Secretary DeVos Convenes Higher Education Summit: Innovation Blends Technology and the Personal Touch

Secretary DeVos Convenes Higher Education Summit: Innovation Blends Technology and the Personal Touch

“We need to question everything; to look for ways in which we can improve, and embrace the imperative of change. At the end of the day, success shouldn’t be measured by how much ivy is on the wall,” said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “It should be determined by how you’re educating and preparing students for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.”

Setting this tone of innovation, Secretary DeVos welcomed over 20 education leaders from across the nation to the Education Innovation Summit on Higher Education, held recently at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington. The agenda included general discussion as well as several featured presentations.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of Boston-based edX, said that our society needs a system where universities and educators can work with learners throughout their careers, not just during the traditional college ages of 18 to 22.

Ben Nelson of the for-profit Minerva Project asked the group to consider what the purpose of higher education is. He submitted that today businesses across various fields want the same thing: employees who have a core skill but can also have the well-rounded education to learn skills in new areas.

Kathleen Plinske of Valencia College in Central Florida recommended simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students with the greatest financial need and recommended that short-term training programs that have already been vetted and approved by another federal agency be eligible for U.S. Department of Education Title IV funding.

Jerry Davis, president of the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, said that his college is a work college. That is, all students are required to work at jobs, leading to the school’s nickname of “Hard Work U.” The school has a student-focused environment where the students’ personal needs are regularly met. For example, one student’s father was in the penitentiary, and the student’s mother had died. The college’s Helping Hand Fund paid $3,000 for the funeral costs of the student’s mother. The student went on to graduate and today is a teacher. “From my own family experience and in work colleges for over 40 years,” Davis said, “I can tell you that not everything can be solved with a computer. Sometimes it takes a personal touch to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks in our society.”

Mike Zeliff, dean of faculty and students at the Jack Welch Management Institute, said, “We treat our students like customers and rely on their willingness to recommend our program and our professors as a key performance measure.  The curriculum is designed to learn it today, apply it tomorrow, and return to the classroom to talk about their observations.”

At the end of the nearly four-hour summit, Secretary DeVos thanked the participants for creatively meeting the needs of the students that they serve. “I welcome your continued input to me and to the department on ways that the federal government can get out of the way on some of the things we need to get out of the way of,” she said. “And tell us the ways we can support meaningfully the things you are doing to serve students.”

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

To Rebuild, Rethink and Renew

To Rebuild, Rethink and Renew

Dept. of Ed Blog logoThis past fall I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, twice — first, in October, and two weeks later, in the company of Secretary DeVos. There, I saw firsthand the wholesale destruction left by back-to-back hurricanes. The experience was both humbling and uplifting.

During my first visit, I joined the Commissioner of Education for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Sharon McCollum, on a car trip around the Islands. On our way, she noticed the owner of a damaged wholesale club store — he was outside, combing through inventory, trying to salvage any goods that Hurricanes Maria and Irma had spared.

Pausing our scheduled tour, Dr. McCollum stopped the car in front of the store. She began negotiating the sale of cleaning supplies to be used in some of the many schools under her care. Simply getting students physically back to school is a monumental undertaking, she said: they shouldn’t have to fear getting sick from mold and the like once they’ve returned to the classroom.

Her goal that day — as it is every day — was to return a sense of normalcy to the more than 14,000 students whose lives and studies were interrupted by the powerful storms. I learned that, these days, such encounters are an integral part of Dr. McCollum’s day-to-day work: staff told me she can often be found out in the field, exploring the Islands in search of supplies and other resources to help students get back to school and engaged in learning again.

This is a fundamental objective on the Islands, where the scale of devastation from the storms defies description. Surveying the damage by military helicopter, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Roofs had been ripped off houses; stores destroyed; roads impassable. School facilities that had once been home to fine arts and music — integral parts of the culture and education on the Islands — are gone forever, with many well-loved instruments, such as the region’s iconic steel drums, lost.

Read more about Acting Assistant Secretary Botel’s visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Medium

Secretary DeVos Approves Minnesota and West Virginia’s State ESSA Plans

Secretary DeVos Approves Minnesota and West Virginia’s State ESSA Plans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of Minnesota and West Virginia’s consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“States continue to embrace the flexibility and power given to them under ESSA,” said Secretary DeVos. “I am pleased to approve these plans, which comply with the requirements of the law. I look forward to seeing how the states turn ideas into action to improve outcomes for all students.”

