Ideas that Work, office of special programs U.S. Department of Education

The contents of this website were developed in part under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H328M150052. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government or Project Officer, David Emenheiser.

US Dept of Ed Libraries power-Up to Offer Remote Summer Learning Opportunities

May 2020


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maskCoronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and CARES Act Information

The White House, the Department of Education (Department), and other federal agencies continue to release and update a significant amount of guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). The Department maintains and updates its page with information for students, families, educators, schools, and institutions of higher education. The President has released his Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, the Environmental Protection Agency offers Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools and Homes, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidance for school settings.

On March 27, the President signed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. The CARES Act establishes the $30 billion Education Stabilization Fund (ESF). Secretary DeVos has released the ESF funding in several tranches to distribute emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted; support continued education at America’s colleges and universities; provide emergency education block grants for governors to ensure education continues for student of all ages; support continued education for K-12 students; launch a new grant competition to spark student-centered, agile learning opportunities; and deliver funds to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), minority-serving institutions, and colleges and universities serving low-income students.

Please email education-related questions to [email protected].

TeacherSecretary Devos and President Trump Honor Teachers

May 4–8, 2020, was National Teacher Appreciation Week. “To all of our outstanding teachers across the country, Happy National #TeacherAppreciationWeek!” Secretary DeVos declared on social media. “This administration is so grateful for all you do to support, encourage and inspire our nation’s students!”

Additionally, in a video, the Secretary said, “While great teachers deserve our gratitude every week, I want to take a few moments to especially celebrate and thank you this week. Thank you for all you do to keep your students learning, engaged, and connected.”

President Trump released his Presidential Message on National Teacher Day, 2020 (May 5), in which he “recognize[d] the countless men and women who dedicate their lives to instilling character, integrity, and knowledge in the hearts and minds of our Nation’s students.” The message concluded, “Teachers help shape the minds of children during their most impressionable years, strengthen and support their communities, and develop the leaders of tomorrow. Today, we pay tribute to these extraordinary and thoughtful men and women and thank them for their compassionate service to their communities and country.”

ER FundsSecretary DeVos Delivers More Than $6 Billion in Emergency Cash Grants for College Students Impacted by Coronavirus

“What's best for students is at the center of every decision we make,” Secretary DeVos said as she announced that more than $6 billion in emergency cash grants will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities to provide direct emergency grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding is part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, authorized by the CARES Act.

Institutions will be able to use these funds to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to the coronavirus. The Department has provided additional information on institution-level funding for students and the Secretary has penned a letter to college and university presidents on this funding allocation.

Charter1National Charter Schools Week Celebrates Empowering Students and Parents

May 10-16 was National Charter Schools Week. The President marked the event with a proclamation and Secretary DeVos highlighted several stories on social media of students and families finding the learning environment that works best for them through public charter schools.

President Trump stated, “Every American family should have the right to choose the learning environment that works best for their child. By continuing to support public charter schools and students, we will give power back to families and build a brighter future for all Americans.”

Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan visited Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School, which provides education to juveniles in a secure environment, as part of a tour of schools throughout the state in January 2020.

higher edSecretary DeVos Delivers Nearly $1.4 Billion in Additional CARES Act Relief Funds to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority-Serving Institutions, and Colleges and Universities Serving Low-Income Students

On April 30, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced nearly $1.4 billion in additional funding will be directed to minority-serving institutions, including HBCUs and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, as well as institutions serving low-income students, to help ensure learning continues during the coronavirus national emergency. This funding is part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

"This administration is committed to the success of HBCUs, minority-serving institutions, and the students they serve. Each institution is unique and is an important part of this country's educational fabric," said DeVos.

Included among the uses for which institutions may spend this funding are to cover the cost of technology associated with a transition to distance education, for grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students, and for faculty and staff trainings.

OCROffice for Civil Rights Releases Webinar and Annual Report

On April 16, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) Center for Outreach, Prevention, Education and Non-discrimination (OPEN Center) launched a short webinar entitled “OCR 100: An Introduction to Federal Civil Rights Protections in Education.” The webinar introduces the six federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR, gives examples of prohibited discrimination under each, and provides an overview of the complaint process.

OCR announced the release of its Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and the Congress: Fiscal Years 2017-18 on April 2, 2020. The report summarizes OCR’s compliance and enforcement activities during the first two years of the Trump administration and highlights the many ways in which OCR strives to meet its mission of ensuring equal access to education and promoting education excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

In January 2020, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the launch of the OPEN Center, which focuses on proactive compliance with federal civil rights laws. The center, staffed by OCR attorneys, aids and supports schools, educators, families, and students to ensure awareness of the requirements and protections of federal non-discrimination laws.

grantParent Training and Information Centers Seeking Grant Applications

The Department issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year 2020 for Training and Information for Parents of Children with Disabilities—Parent Training and Information Centers and the Parent Information and Training Program. According to the notice, these centers promote the effective education of children with disabilities by “strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home.” Applications are due by June 22, 2020.

HHSHealth and Human Services Department Awards $20 Million to Support Families and Providers Combating COVID-19 Pandemic Through Telehealth

On April 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $20 million to increase telehealth access and infrastructure for providers and families to help prevent and respond to COVID-19. The funds will increase capability, capacity, and access to telehealth and distant care services for providers, pregnant women, children, adolescents, and families.

