An Equal Investment in Each Child’s Future

America is built on principles of equality and opportunity for all. In education, that means all our students deserve fair and equal access to strong academic programs, great teachers, new technology, and appropriate facilities, no matter where they live. Those values motivate committed educators and their partner organizations throughout this country.

Yet today, not every child in America gets a fair shot at success, including equal access to educational resources. Many students in high poverty districts are short-changed. Often, their peers in low poverty districts receive more per-pupil funding, and that translates to more resources, more opportunities, and better access to effective teaching.

For our nation to be strong, we must offer a real opportunity to every child – it’s a moral imperative and an economic necessity. Yet wide gaps continue to prevail in how we fund schools for rich and poor students. Low-poverty districts spend, on average, 16 percent more per student than high-poverty districts. In some states – like Pennsylvania, Vermont and Indiana – the gaps are much wider.

These gaps should spur bold action by all of us — educators, district leaders, community members, and elected and appointed officials. And there are examples throughout the country of just that kind of collective action.

Just outside D.C., in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the education budget trails far behind those in neighboring districts like Montgomery County, or Virginia’s Fairfax County. But in Prince George’s, advocates are considering bold steps to close some troubling funding gaps, target more resources for struggling schools, and boost academic achievement.

Faced with limited state funding and longstanding local shortfalls, the county executive and the local school board have proposed a significant budget increase to better meet the needs of the district’s students.  They also plan to address a-decades-old property tax cap that has squeezed tax-based contributions to their schools.

The approach is backed by community leaders and stakeholders who want to see their county flourish as neighboring counties have under new education efforts that support all students.  Additional dollars could help increase per-pupil spending, raise teacher salaries which lag behind those in nearby counties, and expand full-day pre-k programs.

For instance, James Madison Middle School, in Upper Marlboro, serves nearly 800 students, most of them African American and roughly 45 percent from low-income families. Under the proposed budget, the school would receive more than $125,000 to focus on improving essential college and career-ready skills for students.  More equitable funding would allow the principal to hire a literacy coach and an 8th grade digital literacy instructor, to help ensure that every student becomes a strong reader, and can perform well in our technology-rich world, from computer-based tests, to the digital workplace.

In Minnesota, Governor Dayton convened a working group of superintendents, business managers, school facilities directors and school board representatives to develop recommendations to create an adequate and equitable funding formula for Pre-K –12 programs. The group “Schools for Equity in Education” is also working with state officials to draft a budget formula that meets the state’s obligation to provide a uniform quality education to all students. The combination of these efforts, the voice of school leaders, and a strong state-level vision has yielded remarkable progress. In the latest legislative session, lawmakers drafted plans to expand programs to close the achievement gap and address funding differences between rural and urban school districts.

True leadership by lawmakers, advocates, and civic leaders means taking courageous action to meet the needs of all students. We cannot cut our way to better education. We have to listen to those who know what is needed – superintendents, district chiefs, educators, and parents – and develop laws and policies to support practices that work.

In Pennsylvania, which leads the nation in school funding disparities, local education leaders recently convened to tackle this issue collaboratively. At the same time, the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission has hosted statewide conversations to increase community participation in developing recommendations for the legislature. And, in late April, community members, superintendents and educators came together to discuss the problem of unequal funding between well-off and poorly funded districts. When teachers and students have the support they need, everyone does better.  The wealthier counties are joining the conversation and developing solutions alongside high-poverty districts.

I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for all of us, at all levels, to join with and support those leaders who are willing to take on the toughest conversations and the most challenging issues.

We now face a crucial national opportunity to advance equity, as Congress debates reauthorizing the most important national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’ve called for scrapping the current law, known under the label No Child Left Behind, and replacing it with one that expands funding and support for schools and educators, and maintaining high expectations for students.

The nation faces clear choices here. Some proposals under discussion could exacerbate existing inequities by allowing funds to move out of high poverty schools into wealthier ones.  Other, better proposals would take important steps to ensure all students have the resources and support they need, closing a longstanding loophole in order to ensure that funding intended for the neediest students actually reaches them.

