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“One of the workforce arguments is that we’re turning out folks that know how to color in the right bubble on a multiple-choice test, but they don’t know how to do anything,” said Dr. Kim Alexander, superintendent of the Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District in West Texas. In 2012, Superintendent Alexander and his district colleagues started to address this problem by creating an innovative series of apprentice partnerships with local businesses, and today it appears that Roscoe high school students know how to do everything.

Alexander, who is a Roscoe area native, has worked as an educator in the Roscoe District for 32 years, with the last 15 years as superintendent. In 2012, Roscoe was trying to become a STEM academy. “We wanted to have real-world relevance and real workforce readiness, and even job creation,” Alexander said. “One of the rural dilemmas is to have proximity to meaningful [student] apprenticeship opportunities. You have to partner with profitable businesses.”

Roscoe’s first business partnership started when the high school’s athletic trainer, who is a Roscoe alumnus and a chiropractor in Abilene, Texas agreed to use a gym dressing room to see chiropractic patients with Roscoe students as apprentices.

A veterinary technician (holding the dog) instructs Roscoe High School students who are working toward their veterinary-assistant certification. (Credit: Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District)

Other partnerships offering apprenticeships to students followed. “There’s a problem of a veterinary shortage for food animals in our region. So we got the concept of housing a mixed-animal veterinary clinic for educational purposes and for certified veterinary-assistant certification,” Alexander explained.

People in the community said that Roscoe was providing students with good workforce readiness in biomedical education but not offering much opportunity in engineering. Alexander said that’s when Roscoe came up with Edu-Drone. “Kids like the drones, and it’s just robotics in the air. That’s when we partnered with a local drone company that was working on a curriculum for FAA 107 commercial-drone certification. We had one of our business partners negotiate a deal to market our drone curriculum through [an office supply outlet]. Now at Roscoe, we do commercial drone flights for agricultural data collection, real-estate cinematography, topline, and windmill-blade inspection.”

Instructor Dusty White (right) watches a Roscoe High School student fly a drone above Roscoe Collegiate Center. The 11th-grade student received his unmanned aircraft vehicle pilot license at age 16. (Credit: Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District)

The U.S. Department of Education’s David Cantrell, director of School Support and Rural Programs, visited the Roscoe District recently, and he was impressed with the innovation. “[The district] received the Small Rural School Achievement Grant from my office for several years, and they’re doing some really creative things with their educational funds,” Cantrell said. “My team and I spent three days onsite talking with the superintendent and meeting community members, school staff, parent groups, student groups. It’s not like your typical K-12 school in an urban setting or any other rural district.” The Department of Education grant averages $25,000 per year, and the district has received the grant annually for the past 10 years.

In addition to business partnerships, Roscoe is starting a program to combine a high school diploma with earning a bachelor’s degree.

The story of Roscoe’s creative approach is spreading throughout the state, and beyond. It is only fitting that these innovative educators have the eyes of Texas upon them.

Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Flying Drones, Veterinary Care and a Chiropractic Clinic, All in a West Texas High School appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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Aren participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

At age 13, our son Aren can’t cross the street by himself, or eat without dropping food all over the floor. He struggles with reading and has difficulty following simple instructions. He also has a speech impairment called cluttering that often makes his speech incomprehensible to others. On top of this, he is hyperactive and needs to burn off his immense energy frequently throughout the day.

I could write pages about Aren’s many challenges and our struggles with figuring out how to work with them. As Aren’s parents, the journey has not been easy. On the other hand, Aren constantly surprises and humbles us with what he can achieve. Early on, we decided that our mission as parents was not to focus on his disabilities. We would not dwell on or be limited by the things he couldn’t do. Rather, we agreed to seek out and develop Aren’s unique strengths while scaffolding his weaknesses in a way he could understand and embrace. We vowed to be open to exploring his talents, even where he started out with marked deficits.

