Opportunity Across America Back-to-School Bus Tour

Join OCTAE this week as we hit the road for the Opportunity Across America Tour—the final back-to-school bus tour of the Obama Administration.

School bus with overlaid map of bus tour route DC to New Orleans.

2016 Opportunity Bus Tour

The tour kicks off in Washington, DC and continues across six states to highlight and celebrate the progress that we’ve made as a nation in education over the past seven years.

From rural towns to big cities, educators, schools, families, and communities share a belief that a quality education can expand opportunity and ensure our nation’s fundamental promise: that with hard work and determination, each of us can fulfill our great potential.

Working together, we can ensure that all students have access to an education that helps them achieve their dreams; that all students encounter school as a safe, nurturing, and joyful place to learn and grow; and that teachers are supported and lifted up in the vital work they do each day. Together, we can give every student and family the opportunity to succeed.

That’s what the Opportunity Across America Tour is all about. We hope you’ll follow along the journey and visit the OCTAE blog everyday to read about the programs, students and communities we meet throughout the week.

Join @usedgov on the tour and tell us what opportunity means to you by tagging your Tweet and Facebook post with #OpportunityTour

Monday – Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.

Today, on the first day of the 2016 Bus Tour: 8 Years of Expanding Opportunity Across America, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin visited Capital City Public Charter School to emphasize the Administration’s commitment to Computer Science for All and recognize the significant accomplishments of Capital City, its faculty, and its students. Capital City is an outstanding example of a school committed to the Administration’s efforts to ensure that all students reap the fruits of the new technologies and hands-on learning that are transforming public education.

Photo of Johan Uvin with two students and a school staff member in school hallway.

Johan Uvin and OCTAE staff are led on a tour by students of the Capital City Public Charter School.

Capital City Public Charter School continues to demonstrate the ability to educate its students at a high level of success. Since its first graduating class in 2012, 100 percent of Capital City’s graduating seniors have been accepted to college! Of these graduates, seven were POSSE scholars, two were Trachtenberg Scholars, and one was a Milken Scholar.

Capital City was one of ten CTE Makeover Challenge winners in 2016, earning a $20,000 cash prize and almost $35,000 in equipment and software to help Capital City continue to provide high-quality, robust career and technical education experiences through “making” and computer science and enable students to succeed in the twenty-first century.

We were led by students on a tour of the winning makerspace and Johan Uvin led a roundtable discussion with students and faculty who shared their vision for “making” as well as work-based learning experiences with local public and private partnerships.

Photo of Johan Uvin seated in the cneter with two female students seated on either side of him.

Johan Uvin is flanked by two students of Capital City Public Charter School during the roundtable session.

These are just some of the accomplishments that led First Lady Michelle Obama to say: “Every young person in this country should have a team of teachers, counselors, and school leaders pushing them and supporting them like you [students] all have here at Capital City” during her visit in 2014.

Tuesday – West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, Kentucky

photo of Kim Ford sitting across a work table from a student

Students demonstrate their projects to Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford during her visit to WKCTC.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford visited the state of Kentucky beginning the day at West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) in Paducah, Kentucky where she toured the Allied Health and the Emerging Technology buildings, while professors and students shared their experiences at WKCTC. Students talked about the integral role career coaches play in their academic success. The coaches support students with mandatory college paperwork, establishing educational and career goals, and other requests. It is this type of mentorship that helps sustain WKCTC’s 48 percent graduation/transfer rate, a rate eight points higher than the national average.

The visit ended with a roundtable discussion on college affordability efforts, student support systems on and off campus, innovation in postsecondary education, and strategic work-based learning partnerships in the community. Reflecting on the visit Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford said, “The level of innovation at WKCTC and the overall excitement from students and staff were very impressive. This was an incredibly exciting and informative visit.”

Photo of Student using an automobile body part to describe his skills to Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Ford, standing to his right.

Student Jason McGregory describes his skills to Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Ford.

The day continued with a visit to Graves County Restricted Custody Center (GCRCC) in Mayfield, KY, a male correctional facility where the adult correctional education classes and the Skilled Craft Training Center is administered by WKCTC. Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford got an inside look at GCRCC and its unique commitment to ensure that all incarcerated individuals hold a basic education. If individuals come to GCRCC without a high school diploma, GCRCC requires them to work towards their General Education Development (GED) certificate during their time there. Additionally, the program leverages technology and the Internet to advance student outcomes in adult basic education and English as a second language and increase the employability of incarcerated individuals when they reintegrate into society.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford heard from students on how the classes at GCRCC are helping them prepare for their future by exploring ideas and increasing their competencies in new technology. More than 10 community leaders joined the tour and expressed their view of adult correctional education programs as a larger effort to assist incarcerated individuals develop the skills needed for reintegration into society, not just as residents, but as leaders equipped to succeed. “It is great to see incarcerated individuals be given the opportunity to not only gain their GED, but also remain connected with technology while having the potential of their future contributions to our communities and their families be recognized by instructors and correctional facility staff,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford.

Local television station WPSD featured the visit in their evening newscast. You can view their story here.

Thursday – Eastside Promise Neighborhood, San Antonio, Texas

Acting Assistant Secretary, Johan Uvin, and Chief of Staff, Carmen Drummond, visited the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN) in San Antonio, Texas, a 2011 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods five year implementation grant. The vision of the program is that all children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career.

Photo of students gather around Johan Uvin, seated, demonstrating their enginieering project.

Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin watches as Bowden Elementary School 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students work on a knee brace. The students were from left, Sariya Jackson, Jade Cavazos, Jade White, and Cithaly Cerna.

The EPN’s school and community-based programs led by United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are helping to reinforce the idea that children do well when their parents do well. Specifically, their Dual Generation Program offers families and parents access to job-readiness programs, support to further their education and family literacy workshops. Additionally, EPN supports San Antonio Independent School District initiatives that aim to increase STEM instruction in the six EPN schools. During the visit Assistant Secretary Uvin visited classrooms implementing STEM curriculum where students talked about their projects and the fun they have learning engineering.
Photo of Johan Uvin being led on a tour of the facility.

Director of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood Tony Leverett, left, gives a tour of the Ella Austin Child Care Center to Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin

The visit included an insightful round table discussion with EPN partners and San Antonio stakeholders. The group discussed the achievements seen at the EPN schools by creating cradle-to-career solutions of both educational programs and family and community supports, and how to maintain this momentum far into the future. Assistant Secretary Uvin congratulated the EPN and community partners by saying, “It is wonderful to learn about the great collaboration San Antonio has achieved with the mayor’s office, the school system and local philanthropic organizations. I look forward to seeing these partnerships sustain the great programming at EPN schools.”

After the EPN visit, Assistant Secretary Uvin met with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and toured the Health Magnet Program at Fox Tech High School. Fox Tech students talked about the projects and work-based learning opportunities offered by the magnet program. Assistant Secretary Uvin also participated in a roundtable conversation with the Chamber and other community partners where he learned how the Chamber is integrating a friendly business climate through work-based learning models for students, teacher pipeline structures for future educators, and career navigating programs for the community.

The visit was featured in the San Antonio Express-News and a television newscast.

Friday – Performance Partnership Pilot, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Photo of Johan Uvin standing at podium speaking to a group of students and staff

Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin shares remarks with students and staff of the Greenville Superintendent’s Academy

On the last day of the #OpportunityTour, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin and Deputy Under Secretary Kim Hunter Reed visited Greenville Superintendent’s Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to highlight the Administration’s commitment to make significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes. The Baton Rouge Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) for Disconnected Youth program is a collaborative effort between the city and school district that focuses on disconnected youth ages 14-24 by offering catered programming at two schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS).

During the visit, Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin and Deputy Under Secretary Reed engaged students in a dialogue during a roundtable discussion about the services that the P3 program will provide and how it will address the needs of youth living in Baton Rouge. Students talked about their dreams and aspirations, but also about the obstacles to success they had to overcome. Other important issues discussed were the impact of the flooding, the recent unrest over racial issues and challenges with law enforcement, and the need to find solutions to end the gun violence and killings. Students made several suggestions to the Mayor and Superintendent to improve their schools and community.

The day ended with a community partnership roundtable where Deputy Under Secretary Reed led a broader discussion on current issues in her hometown of Baton Rouge, including many of the concerns the students raised. Ms. Gail Grover from the Mayor’s Office and Student Ambassador Benjamin Jenkins helped facilitate the discussions during the student and community roundtables.

Reflecting on the visit Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin said, “The students care so deeply about their community and called on all adults in the room to help find solutions to end violence in the community and expand education opportunities.” The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, has formed a group to share information and coordinate a response to issues related to the Louisiana flooding.

Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire

Also on Friday, Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford and Senior Policy Advisor David Soo visited College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), a leader in competency based education, distance learning, and employer engagement.

SNHU is also one of 44 institutions selected by the Department for the Federal Student Aid Dual Enrollment Pell Experiment. This three-year experiment will allow students taking college-credit courses to access Federal Pell Grants as early as high school. These programs can improve academic outcomes, lower costs and increase access to colleges and universities, especially for low-income students. Through the experiment, SNHU will offer its competency-based Associate of Arts in General Studies and will partner with several high schools.
 

Research consistently has shown that individuals with college degrees are more likely to live healthier lives, be more civically engaged in their communities, have good-paying jobs, and experience greater job security. SNHU and College for America are helping make more Americans enter and complete college by offering a wide range of degrees at an affordable price.

During the visit, Deputy Assistant Ford toured the traditional campus, which serves 3,000 students, and their online center serving 70,000 students across the country. College for America collaborates with over 100 businesses, nonprofits and governments to offer accredited associate and bachelor degrees that students earn online by mastering competencies through real-world projects.

Photo of tables arranged in a square with staff seated around the table

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford and Senior Policy Advisor David Soo held a roundtable discussion on the College for America at Southern New Hampshire University

In the morning, a group of SNHU student ambassadors joined Deputy Assistant Ford for coffee and talked about why they chose to attend the traditional campus. Later in the day, Deputy Assistant Ford met with College for America students and learned how the competency-based programs are helping them gain college credits or workforce training to complete a degree at their own pace.

During a roundtable discussion with University and College administrators Deputy Assistant Ford said, “It is great to see how the innovative models at SNHU, such as online and competency-based programs, provide traditional and non-traditional students the opportunity to complete a college degree at a fraction of the typical cost. These models are allowing thousands of Americans the ability to pursue a college degree for the first time, as well as also complete a degree they might have started years before.”

OCTAE concludes its series of visits on the Opportunity Across America Tour—the seventh and final back-to-school bus tour of the Obama Administration that celebrated progress in education in communities and states across the country.