The Most Meaningful Way to Celebrate Your Teacher

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

In classrooms all across America, long hours of curriculum are taught, thousands of papers are graded each day, yet teachers still find the time to constantly brainstorm strategies to support their diverse student population. They stay up late answering emails and stay after class to help a struggling student. On any given day, a teacher may wear the hat of educator, mediator, cheerleader, advocate, disciplinarian, nurse, counselor, and so much more. For many of us, there is no greater job!

If you were to ask these teachers why they entered the field of education, many would cite their dreams of making a difference and changing the lives of their students. However, if you were to ask them why they stay in the field, many would most likely cite the students that have changed their lives. In service, we often find that those we serve in fact give more back to us.

Teaching has become one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S.; teachers reported a daily stress rate tied with nurses as the highest among all occupational groups. This daily stress can sadly lead to burn out and teacher turnover. However, if you were to ask a teacher why they have persisted, they will most likely answer with a story. They will tell you about their most challenging student with a heart of gold, the student who graduated against all odds, or the one they believe they have failed. It is these stories of “triumph and despair” that remind educators why they do what they do.

There are many creative and clever ways to celebrate your teacher, but the most heartfelt and meaningful way would be to add to their story. Sincere letters of gratitude can often still be found in their desks or at home on display as a source of light in their rough seasons. I know not only because I asked, but because I have my own. The cherished notes or pictures can pull teachers through the most stressful times and remind them why teaching can be one of the most rewarding occupations out there.

So, how can you celebrate your teacher? Simple. Tell them why they are worth celebrating!


Julie Richardson serves as a school psychologist at Henry Barnard Labortory School in Rhode Island. She is a U.S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellow.

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Keeping the Cost of College Down

This was crossposted by the U.S. Department of Education, Homeroom

A small, black paper graduation cap and tassel sits on top of paper dollar bills.

Between the high costs of tuition, living expenses, meal plans and textbooks, it is easy to see why college students are increasingly stressed about their finances. A 2015 survey  found that around 70% of college students feel stressed about their personal finances in general. As a current student at UCLA, I too have felt the financial strain of an undergraduate education. Luckily, I have found that there are many simple actions college students can take to reduce the cost of postsecondary education. Here are 5 tips from a current college student on how to make college more affordable:

  1. Manage your academic life

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 60% of college students in 2016 graduated within 6 years of beginning their studies. Every additional semester or quarter spent in school means more tuition spent. One of the best ways to save money in college is to graduate on time. Graduating within four years instead of six can save you tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and other expenses. One of the easiest things you can do to graduate on time is to manage your academic life. This includes planning and prioritizing classes necessary for graduation such as General Education (GE) and major requirements. Does the class “History of Rock and Roll” fulfill a GE or major requirement? If yes, then great, take the class! If not, then maybe take that English Composition class required by your university for graduation instead. By carefully planning out your classes for your entire college career, you can be sure to graduate on time or even early!

Effective class planning also includes ensuring that you take enough units each semester to graduate on time. In order to remain eligible for student aid, institutions require students to take a certain number of units per semester. Taking less than the recommended number of units at your institution can make it difficult to graduate in four years and can also jeopardize your student aid opportunities. Because of this, it is important to closely monitor the number of classes you take each semester and be mindful of the impact that dropping a class might have on your financial aid and graduation plans.

  1. Be thrifty with books and supplies

According to the CollegeBoard’s estimated undergraduate budget for 2018-19, students are expected to spend around $1,240 on books and supplies in a year. Early in my college career I often found myself spending hundreds of dollars at a time at the campus bookstore in order to buy the required textbooks for school. While books might be necessary for class, it is not necessary to spend large sums of money on them. Over my college career I have found that there are usually many cheaper alternatives to buying new textbooks from the campus bookstore. For example, if you are willing to do a little Internet searching, you can usually find a cheaper used book option online. Additionally, many college students directly sell their used textbooks to other college students on Facebook through pages such as “Free and For Sale.”

  1. Choose the right meal plan

In addition to tuition and books, meals also contribute to the high cost of college. If you are living in the residence halls, you are typically expected to purchase a meal plan, some of which are more expensive than others. By choosing the right meal plan, you can save some money, and still stay well nourished. I made the mistake of purchasing the largest (and most expensive!) meal plan my freshman year. At the end of the year I had 80 extra swipes, which is the equivalent of 80 extra meals. Clearly I did not get the full value of my meal plan. After switching to a smaller meal plan my sophomore year, I still had around 10 swipes left over at the end of the year and I saved $300.