To accomplish this, we decided to pursue some homeschooling so Aren could work on both his strengths and challenges at his own pace. Later, we enrolled at Connecting Waters Charter School. Here, his teachers, principal, special education occupational therapist, speech therapist, and reading tutor each provide him with invaluable individualized support and guidance. Instead of subjecting him to traditional classroom instruction, which he would likely have tuned out, we chose the path of closeguided training. The results have been remarkable. Aren has developed incredible visualization, drawing, mental math, and creative skills. He particularly loves drawing complex freeway interchanges that would make a commuter faint. Remarkably, his drawing is effortless, and he often does it while in conversation.

Aren’s drawing of a highway interchange.

When Aren was 9, my wife (staying true to being open to possibility) asked Aren if he’d like to compete in his school Spelling Bee. To be frank, my wife thought that a kid who didn’t read until just a year prior would not be interested in participating. To my wife’s surprise (and perhaps horror), he said yes. We later found out that he didn’t know what a spelling bee was; he just wanted to see what freeways we would drive to the competition. As a “human GPS,” he desperately needed to input I-580 to I-205 to Highway 120 to 99 to his system!

We were worried that Aren might be disruptive at the Spelling Bee and would not be able to sit still. But he surprised us – he put in diligent effort, was able to sit still and write legibly, and won! This victory left us both shocked and extremely proud. We were even more proud that he was able to follow through with the rules of the competition. Aren went on to represent his school in the countylevel competition, where he came in 5th place! Once again, I was completely and utterly floored, and of course glowing with pride!

This was one of many humbling moments when I learned from my son that it doesn’t matter where your starting line is.

Aren continued to showcase his strength, winning, in total, four school bees and three county competitions. Later, at age 12, he even won the California State Junior High Spelling Bee! This child who could barely read 4 years prior had somehow spelled his way to the top of his state. Aren became so enamored of spelling that he dreamed of competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. This dream seemed impossible for our kid with a speech impairment, attention issues, and a reading disability. But yet again, Aren proved himself right, and proved us wrong. He tied for 42nd place at Scripps… out of 11 million. He had fantastic support and many people cheering him on. His school’s CEO even cut her vacation short to come watch Aren compete live.

Today, Aren is a happy, healthy, and energetic 13yearold, brimming with enthusiasm on subjects as diverse as cars, chemistry, and mathematics. He is ahead of peer expectation in math and English. With strong parental involvement and support from our school’s special education department, he has come a long way in areas such as visual tracking and social interaction. His drawing skills and math talents continue to progress on his own volition. We are so excited to witness Aren’s future, his unique contributions to society, and the help and inspiration he can give to others.

Never give up, no matter where you are.

Andrew Wang is Aren’s father.

Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.

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The post The Many Roads to Becoming a Spelling Bee Champion appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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Superintendent Kirk Koennecke smiles as he recounts how his rural school district’s connection with the Lean Six Sigma business process began, as a way to offer new learning options and provide marketable skills for students.  When courses in this well-known enterprise improvement approach were offered locally, no adults signed up.  But students did – and educators at Graham Local Schools saw an opening.

School leaders seized on Lean Six Sigma training as a way to help more students gain recognized tools for the world of work. Interest has grown, and this year, every junior is scheduled to receive a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt designation through their standard business electives. Seniors from Graham High School now have the option to graduate with Green Belt certification, in addition to their diploma.

The Lean Six Sigma program is just one example of the innovation Graham Local Schools has implemented. The district offers a 21st century learning lab for students, and provides place-based, work-based and service learning experiences on and off campus. Teachers are encouraged to employ flexible spaces, changing the configuration of the classroom to adapt the learning environment to the learning.

“Success Today, Prepared for Tomorrow”

“Success today, prepared for tomorrow.” That student-centered vision drives this innovative rural education partnership in Saint Paris, Ohio.  Overall, the district serves 2,000 students in a primarily agriculture-based community of some 3,600 residents, with a handful of dedicated community, manufacturing and business partners.

