U.S. Education Department Reaches Agreement with Youngstown State University to Ensure Equal Access to its Websites for Individuals with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights has entered into an agreement with Youngstown State University in Ohio to ensure that the school’s websites comply with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability.

The agreement ends an OCR investigation and commits the 13,000-student public institution in northeast Ohio to providing equal access to educational opportunities for students with disabilities and to ensuring that the school’s websites are accessible to persons with disabilities, including students, prospective students, employees and visitors.

“I applaud Youngstown State University for agreeing to make its websites – through which it increasingly provides information to employees, applicants, students and others – fully accessible to all, including to individuals with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “Web inaccessibility could significantly deter applications and participation from students with disabilities; this resolution ensures that Youngstown State can fully serve its entire student population, consistent with the law.”

Full story of Youngstown State’s website access for the disabled at ed.gov

Southern Methodist University Found in Violation of Title IX, Commits to Remedy Harassment, Sexual Assault of Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas after finding SMU in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to gender-based and sexual harassment, including sexual assault. The agreement requires the university to take specific steps to come into compliance with Title IX.  SMU is a private, four-year university with approximately 11,000 students.

“I appreciate Southern Methodist University’s strong commitment in this agreement to provide a safe and supportive educational environment for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I look forward to working with Southern Methodist University in its implementation of the agreement.”

Following its investigation, OCR determined that SMU violated Title IX by failing to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment.

Full story of University and sexual harassment at ed.gov

A Bold New Plan to Protect Students

Recently, the Department of Education announced our support for a deal that will strengthen the education prospects of nearly 40,000 college students on 56 Everest and WyoTech brand campuses, currently owned by the for-profit network Corinthian Colleges Inc. Under this plan, the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) Group’s new nonprofit education arm, Zenith Education Group, will buy the campuses from Corinthian and transform them from for-profit into nonprofit schools.

There has been considerable attention paid to this important and complex action, and it is essential that everyone have the facts. So I would like to explain why our Department decided it was necessary to take action on Corinthian, why we are supporting this sale, and what the results have been so far. I am proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in protecting students.

Full story of ECMC group’s to protect students at ed.gov

New York State Training Aspiring Teachers in the Classroom

Nichole Mantas felt her first year as a high school biology teacher at Lansingburgh High School in Troy, New York was far smoother than she had anticipated. “It was like I was already a mile into this yearlong race, whereas other teachers I worked with were entering at the starting line,” she said of her experiences in school year (SY) 2013-1014.

Mantas said she knew just what to expect, and how to set herself up for success because she had already spent a full year as an intern co-teaching science with a seasoned educator. One month into that internship, she had begun leading an Advanced Placement biology course, designing lab experiments and creating lesson plans—all while benefiting from expert guidance and coaching.

Full story of New York training for teachers in the classroom at ed.gov

Know It 2 Own It: Students Reflect in a Time of Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving around the corner, people across the country will be reflecting on the things they are most grateful for. During this time, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education would like to recognize and express gratitude to the teachers, parents, coaches, mentors, and others who have made a difference.

One of the ways we do this is through our ongoing Know It 2 Own It campaign. We want to encourage young adults to learn about the history of the disability rights movement and for those with disabilities to understand their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We also want to hear from young adults with disabilities who are working to make a difference in their communities.

As we have demonstrated in past blog posts, disabilities don’t all look alike. Each month we strive to tell different stories about challenges and successes within the disability community.

Full story on students reflection of Thanksgiving at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Request for Oklahoma

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it is reinstating Oklahoma’s authority to implement flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, through the end of the 2014-15 school year.

In August, Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that it had college- and career-ready standards in place, a key principle in ESEA flexibility, which is why the Department did not approve the state’s request to extend its flexibility. Following a recent review of the standards by the state’s colleges and universities, the state has the certification required to continue its flexibility. Higher, more rigorous academic standards help ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed in college, career and life.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle wrote in a letter to the state.

Full story of NCLB extension request for OK at ed.gov

ConnectED to the Future Convening Brings Together Future Ready Superintendents at the White House

Today, President Obama will host “ConnectED to the Future,” a convening with superintendents and other educators from across the country, who will lead their schools and districts in the transition to digital learning.

The convening builds on the momentum of the President’s ConnectED Initiative, a plan to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet, with the launch of the Future Ready Pledge. By signing on to this pledge, superintendents recognize the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning. Superintendents from districts across the country have signed the pledge. By doing so, they are demonstrating a commitment to work collaboratively with stakeholders to set a vision for digital learning; to empower educators through personalized, professional learning; and to mentor other district leaders in their transition to digital learning.

Full story on ConnectED at ed.gov

Fact Sheet: Elementary And Secondary Education Act Flexibility

The last three years have seen a historic shift in the relationship between the federal government and states, with more than 40 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico receiving flexibility from the prescriptive, top-down requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This flexibility has allowed states and districts to develop creative solutions tailored to their individual cultures, with major benefits for all students, regardless of background. This is a shift away from simple compliance and toward creativity with high expectations.

The law has been due for reauthorization since 2007, but in the absence of reauthorization, the Obama Administration began to grant waivers from the law in 2012 for states that promised to adopt college- and career-ready standards and assessments; create accountability systems that target the lowest-performing schools and schools with the biggest achievement gaps; and develop and implement teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account student growth—among multiple measures—and are used to help teachers and principals improve their practices.

Full story of elementary and secondary education act at ed.gov

More States with High Graduation Rates

As a nation, it is critical that we prepare all students for success in college, careers, and in life. High school graduation is a vital point along that path, and the latest state-by-state graduation rates demonstrate our continued progress as a nation tackling this challenge.

This is the third year that states are using a common method, called the adjusted cohort graduation rate, to calculate four-year high school graduation rates. The new data, for the 2012-13 school year, indicate that 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85 percent, up from 16 states in the 2011-12 school year and nine in 2010-2011. This progress is a tribute to the tireless efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and other educators and staff, and of the students themselves. In this progress is consistent with the announcement this year that the nation’s overall graduation rate has hit 80 percent – the highest in our history.

It’s also worth noting the performance of individual states with the highest graduation rates, both for all their students and for traditionally underserved populations.

Full story of high graduation rate states at ed.gov

Higher Education Programs Make A Difference

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a small team to visit Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College. We were there to meet with faculty and campus leaders who are administering Department-sponsored programs that support student success. I was impressed with their understanding of the student population, the variety of programs they were using to support degree attainment, and their collective commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students they serve.

My favorite part of site visits is the opportunity to meet with students. During this visit, I had the chance to talk with students from a variety of backgrounds, all of whom face serious barriers to obtaining a college degree. Some were veterans struggling to afford college, children of migrant workers, or adults recovering from addiction, while others were technically homeless or battling learning disabilities. All of these students made it clear that the help they received from Department-sponsored programs was giving them the tools, resources, and guidance they needed to obtain a college degree. Setting my federal position aside, as a human being I was moved by their optimism, resilience, persistence, and dedication to obtaining a college education. Each of them made a direct connection between postsecondary education and the ability to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

Full story of higher education programs at ed.gov