Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

Can studying music help students to achieve college- and career-ready goals?  That was the case for Fatima Salcido, a student at Tulane University, and Christian Martinez, a high school junior who is earning college credits from Los Angeles City College. For both Fatima and Christian, the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program in Los Angeles, provided them not only music instruction, but skills that helped them succeed in academic areas like reading.

Researchers at Northwestern University are conducting studies of the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development, focusing on students participating in both the Harmony Project and public charter schools in Chicago. They are looking at how music education affects learning and communication skills, and exploring the possibility that music can positively affect the academic achievement gap between groups of students.

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Meeting the Challenges of Military-Connected Children

On July 9, 2013, Secretary Arne Duncan addressed participants at the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) 15th-Annual Training Seminar, “For the Sake of the Child,” in National Harbor, Md. The Secretary expressed appreciation for our service members and their families and acknowledged the personal sacrifices made by military-connected children. Organizations like the MCEC are focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.

The Secretary noted that military-connected students face unique education challenges as the result of frequent moves and multiple deployments. Of the 1.2 million school-age children of military service members, nearly 80 percent attend public schools. Thus public schools are distinctively positioned to address the needs of these students at a pivotal point in their lives. The Common Core Standards, according the Secretary, can help to ensure that all students, regardless of where they attend schools, will receive a high-quality education. And they can particularly benefit the children of active-duty military members who move three times more often than their civilian counterparts.

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Uncommon Schools is Broad Prize Winner

Uncommon Schools, a network of 32 public charter schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) — is winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education, announced the winner on July 2nd at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Washington, D.C.

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated Uncommon Schools for their “progress in raising student achievement and their steadfast commitment to ensuring that every child — regardless of family income or background — deserves a world-class education,” citing the schools’ students as the “real winners.” “It is our hope,” said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase of the Broad Foundation, “that the success of Uncommon Schools serves as an example for traditional public schools and others in the charter sector of what is possible.”

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Breaking Through to a Quality Education for Urban Children

Ten-year-old Roberto had failing grades and discipline problems in his Cleveland, Ohio, school, but his mother had high hopes for him — a quality education that met his particular needs and would help him to be college and career ready. Fortunately for her and Roberto, an expanding network of charter schools in Cleveland, Breakthrough Charter Schools, offered a nurturing environment in its Near West Intergenerational School, one of five new charter schools resulting from an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) grant awarded to Breakthrough Charter Schools. Roberto’s story is the subject of a CBS News report that aired in late May.

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The Beginning of a Movement

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an action-oriented summit, Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World, co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It was a fascinating event, and I witnessed and participated in what felt like the beginning of a movement.

We know that the world today is more connected than ever. In particular, through advancements in technology, we now can stay connected — to each other, our jobs, our interests, and our passions — essentially all the time. The same ought to be true for our students and their education — students should have learning experiences that relate to and take advantage of their passions and interests. What they learn in an after-school program or activity should inform and relate to what they learn in school. And all of that should extend to what they learn at home with their families. This represents a shift in how we think about learning and education. Learning now happens all the time and everywhere, and we shouldn’t feel bound by narrow conceptions of when and where learning takes place (i.e., in school, during school hours). The challenge going forward will be designing and creating learning experiences for our students that properly match our modern, connected world (both in the literal, technical sense, and the broader, conceptual sense). That was the main challenge tackled by the participants in the Reimagining Education summit.

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Two Charter Schools Program Competitions Announced

Last year, when the Department announced 20 grants awarded for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Non-SEA program competitions, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said; “High-quality charter schools across the country are making amazing differences in our children’s lives. These grantees serve a range of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and prepare them for college and careers.” The Non-SEA (State education agency) competitions provide support for charter schools located in states that are not receiving funds from the CSP’s SEA competition; currently 19 States and the District of Columbia receive SEA funding. Non-SEA grant funds support planning and implementation of program designs for new or existing charter schools or the sharing and dissemination of information about best practices for charter schools.