The ultimate goal is for all students to chart a clear pathway to the postsecondary options and careers of their choice – what the district calls the 3 E’s of enlistment, enrollment or employment – become responsible citizens and continuous learners, and build fulfilling lives.

Gaining Real World Experience

An important part of the experience for Graham’s students is place-based learning. Graham collaborates with over 30 community organizations and businesses to provide a host of opportunities for students to apply their skills in age-appropriate real-world contexts – from career days and job shadowing to internships and apprenticeships.

Students’ experiences deepen as they advance toward graduation, with added opportunities to build their skills and explore their postsecondary options through the Career Gears program, which continues the focus on personalized instruction and on learning beyond the daily schedule.  For students in grades 7-12, the STEAM program enables students to earn college credit in career clusters such as Aviation, Biomedical, Info Tech, Pre-Engineering, Logistics, Robotics and Agribusiness.

Given the region’s rich history and base in agriculture, it’s not surprising that Graham has a thriving ag-based career-technical student organization – FFA.  What is surprising is that the club’s high-school members manage over 22 acres of commercial, sustainable farmland – named Falcon Farms after the school mascot — as well as a dry creek bed for ecological projects. The school also supports an outdoor learning lab, with trails and a variety of ecosystems, including a prairie area and retention pond, as well as a greenhouse.

Hands-on learning happens indoors as well as outdoors. Seniors in the high school business program manage “The Daily Grind,” a self-sustaining coffee shop for students and staff.  Proceeds are reinvested in the business, as well as helping to fund extra-curricular clubs and charities.

For students whose plans include college, a number of new offerings and additional supports are underway, from an early college high school program that will allow students to earn more college credits – including, for some, an Associate’s degree – by the time they graduate from high school, to plans by Clark State Community College to add bachelor’s degree programs to their offerings, to micro-grants that will assist students attending nearby Franklin University in purchasing textbooks.

A single blog post is not nearly enough room to describe the vast range of innovation and creativity on display in Graham Local Schools. Their efforts demonstrate that size is no barrier to rethinking school.

If this district in a small community in rural Ohio can do so much, why can’t more schools rethink school?

Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

The post #RethinkSchool: Rural District Embraces the 3 E’s to Advance Student-centered Vision appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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Recently, student chefs from six cities across the country were at the Department of Education to participate in the Cooking up Change National Finals. These talented students earned their way by winning local competitions in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Orange County and Troy, Alabama. They engaged in a cook-off that saw the team from Orange County win first place and the team from Houston win second.

Rayvion and Jaleigh from Troy, Alabama, prepare their meal of Tuscan Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and Apple Crisp at the Department of Education.

Cooking up Change challenges high school culinary students to create healthy, great-tasting meals that meet the real-life requirements of the national school meal program. Cooking up Change serves up life-changing opportunities, helps students realize their own potential and puts student voices front and center in the national dialogue about school food. Healthy Schools Campaign launched Cooking up Change in Chicago, and more than 2,200 students from 23 cities have participated in local contests since the program started in 2007. Winners travel to Washington, D.C., for the national finals to show off their culinary skills and engage with health and education leaders, the culinary community and Congress.

Orange County impressed the judges with their menu of Chinese Orange Chicken, Spicy Thai Slaw, Momo Otsu Mugi. The team from Houston wowed judges with their menu of Zucchini Pasta with Cajun Chicken, Pinto Bean & Tomato Soup and Bananas & Yogurt. Although there were only two winners, all of the student chefs created delicious school meals that would be a great addition to menus across the country.

Meals were judged on their originality, taste, texture and appearance. Teams scored additional points for the quality of their presentation to the judging panel. The judging panel consisted of Department of Education staff, national leaders, chefs and students. In the end, each team was a winner, having earned their way to the national finals by winning their local competition, and having demonstrated the hard work and skill it takes to create healthy and delicious school meals on a tight budget.