Allowing states more flexibility in how they deliver education to students is at the core of ESSA. Each state crafted a plan that it feels will best offer educational opportunities to meet the needs of the state and its students. The following are some of the unique elements from each state’s approved plan as highlighted by each state:


  • Plans to ensure that by 2020, 90 percent of all students will graduate from high school in four years and that the state aligns its efforts with its workforce development goals.
  • Identifies 25 percent of the lowest-performing schools across three domains—math, reading and English learner proficiency—to ensure all schools in need of support are identified and assisted, with the greatest support directed to the most acutely low-performing schools.

“Nothing is more important to Minnesotans than making sure every child has access to a great education,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius. “That consensus was shared by a broad majority of parents, community members and stakeholders across our state who made equity and ambitious goals the central tenants of our ESSA plan. Together, we created a shared definition of equity that serves as the foundation for a plan that is actionable, research-based and rooted in the best practices for supporting schools. Combined with rigorous accountability expectations, strategic support for schools that need it most, and the promise of easy-to-understand and transparent reporting for teachers, parents, and the public, this plan is a significant step forward in our shared vision for all kids. I look forward to implementing our new plan, and supporting every Minnesota educator as they work even harder to ensure every child has the same opportunity to learn, succeed and thrive.”

West Virginia

  • Plans to reduce the number of non-proficient students, overall and for each subgroup, in half by 2030.
  • Provides LEAs access to evidence-based interventions and professional development based on performance on individual indicators within the Statewide Accountability System, so that any school struggling with a single indicator receives support.

“The intent of our ESSA plan is to be a catalyst for economic growth and development in West Virginia. Our goal is to ensure that every student is provided the opportunity to be successful after graduating high school in their chosen career and/or post-secondary endeavors. Our comprehensive system will individualize support and capitalize on a network of education partnerships, while supporting Gov. Jim Justice’s focus on education and economic development,” said Steven Paine, West Virginia’s state superintendent of schools.

Prepared Remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Foundation for Excellence in Education National Summit on Education Reform

Prepared Remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to Foundation for Excellence in Education National Summit on Education Reform

Nashville, Tennessee – Thank you, Denisha for that very kind introduction. I am so glad Denisha has joined our team at the U.S. Department of Education. Even though she’s no longer a child, it’s kids like Denisha who keep me focused. They are who I fight for every day, the driving force behind all we do.

I’m happy to be back with so many friends at Excel in Ed, especially as you celebrate the 10th anniversary of this National Summit on Education Reform. The Summit has welcomed visionary and inspiring leaders from across government, business and academia, and, as those of you who attended the 2011 Summit in San Francisco will remember, even some friends from Sesame Street made an “unscheduled” guest appearance! I hope they’re not joining us again today!

While this certainly is not my first Summit, it is my first as Secretary of Education.

It is truly an honor to serve America’s students and to speak with you today at this important convening of advocates, policymakers and elected officials, all of whom share a common goal: to equip every child in America with the education necessary to achieve his or her God-given potential.

Governor Bush, Patricia and the entire Excel in Ed team: hundreds of thousands of kids – and former kids, like Denisha – have been able to do just that, thanks in no small part to your efforts.

On behalf of them and their parents – and on behalf of the millions more who deserve that same opportunity – a very sincere and heartfelt thank you for your tireless work and for your continued commitment.

Like many of you, I’ve been involved in education reform for some time. For me, it’s been 30 years. Now, some folks would think that means I should be in the twilight of my career – looking back and winding down with an eye toward retirement.

Well, I do have a bit of bad news to share with you today…

Bad news, that is, for the teacher union bosses, the defenders of the status quo, the “education-expert” bloggers and muckrakers and many of our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle in Congress. Allow me to borrow a line from the great American author Mark Twain: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!

I’m not going anywhere! In fact I’m just getting started!

And to get started, let’s talk a bit about where I think we as a country need to go. But first, let’s step back.

You would never know it by watching the news or reading the papers today, but this whole notion of “education reform” isn’t exactly new. In fact, you can trace its roots all the way back to ancient times and Plato’s writings in The Republic. That’s right – 380 B.C.

From the ancient Greek debate, through the Roman Empire, across early Europe, on to America’s widespread adoption of the Prussian model, past progressive theories, amid the important advances made during the civil rights era, through today’s continued debate, education reform has commanded the attention of some of history’s greatest and most influential figures.

