Tag Archives: education

Trump Races to Chalk Up 100-Day ‘Successes’ by Weakening Antiquities Act, Overturning Education Reform, and Unveiling Tax Plan to Benefit Wealthy, Corporations

After his visit to Yosemite in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt pushed through the Antiquities Act of 1906 to prevent the destruction of historic or prehistoric ruins on government land © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump is racing to the 100-day mark to do as much as he can to undo progress won over the past century, particularly eradicating every part of Barack Obama’s legacy.

On Wednesday, he signed Executive Orders weakening the Antiquities Act that has been used since Theodore Roosevelt to protect federal land for the American people.

He signed another Executive Order aimed at rolling back national education standards put into place, originally, by George W. Bush under the No Child Left Behind Act, amended with Barack Obama’s Race to the Top (which used federal financial incentives instead of threats of losing federal aid), and reformed under ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).

Also, his Treasury Secretary introduced the outline for tax “reform” which cuts taxes for the wealthiest and corporations and promises to blow a hold trillions of dollars wide in the national debt, just as previous “voodoo” “trickle-down” tax “reform” by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have done.

According to the pool report by Dave Boyer, White House correspondent for The Washington Times:

The president signed an executive order at the Interior Dept. with Vice President Pence, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and several lawmakers and governors. The order directs Interior to review larger national monuments created since 1996.

Trump said the Antiquities Act “does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up” millions of acres of land and water. He especially criticized the Obama administration for an “egregious use of power” and an “abuse of the monuments designation,” and said that it’s time “to end another egregious abuse of federal power.”

“It’s gotten worse and worse and worse. This should never have happened,” he said. “Now we’re going to free it up.”

“We’re returning power back to the people,” Mr. Trump said. “Today we’re putting the states back in charge.”

Pence called the use of the monuments designation “one of the great federal overreaches in recent decades.”

Mr. Zinke said “somewhere along the line, the act has become a tool of political advocacy.” He said the order “does not remove any monuments” or weaken any environmental protections.

[However, it is clear that the powers that Trump is taking upon himself is aimed at reversing Obama’s designation of Bears Ears in Utah.)

Here’s more of what Trump said:

“In the first 100 days, we have taken historic action to eliminate wasteful regulations.  They’re being eliminated like nobody has ever seen before.  There has never been anything like it.  Sometimes I look at some of the things I’m signing I say maybe people won’t like it, but I’m doing the right thing.  And no regular politician is going do it.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know if you folks would do — I will tell you literally some politicians have said, you’re doing the right thing.  I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things.  But we’re doing them because it’s the right thing to do.  And it’s for the good of the nation.

“We’re returning power back to the people.  We’ve eliminated job-destroying regulations on farmers, ranchers, and coal miners, on autoworkers, and so many other American workers and businesses.

“Today, I am signing a new executive order to end another egregious abuse of federal power, and to give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.

“The previous administration used a 100-year-old law known as the Antiquities Act to unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control — have you heard about that? — eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land.

“Today, we are putting the states back in charge.  It’s a big thing.

“I am pleased to be joined by so many members of Congress and governors who have been waiting for this moment, including Governor Herbert of Utah.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.  Governor LePage of Maine, who, by the way, has lost a lot of weight.  (Laughter.)  I knew him when he was heavy, and now I know him when he’s thin, and I like him both ways, okay?  (Laughter.)  Done a great job.  Governor Calvo of Guam.  Thank you.  Governor Torres from the Northern Mariana Islands.  Thank you, thank you, Governor.

“I also want to recognize Senator Orrin Hatch, who — believe me, he’s tough.  He would call me and call me and say, you got to do this.  Is that right, Orrin?”

SENATOR HATCH:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  You didn’t stop.  He doesn’t give up.  And he’s shocked that I’m doing it, but I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  But I really have to point you out, you didn’t stop.

“And, Mike, the same thing.  So many people feel — Mike Lee — so many people feel so strongly about this, and so I appreciate your support and your prodding, and your never-ending prodding, I should say, because we’re now getting something done that many people thought would never ever get done, and I’m very proud to be doing it in honor of you guys, okay?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

“Altogether, the previous administration bypassed the states to place over 265 million acres — that’s a lot of land, million acres.  Think of it — 265 million acres of land and water under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation.  That’s larger than the entire state of Texas.

“In December of last year alone, the federal government asserted this power over 1.35 million acres of land in Utah, known as Bears Ears — I’ve heard a lot about Bears Ears, and I hear it’s beautiful — over the profound objections of the citizens of Utah.  The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice.

“I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders — a number of them here today — who care very much about preserving our land, and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab.  And it’s gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place.  This should never have happened.

“That’s why today I am signing this order and directing Secretary Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all of the states, the people of the United States.

“Every day, we are going to continue pushing ahead with our reform agenda to put the American people back in charge of their government and their lives.

“And again, I want to congratulate the Secretary.  I want to congratulate Orrin and Mike and all of the people that worked so hard on bringing it to this point.  And tremendously positive things are going to happen on that incredible land, the likes of which there is nothing more beautiful anywhere in the world.  But now tremendously positive things will happen.”

The signing took place in a room at Interior with a framed portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, a bust of TR and mounted heads of a buffalo and deer on the wall. Among those in attendance were Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Also Govs. Herbert of Utah and LePage of Maine.

Reversing Education Reform

Trump walked into the Roosevelt Room at 2:44 p.m., having been introduced by Vice President Pence. He was greeted by a group of about 25 people, including teachers, lawmakers and governors, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, according to Boyer’s pool report:

A bit of banter:

Mr. Trump joked with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, incoming head of the National Governors Association, about the length of Sandoval’s prepared remarks, with Trump saying he decided to stay in the room after his own comments because “I know it’s going to be a short speech” from Sandoval.

Mr. Sandoval laughed and told the president, “It just got shorter.”

A few moments later during his remarks, Mr. Sandoval said, “I’m going to skip a page.”

The president, standing to the rear of the group, called out, “Education for North Korea.”

During the event, Mr. Trump also said he was heading afterward for a “very important” briefing for senators on North Korea.

During the president’s formal remarks, he said the education executive order will help to restore local control of education. It calls for a 300-day review of Obama-era regulations and guidance for school districts and directs DeVos to modify or repeal measures deemed an overreach by Washington.

“We know that local communities do it best and know it best,” the president said. He called it “another critical step to restoring local control, which is so important.”

“Previous administrations have wrongly forced states and schools to comply with federal whims and dictates for what our kids are taught,” he said. “The time has come to empower teachers and parents to make the decisions that help their students achieve success.”

Among those in attendance were Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Virginia Foxx and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Gov. Herbert of Utah and LePage of Maine, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, nominee for ambassador to China.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Branstad, “They’re looking forward to seeing you” in China.

From there, Trump honored the Teacher of the Year, who, surprise surprise, is the first to be from a charter school in the 65 years of the award.

Boyer reports no questions taken at this event.

Pool was ushered into the Oval Office around 4:45 p.m. to find the President seated at the Resolute desk, surrounded by 55 teachers from around the nation, plus First Lady Melania Trump (who is celebrating her birthday), Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The President congratulated Sydney Chaffee, winner of the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. The ninth-grade teacher is the first charter school teacher to win the award in its 65-year history, and also the first from Massachusetts.

“That is really something special,” Mr. Trump said.

The president also thanked the group for having sung “Happy Birthday” to the First Lady before your poolers arrived.

The president greeted your poolers with, “Busy day, hasn’t it been?”

He praised the teachers as “the greatest there are. You’re all great, great teachers.”

Near the conclusion of the president’s comments, as he was saying he hopes the teachers’ trip to the White House was special, one unidentified teacher began to cry, apparently tears of happiness.

“Sorry, I’m always crying,” she told the president.

The President told her, “I’ve had some of the biggest executives in the world, who have been here many times, and I say have you been to the Oval Office? No. They walk into the Oval Office and they start crying. I say ‘I promise I won’t say to your various stockholders [that they cried].”

The president did not answer a question shouted near the end about North Korea.

Meanwhile, the outline of his tax plan was unveiled which would:

  1. Slash the corporate tax rate by 60%, from 35% to 15%. This will lose $2.4 trillion over 10 years—enough to fund Medicaid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) serving nearly 75 million Americans for five years.
  2. Cut the tax rate paid by Wall Street money managers and real estate tycoons like Trump down to just 15%―far less than many middle-class families pay.
  3. Continue tax breaks that encourage corporations to send jobs and profits offshore. Corporations currently have $2.6 trillion in profits stashed offshore, on which they owe $750 billion in taxes.

The theory – by Republicans since Ronald Reagan – is that the deficit in tax revenues would be made up by economic growth, except that has never been the case.

In reaction, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) stated:

“At a time when we have a rigged economy designed to benefit the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations, President Trump’s new tax plan would only make that system worse. He would slash taxes for himself and his billionaire friends and significantly increase the deficit, while doing little to help rebuild the collapsing middle class. Rather than making large profitable corporations – many of which pay nothing in federal income tax – finally contribute their fair share, Trump wants to give them a huge tax break.

“At a time when Trump wants to make major cuts in education, health care, senior programs, nutrition and affordable housing, it is especially outrageous that he would propose the elimination of the Estate Tax and provide a $353 billion dollar tax giveaway to the wealthiest 0.2 percent – including a tax break of up to $4 billion to the Trump family.”