Sara Porter is Vice President of External Affairs for the Healthy Schools Campaign.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post Student Chefs Are Cooking Up Change at ED appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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[Note: The U.S. Department of Education’s Youth Engagement Team was pleased to host students affected by homelessness and their peer leaders from SchoolHouse Connection for a listening session with Jason Botel, principal deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. He was recently appointed vice-chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The session provided students an opportunity to discuss obstacles that homeless students encounter in pursuing their education, and the practices and policies that can help them succeed. The students present endured repeated moves between schools and unstable living situations; they also experienced hunger, deep poverty, and in many cases, parental abandonment and abuse. Despite these challenges, they are still pursuing their educations in college.

One of those students, Latte Harris, shares her experiences and highlights the challenges she and many others face while homeless.]

Have you wondered what being homeless is like? Being homeless is like driving a car with three wheels. You don’t have all the tools you need to succeed. While other cars zip past you, hope begins to dissipate with every passing mile. It is like living two different lives. At school, I was stressed about how to hide my homelessness and, when I wasn’t at school, I was stressed about how to satisfy at least my immediate needs.

Being homeless has taught me that nothing is handed to you. A person has to work hard for what he or she desires the most. In high school, my sisters and I had to wake up at the crack of dawn to leave our motel room in Oregon with all of our belongings, and take three buses and a mass transit train to make it to school in Washington State.

Every night we stayed in a different motel. The only thing I could control was my grades. The feeling of getting an A at the end of the term was all I needed to remind me that I would survive, in and out of school. I was confident only in my education and my resolve to succeed. I knew that the only way to break the cycle of poverty in my family’s life was to gain an education. The day I received my high school diploma from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington, was surreal. And, I knew I wouldn’t stop there.

Today, I am a first-generation college student at Portland State University, and I hope to major in sociology. Through my studies, I’ve been empowered to initiate change in my family that will allow us to acquire economic and socio-emotional wealth.

Being homeless robbed my family and me of an understanding of how the world works. Receiving a college degree will ensure that I can obtain the cultural capital necessary to help support my family and others affected by homelessness. It is important for me to be able to ensure that others understand how to navigate social systems and achieve success, while still offering active support.

The Department of Education has a team of individuals dedicated to addressing the needs of students affected by homelessness. The Education for Homeless Children and Youths (EHCY) Program collaborates with a variety of federal partners to serve children, youths and families experiencing homelessness. Meeting with the Department of Education’s staff was important to me because it highlighted that homeless students have the ability to achieve more when they have the right supports and services.

I was pleased to hear about the various support programs and guidance that EHCY provides to local homeless education liaisons because my liaison was critical to me, and to students in similar situations. It was important to share my personal experience with Jason Botel, because his work will impact many students like me.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve made it this far, and that brings me an immense amount of relief and hope as I work to break the cycle of poverty in my family’s life through educational attainment.

Latte Harris graduated from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington. She is majoring in sociology at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

Photographer: Joshua Hoover, ED Studio Team

The post Overcoming Homelessness and Poverty through Education appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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The art exhibit “Total Tolerance,” featuring 2018 YoungArts winners in design, photography, visual arts and writing, recently opened at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The first YoungArts exhibit at ED, it features a collection of work from 21 student artists and celebrates religious, cultural, gender and racial diversity. The works reflect the artists’ personal views on inequality and social justice and, in some cases, are directly rooted in their lived experiences.

YoungArts has been the sole nominating organization for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts since 1979. That year, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Evan Plummer, senior director of education for the National YoungArts Foundation, remarked, “For 37 years, YoungArts has identified and nurtured the most promising artists in the United States across 10 arts disciplines. The winners come from all 50 states and with a passion for their artistic practice.” Two of the artists featured in the exhibit, Ameya Okamoto of Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, and Aidan Forester of South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, were selected as 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars.

The arts give all students the opportunity to experience a well-rounded education and an outlet to express issues that are affecting them in their daily lives. Jason Botel, principal deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, opened the program by stating the importance of the arts in allowing for this type of dialogue. He said, “Through arts … we gain a better understanding of one another and positively influence human lives in ways that no other academic discipline can possibly duplicate.”

