As I write this blog post, my 4-year-old is spraying me with a water sprayer while I am desperately protecting my computer from a direct hit. Earlier, while I was listening in on a meeting, she yelled out “hi!” anytime I took myself off mute. Balancing work and raising kids in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in is an overwhelming experience. When schools started closing, some parents resorted to posting suggested schedules for kids to keep up a routine and deliver academic content during the day. These were wonderful suggestions. As someone whose dissertation focused on how people learn, I should be applauding such posts, but instead, they filled me with a sense of anxiety and guilt. How am I supposed to balance getting my work done while also designing a rigorous curriculum of reading, writing, and math instruction for a kid whose attention span lasts about 10-20 minutes and who needs guidance and adult interaction to learn effectively? Let’s take a step back and recognize that this situation is not normal. We adults are filled with anxiety for the future. We are trying to manage an ever-growing list of things—do we have enough food? Do we need to restock medications? What deadlines do we need to hit at work?
So here is my message to you, parents, who are managing so much and trying desperately to keep your kids happy, healthy, and engaged: recognize that learning experiences exist in even the simplest of interactions between you and your kids. For example—
- When doing laundry, have your child help! Have them sort the laundry into categories, find the matching socks, name colors. Create patterns with colors or clothing types (for example, red sock, then blue, then red, which comes next?).
- Find patterns in your environment, in language (for example, nursery rhymes), and when playing with blocks or Legos. Researchers have shown that patterning is strongly related to early math skills.
- Talk about numbers when baking. I did this with my daughter yesterday morning. We made muffins and had a blast talking about measuring cups, the number of eggs in the recipe, and even turning the dial on the oven to the correct numbers. Older kids might be interested in learning the science behind baking.
- Take a walk down your street (practicing good social distancing of course!) and look for different things in your environment to count or talk about.
- Bring out the scissors and paper and learn to make origami along with your kids, both for its benefits for spatial thinking and as a fun, relaxing activity! In this project, researchers developed and pilot tested Think 3d!, an origami and pop-up paper engineering curriculum designed to teach spatial skills to students. The program showed promise in improving spatial thinking skills.
- If you choose to use screen time, choose apps that promote active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive learning.
- If you choose to use television programs, there is evidence showing that high quality educational programs can improve students’ vocabulary knowledge.
Hopefully these examples show that you can turn even the most mundane tasks into fun learning experiences and interactions with your kids. They may not become experts in calculus at the end of all of this, but maybe they will look back fondly on this period of their life as a time when they were able to spend more time with their parents. At the end of the day, having positive experiences with our kids is going to be valuable for us and for them. If you have time to infuse some formal learning into this time, great, but if that feels like an overwhelmingly hard thing to do, be kind to yourself and recognize the value of even the most simple, positive interaction with your kids.
Just a couple months ago, I promised to keep you updated about all the ways Federal Student Aid (FSA) is making your experience with us better. I’m excited to share that today we launched a few incredibly beneficial tools that make it easier than ever to understand the aid you’ve received and navigate your repayment options.
You’ll see our first enhancement the moment you log in to our website; now, you’ll see a whole lot more detail on your student aid dashboard. We’re collectively calling this information Aid Summary. It gives you much more information about the grants and loans you’ve received and shows your remaining grant and loan eligibility. This may seem like a lot of information at first, but take a closer look. I think you’ll find the Aid Summary to be a go-to tool to help you manage your aid while you’re enrolled and after you leave school.
If you’re a borrower already making payments on your loans, Aid Summary also shows you how much progress you’ve made toward paying off your debt. Another new feature shows borrowers who have submitted an Employment Certification Form (ECF) the progress they’ve made toward earning Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). We know that regularly submitting an ECF is the best way to stay on track for PSLF, and we want to ensure you have access to information about your eligibility and number of qualifying payments. This is just one step that we’re taking this year to arm you with better information.
Along those lines, we’ve also built a brand-new tool that I think you’ll really like. See, I came from the Air Force, where we use flight simulators to help our pilots navigate the skies. Now, FSA has Loan Simulator, which will help you chart your path through successful loan repayment! We have lots of repayment plans to choose from, and we realize it can be hard to figure out which one best fits your financial situation and goals. That’s why we’ve built a feature that lets you specify if you want to pay down your loans as quickly as possible, get the lowest possible monthly payment, or reduce the interest that you’ll pay in the long run. You can change your preferences at any time to see how your recommended plan changes, and we’ll even give you direct links to the forms that you need to access certain plans.
One of our goals is to make it possible for you to make student loan payments on StudentAid.gov, our website. To learn the best way to make that happen, we’re launching a new pilot. Starting today, about seven million customers will be able to Make a Payment from their dashboard. If your loan servicer is Nelnet or Great Lakes, you can now make a regular monthly payment through StudentAid.gov on your computer or mobile device instead of logging in to your servicer’s website. Over the course of this year, we’ll build out additional functionality in the Make a Payment pilot, and eventually, all federally managed loan borrowers will be able to pay their balances through StudentAid.gov.
Finally, we’re launching a collection of resource articles on StudentAid.gov. These articles will give you—our students, parents, and borrowers—the information you need to successfully apply for and manage your federal student aid.
I can’t wait for you to check out all of these new features. I look forward to updating you again in the next couple of months, when I’ll introduce you to a new step you’ll take when you want to take out more loans: The Annual Student Loan Acknowledgement. Until then, I hope you take advantage of all these new features on StudentAid.gov.
Mark Brown is Federal Student Aid’s Chief Operating Officer
Hi. I’m Mark Brown, the chief operating officer at Federal Student Aid (FSA). Today marks my first post on the Homeroom blog, and do I have exciting news for you!
StudentAid.gov—your trusted source to learn about, apply for, and manage your federal student aid—is all new and better than ever! Let me explain …
Each year, FSA’s top-four websites are visited more than 120 million times. These sites offer a wide variety of information, tools, and resources:
- StudentAid.gov provides information and videos about all of the federal student aid programs.
- Borrowers go to StudentLoans.gov to complete loan documents and counseling, as well as recertify for income-driven repayment plans.
- At fsaid.ed.gov, students, parents, and borrowers can create an account username and password to log in to U.S. Department of Education systems.
- The NSLDS® website provides students, parents, and borrowers with specific information about their federal grants and loans and eligibility.
Now, the new StudentAid.gov combines functionality from StudentLoans.gov, fsaid.ed.gov, and nslds.ed.gov into a single, one-stop shop for you. Think of it like a new “digital front door,” welcoming you to learn all about and manage your federal student aid.
When you visit the new StudentAid.gov, you’ll more clearly see information about the federal student aid you’ve received. You can now complete multiple tasks, like learning about what types of aid are available to you, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, completing loan counseling, and finding the right repayment plan for your situation.
Some students, parents, and borrowers will be introduced to a virtual assistant named “Aidan.” Get it? Aidan? We’re thrilled to pilot this digital resource that uses artificial intelligence to learn how we can better help you get answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. As Aidan learns and is able to answer more specific questions, we’ll roll it out to even more customers.
We’re also implementing some behind-the-scenes features that will improve the way we deliver personalized information and solutions to you. When you’re logged into the new StudentAid.gov, we’ll be able to directly provide you with information about your federal student loan application.
We’re not stopping there! Now, you only have to call one number—1-800-4-FED-AID—to be connected to all of FSA’s contact centers. And, we’ve made enhancements to our mobile app, myStudentAid, so you can seamlessly switch between completing tasks on the mobile app and web.
We’re making all of these improvements for you, the students, parents, and borrowers, we’re proud to serve. These and other enhancements are part of a big initiative we call “Next Gen FSA,” where we’re modernizing and simplifying how you interact with your federal student aid.
I know how important it is that we get this right for you. I come from a working-class family. My mother and I tried to figure out the best way to get money for college. Through a combination of federal student loans and grants, along with help from the United States Air Force, I was able to pursue my educational dreams.
At FSA, we’re committed to helping you pursue yours. That’s a promise we intend to keep, and today is a big step in our journey.
Throughout the next year in this “Keeping the Promise” blog series, I’ll update you about our Next Gen FSA progress. Until then, I invite you to check out the new StudentAid.gov, and let me know what you think.
Mark Brown is the Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid
As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, America’s job seekers are living in a time of historic opportunity.
More than 6 million jobs have been added to the economy since January 2017. The unemployment rate has remained at or below 4% for 20 months in a row, and there are 1.3 million more job openings than job seekers. Today, more than 7 million jobs remain unfilled due to the growing skills gap that exists in the workforce. Many of these vacancies remain unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the right skills.
To bridge the skills gap, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order in 2017 outlining tasks and requirements to help modernize America’s education systems and workforce development programs by expanding apprenticeships opportunities for America’s workers.
Apprenticeships offer a way for workers to earn a living while gaining the expertise needed to advance in a career. After the completion of an apprenticeship, the average starting wage is $70,000, and 94% of apprentices will remain employed nine months afterward. The apprenticeship model provides a viable career pathway to high-paying jobs allowing young Americans to avoid the burden of student loans and immediately start earning a salary during their training.
