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President Obama Announces ConnectED Initiative

We live in a highly connected world, but unfortunately, many of our students aren’t attending class in highly connected schools. Recent data suggests that 80 percent of K-12 schools do not have the infrastructure to access broadband Internet, meaning they don’t have the basic foundation to support digital learning in the 21st century. It also means the nation’s teachers don’t have access to tools to support their instruction or bring new technology into their classrooms.

Yesterday, President Obama called on the federal government, states and districts, rural and urban communities alike, and the private sector to tackle this problem together, as he outlined his ConnectED initiative. All children in the nation need to be career and college ready, prepared with knowledge and armed with 21st-century skills. ConnectED will help to ensure that this happens by bringing high-speed Internet within their reach.

Read more about Bringing America’s Students into the Digital Age, from the White House’s Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Munoz, and the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling. Also, click here to read an overview on closing the broadband gap by the Acting Director of the Office of Education Technology, Richard Culatta.

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i3 Projects Look Back on Progress and Lessons Learned

“We’re in the middle of the work and it’s a time to look back, also see the finish line, review data we’ve gathered, and do some reflecting,” is how Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton began a May 30th Education Policy Briefing i3 grantee representatives (left to right) Justin Jones (The Achievement Network), Debbie Kasak (Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network), and Robert Balfanz (Diplomas Now) with Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton. that featured three Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees whose work began two-and-one-half years ago. All are working to improve student achievement in low-performing schools with the support of national reform networks.

The grantees ─ Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network; Diplomas Now; and The Achievement Network ─ shared data and lessons learned with an audience of both ED staff and interested stakeholders that included the International Reading Association, the Learning First Alliance, the National PTA, the National Title I Association, and the Rural Education Trust.

The School Transformation Network i3 project is building on the Schools to Watch (STW) initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform that began in 2002 to recognize academically excellent and socially equitable middle schools. With an i3 Development grant, the National Forum is engaging 18 high-poverty, low-performing middle schools in three states to adapt some of the core ideas that drove the Schools to Watch initiative and apply them to school turnaround.

Military-Connected Student Wins National Art Contest

The Google Doodle seen by millions on Google's home page on May 23rd was created by Sabrina Brady, a 12th-grade student from Sparta, Wis. Sabrina’s interpretation of the letters in Google was inspired by the day she was reunited with her father after he returned home from an 18-month tour in Iraq.

This year, Google hosted its sixth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. They received more than 130,000 submissions and after millions of votes, Sabrina's submission, "Coming Home," was named the 2013 Doodle 4 Google National Winner. She, along with four finalists from different age groups, will receive college scholarships; Sabrina will use hers when she attends the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.

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OII Staff Shadow Teachers to Appreciate Their Work

The U.S. Department of Education celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) with a variety of events and outreach. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) kicked off the week with a Google+ Hangout. At the end of the week, the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized ED Goes Back to School Day. More than 60 staff from the Department visited schools and shadowed teachers across the D.C. metropolitan area on Thursday, May 9, 2013. OII was fortunate to be hosted by eight teachers in schools in D.C.

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Update on OII’s 2013 Grant Competitions

This year (fiscal year 2013, or FY13, which runs through September 30, 2013), the Office of Innovation and Improvement will be running six grant competitions: Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination, Charter Schools Program Non-SEA, Investing in Innovation (i3), Magnet Schools Assistance Program, School Leadership Program, and Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED). Five of the six competitions are already underway, and we anticipate launching the sixth—the Charter Schools Program Non-SEA competition—shortly.

OII is excited about these six competitions. Our grant competitions showcase some of the most interesting and innovative efforts taking place in schools and districts across country, and we are always thrilled to support the great work that is underway. However, due to the amount of funding made available under the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution, we expect to award fewer grants in these competitions than originally planned. In addition, we are unable to conduct a competition in the Promise Neighborhoods program.

Please continue to use the OII homepage as a resource for information, for updates on our grant competitions, and for stories from us and our grantees.

Feature: Wolf Trap Institute Unites the Arts and STEM in Early Childhood Learning

Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman leads a preschool class in movement as part of the Early STEM/Arts Program. (Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.)When Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Amanda Layton Whiteman arrives at the preschool classroom, all the children are excited that it’s time for dance — and for math. The teacher is amazed at how much the children love math, she tells Whiteman. She’s astonished that certain children who once showed little interest in school are absorbed and attentive during the classroom residency sessions. What’s happening in this Fairfax, Va., classroom to spark such a change?

Working side by side with the teacher in the classroom twice a week for approximately eight weeks to introduce the children to early math concepts through dance, Whiteman’s challenge is to “put math in their bodies.” How, she’s asked herself, can she use dance to help them make connections to math concepts?

Whiteman leads the young learners in the dance experiences they love to do, knowing they’re making important discoveries in the process. When she asks them to make a curvy or angular shape with their arms, they’re grasping the earliest concepts of geometry, while also learning to regulate their own bodies. When she asks them to alternate making high shapes and low shapes, they gain the vital math skill of pattern recognition as well as learning to create a dance phrase.

Assistant Deputy Secretary Helps Kick-off Teacher Appreciation Week

Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, participated in a Google+ Hangout on Monday, May 6, 2013, as part of the kick-off to 2013’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The panel discussion, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and moderated by Tamron Hall of NBC News, celebrated African American educators and explored issues in education pertinent to all teachers, including the challenges they face in preparing students for college and careers.

“One of the things we have to recognize overall is that in order for teachers to be successful, the context has to be right for them to do their best work,” Jim Shelton observed. The discussion, he said, is about “what kind of support and resources we can give them, what kind of school environments they operate in, … as well as what the individual teachers do.”

To read more about and watch an archived version of the Hangout, click here.

National Charter Schools Week Proclaimed by President Obama

Charter schools play an important role in America meeting its obligation to “equip all our students with the education and skills that put them on the path to a bright future,” according to President Barack Obama, in proclaiming May 5 through 11 as National Charter Schools Week, 2013. 

America’s approximately 6,000 charter schools are “learning laboratories [that] give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers,” according to President Obama.

i3 Scale-up and Validation Competitions Commence

This morning, the Department of Education announced the release of the Notices Inviting Applicants to the i3 program’s competition in the Scale-up and Validation categories.

Earlier this spring, the Department began the 2013 i3 competition with the release of the Notice of Final Priorities and the Notice Inviting Applicants to submit pre-applications for the Development category. Nearly 600 pre-applications were received.

Potential applicants for the Scale-up and Validation categories have until July 2, 2013, to submit an application. Click here for more information about the i3 program and competition.

Flint Arts on the Road Brings a Community Together for Education

The U.S. Department of Education was proud to host the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint School of Performing Arts, Flint Youth Theatre, and Tapology for the Flint Arts on the Road student art exhibit, which opened on April 22. Flint Arts on the Road is the first initiative of Flint Cultural Center institutions to produce cross-disciplinary collaborative programming showcasing the special talents of exceptional students in the visual and performing arts. The visit to D.C. for the opening also provided them a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience as they met and performed with their peers at several D.C.-area arts education institutions.
Flint Arts on the Road participants.

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