Touching Base--Volume 2 Issue 4

September 2009 — Volume 2 Issue 4
“… you've got to do your part, too. So I expect all of you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down. Don't let your family down or your country down. Most of all don't let yourself down. Make us all proud.”
– President Barack Obama at the Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA on September 8, 2009

President Speaks to Nation's School Children

On September 8, President Obama addressed students across the country in his back-to-school speech. The President emphasized the importance of education and challenged students to set both short- and long-term goals. It was broadcast live at 12:00 noon Eastern Standard Time and can now be seen on the White House website For school children's reaction to the speech, go to

ED and White House Engage Students in Video Contest

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), in collaboration with the White House, through a contest called, “I Am What I Learn,” will ask students to respond to the President's challenge by sharing their personal stories through visual media. To further engage students the contest requires students to create a video up to two minutes long, expressing the steps they will take to improve their education in the current school year and the role it will play to fulfilling their dreams. Students will be asked to submit videos between September 8 and October 8. For more details about the contest, go to


The First Family Celebrate Independence Day with Military Families

To celebrate Independence Day and to honor military heroes and their families, the First Family invited 1,200 troops and military family members to attend the Fourth of July gathering on the South Lawn of the White House. The celebration included volleyball and traditional refreshments.

Secretaries Read to Military Children for Read To The Top! Event

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and his wife, Patricia Shinseki, read to more than 100 children in grades pre-K through four from Bolling Air Force Base, the Fort Myer Youth Services program and the Anacostia Child Development Center for the Department of Education's summer reading initiative, “Read to the Top!” on Monday, July 27th, at the Department's headquarters in Washington, DC. The Shinsekis are advocates for military families and children. The Department has partnered with community organizations nationwide to address summer reading loss in response to President Obama's national volunteer campaign, “United We Serve,” which challenges all Americans to engage in sustained, meaningful service to meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn. The U.S. Department of Education's weekly reading campaign continued through August and featured various children’s books read by the Secretary, other Cabinet members and top Administration officials.

ED and DoD

i3 Fund Available in 2010

This fall, the Department will announce guidelines for the Investing In Innovation, better known as the i3, fund, a $650 million competition under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to Secretary Duncan, this new fund will “create robust incentives to expand what works, invest in promising practices, and boldly innovate.” The initial step will be to publish draft guidelines in the Federal Register, providing 30 days for the public's comments. Grant awards under the i3 fund are expected to be announced in 2010. For more information see Secretary Duncan's remarks about the new fund at

The Secretary of Education Approves Seven New Awards

The U.S. Education Department has awarded seven colleges $250,000 each to operate Veterans Upward Bound programs that help veterans develop academic and other skills needed to succeed in postsecondary education. The primary goal of the program is to increase the rate of enrollment and completion of postsecondary education programs. “Offering this assistance is our responsibility and our duty to the men and women who served in our nation's military,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Helping them access college is good for the nation that they will continue to serve as productive and participating members of the civilian community.” The programs will provide academic and personal counseling, mentoring and tutoring, and offer refresher courses for veterans who have not completed high school or who may be high school graduates but delayed the start of their postsecondary education to serve in our nation's military. Veterans Upward Bound programs will also assist veterans in obtaining support from sources such as the Veterans Administration, state agencies, veterans' associations and other groups that aid veterans. A list of grantees can be found at Other information about the program is available at

DoD Education Activity Director and Deputy Director Meet Secretary of Education

On August 20, 2009, Dr. Shirley Miles, Director of the DoD Education Activity (DoDEA) and Charlie Toth, Deputy Director of DoDEA, visited Secretary Arne Duncan at the US Department of Education Headquarters to discuss the DoDEA school system, its achievements and current initiatives. Dr. Miles reviewed the DoD-ED Memorandum of Understanding, the involvement of ED in the Advisory Council for Dependents' Education, background information on the DoDEA school system and the initiative the Virtual School which will provide online support for students who move frequently to and from military bases around the world.