Donald Trump Pushes School Choice Proposal; Hillary Clinton Campaign Slams as Attack on Public Education

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses New York State Conservative Party © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unveiled proposals to expand school choice © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump, in a speech in Cleveland on Sept. 8, unveiled four basic proposals as the underpinning of an education program that would stress school choice, a longstanding objective of the right wing, which is used to dismantle public schools in favor of privatized schools (such as charter schools), as a means of diverting public tax dollars into private and parochial schools as well as home-schooling, and a tool to dismantle teachers unions.

PROPOSAL: Trump says his first budget will immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by repriortizing existing federal dollars. Specifically, Trump’s plan would use $20 billion of existing federal dollars to establish a block grant for the 11 million school age kids living in poverty. Individual states will be given the option as to how these funds will be used.

PROPOSAL:  Trump will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. That means that we want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private, charter or magnet school that is best for them and their family. Each state will develop its own formula, but the dollars should follow the student.

PROPOSAL: To achieve this long-term goal of school choice, Trump make this a shared national mission – to bring hope to every child in every city in this land. Mr. Trump will use the pulpit of the presidency to campaign for this in all 50 states and will call upon the American people to elect officials at the city, state and federal level who support school choice.

PROPOSAL:  Trump will also support merit-pay for teachers, so that great teachers are rewarded instead of the failed tenure system that currently exists, which rewards bad teachers and punishes good ones.

“Our campaign represents the long-awaited chance to break with the bitter failures of the past, and to embrace a New American Future,” Trump stated.

“There is no failed policy more in need of urgent change than our government-run education monopoly.

“The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success.

“It is time to break-up that monopoly.

“I want every single inner city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom – the civil right – to attend the school of their choice. This includes private schools, traditional public schools, magnet schools and charter schools which must be included in any definition of school choice.

“Our government spends more than enough money to easily pay for this initiative – with billions left over. It’s simply a matter of putting students first, not the education bureaucracy.

“Let’s run through the numbers.

“At the state and federal level, the United States spends more than $620 billion on K-12 education each year. That’s an average of about $12,296 for every student enrolled in our elementary and secondary public schools.

“The federal government pays for about 10 percent—$64 billion, to be precise—of the K-12 costs. That $64 billion makes up about half of the total spending of the U.S. Department of Education.

“The other roughly $570 billion spent on K-12 education comes from the states.

“We spend more per student than almost any other major country in the world. Yet, our students perform near the bottom of the pack for major large advanced countries.

“Our largest cities spend some of the largest amounts of money on public schools.

“New York City spends $20,226 dollars per pupil.

“Baltimore spends $15,287 dollars per student.

“Chicago spends $11,976 dollars per student, and in Los Angeles it is $10,602.

“Just imagine if each student in these school systems was given a scholarship for this amount of money – allowing them and their family to choose the public or private school of their choice.

“Not only would this empower families, but it would create a massive education market that is competitive and produces better outcomes.

“These schools would then cater to the needs of the individual student and family – not the needs of the Teachers’ Union. There is no more important job than a teacher, and teachers will benefit greatly from these reforms.

“The current government monopoly, while great for the bureaucrats, has utterly failed too many students.

“According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, only 1 in 6 African-American students in the eighth grade are considered proficient in math and reading.

“Failing schools then contribute to failing economies.”

Trump declared, “As your President, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice. I understand many stale old politicians will resist. But it’s time for our country to start thinking big once again. We spend too much time quibbling over the smallest words, when we should spend our time dreaming about the great adventures that lie ahead.”

And in Charlotte last month, he said, “On education, we are going to give students choice, and allow charter schools to thrive…. overturn tenure…. my opponent wants to deny students choice and opportunity all to get a little more money from the education bureaucracy. She doesn’t care how many young dreams are dashed and destroyed, and they are destroyed, young people are destroyed before they even start. We are going to work closely with African American parents and children, wither the parents’ students, everybody in the African American community, in the inner cities, and what a big difference that will make.

But this is all a spiel and a scam – like his Trump University – to divert tax dollars into for-profit education companies, and into parochial schools (contradicting the Constitutional separation of church and state), and for good measure, undermine the Teachers Union, which has strongly backed Democratic candidates. That’s what is meant by the “education bureaucracy” and that’s why it has been so, so key to Republicans to end teacher tenure (and at the same time, make teachers subject to whim of firing when they get to expensive, or when they teach Evolution and refuse to teach Creationism as science).

This is his spiel, but how would his Education proposal work in real life? After all, it was George w. Bush, who as Texas Governor opposed President Bill Clinton’s effort to introduce national standards, but who as president, overturned public education with his No child Left Behind/Accountability federal control of public education, even promoting public shaming of teachers and public schools which did not meet the arbitrary and unfairly imposed testing regimen designed so that every public school and every public school teacher would fail.

HFA Statement in Response to Trump’s Education Speech Today in Cleveland

In response to Trump’s dangerous education proposals announced during his speech today in Cleveland, HFA Senior Policy Advisor Maya Harris offered the following statement:

“It’s no surprise that Donald Trump—whose only experience when it comes to education is his fraudulent ‘Trump University’—offered education policies that would prove disastrous for our public schools, our educators, and most importantly, our kids. Let’s be clear: Trump’s proposal to apparently gut nearly 30 percent of the federal education budget and turn it into private school vouchers would decimate public schools across America and deprive our most vulnerable students of the education they deserve.

“Hillary Clinton believes that the public school system is one of the pillars of our democracy. As president she will fight to strengthen our public schools to ensure every student receives a world-class education, regardless of their ZIP code.”

Donald Trump’s proposal, explained:

TRUMP: “[U]se $20 billion of existing federal dollars to establish a block grant for the 11 million school age kids living in poverty.”

EXPLAINER: A more extreme version of past Republican proposals, Trump’s plan would apparently eliminate the targeting of federal dollars to schools and districts with the highest concentrations of low-income students. Instead, he would turn over all $15.4 billion in Title I funding to states, and allow money to follow students outside of the public school system to private or parochial schools.

  • Trump’s proposal could strip funding from up to 56,000 public schools serving more than 21 million children. By allowing funding to leave America’s 56,000 Title I schools, Trump’s proposal will put crucial funding at risk for nearly 21 million American students.
  • Trump’s proposal might only serve 1.4 million students, while stripping funding from the other 10.5 million low-income students in America. Trump’s proposal would serve no-where near 11 million students. The average cost of a K-12 private school is $13,640 per student, per year. Since thevast majority of states do not support private school vouchers, Trump’s proposal would have to carry the full cost of attendance. As a result, Trump’s proposal might only serve 1.4 million students, while taking away funding that serves America’s low-income schools.
  • Trump’s proposal could have a devastating impact on student achievement. Research shows that students who attend schools using vouchersoften do worse than those who stayed in their neighborhood public schools.
  • To fund his $20 billion voucher program, Trump would have to cut all Title I funding and $5 billion dollars in additional federal education programs. Trump would need to “repurpose” roughly $5 billion in annual education funding which currently supports programming such as preschool, Pell grants, and crucial resources to help low income students, students with disabilities, and English-language learners.

Obama Administration Launches New $100 Million Competition to Expand Tuition-Free Community College Programs

Exuberant optimism of High School graduation. The Obama Administration is taking steps to ease access to community college, recognizing that most decent-paying jobs today require a degree © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Exuberant optimism of High School graduation. The Obama Administration is taking steps to ease access to community college, recognizing that most decent-paying jobs today require a degree © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Every American, whether they’re young or just young at heart, should be able to earn the skills and education necessary to compete and win in the 21st century economy.” – President Barack Obama

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both made college affordability an issue of their campaigns, while the Republican candidates have ignored the issue entirely. And with the media’s obsessive focus on the presidential contest, and the Republican-controlled Congress’ insistence on obstructing any positive action President Obama might take, Americans are generally unaware of what Obama has been doing to make college affordable and ease the student debt crisis. The White House just issued a Fact Sheet on efforts to break down financial barriers to obtaining a college degree:

The Obama Administration announced a new $100 million investment for America’s Promise Job-Driven Training grants (America’s Promise Grants) to connect more Americans to education and in-demand jobs, in addition to 27 new free community college programs that have launched in states, communities and community colleges designed to make access to higher education available regardless of the ability to pay.

Details of the various programs were outlined by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the Community College of Philadelphia, which modeled a free community college program after the President’s America’s College Promise plan this time last year.

The Obama Administration has focused on America’s more than 1,100 community colleges because they are “the backbone of the nation’s postsecondary education and training system. They serve over 7 million undergraduates, including many older, low- or moderate-income, minority, first-generation, and rural Americans an opportunity to earn a quality, affordable degree or credential that meet the demands of a competitive global economy,” the White House stated.

“That is why President Obama has challenged communities to take action to grow the momentum for America’s College Promise, a plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and the skills needed in the workforce at no cost. And, in order to help communities accept this challenge, he is calling on Congress take action on the America’s College Promise Act, introduced by Senator Baldwin and Congressman Scott, which would expand access to higher education for our nation’s students.

“Companies are choosing to grow in the U.S. in part because we have the most educated, creative, and adaptable workforce. Over the last six years, American businesses have created over 14 million new jobs. Of the new jobs the economy is expected to generate over the next ten years, around half will require postsecondary education or training. The President’s Job-Driven Training agenda has made federally supported education and training programs more responsive to employer needs. As part of this approach, community and technical colleges are playing a critical role in helping Americans get the skills to get good jobs. The $100 million America’s Promise Grants will help communities catalyze new and strengthen existing partnerships and programs to offer more Americans access to the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their educational and career goals, particularly in high-growth sectors like technology, manufacturing, and health care.”