Wise proposals would also help to close opportunity gaps by ensuring an equitable distribution of resources. It’s basic: no matter where they are – in Prince George’s County, in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in this country – kids should have access to challenging, high-level classes and technology, and teachers should have the resources they need to their jobs.

When we adults do our civic duty and take strong steps to ensure that all our children have equal access to a great education, we improve their chances to succeed in college, careers and life – and our own future, as well.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Know It 2 Own It: Advocating for Your Rights on Campus

As we approach the end of the school year, most high school seniors are preparing for graduation and their future. At this time, I’m reminded that each passing year, more and more students with autism and other disabilities are attending college with their peers. For many of them this will be their first time away from home, a time for excitement and a time for independence. It will also be the first time where they will be responsible to advocate for their own needs at school.

The transition from high school to college can be tough, especially for students with disabilities; however, when students know their rights and where to get help, the transition can be made a little easier. Some students, such as Elijah a high school senior from Jacksonville, Florida, learn the importance of advocating for themselves and their needs for accommodations while still in high school. Here is his story and his wish for all students with disabilities.

A student’s ability to advocate for himself is important to succeed at the college level. Every year, I have an opportunity to meet and work with a group of about 15 autistic college students from various backgrounds and ranging in age. Some of them are traditional college students, others are accessing college through a TPSID program or a modified course of study. All of them say the same thing – it can be hard.

Part of my job at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network is to provide incoming students with training in self-advocacy through our Autism Campus Inclusion program and give them the tools and resources they need in order to effectively advocate for themselves and get the most out of their college experience.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, colleges and universities are required to remove any barriers impeding the student, whether these are architectural, communication related, or transportation and to provide reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices. It is, however, the student’s responsibility to know his or her rights and how to advocate for appropriate accommodations. These accommodations could include:

  • Wearing noise-cancelling headphones in class,
  • Using laptops for note-taking
  • A place to doodle, fidget, pace, or sit on the floor in order to focus and learn.
  • Live in a single dorm room, even as a freshman if needed
  • A quiet testing space
  • Alternative formats of classroom materials, textbooks, and tests

In addition to getting the word out about self-advocacy, we’ve created resources such as Navigating College and ACI to assist students with disabilities as they navigate through higher education.

Autistic and other students with disabilities will often face barriers from the day they set foot on campus. In order for these students to succeed in college, we say, self-advocacy is needed. You have to know your rights, have a plan for getting the accommodations and modifications that are appropriate and needed, and be prepared to face an array of challenges. However, by creating a community on campus and bringing students together to share their experiences we remind one another that self-advocacy is easiest when we know we aren’t alone.

The opinions expressed and materials contained in this blog are not an endorsement by the U.S Department of Education and herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the United States Department of Education.

Julia Bascom is the Deputy Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Working to Protect College Students from Unfair Banking Practices

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is cracking down on school-bank partnerships that unfairly target college students receiving federal student aid. Last Friday, ED announced proposed regulations that would ensure students aren’t required to receive their federal student aid on prepaid or debit cards that charge fees for overdrawing the accounts. Other proposed changes would:

  • Provide protections against unreasonable account fees
  • Strengthen account transparency offered to students, and
  • Protect their personal information from being shared without their consent.

The proposal will impact over nine million postsecondary students receiving about $25 billion in Pell Grants and Direct Loans by providing tougher standards and greater transparency between colleges and companies in the rapidly expanding college debit and prepaid marketplace.

Additionally, under the proposed regulations, the Secretary would have the right to establish a method for directly paying credit balances to student aid recipients if the Department determines that student and taxpayer interests would be better served.

Some schools across the country are entering into agreements with financial institutions that require students to receive their financial aid on a prepaid or debit card offered only by that financial institution. U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said that the proposed rules would give students flexibility. “Students need objective, neutral information about their account options,” he said. “Students should be able to choose to receive deposits to their own checking accounts and not be forced to utilize debit cards with obscure and unreasonable fees.”

Ultimately, the proposed regulations are about accountability and fairness. Given the number of students affected by the emergence of these troubling practices, the amount of taxpayer-funded assistance at stake, and the expanding scope of the market, regulatory action became necessary.

