High-Performing Schools

I’ve made clear in this blog and in my other communications that we are focused and committed to helping states and districts improve their persistently lowest-performing schools.  Perhaps because of this, we’ve received quite a few questions about what this Administration is doing for those high-performing schools in the country.

Our Blueprint for Reform, or our proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), actually has quite a few things to say about supporting and rewarding high-performing schools, in addition to our investment in low-performing ones.

Our proposal calls for every state to ensure that its statewide system of accountability rewards schools and districts for progress and success, requires rigorous interventions in the lowest-performing schools and districts, and allows local flexibility to determine the appropriate improvement and support strategies for most schools. All students will be included in this accountability system that builds on college- and career-ready standards.

Our plan also calls for us to celebrate and reward states, districts, and schools that do the most to improve outcomes for their students and to close achievement gaps, as well as those who are on the path to have all students graduating or on track to graduate ready for college and a career by 2020. All schools will be aiming to do their part to help us reach that ambitious goal, and for most schools, leaders at the state, district, and school level will enjoy broad flexibility to determine how to get there. You can visit http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/blueprint/index.html for more information about our proposal for reauthorization.

Highlighting Technical Assistance at the National Title I Conference

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of leading a technical assistance (TA) session at the National Title I Conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to sharing information on OESE’s TA plan and the changes we are making at the Department to better support states and districts, we also featured a “Response Panel” of three state directors at the session. The panel provided some immediate feedback on my TA presentation, offered suggestions for OESE on further improving TA, and discussed how, as state directors, they are rethinking TA themselves to support their local districts and staff.

One of the concrete tools I shared with all the participants of the session was the rubric we created to honestly assess ourselves on the quality and effectiveness of our TA. It was so great to hear reactions from panelists on the rubric – several said they wanted to develop something similar in their own states! That signals to me that we are on the right track in shifting our mindset within OESE to emphasize support for those on the ground, and I know we have big plans ahead as we continue to implement our TA plan.

In addition to the TA session, I also gave brief remarks at the Opening Session of the conference, which a local radio station covered here. They even posted a YouTube clip of the end of my speech, which you can watch below:

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.


Event Details

What: Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy State Grant Program Public Input Meeting

When: Friday, November 19, 2010, 2 sessions to be held from 9:00am – 12:00pm and 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Where: U.S. Department of Education
Potomac Center Plaza (PCP) Auditorium
550 12th Street, SW

Registration: If you are interested in attending the meeting and/or providing input at the meeting, you must register by sending an e-mail to: striving.readers.comprehensive.literacy@ed.gov with your name, organization, and the session you are interested in attending (morning or afternoon) by Tuesday, November 16, 2010.

Submitting Written Input: Written input will be accepted at the meeting site, via e-mail, or mail. For e-mail submissions, e-mail: striving.readers.comprehensive.literacy@ed.gov, on or before 5:00pm (EST), Friday, November 19, 2010. You must include “Striving Readers Public Input” in the subject line of your e-mail.

All input, including expert presentations and discussions, public input, and written submissions, should focus primarily on responding to questions posted at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders-literacy/index.html.

To ensure that your input is fully considered in the development of the notice inviting applications, we urge you to identify clearly the specific question, purpose, or characteristic that you are addressing, and to arrange your input in the order of the questions as they are listed

For further information about the meeting, see http://www2.ed.gov/programs/strivingreaders-literacy/index.html or contact Deborah Spitz at Deborah.spitz@ed.gov or (202) 260-3793.

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.

In addition, over the last two years, the Department has been able to support 300,000 education jobs through stimulus funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Aside from providing emergency support to states, it’s difficult for the Department to address more specific job-loss issues, because education is still the responsibility of State and local governments. By law, we can’t intervene in personnel issues or the allocation of State or local resources.

But, for individual teachers who may be looking for teaching opportunities, the Department’s TEACH website will be able to help. It lists thousands of jobs in your area, and should provide you with the information you need to help secure a teaching position. For more information, visit our site at teach.gov.