These investments build on the Obama Administration’s record of investing in students and the workforce. Since 2009, the Obama Administration has invested more than $70 billion dollars in support of community colleges including over $66 billion in over 19 million Pell scholarships to help students and families pay for college; $2 billion in Job-Driven Training Community College Grants to strengthen education and training programs that lead to in-demand employment and provide a ticket to the middle class at nearly half of the nation’s community colleges; and $1.6 billion in Title III and Title V to strengthen institutions’ capacity for providing students an affordable, high-quality education. These critical investments have helped transform the role of community colleges as leading providers of high-quality, affordable, pathways for all Americans to work hard in pursuit of skills employers seek and of knowledge.

Highlights  from the recent announcements:

  • $100 Million America’s Promise Grants. Early this summer, the Administration will launch an H-1B funded grant competition by the Department of Labor to create and expand innovative regional and sector partnerships between community colleges and other training providers, employers, and the public workforce system to create more dynamic, tuition-free education and training programs for in-demand middle and high-skilled jobs across the country. Built off the model of shared responsibility for educating this nation’s students and workforce, America’s Promise Grants continue to build on the Administration’s investments to strengthen education, training, and employer engagement.
  • More than $70 million in New Investments Building Progress on America’s College Promise for 40,000 Americans. Since the launch of America’s College Promise, state and local elected officials, community college leaders, non-profits, business, and philanthropy have come together across the country to expand free community college programs. Since President Obama announced America’s College Promise, at least 27 new free community college programs have launched in states, communities, and individual community colleges. Collectively, these new programs add over $70 million in new public and private investments to serve nearly 40,000 students at community colleges.
  • $100 Million for America’s Promise Grants:

Vice President Biden announced a commitment to make $100 million available through the Department of Labor to expand high quality education and training programs that give Americans the skills most in-demand from regional employers for middle- to high-skilled jobs. Grants will be awarded to pilot and scale innovative tuition-free partnerships between employers, economic development, workforce development boards, community and technical colleges and systems, training programs, K-12 education systems, and community-based organizations that will strengthen the pipeline of Americans ready for in-demand jobs, bridge students’ educational opportunities and employer needs, attract more jobs from overseas, and create more pathways for Americans to reach the middle class through the following activities:

o   Increase opportunities for all Americans. With the rising costs of higher education, post-secondary education may feel out of reach for many Americans. Grantees will develop strategies to increase tuition-free opportunities for unemployed, underemployed, and low-income workers to enter skilled occupations and industries. Grantees will use and align existing resources to help sustain and scale up programs.

o   Expand employer engagementThese regional partnerships from employers to support program design and delivery and identify skills and competencies needed to meet businesses’ needs. Employer partners will offer innovative ways for skills attainment through work-based learning and customized ‘upskilling’ strategies to move low-skilled individuals up a career pathway with registered apprenticeship, paid-work experience, and paid internship opportunities.

o   Strengthen education and training performance. Grantees will reduce the need for remediation, and increase skills development through evidence-based interventions. Grantees are encouraged to use evidence-based designs that can increase the employability, employment, earnings, and educational outcomes of students, while supporting employers’ economic growth.

  • More than $70 million in New Investments Building Progress on America’s College Promise for 40,000 Americans.

In his 2015 State of the Union, the President announced a vision for America’s College Promise to make two years of community college free, letting responsible students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree or earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost by creating a new partnership with states. The program would require everyone to do their part: community colleges must strengthen their programs and increase the number of students who graduate, states must invest more in higher education and training, and students must take responsibility for their education, earn good grades, and stay on track to graduate.

Since then, state and local elected officials, community college leaders, non-profits, business, and philanthropy from across the political spectrum and from all corners of the country are taking action, including through a new PSA from the Heads Up America campaign. At least 27 new free community college programs launched in states, communities, and individual community colleges since the President’s 2015 State of the Union address. Collectively, those new programs add over $70 million in new public and private investments to serve nearly 40,000 students at community colleges.

  • Statewide programs include: Oregon, Minnesota and Rhode Island.
  • Local efforts span at least 12 states and include: College of the Siskiyous (CA), Community College of Philadelphia (PA), Dabney Lancaster Community College (VA), Detroit (MI), Gateway Technical College (WI), Harper College (IL), Ivy Tech (IN), Lone Star College (TX), Los Angeles (CA), Manistee County Commitment Scholarship (MI), Milwaukee Area Technical College (WI), Madison Area Technical College (WI), Mid-north Promise (IN), Mohave Community College (AZ), Oakland (CA), Richmond County (NC), Salt Lake Community College (UT), San Diego Community College District (CA), Santa Barbara City College (CA), Scotland County (NC), Sinclair Community College (OH), Wichita Area Technical College (KS), Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WI), and Vance-Granville Community College (NC).

Additionally, a number of new legislative proposals have been made to expand free community college programs. At the Federal level, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) proposed America’s College Promise Act of 2015 for the country’s community and technical colleges – including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions –while 17 other states have proposed legislation to make community college free state-wide. Additionally, survey data from the American Association of Community Colleges shows that a quarter of community college presidents believe it is likely that their institutions will offer a tuition-free (or nearly free) program within the next two years, which would double the number of available tuition-free options.

States and communities are demonstrating that there is a range of thoughtful and effective ways to design a tuition-free Promise program customized to address local and state knowledge and skills needs, funding opportunities, and shared community goals. Nearly all these announced programs have features that ensure hard-working students have a fair shot and stay on track to graduate successfully. Key designs include:

o   Supporting responsible high school graduates by requiring participants to have graduated from high school and maintain at least a minimum grade point average (GPA). America’s College Promise designates a 2.5 GPA requirement, which is comparable to many of these programs.

o   Promoting more credit accumulation through full-time or at least part-time enrollment to ensure that students are making progress towards completion, which can increase the likelihood of completing on time and save students tuition.

o   Requiring FAFSA completion to help students access federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid. Over 39 percent of community college students do not complete the FAFSA, even though they are likely to qualify for some form of aid. These provisions help ensure students receive the financial support they need to pursue their education and stay on track to complete a degree or credential. Tennessee Promise’s FAFSA requirement helped lead to the greatest year over year increase at the state level, and helped Tennessee lead the country in FAFSA completion.

o   Ensuring credits fully transfer so that students are more likely to cut down on redundant courses, reduce remediation, and stay on track to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree on-time if they choose to transfer.

Building on the Obama Administration’s Investments in Community College to Strengthen Education and Job-Driven Training

  • Increasing Investments in Scholarships for Students. This Administration has invested over $66 billion in community colleges, providing over 19 million Pell scholarships to students attending community colleges; this funding to community colleges represents over one-third of all Pell grants. To continue improving and expanding these important investments, the Administration will soon announce selected pilot sites who for the first time will offer up to $20 million in Federal Pell Grants for over 10,000 high school students to pay for college courses typically provided by community colleges and put themselves on a fast-track to college completion before even setting foot on campus. Evidence shows that dual enrollment programs help high school students earn better grades and increase their likelihood of college enrollment, persistence and completion. In addition, to further strengthen community colleges, particularly for traditional underrepresented students, this Administration has invested $1.6 billion in Title III and Title V programs.
  • $2 Billion for 2,300 In-Demand Education and Training Programs at Community Colleges in all 50 States. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, provided more than half of our nation’s community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to partner with nearly 2,500 employers to expand and improve education and career training programs that help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries such as information technology, health care, energy, and advanced manufacturing. To date, nearly 300,000 participants have enrolled in these programs, earning 160,000 credentials. 40 states received grants that supported state-wide systematic change by including all or most community colleges in the state. Select examples of successful partnerships, which have reached more than 4,500 individuals, include:

o   Motlow State Community College (MSCC) (TN). MSCC received $3.3 million and partnered with Bridgestone Tire Company to develop a new mechatronics training facility on-site at Bridgestone in Smyrna, TN.  In addition to contributing to curriculum development, Bridgestone has contributed over $4 million towards renovations and equipment.

o   Piedmont Technical College (PTC) (SC). As part of a consortium consisting of 10 of the 16 public, two-year colleges in South Carolina and funded at nearly $20 million, PTC partnered with 37 employers to redesign a new advanced manufacturing certificate program.  Sixteen of the partnering companies and local county organizations collectively contributed $1.4 million to create the PTC Center for Advanced Manufacturing to support the program.

o   Alpena Community College (ACC) (MI): ACC received $2.8 million to implement the Sustainable Solutions for Northeast Michigan: Green Jobs and Clean Energy project to build a statewide energy partnership network, which included the Michigan National Guard and DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the two largest energy employers in Michigan as well as the state workforce development board. This partnership network designed and implemented a “Gas Energy Bootcamp,” targeting unemployed people and returning veterans. Program completers had a 96 percent employment rate.

  • Launch of New Health Career Pathways Initiative:  Business-Led Effort to Expand Career Pathways in Healthcare Industry.  One of the key goals of the America’s Promise grants and other federal funding is to spur longer-term, industry led efforts to prepare more people from all backgrounds for in-demand jobs. Today, leading healthcare employers are building on a career pathways framework developed with a $19.6 million Job-Driven Training Community College Department of Labor grant to better match up training with their needs at a more national scale.

o   Business-Led Task Force on Core Skills and Career Pathways.  The Advisory Board Company will convene employers to agree on common ways to describe and measure the skills needed for healthcare jobs to focus training on in-demand skills and help workers to translate the skills they already have to move between roles and employers.  Initial members include: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Sutter Health, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Mercy Health West Michigan/Trinity Health, and Fairview Health Services

o   Partnership with Communities to Adopt Common Skills and Career Pathways for Healthcare Workers.  Brought together by Hope Street Group, seven founding “Health Career Pathway Communities” composed of 15 healthcare systems, 11 community colleges and systems, 7 workforce boards, and 12 community-based organizations will adopt common skill and career pathways and support more than 1,000 disadvantaged Americans with training and placement into healthcare jobs with paid internships, career counseling, etc.  HPCs include: Grand Rapids and Muskegon, MI; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Charlotte, NC; Bronx, Westchester and Hudson Valley, NY; New York City, NY; and Sacramento, CA.

