OII Staff Celebrate and Connect With America’s Teachers

They didn’t go bearing apples, but tidings of appreciation nonetheless for the important work teachers do in preparing students for college and careers. As part of its contribution to Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9, 2014), the U.S. Department of Education took teacher appreciation to another level by “respecting through understanding” during its third annual ED Goes Back to School. On May 6th, 70 ED staff members — eight from OII — shadowed teachers throughout the country in order to better understand their work and the challenges teachers and their students encounter on the road to making America’s public education system the best it can be.

For ED headquarters staff, the day is an opportunity to see firsthand how principles of effective teaching and learning translate from the likes of grant applications to the classrooms of teachers in the D.C. metro area.

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Jazz Takes Center Stage Nationally, Internationally, and at the Department of Education

2014 JAM PosterJazz, that most American of art forms, takes center stage all of April as we celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the U.S. and throughout the world. Under the leadership of the Smithsonian Institution, JAM annually focuses on the music as well as its connections to America’s history and democratic values, including cultural diversity, creativity, innovation, discipline, and teamwork.

This year, JAM celebrates the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a four-part suite that marked the melding of the hard bop sensibilities of the iconic saxophonist and composer’s early career with the free jazz style he later adopted. The annual JAM poster features Coltrane’s likeness, captured by American artist Joseph Holston from his screen print Jazz.

The Department of Education annually distributes the JAM posters to more than 16,000 middle schools in America. In a letter accompanied by the poster, OII’s Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Nadya Chinoy Dabby encourages the schools’ principals to participate in JAM activities taking place in the 50 states and to take advantage of the Smithsonian’s jazz collection and its many Web-based educational materials that support learning across the K-12 curriculum.

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Charter, Magnet, and Private Schools Honored as 2013 ED Green Ribbon Schools

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, congratulated the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees on their achievements ata ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 3. In a press release announcing the ceremony, Secretary Duncan said, “These schools and districts exhibit best practices to reduce costs and increase achievement, health and equity, for all schools, not just aspiring green schools.”

Maureen Dowling, director of ONPE (center), congratulates (left to right) Meghan Sayer, director of gift planning at Westtown School; Anne Morse-Hambrock, board member of Racine Montessori School; and Debra Wagner and Jodi Tucker, elementary school teachers at St. Paul Lutheran School.

Maureen Dowling, director of ONPE (center), congratulates (left to right) Meghan Sayer, director of gift planning at Westtown School; Anne Morse-Hambrock, board member of Racine Montessori School; and Debra Wagner and Jodi Tucker, elementary school teachers at St. Paul Lutheran School.

Among the 64 schools honored with the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award, 10 are private schools, seven are public charters, and five are magnets. Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) staffs were on hand at the awards ceremony to add their congratulations. “It was inspiring to learn how a number of the private schools that earned the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon recognition have been focused on environmental issues and the health and wellness of students for many years,” said Maureen Dowling, director of the OII’s Office on Non-Public Education. “From vegetable and butterfly gardens, to student environment clubs and ‘electric cops’ who graph data on their school’s conservation efforts, these honored schools are developing environmental awareness and responsibility in their students. In short, their students are becoming good stewards of planet earth.”

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Military-Connected Student Wins National Art Contest

The Google Doodle seen by millions on Google’s home page on May 23rd was created by Sabrina Brady, a 12th-grade student from Sparta, Wis. Sabrina’s interpretation of the letters in Google was inspired by the day she was reunited with her father after he returned home from an 18-month tour in Iraq.

doodle-4-google-2013-winner

This year, Google hosted its sixth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. They received more than 130,000 submissions and after millions of votes, Sabrina’s submission, “Coming Home,” was named the 2013 Doodle 4 Google National Winner. She, along with four finalists from different age groups, will receive college scholarships; Sabrina will use hers when she attends the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.

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OII Staff Shadow Teachers to Appreciate Their Work

The U.S. Department of Education celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10) with a variety of events and outreach. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) kicked off the week with a Google+ Hangout. At the end of the week, the Department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized ED Goes Back to School Day. More than 60 staff from the Department visited schools and shadowed teachers across the D.C. metropolitan area on Thursday, May 9, 2013. OII was fortunate to be hosted by eight teachers in schools in D.C.

