The Importance of Transforming Adult Learning

This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Several years ago, Carmen — a single, widowed parent — immigrated from Mexico to California to create a better life for herself and her two-year-old son. When she arrived in the U.S., she spoke very little English. She enrolled in ESL classes at New Haven Adult School and then went on to earn her GED. But Carmen soon realized that she needed to acquire more skills in order to find a job that paid a living wage. While working part-time, maintaining a home and raising her children, Carmen went on to earn her Adult Education Teaching Credential. She eventually completed her Bachelor of Arts degree. Today, Carmen is a computer skills instructor at New Haven Adult School, where she inspires ESL students to achieve their most ambitious education and career goals, just as she did.

Carmen’s story illustrates the importance of supporting low-skilled adults who are working hard to support their families. Last year, approximately 1,300 school districts and 370 partner organizations invested $231 million in federal resources and $614 million in state resources for foundation skills training.

While these investments are critical, unfortunately, they are not enough. The international Survey of Adult Skills showed an alarming 36 million American adults have low literacy skills. Since the survey’s release, ED has been hard at work to create a solution at the federal level. Congress also took action, passing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in July 2014, refocusing federal workforce development, adult education, and vocational rehabilitation systems to prepare adults for 21st century work. The Vice President’s office coordinated the Ready to Work job-driven training agenda. Most recently, the President announced the Upskill America initiative to enlist employers in this effort.

But there is still more that needs to be done. The Making Skills Everyone’s Business report, released today, emphasizes that addressing the challenge of adult skill development must be a shared responsibility.

Because the negative effects of low skills ripple through society and the economy, improving the education and skills of adult learners can pay substantial dividends for individuals and families, businesses and communities.

This report lays out seven strategies for establishing convenient, effective, high-quality learning opportunities. It challenges those of us in education to work more closely with employers to prepare students for in-demand jobs with advancement potential. It challenges employers to work more closely with educators to ensure effective training programs that lead to meaningful skill development. And it calls for making career pathways available and accessible everywhere, an effort that will be aided by the implementation of WIOA.

Importantly, this report recognizes the persistent gaps among learners of different races and abilities. As a nation, we must face the fact that achievement gaps, fueled by opportunity gaps, do not close on their own. Rather, they continue to fester and grow, contributing to inequality and unfairness, a widening income gap and inter-generational poverty that threaten our economic and civic prosperity. Educators must reach out to community- and faith-based institutions and employers to design new and scale up promising models that provide youth and adults with skill development and job opportunities.

Ted Mitchell is the U.S. Under Secretary of Education and Johan E. Uvin is Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

¡Estudia, Hay Dinero! There’s Money to Study!

This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

 

First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participate in an interview with Don Francisco of UNIVISION at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD, Feb. 12, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan participate in an interview with Don Francisco of UNIVISION at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, MD, Feb. 12, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan sat down recently with Don Francisco, the renowned host of Univision’s longest-running TV show, Sábado Gigante, to discuss the importance of filling out the FAFSA. The message is simple: ¡Estudia, Hay Dinero! or, There’s Money to Study!

Students and parents filled a classroom at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, to hear the First Lady tell her story of achieving her dreams by going to college. The First Lady spoke of her experience as a first-generation college student whose parents offered lots of moral support and encouragement even though they had not gone to college themselves. She told the students, “I’m actually just like you. There’s no magic. It requires hard work”.

After the interview, parents and seniors gathered in the school’s computer lab to complete the FAFSA with the help of school counselors and staff from Federal Student Aid.

When talking to the students about their future goals, many were honest about their experience and even admitted that they messed up at the beginning of high school. They explained that they realized the importance of going to college because it’s key to a better future. One of those students said she wants to pursue a dream of becoming a fashion designer. She understands that in order to have a promising future, she needs to get a degree. With the support of her family and friends, she will graduate this spring and attend community college in the fall.

Both the First Lady and Secretary Duncan understand that parents may be nervous about their kids leaving home or may be apprehensive about completing the form. But they urged all the parents to encourage their kids to reach higher, to complete their educations, and to own their futures.