  1. Budget

Budgeting can help students keep track of their day-to-day expenses, save money and practice planning for the future. Creating a budget can help insure that you do not go overboard with unnecessary spending on expenses such as eating out and concerts. Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources available to help college students learn how to budget. For example, Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides students with information on the benefits of budgeting and how to create a budget. Additionally, there are plenty of free apps, many of which directly connect to your credit card, designed to help users keep track of their expenses.

  1. Look for free money

Looking for free money in the forms of scholarships and grants is another way to keep the cost of college down. Scholarships, which are usually merit-based and grants, which are usually need-based, are considered “free money” because they do not have to be repaid. There are a wide variety of scholarships and grants available to college students varying in size and purpose. For example, through your university there are often scholarships from outside donors given based on factors such as a student’s major, future career goals and background. Most scholarships and grants have an application process that sometimes requires short essays. The relatively little amount of time it takes to fill out these applications can come with a huge reward if you end up winning the scholarship. FSA also provides students with more information about scholarships and grants. 

College can be expensive and navigating these expenses can be stressful. Luckily, there are several simple ways to help reduce the cost of college. Carefully planning classes, buying used books, opting for the cheaper meal plan option, budgeting and applying for scholarships are all easy ways to conserve money as a college student. While these methods will not cover the cost of tuition entirely, hopefully they will help you save a little extra money and let you concentrate on studying instead of your finances.

Laura is a senior at UCLA where she studies Political Science and Economics. She currently works at UCLA’s Student Technology Center as a computer technician and interns for Federal Student Aid through the Virtual Student Federal Service internship program. After graduating from UCLA in June, she will move to Washington, D.C. where she will work as a consultant.

5 Things to Know When Evaluating a Financial Aid Offer

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

April is National Financial Capability Month and understanding the terms of your financial aid offer and making smart decisions about paying for college can be a good indicator of your financial capability.

Many schools use the term “award letter” which can be misleading and make it sound like all the aid that is listed will all be awarded to you. This notification (paper or electronic) is an offer, which means that you are not obligated to take all the aid you are eligible for and you should review the offer and know what you are agreeing to.

Financial aid packages can be confusing partly because each college uses their own forms and terminology. Understanding how to interpret a school’s financial aid offer letter is a pivotal financial decision-making moment that can impact your financial situation for years to come.

Be sure that you are able to answer the questions below before you make any decisions on how to pay for college:

  1. What is the total cost?

Total estimated cost which includes both direct and indirect expenses, which may also be referred to as Cost of Attendance (COA). Direct costs like tuition and housing and a meal plan, if you plan to live on-campus, will need to be paid directly to the school. Other estimated personal and educational expenses such as books, transportation, possible child care, and other living expenses are your responsibility and are sometimes referred to as indirect costs.

  1. How much free money has been awarded?

Grants and scholarships are financial aid funds that do not have to be repaid and may be considered an award. These funds can be need-based or be based on performance or affiliation. Each grant and scholarship may have specific requirements to maintain eligibility.

  1. What will you actually have to pay?

This is sometimes referred to as net cost or out-of-pocket cost. This is the remaining amount after grants and scholarships are subtracted from the total cost. This includes any loans, money paid directly to the college, and additional personal and educational expenses paid throughout the year. Pay attention to how schools show loans in the offer. It may appear they are reducing what you will have to pay, but keep in mind that they will have to be paid back later.

  1. Is work-study an award?

Work-study is a federal program that schools administer to provide students part-time jobs. It is not a guarantee. You will need to find an eligible job and work in order to earn the money. The full amount is not awarded up-front so work-study compensation won’t help to pay expenses that may be due at the beginning of an academic period.

  1. Is the best financial aid offer the one that says $0 dollars owed?

Financial aid offers will likely include loans of varying types. Loans are borrowed money that must be paid back, with interest. Take a look at Federal Student Aid’s Financial Awareness Counseling Tool for more details about budgeting, borrowing, and repayment. Some loans, like Parent PLUS need to start to be repaid immediately.

Taking the time to understand your financial aid offer can have long-lasting benefits as you pursue higher education. Student loans are a vital source of financing for students and if managed appropriately, can be a worthwhile investment. If you are still unclear about the terms of your financial aid offer, its recommended that you reach out to the school and ask for clarification.

New Report on Crime and Safety in Schools and College Campuses

This post was crossposted from the National Center for Education Statistics blog.

