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By Rebecca Ralston, Manager of Youth Leadership

On Tuesday, March 25, Special Olympics Project UNIFY staff, along with youth leaders and educators from across the country, presented to the Department of Education on the power and growth of Project UNIFY over the last year. Special Olympics athlete and youth leader Kabir Robinson from Special Olympics Washington joined Delaware youth leader Connor Moore and educators Erin Trzcinski and Tom Ledcke, from Delaware and Washington, respectively, to share their personal experiences with Project UNIFY.

Kabir’s impactful remarks are below, and you can watch the entire presentation here.

Introductory Remarks

Hi everyone. My name is Kabir Robinson. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am a member of the National Youth Activation Committee. I have been involved with Special Olympics for 3 to 4 years. I joined because I just want to be treated equally and be happy. I also want to be a better leader in sports. ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

I have good news and bad news regarding the President’s FY15 Budget proposal. First of all the budget adheres to the agreement reached by Congress this past December which restores most, but not all, of the Sequester cuts. The President’s budget actually goes $56 billion past the Bipartisan Budget Act, an increase that is included as a separate proposal and split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, to be funded through a combination of spending cuts and closed tax loopholes.

There is a continued emphasis on funding pre-school programs for four-year-olds and that is good, knowing what we know about pre-school funding being the investment with the best return in education. Unfortunately this request will run into problems in Congress, as will most of the budget, as there will be partisan squabbling over whether existing pre-school programs like Headstart have been successful. Fortunately many states have come to appreciate the value of investing in pre-school programs and governors are taking the lead to ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson stood before Congress and the nation and declared an “unconditional” war on poverty in America. His Economic Opportunity Act promised a better life to those living “on the outskirts of hope,” and at the heart of that promise was education.

Sadly, the decades since have produced an even greater gulf between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots, between the well-educated and the poorly educated. And the hardest-hit victims of this failure to eradicate poverty are our nation’s children.

A 2013 Educational Testing Service (ETS) report, Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward, clarifies just how widespread and damaging the condition of poverty is for children. It reminds us that in addition to communities where generational poverty is baked into the culture, there is a fresh class of situational poor, casualties of the new century’s housing and employment downturns.

The report reveals that 22 percent, or one-fifth, of American children are living in poverty, and 2.8 million of those live in “extreme poverty” on less than $2 a day. The report also reiterates that poverty engenders numerous related disadvantages, including growing up in single-parent homes, being exposed to toxins that lead to health issues, food insecurity, and ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

The teaching profession is well known for losing almost 50% of its novices in the first 5 years. This churn is concentrated in high-need schools, which have a hard time attracting teachers in the first place. Not only does this “revolving door” phenomenon increase the chance that students with the greatest educational needs will be taught by an inexperienced teacher, but it is also financially costly in recruitment, staffing, and induction burdens.

Why can’t we find a better way to staff high-need schools? If we could reduce the churn of novice teachers, even by 30%, how might that positively impact student achievement—and reallocate the financial savings for learning needs?

These questions are hardly new, but it is high time they are addressed. We cannot still be asking the same questions 20 years from now.

Of course, educator preparation programs cannot address these critical issues alone, but AACTE members are eager to collaborate across the professional community to get started. Not only do we have a moral imperative to improve students’ experience in schools, but our graduates also deserve to work in supportive environments that are ...

By Anne Foster, Executive Director, Parents for Public Schools (PPS)

The story out of Uintah Elementary School in the Salt Lake City School District grabbed more than few hearts recently. Children going through the lunch line whose accounts were low had their lunches taken away.  Some thirty to forty students were impacted. They were given fruit and milk, and the confiscated lunches were thrown away. The district said it had started notifying parents about the accounts earlier in the week, but some parents said they had not been contacted.

It’s difficult and painful to see this happen in a public school in America. We believe, and most of the time we’re right, that public school teachers and officials who teach and care for our children every day are kind and that they use good judgment and common sense when they dispense that kindness. It’s hard to square that with what happened in Utah. The district has since apologized and corrected the problem. Surrounding districts were quick to point out how they deal with this issue – by working with parents individually and by giving parents the ability to pay on their mobile devices. Various stories and actions have followed this story. One was a heartwarming story of a man in Houston who ...

When Daisy Dyer Duerr was named principal of rural Arkansas’ St. Paul High School, the school was struggling. It was also, in her words, “disconnected.” Three years later, the school is achieving academically, and it’s largely low-income student population is being exposed to, and empowered through, experiences previously unknown to them thanks to the power of technology.

For her work at St. Paul, Duerr was named one of NASSP’s 2014 Digital Principals, an award that honors those who exhibit bold, creative leadership in their drive to harness the potential of new technologies to further learning goals.

