Hispanic Heritage Month Teacher Profile, Mauro Diaz

mauro_diaz_photo_2014

Mauro Diaz

Casper, WY

Mauro Diaz is a National Board Certified Teacher currently teaching Life Science at Dean Morgan Middle School in Casper, Wyoming. He was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. After completing a BA in English at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX, Diaz began a business career in Wyoming as manager of a manufacturing operation. After several years, he chose to pursue a career with greater personal meaning. Diaz obtained a BS in Biology from the University of Wyoming and, in 2002, was selected for the New York City Teaching Fellows program where he began his teaching career through an alternative certification process. He has focused his career at the middle school level. As a fellow, he taught seventh grade math and science at IS 162 in the South Bronx while completing a MS in Science Education. Diaz taught at IS 162 for 3 years before returning to Wyoming in 2005 to assume his current position.

Mauro believes strongly in the value of highly qualified teachers who work in the context of a large supportive environment as the means to helping students reach their potential.

Mauro’s personal achievements include National Board Certification in 2011 and the establishment of the Wyoming Education Summit in 2012 as a platform for National Board Certified teachers to discuss effective teaching and improving education in Wyoming. Mauro was a 2013-2014 Teacher Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education. Mauro is currently serving on the board of directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Mauro also contributed to the development of the Teacher Leadership Competencies.

Letter from Marc Anthony

Image of Marc Anthony: Singer, Songwriter, Actor, and Producer

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Meadow Homes Elementary School for “The Value of Arts Education: A Conversation with Students and Parents”. Today you will hear from extraordinary Latino leaders who will share their incredible journeys of hard work, perseverance, and passion through and for the arts. You will also learn about why it is now, more than ever, critical for everyone—from educators and policy makers to celebrities and business leaders—to come together to support continued investments in arts education across the country.

As a singer, songwriter, actor, and producer, I am deeply committed to ensuring the transformation taking place here, at Meadow Homes, and on a grander scale, the work the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is championing through the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Engagement in music and the arts is critical to every child’s education.

We live in a country where 3.9 million elementary school students do not have access to arts classes and 1.3 million students do not have access to music classes. This inequity is part of what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls “the civil rights issue of our generation”. It is about equity and opportunity. We know that access to an arts education positively impacts the educational outcomes of our most vulnerable youth. A higher participation rate in the arts, for historically disadvantaged students, is associated with lower dropout rates, higher test scores, and increased school attendance.

I am convinced that an education that also leverages the arts will undoubtedly lead to higher student success, especially for Latinos. I am a strong believer in the importance of an arts education and this is why I decided to become a Turnaround Arts Artist. Students need to believe in themselves and know that they will succeed if they work hard. An arts education promotes this mentality and allows students to truly see themselves as our future leaders. I am happy to know I am not alone in my efforts. First Lady Michelle Obama has also recognized how arts education has the power to transform youth. The First Lady and I agree that the cognitive skills that an art education instills in our youth are not only valuable in a studio or theater, but they can also positively impact a child’s experience in classroom and eventually their workplace.

I want to thank the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics for hosting this conversation today and making the efforts to ensure our Latino community has the access and opportunities to excel in their academic and personal lives. To the educators and leaders at Meadow Homes, thank your for your continued leadership and vision. To the students in the audience—never lose sight of your dreams, keep working hard, and lean on your parents and the network around you to succeed and persist through any challenges that come your way. You are the bright spots of your generation and I am proud to support you. I am sorry I cannot join you today but I look forward to our work together. Best wishes for a productive and fantastic session!

The Importance of an Arts Education

When it comes to arts education, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledges its value and the significant part it plays in a well-rounded education, especially for disadvantaged students who are less likely to have access to arts instruction. He recently said that an “arts education is also essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in a knowledge-based, global economy. And the arts are valuable for their own sake. They empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works. Creating by doing is a uniquely powerful way to learn.”

