Throughout the country, there is a tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning. Fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschool programs, and yet, the importance of early learning is clear. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
In a recent speech during the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that we have reached an important turning point in the debate over early learning. “Demographic, economic, and ideological forces are all combining today to propel a big expansion of high-quality early learning,” Duncan said. “We just need Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.”
The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students. Arts-rich schools, those with high-quality arts programs and comprehensive course offerings, benefit students in and outside of the art or dance studio, music room, or stage. “All children deserve arts-rich schools,” Secretary Duncan told an audience of arts education advocates in 2012, as he discussed the disappointing results of an ED survey that showed many students lacking adequate access to arts education.
There’s no better time to echo the secretary’s pronouncement than in March, widely known as “Arts in the Schools Month.” Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities unfold throughout the month — some that showcase the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students.
The Obama administration continued to prioritize education in the 2015 budget released today by proposing key investments in education that would create opportunity for every child.
President Obama’s FY 2015 budget request for $69 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Education Department represents an increase of 2 percent over the previous year’s funding. The lion’s share of the 2015 request for preschool-12 programs — nearly 90 percent of discretionary spending — goes to formula funds that address the needs of disadvantaged poor and minority students, students with disabilities, and English learners.
Back in November, we asked K-12 students across the country to create short films on the role that technology plays in their classrooms. We asked them to tell us why technology is so important, and how it will change the educational experience for kids in the future.
And they responded with nearly 3,000 films.
Today, in collaboration with the American Film Institute, we hosted more than a dozen of the young filmmakers at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival, where we presented our 16 official selections. Special guests included Kal Penn, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, along with Conan O’Brien who addressed the students by video.
The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has reached an agreement with the Christian County Public Schools in Kentucky to improve the district’s disciplinary system so that all students will receive equitable treatment. In addition, the district will impose less frequent exclusionary discipline and will increase students’ educational opportunities.
OCR’s investigation revealed that the majority of the violations listed in the district’s disciplinary code were open to interpretation and undefined, leaving administrators broad discretion in assigning sanctions. This practice left students and their parents and guardians without adequate notice of the specific behaviors that may result in discipline and what sanction would be imposed. In addition, the district had no safeguards in place to ensure that discretion is exercised by referring teachers and other staff in a non-discriminatory manner.
Today, from the East Room of the White House, President Obama will launch a new effort aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society which too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. These obstacles are found in our schools, our communities, our criminal justice system, our families, and even in the minds of our young people themselves. The President is committed to build a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity, and reverse troubling trends which show too many of our boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks in our society.
To launch the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the President will be joined by local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media. The challenges facing boys and young men of color are broad and multidimensional, and so must be the team we bring to the table to begin fostering solutions.
Today, more than ever, schools and districts are managing a lot of digital data. Some of that has to do with teaching and learning, but there’s plenty more: from bus routes, to food service records, to enrollment and attendance information. Districts and schools are working to be more efficient and smarter about storing and using data. Many have chosen to move data “in the cloud,” meaning off-site data centers that securely store information.
This advancement in data storage has created some important and reasonable questions about what steps are being taken to insure that student data is kept secure and private. In a speech yesterday at the Common Sense Media Privacy Zone Conference, in Washington, D.C., Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reaffirmed that school systems “owe families the highest standard of security and privacy.”
In many schools across America, we begin each day with a morning ritual, the pledge of allegiance. Students stand sleepy-eyed with their hands over their hearts and recite the words that make our country great “with liberty and justice for all.” And though we proclaim it every day, the harder declaration is to live it.
In my classroom, students start off each school year discussing at length what it means to be a citizen of the United States. We debate, we question, and we make reference to our school creed: Be respectful, Be responsible, Be safe and an Active Learner. Students quickly discover that we cannot begin to learn unless we know how to best support one another throughout the process.
Thank you, Governor Beshear. It’s great to be back at the NGA. And I welcome this opportunity to talk about the role of early learning with our governors. On both sides of the political aisle, it’s the governors who are really leading the nation in expanding high-quality early learning, from birth to age five.
Before I talk about early learning, I want to briefly touch on a short handout in your binders. It highlights states that are making rapid progress in early learning, K-12 education, and higher education.
The metrics here are pretty simple and straightforward. This PowerPoint handout highlights States that have the biggest two-year increases in funding for early learning, and state preschool programs that are providing both access and quality.