The Department welcomes input on the proposed regulation and comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov for the next 45 days. The Department’s regulations are subject to the Higher Education Act’s “master calendar,” which means that any final regulations published on or before November 1 are effective on July 1 of the following year.

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Help Us Get the Word Out About Tools and Resources for Student Loan Repayment

Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid (including federal student loans) in the country. Once it’s time for borrowers to repay their student loans, we’re also here to help with free tools and resources to make the repayment process easier.

Federal Student Aid recently launched a student loan repayment campaign to educate borrowers about affordable repayment options and to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions. We need your help to spread the campaign’s important messages!

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Direct student loan borrowers to StudentAid.gov/repay to learn more about the affordable repayment options we offer.
  • Visit FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov/repayment to explore plug-and-play resources you can use to educate borrowers about student loan repayment. Some examples of what we offer include social media content, fact sheets, infographics, videos, and repayment calculators.

On the Financial Aid Toolkit page, we’ve got a section,3 Easy Ways to Spread the Word,” that provides a rotating selection of shareable content you can use to help borrowers better understand their repayment options. Every two weeks, we will refresh this section with updated information such as a short video, a popular tweet, or a link to a blog post. We encourage you to share this content with individuals and organizations in your network through e-mail, social media, your website, and any other channel that works best for you.

Our campaign runs through June 30, but valuable, free repayment resources are always available at StudentAid.gov/repay for borrowers and at FinancialAidToolkit.ed.gov for mentors and advisors.

Thank you for your support!

Wendy Bhagat is Director of Awareness and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Bullying Rates Drop

Bullying remains a serious issue for students and their families, and efforts to reduce bullying concern policy makers, administrators, and educators. According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “As schools become safer, students are better able to thrive academically and socially. The Department, along with our federal partners and others, has been deeply involved in the fight against bullying in our nation’s schools.” This is why we are so pleased to share that, after remaining virtually unchanged for close to a decade, new data indicate that the prevalence of bullying is at a record low.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics latest School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, in 2013, the reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22 percent after remaining stubbornly around 28 percent since 2005.

“The report brings welcome news,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.  “Parents, teachers, health providers, community members and young people are clearly making a difference by taking action and sending the message that bullying is not acceptable. We will continue to do our part at HHS to help ensure every child has the opportunity to live, learn and grow in a community free of bullying.”

Bullying can occur anywhere and to any student. There are three types of bullying: physical, relational (or social) and verbal. Research shows that students who are bullied are more likely to struggle in school and skip class. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be depressed, and are at higher risk of suicide.

Since 2010, the Department of Education along with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice, have acted to combat bullying and cyberbullying through work such as StopBullying.gov. However, it is the work of educators, bus drivers, parents, and students, that have taken a stand to put an end to bullying. Your hard work and dedication is making a difference!

To learn about bullying and how to take action to end bullying, please visit StopBullying.gov and join the conversation on the StopBullying.gov Facebook page!

Sarah Sisaye is a Management and Program Analyst in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Duncan Highlights Grad Rate, Calls for More Action

Secretary Duncan sat down for a conversation with America’s Promise Alliance’s president and CEO, John Gomperts, Tuesday to talk about the state of education in the country. The conversation came on the heels of the APA’s release of the Building on a Grad Nation report that both highlighted the record high school graduation rate at 81.4 percent and indicated the nation remained on pace to meet the organization’s goal of 90 percent on-time graduation by 2020.

While Duncan celebrated the promising gains in the graduation rate—particularly among students of color—he called for more action to not only improve graduation rates, but to ensure that those who graduate are truly ready for college and career. “This is not mission accomplished,” he said. “This is not the promised land.”

Making sure students today are college and career ready is the real measuring stick for success in today’s knowledge-based economy – not just getting a high school diploma. If a student shows up to college in need of remedial courses, then we as a nation still have much work to do.

“While we should be encouraged by projections like the one in this year’s Grad Nation report, we know that more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students,” Duncan said during the event.

Duncan argued that a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is necessary if we are to fulfill the right of all children to have a real opportunity to succeed.

