FR Doc 2010-31189[Federal Register: December 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 240)]
[Notices]               
[Page 78485-78511]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr15de10-138]                                   

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Part IV





Department of Education





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Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs; Notice


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

[Docket ID ED-OS-2010-0011]
RIN 1894-AA00

 
Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final supplemental priorities and definitions for 
discretionary grant programs.

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SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education announces priorities and 
definitions to be used for any appropriate discretionary grant program 
in fiscal year (FY) 2011 and future years. We take this action to focus 
Federal financial assistance on expanding the number of Department 
programs and projects that support activities in areas of greatest 
educational need. We are establishing these priorities on a Department-
wide basis. This action permits the Department to use, as appropriate 
for particular discretionary grant programs, one or more of these 
priorities in any discretionary grant competition. We also announce 
definitions of key terms used in these priorities.

DATES:  Effective Date: These priorities and definitions are effective 
January 14, 2011.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Margo Anderson, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 4W311, Washington, DC 20202-
5910. Telephone: (202) 205-3010 or by e-mail at: Margo.Anderson@ed.gov.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service, toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 
    Background: The President has set a clear goal for our education 
system: By 2020, the United States will once again lead the world in 
the proportion of citizens holding college degrees or other 
postsecondary credentials. To support the national effort to meet this 
goal, the Secretary has outlined an ambitious, comprehensive education 
agenda that includes early learning programs that help ensure that 
children are ready to succeed in school, elementary and secondary 
schools that keep children on track to graduate from high school with 
the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and careers, and 
a higher education system that gives every individual the opportunity 
to attend and graduate from a postsecondary program. To ensure that the 
Department's discretionary grant programs effectively spur innovation, 
promote the development and implementation of effective and sustainable 
practices, and support adoption and implementation of necessary 
reforms, the Secretary announces priorities in three key areas: 
advancing key cradle-to-career educational reforms, addressing the 
needs of student subgroups, and building capacity for systemic 
continuous improvement.\1\
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    \1\ Reminder of Accountability Requirements: We remind potential 
applicants that in reviewing applications in any discretionary grant 
competition, under 34 CFR 75.217(d)(3), the Secretary may consider 
the past performance of the applicant in carrying out a previous 
award, such as the applicant's use of funds and its compliance with 
grant conditions. The Secretary may also consider whether the 
applicant failed to submit a performance report or submitted a 
report of unacceptable quality.
    Under 34 CFR 74.14 and 80.12, the Secretary may impose special 
conditions on a grant if the applicant or grantee is not financially 
stable; has a history of unsatisfactory performance; has a financial 
or other management system that does not meet the standards in 34 
CFR part 74 or 80, as applicable; has not fulfilled the conditions 
of a prior grant; or is otherwise not responsible.
    In making a continuation award, the Secretary may consider, 
under 34 CFR 75.253, the extent to which a grantee has made 
``substantial progress toward meeting the objectives in its approved 
application.'' This consideration includes the review of a grantee's 
progress in meeting the targets and projected outcomes in its 
approved application, and whether the grantee has expended funds in 
a manner that is consistent with its approved application and 
budget. In making a competitive grant award, the Secretary also 
requires various assurances and, in making a continuation award, 
considers whether the grantee is operating in compliance with its 
current assurances, including those under applicable Federal civil 
rights laws and the regulations in 34 CFR parts 100 through 110 that 
prohibit discrimination in programs or activities receiving Federal 
financial assistance from the Department of Education.
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    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1221e-3, 3474.
    We published a notice of proposed priorities and definitions (NPP) 
for the Department in the Federal Register on August 5, 2010 (75 FR 
47284). That notice contained background information and our reasons 
for proposing the particular priorities and definitions. The Department 
has made several significant changes from the NPP. We explain these 
changes in the Analysis of Comments and Changes section elsewhere in 
this notice.
    Public Comment: In response to our invitation in the NPP, 
approximately 150 parties submitted comments on the proposed priorities 
and definitions. We discuss substantive issues that pertain to all of 
the priorities generally under a ``General Comments'' section. We 
discuss substantive issues that are specific to a particular priority 
under the title of the priority to which those issues pertain. 
Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes or 
comments that are outside of the scope of the proposed priorities and 
definitions.
    Analysis of Comments and Changes: An analysis of the comments and 
of any changes in the priorities and definitions since publication of 
the NPP follows.

