U.S. Department of Education Releases Digital Learning Guides for Teachers and School Leaders

The U.S. Department of Education is excited to announce the release of two new resources that help teachers and school leaders meet the needs of their students by using thoughtful and creative digital learning experiences. The Teacher Digital Learning Guide (Teacher Guide) and the School Leader Digital Learning Guide (Leader Guide) are designed to provide … Read more

College Scorecard Publishes New Loan Repayment Rate Data to Help Students Make Informed Choices

What happens to student borrowers after they finish or leave school and start paying down their federal loans?  While many students look at, and many colleges promote, salaries of graduates, considering the student loan repayment rates of former students can provide a broader picture of financial wellness after attending a school. College Scorecard, a U.S. … Read more

New U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative

This year, international education has looked different, more than ever before. Traditional exchange programs have been largely unavailable, and other avenues of world language and cultural education have gone online. Still, the need for strong cross-cultural learning opportunities remains pressing. Learning a second language benefits students academically and on the job market, with many U.S. … Read more

Five Federal Institutions with Free Education Materials

Winter break is coming and it’s the perfect opportunity to explore new subjects and continue learning. Your daily routine may look different and may present opportunities to discover new and fun learning opportunities. Many organizations across the federal government and their partners have free education resources available for use. Here are five institutions that offer education materials for teachers, students, and lifelong learners.

Arlington National Cemetery
There are 400,000 people interred at our nation’s most hallowed grounds, and their newly launched education program can help you begin learning about them. From notable African Americans to figures of the Spanish American War, these materials only scratch the surface of the learning opportunities this sacred shrine has to offer.
The Smithsonian’s museums and zoo are out of reach for many right now. Fortunately, the institution offers resources for both educators and students. They offer many resources and digital tools that support inquiry-based learning and active engagement to spark creativity and curiosity.
National Park Service
As president, Theodore Roosevelt created five national parks, 18 national monuments, 51 bird sanctuaries, began the National Wildlife Refuge system and set aside more than 100 million acres for national forests. Now, you can learn about all of the national parks and monuments with NPS’s educator resources including audio, video, blogs, and more.
U.S. Department of Treasury
Did you know that Crane and Co., a Massachusetts-based company, has been providing the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing with paper for U.S. currency since 1879? There’s a lot to learn about money and currency, and the Treasury Department has a handful of resources to help. Their education materials cover the features of currency, currency design, and the history of the U.S. bills.
U.S. Department of State
Who is a diplomat? What is an embassy? State’s Discover Diplomacy education materials offer prompts and exercises that teach students the function of diplomacy and the importance of foreign affairs.

Five Reasons to Check-Out the Department’s New Open Data Platform

Open data is everywhere today…including the Department of Education. ED’s Open Data Platform (ODP) is bringing transparency to our public data in a way that is accessible, valuable, and user-friendly. The ODP has something for everyone – and provides easy access to all available Department public data resources in a way that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. For the educator, researcher, parent and public, ODP provides the following benefits:

All Publicly Available Department Data in One Place
The Department of Education publishes a large volume of data every year, from K-12 assessment scores to financial aid reports, but that data is published on individual websites. The ODP brings together all the valuable data in one place.  It also introduces users to data that they may not have known the Department produced which enhances research and can further inform policy.
Metadata Showcased so that Users know what They’re Looking at
Metadata is data about data and provides descriptions and information about the data that is being used. Metadata helps researchers find and work with the data file easier.  The ODP makes it easy to see and understand the metadata associated with each data resource – no digging required! Those elements include things like “title”, “tags”, and “description.”
ODP Provides Something of Interest for Everyone
From casual users to academic researchers, the ODP provides useful data for everyone. Casual users can browse and learn about new data or discover interactive tools and visualizations about topics such as assessments or student aid. Researchers can dig into the downloadable data files and discover multiple sources that can enrich their studies. Developers can go straight to the API and create new and exciting apps and dashboards that leverage ED’s data.
Friendly User Interface
It was top priority that the ODP was well-polished and easy to navigate.  Features include a prominent search bar, and the ability to search for data by category, years of data, and other areas of interest. Users will also be able to see when new data is published and what data is trending right from the home page. Users can also easily filter data profiles based on key metadata, such as level of data, tags, and categories. A helpful sorting feature also allows user to look at their search results in multiple ways.

