May 2018 Be Best Initiative Launched

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May 2018 Issue

"There is one goal to BE BEST — and that is to educate children about the many issues they are facing today.  If we truly listen to what our kids have to say, whether it be their concerns or ideas, adults can provide them the support and tools they need to grow up to be happy and productive adults who contribute positively to society and their global communities."                                                                                                                  —First Lady Melania Trump at the launch of the "Be Best" Initiative.

First Lady Melania Trump Launches the 'BE BEST' Initiative

Be best

On May 7, First Lady Melania Trump unveiled the "BE BEST" Initiative. The goal is to encourage children to be best in their individual paths in life and teach them about the importance of social, emotional, and physical health. BE BEST will include three main pillars: 

  • well-being; 
  • social media use, and 
  • opioid abuse

The First Lady set forth her vision for the initiative: "My hope is that together, we can be best at helping children and families find effective ways to educate themselves and support each other. I am asking you all to join me in providing support and guidance to our children so that we can make a real difference.  How we raise and educate our children on a variety of topics will provide the blueprint for the next generation."

View the introductory video here.

2017 NAEP Scores Released

Last month, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released the results of the 2017 math and reading assessments for grade 4 and 8.

On the 2017 NAEP reading assessment, 37 percent of fourth-graders (no significant change from 2015) and 36 percent of eighth-graders (up two percentage points from 2015) scored at or above Proficient.  Among states and jurisdictions, 17 had higher percentages of fourth-grade students at or above Proficient than the nation as a whole, and 17 had higher percentages of eighth-grade students at or above Proficient than the nation as a whole. 

On the 2017 NAEP mathematics assessment, 40 percent of fourth-graders (no change from 2015) and 34 percent of eighth-graders (no significant change from 2015) scored at or above Proficient.  Among states and jurisdictions, 15 had higher percentages of fourth-grade students at or above Proficient than the nation as a whole, while 20 had higher percentages of eighth-grade students at or above Proficient than the nation as a whole. 

Overall averages in both subjects were higher than they were in the early 1990s, when assessments were first administered.

The 2017 assessments marked the first time that most students were assessed digitally using tablet computers, while a smaller percentage of students used the traditional paper-and-pencil format.  Importantly, the content the assessments measured was the same as in previous years. 

“The report card is in, and the results are clear: We can and we must do better for America’s students,” asserted Secretary DeVos in a statement.  “Our nation’s reading and math scores continue to stagnate.  More alarmingly, the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students is widening, despite billions in Federal funding designated specifically to help close it.” 

Teacher Appreciation Week

Teachers Rock

President Donald Trump, Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta honored the 2018 National and State Teachers of the Year on May 2 at the White House.  In his remarks, President Trump thanked teachers for dedicating “your lives to our nation’s single most importance resource: our children.”  He specifically extoled National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning, who teaches English to newly arrived immigrants and refugees at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington.  

Teachers of the year

On May 1, Secretary DeVos hosted the National and State Teachers of the Year at the Department, thanking them for their accomplishments, discussing school safety, addressing the opioid crisis, and rethinking education to meet the unique needs of individual students. 

intern call3

During Teacher Appreciation Week (May 711), Department staff called teachers across the country.  Teachers were nominated by colleagues, other educators, and community leaders for making a positive difference in their schools every day.  The agency also encouraged everyone to use #ThankATeacher to share their celebrations and recognize a past teacher. In addition, Secretary DeVos delivered a message of thanks for teachers’ public service.

New Federal Disaster Assistance in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the 2017 California Wildfires

The Department awarded approximately $693 million in new federal assistance under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (K-12 Restart) program. The awards are the first in a multi-phased process designed to provide prompt initial funding while offering subsequent opportunities for eligible states to seek additional assistance through future applications.

The initial awards were made to the following state educational agencies (SEAs): 

  • California Department of Education: $14,396,317
  • Puerto Rico Department of Education: $589,170,000
  • Texas Education Agency: $89,420,000

“As communities get back on their feet in disaster affected regions, we continue to support them in every way we can,” said Secretary DeVos. “This additional funding will ensure students, teachers and staff have ongoing access to the services they need to fully recover and rebuild.”