For Carla Dirlikov, a professional opera singer, an arts education is fundamental. On August 27 and 28, 2014, Carla joins the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) at “The Value of an Arts Education: A Conversation with Students and Parents Town Hall” at Meadow Homes Elementary, an arts turnaround school in Concord, CA and at the National Policy Forum on Music and the Arts in Emeryville, CA. Together, they aim to highlight the benefits of an arts education for all students, in particular for Hispanics.

“I learned an opera singer could be a role model and someone who makes a difference in the world.”

Growing up with first generation immigrant parents from different cultures – father was Bulgarian and mother was Mexican – was not easy. Although her parents didn’t speak a common language, they shared a common love for music, specifically opera. Some of her earliest memories are of listening to tapes of symphonies and operas and translating for her parents between Spanish and Bulgarian.

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Alvin Valley Pays It Forward

Q&A with Latino Leader on Education, Arts and Mentorship

On Alvin Valley August 27 and 28, 2014, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) will host “The Value of an Arts Education: A Conversation with Students and Parents Town Hall” at Meadow Homes Elementary, an arts turnaround school in Concord, CA and the National Policy Forum on Music and the Arts in Emeryville, CA. The Initiative aims to highlight the benefits of an arts education for all students, in particular for Hispanics. Research shows that an education in and through the arts prepares students to learn, facilitates student academic achievement, and increases motivation and persistence for those most at risk of failing or dropping out of school to develop creative capacities for lifelong success. It is critical that Hispanic students are provided with a well-rounded education, complete with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive arts course offerings, to prepare them to meet the global demands of the 21st century workforce. The events will bring together experts, educators, practitioners, policymakers, business, philanthropy, and community leaders to further the awareness and investments of music and arts education as a reform strategy for educational student success.

One key leader working to highlight the importance of arts education and mentors for Hispanics is Alvin Valley, prominent fashion designer based in New York City also know as “The King of Pants”. I sat down with Alvin recently to learn about his journey, work, and efforts to support arts education and advance the call for more mentors in the Latino community. Below are excerpts of our conversation:

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New Commitments to Improve College Opportunity

Cross-posted from The White House Blog

Last January, I listened to the President ask hundreds of college presidents to increase college opportunity for all Americans. He asked them to help because a college degree remains one of the surest pathways into the middle class in America, and is an especially powerful engine of social and economic mobility.

Over this decade, nearly 8 in 10 new jobs will require some postsecondary education or training beyond high school. And of the 30 fastest growing occupations, half require a college degree. At the same time, college graduates earn an average of 77 percent more per hour than a high school graduate. President Obama set forth a goal early in his first term to guide our work in education – to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

And yesterday, I had the privilege of joining Secretary Duncan in meeting with community college leaders who have made new commitments to ensure student success, because, in order to make progress on our goal to be first in the world, we need to embrace some of the foundational challenges to college enrollment, persistence, and completion.

Our nation’s community colleges are the engines of our higher education system. As the largest part of America’s higher education system, these institutions provide the education and training to prepare our 21st century workforce and are an ideal place to raise the knowledge and skills of our workforce – and to meet the academic needs of a diverse population of learners, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking new skills.

Following yesterday’s meeting, today we are announcing several developments in our efforts to expand college opportunity for all:

  • The White House announces second College Opportunity Summit: The Administration is announcing that the White House will host another College Opportunity Summit on December 4, 2014. The goal of this conference will build on the work launched in the first College Opportunity Summit last January, while launching initiatives in new areas. This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college going, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.
  • New community college partners working to expand college opportunity: The Administration is announcing 14 new commitments by community colleges to expand college opportunity by strengthening college readiness for academically underprepared students, building on the more than 100 colleges and universities and 40 nonprofit organizations who made commitments in January.
  • New commitments from the field to strengthen college readiness: The Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies (IES) is launching a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University and the social policy research organization MDRC that will work to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college-readiness efforts across the nation. In addition, Khan Academy is announcing new commitments that will focus on technology-based solutions customized to improve student success in developmental math. Lastly, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation will commit $5 million, partnering with MDRC, the Ohio Board of Regents, and City University of New York (CUNY) to replicate CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) to support as many as 2,000 community college students in Ohio to help more students graduate sooner.
  • Continued progress on ongoing college opportunity commitments: In addition to new commitments, we continue to make progress on our previously announced efforts to expand access to college for all students, including efforts to improve the effectiveness of college advising and enhance support for school counselors, and increasing efforts to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to broaden participation in STEM fields to women, underrepresented groups, and students from low-income or underserved communities.

