Illinois Surveys Teachers, Students and Parents on the Essentials of School Success

When Kenneth Scott became principal of Mae Jemison Elementary School in Hazel Crest four years ago, there was little parent involvement and few after school activities for children. To change that, he started a basketball team and cheerleading squad. But, because the school only had 15 uniforms for each, not many students could participate.

Scott knew he needed to do more. That recognition was strengthened by data from a first-ever survey about the school’s culture and learning environment, administered in spring 2013 to the school’s students, teachers and parents. “The parents wanted their children to be part of the school culture and community even if they didn’t have a great jump shot,” he said. He started clubs for art, chess and computers as well as groups to mentor girls and boys. The response was gratifying. Thirty-one of the school’s 400 students signed up for the chess club alone, and whereas he had previously set up 250 chairs for parents and students attending the school’s Christmas or Black History presentations, he now needed more than 600. The growth in parent involvement was “exponential,” he said.

Full story of essentials for school success at ed.gov

U.S. Education Department Announces Final Rule to Strengthen Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program

The Department of Education announced publication of a final rule to strengthen the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program today helping more students and families pay for college, and ensuring they have the tools and resources to make informed decisions about financing their educational pursuits. The new regulations will both expand student access to postsecondary education and safeguard taxpayer dollars by reflecting economic and programmatic changes that have occurred since the program was established more than 20 years ago.

“The Department’s top priority is to ensure more students can access and successfully complete a postsecondary education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The updated borrowing standards for the PLUS loan program demonstrate our commitment to ensuring families have access to the financing they need to reach their goal, while being good stewards of taxpayer money.”

Full story on the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Announces Final Rule to Help Colleges Keep Campuses Safe

The Obama Administration today announced publication of the final rule implementing changes made to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) by the Violence Against Women’s Authorization Act of 2013. That law and the new rule strengthen the Clery Act to more effectively address, and ultimately reduce, sexual violence on college campuses, including, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

The Clery Act requires institutions of higher education to comply with certain campus safety- and security-related requirements as a condition of participating in the Federal student financial aid programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act.

“The Department has the responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These new rules require institutions to ensure that students and employees have vital information about crime on campus and the services and protections available to victims if a crime does occur, which will be significant assets in addressing the growing problems of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on our nation’s campuses.”

Full story of rule to keep colleges safe at ed.gov

Community Colleges: Helping the U.S. Become “First in the World”

About three-quarters of college students in this country attend a community college or public university. President Obama understands the crucial role that community colleges play in helping students and our nation skill up for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. That’s why, in a recent speech of the economy, he called them “gateways to the middle class” – and it’s also why they’re a key part of his ambitious plan to improve higher education in America.

I recently had an opportunity to visit LaGuardia Community College in Long Island, New York where I was able to deliver some exciting news. During my visit, I announced that LaGuardia is among the 24 winners of our new $75 million First in the World (FITW) grant program, designed to fund innovation in higher education in ways that help keep the quality of a college education up, and the costs of a college education within reach, so more students of every background can fulfill their dreams of getting a degree.

Full story of First in the World community colleges at ed.gov

An Invitation to Commit to Lead

When I was honored to be named Nebraska teacher of the year in 2007, almost in the same breath folks said, “Congratulations – when are you leaving the classroom?” Unfortunately, we have built into the American teaching culture this perverse disincentive that only seems to listen to and honor educators who move farthest away from those who need us most – our students.

Teach to Lead seeks to flip that by allowing teachers to lead from the classroom. We know that the many of the best ideas come from teachers – in fact, the solutions to today’s educational challenges will not be solved without the involvement of classroom teachers in the development as well as the implementation of innovative educational ideas.

Teach to Lead was developed by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to advance student success by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership – in other words, to make sure that teachers were involved in the development and implementation of education transformation.

Full story of teachers committing to leading at ed.gov

Avoid These 4 Mistakes I Made With My Student Loans

It’s been tough for me to come to terms with, but, unfortunately for me, I am not in college anymore. In fact, this spring marked three years since I graduated from college and went into repayment on my student loans. I know, not the most exciting thing in the world, but important. So while I don’t claim to be a student loan expert, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, mostly through trial and error. In hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes I did, here are some things I wish I had known when I was graduating and getting ready to start repaying my student loans:

  1. I should have kept track of what I was borrowing

Let’s be real. When you take out student loans to help pay for college, it’s easy to forget that the money will eventually have to be paid back … with interest. The money just doesn’t seem real when you’re in college, and I didn’t do a good job of keeping track of what I was borrowing and how it was building up. When it was time to start repaying my loans, I was quite overwhelmed. I had different types of loans and different interest rates. When I did eventually see my loan balance, I was pretty shocked.

Full story of mistakes made with student loans at ed.gov

Innovation in Higher Education through First in the World

Innovation in higher education is key to ensuring that our nation’s colleges and universities continue to serve our nation’s students. As part of an ambitious plan to increase value and affordability in higher education, President Obama called for the First in the World Grant Program (FITW) to fund innovative practices at colleges and universities.

Yesterday, ED awarded $75 million in grants to 24 colleges and universities across the country to fund innovative thinking that comes from educators working every day to ensure successful outcomes for students.

All FITW projects focus on improving college success among low-income, first-generation, and underserved students. The winning projects represent diverse and exciting approaches to improving student success. Topics addressed by FITW grantees include strengthening the critical transitions from high school to college, improving remediation, and ensuring the accessibility of instructional technology for students with disabilities.

Full story of FITW in education at ed.gov

One District’s Quest to Transform Learning through Technology

What does it mean to be a “Future Ready” school district?

More than 160 teachers, parents, students, and business and district leaders from across Tennessee recently gathered at the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ Martin Center to discuss the answer to this question and talk about the upcoming Future Ready District Pledge.

The Pledge establishes a framework for districts to achieve the goals laid out by the White House ConnectED Initiative. Some of these goals include: upgrading high-speed Internet connectivity, providing access to educational devices and digital content, and preparing teachers to use technology effectively to improve student learning and their own professional development.

Full story of learning through technology at ed.gov

24 New Teacher Quality Partnership Grants Totaling More Than $35 Million Awarded to Recruit, Train and Support More Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Teachers

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the award of $35 million for 24 new partnerships between universities and high-need school districts that will recruit, train and support more than 11,000 teachers over the next five years—primarily in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields—to improve student achievement. These awards are the culmination of this year’s Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant competition that President Obama announced in May at the White House Science Fair.

For the first time, this year’s TQP competition focuses on preparing STEM teachers, and increasing the participation of underrepresented groups—women, minorities and people with disabilities—in teaching STEM subjects. The 2014 TQP grantees will train teachers in a wide variety of approaches to STEM instruction, from early learning through high school levels. This advances on the goal that President Obama set in his 2011 State of the Union address to prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade with strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge. In addition, answering the President’s call to action, nearly 200 organizations have formed a coalition called 100Kin10, all committed to the goal of increasing the supply of excellent STEM teachers.

Full story of teacher quality grants at ed.gov