And while each one of those transition points could generate hours of debate and discussion, I want to go back to 1983.

In April 1983, A Nation At Risk had just been released. Most everyone here has heard of it. Commissioned by then-U.S. Secretary of Education Terrell Bell, it took a hard look at education in America.

The conclusion, as the report’s title hints, was anything but rosy. This is from the summary:

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”

And further:

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

That was nearly 35 years ago. And what has changed?

In 1983, A Nation At Risk found that on international tests, America was, quote, “never first or second.” Today, the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, shows America stuck in the middle of our international peers. We are being outpaced and outperformed by countries like China, Germany, Vietnam and the U.K.

We are a nation still at risk. We are a nation at greater risk.

This is unacceptable.

This is inexcusable.

And this is truly un-American.

We can – we must – do better.

We all know this. America knows this. A recent Gallup poll showed the majority of all Americans are dissatisfied with the overall education system in our country.

Something else Americans know: our nation’s broken tax system is well overdue for comprehensive reform. And I am so encouraged that, with the President’s leadership, leaders in Congress are poised to finally do something about it! This Administration believes America succeeds when American workers and job providers keep more of their hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, knowing and doing, especially when it comes to really reforming education, prove to be two very different things. Amidst the data, the numbers, the international comparisons, the debate and the vitriolic rancor from sycophants of the system, it’s really easy to lose sight of what – of whom – we’re really talking.

We’re talking about students, like Trevor. Trevor is from California. He has cerebral palsy, though he’s refused to let it define him. He excelled in elementary and middle school, earning all A’s.

But in high school, his condition made it difficult to navigate multiple floors and a large campus. One day, moving between classes, Trevor fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his knee. His accident crushed his bone, and, it nearly crushed his spirit.

Sadly, Trevor’s school was less than accommodating. They didn’t allow leeway for extra time to transfer classes nor any mechanism to catch up on missed instruction time. This 4.0 GPA high schooler saw his grades tumble and his aspirations fade.

“They really weren’t concerned about Trevor going to college,” Trevor’s mother said. “They really just wanted him to graduate high school.”

In other words, pass him along so they wouldn’t have to deal with him: a sad reality for far too many students in far too many schools.

Thankfully, Trevor and his parents discovered a blended learning charter school that allowed students to take classes online or in person.

Trevor began to thrive academically once again, as he was able to learn from his home.

“I felt excited about education again,” Trevor said. Today, he’s back on path, excelling and fulfilled, with his dream to attend college restored.

And we’re talking about kids like Orlando, from the Florida town whose name he shares. Orlando was born with an innate passion for aviation, and from age 6 knew he wanted to be a pilot. However, his life’s circumstances started stacking up against him.

Shortly after he was born, Orlando’s mother suffered a stroke that left her totally disabled, and as a young grade-schooler, Orlando’s father went to prison. In addition to the challenges at home, Orlando eventually struggled at school, too.

He fell in with a group known as “the little hoodlums.” His grades slipped and he nearly failed his junior year. Looking back, he saw himself headed down the same path as his father.

“I never wanted to be that guy,” Orlando said, “but you can see the little things that lead to someone making the wrong decision or getting arrested one day.”

He saw his dream of becoming a pilot, evaporating. “I started looking at the financial requirements and grade requirements, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to make it,'” he said. “My mom is disabled. My father was in prison. So I was like, ‘I don’t have any help. This isn’t going to happen.'”

But Orlando did have help. And it came in the form of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and a devoted and caring teacher, Mr. Nieves, who helped Orlando find it.

Through the scholarship, Orlando was able to attend a school that met his individual needs. And as Orlando tells it, everything was different from Day One. “The teachers cared for me and made sure I stayed on top of my work,” Orlando said.

Hope restored, Orlando doubled down on pursuing his dream.

He studied…hard. His teachers pushed him…hard.

And when Orlando walked across the graduation stage last May, as his recently-released father rejoined his family watching in the audience, tears filled Orlando’s eyes – not just for what he was able to accomplish, but for the opportunities that remained ahead as an accepted aeronautical science freshman at Embry-Riddle University.

“The dream really came true – I’m here. It’s a surreal feeling,” Orlando said.

Orlando’s is an outcome every student in America should be able to share, and it’s one every student in America would be able to share if adults would quit fighting over kids and start fighting for them.