Research shows incredible potential for growing apprenticeships in the United States. A recent study of apprenticeships in 10 states found that participants had significantly higher employment rates and earnings compared to those who did not complete an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are a proven pathway to middle- and high-skilled jobs. Yet apprentices comprise only 0.3% of the U.S. labor force, which is substantially less than in European countries. Consider for example that in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, 55-70% of young people begin their career with an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships can also help job creators make sound investments in the future of their businesses. Providing flexible training options creates a more diversified and dynamic workforce that can result in better productivity.
The Department recently awarded more than $183 million in grants to grow apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and health care. The grants will support greater access to apprenticeships for all Americans, including veterans, military spouses, women, people of color, and individuals transitioning from the justice system. These grants represent commitments to more than 85,000 future apprentices in new or expanded programs.
In addition, the Department has received public feedback on the proposed regulation establishing the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program. Under the proposal, a diverse array of entities — including trade, industry, and employer groups or associations, educational institutions, state and local government entities, nonprofit organizations, unions, or a consortium or partnership of these entities — could recognize high-quality apprenticeship programs in industries or occupations relevant to their work or areas of interest.
Apprenticeships mean more opportunities for Americans. Whether you are looking for your first job, changing career paths, or reentering the workforce, apprenticeships can create a bright future. As the American job market continues this period of unprecedented growth, the U.S. Department of Labor will keep working to ensure that all Americans have access to the job training they need to further their careers.
Learn more about apprenticeship on Apprenticeship.gov, the one-stop source for all things apprenticeship sponsored by the Department of Labor.
John Pallasch is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training.
As a first-generation Mexican-American college student, pursuing higher education was something I once thought was impossible. It wasn’t until my first year in community college that I realized just how badly the K-12 public school system had failed to prepare me for a college education. Not only did I lack the fundamental reading and writing skills but also the social and cultural capital necessary to navigate the system of higher education. During my first year at Santa Monica College, I quickly realized how challenging it was for me to balance family and academic responsibilities. Living in a single-parent household, my mother relied on my financial support to make ends meet. I was pressured to work long hours and find additional time to dedicate to studying. Balancing family and educational commitments became too stressful and eventually impacted my academic performance. Understanding the repercussions of this, I knew it was essential for me to find a support system on campus who could help me navigate the system of higher education and improve my academic performance.
Despite the challenges that confronted me, I took the initiative to reach out to my former English professor, who has been instrumental in my academic and professional career, for guidance and academic support. After my first meeting with him, I began to recognize my potential and ability to enhance my reading and writing skills while becoming critical of my educational goals. This profound transformation allowed me to regain the confidence I needed to pursue and accomplish my educational goals.
Upon graduating from Santa Monica College, I transferred to the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science and education sciences. With newfound confidence, I have also joined several programs on campus such as the UC Irvine Pre-Law Outreach Program. Furthermore, I worked for the Early Academic Outreach Program as a Student Coordinator. In this capacity, I provide academic support to underserved high school students by assisting them with college planning, enrollment for the SAT/ACT exam, and the University of California and California State University admissions process.
Reflecting on my educational journey, from community college to UC Irvine, I can appreciate how it has shaped the resilient and persistent person that I am today. I have accomplished many incredible things that have enriched my college experience and influenced my educational and professional aspirations.
Walter Ramirez is a senior at the University of California, Irvine and a summer 2018 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of these posts reflects the opinions of individuals who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.
I dream about the day where my mom doesn’t have to wake up at four in the morning to work under the scorching heat for hours on end. I come from a farmworking family and began working in the fields at the age of twelve in Idaho. My first memory is walking into an orchard of cherry trees. Growing up, I remember telling myself that, “I don’t want to work here my whole life. And I don’t want my parents too, either.” My family is the reason why I decided to be five and a half hours away to pursue my postsecondary education. As I look back after finishing my first year in college, I am more committed to continuing to pursue my goal of obtaining my bachelor’s degree for my family.
This in part to being part of the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). That is where I found my home away from home. I soon began to call the rest of my peers, CAMP brothers and CAMP sisters. CAMP is where I go with any questions about college.