  • Scaling Up What Works Across Federal Programs with A Job-Driven Checklist Applied To Billions Of Training Dollars. In July 2014, the Administration laid out a Job-Driven Checklist of seven elements that matter most to get Americans into better jobs (e.g., strong employer engagement, work-based learning, better use of labor market information, accountability for employment outcomes). Since then, agencies have awarded over 15 competitive job-training grants that total more than $1.5 billion, with an additional 12 competitive grants of more than $800 million to be awarded over the remainder of 2016 that incorporate the job-driven training elements.  More details on progress can be found here.
  • Expanding “learn and earn” training opportunities through apprenticeships:In September 2015, the Department of Labor awarded $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants to 46 public-private partnerships that will help train more than 34,000 new apprentices in high-growth industries like health care, IT, and advanced manufacturing while scaling up proven programs. Earlier this month, DOL announced the newest investments for expanding apprenticeship through the $90 million ApprenticeshipUSA grants which will fund state, industry, and non-profit efforts to expand apprenticeship and increase the diversity of industries and workers in apprenticeship.  Since the President’s 2014 State of the Union call to action, the US has added more than 75,000 new apprenticeship opportunities, the largest increase in nearly a decade.

Budget Proposals to Connect More Americans to Training for In-Demand Jobs 

  • Expand Innovative Tuition-Free Training Programs at Community Colleges. Building on the TAACCCT program,the President’s Budget request includes $75 million for a new American Technical Training Fund, which are competitive grants that support the development, operation, and expansion of innovative, evidence-based, short-term, or accelerated job training programs that enable students, particularly from low-income backgrounds, to access tuition-free education and training leading to career pathways for jobs in high-demand fields. Projects would emphasize strong employer partnerships, work-based learning opportunities, accelerated training, and flexible scheduling.
  • Strengthening Partnerships between Businesses and Community Colleges to Grow the Middle Class. The Administration has proposed a new tax credit to incentivize employers to strengthen community and technical colleges through contributions like designing curriculum, donating instructors and equipment, and creating job-based learning opportunities. Employers can earn a one-time $5,000 tax credit for hiring a qualifying community college student graduate full-time. Altogether, this could help half a million students access the training and jobs they need to succeed over the course of five years.
  • Helping More Americans Complete College Affordably. Along with Continuing To Index The Pell Grant To Ensure It Keeps Pace With Inflation, the Administration is calling for significant new investments in the federal Pell Grant program—the cornerstone of college affordability – with two new Pell proposals that will help students accelerate progress towards their degrees and increase their likelihood of on-time completion. These two proposals include Pell for Accelerated Completion, which would allow full-time students to take courses in a third semester, and On-Track Pell Bonus, which offers $300 for students to take 15-credits, which would accelerate progress towards a degree. In fiscal year 2017, these changes would mean an additional $2 billion in Pell Grants for students working toward their degrees.
  • $3 Billion Talent Compact to Keep and Attract Jobs to the U.S. The President’s Budget proposes competitive funding to create over 50 “Talent Hotspots.” These would consist of employers, training programs, and workforce leaders that prioritize one sector and make a commitment to recruit and train the workforce to help businesses grow and attract more jobs from overseas. This proposal would produce a pipeline of about half a million skilled workers over five years.

See also: White House Announces New Actions to Help More Americans Manage Student Debt

Obama Celebrates Great Teachers, Cites Nation’s Progress in Public Education

President Obama promotes education reform during visit to PTech, an innovative high school program, in Brooklyn, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama promotes education reform during visit to PTech, an innovative high school program, in Brooklyn, NY © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, May 3, President Obama stood with hundreds of educators from across the country to recognize their contributions and celebrate the progress this country has made toward increasing educational opportunity and outcomes for all students since he took office.  The President not only honored the National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, a veteran history teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut, but also celebrated remarkable educators across the country who have helped achieve extraordinary progress over the past seven and a half years.

“President Obama recognizes that America’s future is written in our classrooms, and that our teachers and educators deserve our support,” the White House stated. “That is why, throughout his Administration, the President has not only supported our educators, but also promoted a bold vision for improving our education system to give all students the fair chance they deserve. Today, the White House will underscore the change underway in America’s schools, and announce progress toward reaching the President’s goal of preparing an additional 100,000 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers for America’s classrooms by 2021.”

The White House is also highlighting new efforts to support great educators.TEACH – a public-private collaboration led by the U.S. Department of Education and Microsoft, with support from organizations including Facebook, College Football Playoff Foundation and MyCollege Options – will launch new commitments to attract a strong teacher workforce.  The Department of Education will collaborate with the ASCD, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Foundation Charitable Trust, and Carnegie Corporation of New York in their work to support teacher-led initiatives that strengthen teachers’ professional learning and improve student outcomes.  And organizations like Spotify and the College Football Playoff Foundation will launch new efforts to support and encourage great teaching.

Progress to Support Great Teachers and Help All Students Succeed 

Today, the White House and the Department of Education are releasing a report highlighting the nation’s educational progress since the President took office – from reducing the number of dropouts, to raising academic standards to prepare students for college and career in nearly every state, to expanding the availability of high-quality preschool and digitally connecting America’s classrooms.  The pace and scale of change in America’s educational system would have been impossible to achieve without the committed work of educators at every level of school governance – from the classroom teacher to state superintendents.

The report released today details the steps President Obama has taken since the Recovery Act to support education, showing results under efforts such as the Race to the Top – which catalyzed a profound wave of education reform across the country – and the Investing in Innovation program – which has contributed to testing, validating, refining and expanding new solutions and strategies to close achievement and opportunity gaps in America’s schools.  The report underscores the steps the Obama Administration has taken to increase equity and give teachers the tools they need to help students succeed.

Below are a few highlights of the progress achieved over the last seven and a half years:

  • High Academic Standards that Prepare Students for Success in College and Careers: Today, 49 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have adopted and are implementing college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments for their students. In the future, with the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), every state will hold all of their students to such standards. 
  • Record-High Graduation Rates: In 2008, a quarter of our high school students did not earn a high school diploma on time. Since President Obama took office, the graduation rate has increased steadily and students in the United States are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, at 82 percent. Some of the greatest progress has been made by African American and Latino Students. Since the 2010-2011 school year, African American high school students experienced a 5.5 percentage point increase in graduation rates while Latino students experienced a 5.3 percentage point increase.
  • Stemming the Tide of School Dropout: The number of schools where 40 percent or more of students do not graduate on-time has gone down sharply during this Administration. In 2008, there were roughly 1,800 of these schools across the country; by 2014, the number of these schools was reduced to 1,040.The percentage of young people who drop out of high school altogether has decreased.  In 2008, before the President entered office, the dropout rate among Hispanic students was 18 percent. That percentage shrunk to just below 12 percent in 2013 – a marked improvement from before President Obama entered office and a significant shift from more than two decades before, when the share of Latino youth who were dropouts was 35 percent.
  • Advancing High-Quality Preschool: In 2009, only 38 states offered students access to state-funded preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Today, all but four states offer access to state-funded preschool, and since the President called for universal access to high-quality preschool in his 2013 State of the Union Address, 38 states and D.C. have invested more than $1.5 billion in support of preschool. Beyond these state investments, the Obama Administration has dedicated $750 million toward the development and expansion of high-quality preschool, enabling 230 high-need communities to provide more than 100,000 additional children with access to preschool.
  • Investing in our Great Educators:When President Obama took office, the U.S. economy was in free-fall, and state and local government budgets were in trouble and facing significant cuts – jeopardizing our education system. The President took action, signing into the law the Recovery Act, which saved or created more than 400,000 jobs, most directly in education – keeping teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors on the job. In addition, since 2009, the Obama Administration has invested more than $2.7 billion in grants to develop educator talent through the award of competitive grants for better recruitment, training, support, and rewards for our educators, particularly those in high-need and rural districts.
  • Transforming Education Technology: In 2013, only 30 percent of school districts had access to high-speed internet, leaving 40 million students without access to that connectivity.  In 2013, the President launched his ConnectED initiative with the goal of unleashing education technology in schools and connecting 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband in their schools and libraries by 2018.   Today, we are on track to meet that goal – 77 percent of school districts and an additional 20 million students now have access to high-speed broadband. This transformation is supported by 2,200 superintendents who have committed to President Obama’s Future Ready vision to help teachers and principals unleash new models of teaching and learning that make use of technology and digital tools like Open eBooks.
  • Inspiring STEM Education and Computer Science for All:  The Obama Administration’s efforts have resulted in an unprecedented all hands-on-deck effort in support of STEM education and STEM teachers, including securing more than $1 billion in private investments in support of STEM education. Additionally, the President has advanced efforts to inspire and recognize young inventors, discoverers and makers by hosting the first-ever White House Science Fairs and the first-ever Maker Faire in 2014.  Earlier this year, the President announced a bold new call to action: to empower every American student from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and the computational thinking skills needed to succeed.