The Department has simplified the FAFSA, making it easier now for students and families to complete. It’s no secret that going to college is expensive, but like Secretary Duncan said, “It’s the best investment you could make.” In only twenty-five minutes a student and family can have access to the billions of dollars in federal aid the government offers towards education. It costs absolutely nothing to fill out the form, but can be the factor that helps a student achieve his or her dreams.

Remember: There’s money to study! If you or a student you know has not yet filled out the FAFSA, visit www.studentaid.gov to answer your questions and link you to the FAFSA. Congratulations to all of the students making the choice to Reach Higher!

Rahje Branch is the Reach Higher intern in the Office of the First Lady. She is a sophomore studying at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA.

Let’s Break Down Ethnic And Gender Barriers in STEM Fields

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

As a Hispanic woman in a male-dominated field, I’ve experienced firsthand how one’s gender and ethnicity can create unjust roadblocks on the path to professional success. As a result, women and Hispanics are both underrepresented in the STEM industry, but I believe we can break through these barriers.

To share a personal example through my experiences and career, I’ve learned that you never know when one opportunity may lead to another. A few years ago, I was named to a Hispanic business publication’s list of Top Five Women and was invited to attend an awards ceremony. While there, I had a conversation that led to me being asked to join the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. It was one of those times where I paused and thought, “The White House?!?” Of course, I agreed to serve immediately.

It’s been a great experience for me, but you don’t have to serve on a White House panel to make a difference. We can all help inspire change, and to do so, there are key steps we can take with our children and mentees to encourage higher representation of both minorities and women in these critical fields. And they’re easy to remember — just think STEM:

  • Strong encouragement: It comes from parents, grandparents, teachers, friends and the media. A young person’s confidence should be developed and nourished so that they know they can do what they want to do even if it’s in a field where they’re outnumbered. Confidence is key.
  • Time and resources: Give a little bit of your time or financial resources. Collectively, we can support organizations that promote focus and leadership.
  • Exposure to industry leaders: Do this at an early age, and do it repeatedly throughout their education. Many students want to go into professions that help others, and think that they must become a doctor or nurse to fulfill that desire. But engineers have had profound effects on human civilization and the technological advances we all enjoy today. Their work has reached — and helped — billions of people.
  • Model behavior: Role models are important and can have considerable impact on a young person’s choices. If a young girl can see a woman whose profession is STEM-based, they can point to her and say, “If she can do it, so can I.”

If we can all work on these initiatives, young women and minorities will feel more supported and confident engaging in STEM and in their dream careers. Furthermore, the talent they can bring to the field will not only diversify, but help achieve our full potential of discovery and technological innovation.

Alicia Abella is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

Join Shakira and Secretary Duncan for a Twitter Q&A on Early Education

Crossposted from The White House blog

For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these kids as adults.

Early education is one of the best investments our country can make. Participation in high-quality early learning programs—like Head Start, public and private pre-K, and childcare—provide children from all backgrounds with a strong start and a solid foundation for success in school.

Tomorrow, President Obama will host a White House Summit on Early Education, announcing new commitments and building on his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every child in America.

As part of the Summit, Grammy award-winning artist Shakira and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET to answer your questions about early education. Shakira is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and has been a strong advocate for high-quality early education.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Learn more about the President’s plan to expand access to high-quality early childhood education, and then join Shakira and Secretary Arne Duncan for a Twitter chat on Wednesday, December 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Hispanic Teacher Profile, Natasha Escobar

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Natasha Escobar

Spanish High School Teacher in Baltimore, MD

Natasha is a dedicated and passionate educator. She currently teaches Spanish at Paul Laurence Dunbar High in Baltimore, MD. Natasha grew up along the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville Texas. Although both Natasha and her parents were born and raised in the United States, her family maintained a strong sense of their heritage and culture. Natasha’s Mexican-American upbringing would later help her draw from her own experiences as a foreign language learner. It would help her to connect and reach her students who were not at all familiar with the Spanish language and the diverse cultures that share it as a mother tongue. Natasha attended the University of Texas in Brownsville, Texas and received her B.A. in History. In 2014, she received her Master’s in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. She has served as a grade level team leader, a member of the instructional leadership team, and has sponsored various student clubs. Next, Natasha plans to take students out of the country for the ultimate immersion experience. Aside from teaching, Natasha really loves exploring new cuisines on different continents.