The audience enjoyed a performance from 2018 YoungArts winner in spoken word, TiKa Wallace. An 11th-grader at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, she shared her view of the world — a result of her experiencing different communities and schools, and finding her voice within them. Performing her award-winning piece, “Death Jokes,” she asked the audience to “consider what you say before you say it” as in “When someone says ‘I feel like I’m going to die,’ You take them seriously” because “You had no idea what it means to be so powerless until you are … Watching someone self-destruct.”

TiKa Wallace delivers a spoken word performance of “Death Jokes.”

Wallace’s mother, Katherine Williams, sent her from five to 10 years of age to the Shakespeare in the Park camp where she acted in and directed plays. Williams said “TiKa’s art gives a voice to other teens. … it is good that adults, as well, are hearing what teens are saying, thinking and feeling about the world.” Wallace said that, after she graduates, she would like to study American Sign Language interpretation and explore a career in theatre.

Amal Haddad, a senior at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, took her first visual arts classes in high school. Her winning YoungArts piece, “United in Anger,” is an artwork series she created about the 1980s AIDS epidemic, inspired by the Gran Fury activist artist collective in New York City that was determined to use the power of art to resolve the AIDS crisis. Haddad explained that she wrote a paper on AIDS that had to be devoid of emotion. Since she didn’t have a way to express her feelings in the writing assignment, she decided to put her piece back in the printer and superimpose the slogan “United in Anger” on it. This became an award-winning piece of art. Haddad’s experience in YoungArts resulted in a phenomenal success for her: “The first time I submitted work to an arts competition,” she said, “it was accepted.” This fall, she will attend Swarthmore College to study English.

Prior to the ceremonial ribbon-cutting that formally opened the exhibit, Jacquelyn Zimmermann, director of ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program, invited the audience to speak to the artists during the viewing to help advance an understanding and tolerance of other viewpoints. She said, “The performing and the visual arts are honest, courageous revelations from various experiences and personal views of the artists on issues of inequality, social justice and intolerance. … these demonstrations of problem solving represent the value and power of the arts, and why every student should have the opportunity to learn them in school.”

Works (on left) by Presidential Scholar in the Arts Ameya Okamoto and the Total Tolerance exhibit statement.

The exhibit is on display until June 30, 2018.  You are invited to view the work and join the conversation on “total tolerance.”

Click here for photos of this exhibit opening.

Chareese Ross is in the Department of Education’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

All photos are by ED photographer Leslie Williams.

ED’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers with an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors it as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov  or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit.

The post 2018 YoungArts Student Art Exhibit appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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June is National Safety Month and, with the onset of summer, what better time for tips to help children stay safe and healthy.

Slips, trips, and falls
  1. Develop an action plan for injury prevention: According to the CDC each day about 8,000 children up to the age of 19—almost 2.8 million children each year—are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. Be mindful of where children play and help prevent unnecessary falls. Check out the CDC’s Injury Prevention and Control website, and see if a plan can be tailored to your specific needs and situations.
  2. Help children be safe on the playground: With the summer months can come an increased use of playgrounds. Check out the local playground—or backyard playground equipment—to ensure that it is safe for play.
  3. Promote an understanding of the need for sports safety. The CDC advises that children wear protective gear during sports and recreation. Remind children that no one wants to intentionally get hurt and wearing proper protective gear can decrease the risk of injury.

