Nuestra Iniciativa - January 2014 Issue

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Nuestra Iniciativa HeaderJanuary 2014 Issue

"Positive discipline policies can help create safer learning environments without relying heavily on suspensions and expulsions. Schools also must understand their civil rights obligations and avoid unfair disciplinary practices. We need to keep students in class where they can learn." Secretary Arne Duncan

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Arne Duncan and Commission

President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics discusses Second Term Strategic Action Plan

On December 11, the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Commission) met in Washington, D.C. to discuss their priorities and activities for the Adminstration's second term.

The day started with a meeting with Secretary Arne Duncan (pictured above), Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, and Under Secretary Martha Kanter.

During the full-day, public meeting, the Commission  also heard about the Administration's educational priorities and initiatives from the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Muñoz.

The Commission engaged the meeting attendees in breakout sessions convened by each subcommittee: early learning, K-12, and postsecondary. These were followed by key recommendations and next steps. The next Commission meeting will be held in Spring 2014.

For more information about the Commission, click here


School Discipline Guidance Package

ED, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice, released on Wednesday, January 8th, a school discipline guidance package that will assist states, districts and schools in developing solutions to enhance school climate, and improve school discipline policies and practices. While incidents of school violence have decreased overall, too many schools are still struggling to create positive, safe environments. Schools can improve safety by making sure that climates are welcoming and that responses to misbehavior are fair, non-discriminatory, and effective. The guidance package provides resources for creating such climates, which are essential for boosting student academic success and closing achievement gaps.

The resource package consists of four components: A Dear Colleague guidance letter describing how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal civil rights law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color or national origin; a Guiding Principles document drawing from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps to improve school climate and school discipline; a Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources which indexes the federal technical assistance and other resources on school discipline and climate available to schools and districts; and a Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations that provides a comparison of the various state laws and regulations related to school discipline. To view the resource documents and learn about upcoming webinars, visit


Promise Zones Initiative

Promise Zones Initiative Photo

On January 9th, the President announced the Promise Zones Initiative, to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. The President announced the next step in those efforts by naming the first five in San Antonio, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Southeastern Kentucky; and Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


Grant Awards

Last month, ED announced grant awards under 3 competitive programs:

  • On December 13, all 25 of the highest rating applicants of the 2013 Investing in Innovation (I3) grant competition secured the necessary private matching funds becoming official grantees. The grantees address a wide variety of issues including STEM, family/parent engagement, and rural education.
  • On December 17, 5 applicants encompassing 25 school districts were awarded a share of $120 million in funding from the 2013 Race to the Top-District (RTTT-D) grant competition. The awardees represent a range of innovative work taking place in rural districts, ensuring school leaders and teachers have key tools that support them in meeting students' needs.  
  • On December 19, Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Human and Health Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that six states -Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont - would be awarded funds from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTTT-ELC) grant competition. This grant supports states in systemic efforts to align, coordinate, and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs.

Guidance on FAFSA completion and same-sex marriages

To implement inclusive policies that reflect the diversity of American families and consistent with the U.S. Surpreme Court's ruling on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Department issued new guidance on the use of "marriage" and "spouse" across federal student aid programs, including the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Under this guidance, the Department will recognize all legal same-sex marriages for federal financial aid purposes.


Vice President Joe Biden and Cecilia Muñoz participate in an immigration chat

Vice President Biden and Ceclia Munoz

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden and Director of Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Muñoz, sat down and answered questions on immigration in a live Skype event. Through Skype and on Twitter, they answered questions on the economic impact of immigration reform, border security, pathways to citizenship and more. Read more and watch the full video


Updated ED Shopping Sheet

Shopping Sheet logo

ED has updated it's financial aid model award letter, Shopping Sheet. Developed jointly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Shopping Sheet provides students with a personalized template that spells out -before they enroll- how much grant money and what they may have to borrow to cover out-of-pocket expenses. The updates include minor language changes and a glossary of financial aid terms.

In addition, the Department announced that over 2,000 institutions of higher education, representing 43 percent of college students, have voluntarily committed to using this important tool.


TUDA 2013

The 2013 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) reported that eight school districts scored higher in 2013 than in 2011 in at least one subject and grade combination. The District of Columbia Public Schools scored higher at both grades in reading and math. In addition, Los Angeles and Fresno students performed well in both subjects. TUDA reports the reading and math acheivments of fourth- and eight-grade public school students in 21 urban districts, representing 30 percent of K-12 students, on the National Assessment on Educational Progress (NAEP).


Student Leader Spotlight

Last month, we spoke to Dinia Lovo Marquez, a soon-to-be first generation college student in Washington, DC.

As a first generation high school student, Dinia feels that she has to work and study hard to have a better life than her parents. She has applied to two colleges, Trinity College and the University of the District of Columbia and hopes to pursue a degree in nursing or criminal justice. She recalled seeing people on the streets who go through hard times and wants to assist them.