General Comments

    Comment: We received a number of comments that appeared to reflect 
that commenters may have misunderstood the purpose and intended use of 
these priorities. One commenter stated that it was unclear how the 
priorities would ``interact'' with current and future discretionary 
grant programs. Another commenter asked whether the Department intended 
for these priorities to supersede authorizing language that establishes 
the purpose, eligibility, and use of funds that Congress typically 
includes in legislation. Some commenters asked whether the 
discretionary grant programs funded under Part D of the Individuals 
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) would be superseded by the 
priorities and argued that the IDEA Part D programs should remain as 
separate discretionary grant programs to ensure that the unique needs 
of students with disabilities are met. Other commenters asked how the 
Department would select the programs that would be subject to these 
priorities.
    Discussion: We want to be clear that the focus of any discretionary 
grant program is established by its authorizing legislation. Congress, 
through its actions, determines how funds are to be used, and the 
Department develops application notices and awards grants in a manner 
consistent with the authorizing statute and Congressional intent. 
Within the parameters of the authorizing statute, the Department often 
has flexibility in shaping the uses of funds for a specific 
discretionary grant program or in targeting funds for specific entities 
or needs and may, and often does, exercise that discretion by choosing 
to issue regulations for an individual program. The Department also has 
the flexibility under its general rulemaking authority to establish 
more general priorities that could apply to a number of different 
programs, and the Department has chosen to take that path with the 
establishment of these priorities. In any given discretionary program, 
the Department may decide to include one or more of these priorities in 
a notice inviting applications for a grant competition, but only if 
doing so is consistent with the program statute and applicable 
regulations. When a priority includes several priority areas, the 
Department may choose to include all of the priority areas or select 
those that are most appropriate and

[[Page 78487]]

applicable, consistent with the program statute and applicable 
regulations. For example, Priority 1 (Improving Early Learning 
Outcomes) includes the following five priority areas: (a) Physical 
well-being and motor development; (b) social-emotional development; (c) 
language and literacy development; (d) cognition and general knowledge, 
including early numeracy and literacy development; and (e) cognition 
and general knowledge, including numeracy and early scientific 
development. The Department could select all or some of the priority 
areas (a) through (e) to include in a given notice, assuming that doing 
so would be consistent with the program statute and applicable 
regulations.
    These priorities will not supersede the discretionary grant 
programs authorized under Part D of the IDEA. Rather, in administering 
competitions for particular discretionary grant programs, including 
those authorized under Part D of the IDEA (e.g., teacher preparation 
programs, technical assistance programs), the Department may use one or 
more of these priorities to focus the competition on a particular area 
consistent with the overall intent and the applicable statutory 
parameters of the program. The Department will select the programs that 
will use these priorities based on this framework.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Several commenters requested clarification regarding how 
the Department decides whether to designate a priority as an absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational priority.
    Discussion: Under the Department's regulations (34 CFR 75.105), the 
Department has the authority to select the programs that would be 
subject to these priorities and to designate each priority as an 
absolute, competitive preference, or invitational priority, consistent 
with the authorizing statute that establishes the program. The 
Department considers the relative importance, appropriateness, and 
significance of a priority in determining whether to consider only 
applications that meet the priority (i.e., an absolute priority); to 
award additional points to an application meeting the priority or to 
select an application that meets the priority over an application of 
comparable merit that does not meet the priority (i.e., a competitive 
preference priority); or to encourage applications that address the 
priority, but to give no preference to applications that do so (i.e., 
an invitational priority).
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that issuing these 
priorities as final would preempt the opportunity for the public to 
