Tadpoles and Children and Teaching! Oh My!

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!

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Equal Opportunities for All: New Civil Rights Guidance for Charter Schools

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.

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Iredell-Statesville Schools Teaches ED About Its Culture and Its Nerve of Excellence

Joelle Michaud (front), president of Art Education DC, speaks with a young artist about her work.

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.

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.”

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i3 Grant Increases Success of Under-Represented Advanced Placement Students

Arvada High School Principal Kathy Norton (fourth from left) and students accept a check from the Colorado Education Initiative for outstanding A.P. course completion scores. Pictured, left to right, are: Greg Hessee (director of initiatives, Colorado Education Initiative), Cindy Stevenson, former Jefferson County Schools superintendent; Tony Giurado, executive director of school effectiveness, Jefferson County Schools; Arvada High Principal Norton; Leroy Williams, Ball Corporation; Herman Musimbi, senior at Arvada High; Robert Hammond, Colorado Commissioner of Education; Desmas Archuleta, junior at Arvada High; Matt Walsh, achievement director, Jefferson County Schools; and  Helayne Jones, president & CEO, Colorado Education Initiative.

Arvada High School Principal Kathy Norton (fourth from left) and students accept a check from the Colorado Education Initiative for outstanding A.P. course completion scores. Pictured, left to right, are: Greg Hessee, director of initiatives, Colorado Education Initiative; Cindy Stevenson, former Jefferson County Schools superintendent; Tony Giurado, executive director of school effectiveness, Jefferson County Schools; Arvada High Principal Norton; Leroy Williams, Ball Corporation; Herman Musimbi, senior at Arvada High; Robert Hammond, Colorado Commissioner of Education; Desmas Archuleta, junior at Arvada High; Matt Walsh, achievement director, Jefferson County Schools; and Helayne Jones, president & CEO, Colorado Education Initiative. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Education Initiative)

Across Colorado, students who don’t normally attend Advanced Placement (A.P.)* classes are not only attending, but also are earning passing scores in those classes. This is thanks to the Colorado Legacy Schools Initiative (CLSI) and its outreach to 23 high schools throughout the state. The Initiative’s purpose is to dramatically increase the number and diversity of students succeeding in math, science, and English A.P. courses.

A 2013 report by the Education Trust, Finding America’s Missing AP and IB Students, notes that while 91 percent of American public school students in 2010 attended high schools that offered A.P courses, only about 12 percent of those students participated in the courses. Moreover, that participation disproportionally favored middle- and high-income students, who were three times more likely to enroll in A.P. courses as low-income students. Similar advanced course participation disparities were found between racial and ethnic student groups. White students participated at the 12-percent national average for A.P. enrollment and Asian students at more than twice that rate. By contrast, the A.P. participation rates for black, American Indian, and Hispanic students ranged from six to nine percent. The “real advanced-course opportunity gap lies … not between schools, but within them,” the report noted, estimating that “if all groups of students attending AP schools were served equally, more than 640,000 additional low-income students and students of color would benefit.”

Other research supports CLSI’s commitment to seeing that students not just take A.P. courses but pass their rigorous exams, increasing the students’ competitiveness for college admissions and advance course credits, as well as their eligibility for scholarships, potential to double major or study abroad, and the likelihood of graduating in four years.

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Leadership Grantees Featured During National Charter Schools Week

President Obama has proclaimed May 4-10 as National Charter Schools Week. “As independent public schools, charter schools have the ability to try innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom,” the proclamation notes. “They can show what is possible – schools that give every student the chance to prepare for college and career and to develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.”

In honor of this week, OII begins a series of articles highlighting the work of the Charter Schools Program’s National Leadership Activities grantees. The series begins with the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, designed to leverage the effective policies and practices of authorizers successful in these core areas of charter school operations. Click here to read about the PMRC project’s results and resources available to charter authorizers nationwide.

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CSP Leadership Grantee Offers the Tools to Build a Stronger Charter Sector

In November 2012, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) launched the One Million Lives Campaign with the goal of creating better school options for at least a million children in the nation’s charter schools. The campaign focuses on closing the poorest-performing schools, those charters that are failing our children, while opening even more great schools — schools that will succeed in living up to the promise of the charter school sector.