And we’re talking about parents, like Shirley, a mom from Pennsylvania with whom I recently spoke. Shirley lives in a tough part of town, and her daughter was afraid of being bullied by the kids in her neighborhood. Attending her assigned neighborhood school terrified her daughter and it broke Shirley’s heart.

Left with no options, Shirley signed up as a driver for a ride sharing company before and after her fulltime day job so she can afford tuition to send her daughter to a safe, Catholic school.

Exhausted and unsure if she could keep up the pace after a year of working multiple jobs, Shirley asked her daughter if she could try her neighborhood school. Her daughter immediately broke into tears. She begged Shirley not to send her there.

“I don’t ask to be rich,” Shirley told me. “All I ask is for my children to have a better life than me. If that means I have to work three jobs, I’ll find a way. I have to do it for my girls,” she said.

And I know she will.

But no parent – no parent – should be left feeling helpless like Shirley. No parent should have to work three jobs in order to send their child to a school that is safe, to a school that works for them.

And we’re talking about kids like Jason and Mitchell Baker, and their sister Jessica from right here in Tennessee.

Jason was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia, while Mitchell lives with Tourette’s syndrome. They both struggled to focus during the school day and they had a tough time interacting with their peers. Their parents tried many different options: their assigned school, private school, blended learning, homeschool co-ops – none seemed to be the right fit for them.

Then they found a virtual school that gave them the opportunity to learn and interact socially at their own pace, but also afforded them the chance to participate in athletics locally. They found the option that worked for their needs.

Jessica, meanwhile, knew that she wanted more from high school than sitting in a classroom for 7 hours a day. She wanted to learn, but she also wanted to go on global service missions, work a part-time job and train to be a ballet dancer.

She tried the school her brothers attended, and found that it was a great fit for what she and her parents wanted for her education, too.

Jessica graduated from the University of Memphis, and Jason and Mitchell are enrolled there now.

But they haven’t stopped there. Inspired by their own experience, these three siblings co-founded their own group to help educate, encourage and empower parents to find options for their children like they and their parents found for them.

Jason, Mitchell and Jessica are here with us today. Guys, could you stand up? Let’s all give them a round of applause.

These are all wonderful success stories. Individuals whose lives have been touched and who are on a new trajectory, with the potential for generational impact.

But for every Denisha, every Trevor and Orlando, every Shirley, every Jessica and Mitchell and Jason, there are more – millions more – whose stories don’t have the same result. Who aren’t afforded the same opportunity.

Who today… right now…sit at kitchen tables…helpless…tears filling their eyes as they contemplate a real and inexcusable possibility: by virtue of their zip code, their family circumstances or their economic means, an education system has assigned them to a future that very well might mean their dream is out of reach.

This is the very real and very human face of a nation still at risk.

These are, all too often, the “forgotten” in our society. They don’t have lobbyists, they don’t have public relations firms, they don’t have untold millions to buy their way out.

But, they have dreams.

They have potential.

They have hope.

Because they have us.

I have a simple question for everyone in this room: What are you going to do?

Lawmakers: how are you going to carry their voices through the halls of your capitol? Will you take a stand? Will you challenge the status quo? Will you fight for them?

Find ways to give your school leaders and your teachers flexibility to do what they know and what they do best: serve their students.

Find solutions to allow funding to follow students so they can learn in the way and at the pace that works for them. Find ways to breakdown artificial barriers of location or distance by exploring the promising potential of online and blended learning – options that did not exist just a few short years ago.

Policymakers: how are you going to put their needs above the needs of a “system”? Will you have the courage to buck the entrenched special interests and do what you know is right for these “forgotten” among us?

Make a commitment to put people before paperwork. Students before systems. Get beyond the walls of your offices and proactively seek the perspective and input of parents, students, teachers, school leaders. Listen with an open mind, especially to the challenges and struggles parents identify. Then act to implement policies in a way that serves them. Our job is not to make life easier for us, but to serve students.

Advocates, community leaders and faith leaders: how will you help amplify their voices? Will you be a catalyst for change in your community?

Will you leverage your spheres of influence to truly rethink education in your communities, your states? Will you support and praise lawmakers and policy makers who take courageous stands on behalf of students and parents?

We are at a time for choosing. We can choose to turn away, to offer platitudes or promises of action “next year.” Or we can say: no more. No more empty rhetoric, no more folding to political pressure, no more accepting by inaction this fundamental injustice that stains the future of the greatest republic in the history of the world. No more.