These efforts have inspired engagement and supported the progress of education leaders who are taking collective action in their schools, on college campuses, and in their communities to do all they can to help more low-income students prepare to enter and succeed in college.

For more information, read our fact sheet here.

Cecilia Muñoz is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Students Who Have Beaten the Odds Share Their Stories with the Secretary

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

Secretary Duncan with students

Secretary Duncan and members of the most recent Student Voices session. From left to right: Darius Wesley, Jordan Roberts, Juan Montano, Rachel Scott, Michella Raymond, Deja Chapman, Tenzin Choenyi, Julia Jent, Kristen Fraenig, Anthony Mendez, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The move from middle school to high school is exciting for some students, but can be incredibly difficult for others. Some students require intensive support to stay on the path to graduation, and that support can take many different forms.

That was the sentiment expressed by Secretary Arne Duncan during a recent session of Student Voices, where young people from across the country gather and chat with senior ED staff about what it’s like to be a student in America today.

Darius was one of the 10 students who attended and, for him, this transition was almost insurmountable. His mother suffered a severe stroke and went into a deep coma during his freshman year of high school, forcing him and his siblings to move to the far south side of Chicago. On top of coping with the emotional and physical strain of his mother’s condition, because he was forced to move, he had to wake up at 4 a.m. to get to school every day, and he often stayed late for basketball practice, which took a toll on his academics. He explained, “tiredness grew over me and teachers berated me for not paying attention in class. I didn’t want to let my mother down, and as I felt alone in this situation, basketball was my stress reliever.” His coach noticed that Darius needed more support, so he offered to give him rides to school and eventually invited him to live with him. After a few months with his coach he moved in with a friend and this experience altered the course of his life.

Darius will be attending Southern Vermont College in the fall, where he has received a Mountaineer Scholarship. Darius has become empowered to take control of his future knowing that he can overcome any obstacles he may encounter in college. Darius still continues to struggle to keep his family together but feels his success is what’s needed to keep them all together.

Rachel, a student from Washington State, told Secretary Duncan that as one of five children growing up on a farm, she also faced seemingly insurmountable challenges.

After losing her mother, she moved into the foster care system. Rachel told Duncan that “constant moving created gaps in my learning. I can do advanced math, but because of the lapses in primary education, some of the basic middle school stuff troubles me.” Luckily, she explained, she was able to eventually stay with her aunt, who became her main source of support. Once she settled into life with her aunt, things changed. During her high school career, she took advanced placement math and sciences and worked twenty hours a week at her family’s restaurant. This fall, she will attend the University of Washington to study Marine Biology and Ocean Sciences.

After hearing from several other students, Secretary Duncan then asked all of the attendees to think about who or what helped them to beat the odds and graduate high school. The students agreed that strong mentors and role models, high expectations, and relevant college information made the strongest impacts.

Do you have a unique story to tell? We would like to hear made a difference in your life and education or for the youth in your community. Please send your story to youth@ed.gov.

This session was a part of the ongoing “Student Voices” series at the Department, in which students engage with senior staff members to help develop recommendations on current and future education programs and policies

Samuel Ryan is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education

My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam: Old World Values with New World Strategies and Tools

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Students at the Data Jam

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

 

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, he called on Americans to make sure that every American — including our boys and young men of color — can reach their full potential. On August 2, over 150 people showed up early on a Saturday morning for a “Data Jam” hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with Georgetown University and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. The Jam took place at Georgetown Downtown in Washington, D.C.