comment on how the priorities will be used in particular programs and 
urged the Department to clarify whether there will be opportunities for 
the public to comment on how the priorities will be used on a program-
by-program basis. Several commenters expressed concern that the 
priorities appear to effectively create and implement education policy 
outside of the legislative process and without the involvement of 
stakeholders and elected officials. One commenter recommended that 
there be a more complete and open review of the proposed priorities and 
that Congressional hearings be held to review the notice before it is 
finalized; absent such hearings, the commenter recommended that the 
Department provide Congressional committees with periodic reports or 
appear at oversight hearings to review the impact of these priorities 
and definitions on education.
    Discussion: As stated in the NPP, the purpose of establishing these 
priorities is to permit the Department to use, as appropriate for 
particular discretionary grant programs, one or more of these 
priorities in any discretionary grant competition. Establishing these 
final priorities will permit the Department to include one or more of 
them in a notice inviting applications without having to go through a 
public notice-and-comment process each time the Department wishes to 
use one or more of these priorities in a discretionary grant program. 
This action, therefore, generally will allow the Department to conduct 
grant competitions and make awards in a timelier manner and thereby 
better serve States, districts, institutions, and other grantees. The 
Secretary is not establishing these priorities outside of the 
legislative process but rather pursuant to his general authority to 
promulgate regulations (20 U.S.C. 1221e-3, 3474).
    We disagree that stakeholders have not had the opportunity to 
provide sufficient input. Approximately 150 commenters offered feedback 
and recommendations on the proposed priorities. We received valuable 
input from the public and took commenters' recommendations into account 
in drafting these final priorities and definitions. Indeed, as 
explained elsewhere in this notice, we are making several changes to 
the final priorities and definitions to address commenters' feedback, 
as well as adding several priorities in response to comments received.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: We received several comments from individuals who 
construed the priorities to be part of the Department's Elementary and 
Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal and objected to 
what they believed was the consolidation and conversion of existing 
formula grant programs into competitive grants.
    Discussion: These priorities will provide flexibility for the 
Department to include one or more of these priorities in a notice 
inviting applications for existing competitive grant programs if doing 
so is consistent with the program statute and regulations. With these 
priorities, we do not intend to consolidate or convert existing ESEA 
formula grant programs into competitive grant programs.
    Changes: None.
    Comments: Several commenters expressed concern that projects 
proposing to serve students with disabilities were not proposed as a 
separate priority. Other commenters stated that the needs of students 
with disabilities should be addressed in all of the proposed 
priorities, not just in a few.
    Discussion: These priorities serve all students, including students 
with disabilities. Additionally, students with disabilities are 
specifically referred to in several of the priorities. For example, new 
Priority 9 (proposed Priority 6) (Improving Achievement and High School 
Graduation Rates) specifically focuses on projects that accelerate 
learning and help improve high school graduation rates and college 
enrollment rates for students with disabilities. New Priority 10 
(proposed Priority 7) (Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and 
Mathematics (STEM) Education) specifically refers to individuals with 
disabilities as one of the groups that are traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM careers and for which this priority could be 
used to increase the number of such students that have access to 
rigorous and engaging coursework in STEM and are prepared for 
postsecondary or graduate study and careers in STEM. In addition, we 
have included a specific reference to students with disabilities in the 
definition of high-need children and high-need students, which is used 
in Priority 1 (Improving Early Learning Outcomes), new Priority 8 
(proposed Priority 5) (Increasing Postsecondary Success), and new 
Priority 9 (proposed Priority 6) (Improving Achievement and High School 
Graduation Rates). In sum, we believe that we have included specific 
references to students with disabilities where such references are most 
appropriate and would be most helpful in targeting funds on activities

