Bringing the Promise of Healthy School Meals to More Children This Fall

The Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010 enabled the U.S Department of Agriculture to make historic changes to the meals served in our nation’s schools. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks sold during the school day are now more nutritious than ever, with less fat and sodium and more whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. For many kids, the meals they get at school may be the only nutritious meals they receive that day—and when children receive proper nourishment, they are not only healthier, but they also have better school attendance and perform better academically. It’s not enough, though, to make the meals healthier—we must ensure that children have access to those healthier foods.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized a program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), that can help schools achieve their educational goals by ensuring that children in low-income communities have access to healthy meals at school so they are ready to learn. In this program, schools agree to offer breakfast and lunch for free to all students, and cover any costs that exceed the reimbursements from USDA. Designed to ease the burden of administering a high volume of applications for free and reduced price meals, CEP is a powerful tool to both increase child nutrition and reduce paperwork at the district, school, and household levels, which saves staff time and resources for cash-strapped school districts.

Full story on the Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act at ed.gov

Become an “Education Coach” and Keep the Summer Slide at Bay All Season

Summer is upon us – and with that comes what some call the “summer slide” in students’ academic skills while out of school. There are things that you as a parent can do, though, to take charge and make learning a priority even as the dog days of the season approach.

Below are some ways you can make learning like a sports game. As an “education coach” you can challenge and encourage any child in your life:

  • Set goals – What will you and your child accomplish by a set time?  Examples:  “After two weeks we will know how to count by twos to 50.” Or “After one week we will know how to print your first name.”

Full story of the summer education coaching at ed.gov

Four-year-old Talks About San Antonio’s Promise Zone

Too many of our children grow up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty where zip codes determine destinies. To address this inequality, President Obama has laid out a comprehensive strategy to create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility.  Education plays a critical role in this strategy, particularly in the President’s Promise Zone initiative.

On June 19, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan traveled to San Antonio, one of the first of five Promise Zones, to participate in a town hall discussion on how the initiative has impacted the community. The discussion took place at Tynan Early Childhood Education Center, where Principal Gregorio Velazquez kicked off the event by introducing an unexpected guest to give the opening remarks and welcome Secretary Duncan. The speaker was Mauricio, a four-year-old student at Tynan who would prove to be the star of the event.

Full story of a four years old’s promise at ed.gov

Departments of Education and Justice Reach Settlement Agreement with Jefferson Parish Public School System Ensuring Equal Access and Non-Discrimination in Schools

WASHINGTON — The Departments of Education and Justice announced today that they have reached a comprehensive agreement with the Jefferson Parish Public School System in Louisiana (JPPSS) to ensure that all students can enroll in school regardless of their own national origin or immigration status, or that of their parents or guardians.  The agreement also resolves complaints regarding JPPSS’ policies and practices for communicating with parents who have limited English proficiency (LEP) and JPPSS’ response to alleged harassment of Latino students based on their national origin.

“We applaud Jefferson Parish for ensuring that all students will have access to their public schools and that all parents, regardless of the language they speak, are equipped with the information necessary for their children to fully participate in and benefit from their educational programs,” said Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  “We look forward to working with the Department of Justice and the school district to address these crucial civil rights issues.”

Full story of Parish Public School System settlement agreement at ed.gov

The Importance of Hearing from Teachers Around the World

A sweeping majority of secondary school teachers in the U.S. report that they are satisfied with their jobs — that is one of the main takeaways from a new survey, called the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). The survey provides a unique opportunity to hear from U.S. teachers and to compare the views of educators in this country with those from educators around the globe.

According to the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 89 percent of U.S. teachers are satisfied with their job – nearly the same as the international average of 91 percent. According to the survey, which reflects self-report by “lower secondary” teachers (grades 7, 8 and 9 in the United States), 84 percent of U.S. teachers surveyed stated that they’d choose teaching if they could decide on a career path again. This positive response is higher than the average (78 percent) for other TALIS countries.

Full story of TALIS at ed.gov

Pennsylvania Trains Principals and Teachers in New Observation Method

James Ellis, the principal of White Deer Elementary School in New Columbia, Pennsylvania, likes the conversations he and other administrators in his district are having with teachers about what great instruction looks like.

These discussions occur after school leaders observe teachers in action and are designed to provide helpful feedback and guidance on what teachers can do to improve in their jobs, such as by better managing their classrooms or helping students make more progress. The observations are part of Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system, which went into statewide use as a pilot for the first time this year. Under the old system, Ellis said he didn’t have the same deep discussions about what he saw or should have seen.

Full story of observation method for teachers at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Approves Extensions for States Granted Flexibility from No Child Left Behind

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that six states – Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, South Dakota and Virginia – have received a one-year extension for flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

These extensions allow states to move forward with the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they committed to in their original ESEA flexibility requests—which expire this summer—with the ultimate goal of improving achievement for all students.

“ESEA flexibility has allowed states to move beyond the one-size-fits-all mandates of NCLB, to be more innovative, and to engage in continued improvement in ways that benefit educators and students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “As a result, we have seen a renewed focus by states on improving student achievement, and to address the needs of all students, especially those groups of students that have been historically underserved.”

Full story of extended grants for No Child Left Behind at ed.gov

Six Months of PROGRESS

Six months ago, the Department of Education launched a new blog, PROGRESS, to highlight innovative ideas, promising practices, and lessons learned through K-12 education reforms across the country.

Incredible work is happening throughout the U.S. in schools, districts, and states to improve teaching and learning, and, as Secretary Duncan has pointed out, the best ideas do not come from Washington, but from individuals in the field working to improve outcomes for students.

PROGRESS has focused on showcasing the exciting transformations that are taking place in classrooms and communities from the perspective of students, teachers, principals, and local leaders on the ground. It has featured states and districts that are actively preparing their students for college and careers upon graduation, ensuring that educators are receiving the kind of high-quality support and opportunities they need to be effective, and transforming systems and structures so that every student can succeed.

Full story of the new blog PROGRESS at ed.gov

Education Department Updates College Affordability and Transparency Lists

As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to keep college within reach for all Americans and encourage institutions to make the costs of college more transparent, the U.S. Department of Education today updated college costs lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center.

“These lists support our efforts to make college more accessible and to help families make informed decisions on the single most important investment students can make in their own futures,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Empowering students and families with this information is critical to reaching President Obama’s 2020 goal for America to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

Full story of ED updating college costs at ed.gov

Building on Progress: Closing the Gender Gap and Expanding Women’s Access to Non-Traditional Occupations

Fifty years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, women in the United States still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. The pay gap for women of color is even greater. One of the primary reasons for this persistent gap is the concentration of women in comparatively lower-paying and non-supervisory professions – well over half of all women continue to be employed in lower-paying sales, service, and administrative support positions. President Obama’s Equal Pay Task Force sees this issue as one of the greatest barriers to pay equality and is working with the Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL) to expand women’s access to non-traditional occupations.

ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) is commissioning a study that will examine gender equity in secondary career and technical education. Specifically, it will look at whether girls and young women in high school have access to high-quality programs that prepare them for careers in non-traditional occupations – for example, law enforcement, construction, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions. Similarly, DOL has commissioned several studies that identify barriers women face in accessing these occupations, as well as successful evidence-based strategies to increase employment opportunities in these professions.

Full story of expansion of women’s occupations at ed.gov