DoDEA Awards Grants

DoDEA is working to ease the transition of military students and providing resources to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) who educate military dependent students. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Educational Partnership has awarded 44 grants to public schools throughout the nation through the Promoting Student Achievement at Schools Impacted by Military Force Structure Changes FY 09 Competitive Grant Program. There were two categories of grants -- competitive and invitational. Competitive grants focused on enhancing student learning opportunities, student achievement, and educator professional development at military-connected schools with projected military student growth between 2007 and 2009 due to force structure changes. The invitational grant program is specifically focused on schools that support installations with frequent and/or sustained deployments, or who are located in remote locations. All grant applicants were required to submit a summary of needs and link how their proposals addressed their unique needs. A particular emphasis was placed on supporting the needs of children from military families who are in transition. “This is the first year DoDEA has been able to execute our grant program and it's very gratifying to be able to offer assistance to the schools that are educating our military's children,” said Dr. Shirley Miles, Director of DoDEA. “We are looking forward to seeing how the districts implement the programs they've developed. We know that all children in the grant recipient districts will benefit from these awards.”

DoDEA Schools Close the Achievement Gap

The gap in academic achievement between white and black students in Department of Defense Education Activity classrooms is smaller than the national average in U.S. public schools, according to the findings of a new study. The results indicate that black students in DoDEA are scoring higher than their stateside counterparts on the center's tests. In fact, DoDEA schools beat all but a handful of states in all grades and subject areas studied in the report, which was prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Hugh Price, a Princeton University visiting professor who has looked at various education programs nationwide, was part of a panel organized by NCES to look at the report. He said he believes the gap is smaller in DoDEA schools because parents get involved in their children's education, and the students are in two-parent homes.

ED Facilitates Teleconference Meeting with DoD and VA

On June 9th Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) facilitated a teleconference meeting with staff from Department of Defense (DoD) and Veteran's Affairs (VA) as part of the Interagency Agreement (IAA) between OSERS' National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the VA. The following topics were discussed: 1) progress toward a second IAA to implement the approved plan for a Congressionally-mandated Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) registry, and 2) next steps in the development of a VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center TBI Database that will parallel the TBI Model Systems National Database. Representatives from the Veterans Brain Injury Center also participated.

ED Staff Briefed on Troops to Teachers Program

On July 9th ED employees attended an Education Policy Briefing that showcased the joint ED/DoD program Troops to Teachers. Troops to Teachers is a program that helps eligible military personnel begin a new career as teachers in public schools where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed. The program also helps these individuals find employment in high-need local education agencies (LEAs) or charter schools. In the presentation, Troops to Teachers administrators and teachers discussed the history of Troops to Teachers, the experiences of participants in the program, and Troops to Teachers program outcomes. The presenters were Dr. Jeffrey P. Cropsey, Director of Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support; William P. McAleer, Chief, Troops to Teachers; and Troops to Teachers participants, now classroom teachers, Michael Siekkinen, Tommy Thompson, and Philip Dabney.

ED Attends Conference about Base Realignment and Closure Activities

Representatives of ED's Federal Real Property Assistance Program, which conveys surplus federal real property to eligible educational organizations, attended the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) biannual conference held August 2-5, 2009 in Boston. The ADC is a nationally-recognized organization that provides technical assistance and networking opportunities to the military, Local Redevelopment Authorities, elected officials, the business community and federal agencies working collaboratively on the closure and realignment of military installations resulting from Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) recommendations. At the conference, the Department's representatives attended a variety of sessions on the military's progress with implementing the 2005 round of BRAC closures and realignments, as well as legacy BRAC properties from four previous rounds, pending legislative initiatives, updates on environmental issues and similar topics. The military departments indicated they were on track to meet the legislative requirement to close identified bases and reserve centers and redeploy personnel to newly constructed or expanded facilities across the country by September 2011. The Department's representatives were also able to meet with some of the educational Public Benefit Conveyance applicants and representatives from Local Redevelopment Authorities across the country while attending the conference.

States Impacted by BRAC

The National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) leads a Mission Growth Working Group that was established under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), and is comprised of state representatives from: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. To provide assistance to affected states and communities, and enhance the relationship between states, military communities, and growing military installations, the Working Group helps OEA to ensure a responsive program of assistance as a result of BRAC (base realignment and closure). On the basis their reviews, evaluations, and experiences with growth-impacted areas, the Working Group has identified three areas in priority order: workforce development, education, and transportation. The Working Group is co-chaired by governor-designees from Maryland (Lt. Governor Anthony Brown) and Georgia (State Senator Seth Harp). To find out more go to NGA Issue Brief: Organizing State Efforts to Respond to Mission Growth.

ED and DoDEA Participate in DoD Family Readiness Conference

Catherine Schagh, Director of Impact Aid, presented at the Department of Defense Family Readiness Conference in Chicago (IL) September 1-3, 2009 informing attendees about the Impact Aid Program. Kathy Facon, Chief of DoDEA's Educational Partnership, provided two sessions on Reaching and Supporting Public Schools Serving Military Students. Elaine Kanellis and Connie Gillette, from DoDEA's Communications department, provided a session on the critical importance of communication between schools, military commands and parents.