We must “work with huge urgency, honesty, and humility,” Duncan said, if we are going to ensure that our nation, that is for the first time majority minority, continues to show progress that ensures all kids get the opportunity to succeed.

Patrick Kerr is a member of the Communications Development division in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Supporting and Empowering Male Educators of Color

The Male Educators of Color Symposium convened May 8, 2015 at the U.S. Department of Education (photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

The Male Educators of Color Symposium convened May 8, 2015 at the U.S. Department of Education (photo by Leslie Williams/U.S. Department of Education)

Male educators of color are seldom recognized for our expertise in the engine that drives this country. But through the Male Educators of Color Symposium, the U.S. Department of Education shined a light on the work of the nation’s most underrepresented educators in preK-12 schools. At this gathering, some 150 plus men of various minority races discussed issues of policy, teacher mentorship, recruitment, cultural competency, and our roles in modern education.

Although collectively we comprise a very small percentage of the teaching force, our skills and dedication to the craft were largely represented at the symposium. Men traveled from as far as Hawaii to engage in the pre-planning of a significant step into changing the face of schools around the continental states.

Repairing the often-disparaging images of minorities was the crux of the conversation. In districts where large numbers of schools have students with teachers who do not look like them or lack cultural competence, we found higher rates of suspensions. We also found that minority male teachers in these schools often feel ostracized, over-worked, or idolized as disciplinarians. We brainstormed how to edify isolated minority male teachers and how to provide effective trainings on cultural awareness. We focused on enhancing cultural awareness and increasing the recruitment of minority male teachers.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shared remarks of empowerment and provided goals for moving forward. Said Duncan, “We have to figure out how to move beyond islands of success stories to creating systems where academic success is the norm and young people have the mentors, role models, and support they need to be successful.” He added that the Department of Education accepts the charge to help create solutions. “If we are not creating real, radical change, not incremental change around the margins, then we are part of the problem.”

The Male Educator of Color Symposium pushed some of these margins apart by helping to unify America’s minority male educators. This was a fundamental shift from the typical conversation in our school districts. We responded to a call to action for the elevation of schools and the profession. Attending the Department of Education’s Male Educator of Color Symposium was an inspiring way to end Teacher Appreciation Week.

Gary Hamilton grew up in the Dallas Independent School District, and is now a 5th grade special education teacher at Wheatley Education Campus in Washington, D.C. He has been teaching for 9 years. Gary is an America Achieves Fellow and a Teacher Selection Ambassador for the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Heroic Hearts, Humble Outlooks During Teacher Appreciation Week

Last week, across the country, educators were celebrated during Teacher Appreciation Week. For our own part here at ED, we carried out a number of activities with the sole intention of expressing gratitude for those who’ve chosen this unsung profession. A lucky few of us listened in when Secretary Duncan called classroom teachers across several disciplines and in various parts of the country.

Although my interactions with educators here at ED remind me daily of the intelligence and genuine passion it takes to work as an educator, during our calls, I was struck by a humility that is unmatched in any other profession. In a day and age where tweets, social media posts and news stories are dominated by a celebrity’s dress or public figure’s snarky comment, truly remarkable acts of teachers’ kindness, support, and heroism are just part of what’s lost in the cyberspace of minute-to-minute broadcasts.

This week, that humility was so apparent in a three-word phrase that my Education Department colleagues and I heard time and time again: just a teacher. “I can’t believe you called me, I’m just a teacher.” “I never aspired to be anything other than just a teacher.” I’m not sure what to say, Mr. Secretary, I’m just a teacher.

Each of them, in turn, describing themselves in this way: I’m just a teacher.

From the young Albuquerque teacher who inspires her seniors to a college-attendance rate five times higher than the national average for Native students. To the Baltimore art teacher who wouldn’t allow riots just blocks from her campus to come between her students and their community beautification project on the morning after the worst of the city’s violence. To the true teacher leaders—who’d never think to apply that term to themselves—who decided to leave stable classroom assignments to work in disadvantaged schools with high-needs, struggling students to try and make a difference.