Why do you teach? I teach because that is what I have always done. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher in some capacity. Initially I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, and I would even play pretend school with my dolls. Later, I decided I wanted to be a college professor. I attended the university with that intention. One year after I graduated, I began volunteering as a tutor for high school students in DC. I had such an amazing time that I decided to apply to Teach for America and become a teacher.

What do you love about teaching? I love the creativity that is essential to teaching. I also love the spontaneity that comes with teaching. Each day is a new opportunity for both my students and I to learn and grow, both of which are difficult and messy processes. There is nothing like seeing students experience success through trial and error.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? There was a professor in college who not only inspired me, but mentored me as well. I met Dr. Kendall during my first year of college. I remember he asked me to stay after class one day and I was terrified. I thought I was in trouble or did an assignment wrong. It turns out he just wanted to get to know me better. That semester he helped me decide on my major, which also happened to be the subject he taught. He is also the person that suggested I be a college professor. He was the perfect mix of tough and warm – and I will never forget him.

 

Hispanic Teacher Profile, Faith Rodriguez

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Faith Rodriguez

Second Grade Teacher in Thermal , CA

Faith M. Rodriguez is a 2nd grade teacher at Las Palmitas Elementary School in Thermal, CA. She has been teaching for the past 11 years within the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Faith has always been inspired by her parents to do her best and follow her dreams to become a teacher. Both her parents are Mexican immigrants who came to the states to better their family’s life. Faith received her Bachelors, teaching credential, and Masters in Education from California State University, San Bernardino. She has served as grade level lead for her school, organized National Young Readers Day, and taught summer school for Migrant students. Not only does she teach within the public school system but she also serves at her church as a Sunday school teacher. There she organizes Vacation Bible School for the community. Faith believes her experiences will help encourage her students to further their education by attending college.

Why do you teach? Ever since I could remember I’ve always wanted to become a teacher. I teach to make a difference in a child’s life. My goal is to make a child feel at home when they come to school. Our children are the future.

Growing up my parents always instilled the importance of obtaining an education. Even though my parents only spoke Spanish and struggled to help me, they always found a way to encourage me. I share my personal story every year with my class. I share it in hopes not only to inspire them, but that they dedicate themselves in striving to attain their goals.

What do you love about teaching? There’s nothing more that fulfills my heart than seeing a student’s transformation happen in my class or beyond. I’ve always reflected on the teachers that have made an impact in my life and I strive to do the same for my students.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? To this very day I can still recall my 2nd grade teacher Mr. Loomis. Mr. Loomis was an awesome teacher who always put us first. Every morning he would greet us at the door and welcome us to school. He made a connection with each of his students. He wanted to make sure we felt safe and cared for. Mr. Loomis taught me to make a connection with my students. If a student feels like you care, then they will care to do their best in school.

 

Hispanic Teacher Profile, Manuel Hernandez

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Manuel Hernandez

Elementary School Music Teacher in Washington, D.C.

I was born in Morazán, El Salvador, a state that was heavily impacted by the Salvadorian civil war. For the same reason in 1990, my mother decided to migrate to the United States leaving me with my grandparents at only 4 years old. In 2001, my mother decided that it was time for me to travel to the U.S. When I arrived in Washington, DC, I went to school to learn English and improve my musical skills. Being the son of a mother who fed us by cleaning houses and getting paid the minimum wage, I was encouraged to keep studying and have no limits on my educational goals. Therefore; once I graduated from Bell High School with honors, I decided that I wanted to be the first one in my family in the US to go to college. In 2012 I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of the District of Columbia. That same year I started working in DC Bilingual Public Charter School (PCS) as a part-time music teacher while I was working on my M.A in early childhood education. Now I’m a full time educator at DC Bilingual PCS where I teach music from Pre-kinder 3 to 5th grade, have an 18 student school choir, and 6 students enrolled in one on one piano classes.

