Blue Ribbon Schools
Future Ready Districts
Improving Education: View From Classroom
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Blue Ribbon Schools
At a special awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., last week, Secretary Duncan honored 340 schools as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The award recognizes public and private schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. "These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American educationthat all students, no matter their zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative, and challenging learning environments," the Secretary explained. "National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student."
In addition to the Secretary, speakers included Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett; Marc Johnson, the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year; and Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year (see blog post).
The Department also recognized eight National Blue Ribbon School principals as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients:
- Alicia Aceves (Andrews School, Whittier, California)
- Candis Hagaman (Caldwell Early College High School, Hudson, North Carolina)
- Kathy Hunt (Edmond Doyle Elementary School, McAlester, Oklahoma)
- Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut (Houston Academy for International Studies, Houston, Texas)
- Robert Kern (Nazareth Area Middle School, Nazareth, Pennsylvania)
- Robert Lyall (St. Patrick Catholic School, Kingman, Kansas)
- Mario Marcos (Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Compton, California)
- Britani Creel Moses (LaVance Stewart Elementary School, Kemah, Texas)
This award, named after the former Secretary of Education and presented by the Department in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association for Middle-Level Education, honors school leaders for the essential role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellencefrequently under challenging circumstances.
Future Ready Districts
This week, President Obama hosted "ConnectED to the Future," a convening with more than 100 superintendents and other educators who will lead their schools and districts in the transition to digital learning. The event builds on the momentum of the President's ConnectED initiativea plan to connect 99% of America's students to high-speed Internetwith the launch of the Future Ready District Pledge. By signing on to this pledge, superintendents recognize the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using greater connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning (view President's remarks).
Specifically, the President led a digital pledge-signing ceremony with attending superintendents, joined virtually by hundreds of education leaders from across the country (see Future Ready Pledge Signers).
During the convening, the Department released two new publications: a toolkit ("Future Ready Schools: Empowering Educators through Professional Learning") and a technical assistance guide ("Future Ready Schools: Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning"). The toolkit focuses on how districts can use technology to connect educators and provide tailored professional learning experiences to students, while the technical assistance guide outlines tangible examples that will help schools to improve their technological infrastructure. The agency also highlighted a Dear Colleague letter, identifying specific ways that districts can allowably and effectively use existing sources of federal funding for technology that can provide high-needs populations with personalized digital learning tools, and showcased a report sharing the initial experiences of four diverse school districts as they adopt personalized learning approaches.
Over the next year, the Department, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, will host 12 Future Ready Regional Summits to support district leaders in using technology to transform learning. The summits are designed to help districts create and implement district-wide action plans. They will be open to all district leaders that take the Future Ready District Pledge.
This summer, Secretary Duncan announced the Excellent Educators for All initiative, designed to move the nation toward the day when every student in every public school is taught by excellent educators. As part of the initiative, consistent with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), each state must submit to the Department a complete state plan that ensures "poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers." States plans are due on June 1, 2015 (see guidance).
To support states in this challenging work, the agency is providing a range of tools, from webinars and Frequently Asked Questions to data files and educator equity profiles.
In September 2011, the Department offered each state the opportunity to request flexibility from certain requirements of ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of classroom instruction. More than 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have used this flexibility to design and implement innovative, tailored strategies to address their most pressing educational challenges and better support their students. Most of these waiver requests expire at the end of the current school year, and the agency is offering renewals to states that want to extend flexibility and continue the progress they have made in the last three years. States may request a three-year renewal, through the 2017-18 school year. Some states will be invited to request a four-year renewal under an expedited review process (see guidance and fact sheet).
The Department will provide technical assistance throughout the renewal process, including a number of webinars over the next several months and Frequently Asked Questions.
Also: With the recent announcements of New Jersey and New Mexico, the Department has approved 31 states for one-year extensions of ESEA flexibility through this school year. (Note: The agency has posted here approved flexibility requests.)
Improving Education: View From Classroom
Some of the most significant changes in education are now taking place in classrooms around the country. Teachers are challenging students to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and to reach higher levels of achievement. To get a closer look at how classrooms are being transformed, the Department is launching a behind-the-scenes video series. The first video in the series is "Improving Education: The View from Ms. Patterson's Classroom," featuring English teacher Elise Patterson, her students, and other educatorsincluding Principal Ambassador Fellow Rachel Skerrittat Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C. See the changes from Ms. Patterson's viewpoint and glimpse into her classroom.
Odds and Ends
According to new data, 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85% for the 2012-13 school year, up from nine states in 2010-11 and 16 states in 2011-12.
Marking the 15th anniversary of International Education Week, Secretary Duncan penned a blog post celebrating the important role education plays worldwide.
The Secretary also joined with Labor Secretary Tom Perez to discuss empowering today's economy by training tomorrow's workforce.
The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), along with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, released new guidance concerning effective communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities in public schools.
On the Department's Progress blog, one can read about EngageNY, an online source of comprehensive classroom materials aligned with new college- and career-ready standards; several Georgia Innovation Fund projects focused on boosting students' interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and how Citrus County (Florida) School District's one-on-one computing initiative is transforming teaching and learning.
Brian Thompson of the Department's Military Affairs Team outlines his incredible path from Afghanistan to the front of the classroom.
Since 2003, the annual Speak Up survey (open through December 19) has collected data from students, educators, and parents about how to leverage technology in schools to promote learning.
The College Board issued its annual studies on trends in college pricing and student aid and benefits of postsecondary education.
Quote to Note
"We're so inundated with news of mayhem and mishap and war and disease. I think we forget how much good work is just being done day in and day out by a lot of good people who care about their kids and care about their communities. In your districts, I know there are just extraordinary teachers and principals who are putting everything they've got into making sure our kids are getting a great education. And you've got parents who are stepping up and volunteering and helping to make those schools work. So, as you disperse, a message I want you to deliver to all of them from the White House, from the President, is even if you're not getting a lot of attention, even if you're not making a lot of headlines, what you're doing every single day is making the biggest possible difference in the life of this country. And I couldn't be prouder of you."
|||President Barack Obama (11/19/14), in remarks at the "ConnectED to the Future" convening|
Later today, Secretary Duncan will speak at a swearing-in ceremony for new and reappointed members of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
On December 16, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Outreach Team will host an informational webinar on federal student aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in Spanish. The Department awards more than $134 billion a year in loans, grants, and work-study funds to more than 14 million students. Register here.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funds tuition-free summer programs for school and college educators. Participants receive stipends to help cover travel and living expenses. Programs are held across the U.S. and abroad. These one- to five-week study opportunities focus on important topics, texts, and questions in the humanities; enhance the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry and provide models of excellent scholarship and teaching; and promote connections between teaching and research in the humanities. The deadline for applications is March 2, 2015.
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