U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $14.7 Million in Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grants

The U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $14.7 million to 40 school districts in 20 states across the country to establish or expand counseling programs. Grantees will use funds to support counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. Specifically, the new awards will aid schools in hiring qualified mental-health professionals with the goal of expanding the range, availability, quantity and quality of counseling services. Parents of participating students will have input in the design and implementation of counseling services supported by these grants.

“School-based counseling programs are a wonderful resource for students whose families may not be able to take advantage of outside services or programs,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “These grants will allow school districts to hire more professionals and provide additional services to those students who are struggling with mental-health and emotional issues, and their families.”

Full story of counseling grants at ed.gov

ED Seeks Winter/Spring Interns

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

For more information on the internships, visit ed.gov

Not Just Teachers: Supporting Students’ Success

As summer ends and the school year begins, we often think about teachers and students heading back to school. While teachers prepare lessons and students learn new concepts we can’t forget the service employees who provide support that enable the schools to run efficiently.

Instructional support in schools can play a key role in student success. Paraeducators –– support staff responsible for assisting in the delivery of instruction — help provide such support by assisting with classroom management, organizing instructional materials, helping in libraries and media centers, and translating, to name a few of their responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly, paraeducators reinforce the efforts of teachers in the classroom, and help increase student outcomes.

Full story of paraeducators at ed.gov

New Online Community Seeks to Crowdsource Teacher Leadership to Improve Education

As students and teachers across the country head back to school, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards today unveiled Commit to Lead, a new online community that makes it easy for educators to share ideas for teacher leadership and collaborate to bring these ideas to fruition. The community enables educators everywhere to provide feedback and vote on each other’s ideas, allowing the most talked about ideas to rise to the top so they can gain traction and prominence in the field. Commit to Lead is the online platform of Teach to Lead, an initiative to promote teacher leadership convened by the Department and the National Board.

“Commit to Lead directly engages educators in defining what teacher leadership can and should look like in their communities, so that collectively we can help make teacher leadership part of the fabric and culture of every school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “It builds on the great work that already exists in the field, and invites the creation of new ideas. It represents one step in our ongoing commitment to listen to educators and support their vital leadership of their profession.”

Full story of the online community to improve education at ed.gov

Tips for Developing a Strong Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher

The start of the school year is the perfect time to build a positive relationship with your child’s teacher.

It’s a good idea to let your child’s educator know you want to partner with him or her, and share the responsibility for your child’s academic growth.

Here are some tips to bear in mind:

  • Keep in touch! Make sure your child’s teacher has multiple ways and times of day to contact you. Provide as many ways as possible – which might include a work, cell, and home phone number and email address if possible.
  • Mark your calendar! Ask your child’s teacher about the best ways and times to contact him or her. Keep in mind that most teachers are in the classroom all day, so after school may be the best time to call or to make an appointment to meet with him or her.

For more tips on developing relationship with your child’s teacher, visit ed.gov

Obama Administration Approves NCLB Flexibility Extension Requests for Ohio and Michigan

The Obama administration announced today that Ohio and Michigan 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).

“America’s schools and classrooms are undergoing some of the largest changes in decades – changes that will help prepare our students with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that tomorrow’s economy will require,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “This extension will allow the states to continue the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they developed to improve achievement for all students.”

ESEA has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 that the administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for state-developed plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the quality of instruction. The one-year extension of ESEA flexibility allows the states to continue moving forward on the ambitious work they began with their initial flexibility requests.

Full story on the NCLB extensions at ed.gov

A Back-to-School Conversation with Teachers and School Leaders

As teachers gear up for a new school year, I want to offer two thoughts. One is a message of celebration and thanks. The other is a response to a concern that has come up often in many conversations with teachers and families, and which deserves an answer.

First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year – the highest high school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals, and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.

These achievements come at a time of nearly unprecedented change in American education – which entails enormously hard work by educators. Nearly every state has adopted new standards, new assessments, new approaches to incorporating data on student learning, and new efforts to support teachers.

Full story on the back-to-school conversation at ed.gov

New Preschool Grant Program Will Expand Opportunity to More of America’s Early Learners

Across the country, there is a great need for early learning. But the need isn’t just for preschool seats — it’s for high-quality early learning programs that can put children on the path to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Research has shown the powerful benefits of high-quality early education. Children who receive rich early learning experiences are less likely to need special education services. They’re in better health, and they get better jobs. Yet, today, only 30 percent of 4-year-olds in the U.S. participate in state preschool, and 10 states don’t offer it at all. Among other industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks 25th in enrollment of 4-year-olds in early learning.

Full story of new preschool grant program at ed.gov

Engaging Educators to Design and Improve New Systems of Evaluation and Support: 5 to Watch

Many States and school districts are proactively engaging educators in helping to shape key reforms, including evaluation, feedback and support systems. Five to watch are:

Denver Public Schools (CO) avoided the “happy talk” that often undermines credibility with its “keep-it-real” communications campaign, focused on successes and challenges. Union leaders and teachers from evaluation pilot programs traveled to nonpilot schools to articulate first-hand experiences, an effort that led to 92 percent of schools joining the pilot evaluation program.

Hillsborough County (FL) created educator advisory panels and surveyed teachers (“pulse checks”) to assess their understanding of and attitudes toward the evaluation and support system. The district is using this feedback to adjust communications with teachers via e-magazines and podcasts, publish updates to address confusion and efficiently solve technical problems with the system.

Full story of educators new system of evaluation at ed.gov

Students Who Have Beaten the Odds Share Their Stories with the Secretary

The move from middle school to high school is exciting for some students, but can be incredibly difficult for others. Some students require intensive support to stay on the path to graduation, and that support can take many different forms.

That was the sentiment expressed by Secretary Arne Duncan during a recent session ofStudent Voices, where young people from across the country gather and chat with senior ED staff about what it’s like to be a student in America today.

Darius was one of the 10 students who attended and, for him, this transition was almost insurmountable. His mother suffered a severe stroke and went into a deep coma during his freshman year of high school, forcing him and his siblings to move to the far south side of Chicago. On top of coping with the emotional and physical strain of his mother’s condition, because he was forced to move, he had to wake up at 4 a.m. to get to school every day, and he often stayed late for basketball practice, which took a toll on his academics. He explained, “tiredness grew over me and teachers berated me for not paying attention in class. I didn’t want to let my mother down, and as I felt alone in this situation, basketball was my stress reliever.” His coach noticed that Darius needed more support, so he offered to give him rides to school and eventually invited him to live with him. After a few months with his coach he moved in with a friend and this experience altered the course of his life.

Full story of students beating odds at ed.gov