Why do I teach? I teach because I want a better world, a better society and better human beings. I believe that humans are like trees, their beginning is fundamental for their later life. Being an elementary educator gives me the opportunity to effectively address my students.

What do I love about teaching? I love to see children learn and be exposed to experiences that they otherwise would not be exposed to if I was not there. I love to see them have fun every time they go to my classroom. I love to see them grow physically, mentally, and  socio-emotionally year after year.

Was there a teacher that inspired me? Yes, my uncle! When my mother left, she assigned my uncle to be responsible for my education. He was the first one in my family in El Salvador to go to college. He would walk for one hour to ride the bus to go to college. He would study overnight to be the above his peers, that inspired me. I was also present when he obtained his degree in psychology. Because of him,  I knew from a very young age that going to college was not an option but a must.

 

Hispanic Teacher Profile, Eleonora Villegas-Reimers

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Eleonora Villegas-Reimers

Associate Professor at Wheelock College in Boston

I am currently an Associate Professor at Wheelock College in Boston, where I work in the preparation of teachers, both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I joined the faculty of Wheelock College in 1988 as Assistant Professor, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1995. In 2004, I was appointed Acting Dean of the Child and Family Studies Division after having served as the Coordinator for the Child Development and Early Childhood Program, and the Child Development Studies program since 1998. In 2006 I was appointed Dean of the School of Education and Child Life, and in 2009, I was named Chair of the Elementary Education Department. Prior to coming to Wheelock, I was a high-school teacher and an Assistant Principal in a private K-12 school in my country of origin, Venezuela. I started teaching during my first year of college; the country was in need of prepared teachers, and college students in teacher preparation programs were able to have their own classrooms. I started teaching pre-schoolers, but soon moved to teaching 7th, 8th and 12th graders. I focused on social studies and citizenship education with the younger grades, and on sociology with the seniors. After 6 years in the classroom and now with a bachelor’s degree (and a teaching license) in hand, I came to the U.S. to do my master’s and doctoral degrees in Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. While studying about moral education and working as a teaching fellow, I developed a passion for teaching teachers. I realized that I could contribute to the education of children quite effectively if I prepared the teachers who work with them. I love working with new college students who have dreamed all their lives of becoming teachers; I also love working with those who have been teaching in the field and come to graduate school for more education. Educating teaching candidates about how to work effectively with all children, including Latino children, immigrant children, and ELLs in particular is something I think of as a mission. I am convinced that teachers have the highest influence on children after their families.

Aside from the work I do with teachers in preparation at Wheelock, I also do other work that benefits teachers and schools: I serve as a Board member to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, as an advisor in a number of workgroups and taskforces of the Boston Public Schools, and have worked as consultant and advisor to a number of international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Board on International Comparative Studies of the National Research Council, and the Academy for Educational Development on matters related to education, teacher preparation and development, education for democracy, and values education.

Why do you teach? I teach because I believe that the best way to effect social change is by educating individuals who can think critically, solve problems, develop a sense of responsibility to get involved, and ultimately change their own lives, that of their families and their communities.

What do you love about teaching? I love engaging with students in a deep way that allows them to learn and truly understand their role as educators, community members and citizens of the world. I love seeing a student’s face when they have understood something for the first time, when they have accomplished a major goal, and when they have experienced the exhilarating moment of seeing a child learn something new, from reading for the first time, to something about their community.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? I was very lucky with ALL of my teachers; in one way or another, I have learned from all my teachers. They inspired me when I was in their classes, and they continue to inspire me to do my best so that other children can be as fortunate as I was with such caring, dedicated, knowledgeable and expert professional educators! I am grateful to all my teachers.

 

Tracie Sánchez, Higher Education Graduate Fellow for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Biography

10292014 - Tracie Sanchez Official Portrait 1Tracie Sánchez was born and raised in East Los Angeles, a predominantly working class Mexican community. Tracie identifies as a Reverse Transfer student, as she attended the University of California – Santa Barbara upon graduation of high school and later enrolled at Pasadena City College, where she completed her first two years of her undergraduate career. In 2010, she transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she would major in Chicana/o studies and minor in Gender Studies, Education, and Labor and Workplace studies.