New Announcements in the Effort to Support Great Educators

In addition to highlighting the progress under this Administration, the White House and Department of Education are also announcing the following actions being taken to support excellent educators:

Reaching the President’s Goal of 100,000 new and Excellent STEM Teachers

To meet the challenges of the 21st century, more of our students will need to be prepared with strong STEM skills in order to succeed. The need is real — last year, there were more than 600,000 tech jobs open across the United States. But there are large disparities in student access and engagement in STEM courses, with only half of high schools nationwide offering calculus and only 63 percent offering physics. One quarter of the high schools with the highest percentages of African-American and Latino students do not offer Algebra II and a third of these schools do not offer chemistry. To address these challenges, President Obama issued a call to action in his 2011 State of the Union address to put 100,000 new STEM teachers in the classroom in ten years to equip a new generation of problem-solvers with the STEM skills they need to revitalize our economy, lead our nation, and solve the globe’s most pressing challenges.

In response to that call to action, 100Kin10, a network of 280 organizations, including school districts, universities, foundations, corporations, museums, nonprofits, and government agencies, was formed to mobilize commitments to achieve the ambitious 100,000 excellent STEM teacher goal by 2021.

Today, at the critical halfway point in the ten-year effort, 100Kin10 is announcing that its network has already trained more than 30,000 teachers, and that its partners have made commitments to recruit and train an additional 70,000 by 2021 – meaning they will meet the President’s goal and yield more than 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by the ten-year mark. These projections have been verified by the American Institutes for Research, which has concluded that 100Kin10’s estimates are reasonable.

Making an Impact: Teacher Impact Grants

Today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing that it is working with ASCD, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (“National Board”), The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Foundation Charitable Trust, and Carnegie Corporation of New York to provide direct support to teacher-led initiatives to strengthen professional learning and improve student outcomes. These Teacher Impact Grants will cultivate the robust expertise of teachers to accelerate positive change in professional learning at the classroom, school, and district levels.

The program will be administered by ASCD and financially supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Foundation Charitable Trust and Carnegie Corporation of New York. The funding will provide $5,000-$15,000 grants with the goal of supporting and empowering teachers in their work, so they may enhance the impact our schools have on the well-rounded success of each child. The commitment from the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Carnegie Corporation of New York will provide the resources needed to make teacher innovations a reality.

The private grants build on work by the Teach to Lead initiative, which was founded in 2014 by the Department of Education and the National Board to help advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership. As part of Teach to Lead, the Department, ASCD, and National Board have hosted Teacher Leader Summits and Teacher Leader Labs across the country where hundreds of educators have created locally-driven plans to help improve student outcomes. 

Encouraging More Great Individuals to TEACH

TEACH is a public-private collaboration led by the U.S. Department of Education and Microsoft.  TEACH’s public service campaign, in partnership with the Ad Council, aims to inspire the next generation of teachers by reaching millions of college students who are considering career choices and providing them with information about how the teaching profession matches the criteria they have for their ideal career, including many opportunities for innovation and creativity, leadership and skill development, and personal fulfillment. Today TEACH is announcing that the following organizations are taking steps to support its work:

  • Microsoft will renew its financial support with an additional two-year $3 million commitment and continue to provide leadership and strategic guidance to TEACH.
  • Facebook is providing pro-bono creative work and donated media on Facebook’s platform and leveraging the platform’s detailed targeting capabilities to directly reach college students and recent graduates who have demonstrated an interest in STEM subjects.
  • MyCollege Options, the nation’s largest college planning platform, is partnering with TEACH to access over 6 million high school and college students nationwide and identify those with the highest propensity to become teachers. 

The College Football Playoff Foundation: Lifting Up Excellent Educators

The College Football Playoff Foundation is announcing that it will make a $100 million impact on teacher-related initiatives over the next ten years. The Foundation and its media affiliates will work with TEACH over this year to develop a campaign that supports and enhances the status of the teaching profession throughout the United States. In only two years, the College Football Playoff Foundation’s “Extra Yard for Teachers” initiative has impacted more than 5,000 schools, and funded 6,000 classroom projects, reaching over 1.2 million teachers and students. Extra Yard for Teachers specifically seeks to increase the recruitment and retention of quality teachers in the United States by supporting the efforts of organizations including the U.S. Department of Education, TEACH, Teach for America, DonorsChoose.org and Educators Rising.  The College Football Playoff Foundation and universities across the country will also pay tribute to teachers during Extra Yard for Teachers Week from September 17-24 and again during the College Football Playoff bowl games. 

Spotify: Supporting Educators Through Music and Stories

Spotify is committing to celebrate the creativity of America’s teachers and supports programs that bring music to all students. Spotify will create a series of initiatives that highlight creativity in education.  Launching this week, it will encourage its community to share songs and stories about influential teachers using #ThankATeacher. Throughout the year, Spotify will leverage its platform and community to showcase the importance of providing creative tools for educators and the power of music education for students. Spotify will also be collaborating with organizations like Girls Rock Camp and Music Mural & Arts Project in 2016 to ensure that more students have access to the power of music.

Obama Administration Launches New Initiatives to Expand STEM Education Opportunities for Youngest Learners

Let’s Talk, Read and Sing about STEM tip sheets provide fun, concrete resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and infant, toddler, and preschool educators on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines, and suggestions for activities to engage young children in STEM learning © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Let’s Talk, Read and Sing about STEM tip sheets provide fun, concrete resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and infant, toddler, and preschool educators on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines, and suggestions for activities to engage young children in STEM learning © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON, DC – The White House, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and Invest in US, hosted an event April 21 to highlight the importance of promoting active science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning for our youngest children and to celebrate a broad range of public- and private-sector leaders committed to promoting STEM learning across the country.

The White House received over 200 submissions of innovative STEM work from leaders across the country, representing state and local entities, foundations, non-profits, media organizations, technology companies, research institutions, and museums. Collectively, the commitments of these leaders have the potential to bring new active STEM content for our youngest children to millions of households across the nation. The early STEM learning announcements also mark progress on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and the efforts of the Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all young children can reach their full potential, including students underrepresented in STEM. (You can learn more about the full set of commitments being made HERE.)

New Steps Being Taken by the Administration

In addition to the public and private sector groups that are stepping up, Federal agencies are deepening the resources and support they provide for early active STEM Learning. New actions being taken by the Obama Administration include:

  • New Research Grants to Improve Early Elementary Science Outcomes: The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Institute for Education Science (IES) announced a new funding opportunity that will support a network of interdisciplinary research teams in exploring how early elementary school science teaching can improve education outcomes for children, especially those from low-income backgrounds and from communities underrepresented in science professions.  IES will fund up to four research teams and a network lead to coordinate the work.
  • New Suite of STEM Tip Sheets and Resources for Families and Early Educators: The Department of Education (ED), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Too Small to Fail (TSTF) have created a set of early STEM resources for families and educators of young children called Let’s Talk, Read and Sing about STEM!These tip sheets provide fun, concrete resources and recommendations for families, caregivers, and infant, toddler, and preschool educators on easy ways to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into everyday routines, and suggestions for activities to engage young children in STEM learning. The tip sheets and “Let’s Talk about the World” poster are available in English and Spanish. 
  • Policy Statement on the Role of Technology in Early Learning: ED and HHS will release a joint policy statement later this year on the role of technology in early learning. ED is inviting the public to commenton a series of questions that will inform the development of the statement.
  • New Research on the U.S. Department of Education’s Ready to Learn Program: This month, grantees from ED’s Ready to Learn program will be featured in reports that share findings and lessons learned about utilizing television and digital media to support math learning for young children.  The reports include six papers by grantees and evaluators that will appear in a special section of an issue of The Journal of Children and Media, and a new report entitled “The Ready to Learn Program: 2010–2015 Policy Brief” released by the Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University.
  • USDA and NASA Creating New 21st Century CompetenciesLearning Activities: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is partnering with NASA to create modules for students, based on NASA astronaut training.  Activities will be introduced with a video by a NASA astronaut and will consist of children engaging in mission-based activities.

Private sector groups from across the country are committing to the following actions today to increase access to high-quality early STEM education:

  • The Bay Area Discovery Museumis launching Empowered Engineering, an initiative designed to bring high-quality engineering experiences to young children. Empowered Engineering will reach underserved children through partnerships with Title I schools and community-based organizations. Over the next five years, the Bay Area Discovery Museum will reach an estimated 11 million students and teachers, in their community and throughout the country.
  • The Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute, in partnership with the City of Chicago and with support from the National Science Foundation, will launch Collaborative Math, a new professional development model designed to establish excellence in early math teaching in early childhood programs. The Early Math Collaborative will roll out at 28 Head Start sites in Chicago.
  • Girl Scouts of the USAwill promote Girl Scout National programming that connects to early STEM education through targeted communications, such as blog posts and social media, which have the potential of benefiting more than 45,000 young girls. Girl Scouts of the USA will also distribute resource guides for parents on engaging young girls in STEM activities.
  • The Heising-Simons Foundationwill establish a partnership with The Fred Rogers Company, to support the production of 25 episodes of Odd Squad, a math-focused television show on PBS Kids, and create accompanying games and apps. They will also hold free summer math camps in 14 U.S. cities serving more than 400 children.
  • Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN)will donate 10,000 STEM-focused Family Kits to national organizations that serve low-income families, including home visitation programs, informal learning settings, and community-based organizations, to promote STEM learning at home. 
  • The Jim Henson Company with $3M of support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will launch a new PBS series, Splash and Bubbles, for children ages four to seven, with a marine biology curriculum that will inspire children to care about the ocean, learn about its “citizens,” and understand that it is a vital part of our planet.  The series will be supported with free online destinations and digital apps, printed resources, and local events.
  • The Lawrence Hall of Sciencein partnership with a local community college, supported by the National Science Foundation, is developing and piloting an undergraduate course on teaching science and mathematics to young children. The course will be made available online.
  • The National Head Start Association and Lakeshore Learningwill increase access to Recycle Your Way to STEAM to every child and family enrolled in a Head Start program—growing from serving 20,000 children, educators and families to serving over one million nationwide. Recycle Your Way to STEAM is a set of activities that use recycled materials to introduce STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts to early learners.
  • Nickelodeon, through their kindergarten readiness initiative – Beyond the Backpack– will distribute 50,000 toolkits in English and Spanish and increase exposure to STEM concepts in underserved areas through the Beyond the Backpack On-the-Go SMS text program and Kindergarten Readiness Block Parties featuring Blaze and the Monster Machines.
  • Project Lead The Way (PLTW) will form new partnerships with more than 400 elementary schools for the 2016–17 school year to expand their curriculum and teacher training, which immerses students in hands-on activities and projects that relate to the world around them. This expansion will grow PLTW’s elementary STEM-based program to 1,700 elementary schools across the United States.
  • Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street, will develop Make Believe with Math, a research-based online course for educators which, along with other training resources, will be made freely available online.

