States Continue to Improve Graduation Rates, Particularly for Underserved Students

New preliminary data released today by the U.S. Department of Education shows that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners.

The report is an important first look at preliminary graduation rates reported by states for the 2013-14 school year. The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data – including the nation’s newest graduation rate – in coming months. The nation has posted record graduation rates for the last two years, with the highest rate ever of 81 percent announced in March and improvement across all student subgroups.

Full story of improving graduation rates at

U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $4.4 Million in Grants for Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs

The U.S. Department of Education announced the award of 59 new grants—totaling more than $4.4 million—under two Fulbright-Hays international education programs to institutions and organizations in 34 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia:

  • $1.43 million for 17 new grants to institutions and organizations in 12 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia for Group Projects Abroad (GPA) short-term projects; and
  • $3 million to 42 institutions of higher education in 22 states and the District of Columbia for Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) projects.

“International collaboration helps students develop global competencies necessary to succeed in the 21st century,” said Jamienne Studley, deputy under secretary of education. “These collaborations help strengthen our reform efforts here in the United States as our students, teachers and faculty work with and learn from cultures and societies different from their own.”

Full story of grants awarded for Fullbright-Hays International Education Programs at

U.S. Department of Education Awards $20 Million to Increase Access to Information and Communication Technologies for Individuals with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education announced today a grant of $20 million to the University of Wisconsin for a pilot project through the Disability Innovation Fund— Automated Personalization Computing Project (APCP). The grant is designed to improve broadband infrastructure so that devices automatically adjust into a format based on the user’s preferences and abilities. The project will help individual users find and specify the formats and accommodations that work best for them.

Individuals with disabilities often face barriers trying to access information or communication technologies in the various aspects of their lives, whether it is in education, employment, or day-to-day activities. The APCP has the chance to bring the maximum potential of the 21st century to the lives of people with disabilities by increasing access to information and communications technology and reducing barriers for people with disabilities. People with disabilities would be able to access, on a secure basis, this computer information no matter where they were, no matter what type of computer they were on, or what software programs were being used, so long as the computer was APCP-enabled with web access.

Full story of the grant for communication technologies for students with disabilities at

The Reach Higher Initiative and U.S. Department of Education Launch Mobile App $225K Competition to Help Students Prepare for their Future

In effort to inspire students to pursue an education beyond high school, today, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) formally launched a mobile app competition to promote the development of mobile app solutions that will help students navigate education and career pathways, including career and technical education (CTE).

The First Lady announced the Challenge earlier this year.

“If students want to learn cutting-edge skills and prepare for successful careers, a four-year university isn’t their only choice. CTE is also an excellent option because students can get all the professional skills they need for a good job in a high-demand field, and they can do it at a fraction of the time and cost of a four-year school,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

This Challenge seeks apps that will help students learn about all career options, while increasing the capacity of career counselors to assist students in planning for their futures. The apps should include integrated tools to assess student skills and interests, and offer information on occupations, education options, credentials, and career-seeking skills.

Full story of the Reach Higher Initiative at

Every Student, Every Day: Obama Administration Launches First-ever National, Cross-Sector Initiative to Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism in Our Nation’s Schools

In response to the President’s call to action to improve the lives of all young people through the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), today the Obama Administration is launching Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. Led by the White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ), the Administration is announcing new steps to combat chronic absenteeism and calling on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16).

Every Student, Every Day is focused on the estimated 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. Defined as missing at least 10 percent (approximately 18 days) of school days in a school year, chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind and dropping out of school. Together, communities can address and eliminate chronic absenteeism, and ultimately boost student success and strengthen our nation’s workforce and our future prosperity. As part of this initiative, the Administration is partnering with states, local communities, and nonprofit, faith, and philanthropic organizations to support local, cross-sector efforts.

Full story of My Brother’s Keeper Initiative at

U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Award $237M in Early Education Grants to 18 States

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that 18 states will receive second year awards under the Preschool Development Grant program to continue their work in expanding access to high-quality preschool for all children.

