From sea to shining sea, our country is home to gorgeous landscapes, vibrant waterways, and historic treasures that all Americans can enjoy. But right now, young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside, and that means they are missing out on valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular outdoor places that belong to all of them.
President Obama is committed to giving every kid the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and unique history. That’s why today he launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which calls on each of our agencies to help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for them and their families — for a full year.
Last fall, during the 2014 Partners in Progress Back-to-School Bus Tour, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring students participating in 12 for Life, a program created by a private business called Southwire. While on a tour of the factory floor, the students shared inspiring and deeply personal testimonies about how 12 for Life has provided technical, leadership and life skills while enabling them to earn their high school diploma .
Brittany Beach’s story is one we will remember for many years to come. Brittany was pregnant when her high school counselor suggested she apply to 12 for Life. “Not one time did not graduating cross my mind,” she said, “Being here gave me the opportunity to attend school and not give up, because of the supports.” Now Brittany is enrolled at West Georgia Technical College and expects to be certified as a nursing assistant. There is a job waiting for her at the nearby veteran’s hospital, she said, and she wants to continue her training to become a registered nurse.
U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The nation’s high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.
“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families.”
The U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Education will continue working with tax preparers during the 2015 tax filing season to increase federal student loan borrowers’ awareness of income-driven repayment plans. This year, two of the largest tax preparers in the country, H&R Block and Intuit, Inc., are using their online tax preparation tools to share information about repayment options, including the President’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan and the Department of Education’s Repayment Estimator with student loan borrowers.
Income-driven repayment plans allow eligible borrowers to lower their monthly federal student loan payments to as low as 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. The Repayment Estimator enables borrowers to compare estimates of their monthly student loan payments, projected loan forgiveness where applicable, length of repayment, total interest, and total amount paid under all federal student loan repayment plans.
The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a resolution agreement to resolve a compliance review of the Yakima School District, Washington. The review examined whether the District has taken appropriate action to address harassment of students on the bases of sex, race, color, national origin, and disability. Yakima School District is the 18th largest school district in Washington State with 23 schools and approximately 16,000 students. It is also the largest Latino majority district in Washington State.
After identifying relatively high rates of bullying in the district, OCR’s investigation found the district violated federal civil rights laws by failing to provide nondiscrimination notices or procedures for prompt and equitable resolution of student or employee complaints. In addition, OCR’s investigation revealed flawed district recordkeeping that prevented the district, or OCR, from determining whether a hostile environment exists for students and if so whether the district takes appropriate steps for solution.
“After an economic crisis that forced schools to cut their budgets and hit teachers hard, the last thing we should do right now is cut funding for education. Unfortunately, Chairman Kline’s proposed legislation would allow cuts to school funding. It also fails to give teachers and the schools who need it most the resources they need. And it sends the message that ensuring a quality education for every child isn’t a national responsibility.
“Every child in America, not just some, deserves a fair shot. We have seen tremendous progress in schools across the country thanks to the hard work of educators and education leaders. But I am concerned that this proposal would turn back the clock on that growth because it doesn’t invest in preschool, or support schools and districts in creating innovative new solutions to problems that translate into better outcomes for students.
The U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program is leading new interagency partnerships to bring hands-on STEM learning opportunities to high-need students during after-school and out-of-school time. Through this collaboration, the Department will expand an existing pilot program with NASA and build new partnerships with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
These partnerships will create opportunities for students to engage in solving real-world STEM challenges with scientists and experts in their field. Overall, the number of participating 21st CCLC sites will increase from approximately 20 last year to over 100. Participating states include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
The U.S. Department of Education has released a new guide for educators on ways to identify and help prevent child trafficking in schools. Human Trafficking in America’s Schools is a free guide for school staff that includes information about risk factors, recruitment, and how to identify trafficking; what to do if you suspect trafficking, including sample school protocols and policies; and other resources and potential partnership opportunities. The Department also has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and President Lincoln’s Cottage, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to sponsor a youth campaign focused on raising awareness about and preventing human trafficking..
“It’s hard to imagine that such heinous crimes continue to exist today, right here in America,” Deborah S. Delisle, assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, said. “Human trafficking robs young people of a life that is filled with hope. The Department stands with its other federal and non-profit partners, such as President Lincoln’s Cottage, in helping these young people return to safe, supportive homes and schools.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault.
“I am very pleased to bring to close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX and immediately implement steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “This agreement is a credit to the strong leadership of Harvard President Drew Faust and Law School Dean Martha Minow, for which I am deeply grateful and from which I know their students will benefit significantly.”
The U.S. Department of Education today announced a nearly $570,000 grant to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to assist with ongoing mental health services following a shooting near the campus in May 2014. The immediate services grant, which is being made through the Department’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program and administered by the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, will provide mental health support to the campus.
The Department makes two types of Project SERV awards—Immediate Services and Extended Services. Immediate Services grants provide emergency, short-term assistance to affected school districts or colleges and universities. Extended Services grants assist school districts and colleges and universities in carrying out the long-term recovery efforts that may be needed following a significant, traumatic event.