San Antonio Promise Zone Progress on Display at Town Hall

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited San Antonio last month to participate in a town hall discussion on how the President’s Promise Zone initiative is helping the city’s Eastside community create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility. San Antonio is one of five Promise Zones announced earlier this year, and one of three in which Promise Neighborhoods, a program of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, are playing an integral role.

Since 2010, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has worked to improve educational opportunities for the community’s children, beginning with preschool education. And the efforts are paying off, according to Secretary Duncan, who noted a reduction in chronic absenteeism for 8th graders from 33 percent to 8 percent and an increase in graduation rates at Sam Houston High School from 46 to 84 percent. ”Where a whole community embraces the importance of education,” he noted, “that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”

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NWP Report Contributes to National Dialogue and Action

nwp teacher voicesThe National Writing Project (NWP) released the third installment in its Teacher Voices series, Teaching Young Men of Color. The report is a welcome addition to the national conversation about expanding opportunities for minority males, the focus of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Resulting from a collaboration of the NWP and the College Board, Teaching Young Men of Color delivers the insights of 12 extraordinary classroom teachers, who reflect on their students’ experiences in the academic world and society at large.

These educators, from diverse geographic and racial backgrounds as well as academic disciplines, offer powerful insights about young men of color that could only be derived from years of successful classroom teaching. The insights fall roughly into two broad themes:

  • Gender: Along with factors such as race, language, and socioeconomic status, gender plays a critical role in the teaching and learning process.
  • Effective classroom practices: There is an abundance of classroom practices that teachers surveyed for this report identified as effective for minority males. Some are tied to the fundamentals that undergird all good teaching, and others are specific to particular populations.

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KIPP Schools is 2014 Broad Prize Winner

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (second from left), and Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (far right), congratulate representatives from KIPP Schools for winning the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools: from left, Stephen Mancini, director of public affairs, Carissa Godwin, chief development officer for KIPP Delta Public School in Helena, AR, and Eric Schmidt, school leader of KIPP Courage College Prep in Houston. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (second from left), and Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (far right), congratulate representatives from KIPP Schools for winning the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools: from left, Stephen Mancini, director of public affairs, Carissa Godwin, chief development officer for KIPP Delta Public School in Helena, AR, and Eric Schmidt, school leader of KIPP Courage College Prep in Houston. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

The KIPP Foundation, a network serving 50,000 students in 141 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) and Investing in Innovation (i3) program — is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The $250,000 award, which will support college readiness efforts for KIPP students, was announced on July 1st at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Las Vegas.

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, announces that KIPP Schools is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools before an audience of 3,000 people at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

Bruce Reed, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, announces that KIPP Schools is the winner of the 2014 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools before an audience of 3,000 people at the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. (Photo courtesy of Al Powers for The Broad Foundation)

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated the KIPP Foundation for its “ability to scale and to bring an increasingly high-quality education to thousands of low-income students and students of color who otherwise might not have the opportunity.” More than 86 percent of KIPP students are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch and 95 percent are students of color. Citing KIPP’s “no excuses” policy “when it comes to ensuring every student the opportunity to a great education,” Bruce Reed, president of The Broad Foundation, said, “KIPP Schools is providing a quality education to low-income students and students of color on a scale that naysayers of public charters thought was impossible.”

Stephen Mancini, the KIPP Foundation’s director of public affairs, said the results of KIPP’s efforts “are showing that demography doesn’t determine destiny,” and gave credit for the award to “the teachers, school leaders, and families who work hard to climb the mountain to get kids to and through college every day.”

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Connecticut Magnets Offer High-Quality Education

Students at Metropolitan Business Academy participate in the Student Ambassador Program, which promotes positive character development and a healthy and safe school community. Photo by Coppola Photography, courtesy of New Haven Public Schools.

Students at Metropolitan Business Academy participate in the Student Ambassador Program, which promotes positive character development and a healthy and safe school community. (Photo by Coppola Photography, courtesy of New Haven Public Schools).

As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing legal racial segregation in public schools, now is a good time to reflect on programs that promote diversity in schools. As a program officer for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), I’m part of a team that manages funding awarded to school districts nationwide to implement magnet programs in their schools. The MSAP has two primary goals: 1) to promote racial/ethnic diversity in schools; and 2) to improve student academic achievement.

Magnet schools offer a unique, rigorous curriculum and theme (e.g., performing arts; global and international studies; Montessori; science, technology, engineering and math), in order to “attract” a diverse set of students to attend. MSAP focuses its funds on schools that use a non-selective lottery system (rather than academic criteria) for admissions, which helps support schools that offer educational choices to a broad array of students.

Last month, when I attended the Magnet Schools of America national conference in Hartford, Conn., I had the opportunity to see some successful magnet schools in action. Connecticut has a unique school choice system that resulted from the 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill case, in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the racial and socioeconomic isolation of Hartford school children violates the state constitution.

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Preschoolers “On the Go” at the Department of Education

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HINN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Children begin their learning activities after receiving a sticker from the “Word Machine” (upper left). Each sticker has the name and picture of a vehicle. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

“Things That Go” was the theme of a recent Family Day Event at the Department of Education headquarters that featured the latest efforts of the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s (HITN) Early Learning Collaborative (ELC), which uses an innovative transmedia approach to early learning.

More than 30 young children from the University of the District of Columbia Lab School and the Barbara Chambers Children’s Center of Washington, D.C., many of them English language learners, attended the event, along with their teachers, parents, and education professionals.

HITN Coloring (cropped)

A preschooler colors his vehicle as part of his journey to Baby Bird’s birthday party. (Photo courtesy of HITN/Rodrigo Sanchez)

Through a series of hands-on activities, the children and adults engaged in a rich variety of experiences based on ELC’s English language development transmedia PlayGround called “Things That Go.” The PlayGround includes non-digital and digital materials, Web-based games, and the PlaySet— ELC’s tablet-based app.

This transmedia approach develops pathways to early learning through play and multiple, interconnected platforms that include storybooks, puzzles, picture/word games, as well as Web-based games and highly engaging digital apps. In 2013, ELC launched the pilot phase of its transmedia preschool learning PlayGround and tablet-based PlaySet at the Newseum (see this OII home page article for more information).

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Charter Schools Program Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools Competition Announced

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) announced the 2014 Replication and Expansion of High Quality Charter Schools grant competition, with an application deadline of July 21, 2014. The FY 2014 Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards can be found here.

This program assists nonprofit charter management organizations, as well as other not-for-profit entities, in replicating or expanding high-quality charter schools with demonstrated records of success. Applicants must have experience operating more than one high-quality charter school.

The Department plans to award up to $26.5 million for this competition and estimates making between 14 and 19 awards (the Department is not bound by any estimates).

Applications are due by July 21, 2014, at 4:30:00 p.m. (EDT), and must be submitted through www.Grants.gov.

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i3 Development Competition Completes Initial Phase

The Investing in Innovation (i3) Development competition supports projects that accelerate student achievement and drive innovation in K-12 education. Today, the U.S. Department of Education posted the highly rated pre-applications for the 2014 i3 Development competition.

The Department of Education received 395 pre-applications for the initial phase of the Development competition, and has invited 118 pre-applicants to submit full applications. Other pre-applicants may also choose to submit a full application and can find additional information here.

The i3 Development grants are up to $3 million total over three to five years. Crucially, each i3-funded project will be part of an independent evaluation to better understand and share what works, so that educators and researchers can build on the successes and challenges of these efforts.

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Charter Schools Program Non-SEA Grant Competitions Announced

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) announced two new Non-State Educational Agency (Non-SEA) grant competitions, with an application deadline of July 11, 2014.

The CSP’s Non-SEA Planning, Program Design, and Implementation competition provides grants directly to charter school developers so they can plan, design, and complete the initial implementation of their schools. The Non-SEA Dissemination competition provides grants directly to existing public charter schools, which they can use to assist other schools in adapting the charter school’s program (or certain aspects of the charter school’s program) or to disseminate information about the charter school.

For FY 2014, the Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards includes one absolute priority — improving achievement and high school graduation rates in high-poverty schools; only applications that meet this priority will be considered for an award.

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Arizona Teacher Residency Model Gets High Marks

Arizona State University’s college of education has given new meaning to the old expression, “hit the ground running.” The iTeachAZ program, with support from a $24.7 million OII Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP) grant, improves readiness of new teacher candidates by extending their student teaching experience into a year-long residency.

Essentially, the program creates a seamless transition from the student teaching experience to the K-8 classrooms where iTeachAZ candidates find themselves after graduation.

The program is getting high marks from both local superintendents and principals because of what they observe in the classrooms of iTeachAZ graduates in their “first year” as new teachers. “This is not a first-year teacher; this is an iTeach teacher,” is how local superintendent Catherine Stafford describes the level of preparation that the extended residency model provides. Principal Randall Watkins aggressively recruits iTeachAZ graduates for classroom openings because he knows “they will be ready to come in and provide high-quality instruction.”

The program is unique in Arizona and was recently added to the Innovations Inventory of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, an online database highlighting innovative practices that provide educator candidates a competitive edge in the field.

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Iredell-Statesville Schools Find a Boost from “Investing In Innovation”

N.B. Mills Elementary School's intervention time, a COMPASS component, gives students the ability to grow and learn from each other while another group works with a teacher. (Left to right) 5th-grade students Ashley, Sitaly, Jose, Jasiah, and Bobbie work together during their science intervention time as they discover the meaning of "force.” (Photo courtesy of Jada Jonas and the Iredell-Statesville Schools)

N.B. Mills Elementary School’s intervention time, a COMPASS component, gives students the ability to grow and learn from each other while another group works with a teacher. (Left to right) 5th-grade students Ashley, Sitaly, Jose, Jasiah, and Bobbie work together during their science intervention time to discover the meaning of “force.” (Photo courtesy of Jada Jonas and the Iredell-Statesville Schools)

Serving more than 21,000 students, Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina ranks among the 20 largest school districts in the Tar Heel State. The district serves 36 schools in Iredell County — a diverse blend of urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods — 40 miles north of Charlotte. Four years ago, the district faced a dilemma: While it ranked in the top 10 percent of North Carolina districts in academic performance, it needed to increase teacher effectiveness and boost the academic achievement of its high-needs students, English learners, and students with disabilities. And while district leaders had a plan to achieve this ambitious goal, the annual I-SS budget resided in the basement of the state’s 212 districts, in the bottom five percent.

The plan to achieve their North Star goal of equity in student achievement was aptly called COMPASS — Collaborative Organizational Model to Promote Aligned Support Structures — with the route to success predicated on targeted professional development that focuses on use of data, curricular improvements, and instructional approaches to identify where students are struggling and address their individual academic needs. I-SS teachers would be equipped with the tools to ensure that all of their students are on track to achieve their learning goals. Integral to this approach is the alignment of the school’s support structures for teachers and deepening existing professional learning communities where educators collaborate, analyze student performance data, and share best practices.

In 2010, I-SS entered their COMPASS plan in OII’s Investing in Innovation (i3) competition and received a $4.99 million Development grant, setting them on a multi-year journey that would begin with bolstered professional development, followed by piloting the new approach in several schools, and eventually result in district-wide implementation.

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