Know the surroundings
  1. Ensure children know their address and their way home: With summer can come an increased number of activities, including going to different events and locations. If children go to the park, the community center, the local pool, or their friends’ homes, for example, make sure they know their way in both directions.
  2. Make sure children know 9-1-1: Even in familiar surroundings an emergency can arise. Let children know what situations warrant 911 calls. Practice with younger children on learning the numbers buttons on a landline and cell phone, and what they need to do differently on the cell than home phone.
Medicines and potential food allergens
  1. Help children realize the need for medicine safety: Although one can have a more relaxed schedule in the summer, remember to remain vigilant in ensuring children know about medicines and safety. Help children understand why they should only take medicine intended for them, with differences in age and weight between kids and grown-ups, for example, being one of numerous factors.
  2. Remind older children of the dangers of drug misuse: The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a softening of attitudes among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders regarding perceived harm of non-medical use of prescription medications. Reading online about how misuse of prescription drugs can affect the brains of teens and providing students with the facts about drugs may help older children understand the biopsychological underpinnings for refraining from prescription drug misuse.
  3. Be aware of food allergens: Let children know that, while summer may offer more time to try new things, including new foods, they should check with an adult first because some foods may cause an allergic response in certain children. Problem foods for children can include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and gluten. The allergic reaction may be mild. In rare cases it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.
Sun and water safety
  1. Provide protection from the sun: Make sure children are equipped with sun screen, hat, sunglasses and clothing that provide adequate protection against the harmful effects of the sun.
  2. Make sure children drink lots of water.  Water is necessary to keep hydrated.
  3. Reinforce water safety: Introduce the process of learning to swim. Consider signing children up for swimming lessons, and let them know about various aspects of water safety.

One more tip for summer: Keep reading and avoid the summer slide! These are just a few ideas to help children have a fun-filled summer, and be safe all year- round.

The post Be Safe and Healthy: Tips for a Fun-Filled Summer appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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The opioid crisis has produced broken families, shattered lives and indescribable tragedy throughout the United States. Drug overdoses have claimed more than 300,000 lives since the year 2000 and have become the leading cause of injury death in the country. In 2016, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids. No community is immune to this “crisis next door.”

On October 26, 2017 President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The Presidential Memorandum he issued that day expresses the Administration’s commitment to addressing the opioid crisis and its effects.

The Department of Education and other Federal agencies throughout the Administration are actively combating the opioid crisis. On the newly-created Opioids.gov you can see the magnitude of the crisis and the Administration’s efforts to combat it – from stopping the flow of illicit opioids into the U.S. to providing first responders with overdose-reversing drugs increasing access to treatment. Americans can share their own stories at CrisisNextDoor.gov, and I certainly encourage students, parents and educators to share how they have been impacted.

I recently visited the powerful “Prescribed to Death” memorial at the White House that honors the precious lives lost to opioid misuse. While the numbers are staggering, this memorial helped to illustrate the reality that this crisis is not about numbers, it’s about real, individual people. It’s about lives cut far too short. It’s about the grief of families losing sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers to the tragedy of overdose.

The impact on children has been especially profound. In just a dozen years, the incidence of infants born drug-dependent increased by almost 500 percent. Nearly a third of all incidents of children being placed into foster care is a result of parental drug misuse. Not unexpectedly, our nation’s schools are on the forefront of dealing with this crisis.

The Department of Education is engaged in a two-pronged approach to addressing the crisis. First, we are helping to educate students, families and educators about the dangers of opioid misuse as well as the importance of prevention and recovery. We are also supporting State and local prevention and recovery efforts and highlighting successful practices by schools.

One such school is Johnstown Elementary, located in western Pennsylvania and in a community hit hard by the opioid epidemic. I visited Johnstown earlier this year to see the school’s unique program to strengthen social and emotional learning to aid in preventing drug abuse and violence. I was impressed by the program’s focus on promoting good behavior instead of merely reacting to bad behavior and observed students as young as kindergarten putting it into practice. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, Johnstown’s approach could easily be replicated by many other schools.

The Department of Education’s website Combating the Opioid Crisis: Schools, Students, Families houses a number of resources from throughout the federal government that can help inform awareness, prevention and recovery efforts. State and local officials can also check out our recent webinar on how to respond to the opioid crisis in schools here.

These efforts are just the beginning of our work to combat the opioid crisis. We’ll continue to work with students, parents, educators, health care professionals and all others across the nation to educate Americans about the dangers of opioid abuse, help prevent opioid misuse and halt the devastation these drugs have wreaked.