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Arts Advocacy Day Focuses on Arts Education’s Pay-Off for All Students

Arts Advocacy Day brought thousands of arts education advocates from across America to the Nation’s Capital on April 9th. Armed with an ever-increasing body of research-based evidence about the contributions that arts education makes to a well-rounded education for all students, the advocates reminded members of Congress that supporting arts education is a smart, pay-forward investment in every child’s education and future.

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ED Staff Learn About Excellence and U.S. Values From Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Musicians

In celebration of Black History Month, the Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program and Blacks in Government collaborated to provide employees and guests an opportunity to enjoy a jazz informance—an informational performance created by students of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and rising star jazz saxophonist Tim Green. Dr. JB Dyas, vice president for education and curriculum development at the Institute, affirming that jazz is America’s indigenous music, said it was “invented only 100 years ago [and] … evolved from the African American experience here in the U.S.”

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Feature: Charter, Magnet, and Private Schools Recognized for Going Green

When the first class of U.S. Department of Education ED-Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) were recognized this past June in Washington, D.C., nearly a third of the schools hailed from the ranks of the charter, magnet, and private schools — three constituent programs that are part of the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

The dozen private, eight charter, and four magnet schools, like all of the 78 ED-Green Ribbon Schools honored by the Department of Education with the support of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, exercise a comprehensive approach to creating “green” environments. All ED-GRS honorees are measured against the three “pillars” of the national award: reducing environmental impact and increasing energy efficiency; promoting improved health for students and staff; and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.

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ART.WRITE.NOW.DC 2012–13

On Friday, Oct. 12, the U.S. Department of Education was fortunate to host the ninth annual Student Art Exhibit opening of works by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers (AYAW) 2012 Scholastic Award winners. Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement, welcomed hundreds of guests—students, teachers, parents, policymakers, leaders from both public and private arts and education organizations, and other stakeholders—to celebrate in person the more than 50 young artists and writers whose works are in the exhibit.

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New Civil War Poster Pieces Things Together for American History Classrooms

In proclaiming October as National Arts and Humanities Month, President Obama said the arts and humanities “speak to our condition and affirm our desire for something more and something better.”  A new poster from the National History Clearinghouse, “How Do You Piece Together the History of the Civil War?,” employs images of objects such as a quilt, a map, some photographs, a haversack, and a receipt to deepen understanding of the Civil War and about how historians piece together the past.

This 24-by-36-inch poster features a collage of primary sources and related questions that get students thinking about how we know what we know about the past, as we do with all history, but especially in relation to our country’s most devastating conflict, the Civil War. The question, “How can geography impact a battle?,”  accompanies a map of Gettysburg while a slave receipt prompts students to think about the laws, economics, and, most importantly, people involved in the institution of slavery.

The Clearinghouse, a professional development resource center funded through OII’s Teaching American History program, is making these posters available free of charge to classroom history teachers. The Clearinghouse has received more than 15,000 requests for the posters.  Click here to order your copy.

civil war posterAs a special bonus for teachers, the Clearinghouse has created an interactive version of this poster with links to teaching materials and websites related to the Civil War. Topics include military history and life on the battlefield, children’s voices during the Civil War, African American perspectives, emancipation, women’s roles, and Civil-War-era music.

This poster and online resources illustrate that it takes many sources and perspectives to develop a rich understanding of the Civil War in all of its complexity. As noted recently by Richard Byrne in the Free Tech for Teachers Blog, “Through both the poster and the site you can introduce students to the idea that a historical artifact is more than just an object; it can be the start of a great story.”

The National History Education Clearinghouse is directed by George Mason University through a contract with OII’s Teaching American History program.  The Clearinghouse provides high-quality professional development resources to K-12 history educators to make sure these educators have the best tools for teaching American history as a separate academic subject. “Teachers across the country and around the world are using Teachinghistory.org to deepen their content knowledge of American history, learn new strategies for teaching history in engaging ways, and expand their use of primary sources in the classroom,” according to the Clearinghouse’s director, Dr. Kelly Schrum. Editor’s note: Watch this space for another article in observance of Arts and Humanities Month and click here to read Secretary of Education Duncan’s ED Blog on the observance.