International Women’s Day: Obamas Point to Progress on ‘Let Girls Learn’ Initiative

First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her "Let Girls Learn" initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
First Lady Michelle Obama, discussing her “Let Girls Learn” initiative © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which every woman and girl enjoys the full range of rights and freedoms that is her birthright,” President Obama stated.

“Women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day across all fields of human endeavor, including in business, education, sports, art, science, agriculture, parenting, and governance.  Without these contributions, economies would collapse, communities would fail, and families would fall apart.  And yet, in too many places around the world, women still struggle to rise out of their status as second-class citizens.  They are denied opportunities for full economic and political participation.  Some are forced to marry and have children when they are still children themselves, while abusive practices, such female genital mutilation/cutting, still persist in too many places.  Moreover, secondary education-arguably the most powerful tool for helping girls escape cycles of poverty and abuse and take control of their lives–remains beyond the reach of tens of millions of girls around the world.

“That is why I am proud that my Administration launched the Let Girls Learn initiative, which is already helping adolescent girls around the world to surmount the barriers that stand between them and a quality education.   It is also why I am pleased to announce that, in the coming days, Secretary of State John Kerry will be releasing the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, which lays out a whole-of-government approach to provide the next generation of women the tools they need to pursue their aspirations.

“We know that when we invest in women and girls, we are not only helping them, we are helping the entire planet.  A future in which all women and girls around the world are allowed to rise and achieve their full potential will be a brighter, more peaceful, and more prosperous future for us all.”

Meanwhile, the White House issued a fact sheet on the progress made after one year of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative.

FACT SHEET: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA CELEBRATES ONE YEAR OF LET GIRLS LEARN, AND ANNOUNCES NEW COMMITMENTS TO THE INITIATIVE

 In March 2015, the President and the First Lady launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential. The recently released FY 2017 President’s Budget has requested more than $100 million in new funds for the initiative, building on the $250 million in funds requested in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to launch the initiative. Additionally, foreign governments, including JapanSouth Korea and the UK, have collectively pledged nearly $600 million towards global girls’ education programming. Domestically, the First Lady is galvanizing students to become global citizens, from launching the #62MillionGirls social media campaign last September, to releasing the Let Girls Learn toolkit at last summer’s Girl Up Summit, to talking directly to girls at the Apollo Theater at last fall’s The Power of an Educated Girl town hall with Glamour Magazine.  Another key approach to making Let Girls Learn a success is through public private partnerships.  The independent commitments described below build upon commitments announced at last year’s Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.  For the latest update on Alex and Ani’s commitment, click HERE. 

Private Sector Commitments to Let Girls Learn:

JOHNSON & JOHNSON will support global fundraising efforts in support of the girls’ education through Global Moms Relay and Donate a Photo App, totaling more than $200,000 over two years.  In addition, Johnson & Johnson will contribute $50,000 to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

PROCTER & GAMBLE is making a $100,000 donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund to enable adolescent girls’ education programming with a focus on Africa and Asia.  For International Women’s Day, Always will promote Let Girls Learn by proposing girls’ education-emojis, including a Mrs. Obama Let Girls Learn emoji. In addition, P&G and Peace Corps will explore expanding Always Confidence Teaching Curriculum to help more girls build and maintain confidence through education.

STARWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS WORLDWIDE, INC. will produce original promotional video content to run on SPG TV, an in-hotel TV network reaching upwards of 12 million consumers a month, as well as distribution across its many social media channels. Starwood will also designate Let Girls Learn as an official SPG charity partner, designing a promotion which allows members to donate Starpoints® to benefit Let Girls Learn.

JETBLUE will produce an original seatback video about Let Girls Learn for all flights during a key amplification month, raising awareness and inspiring all around international girls’ education. Additionally, JetBlue will provide a financial donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

LYFT will drive donations to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund through their tip-matching program, which will match funds when passengers tip their drivers. Lyft will identify key moments to activate this collaboration throughout the year.

J.CREW will support Let Girls Learn through their Garments for Good initiative and will design specific items to be released later this year. Garments for Good is a J.Crew initiative to lend support by selling items in their stores and online, with all profits being donated to the selected charity.

CSOFT INTERNATIONAL will translate Let Girls Learn materials, including the Peace Corps training literature, from English into multiple languages.

THE GIRLS’ LOUNGE is helping raise awareness around Let Girls Learn by commissioning a Let Girls Learn mural at Union Market and bringing a Let Girls Learn bus to Washington, DC to celebrate International Women’s Day. The Girls’ Lounge, in collaboration with partner Rubicon Project will also provide digital media campaigns to drive awareness and messaging for Let Girls Learn throughout 2016.

SALESFORCE.ORG will financially support Room to Read’s expansion of girls’ education in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. This commitment will support the work the First Lady has done to shed light on the importance of girls’ education in Cambodia, where she visited Room to Read’s work as part of the Let Girls Learn launch.

Public Sector and NGO Commitments to Let Girls Learn: 

DINING FOR WOMEN is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. They will support the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund with a $100,000 grant to fund community projects that address barriers to girls’ education and promote empowerment. 

RTI INTERNATIONAL, a nonprofit institute that provides research, development and technical services worldwide, will donate to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.

CONNECTHER is raising awareness about access to education and schooling in the developing world through Girls Impact the World (GITW) Film Festival. Connecther is launching the GITW Global Chapters to screen short films from the Film Festival about the education of girls, economic independence for girls, redefining beauty and other critical issues.  Each screening will include a session about girls’ education.

AMY POEHLER’S SMART GIRLS, along with the Peace Corps, will share educational resources such as video and classroom correspondence activities to give “Smart Girls” the opportunity to learn about the world and connect with other “Smart Girls” eager to engage and support girls’ education.

See also:

First Lady Michelle Obama suggests will make ‘Let Girls Learn’ her work after WH and slideshow

Obama to Sign Every Student Succeeds Act, Replacing No Child Left Behind

High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
High School graduation. Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act which is intended to improve upon No Child Left Behind © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Senate voted 85-12 today to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which would finally replace the badly broken No Child Left Behind law. The House passed this bill last week 359-64 (with every Democrat voting yes),

The White House announced that President Obama  will deliver remarks and sign the Every Student Succeeds Act tomorrow, Dec. 10.

“This bipartisan bill will cement the progress made in elementary and secondary education over the last seven years and fix the No Child Left Behind Act to reduce over-testing and one-size-fits-all federal mandates,” the White House stated.

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Patty Murray (D-WA), who wrote, “For years, I’ve heard from students, parents, teachers, and small business owners about the need to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law. It wasn’t working for our kids, it wasn’t working for our schools, and it wasn’t working for our state. So when I became the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee this year, I got to work, and I wasn’t going to stop until this broken law was fixed. It wasn’t easy in this Republican Congress, but I made it clear that I was willing to work with anyone, from any party, who was willing to put students and their education above partisanship and politics.

It will:

  • Reduce reliance on high-stakes testing – No Child Left Behind over-emphasized test scores to judge how students and schools were performing. The new law will allow students and teachers to spend less time on test prep​ and more time on learning. ​
  • ​Expand access to preschool programs so more kids can start kindergarten on strong footing.​
  • End the need for state waivers and “fail” letters – No Child Left Behind‘s one-size-fits-all mandates were so burdensome that the Obama administration began giving states waivers from the law’s requirements, which otherwise would have resulted in most schools being labeled as “failing.” ESSA ends the need for these state waivers, which will give students, parents, and teachers some much-needed certainty about how ​schools are​​ performing.​

Help ensure all students have access to a good education – For so many Americans, a good education can be a ticket to the middle class. ESSA will help ensure all students have access to a quality education, no matter their ZIP code or their background.

The White House issued a Fact Sheet on the background of the Every Student Succeeds Act, providing more detail:

FACT SHEET: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind

“We are a place that believes every child, no matter where they come from, can grow up to be anything they want… And I’m confident that if we fix No Child Left Behind, if we continue to reform American education, continue to invest in our children’s future, that’s the America we will always be.”– Remarks by the President on the No Child Left Behind Act, March 14, 2011, Kenmore Middle School, Arlington, Virginia

ESSA rejects the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.