Crime in the nation’s schools and college campuses has declined overall during the past two decades, according to a report released on April 17, 2019. Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2018 highlights new information on a wide array of data points, including youth opioid use, perceptions of bullying, and active shooter incidents in educational settings. The report also covers topics such as victimization, school conditions, school environment, safety and security measures at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.

In 2017, students ages 12–18 experienced 827,000 total victimizations (i.e., theft and nonfatal violent victimization) at school and 503,800 total victimizations away from school. These figures represent a rate of 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school, compared to 20 victimizations per 1,000 students away from school. From 1992 to 2017, the total victimization rate and rates of specific crimes—thefts, violent victimizations, and serious violent victimizations—declined for students ages 12–18, both at school and away from school.

This edition of Indicators of School Crime and Safety includes an analysis of active shooter incidents, which represent a small subset of the possible violent incidents that occur at schools. While rare, these events are of high concern to all those interested in the safety of our nation’s students. From 2000 to 2017, there were 37 active shooter incidents at elementary and secondary schools and 15 active shooter incidents at postsecondary institutions. During this period, there were 153 casualties (67 killed and 86 wounded) in active shooter incidents at elementary and secondary schools, and 143 casualties (70 killed and 73 wounded) in active shooter incidents at postsecondary institutions.

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the most recent period available, there were 18 homicides of school-age youth (ages 5–18) at a school out of the 1,478 homicides of school-age youth in the United States. During the same period, 3 of the 1,941 total suicides of school-age youth occurred at school.

In 2017, about 20 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Between 2005 and 2017, the percentage of students who reported being bullied at school declined overall and for most of the student and school characteristics examined.



Of the students who were bullied in 2017, about 56 percent felt that those who had bullied them had the ability to influence what other students thought of them. A higher percentage of female students (62 percent) than male students (48 percent) reported that those who bullied them had the ability to influence what other students thought of them.



The new report included a special analysis that shows that the percentage of 8th-graders who reported using heroin during the past 12 months decreased from 1.4 percent in 1995 to 0.3 percent in 2017. The percentage also decreased from 1.1 to 0.2 percent for 10th-graders and from 1.1 to 0.4 percent for 12th-graders during the same period. This 0.4 percent of 12th graders reflects 15,900 students, who were recent users of heroin. The use of OxyContin and Vicodin during the past 12 months also generally decreased for 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders between 2005 (the first year of data collection for these survey items) and 2017.



There were also decreases for other types of substance abuse. The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least once during the previous 30 days decreased from 47 to 30 percent between 2001 and 2017. Also, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 reporting marijuana use at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2017 (20 percent) was lower than the percentage for 2001 (24 percent).

Other findings – elementary and secondary schools

  • About 99 percent of students ages 12–18 reported that they observed the use of at least one of the selected safety and security measures at their schools in 2017. The three most commonly observed safety and security measures were a written code of student conduct (95 percent), a requirement that visitors sign in and wear visitor badges or stickers (90 percent), and the presence of school staff (other than security guards or assigned police officers) or other adults supervising the hallway (88 percent).
  • About 6 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being called hate-related words at school during the school year in 2017, representing a decrease from 12 percent in 2001. This percentage also decreased between 2001 and 2017 for male and female students as well as for White, Black, and Hispanic students.
  • The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported having been in a physical fight anywhere in the previous 12 months decreased between 2001 and 2017 (from 33 to 24 percent), as did the percentage of students in these grades who reported having been in a physical fight on school property (from 13 to 9 percent).



Other findings – postsecondary Institutions

  • The number of on-campus crimes reported in 2016 was lower than the number reported in 2001 for every category except forcible sex offenses and negligent manslaughter offenses. The number of reported forcible sex crimes on campus increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 8,900 in 2016 (a 305 percent increase).
  • Race, religion, and sexual orientation were the categories of motivating bias most frequently associated with the 1,070 hate crimes reported on college campuses in 2016.

To view the full report, please visit

Answering your Frequently Asked Questions about Second Chance Pell

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

A student inmate talks with a University of Tulsa professor dressed in their graduation gown.

This April, in recognition of Second Chance Month, we’re answering the most frequently asked questions about Second Chance Pell.

What is Second Chance Pell?

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education created the Second Chance Pell (SCP) Experimental Sites Initiative to provide need-based Pell grants to those in state and federal prisons. This initiative examines the impact expanded access to financial aid has on incarcerated adults’ participation in educational opportunities.

Why is Second Chance Pell important?

According to Pew Research Center, the United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

How many students and institutions are participating in the Second Chance Pell experiment?

