.

5)     Take an active role in anti-bullying initiatives. The key to addressing bullying is to stop it before it starts. Work with your children, their school, and the community to raise awareness and take action against bullying. Toolkits like the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Community Action Training Modules can help you start an initiative in your community. You can get your children involved, too, by using the Youth Leaders Toolkit to help them mentor younger children.

Visit for more helpful tips on how to prevent bullying, and have a great school year!

Deborah Temkin is a Research and Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives at the Department of Education

Cities Announced! 2012 Back-to-School Bus Tour

Bus Tour MapEarlier today, Secretary Arne Duncan announced ED’s third back-to-school bus tour. The tour, themed Education Drives America, will take Duncan and senior ED leaders across the country, with stops in the following cities:

    • Secretary Duncan in front of last year's bus

      Secretary Duncan in Pittsburgh kicking off last year's back-to-school bus tour. Official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams

      Redwood City, Calif.

    • Sacramento, Calif.
    • Reno, Nev.
    • Elko, Nev.
    • Salt Lake City
    • Rawlins, Wyo.
    • Rock Springs, Wyo.
    • Cheyenne
    • Denver
    • Limon, Colo.
    • Topeka, Kan.
    • Emporia, Kan.
    • Kansas City, Mo.
    • Columbia, Mo.
    • St. Louis
    • Mt. Vernon, Ill.
    • Evansville, Ind.
    • Lexington, Ky.
    • Charleston, W.Va.
    • McDowell County, W.Va.
    • Roanoke, Va.
    • Richmond, Va.
    • Washington, DC

The tour will highlight education successes and bring communities together to talk about P-12 school reform, college affordability and the link between education and jobs.

Last year’s tour took ED through the Midwest, and in 2010 Duncan and staff visited the South and the Northeast.

Secretary Duncan will lead the tour from Redwood City through Reno, Denver through Kansas City, and Charleston through Washington. Deputy Secretary Tony Miller and Under Secretary Martha Kanter will also lead portions of the tour.

More details on each stop will be announced in the coming weeks. To receive updates about the tour, SIGN UP for our Education Drives America email list.

Cameron Brenchley is Director of Digital Engagement

Check Out ED’s New Parents & Families Page

The Department of Education is proud to announce the launch of a new parent web page that provides resources aimed at parent and family engagement. This new addition to ED’s site is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more and getting involved in their child’s education. To make it even simpler, here’s a list of some of the great things this new page has to offer:

School Crosswalk Sign1.     On the Blog

Find links to posts on ED’s Homeroom Blog that deal specifically with parents, families, and engagement.

2.     Email Updates

Enter your email address to receive updates from ED’s parent engagement team.

 3.     Parent and Family Involvement Topics

The parent page provides a list of links to a number of parent and family involvement topics, such as special education, college, bullying, Promise Neighborhoods, and more.

 4.     Further Resources

Click on any of the links below the Resources subheading to learn about how to collaborate with ED or to participate in family engagement in other ways, like ED webinars or parent forums. You will also see links to our publications and newsletters focused on parents and families, such as Parent Power and Engaging Families.

Get started today by visiting

Alexandra Strott is a student at Middlebury College and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach