America Forward Weekly Tip Sheet: Policy and Advocacy (11/3)

Below is the latest America Forward “Tip Sheet,” a weekly update on Federal activity related to education, workforce development, and other priorities of the America Forward Coalition.

Update: COVID-19 Resources from the U.S. Department of Education

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released several resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

On October 23, the Department of Education released a Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide, a resource to help parents and guardians understand how digital tools can provide tailored learning opportunities, engage students with course materials, encourage creative expression, and enrich the educational experience. The guide has advice and best practices about topics such as how to leverage flexibilities and innovations of technologies and digital tools, like accessibility options, to meet the unique needs of every learner; steps parents can take to keep their children safe online and foster safe digital behavior, like accessing security features on a child’s device, tracking log-on information, and monitoring videoconferencing; how competency-based learning, which measures a student’s knowledge of a subject rather than time spent on the subject, can harness technology for the benefit of students; and simple primers on major federal laws governing student privacy and safety. This publication is the first in a series that will also provide digital learning knowledge and resources to educators and school leaders.

The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and Institute of Education Sciences (IES) have developed “Welcoming Safe and Supportive Learning Environments” — resources to support teachers and school and district leaders. These resources include School Climate Improvement, Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment in Our Nation’s Classrooms, Mindfulness in Education: An Approach to Cultivating Self-Awareness That Can Bolster Kids’ Learning, Returning to School During and After Crisis, and Supporting Students with Disabilities at School and Home. Similar resources are available at OESE Resources, the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the National Center for Pyramid Innovations, and IES COVID-19 Evidence-Based Resources.

OSEP also issued a new questions-and-answers document about implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C Provision of Services in the current COVID-19 environment.

And, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) issued a new questions-and-answers document regarding the administration of the State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services and American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS) programs under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and Business Enterprise programs under the Randolph-Sheppard Act during the pandemic.

Advancing Whole-Learner Education

Advancing Whole-Learner Approaches to Education: Fireside Chats in Pennsylvania and Michigan

America Forward recently hosted two more events in a series of conversations with policymakers and education leaders about the critical importance of whole-learner approaches to education. Both events were moderated by America Forward Advocacy Director Nithya Joseph.

The first, held on Friday, October 23, 2020, featured Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06); Miles Wilson, President & CEO of EducationWorks; Dr. Crystal Loose, Assistant Professor of Education, West Chester University; and Virgil Sheppard, National School Partnerships Senior Director, City Year, Inc., and focused on whole-learner approaches to education in Pennsylvania.

The second event, held on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, featured Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05); Peter Spadafore, Deputy Executive Director for External Relations, Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators; Adrián A. Pedroza, National Director of Strategic Partnerships, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors; and Amy Wassmann, Whole Child Programs Director, Saginaw ISD, and focused on whole-learner approaches to education in Michigan.

Discussions throughout the two events focused on the participants’ experiences, their connection to education and whole-learner work, and how those experiences inform their current approaches to education and education policy that centers the whole learner; the role that the Federal government must play in supporting holistic, student-centered approaches to healthy learning and development; and what policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and education leaders can do, in deep partnership with communities, to create strong cross-sector relationships, help build capacity, and foster an intentional focus on the wide range of skills students need to succeed.

In speaking about her experience as an educator and at Springboard Collaborative, Rep. Houlahan explained, “[I learned that] the key, at least in hoping to provide equity and holistic approaches to education was literacy-based…[That’s why] I ended up pivoting and helping to grow and scale [Springboard Collaborative], which focused on improving childhood literacy, pre-K through 4th grade…through a collaborative effort with teachers and parents and loved ones within that child’s life to make sure we could bring the entire experience of the child to bear in making sure that they had the skills they needed by fourth grade to be able to compete with [students in more well-resourced schools] and to be able to compete globally.”

“Here in Congress, what I’ve translated that to is a focus on the whole child,” she added. “Again, I think the essence, the key to this, is making sure that you’re focusing on the key skills that a child needs, but also the support system that they need.”

Rep. Kildee spoke about his experience working with young people who had experienced childhood trauma, noting that he saw that much of their success was due to the fact that they looked at and addressed the needs of the whole child: “Not all children are going to succeed in the same way at the same level in the same fashion, but what we owe to them is to maximize their trajectory and the earlier we do that the higher they can aim and the more functional they can be, the greater ability they have to pursue happiness in their own way.” He added, “All kids have incredible capacity, imagination, all sorts of natural gifts. And what makes me hopeful and optimistic is that I’ve seen it firsthand.”

You can find a full recording of the conversation with leaders in Pennsylvania here, and a full recording of the conversation with leaders in Michigan here.

Daily Local: Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan tells how teachers can transform the education system during pandemic

In this piece from the West Chester Daily Local News, Jen Samuel writes about the discussion between Congresswoman Chrissy Houlan and America Forward Advocacy Director Nithya Joseph, during last Friday’s Whole-Learner Education Fireside Chat, which focused on advancing whole-learner approaches to education and what members of Congress can do, at the Federal level, to support this work: “[Rep. Houlahan] said as a congressional representative her focus has been on helping the whole child which entails engaging with their loved ones and supporters as well as ensuring they gain key skills to thrive.” Read the full article here.

Chronicle of Philanthropy Grants Roundup Includes LEGO Foundation Funding for Advancing Whole Learner Education

Last week, the nearly $4 million grant awarded to America Forward by the LEGO Foundation was featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Grants Roundup:

“LEGO Foundation: $3.9 million to America Forward to support its Advancing Whole Learner Education program, which aims to develop policy, create public-engagement campaigns, and expand federal support for holistic approaches to education.”

From the America Forward Coalition

Social Finance: Pay For Success Issue Brief Series

Social Finance recently released a new series of issue briefs, comprising ten briefs, focused “on Pay for Success (PFS) to provide practical guidance and examples for government officials interested in pursuing PFS within their agency or jurisdiction.”

“The series addresses common questions about PFS and highlights our lessons learned after a decade of working to pioneer PFS in the U.S. Each brief serves as an introduction to a different element of PFS, from understanding whether it is a good fit for the problem at hand (Brief 3), to selecting project outcomes (Brief 5), to managing performance post-launch (Brief 9). The briefs are sequenced so that when read from start to finish, they provide a complete overview of the PFS project development and management process. However, they may also be used as standalone resources for those who would like to learn more about one or more specific elements of PFS.”

More information about the new series can be found here.

PushBlack teams up with Mariah Carey

PushBlack, the largest non-profit media organization in the country for Black Americans, recently teamed up with Mariah Carey, who lent her song, “Save the Day” to create a video inspiring people to take action and work to enact social change. Watch their video here.

YouthBuild Unveils New Global Branding

For the first time in the 42-year history of the organization, YouthBuild has introduced a “new logo, new website, and comprehensive messaging – including refined mission and vision statements.”

A message from President and CEO John Valverde explains, “Our new brand highlights what makes YouthBuild unique and unifies us as one YouthBuild movement making an impact for opportunity youth around the world. While YouthBuild’s branding has evolved, our work and our commitment to our young people remains unchanged. With love and respect, YouthBuild partners with opportunity youth to build the skillsets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership. YouthBuild strives to create a world where all young people are seen for their potential, and power to transform themselves and their communities.”

Visit YouthBuild’s new website at

Opinion: Young Latinas Behind Bars: An Alarming Trend We Must Reverse

Gisele Castro, Executive Director of Exalt, writes about the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on young women and girls of color, and what must be done to better support young Latinas, in schools and communities: “Should they secure a victory, a Biden-Harris administration must see and hear girls of color as equal and respected individuals who can identify solutions. Because those closest to the problem are typically in the best position to solve it. The next administration in its first 100 days must expand on criminal justice reform by introducing fairer sentencing that eliminates barriers to employment and college access. It must also create more living-wage jobs and aggressively invest in low-income communities like at the level the federal government did for the automotive bailout.” Read Gisele’s full piece here.

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