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How Our Blueprint Supports Teachers

As I've mentioned before, one of the perks of this job is that I get to meet with teachers from all across the country. I've met with many teachers who are supportive of this Administration's proposals. But I've also heard from teachers who question how this Administration’s proposals will actually help them in their day-to-day roles. I want to address these teachers with this post today, because I truly believe our Blueprint for Reform is built to support teachers as they develop and strengthen their craft.

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Recovering Dropouts and Re-engaging Students in Pharr, Texas

I recently learned more about a school in Parr, Texas that is doing extraordinary work with dropout recovery and providing young people with a second chance at a high school diploma. The College, Career, and Technology Academy, or CC&T Academy, is part of a comprehensive approach by the Pharr-San Juan Alamo Independent School District to addressing the dropout problem.

Grad Nation Report and School Turnarounds

In case you haven’t heard, America's Promise Alliance released their Building a Grad Nation Report last week. While the report gives us some good news, it also lets us know that we have a long way to go before the US can reclaim its position as number one in the world in terms of educational attainment. In short, too many of our students continue to drop out of high school, and we still have too many “dropout factories” across the country.

The Department of Education is already investing heavily in turning around our lowest performing schools through our School Improvement Grants – and a bulk of this money is going to our high schools. According to our latest data, 730 schools are currently undergoing school turnarounds, and 48 percent of those schools are high schools. This is great news for our high schools, which have historically been underserved by Title 1. The data also shows that our money is being spent where it’s needed most.

Of course, we need great schools at all levels – elementary, middle, and high schools. But we know that secondary schools face unique challenges, and therefore require more complex solutions and supports. Our investment in turning around lowest performing schools is one piece of the puzzle in helping our secondary schools become centers of excellence for all of our students.

School Improvement Grants at Work in Miami-Dade

This entry is cross-posted on the blog.

It’s not every day I get a first-hand look at the transformation that’s taking place in our schools as dedicated school and district leaders undertake the difficult work of turning around the lowest performing schools around the country. But last week, I had the pleasure of visiting three Miami-Dade County Public Schools high schools that have begun this effort. It was a wonderful opportunity to see our School Improvement Grants (SIG) at work on the ground, and I’m excited to share with others some of the great work that is being done by the teams in Miami-Dade County.

Rivers of the World - Celebrating International Education Week

Rivers of the World Exhibit Opening

Last week at ED, we celebrated International Education Week with the official opening of the "Rivers of the World" art exhibit, which features artwork from U.S. and U.K. students. This exhibit, made possible by the Department's Student Art Exhibition Program, perfectly embodies the spirit of International Education Week by demonstrating to us the kind of broader learning that’s possible, across countries, and across oceans.

Speaking with special guest Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council.

Speaking with special guest Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council.

The exhibit is part of the British Council's Rivers of the World project, linking schools and more than 2,000 13–14 year olds around the world through a common theme: their city's river. In the exhibit on display at ED, students from the U.S. and the U.K. use their creative talents to celebrate, explore, and share the beauties of their local environment, specifically the Anacostia River for the U.S. students and the Thames River for the U.K. students. The exhibit also underscores the theme of International Week: "Striving for a Sustainable Future."

I would encourage any of you who are in the area to stop by and see the artwork created by students from right here in DC. The exhibit is absolutely wonderful, and I'm so proud to have the talents of our students on display!

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NACIE Brings New Voices to National Conversation on Indian Education

Group photo of the new NACIE members.
 Group photo with the new NACIE members and Deputy Secretary Tony Miller.

On November 3, OESE and the Department of Education had the honor of swearing in the new members of the Presidential appointed National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE). We had a wonderful ceremony, where members were sworn in by Deputy Secretary Tony Miller, and heard a video message from the Secretary congratulating the new members. The ceremony was the kick-off event to the first public meeting for the newly appointed members.

I’m so excited to work in partnership with all of the new NACIE members. They are all extremely passionate, dedicated, and accomplished individuals, and with much to contribute to the national conversation about improving educational outcomes for all of our Indian children. Stay tuned for much more to come from this group – and the Department – and Indian education!

For more photos of the event, check out the photo feed from the National Indian Education Association.

Call for Public Input - Comprehensive Literacy Development Meeting

I'm pleased to announce a public input meeting to be held on the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy State Grant Program next Friday, November 19, here at the U.S. Department of Education.

Next year, the Secretary plans to announce a competition for State projects to support comprehensive literacy development and to advance literacy skills, including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing, for students from birth through grade 12, English learners and students with disabilities. So, we want to use this meeting to get input from experts, advocates, States, and other stakeholders on the application notice for this competition.

I want to encourage all of you who are interested to attend this meeting if you can -- we really value feedback at the Department, and your input will be incredibly important as we develop this grant program. You'll find more details on registration and submitting input below, and I look forward to a rich and productive meeting.

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Supporting the Teacher Job Search

We’re facing difficult times right now. At all levels – from states to individual schools – we’ve had to make sacrifices and see many programs and budgets cut.

As such, it’s no surprise that we hear from a lot of people on the subject of teacher job loss, and what we as a Department can do to help alleviate some of this pain.

Well, I want to assure you all that the Department is doing all we can to help save jobs. One major way that we’ve done this is through the Education Jobs Fund – a $10 billion education fund to support education jobs in the 2010-11 school year. This money was  distributed to states by a formula based on population figures, and states can distribute their funding to school districts based on their own primary funding formula or districts' relative share of federal Title I funds.

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Dinosaurs, Moveable Museums, and Science!

Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin speaks to students of MLK Jr. Elementary School.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin speaks to students at MLK Jr. Elementary School.

A few weeks ago, on October 22, our Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin had the opportunity to address a group of students from the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school as part of a special Moveable Museum Event, sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. AMNH brought down a dinosaur “museum exhibit” to DC for the weekend, to encourage students to pursue and deepen their knowledge and passion for math and science. The MLK Jr. students had the opportunity to check out the exhibit, all by themselves, and Michael was really excited to be at a school, and talk to students!

After the event, Michael shared with me a really nice email from the event organizer at AMNH, who wrote:

“The children listened to you, rapt, as you told them that you work for President Obama and how important the President thinks it is that they pursue their interests in science and math.  We could see on the children’s faces how you inspired them, and for all of us, your participation was a highlight of our day at the school with our Moveable Museum. Thank you so much for being with us and for helping to make the day a great success.”

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Families and Parents: Part 2

I wanted to follow up on Ken Bedell’s post last week about the importance of families and parents in education. I feel particularly passionate about this, because my family has been tremendously influential in my success, both in school and as I moved into education as my career. I’ve also heard from lots of you out in the field about how strongly you feel about the importance of parental involvement, and I want to assure you that the Department agrees!

In fact, both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have expressed their support for a culture of responsibility where parents take an active role in their children’s education.  Secretary Duncan has stated that everyone must take responsibility for the education of America’s children, and that parents have the most important role described, as well as his desire for all parents to be real partners in education with their children's teachers, from cradle to career. In this partnership, students and parents should feel connected, teachers should feel supported, and parents should feel welcome in schools.

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