The bipartisan bill passed by the House includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from the more onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
  • Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing cookie-cutter federal solutions like the No Child Left Behind Act did.
  • Reducing the often onerous burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
  • Providing more children access to high-quality preschool.
  • Establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

In recognition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)’s legacy as a civil rights law, the bipartisan bill upholds critical protections for America’s disadvantaged students. It ensures that states and school districts will hold schools to account for the progress of all students and prescribes meaningful reforms to remedy underperformance in those schools failing to serve all students. It excludes harmful “portability” provisions that would siphon funds away from the students and schools most in need, and maintains dedicated resources and supports for America’s vulnerable children – including students with disabilities, English Learners, Native American students, homeless children, neglected and delinquent children, and migrant and seasonal farmworker children. It also ensures that states and districts continue the work they’ve begun this year to ensure that all students – including students from low-income families and students of color – have equitable access to excellent educators.

EMBRACING THE ADMINISTRATION’S PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM

College and Career-Ready Standards for America’s Learners: The bill affirms the path taken by 48 states and the District of Columbia to hold all students to challenging academic content standards that will prepare them to graduate from high school prepared for success in college and the workforce. In 2008, America’s governors and state education officials came together to develop a new set of college- and career-ready standards for their schools. The Obama Administration supported those efforts through its Race to the Top grant program and the federal-state partnership established in its ESEA flexibility agreements.

Rigorous Accountability for All Students: Consistent with the Administration’s legislative proposals and the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill builds on the federal-state partnerships in place in over 40 states to require meaningful goals for the progress of all students, and to ensure that every student subgroup makes gains toward college and career-readiness. States must set ambitious targets to close student achievement and graduation rate gaps among subgroups of students in order to meet their goals. In schools where too many students consistently fail to reach the goals and other indicators set by the state, school districts will ensure they receive tailored interventions and supports proportionate to the needs of those schools and the students they serve.

Reform and Resources for America’s Struggling Schools and Students: The bill will target resources, attention, and effort to make gains for our students attending schools most in need of help. Consistent with the policies in place under the Administration’s ESEA flexibility agreements, the bill moves away from NCLB’s one-size-fits-all accountability and ensures that states undertake reforms in their lowest performing schools, in high schools with high dropout rates, and in schools where subgroups are falling behind. It includes provisions that would require districts to use evidence-based models to support whole-school interventions in the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and schools where more than a third of high school students do not graduate on time, and includes dedicated funding to support interventions in these schools. In schools where subgroups of students persistently underperform, school districts must mount targeted interventions and supports to narrow gaps and improve student achievement. If such schools are not showing improvement, the state will ensure more rigorous strategies are put in place. Moreover, the Department of Education has the authority it needs to ensure that states carry out their responsibilities.

New Incentives to Improve Opportunities and Outcomes for Students: The bill includes initiatives modeled after the Administration’s programs to:

  • Establish or expand access to high-quality, state-funded preschool for children from low- and moderate-income families, building from the Administration’s Preschool Development Grants program.
  • Develop, refine, and replicate innovative and ambitious reforms to close the achievement gap in America’s schools, similar to the Administration’s existing Investing in Innovation (i3) program.
  • Expand incentives to prepare, develop, and advance effective teachers and principals in America’s schools.
  • Leverage resources to address the significant challenges faced by students and families living in high-poverty communities through the Promise Neighborhoodseffort, supporting a full continuum of services from early learning through college.
  • Expand support for high-performing public charter schools for high-need students.

A Smart and Balanced Approach to Testing: The bill maintains important statewide assessments to ensure that teachers and parents can mark the progress and performance of their children every year, from third to eighth grade and once in high school. The bill encourages a smarter approach to testing by moving away from a sole focus on standardized tests to drive decisions around the quality of schools, and by allowing for the use of multiple measures of student learning and progress, along with other indicators of student success to make school accountability decisions. It also includes provisions consistent with the Administration’s principles around reducing the amount of classroom time spent on standardized testing, including support for state efforts to audit and streamline their current assessment systems.

Promoting Equity in State and Local Funding: The Administration has called repeatedly for states and school districts to more equitably distribute state and local dollars to schools with the greatest need. The bill includes a pilot program – similar to a proposal put forward by the Administration this year in the FY16 budget – that provides for weighted student funding. Under the pilot, districts must demonstrate a commitment to equitable distribution of state and local dollars—based on actual per-pupil expenditures—to their highest poverty schools. In exchange, districts would be allowed to allocate and use Title I and other federal formula funds in a more flexible manner to support comprehensive plans that improve achievement and outcomes for their neediest students. The bill also includes provisions that require reporting on actual school-level expenditures, allowing the public for the first time to see the amount of federal, state, and local funding distributed to each and every school.  The bill rejects so-called “portability” provisions in the House-passed bill that would have allowed states to shift federal funds away from the schools that need them most.

See also:

Hate over-testing? NYS’s Common Core Task Force needs to hear from you

Back to the drawing board for nation’s schools wrestling with Common Core

Teaching in America: Education reform should start with empowering teachers

Rebellion Grows Against High-Stakes Testing Intrinsic to Education ‘Reform’ Accountability Movement

AFT President Randi Weingarten at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative announcing an AFT initiative to apply $100 million of pension funds towards a new fund to help cities build childcare centers, will serve on Gov. Cuomo's new Common Core Task Force. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
AFT President Randi Weingarten at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative announcing an AFT initiative to apply $100 million of pension funds towards a new fund to help cities build childcare centers, will serve on Gov. Cuomo’s new Common Core Task Force. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Statewide and in some New York districts, a sizeable number of students opted out of the high-stakes assessment tests – 20% statewide, as high as 32% in Roslyn – which puts into question whether New York State will be eligible to receive billions of Race to the Top federal education dollars and what penalties the State Education Department will impose on districts who defied the mandate. It was the desire to get those dollars that was the basis for twisting public education into pretzels to cater to the Accountability & Privatization movement that is the basis for  No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top.

Only 10% of Great Neck Public School students opted out of the ELA and 15% on the Math. Of those that took the test, 30-40% fell into that dreaded “Level 1” or “level 2” category, meaning that they “lacked proficiency” or “mastery” of the subject, and were in jeopardy of not graduating “college ready.” That is actually the same result as in 2013, the first year of the high-stakes tests in which the State Education Department targeted a 30 percent failure rate, and lo and behold, exactly a 30 percent failure rate.

Great Neck that year scored among the highest in the state on the ELA, with 60-70 percent of students achieving “proficiency” on the high-stakes ELA and Math tests, newly configured for the Common Core standards which had yet to be fully implemented in the curriculum. It was the same this year, with Great Neck ranking among the best in the state and among the 56 Nassau County diostricts. What is odd is that a district that also had a 70% “proficiency” rate was rated as performing “highest.” How could that be?

On the Math test, 73 to 80% of students scored as “proficient” or “mastery.”

Great Neck is a district accustomed to 80 to 90% of students achieving proficiency or mastery, but the results on the state’s high-stakes tests, which now require academic intervention for as many as 40% of students, would suggest these students in jeopardy of failing to make the grade for college and career.

Did the students – who graduate and go onto colleges at the enviable rate of over 95% – suddenly get stupid? Did Great Neck teachers who year after year have provided the stellar education that produces such high rates of achievement, suddenly become inept?

Great Neck Public Schools steer $1 million into academic intervention services. Actually, the district had always provided academic intervention to students deemed to need it, but now there are students who are mandated to receive such services based on a test that even the Governor admits is flawed. (Besides the test being flawed in that it asks students what they haven’t been taught, the scoring is not based on “right” and “wrong” answers, but a pre-determined “curve.”)

So, in a system that mandates budget caps (2% or the CPI, whichever is less), and also issues a score of unfunded mandates (pension and health contributions, for example) and does not make any accommodation for increases in student enrollment, or the population requiring special services, that means that limited resources have to go into academic intervention, rather than, say, to enrichment programs.

And because the tests have become truly high stakes for the students who are held back from promotion and for teachers to keep their jobs or get raises, that means more time and money pouring into test preparation rather than music, theater, sports, clubs and anything that is not, well, mandated.

It is one of the thorns of contention that progressives have with the Obama Administration, though Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who is being replaced by New York State’s Commissioner John King) has attempted to walk back the “one-size-fits-all” and the “teach-to-the-test” regimentation that is implicit in standardized testing and actually contradicts the overarching goals of Common Core, to get students to learn how to problem-solve, think for themselves, and be creative. (I’m not sure that “love of learning” enters into the equation, but what is true is that schools function more and more like prisons.)

That is the irony of the backlash against Common Core: Conservatives hate that the curriculum seems to come from on high (when it was developed by the states and with actual teachers) and that it is supposed to teach broader skills that, theoretically at least, would be more suitable to the Workplace of the 21st Century. What that means is that there are jobs that will exist by the time our children enter the workplace that don’t exist today, and jobs that exist today that would have become obsolete and people need the skills to adapt.

But Conservatives love the idea of using test results (so-called Accountability) to beat back teacher unions and justify privatization of schools (charter schools, testing services, home-school curricula) as well as channeling public money to faith-based/religious organizations. (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would literally like to punch teachers in the face.)

Progressives on the other hand actually appreciate the notion of a more rigorous curriculum but abhor the practical impact on students, teachers and parents alike of having so many high-stakes, high-stress tests. Just the time spent in test-prep and test administration alone means that there is less time to do interesting projects or activities that cultivate “the whole person” (like music, theater, art). They say that standardized testing, in which you are teaching the student to come up with an answer to satisfy the scorer, defeats the whole objective of raising confident thinkers who can come up with novel solutions and innovative inventions. And they hate that the practical impact of the Accountability Movement has been to browbeat teachers and undermine unions.