Under the K-12 Restart program, the Department is authorized to award funds to SEAs with students and schools impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. These SEAs, in turn, will provide assistance or services to local educational agencies, including charter schools and private schools, to help defray expenses related to restarting school operations and restoring the normal learning environment for students and families affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.

Department STEM Grant Funding Opportunities

The Department has announced two grant competitions that support the Presidential Memorandum on increasing access to high quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Computer Science (CS) education.

The $75 million competition for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program and the $120 million Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program include priorities for STEM/CS and are designed to further expand access to underserved communities and support educators in these fields.

"Students need to be prepared for professions not yet imagined," said Secretary DeVos. "The pace of technological change and the increasing interconnectivity of the global economy demand individuals who are continually learning and adapting. These grant programs offer unique opportunities for experts in the STEM/CS field to partner with local education agencies to help ensure students are prepared to succeed in the 21st century economy." (See press release here.)

The application deadline to apply for SEED has passed, but the EIR deadline is June 5, 2018.  Funding will be awarded in the fall.

The SEED and EIR programs are authorized under Sections 2242 and 4611 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

For more information about the SEED and EIR grant competitions or other STEM/CS funding opportunities, please email seed@ed.govor

Hispanic-Serving Institution Receives Department's First EQUIP Approval

Earlier this month, the Department announced the first approval under the Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment.  Through EQUIP, students will be allowed to use federal student aid to enroll in programs offered by innovative, non-traditional education providers that are partnering with accredited colleges and universities.  Brookhaven College, a Hispanic-Serving Institution and part of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) in Texas, is set to begin collaborating with StraighterLine, an online provider of self-paced educational courses.  Students who have some college but no credential will be able to complete up to two-thirds of a DCCCD associate degree with a concentration in business or criminal justice by enrolling in StraighterLine courses.  The Council for Higher Education Accreditation will offer quality assurance oversight of this EQUIP experiment.

Student Loan Relief for Disabled Veterans

The Department has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make it easier for America’s disabled veterans to have their federal student loans discharged.

“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed much for our country. It is important that, in return, we do all we can to give them the support and care they deserve,” Secretary DeVos said. “Simplifying the loan forgiveness process and proactively identifying veterans with federal student loans who may be eligible for a discharge is a small but critical way we can show our gratitude for veterans’ service.”

Starting this month, the Department will begin matching borrowers on the National Student Loan Data System, who have federal student loans or aid through the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program, to the VA database. Borrowers positively identified in the match will be mailed a customized letter that will explain eligibility for loan discharge and include a total and permanent disability (TPD) application. The borrower can sign and return the application to complete the process of applying for a TPD discharge. For more information about TPD discharge, including the TPD discharge application, visit

Apply for the Upcoming Teach to Lead STEAM Summit

Teach to lead

The 16th Teach to Lead Summit will be be held in San Jose, California, on Sept. 28-30. The summit will bring together teacher leaders and other stakeholders from across the country to incubate ideas, leverage teacher leadership, and work to improve STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) learning for all students.  

Have an innovative idea for change in STEAM? Please submit an application here. The submission deadline is July 9. Space is limited to approximately 20 teams.

Are You a Student Interested in Working for the Federal Government?

The Office of Personnel Management is hosting free virtual and in-person briefings and presentations to help individuals and groups gain a comprehensive understanding of federal employment and the federal hiring process.  

Questions about these programs should be directed to Click on any of the upcoming events below for more information and to register.

Navigating USAJOBS

 Writing Your Federal Resume

 Interview Techniques

 Pathways Programs for Students and Recent Graduates

Call for Applicants: PIAAC Data Analysis Workshop

With support from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Educational Testing Service (ETS) is offering a three-day workshop for researchers interested in learning how to analyze data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

In this workshop, participants will learn about the structure and content of the PIAAC as well as free online tools for analyzing the data and will have opportunities for hands-on research.

Workshop applicants should have an interest in using the PIAAC for policy-related research and should be practicing researchers with a master’s or doctorate degree or be enrolled in a doctoral program. Applicants may apply individually or as part of a team of researchers.

Researchers and advanced graduate students from Minority Serving Institutions are highly encouraged to apply.