Let me not discount, in any way, the important work and advances that have been made, many as a direct result of your efforts. And some of the most recent advances have been the most encouraging.

I look to Illinois. Thanks to the courage and leadership of Governor Bruce Rauner and many champions for kids in the legislature, low-income Illinois parents will now have the option to send their kids to a school of their choice.

If it can be done in the backyard of the Chicago Teachers Association, home of the infamous teacher strike just a few short years ago, it can be done anywhere!

And there’s also New Hampshire. New Hampshire is on the verge of passing similar legislation that would give parents in their state more options. Many thanks to Governor Chris Sununu and legislative leaders there as well. Keep pushing and get this done for your students!

We must turn words into action.

Millions of kids today— right now— are trapped in schools that are failing them. Millions more are stuck in schools that are not meeting their individual needs. And their parents have no options, no choices, no way out.

Nearly 30 kids have dropped out of school while I’ve been talking – that’s nearly 1,500 students a day; 521,000 this year and more than 2 million in my term as Secretary. More than the total number of students in the New York City, Los Angles and Chicago School Districts – combined. Or in the entire State of Tennessee – twice. Gone. Take some time and let that sink in.

These aren’t just numbers. These are precious young lives, full of promise and potential; kids who don’t have time to wait until next year, or until next session or until after the next elections. They don’t even have time to wait until tomorrow.

Now is the time to act.

I fully recognize this is a fight.

I acknowledge more times than not, it requires really thick skin.

And I know many of you in this room take arrows in the back— and in the front! – on a daily basis.

But know this:

I stand with you, and, together, we stand with America’s kids – all of them.

Because Denisha is worth it. Trevor and Orlando are worth it. Shirley is worth it. Jessica and Mitchell and Jason are worth it.

Every student and every parent across our great land— each of them are worth it.

America is far too great a country to deny any parent or any student the chance at their dream – the chance a great education affords them.

We owe it to our children to be fearless.

The rising generation represents 100 percent of our future; let’s give them nothing less than 100 percent of our effort.

Thank you for allowing me to be with you. May God bless you and may He bless our future – America’s students.

Secretary DeVos Approves Michigan’s State ESSA Plan

Secretary DeVos Approves Michigan’s State ESSA Plan

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of Michigan’s consolidated state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“Michigan’s plan meets the statutory requirements. As such, I have approved it,” said Secretary DeVos. “I thank the U.S. Department and Michigan Department of Education for their hard work in ensuring the plan complied with the law.”

“While the plan meets the statutory requirements, Michigan must not view this as a ceiling, but rather as a baseline upon which to build, strengthen and expand. All Michigan students deserve an education that prepares them for success in the 21st century. I urge Michigan’s leaders to continue to find new and innovative ways to help students succeed.”

FLOTUS, Secretary Visit Highlights Anti-Bullying Efforts

FLOTUS, Secretary Visit Highlights Anti-Bullying Efforts

As a School Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, I had the opportunity to help plan and coordinate a visit for First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos to Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, MI. The school was selected because they had pledged their commitment to anti-bullying initiatives promoting inclusion and acceptance. Orchard Lake Middle School prides itself on diversity and anti-bullying programs, so the principal and staff knew that they would be a good fit for FLOTUS’s bullying prevention platform.

Breaking Bully Stereotypes

I have spent the last decade focusing on breaking bully stereotypes and shifting the conversation around such a critical topic, so I jumped at the chance to be part of this work at a national level. Most of the bullying I faced as a student occurred in middle school, so I was shocked to see it happen with my third graders. The most surprising part, however, was when I realized which students were doing the bullying. Some of my sweetest, smartest, and most seemingly innocent kids were often the ones doing the most harm. I see the same trends and patterns with every class.

One thing these kids all have in common is that they do not see themselves as bullies since they do not resemble the exaggerated characters in TV and movies. No one is a bully all the time, and this misconception makes it hard for kids to accept their actions as bullying behavior. This problem can be perpetuated in any school lunchroom when kids are left feeling isolated and excluded, while the classmates doing the excluding don’t understand the harm they cause. Effective anti-bullying initiatives can really help change those dynamics, and having the First Lady and Secretary share that message really helps kids pay attention.