Increases Transparency
There are plans to grow the ODP with time by adding descriptions for all the data ED collects and maintains, even though the data may not be available for public access due to privacy or other legal constraints. ED takes the privacy of data very seriously. No data with any identifying features will ever be made public. This includes individual financial information and individual student records. In the future, we hope to provide data analysts outside ED with easy ways to identify and suggest additional datasets for public release.
The ODP is here, but that doesn’t mean we’re done innovating. Enhancements to the platform already planned include new metadata elements, dataset visualizations built into the website, and a public discussion forum. New datasets will be continuously added as they are published. Please send feedback on the site and ideas for improvements to [email protected]
Sara Stefanik and Talya Gulman
Office of the Chief Data Officer, OPEPD

Students express themselves through performing arts

Julie Pappas has been performing since she was seven years old. Her first performance was in the local community theater in her hometown. Although school was a difficult place for Julie while growing up, she danced in high school and participated in a performing arts group every summer.
“[Performing arts] gave me life. It gave me joy. The arts have given me confidence and courage as a person.”

Now, she uses her gifts as a performing arts teacher at Fortune Academy in Indiana where she’s been teaching for 11 years. It’s not just her experience as a performer that makes her a great fit at Fortune, it’s her personal experience with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When they hired Julie, they placed her in charge of a newly created drama department for all grade levels.
Fortune Academy is a school for language-based learning differences. The school is designed to provide an environment that nurtures each child’s development, builds upon his/her individual strengths, and offers remediation in areas of weakness. Students have an individualized education program where the institution works with each student’s particular challenge including dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and more. The academy has about 90 students and class sizes are limited to six students. Since the school year began, classes have been in person with masks and strict protocols. This impacted the after-school program that Julie created, therefore limiting the number of participants, and holding rehearsals outdoors instead of in a classroom or auditorium.
Meeting students where they are and being able to educate and help other students with ADHD is a dream come true for Julie.
“Teaching was a platform to use my creative skills.”
Julie created an after-school program with three major performances: Take One, Take Two, and Take Three. Take One, which features her Junior High students, was the first performance to adapt to the new protocols due to COVID-19, but Julie was determined to make sure it happened.
“These [performances] give the students a sense of value and a sense of purpose. To stop it would take out a lot of energy.”
Julie decided to do a socially distanced performance outside. The program centered around Shel Silverstein’s poetry from his book “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” and others. First, the students presented a poem, then they performed slam poetry based on the poem, and finally they acted out a scene focused on a theme. Silverstein poems featured in the program include: “Invitation”; “Alpha Balance”; “Hector the Connector”; “No Difference”; and “The Garden.”
They created a stage at the edge of a sidewalk. The students were socially distanced with their own stools. The audience was spread out in lawn chairs or parked around the sidewalk. The weather was perfect and the students rocked their performance.
Not only was their first performance Take One a success, but Julie noticed how these types of events benefited the students.
“Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of kids go through my program and I’ve seen them transform. The first thing I notice is they grow in confidence.”
Julie explained how drama can be the perfect fit for students with learning-based language differences. In her experiences and observations, students with ADHD can feel empowered to use their energy in this format. Students with autism can improve their social skills through drama, which helps them discover an appropriate way to express themselves. Students with learning disabilities/dyslexia can learn vocabulary through memorization. All students, regardless of their disabilities, often find creative ways to use the performing arts to learn confidently. To believe in a student – to give them a platform to try it out – is transformative, and it impacts them academically.
Other teachers who observed the program were proud of specific students who really shined using the performing arts. Students who were shy and reserved during rehearsal would “ooze with expression” during the performance. Parents were excited to see their children blossom on the stage.
Take One was not an easy program to prepare. Even without the challenges of a pandemic, preparing students came with its own challenges. Organization, executive skills, remembering lines – these are all factors that students must work through. Rehearsals presented challenges for Julie’s students that needed to be addressed, but by meeting with them where they are, they were ready for curtain call.
Perfection is not required. As with all of us, “it is okay if they’re off pitch, if they miss a line, or if they forget something.”
One way Julie helps her students through their personal challenges is through understanding of their disability through her own experiences.
“I have ADHD. I get it. You will not be perfect. You have a message and the message will be clear. That’s what matters.”
The message of the program was recognizing, accepting, and celebrating people who may learn or be different from us. The students were proud of their performance. It was clear in their energy. They were talking to each other, smiling and hopping around putting things away.
Julie’s ultimate goal is to show her students with learning challenges can meet expectations and are valuable participants in the school and community. They are a valuable part of our society and they have important things to say to make our world a better place. Teaching them that they have a voice gives them value and gives them confidence and courage to make a difference in the world.
“We need people who are willing to be courageous, to step out and step up, and do the work. These kids deserve a chance to say what they can say in our world. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to persevere.”
Julie is now preparing for her next after-school program with her high school students in January for Take Two.
Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

New Mexico Native teaches students language and culture

Mila Padilla grew up in Shiwina (Zuni village) and heard Zuni spoken on the playground and from her grandmother. She never attempted to speak it herself until she moved in with her grandmother, where it was required. She did everything with her grandmother, from cooking and gardening to attending church and praying. By the time her grandmother had passed, the Zuni language and culture had been instilled in Mila.