The $20 million includes a total of $15 million that HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau awarded to four recipients to expand telehealth services in four key areas of maternal and child health: pediatric care, maternal health care, state public health systems, and family engagement for children with special health care needs. The grant recipients will provide trainings for families and national family organizations on accessing telehealth, including for routine care and services they are not accustomed to accessing virtually. “The dedicated work of these program recipients will help keep our nation’s families healthy and strong,” said HRSA administrator Tom Engels. Provides Families with State- and Territory-Level Information About Child Care and COVID-19 is a national consumer education website, supported by HHS’ Office of Child Care, that is designed to provide families across the country with the child care information they need, including ways to find emergency care. Through its See Your State’s Resources tool, connects families directly to resources in their state or territory. has also launched a new dedicated COVID-19 Resources and Information webpage for families and child care providers.

unconf“Unconferences” and Student Challenge Promote Distance Learning

The Department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is taking an innovative approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the coming weeks, IES and education technology developers will host a series of free day-long “unconferences” for educators, parents, and students. These events will highlight state-of-the-art approaches to teaching and learning, and sessions will focus on innovative approaches to implementing the interventions in low-resource settings. For registration and more information visit the Inside IES Research blog. All unconferences will be archived on the website.

IES Small Business Innovative Research awardee Future Engineers launched a nationwide challenge for K–12 students to submit entries to “Invent a way to make someone smile or feel appreciated during COVID-19.” Teachers can sign up a class to participate, or students can participate individually. 

Stay tuned to the IES Blog for more information and resources from the Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

onlineLexington High School Students Teach Online Classes

Students in a Lexington, Kentucky, high school stepped up to teach their school district’s younger children after schools temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Lexington student had a “lightbulb” moment and shared her idea with several of her friends to offer fun, interactive online classes to the district’s younger students. Since these young women already had previous experience working with children, they felt prepared to take on the role of teachers. Their instruction focuses on such topics as mythology, storytelling, robotics, and science experiments. They also incorporate an exercise bootcamp.

The number of elementary students participating in the lessons quickly grew, and the high school instructors have received much positive feedback from the students and their parents. Organizing this group and being able to add value to the community has been a labor of love for the high school students.

BHSMImproving the Listening Experience at Home

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), which aims to raise awareness concerning disorders of speech, hearing, voice, and language. Hearing loss affects nearly 38 million people in the U.S. Some people are born with hearing loss, or it can occur later in life as  noise-induced hearing loss or as a natural part of aging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hearing challenges, resulting in turning the volume way up on the television or complaining frequently about people mumbling, may become more obvious as family members spend more time together, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. By practicing good communication skills, family members can take small steps to improve the listening experience for all at home like waiting until you are in the same room to talk with others or facing your communication partner when speaking.


HERO ELEMENTARY,” a new PBS show produced under a Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Ready-to-Learn Television grant, will premiere June 1 on PBS and PBS Kids. “HERO ELEMENTARY” is about a school for up-and-coming superheroes, where kids learn to master powers like flying and teleportation while exploring science along the way. A diverse group of super students works together to make the world a better place. The series will give children ages 4 to 7 important tools to help them solve problems by encouraging them to think and act like scientists. The new show is being produced by Twin Cities Public Television and Portfolio Entertainment. A preview episode is available now on YouTube.

LibrariesLibraries Power-Up to Offer Remote Summer Learning Opportunities

The Public Library Association released results of a survey, which concluded that libraries are rapidly adapting services amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Several libraries across the country are gearing up to provide summer 2020 programming from a distance, among them:

Gwinnett County Public Library in Lawrenceville, Georgia, kicked off summer programming in May, allowing summer readers to participate in virtual events, track their reading, and complete fun activities.

Waupaca Area Public Library in Wisconsin initiated weekday curbside service, is using Little Free Libraries to get books in the hands of families, and is hosting Teen Hangouts and a Teen Lit Club Read-a-Long & Chat.

Harford County Public Library in Maryland will use funds from a state emergency grant to expand Wi-Fi access beyond its 11 branches before summer begins.

The Department of Defense (DOD) encourages readers toinvestigate and explore” to prevent summer slide. The DOD’s Military, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library is partnering with iREAD’s Summer Reading in 2020 to inspire readers of all ages to embrace its theme: “Dig Deeper: Read, Investigate, Discover!”

Teen TipsSeven Tips to Improve Communication With Deaf Teenagers

For many deaf teenagers and young adults, their lives were suddenly changed when high schools and colleges finished out the 2020 spring semester online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether staying at home with parents, family members, friends, or a new temporary place, communication can be a challenge for all involved. The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) shares seven tips to improve communication with deaf teenagers. For example, if space in the home is limited, it will add to everyone’s stress. Try to create a private space in your home for them. Then, respect their privacy. To read all the tips and access other COVID-19 resources, visit NDC’s webpage. You can also receive updates from NDC through their newsletter.

cafeThe Family Room Webinar Series

The Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC) Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center, in collaboration with Turning the Page, is presenting The Family Room webinar series. Each Thursday in May, from 3–4 p.m. ET, MAEC will facilitate educational workshops and discussions to help families connect with each other and break down feelings of separation during this time of unprecedented isolation.

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