Students Realize the Magnitude of the Event

I was able to be at the school for most of the day, hours before the special guests arrived. I could feel the energy in the building as students buzzed with anticipation. It was fascinating to watch all that happened behind the scenes and the planning and manpower it took to execute a one-hour visit. But the students reminded me why this event was so important. While the adults were scurrying around making sure things were running smoothly, the middle schoolers were enjoying the moment, recognizing the magnitude of what was happening. They knew their school was being highlighted and it meant they were doing something right, and that is an empowering feeling.

Sharing a message with kids about the importance of compassion and kindness is something that everyone should stand behind, and that day, everyone did. It is a big deal to have the First Lady and Education Secretary of the United States at their school, and this is something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. I am quite sure they will also remember that no one should eat alone either.

Melody Arabo is a 2017-18 Washington School Ambassador Fellow.

Photo at the top: A student takes a selfie with First Lady Melania Trump. (Melody: “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the picture at the top is worth a million smiles. It perfectly captures the joy that was felt in the room by students who realized they were experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.”)

Education Secretary DeVos Announces 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellows

Education Secretary DeVos Announces 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellows

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows. This year’s cohort includes four teachers, one principal and one counselor.

“This year, we are thrilled to announce we are expanding the scope of the Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship into the School Ambassador Fellowship. This expanded program will allow all school-based staff members—not just teachers and principals—the opportunity to participate in this important program and provide valuable contributions to the national education dialogue,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “The Fellowship program is designed to improve education for all students by involving practitioners in the development and implementation of national education policy. The Fellows also work directly with Department staff members to inform our understanding of how policies and programs are implemented and experienced by students, educators and families at the local level.”

The six new Fellows were at the Department this week for a three-day summit to become more familiar with federal education policy and Department staff, as well as to begin exchanging ideas for enhancing communication between teachers, stakeholders and education policy leaders.

This year’s full-time Washington, D.C., Fellow is:

  • Melody Arabo, a third-grade teacher in a hybrid role at Keith Elementary School and the 2015 Michigan Teacher of the Year from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

This year’s part-time Fellows are:

  • Elmer Harris, a 5th Grade Teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary School from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • Matthew Scott Crisp, principal at Jackson Hole High School from Jackson, Wyoming.
  • Patrick O’Connor, an Assistant Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Schools, from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
  • Megan Power, an Elementary Teacher at Design39Campus from San Diego, California.
  • Jennifer Ramsey, a Science Teacher, KIPP DC Heights Academy from Washington, D.C.

The 2017 Fellows build on the work of the previous cohorts, who have now collectively reached and connected with more than 110,000 educators through more than 153 discussions and events with stakeholders from all 50 states, D.C., four territories and two foreign countries.

Update on Department of Education Response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma

Update on Department of Education Response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma

Washington — As part of its ongoing efforts to aid Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and in the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Department of Education released the following update:

Higher Education

  • Last week (Sept. 6 and 7), FSA conducted pre-disaster outreach to nearly 2,400 institutions in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, foreign schools located in the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. FSA also continues to reach out to institutions in Texas and Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
  • On Sept. 8, 2017, FSA issued a post-disaster email to more than 260 institutions in the Caribbean impacted by Hurricane Irma. In the coming days, FSA will send the post-disaster email to institutions in the continental U.S. impacted by Hurricane Irma.
  • FSA has established contact with nearly 20 institutions in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Irma and is responding to requests for regulatory relief and reporting flexibilities.
  • FSA has invited 446 impacted institutions to participate in a webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 10:00 a.m. Central Time. FSA and other U.S. Department of Education officials will provide updates on the Department’s guidance related to Hurricane Harvey, as well as ongoing assistance.
  • FSA has updated the page to provide general information relevant to students, parents and borrowers affected by a federally declared natural disaster (including hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as the wildfires burning in the western U.S.).


  • The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has entered into discussions with the Texas Education Agency about its Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program. Project SERV grants support activities and services that enable schools to restore the learning environment after a natural or man-made disaster.
  • OESE will be conducting a webinar on Sept. 19 in collaboration with FEMA on its Public Assistance Program. The Public Assistance Program provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly-owned facilities.
  • OESE is working with its Federal partners and reaching out to State educational agencies in localities impacted by Hurricane Irma to understand the nature and scope of the damage that Irma has inflicted on their educational institutions.
  • The Department’s Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) has contacted charter schools or their representatives in state affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma regarding their emerging needs. These states are still assessing damage, and the Department expects to provide technical assistance and support as needed in the coming weeks.
  • OII has contacted the major private school associations in Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky via email, in addition to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for their VI schools, to receive updates on the status of their schools in Irma-impacted areas. OII will send a message to all hurricane-impacted areas on Sept. 12 regarding the upcoming ED/FEMA Public Assistance webinar on Sept. 19, 2017.