The My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam brought together a diverse group of high school students, teachers, data scientists, data visualization experts, developers and community and non-profit leaders. The aim was to find new and better ways to use data to highlight opportunities and create solutions that can improve life outcomes for all students, including boys and young men of color. It was a powerful day.

A group of young men started us off with compelling spoken word performances that reminded all in attendance of the incredible challenges they face and enormous potential they hold. While acknowledging the role they had to play in changing the narrative of their own lives, they made plain the real danger and risks they face each day and expressed frustration in having to overcome the negative stereotypes that are applied to them and their peers.

The attendees then broke into teams focused on the six universal goals outlined in the My Brother’s Keeper 90 Day Task Force Report– entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and reducing violence and providing a second chance. The teams were designed to capitalize on the range of perspectives and expertise among the participants. The student and teacher team members almost uniformly commented that they had never before been engaged in developing or even asked about tools and resources that impact their daily lives.

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges – ranging from strategies to reduce preschool suspensions and expulsions to websites that enable students to find career paths and the required education or training to access them. At the end of the day, seven teams were voted by other participants as having the most promising ideas, and those teams committed to moving these and other ideas forward.

We are excited about the ideas that emerged and anxiously await seeing these ideas in action. We are even more excited about the lessons learned from the day and how they will improve future Data Jams that I am sure other colleges and universities will be clamoring to host. But we are most excited by the demonstration of commitment and unbelievable energy of the individuals and teams that participated. With no cash prizes or press coverage, these people leaned in and showed a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – people coming together to help our young people and the country. The Data Jam simply applied a little technology and innovation to that simple but profound concept and left many of us feeling inspired.

Yet, nothing was as inspiring to me as the time I had during lunch with the youth in attendance. They asked how I got where I am; how I avoided and dealt with the violence in my neighborhood; how best to survive and excel on campuses where they, for the first time, might come across few people with similar backgrounds and experiences; and many other questions about life as they know it and imagine it. They shared their stories of struggle and triumph as well as their plans for the future and the impact they plan to have on the world. Their questions and their stories reminded me, as one young man said in the morning session, they are “overcoming every day.” So if we create ladders of opportunity, they are more than willing to climb. And, that, too, is a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about.

Jim Shelton is Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach led by an interagency federal task force to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of our young people, including boys and young men of color. Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper.

The Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University exists to inspire and prepare students, faculty and global leaders with the necessary skills to generate and innovate solution-based social change both locally and internationally. It will promote collaborative spaces for fostering innovation and provide experiential opportunities to pragmatically impact the social sector. Learn more about the Beeck Center.

A Latina’s Perspective on My Brother’s Keeper

As a Latina student who is pretty engaged on education issues I was generally familiar with the President’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative from a distance. Upon joining the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) as a policy and communications intern this summer, I came to fully realize and appreciate the magnitude of what this historic effort meant for me, my family, and millions of other Latinos across the country. I’ve learned many things since then—one of them being the immense value an initiative such as MBK has and what it means for future generations of Latinos, both males and females.

Blog #3It was not until I learned the sobering statistics about the significant gender gap between Hispanic males and females that I understood the weight and implications of not doing anything – of being satisfied with the status quo. Indeed, this gap follows Latino males from Pre-K through to high school and beyond. In 2009, among Latinos enrolling in college, 61 percent were women and 39 percent were men. Data also shows that Latino males have a higher risk of being disciplined in preschool, suspended or expelled in grades K-12, imprisoned, or unemployed—all of which steer them away from reaching their full potential and ensuring our country’s success.