Betsy DeVos is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post Betsy’s Blog – Combating the Opioid Crisis appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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Secretary DeVos and IMC Weekend School Ambassadors

[Note: This post originally appeared on the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in the Netherlands.]

Secretary DeVos with students in Rotterdam

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, travelled to the Netherlands for an official program on June 11-12, as the second stop on a three country trip to Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, to explore the vocational education, decentralized school systems, and apprenticeship programs within Europe.

Her visit to the Netherlands, planned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, focused on vocational education, school choice, and advancing education options to prepare students for the modern economy. Secretary DeVos started her trip by meeting with the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, and the Ministry helped to plan her visits. She viewed how Imelda Primary School in Rotterdam has incorporated arts into the school to advance student understanding of abstract concepts and to encourage problem solving.  She spoke with students at Edith Stein College in The Hague about the Dutch educational system and challenges faced by students.  She also visited students [at] Lucia Marthas Institute for the Performing Arts in Amsterdam, where students were preparing performances for their end of year productions.

Secretary DeVos with a student at ROC Amsterdam

Secretary DeVos had a hands-on program at the Regional Vocational Education Center Westpoort in Amsterdam where students demonstrated skills they were learning in the fields of electrical engineering, automotive repair, catering, and other programs.  Her visit explored different aspects [of] secondary vocational education within the Netherlands, and how it prepares students for technological jobs.

Secretary DeVos had two round-tables during her trip.  The first focused on school choice, funding, and administration in the Netherlands with a teacher, a parent and board member, a professor and expert on Dutch education law, and a school administrator.  Her second round-table was a discussion with student ambassadors from IMC Weekend School on motivating students to seek potential career opportunities.   She also met with American teachers currently in the Netherlands as Fulbright Scholars and English Teaching Assistants.

DeVos also looked at the links between education and culture at institutions such as the Anne Frank House and the Teekenschool at the Rijksmuseum.  Each day ended with special dinners, the first hosted by Ambassador Hoekstra and the second hosted by Minister van Engelshoven and the City of Amsterdam.

The post U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Visits the Netherlands appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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If you are employed full-time by a government or not-for-profit organization, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness after making 120 qualifying payments (10 years), thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

But loan forgiveness is not automatic. There are a number of specific requirements you must meet. If you want to make sure you’re on the right track, avoid these common mistakes:

1. Not submitting an Employment Certification Form each year
Submitting an Employment Certification Form (ECF) is the single most important thing you can do to make sure you’re on track for forgiveness. You should submit this ASAP.

In order to ensure you’re on the right track for forgiveness, it is important that you submit an Employment Certification Form (ECF)

  • as soon as you start your first public service job,
  • annually from that point on, and
  • any time you switch employers.

We use this is form to help verify you’re on the right track and to inform you about anything you should do to adjust to maximize the amount forgiven in the future.

Since borrowers who are interested in PSLF should be on income-driven repayment plans, we recommend submitting your annual ECF at the same time you recertify your income-based payments.

2. Making mistakes on your Employment Certification Form

Your ECF could be rejected if you make mistakes. Here are some common mistakes we see:

  • Missing information: Two of the most common missing items are the employer’s address and Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can find your employer’s EIN on your Wage and Tax Statement (W-2). Don’t submit your ECF without all the required fields filled in.
  • Inconsistent information: This occurs when you provide information on a new ECF that is inconsistent with info from a previous ECF. Most commonly, we see inconsistent employment begin dates.
  • Correction errors: If corrections are made on the form, initials must be provided next to the change.
    • If you’re correcting the borrower sections (Section 1 or 2), we need your initials.
    • If you’re correcting the employer sections (Section 3 or 4), we need the employer’s initials.

Tip: The ECF requires a signature from an “authorized official” at your employer. This is typically someone in your human resources office. Ask your employer who your organization has authorized to certify employment if you’re uncertain.

3. Not consolidating your FFEL, Perkins, and parent PLUS loans

There are different types of federal student loans, but only Direct Loans qualify for PSLF.