[[Page 78488]]

that would improve services to, and outcomes for, such students.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that only Priority 1 
(Improving Early Learning Outcomes) included a focus on literacy. The 
commenter stated that literacy instruction is a fundamental 
instructional priority for elementary and secondary students and 
recommended that literacy instruction and professional development be 
added as a separate priority or integrated throughout the priorities.
    Discussion: We agree that literacy is essential to students' 
success in school. Although literacy instruction is not specifically 
referenced in every priority, the purpose of these priorities is to 
help improve student achievement and ensure that all children are ready 
to succeed in school and are on track to graduate from high school with 
the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and careers. 
Thus, we think that literacy instruction is encompassed within the 
priorities. We, therefore, do not believe that a separate priority with 
a specific focus on literacy instruction is needed.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern about using any of the 
priorities for the Federal TRIO Programs authorized by Title IV of the 
Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). The commenter 
recommended that these priorities be incorporated into separate, 
specialized competitions that would provide supplemental funds to 
currently-funded TRIO grantees. The commenter stated that imposing 
these priorities could potentially deny services to students who are 
otherwise eligible to participate in TRIO programs and that the 
legislative history of TRIO clearly rejects the use of any priorities 
other than those that promote continuity of student services through 
the consideration of the prior experience of grant applications in 
successfully providing TRIO services.
    Discussion: These priorities are not intended to replace the 
priorities applicable to the TRIO programs under Title IV of the HEA. 
As mentioned earlier, this action will provide flexibility for the 
Department to include one or more of these priorities in a notice 
inviting applications if doing so is consistent with the authorizing 
statute. We do not agree with the commenter's suggestion that these 
priorities should not be applied to the TRIO programs. The Department 
has the authority to establish appropriate priorities for the TRIO 
programs and has done so in the past. We believe that certain of these 
priorities are fully consistent with and will contribute to achieving 
the goals of the TRIO programs and accordingly may apply the priorities 
to one or more of the TRIO programs, as appropriate.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that new Priority 11 (proposed 
Priority 8) (Promoting Diversity), which focuses on projects that are 
designed to promote student diversity, including racial and ethnic 
diversity, will provide significant educational benefits to all 
students. However, the commenter expressed concern about the absence of 
a priority on achieving gender equity.
    Discussion: We agree that all students should have equal access to 
high-quality education programs and have made this explicit in new 
Priority 10 (proposed Priority 7) (Promoting STEM Education), which 
specifically refers to groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM 
careers, including minorities, individuals with disabilities, and 
women. Given this priority and new Priority 11 (proposed Priority 8) 
(Promoting Diversity), we do not believe it is necessary to have a 
separate priority on gender equity.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: We received a number of recommendations to add other 
priorities to this notice. One commenter recommended including in all 
of the priorities a requirement that applicants use ``universal design 
for learning'' in their projects. Another commenter stated that the 
priorities lack a substantive focus on the arts, history, social 
science, and physical education. One commenter recommended adding a 
priority that focuses on increasing and protecting the rights of young 
people by ending domestic and dating violence.
    Discussion: While we appreciate the commenters' recommendations for 
additional priorities, we believe that the priorities included in this 
notice have the greatest potential to significantly improve student 
achievement and student outcomes, and to ensure that the Department's 
discretionary grant programs effectively spur innovation and promote 
the development and implementation of effective and sustainable 
practices. In addition, we believe these priorities support adoption of 
the reforms needed to meet the President's goal for the U.S. by 2020 to 
once again lead the world in the proportion of citizens holding college 
degrees or other postsecondary credentials.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the Department did 
not provide sufficient time for public comment on the proposed 
priorities. This commenter also stated that because the Department 
published the proposed priorities at the beginning of the school year, 
school leaders and educators did not have enough time to provide 
meaningful feedback on the proposed priorities. The commenter requested 
that the Department provide an additional 30 days for comment on the 
proposed priorities.
    Discussion: As we stated earlier, we believe the 30-day comment 
period was sufficient to ensure timely and meaningful comment on the 
proposed priorities. We understand that the timing of Department 
notices may not always be optimal for all education stakeholders. The 
Department strives to balance the needs of our stakeholders with our 
desire for public input. In addition, we take into consideration our 
need to publish discretionary grant notices in a timely manner so that 
applicants have sufficient time to prepare their applications and the 
Department has sufficient time to conduct a thorough peer review of 
those applications. We decline to provide an additional 30 days for 
public comment because to do so would limit our ability to use these 
priorities in our notices inviting applications for discretionary 
grants as early as possible in FY 2011, while also making timely 
awards.
    Changes: None.

Priority 1--Improving Early Learning Outcomes

    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that Priority 1 could be 
used for projects that are focused solely on children in the early 
elementary years rather than on projects that address the needs of 
early learners from birth through third grade. Another commenter stated 
that rather than focusing on the entire birth-through-third grade 
continuum, the priority should focus on distinct age groups within the 
continuum (i.e., infants and toddlers, three- and four-year old 
children, and primary-grade children).
    Discussion: Our intent is to use this priority across a number of 
different programs. Therefore, we do not want to unnecessarily limit 
its focus by requiring all projects to address the entire birth-
through-third grade continuum. We are adding language to make this 
clear.
    Changes: We have added the parenthetical, ``(or for any age group 
of high-need children within this range)'' following ``birth through 
third grade.'' The introduction to Priority 1 now reads: ``Projects 
that are designed to improve school readiness and success for high-need 
children (as defined in this notice) from birth through third

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grade (or for any age group of high-need children within this range) 
through a focus on one or more of the following priority areas.''
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern with the priority's option 
for projects to address one or more of the priority areas (e.g., 
physical well-being and motor development, social-emotional 
development, language and literacy development), rather than requiring 
projects to address all of the priority areas. The commenter stated 
that projects focusing on only one of the priority areas might not 
improve school readiness for high-need children.
    Discussion: The focus of each of the Department's discretionary 
grant programs is determined by the program's authorizing statute that 
directs, and generally determines, how funds can be used. For example, 
there are discretionary grant funds that can only be used to support 
literacy activities but cannot be used for activities focused on 
physical well-being and motor development. We intend to ensure that 
Priority 1 can be used in a range of Department programs. Therefore, we 
have chosen to allow programs to select one or more of the priority 
areas under Priority 1 and decline to make the change requested by the 
commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Several commenters recommended that Priority 1 include 
topics that are the subject of other proposed priorities. One commenter 
recommended adding a focus on improving the effectiveness of teachers 
who teach young children. Another commenter recommended adding a focus 
on the needs of young children with parents who are serving in the 
military. One commenter recommended including a focus on improving and 
aligning State standards in all early learning domains and ensuring 
that curricula and instructional assessments are consistent with expert 
recommendations. Another commenter recommended including a focus on 
effective collaboration, coordination, and data-based decision-making.
    Discussion: The priority does not preclude applicants from 
proposing the projects suggested by the commenters, so long as the 
proposals address one or more of the priority areas identified and 
comply with the applicable statute and program regulations. We believe 
that it is unnecessary to add a focus in Priority 1 on areas that are 
the same as those covered in other priorities because the Department 
can use more than one priority for a particular discretionary grant 
program competition. For example, if the Department wishes to focus a 
competition on improving the effectiveness of teachers who teach young 
children, it can include both Priority 1 (Improving Early Learning 
Outcomes) and Priority 3 (Improving the Effectiveness and Distribution 
of Effective Teachers and Principals) in its notice inviting 
applications. On the other hand, in some competitions it might not be 
appropriate or legally allowable to focus Priority 1 on specific issues 
or populations; framing the priority in a flexible manner, as we have 
done, would allow the Department to use it in such a context.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Several commenters recommended that language be added to 
the priority to emphasize meeting the diverse needs of children, 
including those who exhibit early signs of disabilities or giftedness. 
Another commenter stated that Priority 1 should address the special 
needs of English learners.
    Discussion: Priority 1 focuses on high-need children from birth 
through third grade. As defined in this notice, the term high-need 
children and high-need students includes children and students at risk 
of educational failure, and specifically refers to English learners and 
children and students with disabilities as examples of high-need 
children. As written, the definition would also encompass children who 
are gifted if those children are at risk of educational failure. 
Therefore, we have concluded that it is unnecessary to include the 
additional language suggested by the commenters.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended replacing ``education'' with 
``early learning and education'' to emphasize the importance of 
improving the quality of education from ``cradle to career.''
    Discussion: In this priority, we believe ``education'' broadly 
includes ``early learning'' and, therefore, decline to make the change 
suggested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that children participating in camp 
programs show significant growth in such areas as self-esteem, 
independence, and leadership, and recommended that outcome-based camp 
programs be deemed eligible recipients of funds under any of the 
Department's discretionary grant programs that use Priority 1. Another 
commenter stated that Priority 1 should be an absolute priority or a 
competitive preference priority in all Department discretionary grant 
programs in order to emphasize the importance of investments in young 
children. One commenter recommended that reviewers of proposals 
submitted in competitions that apply Priority 1 should include 
professionals with expertise in each phase of child development, 
including the development of infants and toddlers.
    Discussion: This notice does not address the issue of who is 
eligible to apply for particular grants or whether a priority is 
designated as an absolute priority, competitive preference priority, or 
invitational priority. Those decisions are determined by the 
authorizing legislation and by the Department in announcing individual 
competitions. In addition, it would not be appropriate to apply 
Priority 1 to every Department competition as many of our competitive 
programs (such as those in the areas of higher education and vocational 
rehabilitation) have no real connection to early learning. Similarly, 
we will not address the peer review process here, other than to 
reassure the commenter that as part of the Department's competitive 
grant process, the Department selects reviewers based on their 
expertise in the area or areas to be addressed in each discretionary 
grant program.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended adding ``creative arts'' to the 
priority areas included in Priority 1. The commenter stated that 
engaging children in creative arts can improve their learning in other 
developmental areas. Another commenter recommended including a priority 
area that focuses on curricula that encourage communication and 
reasoning and provide children with an ``atmosphere of respect, 
encouragement, and enthusiasm for learning.''
    Discussion: We do not believe it is necessary to make the changes 
requested by the commenters because the priority areas in Priority 1 
already include ``approaches toward learning,'' which refers to a 
child's disposition over a range of attitudes, habits, and learning 
styles, including the capacity for invention, creativity, and 
imagination. These are demonstrated through all domains, including 
creative arts. Priority 1 could, therefore, be used to fund projects 
that use creative arts or other curricula in order to improve school 
readiness and success for high-need children, provided such a focus was 
supported by the program statute and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department add ``early 
career exploration'' as a priority area to Priority 1. The commenter 
stated that it is important to expose children to role models early in 
life and to avoid