As an undergraduate, she remained involved in a number of social justice based research projects and outreach programs that address racial campus climate, retention and access among underrepresented students both at community colleges and UCLA. As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Tracie served as the principle investigator of a qualitative case study that examined student-centered and institutional factors affecting students’ decision to reverse transfer from public four-year institutions in California.

In June of 2014, Tracie graduated with her M.A. from the graduate department of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, with a Higher Education and Organizational Change degree. Her research interests currently include Latina/o educational pathways, intersections of race, gender, and social class in accessing college and graduate school, Latina/o reverse transfer students and overall Latina/o retention within California community colleges.

Currently as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute –  Higher Education Graduate Fellow, Tracie seeks to enhance her knowledge of educational policy-making and the ways in which higher education research can inform policy-making decisions to ensure more Latina/o students who begin their education at community colleges can successfully transfer to elite four-year research institutions. Tracie looks forward to returning to Southern California upon completion of the CHCI Higher Education Fellowship and pursue a doctorate degree in Higher Education and continuing to serve as mentor for first-generation Latina/o students attending community colleges.

 

Hispanic Teacher Profile, Arlene Perez

Arlene Perez

Arlene Perez

Mathematics  Middle School Teacher in Washington, DC

Growing up in Pico Rivera, California to two Mexican immigrants, Arlene knew the true value of a great education.  She became the first in her family to graduate from college. Having been a product of the Pico Rivera public school system, she understood the struggles English Language Learners faced and the critical roles teachers play in student lives to go to college.  Arlene received her bachelors at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and Philosophy in 2011, but realized that if she wanted to pursue a career in Education Policy, she needed first-hand experience as the role of an educator. That summer, she joined Teach for America in Washington D.C. as a middle school math teacher where she taught math entirely in Spanish to an amazing group of students who came from diverse backgrounds. These students mirror her experiences as a child since they are also first generation, English Language Learners of Latino descent. Teaching math not only allowed her to see that policy has a major influence on her students’ lives, but it also gave her the opportunity to notice the positive impact a Latina role model can have on their academic success. Because she has seen the lack of Latinos in STEM education, she is continuously striving to have her students fall in love with math by leading a coding course, a robotics team, having a Parent Math Course for Spanish speaking parents, and getting her team of 7th graders ready for this winter’s DC Math Quiz Bowl. Moreover, alongside her Teach for America coach, Arlene created Teach for America’s La Familia in DC to build a community of Latino educators in the DC region and aided with the recruitment efforts in DC and in LA to increase the number of Latino applicants to Teach for America. Arlene serves on the board for Teach for America’s The Collective and Young Alumni Board. She currently teaches 7th grade Math at Oyster Adams Bilingual School in Washington D.C.

Why do you teach? When I hear the terrifying statistics about Latinos regarding high school completion rates, college graduation rates and students pursuing STEM majors, it is the fuel that drives me to teach my students every day. These statistics are not simply numbers, they represent me, they represent family members, and they represent my students. I teach because I want to make sure that my students know that I was once in their shoes and they can achieve anything their hearts desire. My students need someone who can advocate for them and show them the way to college.

What do you love about teaching? I absolutely adore my students! They are the most creative, intelligent, unique, and hilarious human beings you will ever meet. Being so far away from home, these students have become my family. I love that we share so much knowledge and culture in our classroom. They are truly the reason I teach.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you? Definitely! My 5th grade teacher Mrs. Lomeli was the main reason I went into teaching because she advocated for me to exit out of a bilingual classroom (knowing I would later be tracked in middle school) and how that affected my chances of attaining AP courses by the time I would enter high school. Moreover, my high school Calculus teacher Mr. Francis is truly my role model when it comes to teaching math. He would stay at school tutoring my classmates and I until 8pm at times and truly believed in me when I didn’t. He was someone who was there for his students no matter what and always told us how we were smarter than a calculator. Because of him, I make sure to have strong relationships with my students so that they know that I will always be there for them and even till this day, I continuously remind them that they are smarter than a calculator.