There’s a lesson here, for all of us, but it’s not one to be taught or explained. It’s demonstrated, in all those kind, supportive and heroic actions in classrooms and schools, humbly performed by individuals grateful for the opportunity to have a positive impact on the life of a child.

For teachers, everywhere, actions they do selflessly, every single day—Thank you!

Karen Stratman is the Director for National Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education.

Goodbye, Federal Student Aid PIN. Hello, FSA ID!

FSA ID Blog Post Image

If you’re a student, parent, or borrower and you’re logging in to a U.S. Department of Education (ED) website – like fafsa.gov, the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS®) at www.nslds.ed.gov, StudentLoans.gov, StudentAid.gov, and Agreement to Serve (ATS) at teach-ats.ed.gov – you will be asked to create new log-in credentials known as the FSA ID.

The FSA ID – a username and password – benefits you in four ways:

  • It removes your personally identifiable information (PII), like your Social Security number, from your log-in credentials
  • It creates a more secure and efficient way to verify your information when you log in to access to your federal student aid information online
  • It gives you the ability to easily update your personal information, like your phone number, e-mail address, or your name
  • It allows you to easily retrieve your username and password by requesting a secure code be sent to your e-mail address or by answering challenge questions

Creating an FSA ID is simple and only takes a few minutes. You’ll have an opportunity to link your current Federal Student Aid PIN to your FSA ID. Doing so allows you to use your newly created FSA ID almost immediately to log in to the five ED websites listed above. Even if you’ve forgotten your FSA PIN or don’t have one, you can still create an FSA ID.

The final step in creating an FSA ID is to confirm your e-mail address. You’ll be sent a secure code to the e-mail address you entered when you created your FSA ID. Once you retrieve the code from your e-mail account and enter it – to confirm your e-mail address is valid – you’ll be able to use this e-mail address instead of your username to log in to the five ED websites, making the log-in process EVEN simpler!

Remember, your federal student aid account information is valuable. Only the owner of the FSA ID should create and use the account. And you should never share your FSA ID.

For more information about the FSA ID, please visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

April Jordan is a senior communications specialist at Federal Student Aid.

Thanking Teachers Personally During Teacher Appreciation Week

ED staffers called 380 teachers from across the nation. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

ED staffers called 380 teachers from across the nation. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The Department of Education really looks forward to Teacher Appreciation Week every year!

Beginning in February, officials start planning events to let teachers know that ED respects those who make a difference in the lives of children on a daily basis. Each year a new, novel idea pops up on how to express our gratitude and this year was no different. In response to the teachers who wanted authentic engagement, our team at ED called teachers personally to thank them for their contributions.

Forty-one staff members, several of them former teachers, called 380 teachers from across the nation to express gratitude for educating America’s children. Phone numbers were obtained through recommendations of employees who have interacted with teachers that are making a difference and exemplify teacher leadership in the classroom. Employees also referred their favorite teachers from their days as students.

During the phone calls, ED staff asked the teachers for feedback. Sharla Steever of South Dakota told us that she is working hard on a new Native American initiative and was glad to participate in the Teacher Leadership Lab in South Dakota last week. Haydee Taylor-Arnold of Missouri asked us to support foreign language programs so students could become global citizens. Haydee also told her caller that having the support of Secretary Duncan as a teacher leader has been especially meaningful for her. Kathy Hopee in New York wanted us to know about our efforts to increase student engagement in STEM education programs.

Not only were teachers excited to get a call from the Department of Education, ED staff was energized by the connections. Several individuals remarked that their ability to have a conversation with teachers was the best part of their day. Dr. Khalilah Harris of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans remarked “We should do this all the time!”

Cheers to a new tradition!

Mia Long is a Lee Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Supporting Innovation in Higher Education through First in the World

The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to access and complete a postsecondary education. In an era of rapid change and innovation, we have sought to encourage those colleges and universities developing new ways to serve students better, especially low-income and first-generation students.

That’s why I’m thrilled that we’ve announced the second round of the First in the World grant program. This year we will award $60 million to colleges and universities to encourage innovative new practices on campuses, including $16 million to Minority Serving Institutions.

