On Friday, Oct. 12, the U.S. Department of Education was fortunate to host the ninth annual Student Art Exhibit opening of works by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers (AYAW) 2012 Scholastic Award winners. Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement, welcomed hundreds of guests—students, teachers, parents, policymakers, leaders from both public and private arts and education organizations, and other stakeholders—to celebrate in person the more than 50 young artists and writers whose works are in the exhibit.
For each of the last three years, Secretary Duncan has started the school year with a bus tour visiting schools and communities across the country to find what’s working in education and to hear the concerns, insights, and lessons learned from students, teachers, principals, parents, and the communities supporting them. It’s always a welcome grounding in “real education” — the kind that children and families experience everyday — versus the “education system” policymakers and pundits love to caricature and debate.
This year, I participated more fully than I have in years past — visiting schools, grantees, education reformers, and advocates in California, Missouri, and Kentucky.
On September 27th, the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) hosted the 8th Annual Private School Leadership Conference at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year, the invitation-only event brings together 100 of the nation’s top private and home school educational leaders from across the country. We also welcomed representatives from state education agencies who are responsible for administering federal education programs on behalf of private school students. The conference provides a forum to address Department of Education programs and initiatives, listen to the concerns of the nonpublic school community, highlight innovative practices, and facilitate discourse between the Department and nonpublic school leaders.
(September 27, 2012) The U.S. Department of Education announced grants totaling more than $14.4 million to support high-quality charter schools in more than 25 communities across the country. As a result of today’s grants, an additional 20,000 students in schools in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia, will have access to a quality education in charter schools.
Through this funding, Democracy Prep Public Schools will receive more than $4.1 million for the first two years of a five-year grant, and the KIPP Foundation will receive more than $10.3 million for the first two years of a four-year grant. Both organizations will be able to continue and expand their work in schools that have demonstrated success in improving education outcomes for students.
OII’s Investing in Innovation program—better known as i3—is among 111 Bright Ideas recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Now in its third year, Bright Ideas recognizes efforts from all government levels, including school districts, county, city, state, and federal agencies as well as public-private partnerships, that demonstrate “a creative range of solutions to issues such as urban and rural degradation, environmental problems, and the academic achievement of students.”
(September 19, 2012) The U.S. Department of Education today awarded a grant of $6,640,000 to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to implement and expand its efforts in arts education and arts integration at the national level. Beginning with the first year of a three-year program, this grant will allow all children access to the life-changing benefits of an arts education.
“The study of the arts can significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds that students will go on to graduate from college,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a knowledge-based, global economy.”
Solving pressing education problems at scale, managing challenges posed by geography, engaging the community in school improvement, and sustaining reform efforts beyond federal project funding —these topics and more were tackled by i3 (Investing in Innovation) project directors and other key leaders who gathered in Washington, D.C., this past July. The i3 team held this second annual Project Directors Meeting on July 19-20, bringing together Department staff, i3 project directors and project personnel from the 2010 and 2011 grantee cohorts. Project evaluators and education leaders were also important contributors to this event. The event provided the grantees a range of experiences designed to assist them in their work as OII grantees and to help them build relationships with other i3 projects and personnel.
For those who received i3 support in FY 2011, the opportunity to get advice and guidance from their FY 2010 peers was invaluable. “It was especially great to hear that others were facing some of the same challenges I face,” said first-year project director Toria Williams of the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools.
Last Monday, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and committee member Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored a briefing on innovation in public education through the use of learning technologies. More than 50 Senate staff members came to hear from a panel I moderated that featured leaders in the ed tech field.
The panelists, Dr. Stephen Elliott (founding director of the Learning Sciences Institute at Arizona State University), Jennie Niles (founder of the DC-based E.L. Haynes Public Charter School), and Jeremy Roberts (director of technology for PBS Kids Interactive), all concurred that the promise of technology to transform education has fallen short of expectations for the past two to three decades. However, they also all agree that we are finally at a time where many factors are converging to overcome historic barriers: increasingly ubiquitous broadband, cheaper devices, digital content, cloud computing, big data, and generally higher levels of comfort with technology among the general population.
In the past 10 years, the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) and Professional Development for Art Educators (PDAE) grant programs have unleashed the creative minds of students, deepened their learning experiences in core academic subjects through arts integration, and enhanced the knowledge and skills of teachers to meet high standards in the arts. Both programs emphasize collaborations between school districts and non-profit organizations that result in a well-rounded education for all students as well as greater student engagement across the curriculum and increased school attendance by both students and teachers. In addition, AEMDD projects, using rigorous evaluation measures, have documented gains in academic achievement by students involved in arts-integrated teaching and learning compared to their peers.
My intern experience at the Department of Education was one that I will never forget! I never thought that as a high school senior I would have an opportunity to intern in a Federal Government agency, editing videos, creating stories, doing live video streams, and plenty of other media-related activities that I desire to pursue in my career. During my time here I have met and worked with fabulous people. It has definitely been a learning experience because it gave me a chance to be professional and independent. I actually felt like a full-time employee. I was able to do assignments for the Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) and the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), which was great; I even used my media skills in OCO to produce a video for OII.
My first day as an intern I didn’t know what to expect, but I was eager to write, begin working with the cameras, and meet new people. I didn’t know very much about the Department, but I knew by being there I would learn plenty more. This eagerness brought success and all my wishes for a career internship came true, plus more! Being at the Department of Education well exceeded my expectations.