Dates: July 30August 1, 2018

Location: The University of Maryland, College Park Campus
Application due date: May 31, 2018

The training session is free, and accepted participants who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents will be reimbursed for food and lodging costs.

For an overview of the workshop, visit the ETS PIAAC Workshop site. For questions regarding the IES training grant supporting this workshop (R305B160020), please contact Meredith Larson.

Federal Student Loan Resources for Recent College Graduates

FSA clip

If you are a graduating college student, you may have questions about your federal student loans. A loan servicer can help manage the repayment process of your loans for free. Check out this resource to help answer your questions on loan servicers.

In addition, the free Federal Student Aid (FSA) webinar for students and families, “Graduation: What Happens Next,” will take place on May 30, from 5-6 p.m. ET. 

Financial Literacy Resources

Financial Future

During National Financial Capability Month, the Department's Homeroom blog published articles containing tips and advice on various financial literacy topics. Check them out!

Also, you can download and share financial literacy resources from the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.

Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion

Apprenticeship Task Force

This month, the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion (task force) held its final meeting at the White House. The mission of the task force was to identify strategies and proposals for promoting apprenticeships, especially in sectors where apprenticeship programs are insufficient or lacking. 

After the meeting, the task force members delivered to President Trump their final report and recommendations on apprenticeship expansion and on creating opportunities for more Americans to secure sustaining jobs. 

Learn more about the task force and its meetings here.

OCR Releases Data Briefs on School Safety and STEM

The Department produced two data briefs on two major topics: School Climate and Safety and STEM Course Taking.  To evaluate how safe students are at school, the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) collects data on serious offenses, law enforcement referrals and school-related arrests, harassment and bullying, restraint and seclusion, and school discipline.  For STEM, the CRDC collects data on course availability and enrollment for middle and high school courses, as well as on student passing data for Algebra I. 

Release of the 2015–16 Civil Rights Data Collection

On April 24, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the 201516 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).  This data, self-reported by 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and educational programs, is collected and published annually by OCR.  The CRDC includes, for the first time, comprehensive data regarding incidents of criminal offenses in schools, as well as several new categories of data on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) course taking. 

“Protecting all students’ civil rights is at the core of the Department’s mission,” noted Secretary DeVos.  “We are pleased to produce the CRDC in a way that it can be reviewed, analyzed and utilized by local, state and federal education leaders.  I want to commend the many educators, school leaders and OCR staff who put in countless hours to produce this data and who work tirelessly to ensure all students are able to learn in a safe and nurturing environment free from discrimination.” 

2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars Announced

Secretary DeVos announced the 54th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields. They will be honored with a ceremony on June 24.

"I want to congratulate this year's class of Presidential Scholars on their achievement and also thank their parents, teachers and other academic advisors who have helped guide them along the way," said Secretary DeVos. "These students have pushed themselves to be the best they can be, and I am certain that devotion will serve them well as they continue their individual learning journeys."

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

A complete list of 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available at

Student Voices and the College Experience

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics continues its blog series highlighting different college experiences of new and recent graduates. Read the following recent posts on transferring from a community college to a fouryear institution and deciding on a major:

Bernadette Labrado: Student Teaching Paved the Way for Life in the Classroom

Rebeca Saray Griego: Moving Away From Home for College – Some Advice

Projections of Education Statistics to 2026

Ever wonder what the high school graduation rate of your state will be in 2026?

The Projections of Education Statistics to 2026 provides national-level data on enrollment, teachers, high school graduates, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary school levels, and enrollment and degrees at the postsecondary level for the past 15 years and projections to the year 2026. 

Multiple Data Reports Released

Check out the latest reports released by the National Center for Education Statistics on a multitude of educational topics.

Opioid Crisis and K–12 Schools

On April 26, the Department’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students and its National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments held a webinar with details on how the opioid crisis affects students and families and insights into policies and practices that may help address the crisis in K12 schools.  The webinar was specifically designed for state-, district-, and building-level administrators, teachers, and specialized instructional support personnel interested in the effective support of students and families impacted by opioids.

For more information, visit both and the Department’s new opioids web page.