Last week, CSP announced the start of the 2013 competition with the publication of two Non-SEA notices inviting applicants (NIA) in the Federal Register. Since its inception, CSP has worked to increase understanding of charter schools and to support high-quality charter schools in communities nationwide. The CSP team is excited for that work to continue this year with the non-SEA competitions. The Department plans to award up to $2 million to grantees of both the Non-SEA Planning, Program Design and Implementation and the Non-SEA Dissemination competitions, and estimates making between 10 and 14 awards.

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A New Approach to Learning that’s Better Designed for Our Times

“In order to provide the best education in the world again, we must develop educational opportunities and resources that excite and prepare all our students,” is how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sees the challenge for the teachers, school leaders, academics, advocates, and entrepreneurs who attended the Reimagining Education: Empowering Learners in a Connected World conference on May 28-29, in Washington, D.C.

Co-hosted by the Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the convening brought together participants from many different sectors to think about and make recommendations for a future in which the latest technologies are available and are an integral part of personalized learning experiences for all students, as well as helping to deliver a major upgrade in teacher professional development and the advanced instructional tools they need. Technology alone won’t solve the challenges the U.S. must meet to be a world leader again in elementary and secondary education, but, as Secretary Duncan noted, “We cannot succeed without it.”

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i3 Projects Look Back on Progress and Lessons Learned

i3 grantee representatives (left to right) Justin Jones (The Achievement Network), Debbie Kasak (Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network), and Robert Balfanz (Diplomas Now) with Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton.

i3 grantee representatives (left to right) Justin Jones (The Achievement Network), Debbie Kasak (Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network), and Robert Balfanz (Diplomas Now) with Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton.

“We’re in the middle of the work and it’s a time to look back, also see the finish line, review data we’ve gathered, and do some reflecting,” is how Acting Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton began a May 30th Education Policy Briefing that featured three Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees whose work began two-and-one-half years ago. All are working to improve student achievement in low-performing schools with the support of national reform networks.

The grantees ─ Schools to Watch: School Transformation Network; Diplomas Now; and The Achievement Network ─ shared data and lessons learned with an audience of both ED staff and interested stakeholders that included the International Reading Association, the Learning First Alliance, the National PTA, the National Title I Association, and the Rural Education Trust.

The School Transformation Network i3 project is building on the Schools to Watch (STW) initiative of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform that began in 2002 to recognize academically excellent and socially equitable middle schools. With an i3 Development grant, the National Forum is engaging 18 high-poverty, low-performing middle schools in three states to adapt some of the core ideas that drove the Schools to Watch initiative and apply them to school turnaround.

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i3 Project Combines English with Science to Meet the Needs of ELL Students in Both Subjects

Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant projects allow school districts and their educational partners to take a good idea and make it better. In 2008, school leaders in California’s Sonoma Valley School District launched an initiative to bring not just science instruction to the elementary grades, where it had been neglected, but to also combine hands-on science with English in a novel multidisciplinary approach that they knew had significant potential to help the district’s growing population of English language learners (ELLs).

In 2010, the district’s partner in this venture, San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum, took the lessons learned from their combined efforts at an elementary school in Sonoma with the highest percentage of ELLs, applied for and received a five-year, $3 million i3 Development grant to expand the initiative to all five of Sonoma Valley’s elementary schools. With matching funds contributed by two local philanthropies that began their support in 2008, the new collaborative project became Integrating English Language Development and Science: A Professional Development Approach.

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KIPP Impact Study Relevant to Its OII-Supported Efforts in Network Growth and Leadership

A recent study of middle-school students attending KIPP charter schools compared their performance in four core academic subjects over a three-year period and found that they gained between 11 and 14 additional months of learning over students in comparable traditional public schools. The study, “KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes,” was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (Mathematica), using multiple research strategies, including a rigorous, random-assignment methodology that compared students admitted to KIPP schools through its lottery system with students who applied to KIPP but were not admitted.

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