Through CAMP, I participated in Farmworker Awareness Week. The fourth week of March is Farmworker Awareness Week on college campuses. This week is used to bring awareness to issues that farmworkers face like exploitation and harassment. This is a week I hold dear because I am passionate about farmworker justice. This week reminded me of the days I worked de-tasseling corn. Fortunately, my mom, my sister and I did not faced harassment in the fields. On our campus, we had the Bandana Project where we wrote facts about women in the fields. We displayed these at Voces Del Campo (Voices from the Fields), an event where we shared our own farmworking story. I had the privilege to read an anonymous story and heard many of my CAMP siblings share their accounts. This event made me realize the importance of sharing one’s own stories to bring awareness to certain issues. I found myself being grateful for having peers that share a similar background like mine, which is coming from a low-income farmworking family.
Volunteering for several events that week made me think about my career goals. Once I get certified to be a teacher, I want to stay in Idaho and teach in a community with a high Hispanic population. I want to be able to educate students about the issues facing our communities and share resources to assist them.
The University of Idaho’s CAMP program has been the place where I have learned about myself. Thankfully, I have found my support system, made friends, and have peers that share similar backgrounds. I have an amazing family that has been supportive since day one, and they are the reason I will continue to reach for my goals. Hopefully one day, I will be able to give my parents at least twice as much for what they have given and done for me and achieve my dream of helping my family no longer work in the fields.
Julia Santiago is a sophomore at the University of Idaho and a summer 2019 intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of these posts reflects the opinions of individuals who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.
Across the nation, innovative programs are preparing students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These subjects, often called STEM, can open up new pathways to success in the 21st century workforce and also means new opportunities for students and teachers alike.
Technology can play an important role in the STEM learning process. The Office of Educational Technology, in partnership with Digital Promise, reviewed research literature on how technology can enrich STEM learning. They found nine ways that technology can help students engage with these subjects which are highlighted in this newly released report from the U.S. Department of Education— Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology. This report is the result of a systematic review of the current research on the impact of integrating innovative digital technology in STEM and computer science curricula and classrooms.
We hope that teachers, curriculum specialists, and other education leaders will learn how these methods can deepen students’ learning experiences. You can see these methods in action by clicking the link to each video.
1.Dynamic Representations. Students learn or master STEM concepts through interacting with digital models, simulations, and dynamic representations of mathematical, scientific, and engineering systems.
2.Collaborative Reasoning. Technology tools support students’ collaborative reasoning around STEM concepts, equalizing participation among group members and helping individuals and groups improve their ideas.
3. Immediate and Individualized Feedback. Digital tools provide students practicing or learning STEM skills or concepts with immediate and individualized feedback, beyond right or wrong.
4. Science Argumentation Skills. Students use technology that supports science argumentation skills including presenting and evaluating evidence about scientific or mathematical claims.
5. Engineering Design Processes. Students plan, revise, implement, and test problem solutions using engineering design processes and appropriate support technologies.
6. Computational Thinking. Students use technology to formulate and analyze problems and their solutions, reason abstractly, and automate procedures through algorithmic thinking.
7. Project-based Interdisciplinary Learning. Students use digital technology tools in the context of authentic project- or challenge-based learning activities that integrate multiple STEM fields (e.g., science and mathematics).
8. Embedded Assessments. Digital assessments are embedded in STEM instruction to prompt students’ reflection on the quality of their explanations, models, or problem solutions.
9. Evidence-based Models. Students use technology to develop models based on data and evidence.
The United States is making strides in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment.
To read Innovation Spotlights: Nine Dimensions for Supporting Powerful STEM Learning with Technology and access the 10 school spotlight videos, visit https://tech.ed.gov/stem/.
My dad has been beef cattle ranching for 13 years, and every summer, since the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I worked alongside him. Cattle farming seemed like what he was destined to do, and although the work was strenuous, my dad loved it. However, from my first summer working there, I realized it was not what I loved. I spent almost every day thinking about what else I could do, how I could utilize my intellectual knowledge that I was learning in school, and how to elevate myself and my family. Nevertheless, due to financial situations, I continued to work alongside my father for four summers. Yet, the most difficult part came when I spoke with him and told him I wanted to do something that no one in our family had done. I wanted to go to college.
Coming from a rural area, the college process was challenging. I found myself relying on myself for guidance, due to no one else being familiar with the college process. At times, my own parents doubted my ability to enter the college of my dreams. Nevertheless, I did it. I was accepted into the college of my dreams: Dartmouth College. Upon arriving at college, a rush of guilt overtook me. I felt guilty for liking Dartmouth better than home, for wanting to stay here and explore everything about Dartmouth. I felt guilty for leaving behind my family and being excited for and enjoying the opportunities that college had to offer.