Not only was Dinia attending school and preparing for college, but she also worked to help her mother with household expenses. She saw her mother struggle to make ends meet week after week, while trying to care for her and her siblings, waking up at 3 a.m. only after getting home at 8 p.m. Dinia has been working and feels good about being able to contribute.

She admits how challenging it can be, from the hour-long commute from school to work to making sure she completes her homework on time, from preparing necessary forms for college to attending tutoring lessons. Her ability is fueled by her motivation to succeed.

Dinia believes that all first generation students can be somebody in life. She says students must persevere, be dedicated, and work hard to achieve their goals. Even if students can’t find work, they must keep looking because there is always something available. More importantly, Dinia believes there is a higher value in education. Like the First Lady, who has recently launched a campaign to encourage students to pursue a postsecondary education, Dinia encourages students to keep striving for a better future, despite the difficulties they may encounter. She takes encouragement from her mom, who always told her, “You don’t want to go through the same things as I did. You have to be somebody.”


Looking Back at 2013

Secretary Arne Duncan reflects on five memorable school visits that left a lasting impression to him in 2013 including his trip to Columbus Elementary School in Columbus, NM during the Back-To-School bus tour.


Monthly Webinars

Our December webinar focused on family engagement and its impact on the Hispanic community. The presenters were Maria Paredes, Senior Program Associate at WestEd, who shared the work from Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT); Aurelio Montemayor, Senior Education Associate at Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), who provided an overview of Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Comunitario and Lourdes Flores, parent leader in PTA Comunitario, talked about their efforts in South Texas.  Click the above link for presentation materials and the recording of the webinar.

The next webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, January 15, at 2pm EST and is on student financial assistance. It will feature a presentation on ED’s recently launched financial aid toolkit, and uAspire, an organization that “works to ensure that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to – and through – a postsecondary education.”

To sign up , please send us an email at


FY 2014 Grants Forecast

Thinking of applying for an ED grant? Want to know what grant opportunities are coming up? This site lists all the programs and grant competitions that the Department has announced or expects to invite applications for awards.


ED Progress: Teachers, Leaders, and Students Transforming Education

Check out ED's new blog focusing on success stories and innovative ideas. The blog highlights state and local projects and provides insight into the transformation taking place within classrooms and schools across the nation, through the leadership of teachers, school leaders, students, and parents.


Office for Civil Rights

ED's Office for Civil Rights released the Spanish version of the updated Supporting the Academic Success of Pregrant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The guidance provides schools with assistance in preventing dropouts due to pregnancy and parenting issues.


New resource on preventing unplanned pregnancy and completing college

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has published free online lessons that help students take action to prevent unplanned pregnancy and complete their education. The lessons are designed to help students understand the impact of unplanned pregnancy on their educational goals, their social lives, their significant relationships, and their finances. The online lessons are available on The National Campaign’s website and are available for free for college faculty to use in first-year experience, college success, and a variety of other courses.


Principal Ambassador Fellowship

On December 9th, ED announced the three principals selected for the inaugural class of the Principal Ambassador Fellowship. They will work at ED until August 2014, providing their perspective of leading schools, informing policies affecting educators and designing future Fellowship programs.


Presidential Teaching Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching

On December 20, President Obama named 102 teachers -- representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Department of Defense Education Activity -- as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  This award is conferred annually to outstanding K-12 math and science teachers from across the country. 


Time to Reskill Local Engagement Toolkit

Results from the latest international study of adult skills, Programme for the International Assessment Competencies Survey of Adult Skills, show that the U.S. workforce trails many other developed nations in foundational skills essential for both individuals and the nation as a whole to thrive: (1) ability to read, (2) ability to understand numbers, and (3) abilty to solve problems using technology. The Time to Reskill local engagement events are designed to engage multiple stakeholders in your community or organization in the conversation about our adult skills systems and how they can be strengthened to effectively reach more adults with low skills.

If you are interested in conducting your own local engagement event, this toolkit is your guide.



To make information about federal-level initiatives, programs, and policies more readily available, ED released a new resource, Bookshelf. This will provide ready-made presentations the highlight the Administration's educational priorities. They feature graphs, tables and data to reflect the progress and challenges in improviing education.


Recent Initiative Appearances

Meeting with Cesar Chavez school students

On December 5, Chief of Staff Maribel Duran and Special Advisor Emmanuel Caudillo met with students at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. and discussed ED resources and efforts to make college more accessible and affordable. 


Arne Duncan and WHIEEH staff at roundtable

On December 16, Deputy Director Marco Davis and Chief of Staff Maribel Duran met with community stakeholders, and joined Secretary Duncan in a school roundtable to discuss the school's turnaround efforts and increased high school graduation rate at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago, IL.


Arne Duncan and student roundtable in Chicago

Internship Opportunity

We are currently accepting applications for Summer 2014 internships. Click here for more information. Due to the demand, be sure to submit your application by March 15, 2014.

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