According to Federal Student Aid (FSA) data, so far this award year (July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019) there are currently 10,048 students receiving Federal Pell Grant funds from 64 institutions.

What are the results of Second Chance Pell so far?

According to self-reported data from the participating colleges compiled by the Vera Institute of Justice, Second Chance Pell is resulting in the following:

  • Participating colleges offering a combined 82 certificates, 69 AA/AS/AAS degrees, and 24 BA/BS degrees
  • Incarcerated students working toward career and technical-oriented stackable certificates in areas such as:
    • Entrepreneurship at Delta College in Michigan;
    • AS in Business Administration from Connors State College in Oklahoma;
    • BA in communications at California State University, Los Angeles;
    • and more.
  • 578 Certificates, Associates, and Bachelors graduates in prison, 34 graduates post incarceration, and 954 credentials awarded in the past three years

When will the experiment end?

Approval has been received for the Second Chance Pell experiment to continue for the 2019-2020 award year. Past experiments have commonly operated for 3-5 years.

How will the experiment be evaluated?

School-reported student-level data, responses to school surveys, and existing FSA data sources will be used to produce a report of the first two years of the experiment (2016-2017 & 2017-2018). Official outcomes are expected to be published later this year.


A Closer Look at the Performance of Hispanic and Asian Subgroups

This was crossposted from the National Center on Education Statistics blog.

Breaking down data by racial and ethnic groups, such as White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian, can provide a better understanding of education performance and outcomes than just looking at overall outcomes. But these broad racial/ethnic groupings can still be large enough to hide important information and nuances about student performance and outcomes.

A recent NCES report, Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018, examines current conditions and changes over time in education activities and outcomes for members of racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The report also uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey[1] to examine outcomes for U.S. and foreign-born individuals who identify with specific Hispanic and Asian ancestry subgroups (e.g., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Asian Indian).[2] For example, although 11 percent of Asian children under age 18 were living in poverty in 2016, the child poverty rate differed by more than 30 percentage points across the selected Asian subgroups—ranging from 6 percent each for Asian Indian, Filipino, and Japanese children to 37 percent for Bangladeshi children.

These differences among subgroups were seen in other measures as well, including college participation and attainment.


The College Participation Rates indicator shows the total college enrollment rate, meaning the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges and universities.

  • In 2016, the Hispanic average college enrollment rate was 36 percent. However, among Hispanic subgroups, the average college enrollment rate ranged from 27 percent for Honduran 18- to 24-year-olds to 64 percent for Chilean 18- to 24-year-olds. (See figure 1 below.)
  • In 2016, the Asian average college enrollment rate was 67 percent. However, among Asian subgroups, the average college enrollment rate ranged from 23 percent for Burmese 18- to 24-year-olds to 78 percent for Chinese 18- to 24-year-olds.


The Attainment of a Bachelor’s or Higher Degree indicator shows the percentage of adults (25 or older) who earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

  • In 2016, about 15 percent of Hispanic adults had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree. However, among Hispanic subgroups, the percentage ranged from 9 percent for Salvadoran and Guatemalan adults to 55 percent for Venezuelan adults.
  • In 2016, about 54 percent of Asian adults had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree. However, among Asian subgroups, the percentage ranged from 10 percent for Bhutanese adults to 74 percent for Asian Indian adults. (See figure 2 below.)


This report also presents information about Hispanic and Asian subgroups on topics including nativitychildren’s living arrangementschildren living in poverty, and high school status dropout rates.

Looking for more information about different racial/ethnic populations on topics spanning from early childcare and education arrangements to earnings and employment as an adult? Check out the full Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 report!

By Sidney Wilkinson-Flicker

[1] Learn more about the Public Use Microdata Sample of the American Community Survey.

[2] If the number of individuals in a subgroup is too small, the data may not be presented for privacy reasons. Additionally, a small sample size can mean that an apparent difference between two groups is not statistically significant.

6 Things to Know about the Education Freedom Scholarships

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

3 elementary aged students play games on iPads and use headphones.

This proposal would empower students and families to choose the best education setting for them – regardless of where they live, how much they make, and how they learn.

Here are 6 things you should know about Education Freedom Scholarships:

1.) This proposal would drive a historic voluntary investment in America’s students and our future.

2.) States could choose creative and unique approaches to giving students access to the right education for them.

3.) The proposal would most benefit our vulnerable students, who would finally have opportunities to pursue the best education for them in ways rich, powerful, and connected families always have.

4.) The scholarships are 100% privately funded by donations and do not take one cent from local public school students or public school teachers.