One_Million_Lives_Logo_WebAt the heart of this campaign is a set of activities funded by an OII Charter Schools Program (CSP) National Leadership Activities grant to NACSA. In the fall of 2010, NACSA initiated the Creating Quality Charter Schools through Performance Management, Replication, and Closure (PMRC) project to better address the unacceptable number of poor-performing schools that are charter schools. While the charter school sector has often led the way on accountability for performance, the systems for defining, measuring, and acting upon school quality, as well as for replicating good schools and for closing failing schools, are often lacking. The PMRC project was designed to leverage the current effective practices of authorizers successful in these areas and develop core policies and practices that can be disseminated and implemented across the nation.

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Slammin’ on Education

Slammin' on Education cross-post

(Left to right) Malachi Byrd, Devyn Jefferson, Juwan Middleton, and Cynthia Johnson performed original spoken-word pieces as part of the School Leadership Program conference. These students represent CONTRA VERSE, a spoken-word team from Cesar Chavez School for Public Policy, which is led by their teacher and coach, Michael Bolds. Throughout the two-day convening, these students and others shared insightful perspectives on education and the impact of current reforms on educators and students.

What happens when you invite students to a project directors’ conference on school leadership? They infuse the atmosphere with energy and enthusiasm, push the envelope in thoughtful ways, inspire with their creativity, and remind the adults why our work is critical.

OII’s School Leadership Program office recently hosted a convening for 45 of its grantees currently implementing projects that prepare and develop principals to serve in high-need schools and districts. The conference provided an opportunity for districts, universities, partner organizations, Principal Ambassador Fellows, and federal policymakers to learn from each other and other experts in the field about how to improve and promote school leadership. Throughout the two-day conference, student performers graced the stage to intermittently bring our work back in focus while also challenging us all with provocative questions, such as “At what point does patience give way to urgency in our reforms?”

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NWP Teacher-Leaders Promote Civic Engagement in Cyberspace

Every spring, the National Writing Project (NWP), an OII grantee, brings together a core group of teacher-leaders from across the country to study and share effective practices that enhance student writing and learning. This year’s Spring Meeting was held on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Matt Williams, educational technologist at KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s award-winning PBS affiliate, led off the day with an engaging discussion about the powerful role of digital tools in promoting and improving civic engagement among the country’s youth. Matt was joined by NWP teacher-leaders Janelle Bence, Chris Sloan, and Meenoo Rami, who are implementing the Do Now project in their classrooms as part of a collaborative effort between KQED and the NWP’s Educator Innovator network. There are currently 150 schools across the nation actively participating in this endeavor.

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2014 Investing in Innovation Competition Continues with Invitation for Scale-Up and Validation Applications

(April 23, 2014) The U.S. Department of Education today announced the start of the 2014 grant competition for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program’s Scale-up and Validation categories. This competition will continue the Department’s investments in promising strategies that can help close achievement gaps and improve educational outcomes for our neediest students.

“This year’s Validation & Scale-Up competition is an opportunity for us to continue supporting strategies that help our highest need students succeed,” said Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “These efforts are part of our larger commitment to investing in what works.”

The i3 program aims to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare students to succeed in college and in their careers. As in years past, the program includes three grant categories: Development, Validation and Scale-up. This year, school districts and nonprofit organizations, in partnership with districts or schools, are eligible to compete for nearly $135 million across all three categories. The maximum grant amount available in each category is based on the evidence of effectiveness.

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The Hollywood We All Need to Know

Arne Duncan roundtable

“This is remarkable leadership in action,” Secretary Arne Duncan told the press at the Hollywood FamilySource Center, following a roundtable with community stakeholders of the East Hollywood Promise Neighborhoods project. (Official Department of Education photo)

A small youth and family resource center is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at the intersection of Western Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in warm, sunny Los Angeles. It’s in “the other Hollywood,” where instead of calling for the lights, camera, and action of movie making, community leaders are in search of the solutions to poverty, mental health issues, and learned helplessness. Since 2013, with the help of a $30 million Promise Neighborhoods grant, the Hollywood FamilySource Center has become the “one-stop-shop” for local families in need of help.

On March 19, Secretary Arne Duncan, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods team, visited the center, which is operated by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI). The goals of the center are to increase family income and students’ academic achievement. During its fourth year of operation in 2013-14, more than 3,140 clients benefited from the Center’s core services: adult education and computer literacy classes, tutoring and enrichment programs to improve children and youths’ academic skills, medical and dental health care, and a number of other services.

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