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Illinois Principal Quality Efforts Nationally Recognized

Jeremy Anderson, President of Education Commission of the States; Dr. James Applegate, Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education; Dr. Harry Berman, former Executive Director, Illinois Board of Higher Education; Dr. Erika Hunt,  Director of SLP funded IL-PART grant, Center for the Study of Education Policy; and Dr. Chris Koch, State Superintendent. of the State of Illinois receiving the Frank Newman Award for Innovation at the ECS Award Ceremony (Photo courtesy of the Education Commission of the State)."

From left to right: Jeremy Anderson, president of the Education Commission of the States; James Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Harry Berman, former executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education; Erika Hunt, director of SLP-funded IL-PART grant, Center for the Study of Education Policy; and Christopher Koch, Illinois State Superintendent receiving the 2014 Frank Newman Award for Innovation. (Photo courtesy of the Education Commission of the States)

Since 2005, Illinois has pursued improving the quality of school principals as a top priority to reform K-12 education. A Commission on School Leader Preparation, followed by an Illinois School Leader Task Force, paved the way for groundbreaking state legislation in 2011, requiring alignment with new criteria for principal preparation programs and certification standards.

Behind this progress is a strong collaboration between the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the State Board of Education, and the Center for Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. On July 1, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) presented the 2014 Frank Newman Award for State Innovations to the three entities for their work. “In improving our schools, there is little that matters more than the quality of our principals,” said ECS President Jeremy Anderson, in a press release. “Illinois’ work exemplifies what can happen when stakeholders collaborate in such a critical area.”

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16 University Museums Showcase the Work of Their Youngest Students

Student artists officially open the exhibit with a ribbon cutting. (Department of Education photo by Tony Hitchcock)

10-year-old art opening speaker Anthony Madorsky signs postcards of his artwork at the Museums: pARTners in Learning art exhibit opening. (Department of Education photo by Tony Hitchcock)

On July 23, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) was proud to host the grand opening of the student art exhibit Museums: pARTners in Learning at its headquarters in Washington. In their second collaboration, ED and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) worked for more than a year to present the visual artwork and creative writing from the arts education programs at 16 academic museums. Students, family members, teachers, and art museum directors from across the country celebrated the opening of the exhibit of magnificent work by students ages 5–17.

Deputy Under Secretary Jamie Studley welcomed guests to the Department and thanked AAMD for its partnership, adding that “we [at ED] are all about partnerships because we recognize that it is only in working together that we can achieve our goals.” Studley not only emphasized the critical partnership for learning between art and other classroom subjects, such as chemistry, history and math, she also noted the importance of art “as a source of inspiration and a way to practice discipline, build skills, and get better at doing something.”

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National History Day Contest Deepens Understanding and Appreciation of History

My colleague, Mia Howerton, and I were invited to serve as judges for the National History Day (NHD) competition finals in College Park, Md., on June 17, 2014. History is an area of special interest for us, as we both serve as program officers for the Teaching American History program. Mia also taught social studies at the middle school level for six years in Richmond, Va. It was refreshing to have the opportunity to leave our Washington, D.C. office for a day and interact with students. Being able to see the exemplary projects students have created in pursuit of their quest for historical knowledge and understanding helped us to better appreciate the impact that national education programs can have on individual students.

Students from Whittier Middle School in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the group documentary “The Mark of McCarthy.” (Photo by  Route 1 Multimedia, courtesy of National History Day)

Students from Whittier Middle School in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the group documentary The Mark of McCarthy. (Photo by Route 1 Multimedia, courtesy of National History Day)

NHD offers middle and high school students the opportunity to create a history project of their choosing based on an annual theme — Rights and Responsibilities in History for 2014. The project categories are exhibit, performance, documentary, paper, and website. All project types can be done by individuals or groups, except for papers, which must be individual. Projects are judged on three evaluation criteria: historical quality (60 percent), relation to the theme (20 percent), and clarity of presentation (20 percent). Prizes are also awarded to projects that focus on particular themes in history, such as the Civil War History prize sponsored by the Civil War Trust, the Outstanding Entry on an International Theme prize sponsored by The History Channel, and the Native American History prize sponsored by the National Park Service.

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Teacher Residency Program Provides Tools for Classroom Success

The 31 graduate students in the Richmond Teacher Residency (RTR) are not your typical teacher candidates, and the Virginia Commonwealth University master of teaching degree program is not your typical graduate program for new teachers. Like other urban school districts, the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) faces unique challenges, not the least of which is providing its 25,000 students with outstanding teachers. For RTR, that means persons with “extensive content knowledge, along with the heart and vision to create a more equitable outcome for all students.”

Among the 31 aspiring teachers in this year’s RTR program, several are Peace Corps veterans, some have come to teaching from other professional careers following college, and others are fresh from their undergraduate degree programs, but often without undergraduate teaching experience. These “nontraditional” teacher candidates experience an intensive, year-long residency in Richmond City Schools’ classrooms, in a teacher-training model adapted from the field of medicine.