Support for College

All Children of Fallen Heroes to Receive “Fry” College Scholarship under War Supplemental

A provision authored by Congressman Chet Edwards to expand GI Bill benefits to children of fallen U.S. service members was included in the final 2009 Supplemental Appropriations bill, which funds U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Senate passed the final bill 91 to 5 after the House passed it 226 to 202. The bill was signed into law by the President on June 26, 2009. The provision, authored by Edwards as a member of the conference committee, expands the current GI Bill education benefit to cover the full cost of a college education for all children of fallen soldiers. The new benefit will be known as the “Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry” scholarship in honor of a fallen soldier with three young children from Edwards' district. For more information go to

Changes Will Benefit Military Veterans

A host of changes to student aid programs came on July 1. Many of these changes benefit students by lowering the cost of student loans, increasing grant aid for Pell Grant recipients and military veterans and providing new assistance for students with unmanageable education loan debt. See article at which summarizes some of the major upcoming changes to the student aid programs.

700 Colleges Tie the Yellow Ribbon

About 700 colleges signed up for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows colleges to enter into dollar-for-dollar matching agreements with the federal government to pay veterans' educational costs above those covered by the base GI Bill benefit. Under the new GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon Program, colleges and universities can enter into separate matching agreements at the undergraduate and graduate levels and for different colleges or professional schools. Colleges predetermine the maximum number of eligible veterans and the maximum amount contributed per student, per year. For more information about the program go to

ED and DoD Collaborate to Match Eligible Students

The Higher Education Act of 2008 (HEOA) created a provision to provide surviving children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were killed in service in Iraq or Afghanistan since September 11, 2001, a maximum federal Pell Grant award. Federal Student Aid and the Office of General Counsel are working with the Department of Defense on the appropriate legal documentation to identify the eligible students for a data match.

Service Brings Loan Forgiveness

The Senate introduced Senate Bill 1603 (Brown, D-Ohio), that amends section 484B of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which provides for tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness to students who withdraw from an institution of higher education to serve in the uniformed services (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions).

Federal Student Aid Staff Attend Job Fair

On September 30, 2009 Michelle Draughn, Chief of Staff at Federal Student Aid (FSA), will be representing FSA at a job fair in Fort Bragg, NC. Ms Draughn will inform military families of how they can access information on financial aid and scholarships.

ED Employees

ED Employee Participates in Campaign for Healthy Homecoming

ED staff participated in a meeting July 30th of the Organizational Committee of the Campaign for Healthy Homecoming, hosted and supported by Survivor Corps. The purpose of the meeting was to develop the National Homecoming Roadmap, a plan intended to improve the reintegration of service members and veterans returning home from deployments. Outcomes of the meeting included proposing coordination methods and identifying the leadership structure for working groups in the areas of education, employment, community, peer support, health care, and resilient families. The Campaign includes leading nonprofit and veteran service organizations, governmental departments and agencies, corporations, academic institutions, veterans and family members. The initiative resulted from the recommendations of the Community Reintegration Summit held in Washington, DC on January 26-27, 2009. To read the Findings Report from the Summit, visit

ED Team Coordinates Information on Wounded Warriors

The Pathways to Leadership program, a new leadership training opportunity, tasked 18 employees in three teams with proposing a project that would benefit ED. One of the three teams, Team Aurora, developed a proposal to coordinate the Department's activities related to Wounded Warriors. Team Aurora will act as a clearinghouse of information on ED offices serving Wounded Warriors. Anyone with programs, services, suggestions or activities that target or benefit Wounded Warriors, please contact Team Aurora: Chaun Eason at; Olivia DeWitt; Valerie Hough; Amy Klosterman; Helena Myers-Wright; or Katina Stapleton

ED Informs Hiring Heroes

On July 22nd Katherine Coates, Federal Student Aid, provided financial aid information to Marines and their families for the program, Hiring Heroes, at Camp Pendleton, CA. Approximately 400 Marines and their families attended.

ED Attends Change of Watch Ceremony

ED staff attended the Change of Watch Ceremony for the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, August 7, 2009. Among those in the official party were Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, Admiral Thad W. Allen, Commandant of the US Coast Guard, the outgoing Vice Commandant, Vice Admiral Vivian S. Crea and her successor, Vice Admiral David Pekoske. As second in command and Chief Operating Officer of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Crea oversaw the operations management of the organization and was responsible for efficient and effective daily functioning of the Service.