5.) Education Freedom Scholarships will empower states to expand families’ access to all education opportunities. That can include private schools, but states aren’t required to include any specific education setting.

6.) The proposal respects that each student is unique and deserves a personalized education experience. Scholarships can help students access a variety of opportunities, including career and technical education, apprenticeships, dual enrollment, special education services, advanced or elective courses not available in their assigned school buildings, transportation to out-of-zone education providers, among others.

To learn more, visit the Education Freedom Scholarships website.

How I Found My Passion Through CTE

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom.


It was during my freshman year of high school when I first realized that STEM was not the career pathway I wanted to pursue. While I understood the importance of a strong foundation in STEM fundamentals, my real passion was business.

My story starts my freshman year of high school in Pharr, a south Texas border town. I applied to a STEM school in my district which had a reputation for academic excellence. I was accepted, and my family was ecstatic. Being the youngest of six sisters in a family of humble migrant farm workers, I grew up in the fields, worked hard and believed in the opportunities a good education could bring.

I had been attending the STEM high school for a month when I began to question whether this was the right school for me. I started researching high school business programs in the area and found Southwest Marketing, a high school-based student-led marketing agency at PSJA Southwest Early College High School. The program piqued my interest as it enables students to provide marketing solutions and services to real-world customers in exchange for hands-on learning opportunities.

I transferred to PSJA Southwest ECHS and quickly realized that I would have the opportunity to be a business leader in my community with the aid of Southwest Marketing. When I first thought about a marketing program like this, I thought it would bring in business leaders to talk about their occupations and that would be my experience with “working with businesses”. But as I sat through my first class, my mind was blown. Not only was I learning about the fundamentals of business and marketing, I was able to apply them as a marketing consultant working with high level executives. When I became the president of the Southwest Marketing agency my junior year, we decided to take our efforts to the next level. We began collaborating with International multi-million-dollar corporations and serviced fourteen different clients.

Thanks to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and PSJA Southwest ECHS, I now have the experience and skills to succeed as a business student at the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, where I plan to attend in the fall. Most importantly, I discovered my passion for marketing and strategic communications.  People know Career and Technical Education by many different names, but for me it is “Southwest Marketing.”

Dioselina De La Cruz is a senior at PSJA Southwest Early College High School in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and serves as the President of PSJA Southwest Marketing.

10 Fun Ways to Encourage Learning this Winter Break

This post was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

With the holidays quickly approaching, winter break is a time of celebration and relaxation. While the time away from school provides a well-deserved break for your student(s), it also provides the opportunity for significant learning loss. Keeping your student(s) learning this holiday season can be fun and effortless while ensuring they return to school both revitalized and ready for a new year of learning.

Here are 10 fun ways to prevent learning loss this winter break:

1.) Giving your student gifts this holiday? Gift your student educational toys/games that will keep learning exciting and fun! Science experiments and scrapbooking kits are great ways to make learning fun and hands-on.

2.) Spending time with others during the break? Ask your friends/family members to bring books to read with your student during their visit.

3.) Is it too cold to play outside? Find free yoga and dancing videos online for your student to follow or dance as a family to encourage movement.

4.) Need an easy way for your student to exercise their knowledge? Have your student play educational video and computer games or watch an interesting historical movie.

5.) Are there free concerts or plays in your community this holiday season? Attend a production to expose your student to the arts.

6.) Feeling crafty? Complete a holiday craft for your student to engage their creative side and for the younger students to practice their motor skills.

7.) Are you traveling this break or staying local? Find and visit a museum or historical site to expose your student to new concepts. Don’t forget to ask about student and teacher discounts!

8.) Need an extra hand in the kitchen? Cook/bake a new recipe for your student to practice their math and measuring.

9.) Do you have family coming over? Include your student in engaging conversations that require them to answer open ended questions and practice their communication skills.

10.) Does your student love their teacher? Have them practice their writing skills by writing a holiday greetings card to their teacher or thank you notes to those they received gifts from.

Statement on the passing of former President George H.W. Bush

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics mourns the loss of President George. H.W. Bush.  President Bush dedicated his life to public service and it is reflected in his decades-long dedication to our country.

On September 24, 1990, President Bush signed Executive Order 12729 which created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  It was the first major initiative to make Hispanic education a national priority.  During the ceremony marking Hispanic Heritage Month in 1990, President Bush stated, “We must help education to help our Hispanic children be prepared to take their rightful place at the American table of opportunity.”  For nearly 30 years, the Initiative has worked to carry out President Bush’s vision.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family.