Guest Post: ETS Event Highlights the Importance of Families, Fatherhood

By Ken Bedell
Senior Advisor, Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center at the U.S. Department of Education

When ETS is mentioned I think of educational testing. I remember the anxiety of taking the SAT and GRE exams, but last week I saw a different side of ETS. They sponsored a day-long conference on The Family: America’s Smallest School. Speakers and panels discussed recent research on what is happening with American families, successful programs that are effective in supporting families, and family policy strategies.

The keynote address was delivered by Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the Department of Education. She set the tone for the discussion by describing the role that her family played in supporting her own education. Particularly moving was the story of her grandmother, who was a teacher in Mexico. After retiring from teaching she refused to join her daughter and granddaughter in the United States because she was so much a part of the community where she had taught for years. As Dr. Meléndez’ story illustrated, families teach children to value education.

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn from the Teachers College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University reported on the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. She talked about the importance of structure and stability in children’s lives According to Dr. Brooks-Gunn, these studies provide the only data we have on the influence of fathers on children’s lives over time. More information on these studies can be found at http://www.fragilefamilies.princeton.edu/index.asp.

The conference helped me understand why the President’s Fatherhood initiative and the Department of Education parent involvement work is so important. Here are a few resources that may be helpful to those who are interested in these initiatives.

So, you want to be a teacher?

I’m always excited to meet people who want to enter the teaching profession. After all, I’ve devoted my entire career to education, and it’s the best decision that I’ve ever made.

We do get a lot of questions from teachers and prospective teachers about the process of becoming a teacher – from certification to actually starting on the job search. I know it can be confusing, but I’m really thrilled to know that so many people are interested in teaching and are actively looking for resources!

If you have specific questions on teacher certification requirements for your situation, you should contact your district or state education office. As you might know, the teacher certification process is something put into place by States, and the Department is not able to influence them or waive requirements.  At the federal level, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we simply require that highly qualified teachers be fully licensed or certified by the State – but this means that each State determines its own requirements for licensing and certifying teachers.

If you’re looking for more general information on how to become a teacher, the Department of Education recently launched a website, Teach.gov. It’s your one-stop-shop to all things related to becoming a teacher, explaining the certification requirements for each State, and culling together information about available jobs in your area. We’re really excited about this site, and our overall TEACH campaign – we want to encourage the best and the brightest to become teachers, and we want to make it as easy as possible to get the information you need.

I hope this information helps you as you start your journey towards becoming a teacher.

And, have a great weekend, everyone!

President Obama Signs the Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans

This Tuesday, I had the great honor of joining President Obama as he signed the executive order on theWhite House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. I shared this special moment with my colleagues, Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education Eduardo Ochoa and Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of English Language Acquisition, Rosalinda Barrera, as well as a number of distinguished Latino leaders.

Before the President took the podium, he was introduced by a young man, Javier Garcia – a chess champion, a wonderful speaker, and a shining example of what’s right with American education today. I’m so excited to be working every day on behalf of students like Javier, to ensure that every single student has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential. The President’s commitment to improving educational outcomes for our Latino students was also incredibly inspiring, and it helped me renew my own dedication to the success of all of our students.

You can watch the video of the event here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/10/19/educational-excellence-hispanic-americans.

Video: “La universidad: un sueño alcanzable”

Tomorrow, I have the pleasure of speaking at the National Hispanic Education Summit held by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, or ALAS. I spoke at their summit last year, and I’m excited to be able to return on behalf of the Department to spend time with this passionate group of leaders!

To give you a quick preview of my remarks, I want to share this short video, put together by the Department, which profiles a young woman named Samantha Hernandez. Her story demonstrates that college is a very real and attainable dream for our Latino students, and all of our students.

School Turnarounds: Sharing Successes

As we get deeper into the school year, OESE in particular is focusing on supporting schools and districts as they implement turnaround models, using our school improvement grants.

I wanted to share this video of a particularly inspiring example of a successful turnaround school: George C. Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama. OESE’s deputy assistant secretary, Dr. Carl Harris, tells me that he shared this very example at a turnaround event held just yesterday in North Carolina. I think it’s really helpful to share success stories with one another, and to create these communities of practice.

If you have success stories, please do share them with me – email me at AskDrT@ed.gov.