When the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) was founded in 2002, its leaders sought to answer an important question: “What more can we do for our students, our families, and our community to change the face of urban education?” During a recent visit, staff from the Office of Non-Public Education sought to identify lessons that could be shared with other educational leaders who are trying to answer this same question. WJA, a Catholic middle school for boys from low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., has established a model that seeks to defy the city’s opportunity gap and prepare its students for long-term success. The school provides tuition assistance as well as social, nutritional, and health services to nearly 100 students, an enrollment intentionally kept low to ensure students receive focused, individualized attention.
“We really don’t care if it’s public or private” stated Veronica Tate, director of the Office of Administration and Accountability at the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). “We want to make sure parents have the right and most up-to-date information to make good choices.”
In April 2014, the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) facilitated a promising practices webinar in which officials from the VDOE and Virginia Council for Private Education discussed their successful partnership to launch a state-level equitable services working group. The state takes its obligation to provide equitable services seriously, and has taken a deliberate review of the law and associated guidance. “It is up to us,” Tate emphasized, to “ensure that our students, parents and the teachers … are served.” In addition, she indicated that technical assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) influenced the state’s efforts to help districts understand their obligation to provide equitable services under applicable federal education programs.
My name is Sophia Pink. I’m a high school junior at Washington International School in Washington, D.C., and recently had the privilege of speaking at the 9th Annual Private School Leadership Conference about my experience of creating a hybrid approach for 10th grade.
As a freshman in high school, about two months into 9th grade, I was frustrated. I liked my school, but I spent all my time marching to other people’s orders, and had little time to work on projects in technology, science, and moviemaking that I was really interested in. So I thought about it for a while, and came up with an unorthodox idea. Instead of filling my days with going from class to class, I would take the time to work on projects that really interested me. And, to keep up with my core academics, I would take advantage of the new world of online education.
The Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) hosted the 9th-Annual Private School Leadership Conference on September 23 at the Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Each year, the invitation-only event brings together 100 of the nation’s top private and home school educational leaders from across the country. Also attending were representatives from state and local education agencies who are responsible for administering federal education programs on behalf of private school students.
The annual conference provides a forum to address Department of Education programs and initiatives, listen to the concerns of the nonpublic school community, highlight innovative practices, and facilitate discourse between the Department and national nonpublic school leaders.
Interested in creating a high-performing women’s gymnastics team to participate and be at their best in the Olympics? Pull together a group of hard-working, athletic young women from across the country, hire a coach, rent a training facility, and put the women through a top-notch training program. Easy enough, it was done in the 2012 Olympic Games. The model can be repeated.
But how about creating public-private school partnerships nationwide to engage and guide our nation’s youth in the 21st century? Can you pull together unique pairings of schools filled with full-of-promise young people and begin the work?
Yes, you can. It happens. It turns out that creating educational partnerships established for particular needs and focused on community involvement are currently, and have been, part of the story in American education.
A recent part of that story includes public-private school partnerships that have inspired a growing movement of such partnerships and a national nonprofit organization, the National Network of Schools in Partnership (NNSP), that is dedicated to fostering both knowledge of and support for public-private school partners.
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.”
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.”
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.
The second-annual U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honorees were announced on April 22nd by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Mundo Verde is one of the 64 schools being recognized for their exemplary efforts to create healthier learning spaces and educate students on the importance of environmental protection. The secretary was joined by the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley and Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Bob Persiacepe.
It is not every day that hard-working students and teachers are awarded medals for their academic success; but that is just what happened to the students and teachers at St. Patrick School in Washington, Ill.
On December 5, 2012, the school celebrated its newly earned status as a U.S. Department of Education 2012 National Blue Ribbon School. Like Olympic athletes, the St. Patrick students eagerly stepped forward as school leaders and Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria solemnly placed official Blue Ribbon Schools medals around their necks. From kindergartners to the most recent St. Patrick School graduates (now high school freshmen), the students beamed with pride as they received their medals. The medals serve as a lasting reminder of the important role that students and teachers played in their school’s Blue Ribbon recognition, according to Monsignor John Prendergast, the pastor of St. Patrick Parish.
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.