Expanding access to high-quality preschool is critically important to ensuring that every child in America has the opportunity for lifelong success. This grant program will support building and expanding high-quality preschool in 250 high-need communities across 18 states that span the geographic and political spectrum. This fall, more than 33,000 children from low- to moderate-income families had the chance to start school in a high-quality preschool because of the grants. These second year awards being announced today will enable another 41,000 children in the 18 grantee states the strong start they need for success in school and in life.

Despite the evidence showing the importance of early learning, earlier this summer, House and Senate committees authored partisan spending bills that make significant cuts to programs that provide important services such as health care, public health and safety, job training, and education. Both bills eliminate Preschool Development Grants, a program that is in the middle of building and expanding high-quality preschool in over 200 high-need communities across 18 states that span the geographic and political spectrum.

Full story of early education grants for 18 states at

College Programs for Students with Disabilities Are “Changing Culture”

For too many kids in classrooms like mine in New Haven, Conn., disabilities can be sources of shame, indicators of what students can’t do, instead of what they can. As part of the Department’s Ready for Success bus tour, I got to see two universities where students with disabilities are not just enrolled in college, they’re thriving, finding success academically and socially in a way that many never could have imagined.

Staff at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Central Missourigo beyond procedural compliance to provide, what Melody Musgrove, director of the Office of Special Education Programs, called an “on-ramp to the rest of our kids’ lives.” Federal data suggests that students with disabilities are less likely to attend four-year colleges than their peers; these examples prove that doesn’t have to be the case.

Full story of college programs for students with disabilities at

U.S. Department of Education Contributes to an Improving Charter Schools Sector

The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling more than $157 million through its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation.

Since the program’s inception, the Department has invested over $3 billion in the charter school sector, and worked to strengthen accountability and quality of charter schools that are creating opportunities for students facing challenging circumstances.

These grants have had a major impact on the nation’s charter school sector. During the 2013–14 school year, for example, nearly half of the nation’s public charter schools benefited from CSP investments. Today’s announcement follows a period of significant growth, as well as academic and operational improvement, within the charter sector. Educators are leading innovative, community-based public charter schools that educate almost 3 million students across the country. The Department is proud to support high-quality public charter schools, especially those that are creating pathways to college, credentials and careers for low-income students and first-generation college-goers.

Full story of ED improving the charter school sector at

Senior Obama Administration Officials Release English Learner Tool Kit

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) today announced the completion of the English Learner (EL) Tool Kit to support states, districts and schools in meeting their legal obligations to ELs and ensuring access to quality education.

“Our work is motivated by the belief that all students – regardless of race, gender, income, disability, and English learner status – need and deserve a world-class education,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This toolkit – along with the guidance we released in January – can serve as a critical resource for educators in their work with English learners to help ensure that all students have a chance to succeed in school, careers and life.”

The EL Tool Kit is a companion to the English Learner Guidance released jointly by ED and DOJ in January, 2015, and consists of 10 chapters, each chapter aligned to one of the 10 sections of the guidance. Each chapter contains easy-to-use tools and resources relevant to the topic of the chapter.

Full story of the Obama Administration Learner Tool Kit at

Community colleges: America’s economic engines

Community colleges are America’s economic engines. They are gateways to middle class jobs, and their open-access, affordable programs hold the key to college access, affordability and completion for millions of students from every walk of life.  This Administration has invested more than $2 billion in community colleges, from TAACCCT grants, to the President’s America’s College Promise proposal, to make two free years of college the norm for every responsible student, as well as the proposed American College Training Fund, to help more workers skill up for high-wage, high-demand careers.

The life-changing potential of a strong community college education was on powerful and moving display at Cincinnati State, where Secretary Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell visited as part of the Ready for Success bus tour. Among the speakers was Bryan Dell, who for years was a drug addict and dealer, before getting sober and enrolling at Cincinnati State to study social work. He spoke movingly of the turnaround in his life and the deep support from the college staff, credits in large part to Cincinnati State and its Black Male Initiative. “The one thing a person must have to succeed in this is commitment,” he said.

Full story of community colleges in America at