In a recent e-mail interview, she shared her philosophy on digital learning and discussed St. Paul High School’s transition to a technology-infused school, emphasizing the challenge that bandwidth (or more specifically, a lack of bandwidth) presents to her rural community. The school’s story is both inspirational and instructive, offering guidance on how to incorporate and support new technologies in teaching and learning to best prepare students for life in a rapidly changing world.

Public School Insights: Tell me about St. Paul High School.

Daisy Dyer Duerr: St. Paul High School is an extremely rural, isolated school in Northwestern Arkansas. We serve approximately 125 students in grades 7-12; we are actually a preK-12 campus (with approximately 250 students), and I am the principal of the entire campus. The central office for our school district is 30 minutes from our campus.  

Demographically, depending on the year, our socioeconomically disadvantaged rate has ranged from 80-88%. We serve 93% Caucasian, 5% Pacific Islander, and 2% "other" students. Only 10% of our students have internet service in their homes, according to a 2012 survey.

At St. Paul High School, we are a small town school using technology and genuine relationships with students to provide a ...

By Lauren Hertzog

Lauren, an 18 year old, wrote this essay for her brother David, a Special Olympics athlete. This is an empowering story about one sibling’s experience and the difference her brother has made in her life.

It’s funny how the length of the bus you ride has the ability to define you as a person. Personally, I rode the regular sized bus, the one the “normal” students rode to school. However, there was another bus that happened to stop at my house every weekday morning. The short bus, "the retard racer", the bus that was transportation for my brother. Yes, my brother rode the short bus and will forever be the root of some kid’s immature joke. Or even worse, the root of some adult’s joke. My brother is defined by his transportation to school. They look past his ability to smile while making his bed every morning, or him surviving five open heart surgeries before the age of five, or his ability to say “Luve you all.” It’s all looked past because of society’s standards of perfection. ...

Written by Eyang Garrison, Child Nutrition Policy Analyst, FRAC, for the National PTA's One Voice blog

Imagine being able to send your children to school every day knowing that they will receive a healthy breakfast in the classroom at no charge at the start of the school day. Imagine what that would mean for your family’s monthly budget and the positive effects it would have on your child’s ability to learn and focus during morning instruction.

Free school breakfast for all students regardless of their family income level is fast becoming a reality for families with children in high-poverty schools across the country.

As parents, you know that the morning hustle doesn’t always provide time for your children to eat breakfast before heading off to school. Long commutes and non-traditional work hours often make it difficult to sit down in the morning long enough to eat a nutritious breakfast. Additionally, many families are living on very tight budgets and can ill afford to buy breakfast at school.

School breakfast can be a big help for families, but the traditional school breakfast model, where breakfast is served in the cafeteria, just misses too many kids due to a variety of factors. When given a choice, students will almost always choose to play with their friends outside or ...

By Marc Shulman, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and shout, “Go!” It sounds like I am standing in the middle of Qualcomm Stadium and the Chargers just won the Super Bowl. But it’s not cheering I am hearing—it is students helping students. It may be the sweetest thing I have ever heard. I look to my left and I hear a student say, “Tell me the steps you went through to solve that.” I walk to my right and I hear, “Are you sure that’s what the next step is?” I keep walking around and I keep hearing students challenging each other, playing devil’s advocate in math. I think this is actually working!

 I remember when a college professor of mine said something that would change the way I think about everything around me. He quoted Thomas Jefferson by saying, “’There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.’ An unfortunate practice that still occurs in classrooms today.” The fine line between equitable teaching and fair teaching is danced upon daily.  Treating everyone equally while leveling the playing field is a challenge all teachers face. It may sound like you are doing the right thing if you are giving every student the same options, opportunities or advantages. But is that what they all need? To me, teachers who teach the same thing to everyone and the same way to everyone are creating a learning environment that is not conducive to every student in the room. To teach equitably, one must look to the needs of each individual student.

Our goal as educators should be to veer from an equal learning experience toward an equitable learning experience. Our job is to make sure all students have a fair, and possibly unequal, learning experience. Ensuring that each student has a fair opportunity to succeed means that one student’s path may ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

"Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities."

— President Lyndon Baines Johnson, State of the Union, Jan. 8, 1964

I was still in grade school when President Johnson launched his War on Poverty. In my home, Johnson was a hero, maybe because my parents had both grown up poor and never forgot what deprivation felt like. They saw Johnson as someone who understood what they understood about poverty: Nobody chooses to be poor.

The other hero in my house was my Dad, a larger-than-life figure who had scrabbled his way up to a good middle-class life. He had “developed his own capacities” in large part because he had access to the G.I. Bill, which inspired him to return to high school after dropping out and then go on to college and earn an engineering degree.

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching my dad ring the bell for Salvation Army at Christmas. Dad ran the largest construction company in the area, which meant that he knew most of the movers and shakers in ...

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