Launching the Mentoring Mindsets Initiative

Mentors can play an important role in supporting students’ success—whether they are near-peer mentors serving as role models for young students, or trusted adults and community leaders. That’s why a number of the U.S. Department of Education’s initiatives, including My Brother’s Keeper, leverage the power of mentors as key supporters and champions in students’ lives [to learn more about how to become a mentor, please click here].

One way that mentors can support students’ academic careers is by helping them develop learning mindsets and skills. Although these skills are not a silver bullet for improving public education, they are essential to teaching and learning. Alongside parents and educators, mentors can play a key part in supporting students’ resilience, sense of purpose and growth mindsets. When students become frustrated by challenges in the classroom, for example, mentors can help remind them that their minds are like a muscle that grows through effort. And when students feel disconnected from their classrooms, mentors can help them see how what they are learning in school aligns with what they hope to accomplish in life.

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The Children’s Literacy Initiative

In this conversation, Gina Post, a bilingual 2nd-grade teacher at Sumner Elementary School in Camden, N.J. discusses her work with the Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI). CLI is a Philadelphia-based organization that supports teachers focused on early literacy. In 2010, CLI won a $21.7 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation grant, and has demonstrated significant impacts on students & teachers. You can learn more about their i3-supported work here.

Q. Can you describe CLI’s approach to training?

A. The training was very methodical and hands on. The coaches were very involved. My teaching practice just seemed like it changed overnight for the better. The way it would generally work is my coach would come in and we would have a pre-conference. We would decide what I was going to teach that day and then we would walk through it. My coach also was there during the lesson, and she would model the best practices.

Q. How did CLI change your classroom?

A. It’s now very print rich. Everything hanging up was made with my students. When my students come in at the start of the year, the classroom is bare. Every time we put something up, we’ve created it together or they’ve created it. They reference what’s on the wall when they’re doing independent work. Or, I reference routines and procedure. We agree on these as a class community, we write it down, and hang it up during the first weeks of school.

CLI also created a classroom library for me with about 50 new, high-quality, bilingual books. They’re beautiful award-winning books, and half are in Spanish. When I came in to my classroom, the teacher before me had retired. I inherited what she had. Also, a lot of the materials we get in urban environments tend to be pre-fabricated books or a part of a set curriculum. They’re not individual books like you can find when you go the library or if you want to study an author.

Q. How did CLI change your teaching practice?

A. Before CLI, my writing lessons weren’t as explicit. I wasn’t as sure how to focus the students’ writing. It was much looser. As an example, I didn’t do the mini-lessons at the start of a persuasive writing lesson with an explanation of phrases the kids might start with. I also didn’t have an anchor chart with sentence starters, which I can use to send the students back to as a reference while they’re working. The way it works now with writing assignments is each day I’d add another step and another one and by the end of the four-week unit on opinion writing, seven-year-olds have crafted amazing pieces. Writing was much more of an open-ended activity before. It wasn’t explicit.

Q. Can you share a story of success from your classroom that you attribute to this new approach to reading and writing?

A. In the spring, I was reading the book “A Cricket in Times Square” with my students. We worked on it for about a month, and I had them make paper-bag puppets of their favorite character and do an in-depth analysis of the narrative from point of view of their character. When it was time for a share out, they came to the circle with their puppets and took turns sitting in the author’s chair. My English language learners, who previously didn’t want to speak out loud because they were afraid they’d make mistakes and were afraid they’d be made fun of, started having intelligent conversations out loud about characters in the book. These quiet, shy kids were comparing and contrasting events in the story. They were having this really thoughtful discussion about the book. I was simply there to make sure everything went smoothly. I was just so excited to see that.”

U.S. Department of Education Announces $25 Million for Science and Literacy-Themed Television and Digital Media

(Sep. 3, 2015) The U.S. Department of Education announced today two grant awards totaling $25 million to Twin Cities Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the development of television and multimedia programs that will engage preschool and young elementary school children and their families in science and literacy-themed learning.

The awards, made through the Ready-to-Learn Television program, support the creation of television shows, games, websites and apps for young children and families to play and explore, with a particular focus on science and literacy. The grantees—two award-winning public telecommunications entities—will create digital experiences for children that teach the content and skills needed to succeed in elementary school. Today’s awards build upon the successful 2010 Ready-to-Learn competition, which facilitated the launch of the Emmy-award winning show, Peg + Cat.

“Children find inspiration to learn in many parts of their lives, including through exciting multimedia programs like those supported by Ready-to-Learn,” said Nadya Chinoy Dabby, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement. “Today’s investments will support innovative organizations as they create programs and platforms that make learning literacy and science a fun and engaging part of young children’s experiences.”
Twin Cities Public Television will create and distribute nationally in English and Spanish a new educational program that will include 40 television episodes and 24 interactive games. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), will develop several new educational programs focused on science and literacy, as well as build upon existing successful programs such as The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That and Curious George. They will also launch a series of interactive tools and materials that motivate hands-on active learning. CPB/PBS member stations will manage 30 community collaboratives that will provide community-based outreach programs and engage such partners as libraries, Head Start, and housing authorities.