I continued to feel that guilt until I spoke with a professor. I asked my Spanish professor to chat over coffee one day. To this day, I still recall the words that lifted the guilt and pressure from me. She stated, “Juan you shouldn’t feel guilty for liking it here, and you most definitely should not feel pressure to take care of your parents.” She went on to tell me that my family was fine. They had established their life way before I came to college. Leaving for college was not disrupting our family structure. She was right. My parents were, in fact, ok. My dad, although still working hard, was doing well at his job, and my mom and siblings were ok. It wasn’t until that moment that I was able to contextualize where I was and how proud my parents were of me.
It is immensely difficult for first-generation students to realize the positive impact that we are doing for our family. The majority of us have been raised in households that discourage showing any form of individual recognition for our efforts. Therefore, it is difficult for us to disconnect ourselves from our family. Yet, during that conversation, I realized that this is my story. That my parents’ struggles, successes, and lives are not mine. I have my own, and I must focus on it. Yes, my goal is to one day aid my family financially, but I can’t do that if I continue to live under the very pressures that I put upon myself. Since I recognized this, I have felt more at ease with myself and college. Thanks to the advice of my Spanish professor, I was able to remove the feeling of being guilty for enjoying college. Furthermore, thanks to this uplift of guilt, I was able to excel and win the William S. Churchill award which recognizes one freshman male for academic achievement, leadership, community service, and who represents Dartmouth in all aspects.
I grew up working the same job as my dad. I helped my mom in household chores and in taking care of my siblings. My life was routine until I entered college. Once I entered college, I had to learn to become independent in many aspects. Additionally, I had to learn to remove feelings of guilt and pressure. It wasn’t until I did so that I started to live and excel. It’s important to recognize that although we can be grateful for our parents and for everything they have done for us, our parents’ stories are not ours. They helped mold us into the people we are today, but it’s up to us to define ourselves and tell our own story.
Juan Quinonez Zepeda is a senior at Dartmouth College and a summer 2019 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of this post reflects the opinions of the individual who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.
If the hastily written handwriting on my writing tutor job application could tell the truth, it would admit that I was applying for the position only because I needed a reason to believe that my efforts would lead to a purpose. During this time, I felt as though I was running miles toward nowhere: I was a third-year community college student who had recently switched her major from political science to English, and who was looking for a little bit more income to survive. However, I was trying to put in all my effort into my work to make up for my confusion.
I was developing new career goals, I was expanding my skillset, and overall, I was using every ounce of my hard work to be successful. Yet, I was no longer convinced that my effort was going to lead me anywhere. I was lost and frustrated, but I knew that wherever I was, I was too far to give up. Additionally, I knew that I loved literature and writing, so I was convinced that working at the writing center at the community college I attended would help me find my purpose. I eventually found that purpose among all the Latinx students I tutored.
Working as a tutor made me realize that within the Latinx community, there seems to be this group mentality that we have to prove ourselves. Whether I was tutoring a Latinx student who was in the honors program or a Latinx student who did not want to admit that he did not know what a thesis statement was, most Latinx students wanted to prove that they could be successful. They may not have realized it, but they wore their diligence on their very faces. I knew the stories of their all-nighters, of their full-time jobs and responsibilities to their families, and even their desire to go back to school for the “better life” they believed in. The one thing they lacked was a reason to believe in themselves. Seeing how determined they were, I decided that it was my responsibility to help them.
My job became more than just helping my students understand thesis statements or showing their grammatical errors. Before I knew it, I felt as though I had taken on the responsibility of helping Latinx students prove that they were capable: capable of learning, capable of reflecting their intelligence in their essays, and above all, capable of seeing positive results in their hard work.
Admittedly, I still doubted whether or not I was doing enough to help them until one random tutoring session in May 2018 that a Latinx student casually told me, “Thank you so much, I feel better about this now”, that I suddenly felt that I found more than just confirmation about my tutoring skills. That very statement made me realize where I was at that very moment. I was in a tutoring cubicle with a Latinx student who told me that I helped her believe in herself. at that moment, I felt that I could move forward with a sense of direction, that direction to me was to follow the path that would lead me to become an English professor who can use her knowledge to help Latinx students.
To this day, I continue to make the most of my teaching abilities because I want to help Latinos on the education level. I now work as a writing tutor at Orange Coast College while attending the University of California, Irvine. While I still sometimes feel my efforts are not enough or as strong as they should be, my experience helping Latinx students find their voice is enough to push me and make me believe that I can help others. I no longer run toward nowhere, but instead I have a destination.
Emily Aguilar is a senior at the University of California, Irvine and she was a summer 2019 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of this post reflects the opinions of the individual who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.