Creating a pipeline of extraordinary teachers

The RTR program is part of a national effort — the Urban Teacher Residency United Network — and a grantee of ED’s Teacher Quality Partnerships (TQP) grant program, which supports model teacher preparation programs through reforms by higher education institutions working in collaboration with high-need schools and districts. As it is with the RTR program, TQP places an emphasis on recruiting effective individuals, including minorities and persons from outside the teaching profession.
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San Antonio Promise Zone Progress on Display at Town Hall

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited San Antonio last month to participate in a town hall discussion on how the President’s Promise Zone initiative is helping the city’s Eastside community create ladders of opportunity to ensure that all children can achieve social mobility. San Antonio is one of five Promise Zones announced earlier this year, and one of three in which Promise Neighborhoods, a program of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, are playing an integral role.

Since 2010, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has worked to improve educational opportunities for the community’s children, beginning with preschool education. And the efforts are paying off, according to Secretary Duncan, who noted a reduction in chronic absenteeism for 8th graders from 33 percent to 8 percent and an increase in graduation rates at Sam Houston High School from 46 to 84 percent. ”Where a whole community embraces the importance of education,” he noted, “that sets an example for the rest of the nation.”

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NWP Report Contributes to National Dialogue and Action

nwp teacher voicesThe National Writing Project (NWP) released the third installment in its Teacher Voices series, Teaching Young Men of Color. The report is a welcome addition to the national conversation about expanding opportunities for minority males, the focus of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Resulting from a collaboration of the NWP and the College Board, Teaching Young Men of Color delivers the insights of 12 extraordinary classroom teachers, who reflect on their students’ experiences in the academic world and society at large.

These educators, from diverse geographic and racial backgrounds as well as academic disciplines, offer powerful insights about young men of color that could only be derived from years of successful classroom teaching. The insights fall roughly into two broad themes:

  • Gender: Along with factors such as race, language, and socioeconomic status, gender plays a critical role in the teaching and learning process.
  • Effective classroom practices: There is an abundance of classroom practices that teachers surveyed for this report identified as effective for minority males. Some are tied to the fundamentals that undergird all good teaching, and others are specific to particular populations.

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Connecticut Magnets Offer High-Quality Education

Students at Metropolitan Business Academy participate in the Student Ambassador Program, which promotes positive character development and a healthy and safe school community. Photo by Coppola Photography, courtesy of New Haven Public Schools.

Students at Metropolitan Business Academy participate in the Student Ambassador Program, which promotes positive character development and a healthy and safe school community. (Photo by Coppola Photography, courtesy of New Haven Public Schools).

As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing legal racial segregation in public schools, now is a good time to reflect on programs that promote diversity in schools. As a program officer for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), I’m part of a team that manages funding awarded to school districts nationwide to implement magnet programs in their schools. The MSAP has two primary goals: 1) to promote racial/ethnic diversity in schools; and 2) to improve student academic achievement.

Magnet schools offer a unique, rigorous curriculum and theme (e.g., performing arts; global and international studies; Montessori; science, technology, engineering and math), in order to “attract” a diverse set of students to attend. MSAP focuses its funds on schools that use a non-selective lottery system (rather than academic criteria) for admissions, which helps support schools that offer educational choices to a broad array of students.

Last month, when I attended the Magnet Schools of America national conference in Hartford, Conn., I had the opportunity to see some successful magnet schools in action. Connecticut has a unique school choice system that resulted from the 1996 Sheff v. O’Neill case, in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the racial and socioeconomic isolation of Hartford school children violates the state constitution.

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Charter Schools Program Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools Competition Announced

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) announced the 2014 Replication and Expansion of High Quality Charter Schools grant competition, with an application deadline of July 21, 2014. The FY 2014 Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards can be found here.

This program assists nonprofit charter management organizations, as well as other not-for-profit entities, in replicating or expanding high-quality charter schools with demonstrated records of success. Applicants must have experience operating more than one high-quality charter school.

The Department plans to award up to $26.5 million for this competition and estimates making between 14 and 19 awards (the Department is not bound by any estimates).

Applications are due by July 21, 2014, at 4:30:00 p.m. (EDT), and must be submitted through

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i3 Development Competition Completes Initial Phase

The Investing in Innovation (i3) Development competition supports projects that accelerate student achievement and drive innovation in K-12 education. Today, the U.S. Department of Education posted the highly rated pre-applications for the 2014 i3 Development competition.

The Department of Education received 395 pre-applications for the initial phase of the Development competition, and has invited 118 pre-applicants to submit full applications. Other pre-applicants may also choose to submit a full application and can find additional information here.

The i3 Development grants are up to $3 million total over three to five years. Crucially, each i3-funded project will be part of an independent evaluation to better understand and share what works, so that educators and researchers can build on the successes and challenges of these efforts.

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Charter Schools Program Non-SEA Grant Competitions Announced

The U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) announced two new Non-State Educational Agency (Non-SEA) grant competitions, with an application deadline of July 11, 2014.

The CSP’s Non-SEA Planning, Program Design, and Implementation competition provides grants directly to charter school developers so they can plan, design, and complete the initial implementation of their schools. The Non-SEA Dissemination competition provides grants directly to existing public charter schools, which they can use to assist other schools in adapting the charter school’s program (or certain aspects of the charter school’s program) or to disseminate information about the charter school.

For FY 2014, the Notice Inviting Applications for New Awards includes one absolute priority — improving achievement and high school graduation rates in high-poverty schools; only applications that meet this priority will be considered for an award.

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