Click here for the Department of Education press release that includes the list of grantees, with their states and Year 1 amounts.

Becoming a New Leader In New Orleans

10 YEARS LATER: EDUCATION INNOVATION TAKES ROOT IN NEW ORLEANS

[Part 2 of 2 profiles of the U.S. Department of Education’s New Orleans grantees, and the difference they are making for children in the city. To see part 1 of this series please click here.]

She didn’t start her career thinking that she was going to be a principal, but all of that changed ten years ago this month.

In August 2005, Shimon Ancker was teaching in New Orleans East, a part of the city that was hit particularly hard by the Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge. The day before the storm hit, she evacuated to Texas and moved in with her sister, where, at one point, she was among 16 people living in one house. About six months later, she was able to return to the city she called home, although it had been changed forever.

Today, Shimon Ancker is the new principal at the Einstein Charter School extension campus in New Orleans. She is a graduate of the New Leaders program, which in 2009 received a $3.7 million U.S. Department of Education (ED) School Leadership Program grant.

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How New Schools for New Orleans Helped the City Come Back

10 YEARS LATER: EDUCATION INNOVATION TAKES ROOT IN NEW ORLEANS

[Part 1 of 2 profiles of the U.S. Department of Education’s New Orleans grantees, and the difference they are making for children in the city.]

In the years since Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans have worked hard to rebuild virtually every aspect of their city. Yet few sectors have undergone as much change as the city’s educational system. Since 2005, the city has rebuilt how it educates its students.

It’s made a real difference in student outcomes—though there is still a great deal more to accomplish. For example, graduation rates are up 19 percentage points since 2005.

This transformation has been led by local educators and innovators. In many cases, their work has been helped by New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), a U.S. Department of Education grantee.

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Engagement, Creativity and Inspiration Found in New Afterschool STEM Programs.

Engagement, Creativity and Inspiration Found in New Afterschool STEM Programs.

Team Cupcake, Team Imaginators, Team Spaced Out, and Thinkers of Tomorrow. These are some of the hard-working student teams that can say that they have tackled challenges similar to those faced by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists and engineers.

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STEM Programs at the Department of Education: Supporting Teachers and Students

This week, the President recognized some of the best and brightest science and engineering students from across the country during the 2015 White House Science Fair. At the Department of Education (the Department), we share the President’s commitment to supporting science education that is student-centered and grounded in real-world settings. We have made great strides in improving and broadening science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all students by including STEM priorities in dozens of competitive grant programs in recent years. Most recently, the Department announced that the 2015 Ready-to-Learn Television grant competition will, for the first time, include a priority to support the development of television and digital media focused on science.

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Update on OII’s FY 2015 Grant Competitions

For the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2015, the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) will conduct 11 grant competitions in six program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Opportunity Scholarship, Ready to Learn Television, and Supporting Effective Educator Development. Announcements of these competitions began this month and will continue through this spring and summer.

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Creating an Engine for Breakthrough Innovation in STEM Education

Every organization can benefit from an internal group that focuses on promoting and creating game-changing innovations.1 To avoid falling behind, organizations must look to the future while also improving performance and practices in the present. Here at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), we’re working hard to build the foundation for an advanced research infrastructure that can uncover breakthrough innovations so that our schools, educators, and students once again lead the world.

Before joining the team at ED, I spent 22 years in different Department of Defense (DoD) research settings, working closely with a variety of civilian research agencies. What I learned leading projects at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is that most research (both public and private) is stove-piped into two categories: basic and applied. Basic research seeks new knowledge and understanding, while applied research — as the name suggests — takes existing knowledge (i.e., the results of basic research) and creates new applications for it. Applied research can improve performance incrementally by leveraging the results of already-established basic research. This is an important and essential function. But by definition, the impact of applied research is limited by the horizon of current knowledge, which means it is not well-suited to producing dramatic breakthroughs.

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New PBS KIDS Series Combines Television and Technology to Make Math Accessible

Special agents Olive (Dalila Bela) and Otto (Filip Geljo) are ready to get their first assignment in the Nov. 26th series premiere of ODD SQUAD. (Photo courtesy of ODD SQUAD© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company)

Special agents Olive (Dalila Bela) and Otto (Filip Geljo) are ready to get their first assignment in the Nov. 26th series premiere of ODD SQUAD. (Photo courtesy of ODD SQUAD© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company)

As parents and educators seek to develop the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, one question remains constant: How do we make learning math and science accessible and fun for students? On Nov. 26th, PBS stations will premier ODD SQUAD, the network’s latest contribution to informal math education. A live-action television series, the show is designed to build curiosity and interest in math among early elementary school viewers.

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