[[Page 78490]]

the development of biases and stereotypes that could possibly evolve 
into barriers for students' success in their careers and life in 
general.
    Discussion: We believe that adding language on early career 
exploration to Priority 1 would unnecessarily limit the focus of the 
priority. However, a project that focuses on early career exploration 
for high-need children from birth through third grade could be 
responsive to priority area (d) if the project used early career 
exploration as an approach to learning that would improve school 
readiness and success for high-need children, and if such a focus was 
authorized by the program statute and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended revising Priority 1 to emphasize 
alignment and coordination with existing early childhood programs that 
are serving infants, toddlers, and young children (e.g., programs under 
the IDEA).
    Discussion: While we agree that early childhood programs should 
coordinate with each other, we decline to make the suggested change 
because the priority focuses on the outcomes to be achieved--improving 
school readiness and success--rather than on the specific strategies 
that an applicant may choose for attaining an outcome.
    Changes: None.

Priority 2--Implementing Internationally Benchmarked, College- and 
Career-Ready Elementary and Secondary Academic Standards

    Comment: We received several comments regarding the content and 
nature of the academic standards supported by projects under this 
priority. One commenter expressed concern that the priority would 
support projects using only academic standards developed under the 
Common Core State Standards initiative; this commenter recommended that 
the Department use the priority to support implementation of other 
rigorous academic standards commonly used in States, such as standards 
for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Two 
commenters suggested that the Department revise the priority to include 
support for projects using academic standards that are rigorous but 
might not be common among multiple States; one of these commenters 
expressed concern that, with this priority, the Department is 
advocating for national academic standards that might not be suitable 
in all States or regions of the country.
    Discussion: The Department does not require that any specific 
academic standards be supported to meet this priority, only that they 
be internationally benchmarked, ensure that students graduate from high 
school college- and career-ready, and be held in common by multiple 
States. While we are not mandating the use of specific academic 
standards, and will not apply Priority 2 to restrict applicants to 
using only one set of standards, the Department believes strongly that 
adoption of common K-12 academic standards by States will provide a 
foundation for more efficient and effective creation of the assessment, 
instructional, and professional development resources needed to 
implement a coherent system of teaching and learning. The Department 
intends to use this priority to support the implementation of academic 
standards that are common among multiple States and are adopted 
voluntarily by States and their local educational agencies (LEAs).
    Changes: None.
    Comment: A number of commenters recommended that the Department 
revise the priority to include support for projects advancing the 
implementation of a broader range of standards. Commenters recommended 
standards in the following areas: social, emotional, cultural, 
vocational, physical skills, civics, and health and sexuality. In 
addition, one commenter recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to include support for ``21st Century skills'' standards, 
including critical thinking and other skills relating to employment. 
Some of these commenters argued that mastery of these standards is also 
needed if students are to be career-ready.
    Discussion: The Department recognizes that development of standards 
in many of the areas mentioned by the commenters is important, and we 
commend the work that States and other stakeholders may be undertaking 
to develop common and rigorous standards in these areas. This priority 
could be used to support implementation of those standards as well, if 
they are internationally benchmarked, college- and career-ready, and 
held in common by multiple States.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: We received several comments recommending that the 
Department provide greater specificity in terms of the projects that 
the priority could support. One commenter recommended that the 
Department revise the priority to mention specifically that projects in 
career and technical education may support the implementation of 
college- and career-ready standards. Another commenter suggested that 
the Department revise paragraph (a) of the priority to support the 
development and implementation of specific types of assessments 
including: Longitudinal assessments (i.e., assessments that measure 
student growth over time); assessments that include performance tasks; 
portfolio assessments; and assessments that incorporate classroom-based 
observations. Another commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (c) of the priority to specify the types of professional 
development or preparation programs that may be used to meet the 
priority; the commenter recommended that only programs that are 
research-based and include clinical experiences (such as teacher 
residency programs) be permitted under the priority.
    We also received several comments recommending that we provide 
greater specificity on the types of student subgroups that projects 
under the priority should serve. Several commenters recommended that we 
revise the priority to include a focus on projects implementing 
college- and career-ready academic standards for students with diverse 
learning needs, including gifted, talented, and other advanced 
students, as well as students with disabilities. Another commenter 
recommended that we revise the priority to include a focus on projects 
implementing standards for highly mobile students.
    Discussion: We decline to revise the priority in the manner 
recommended by the commenters as such changes could unnecessarily limit 
the applicability of the priority across Department programs. We note 
that the types of projects mentioned by the commenters would not be 
prohibited under this priority and that, in a program using the 
priority, such projects may be allowable provided they comply with 
applicable program statutes and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (a) of the priority to support the development and 
implementation of assessments that are both aligned with college- and 
career-ready academic standards and designed to improve teaching and 
learning. The commenter asserted that this revision would help clarify 
that assessments can be used for instructional improvement as well as 
for accountability purposes.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenter on the importance of 
supporting projects that improve instruction and learning. To promote 
this goal, we are revising the priority so that the goal of improved 
instruction