If you borrowed before 2011, or if you have Perkins or parent PLUS loans, you may need to consolidate your loans in order to qualify for PSLF.

  • To check which types of loans you have, log in to StudentAid.gov/login. If you see a loan type that doesn’t include the word “Direct,” you’ll need to consolidate it to get PSLF for that loan.
  • To fill out the consolidation application, go to StudentLoans.gov.
4. Not enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan.

You can get PSLF only if you enroll in and make payments under one of the income-driven repayment plans. While payments made under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan also qualify for PSLF, you will have fully paid off your loan within 10 years (i.e., before you can qualify for forgiveness) if you pay under that plan. Therefore, an income-driven plan is your best option. Not only will it help you qualify for PSLF, but most people enrolled in income-driven repayment plans see a reduction in their monthly payment amount—win-win! You can apply for an income-driven repayment plan on StudentLoans.gov.

Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness: You may have a second chance to get Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if your application was denied because you were on the wrong repayment plan. With the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, Congress set aside a $350 million fund to offer PSLF to borrowers who were denied for being on the wrong student loan repayment plan. This is a one-time-only expansion that will only be available until the funds run out, so it’s important to take action early. For complete eligibility requirement and to learn how to apply, visit StudentAid.gov/tepslf.
5. Missing your income-driven repayment recertification date

In order to remain eligible for income-driven payments, you must recertify each year. If you don’t, your payment will likely go up—possibly significantly. Recertify every year at the same time on StudentLoans.gov. This is a good time to submit an updated ECF too.

6. Staying on a deferment or forbearance

When you are in deferment or forbearance, you don’t get credit toward the 120 payments you need to qualify for PSLF. Every month you stay on deferment or forbearance, you’re pushing back your forgiveness date. Here are some tips to help you avoid this mistake:

  • If you want PSLF, you should be on an income-driven repayment plan. Your payment amount under these plans should be affordable because it is calculated based on your income. If it’s not affordable, and especially if you are on the Income-Based Repayment Plan, contact your servicer to see if you qualify for a different income-driven plan that will lower your monthly payment even further. Or, if you’ve had a drop in income since you last had your payment calculated, you can recertify your current income-driven repayment plan early.
  • You can waive periods of deferment—for example, if you’re working full-time for a qualifying employer while in graduate school, you could consider waiving any in-school deferment that is applied to your loans so you can start making qualifying payments. Contact your servicer to waive a deferment.
7. Missing payments

You shouldn’t miss loan payments, but it’s especially important if you’re working toward PSLF. Your payment won’t qualify if it’s more than 15 days late.

8. Not being strategic with early or extra payments

You cannot receive forgiveness any sooner than 10 years—even if you pay early or extra every month. For PSLF, you must make 120 separate monthly payments—and you can receive credit for only one payment per month, no matter how much you pay. If you consistently pay more than you have to, it will reduce the amount forgiven once you reach the 120 payments necessary.

However, one instance where we’ve seen borrowers interested in making additional payments while working toward PSLF is when they receive an employer-provided student loan repayment benefit. If your employer does provide these benefits and you’re working toward PSLF, consider inquiring whether the payment can be broken out monthly, as opposed to being paid as a lump sum. That way, it covers multiple scheduled monthly payments and not just one.

The easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to submit your ECF early and often and to keep in touch with FedLoan Servicing, our PSLF servicer. They are available to help you every step of the way.

BONUS: Answers to some PSLF FAQs:

  • Private loans do not qualify for PSLF.
  • Qualifying employment is about who your employer is, not the job you do for your employer. For example, if you are a government contractor, but your employer is a for-profit company, your employment would not qualify.
  • Payments don’t have to be consecutive—you can leave public service and come back and still qualify without starting over.
  • Any amount forgiven under the PSLF program is not taxable.
  • You can calculate your projected forgiveness amount using our repayment calculator.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

The post 8 Common Public Service Loan Forgiveness Mistakes appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

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