When I envision these Latino males, the faces of my father, my brother, and my nephew appear in my mind. Without statistics at hand, I couldn’t put those numbers into perspective and paint a picture of the dismal life circumstances that many young men of color, including the Latino males in my family, face. The reality is that I live in a world where the people who I love most are at risk for becoming another statistic—if they haven’t already become one. I know the hardships of my father’s past, including not finishing college and imprisonment, and I understand the struggles my nephew will face in overcoming the challenges associated with living in a low-income household. Despite this newfound understanding of their reality, my reason to hope for a better future is tremendous.

President Obama fully realizes the dire state that all young men of color, including Latinos, might face—and while the urgency for reform is at an all-time high—he is making great strides to create a better future for all families, especially those most in need. There are currently incredible efforts being made to change the systems that have made these statistics a part of our reality in the Latino community. With the launch of MBK, President Obama hopes to help close the educational and opportunity gaps that many young men of color in this country face and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The efforts of this initiative, including a call for more mentoring and skill-building, will end up changing the lives of millions of young people, including young men of color and their families.

This summer I was able to see some of the most passionate advocates for education reform, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools Mike Casserly, Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, and Deputy Director of the WHIEEH Marco Davis, come together in a boardroom one morning to discuss new private commitments in support of MBK. School districts and private sector corporations announced new private commitments to tackle the issues affecting all of our youth, including our young boys and men of color. The commitments made are powerful—companies like the NBA, AT&T, and Citi Foundation have pledged to provide the resources needed for social reform of this scale to take place. These private companies collectively have promised $100 million, and additionally 60 of the nation’s largest public school systems have committed to implement evidence-based plans to reduce dropout rates among other harrowing statistics. When these plans are put into action, we can continue to change the systems that our communities are struggling to maneuver through.

The scale of these commitments is unprecedented, and it is something to applaud. As Latinas, we should not hesitate to support efforts that will uplift not only our brothers, fathers, sons, and nephews, but all Americans. We must support each other through this journey of reforming society and continue our work in solidarity so that lasting change can reach all Americans, including people like my nephew and the generations of Latinos that will come after him.

As my internship comes to an end, I am deeply encouraged that the WHIEEH has placed a key emphasis on My Brother’s Keeper and will continue to move the needle forward ensuring the educational attainment for our Hispanic community—nuestra comunidad.

Written by Gladys Rosario, rising junior at University of California, Berkeley and summer intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

 

Drawing the Right Lessons from Vergara

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Sometimes conflict is the starting point on the path to progress.

That’s one of two possible ways events could play out in the wake of Vergara v. California,a court case that is driving enormous debate throughout the education world.

Brought on behalf of nine public school students, the Vergara case argued that California’s laws on teacher tenure and placement violate the right to an education in the state constitution. The lawsuit claimed that minority and low-income students are deprived of effective teachers by state laws that, in essence, award lifetime employment to teachers after as little as 18 months, and that require layoffs on the basis of seniority.

Last week, a judge agreed, saying these laws deprive students of their civil rights. The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher.

The question is, what happens now?

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#GEARUP Alumni Hector Araujo’s Success Maximized through Educational Partnership

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Lacking a strong role model, Hector Araujo’s community told him that an education was not necessary to be successful. He spent his life running races; the only problem is, this race would have led him into the criminal justice system.

That changed, though, when Emily Johnson — a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Coordinator from Boise, Idaho — transplanted herself into Hector’s school. He was awe-struck when he found that someone believed in him.

“She has been the greatest factor in my life,” Hector said on stage at the 2014 Building a GradNation Summit hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, before introducing Secretary Arne Duncan. “What is [most] important is that there are people in your life that are going to support you and nurture you to achieve the dreams that God has put in your heart.”

Today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing the availability of $75 million for two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) competitions. The aim of this year’s GEAR UP competition is to improve college fit and readiness, so all students graduate from high school prepared for college without needing remedial courses – a problem for millions of beginning college students each year – and enroll in an institution that will help them maximize their success. This follows up on a commitment the Department made at the White House College Opportunity summit in January to help students achieve the necessary milestones that provide a pathway to college success.

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