[[Page 78491]]

and learning applies to all projects covered by the priority.
    Changes: We have revised the introduction to Priority 2 by adding 
``and to improve instruction and learning'' following ``held in common 
by multiple States.'' With this revision, the introduction reads as 
follows: ``Projects that are designed to support the implementation of 
internationally benchmarked, college- and career-ready academic 
standards held in common by multiple States and to improve instruction 
and learning, including projects in one or more of the following 
priority areas.''
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (b) of the priority to include support for the development 
and implementation of curricula as well as instructional materials. The 
commenter asserted that more attention should be paid to the 
development of curricula aligned with new college- and career-ready 
standards.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenter and are revising this 
paragraph of the priority to include support for the development and 
implementation of curricula aligned with college- and career-ready 
standards.
    Changes: We have added ``curriculum or'' before ``instructional 
materials'' in paragraph (b) of this priority. With this revision, 
paragraph (b) reads as follows: ``The development or implementation of 
curriculum or instructional materials aligned with those standards.''
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (d) of the priority to include support for ongoing school-
level support systems, as well as strategies that translate standards 
into classroom practice. The commenter asserted that more attention 
should be paid to the support structures needed to implement new 
college- and career-ready academic standards with fidelity.
    Discussion: We appreciate the commenter's concerns; however, we do 
not believe we should specify the strategies that may be used under 
paragraph (d) as this could limit the applicability of the priority 
across Department programs. Further, we believe that implementing 
school-level support systems is a strategy for translating standards 
into classroom practice and, therefore, is already covered under the 
priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to include an additional paragraph promoting equity of 
conditions and resources for implementing college- and career-ready 
academic standards across schools.
    Discussion: We believe that funding projects through programs using 
this priority promotes equity in schools' abilities to implement 
college- and career-ready academic standards and, accordingly, that the 
revision recommended by the commenter is unnecessary.
    Changes: None.

Priority 3--Improving the Effectiveness and Distribution of Effective 
Teachers or Principals