Zuni, who call themselves A:shiwi, have dwelled in Halona I:diwana, the Middle Place of the World, in western New Mexico, where the tribe settled after many years of searching for the Middle Place. Today, the tribe is considered one of the most intact in existence, with many members living at Zuni Pueblo.
While working at NACA, i met Zuni students who did not speak the language because of the disconnect to growing up in the city, like my own children learning the language would create a challenge and like myself a second language learner, I would be able to understand the challenge of learning the language.
Mila was working with urban Indian youth at Native American Community Academy when she met A:shiwi youth who did not speak Shiwi’ma Bena:we (Zuni language). A second language learner herself, she understood the challenge of learning the language, and she was willing to take the lead in teaching them.
Teaching language means understanding language and changes that occur within a language such as shift, maintenance, and revitalization. Mila understood each of these when she received her bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies from the University of New Mexico. After passing an oral exam conducted by the Zuni language board, she became certified by the tribe to teach Zuni. She now teaches at Albuquerque Public Schools to students grades 2 through 8.
About 30 students currently participate in Mila’s class. She has seen immense growth in her students. They are teaching their peers how to say introductions and are explaining basic concepts about the language. This year, they have learned songs, which has attracted more students and allowed them to learn more difficult words.
“When a child learns to introduce themself in a community setting, it empowers that child to know they belong to a family, they belong to a clan and a sovereign nation.”
Mila has used the pandemic as an opportunity to teach the trials and tribulations of the Zuni ancestors. She shares the history of how they found the place where their village is now, and the hardships that came with their travels. Their people regard the Grand Canyon, specifically Ribbon Falls, as a place of emergence. Students become able to name the sacred places with the Shiwi (Zuni) name, such as they call Grand Canyon “Kuni a’le a:kwin.” She instills in her students that they, too, are resilient as their ancestors.
“We have our language, culture, prayers and songs we have to hold onto to get through this. It will be okay.”
Mila may have learned the intricacies of the Zuni language from her grandmother, but the cultural knowledge she learned from her parents. She’s still learning herself. She did not acquire the language until she was twelve years old. She can relate with her students who think the language is hard, but she also knows it takes practice and can be a lifelong learning experience.
“It is my wish that my students will embrace the language of their ancestors and hold it close to them, so they can always be secure in their identity, especially when they become adults.”

K-12 Moon Pod Essay Contest

NASA is committed to landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and you can be a part of it![embedded content]
In collaboration with Future Engineers, NASA has created the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest.
The contest, which is open to all (public, private, and home school) students in grades K-12, asks participants to imagine they are leading a one-week expedition to the Moon’s South Pole. In the essay, students will need to describe to NASA what (and who) they would bring to help make their expedition a success.
The essay: You and a crew of astronauts will explore the lunar surface, making discoveries to assist future explorers. Describe your team — the number of astronauts in your crew, the skills they possess, their personality traits, and the attributes you would want in crew mates. Next, what machine, piece of technology, or robot would you leave behind on the lunar surface to help future astronauts explore the Moon?
Every student who submits an essay will receive an official certificate and be invited to a NASA virtual event featuring an astronaut! Semifinalists will be invited to represent their state or territory in a series of Artemis Explorer sessions with NASA experts.
Additionally, nine finalists will have the opportunity to travel with a parent or guardian to NASA’s Johnson Space Center next summer to learn more about lunar exploration.
The national winner in each grade division will win a family trip to see the first Artemis flight test, watching the most-powerful rocket in the world launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
To enter the contest, students must submit their essays by December 17, 2020. All entries must meet the following requirements:
Grades K-4: Essay, up to 100 words
Grades 5-8: Essay, up to 200 words
Grades 9-12: Essay, up to 300 words
Please DO NOT put your name in your entry
For all entry requirements and judging criteria please read the rules here.
To learn more about the contest, or to sign up and submit your entry, visit: https://www.futureengineers.org/artemismoonpodessay.
Are you no longer a student but still want to be involved? Apply to be a judge!
NASA and Future Engineers are seeking volunteers to help judge the thousands of contest entries anticipated to be submitted from around the country. U.S. residents over 18 years old who are interested in offering approximately five hours of their time to review submissions should register to be a judge at: https://www.futureengineers.org/registration/judge/.