The irony of the Accountability movement is that the beneficiaries – charter schools operated for for-profit and so-called nonprofit, but nonetheless highly profitable; test-making companies; tutoring services – aren’t accountable at all, at least, not immediately, when it would matter. They don’t have to justify the tax money spent, but are allowed to exploit new, non-union teachers who typically move on after just a couple of years, before they actually have the skills of a professional.

The movement is being driven by the Billionaire Class (like Mark Zuckerberg who donated $100 million to “reform” Newark public schools, only to have the whole thing blow up) which has made School Reform their pet (they used to buy hotels and before that, magazines and newspapers and before that made movies).

At its core, Common Core is intended, in fact, to inculcate key skills of problem-solving, creative thinking, collaborative thinking. But the effect of the obsession with high-stakes standardized testing teaches a different lesson entirely: there is a right answer.

The fact of the matter is, we’ve had 14 years of No Child Left Behind/Accountability – an entire generation of students who have lived every day of their school careers under NCLB/Race to the Top regimen – and yet there are the exact same complaints about how terrible public education is.

To justify the Accountability movement, the so-called “reformers” have cited statistics which put the United States as a middling to awful performer on international tests of language skills, math, and science. The United States ranks below the OECD average in every category on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), and despite the fact No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top has been implemented for the entire school careers of current graduates, has slipped in all of the major categories in recent years.

So it is interesting in this context – ironic even – that China, whose students rank #1 in Math, Reading and Science on the PISA, is changing its curriculum.

“China is a big manufacturer, but we want to innovate in China. This requires a big change in educational system,” Yang Lan, Chairman, Sun Media Group and Sun Culture Foundation, said at the Clinton Global Initiative’s session titled, “From Education to Entrepreneur: Linking SME Success with Human Capital.”

“Chinese kids perform great in international assessments, but we are questioning ourselves in the level of critical thinking, independent, innovative thinking, collaborative thinking, risk taking” that the curriculum promotes.

Indeed, Jack Ma, widely hailed for his genius at creating Alibaba, boasted that he failed his exams three times, and it took 10 tries to get into university.

Hanne Rasmussen, Chief Executive Officer, The LEGO Foundation, indeed, criticized the lack of focus on early-childhood education, and even the new stress on academic rigor instead of play, having deleterious impact on the child’s development, and ultimate success as an adult.

“Investing in children pays off in massive returns over time, achieving income equality and social mobility later in life,” she told the Clinton Global Initiative’s panel examining Escalators of Opportunity. “Children who participate in early childhood programs have improved learning outcomes, increased social competency, are more likely to succeed in school. Play is correlated with resiliency, problem solving, emotional well being and other essential functions, a strong foundation for learning and navigating their lives.”

“Play is so important that the right to play is listed in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Child.

“But many throughout the world do not prioritize early childhood learning – and many who do make it a priority, focus on formal education at an earlier age rather than whole child development. Traditional viewpoints on academic achievement often (discourage) parents from concentrating on the role of play. But there is evidence that academic, didactic, formal education at a young age may slow cognitive development, increase stress and hamper a child’s ability to learn.” In other words, put away those flash cards.

“We have to make sure children everywhere are equipped with the skills of lifelong learners. At LEGO Foundation, we believe learning through play is one of best ways to insure success,” Rasmussen said.

Studies show that every $1 spent on early childhood education returns $8 in benefits. What are these benefits? Better achievement on the part of the student, requiring less funding for remediation (otherwise known as academic intervention services), discipline problems, the likelihood of graduating high school and college and earning substantially higher salaries, and ultimately in terms of achievements that benefit society.

Indeed, the American Federation of Teachers, Amalgamated Bank and National League of Cities’ Early Childhood Institute for Youth, Education and Families, are taking matters into their own hands, with a plan to apply $100 million from the pension fund to create an Early Childhood Expansion Infrastructure Fund – in effect, providing an alternative bonding stream to cities to build facilities. The fund plans to start by providing funding for 250 new classroom facilities that will serve 36,000 children in Baltimore over the next three years.

But in the United States, the dollars have gone to private contractors for test writing, test preparation, test scoring, tutoring to the test, academic intervention after the test, and to shift resources to for-profit charter operators and parochial schools, rather than to early childhood education, where the dollars would do the most good.

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo, who while minimizing the legitimacy of the standardized tests to evaluate students has continued to insist they be used to a greater degree in evaluating teachers, has just convened a new Common Core Task Force.

“Governor Cuomo believes that the learning standards should be strong, accurate and fair, because having the highest standards is critical to ensuring that students are educated and prepared for their futures in college or the workforce,” the statement describing the task force said. “However, the Common Core program’s flawed rollout by the State Education Department has caused disruption and anxiety that must be fixed, including testing aligned to the standards.”

The Task Force is charged with reviewing and reforming the Common Core state standards; reviewing the state’s curriculum guidance and resources; developing a process to ensure tests fit curricula and standards; examining the impact of the current moratorium on recording Common Core test scores on student records, and recommending whether it should be extended; examining how state and local districts can reduce quantity and duration of student tests, and developing a plan where parents can review the local tests; and reviewing the quality of the tests to ensure competence and professionalism from the private company creating and supplying the tests.

“The Governor has directed the Task Force to conduct its process as transparently as possible and to solicit and consider input from regional advisory councils comprised of parents, teachers and educators across the state. A new website (ny.gov/CommonCoreTaskForce) has been launched to encourage participation, allowing visitors to submit comments and recommendations to the Task Force. The Task Force’s report will be issued publicly by the end of the year so that it can be reviewed by all and changes can be implemented quickly and effectively.”

The Task Force includes representation from a broad group of stakeholders, including educators, teachers, parents, State Education Department officials, teachers’ union officials, and bipartisan legislators from the Assembly and Senate. It is chaired by Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners Inc. and former Chairman of the Board, Citigroup Inc., who chaired the Governor’s New NY Education Reform Commission. Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, is also on the task force.

“Like other people nationwide, our students, teachers, administrators, and parents are confused and anxious,” Cuomo said. “The evidence of failure is everywhere. Today many teachers and superintendents across the state will rightfully point out errors in the program. They will point out that they did not receive enough support to fully understand and implement this dramatic transition. It is time to overhaul the common core program and also the way we test our students.

“As a parent I believe our education system tests our students too often and for too long, and we should relieve the unnecessary pressure on our children that detracts from the time spent learning. There is no doubt that tests or assessments have a role in education – I understand that – but I think the number of tests should be reduced, including the number of local tests.

“Last year, to lessen the anxiety of students, last year we passed a five year moratorium on test scores because we didn’t want artificially low scores recorded on our student’s academic records. We passed a law to improve transparency by directing SED to release the tests to the public and end the secrecy around the system and to make sure that teacher evaluations accounted for the different demographics of our schools – we have schools with different poverty levels, different types of students, different types of language proficiencies, et cetera. Now, I believe these were all good changes, but they weren’t enough and we must do more to reform the system because there is still too much disruption, anxiety and confusion.”

Cuomo added, “I believe teaching is an important and a hard job. At the same time we must maintain accountability in our system. Teaching is a hard job. Now, don’t be confused by what you have heard from disagreements with Albany lobbyists. There’s no doubt I have my differences with the lobbyists. I have for a long time but that is a different story and that has nothing to do with how I feel about the state’s teachers. My mother was a school teacher. I have the greatest respect for the occupation and the dedication teachers have for their students and their craft. I believe teachers who are performing well should be incentivized and should be given bonuses. We are enacting the first teacher bonus system in the state. This January I will propose giving teachers tax credits for the money they spend on classroom supplies out of their pockets. It is also critical that teachers who need assistance should be given the support they need. While the teacher evaluation systems are nationally recognized as a step in the right direction, I believe it must be done correctly and fairly. It is critical that teacher evaluations support teachers in improving their practices, not punish them. At the same time we should ensure all students have access to high quality teachers.

“This year’s transition has weighed especially heavy on the teacher in the classroom, so by law we have directed SED to implement a new teacher evaluation system that doesn’t force the teacher to teach to the test but rather tests the student on what they learned in the classroom. The evaluation should be fair to the teacher and the student and should include observations of the teacher’s classroom performance from other trained educators. SED’s evaluation process will also provide the teacher with the right to appeal an evaluation under circumstances where the evaluation is flawed or unfair. No one – no one – wants an evaluation system that is inaccurate or unfair,” Cuomo said.

At the first Great Neck School Board meeting of the 2015-16 academic year, the conversation was about how the district is allocating more money to the various school buildings in order to meet the demand for the robotics clubs. The school district had been allocating $1000 to each school building, and there were wait-lists for students to join the clubs. This year, the board is allocating an additional $1000 per building.

You can no longer take such things for granted.

Meanwhile, among the long list of items that Congress has refused to do anything on, fixing No Child Left Behind is just one. When NCLB was first enacted, the singular item of George W. Bush’s tenure, it mandated that by 2014, 100% of all students would have achieved mastery, including special needs children. As if students are a fixed production item, like a widget, and you only have to tinker with the machinery to finally produce a perfect widget that can be replicated over and over and over again. By that measure, every school district in the nation, including Great Neck, would be considered failing and lose federal funding.

Everyone hates NCLB, yet Congress has not acted.

“New research shows that Americans want more focus on school funding and less on high-stakes testing, that 63 percent of Americans oppose vouchers and that 78 percent say student engagement is a better measurement of learning than test scores,” Randi Weingarten wrote.

“That’s why America’s students, parents and educators need a new law that ends the failed policies of No Child Left Behind, including high-stakes testing and mandatory school closings; preserves equity; and helps ensure a high-quality education for all our children.”

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin