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.
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.
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.
For teachers in New York City’s District 75, which serves more than 20,000 special needs students across the city, an innovative arts-integration approach to instruction is improving students’ social-emotional and communications skills and helping students and teachers to achieve both individual and classroom goals.
Supported by a $4.6 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from OII in 2010, the Everyday Arts for Special Education (EASE) project is also being adapted by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where special education leaders are using the project’s arts-integration techniques to help achieve a system-wide goal of reducing the number of self-contained classrooms and schools. The Urban Arts Partnership, which manages the EASE grant for District 75, began leading professional development sessions for LAUSD teachers two years ago, and this year is working with 45 teachers in L.A. and nearly 350 in New York City.
Eighteen middle and high school students from Los Angeles and Lawrence, Mass., learned about the power of serendipity at the ED headquarters on May 15. The students — from the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles and the Elevated Thought Foundation — were there to demonstrate their artistic achievements and speak to both the importance of arts education and the power of student voice in education reform. The lesson on serendipity was courtesy of ED’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows program.
Former Teacher Ambassador Fellow Linda Yaron shares the experience she and her students had in preparing for their art exhibit and exposition on what it means to be a learner.
Linda Yaron, a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) at the ED headquarters, worked with seniors from the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities to showcase their art and writing in response to the question: “What does it means to be a learner?” As plans for the exhibit were discussed with the Student Art Exhibit Program team this past winter, current Washington TAF Emily Davis shared her experience with students from Elevated Thought, an extra- and co-curricular program in Lawrence that uses the arts to examine societal issues that the 12- to 18-year-old participants encounter in their community.
Lupita Prado Machuca, once an English language learner, teaches students from the same community where she grew up and helps them to see the importance of an education that prepares them for college and the workforce.
Lupita is the product of efforts in Kern County, Calif., to change the face of teacher preparation. California State University Bakersfield (CSUB), with funding support from an OII Teacher Quality Partnerships grant, brings mentor teachers into classrooms of first-year teachers and provides teacher candidates with field experience from day one, increasing their confidence and abilities when taking on their own classrooms.
The five-year, $10.5 million grant, which began in 2009, supports a partnership among CSUB, California State University Monterey Bay, and California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, along with two K-12 partners — Kern County and Tulare County school districts — in the central region of California. Known as the Edvention Partners, their combined efforts address the diverse needs of schools, teachers, and students within a large geographical, primarily rural, area.
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.
As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, I had the privilege of participating in ED Goes Back to School and shadowing kindergarten teacher Debbie D’Addario at McKinley Elementary School in Arlington, Va. My experience left me with a lasting impression of just how challenging it is to be an effective teacher and with a renewed appreciation for the people who step up to a teaching career.
In Ms. D’Addario’s classroom, when the morning bell rang, five-year olds who had been patiently lined up outside filed into the classroom one-by-one, systematically marked their attendance, turned in their homework, and sat in their assigned seats. I was immediately impressed by the routine Ms. D’Addario had established in her classroom. Next, everyone gathered on the carpet in the front of the room for a song about the class rules, which students sang and danced, reinforcing the expectations for the day in a fun and memorable way. We were then ready for our first activity!
The charter school sector is based on a simple compact: In exchange for greater autonomy in its operations, a charter school bears greater accountability for the academic progress of its students. The goal is to create environments that foster innovative and impactful approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom, and ultimately, to scale those effective approaches.
As an Administration, we are committed to supporting high-quality schools for our students, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged. President Obama’s recent proclamation regarding National Charter School Week commended the role charter schools play in advancing opportunity. While they are still relatively few in number (comprising about 6% of public schools in the U.S.), charter schools are often a major focal point of community debate regarding how best to serve our neediest students. Regardless of the specifics of those debates, charter schools are obligated to adhere to federal civil rights laws.
Today, the Department released new guidance (en español) to emphasize that the federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in education on the basis of race, color, and national origin; sex; and disability apply to all public schools — including charter schools. Although these laws extend to all operations of a charter school, including recruiting, academics, educational services and testing, school climate (including prevention of harassment), athletics and other nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and accessible buildings and technology, this guidance focuses on admissions, educational services to children with disabilities and English learners, and disciplinary measures.
Joelle Michaud (front), president of Art Education DC, speaks with a young artist about her work.
On May 2, six months after the government shutdown forced a stop to their art exhibit opening at the ED headquarters, a delegation of nearly 100 student artists, teachers, school administrators, and parents from the Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) in North Carolina arrived at ED to celebrate the artistic accomplishments of students in the visual arts, music, theatre, and dance.
Students from Iredell-Statesville Schools open the exhibit with a ribbon cutting.
In recognition of their excellent work, Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Ursula Wright opened the program by applauding the district’s improved academic outcomes and decreased dropout rate as a result of its focus on arts integration. “Your collective investment in arts education is a testament to your communities’ commitment to uplifting the entire child,” she said, “… to ensuring that the youth in the Iredell-Statesville school system will receive a well-rounded education that will help to develop their creativity, increase engagement, and enrich their academic curriculum.”
Brady Johnson, the I-SS superintendent, expressed his gratitude for the students’ talents and his optimism for the great impact that their generation will have on the nation in the future. One saying in particular influenced his decision to make arts integration a central aspect of his district’s curriculum: “Kids can make beautiful art, but art can make beautiful kids.”