Office of the Inspector General

  • On Sept. 10, a team of 10 agents from the Office of the Inspector General arrived at a staging area at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, as part of a quick response team in support of the Federal government’s Emergency Support Function #13 (Public Safety and Security) for Hurricane Irma. They have been assigned to provide security for a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) in the Florida Keys.

The Department’s K-12 and Higher Education stakeholders who are seeking informational resources as well as those seeking relief from Department-based administrative requirements should contact the Department toll free at 1-844-348-4082 or by email at and

U.S. Department of Education Awards $20 Million to Support Educators of English Learner Students

U.S. Department of Education Awards $20 Million to Support Educators of English Learner Students

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) announced today the awarding of $20 million in grants under the National Professional Development Program (NPD), to support educators of English learner students.

The NPD program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education and public or private entities with relevant experience and capacity, in consortia with states or districts, to implement professional development activities that will improve instruction for English Learners (ELs). Professional development may include preservice or in-service activities for educators of ELs including teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals or other educators working with ELs. Professional development activities may include teacher education programs and training for other education professionals that lead to certification, licensing, or endorsement for providing instruction to English learners.

“Our English learner students represent an incredible asset for our country, yet they also face unique challenges. We need to keep shining the spotlight on them and building our capacity to better serve and teach them.” said OELA Assistant Deputy Secretary, José A.Viana. “With this funding, we continue to deliver on our promise of equity, excellence and opportunity in supporting educators, students and families across the country. They are counting on us to help them soar!”

The Department projects this new cohort of 42 grants will serve approximately 1,796 pre-service and 9,731 in-service teachers.

Secretary DeVos Approves North Dakota’s ESSA Plan

Secretary DeVos Approves North Dakota’s ESSA Plan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the approval of Louisiana’s consolidated state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). — Letter to Louisiana from Secretary DeVos regarding State Plan.

August 15, 2017
Honorable John White
Superintendent of Education
Louisiana Department of Education
P.O. Box 94064
Baton Rouge, LA 70804Dear Superintendent White:I am pleased to approve Louisiana’s consolidated State plan under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to implement the requirements of covered programs under the ESEA and of the amended McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act). I congratulate you on this significant accomplishment.

My decision regarding Louisiana’s consolidated State plan is based on input from U.S. Department of Education (Department) staff who reviewed and carefully considered the plan submitted by Louisiana. Consistent with ESSA, the Department conducted a peer review of the sections in your consolidated State plan related to Title I, Part A and Title III, Part A of the ESEA and Subtitle B of Title VII of the McKinney-Vento Act. The Department only reviewed information provided in Louisiana’s consolidated State plan that was responsive to the Revised State Plan Template for the Consolidated State Plan that was issued on March 13, 2017. I have concluded that Louisiana’s consolidated State plan satisfies those requirements. Accordingly, Louisiana’s consolidated State plan that was submitted on August 8, 2017, warrants full approval.

Louisiana’s consolidated State plan remains in effect for the duration of the State’s participation in the programs covered by the plan. Each State is responsible for administering all programs included in its consolidated State plan consistent with all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements even if those requirements are not addressed in Louisiana’s plan. Louisiana must periodically review and revise the plan as necessary to reflect changes in the State’s strategies and covered programs. If Louisiana makes significant changes to its consolidated State plan at any time, such as changes to its accountability system or long-term goals, Louisiana must submit information about those changes to the Department for review and approval. The Department will provide information on the process for amending a State plan at a later date.

Please be aware that approval of Louisiana’s consolidated State plan is not a determination that all the information and data included in the State plan comply with Federal civil rights requirements, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is Louisiana’s responsibility to comply with these civil rights requirements.

Please note that this letter, with Louisiana’s approved consolidated State plan, will be posted on the Department’s website.

It has been a pleasure working with your staff on this review. Please accept my congratulations for Louisiana’s approved consolidated State plan. Thank you for the important work that you and your staff are doing to support the transition to the ESSA and most importantly to lead Louisiana’s students to achieve at high levels. The Department looks forward to working with you to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.



Betsy DeVoscc: Honorable John Bel Edwards, Governor of Louisiana