Applying for a grant

For the first time this year, the First in the World program will have two tiers: a “development” tier for innovative projects that are supported by “strong theory” (defined in the grant announcement) and larger grants in the “validation” tier will be awarded to applications for interventions supported by significant evidence. Since a key goal of the FITW program is building an evidence base, all funded grants will include rigorous evaluation.

In the development tier, projects will be funded in three areas (with specific descriptions in the announcement):

  1. Improving teaching and learning
  2. Developing and using assessments of student learning
  3. Facilitating pathways to credentialing and transfer

In the validation tier, projects will be funded in these four areas:

  1. Improving success in developmental education
  2. Improving teaching and learning
  3. Improving student support services
  4. Influencing the development of non-cognitive factors

We seek proposals from institutions of higher education, including those that partner with other institutions or organizations. Visit the FITW website for links to the announcements, application information, and webinar details.

Call for peer reviewers

Peer reviewers, not ED staff, review and rate all FITW proposals – they play a critical role! So we need strong, knowledgeable, innovation-minded peer reviewers. If your institution is not applying for a grant, please consider applying, or encourage colleagues with the requisite skills to apply. Information can be found on the FITW website.

Building on success

The Department is excited that by the fall, we will have awarded more than $135 million to support innovation in higher education in the last two years. All of the 24 grants from the 2014 competition are underway. Some examples include:

  • Gateway Community and Technical College (KY) is redesigning programs to encourage students to progress more quickly through college, including by redesigning remediation and classroom spaces.
  • Hampton University (VA) is redesigning many courses, including through the use of project-based learning and the incorporation of technological tools (such as the Khan Academy) into courses.
  • Southern New Hampshire University is developing an online competency-based program to wholly reimagine remediation. It will include modules, assessments, practice opportunities, and games that could be embedded within a student’s academic program.

We are mindful that a key role of the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging innovation, including through funding, regulatory flexibilities, and celebrating best practices. In the FITW program, we look forward to supporting the most innovative new thinking to support first-generation and low-income students.

Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education.

Selma Invites Students to Discuss Education and Civil Rights

President Obama has said, “the story of the Civil Rights Movement was written in our schools.” Secretary Duncan has echoed that, “education is the civil rights issue of our generation.” This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches.

A recent event brought together more than two dozen students from New York and New Jersey high schools to show the film, Selma, with the film’s director, Ana Duvernay. The event was hosted by the United Nations and commemorated the new Memorial to Victims of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The evening aimed to “expose the legacy of slavery,” but also to emphasize the message of nonviolent organizing and the importance of education and civil rights in an international context. Selma tells the story of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery that spurred the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More than a historical narrative, Selma shows how people of all backgrounds and life stories can come together in nonviolence to achieve progress.

Students at the event got to meet and take selfies with director Ana Duvernay. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Students at the event got to meet and take selfies with director Ana Duvernay. (Photo credit: Invision Agency)

DuVernay is the first black woman director to have a film nominated for an Academy Award.  At the event, she announced that a copy of the Selma DVD along with classroom resources will be sent to every U.S. high school, for educators to choose to use in their classrooms. When asked about the power of film in teaching history in the classroom, DuVernay said that “films are really empathy machines; they allow you to walk in someone else’s shoes, to be in someone else’s skin.” The civil rights movement is “furthered and fostered, and how it is advanced and matures certainly is steeped in the classroom.”

Students at the event were reminded of the continuity of history and their responsibility as citizens. Emily, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, said the movie showed that, “you have to get out there and speak for what’s right, especially if you are being oppressed.”

Maisha, another Stuyvesant senior, added that, “the movie very well depicts that peaceful methods of protest work.” A third student, Rabia, noted the power of film in teaching history to students. In Selma, “you can see and feel what [civil rights leaders] were going against, that the odds were not in their favor … [and] you feel what they stood up for … and [believe] that you can also take that risk now to stand up for what you believe in, even if you feel it might not work.”

Philip Mott, a social studies teacher from Stuyvesant High School in New York noted that the civil rights movement “is a legacy that has been passed on to us that we have an obligation to pass on to our students.”

Taylor Owen Ramsey is an education program specialist in ED’s New York Regional Office.