ED Assists in Back-to-School Events for Military Families

Dr. Patricia Crisp of Region VI (Dallas) is working with the Fleet Family Support Center of Naval Air Station (NAS) Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (TX) to prepare for back-to-school events.

For Your Information

Cell Phone Recyling Program Helps American Troops

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has raised almost $2 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas. Cell Phones for Soldiers expect to collect 50,000 cell phones each month through a network of more than 3,000 collection sites across the country. Proceeds from donated cell phones are used to purchase prepaid calling cards for American troops. Donated old cell phones help accomplish the mission: Help Our Troops Call Home. For more information, go to

Military Health Records Project Set to Expand

A Defense Department pilot program designed for easy access to medical files could propel government and military recordkeeping into the 21st century. The MiCare personal health records program, having undergone successful testing at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA has received the go-ahead light for expansion, and DoD officials hope it will provide a “ virtual lifetime electronic record” for service members. Security will be a top priority in further development of the program, which is a joint effort between DoD, the Veterans Affairs Department, Microsoft and Google. MiCare is a Department of Defense sponsored Web site where beneficiaries can sign up to have their electronic health records delivered to a Personal Health Record (PHR) of their choice. For more information go to

Military Kids Come Together at Camp Courage

This is the first year of operation for Camp Courage, a cooperative venture involving the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, Operation: Military Kids (OMK) and other agencies. From July 12th to 15th campers were able to attend for free, thanks to a grant from OMK, a partnership between Army Child and Youth Services, 4-H and Washington State University. Originally conceived as an experience for the children of Wounded Warriors, Camp Courage also included other military kids and a few of their nonmilitary friends. One goal of Camp Courage was to encourage kids, military and nonmilitary, to talk. OMK provides youth program opportunities for school age, middle school and teenaged youth and connects them to support resources where they live. Go to for more information.

Social Security Benefits Veterans

Anyone who's had active duty service prior to January 2002 and planning for retirement may qualify for a higher social security payment because of military service for active duty any time from 1940 through 2001. Up to $1200 per year of earnings credited at time of application can make a substantial difference in social security monthly payments upon retirement. Bring your DD-214 to the Social Security Office and ask for the benefit. Go to for more information.

Stress of War Impacts Children

The years-long U.S. commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking a significant toll on the children of service members, who are 2½ times more likely to develop psychological problems than American children in general, new research indicates. The study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, found that deployment of a parent was correlated to high stress levels in the parent who remains at home, which it said was linked to greater psychological impact on children. The children of service members deployed in wartime were commonly racked with worry over the safety of both parents and were under intense strain from the upheaval of changing schools and their relationships with service providers. For more information go to

Workshop Addresses Needs of Military Families

The U.S. Department of Education collaborated with the Washington State Office of Public Instruction to provide a workshop on August 4, 2009, that was consistent with the 2009 Office of Safe and Drug Free School Conference theme, The Power of Change: Healthy Students, Safe Schools and Engaged Communities. The workshop focused on the unique challenges of military-connected students, the current support provided by local, state and federal governments and organizations, successful options and best practices that address student mobility and frequent deployments and Base Realignment and Closure. Presenters were Dr. Charles Boyer, Special Advisor for Military Families, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement and Dr. Mona Johnson, Director of the Washington State Operation: Military Kids Project, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Contacts:Massie Ritsch, Deputy Assistant Secretary of External Affairs and Outreach, Charles Boyer, Special Advisor for Military Families; Cynthia Hearn Dorfman, Advisor; Carrie Jasper, Writer and Editor; Sara Allen, Grace Brown, Tara Butler, Patricia Crisp, Michelle Draughn, Lynda Edwards, Julie Ewart, Kathy Facon, Connie Gillette, Doug Herbert, Mary Hughes, Amy Klosterman, Melinda Malico, Linda Pauley, Barbara Sawyer, Katina Stapleton, Contributors
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Note: This document contains information about and from public and private entities and organizations for the reader's information. Inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by theU.S. Department of Education of any entity or organization or the products or services offered or views expressed. This publication also contains hyperlinks and URLs created and maintained by outside organizations. They are provided for the reader’s convenience; however, the Department is not responsible for the accuracy of this information.

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Last Modified: 10/01/2009