    Comment: Several commenters recommended that we revise this 
priority to include preparation, recruitment, retention, professional 
development, and increasing salaries as ways of improving teacher and 
principal effectiveness or ensuring the equitable distribution of 
teachers and principals. Other commenters suggested more specific 
methods for improving the effectiveness of teachers and principals, 
such as: Providing teachers with opportunities to mentor each other to 
prevent isolation; training teachers and principals to identify and 
address unique learning needs; supporting professional development 
programs; providing teachers with a daily planning period; supporting 
teacher preparation programs; and requiring teachers to acquire 
different credentials for different geographic areas.
    Discussion: The Department agrees that improving the preparation, 
recruitment, retention, and professional development of teachers and 
principals, and improving their compensation systems can be effective 
methods for improving teacher and principal effectiveness and the 
equitable distribution of teachers and principals. We also believe that 
improving the evaluation of teachers and principals and implementing 
performance-based certification and retention systems can improve the 
effectiveness and distribution of teachers and principals. Therefore, 
we are revising the priority to include these activities as examples of 
methods that a project might use under this priority. However, we do 
not believe it is necessary to reference the more specific activities 
suggested by the commenters as this level of specificity may 
inadvertently limit the focus of the priority. We note that this 
priority would not preclude an applicant from focusing its project on 
these specific activities, provided such a focus was authorized by the 
program statute and regulations.
    Changes: We have added ``improving the preparation, recruitment, 
development, and evaluation of teachers and principals; implementing 
performance-based certification and retention systems; and reforming 
compensation and advancement systems'' as examples of the types of 
methods that might be used to improve teacher and principal 
effectiveness.
    Comment: Several commenters suggested that we revise the priority 
to clarify how States and school districts should evaluate teachers and 
principals. A number of these commenters expressed concern that student 
test scores would be the only evaluation measure that would be 
supported under the priority. One commenter recommended that continued 
and sustained growth in student achievement is the best way to evaluate 
teachers and principals. Several commenters suggested that the 
Department provide more flexibility in the definitions of effective 
teacher and effective principal to take into account different State 
and local contexts. Other commenters suggested that the Department 
revise the priority to include the use of positive learning conditions 
as an example of a supplemental evaluation measure.
    A number of commenters expressed concerns regarding the proposed 
definitions of effective principal, effective teacher, highly effective 
principal, and highly effective teacher. Several commenters objected to 
assessing principal and teacher effectiveness based in significant part 
on student achievement on standardized tests and questioned the 
validity and reliability of ``value-added'' measures. Others stated 
that measures of growth in student achievement have not been adequately 
studied for the purposes of evaluating teachers and principals and 
expressed concerns about implementing such systems in a manner that is 
fair, reliable, and valid.
    Discussion: We agree that the priority should take into account the 
varied contexts of States and districts, including the fact that some 
States have made great strides toward establishing high-quality teacher 
and principal evaluation systems that take into account student growth, 
in significant part, along with multiple measures of effectiveness, 
while other States have not yet progressed to that point. Thus, to 
clarify the Department's intent, we are revising the priority to ensure 
that the priority is applicable to States and districts that have in 
place high-quality teacher and principal evaluation systems, as well as 
States and districts where such systems are not yet established. The 
new language focuses on measuring teacher and principal effectiveness 
using data that include

[[Page 78492]]

student growth in significant part, but does not require student 
achievement or student growth data to be the only measure of teacher or 
principal effectiveness; other measures, such as those proposed by the 
commenters, could be included as measures of effectiveness under this 
priority. Given these changes, the definitions of effective principal, 
effective teacher, highly effective principal, and highly effective 
teacher are no longer needed and we are removing them from this 
priority.
    Changes: We have revised Priority 3 to read as follows: ``Projects 
that are designed to address one or more of the following priority 
areas:
    (a) Increasing the number or percentage of teachers or principals 
who are effective or reducing the number or percentage of teachers or 
principals who are ineffective, particularly in high-poverty schools 
(as defined in this notice) including through such activities as 
improving the preparation, recruitment, development, and evaluation of 
teachers and principals; implementing performance-based certification 
and retention systems; and reforming compensation and advancement 
systems.
    (b) Increasing the retention, particularly in high-poverty schools 
(as defined in this notice), and equitable distribution of teachers or 
principals who are effective.
    For the purposes of this priority, teacher and principal 
effectiveness should be measured using:
    (1) Teacher or principal evaluation data, in States or local 
educational agencies that have in place a high-quality teacher or 
principal evaluation system that takes into account student growth (as 
defined in this notice) in significant part and uses multiple measures 
that, in the case of teachers, may include observations for determining 
teacher effectiveness (such as systems that meet the criteria for 
evaluation systems under the Race to the Top program as described in 
criterion (D)(2)(ii) of the Race to the Top notice inviting 
applications (74 FR 59803)); or
    (2) Data that include, in significant part, student achievement (as 
defined in this notice) or student growth (as defined in this notice) 
data and may include multiple measures in States or local educational 
agencies that do not have the teacher or principal evaluation systems 
described in paragraph (1).''
    Comment: Two commenters recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to identify other types of educational support staff, such as 
administrators, therapists, and early learning practitioners.
    Discussion: We agree that a wide array of educators and school 
personnel is critical to student success. However we have decided to 
focus this priority on improving the effectiveness of classroom 
teachers and principals because of their critical importance in raising 
student achievement.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority be revised to 
take into consideration applicable negotiated labor agreements and 
other legal obligations.
    Discussion: It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure 
that its proposed project under this or any other priority takes into 
consideration any applicable Federal, State, or local legal 
obligations. It is also the responsibility of each applicant to ensure 
that its proposal abides by any applicable labor agreements.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: In reviewing the proposed priorities, we noticed that 
paragraph (b) of this priority regarding the retention and equitable 
distribution of teachers or principals who are effective should have 
included a reference to the retention of such teachers and principals 
in high-poverty schools. We are including this reference in the final 
priority.
    Changes: We have revised paragraph (b) of the priority to 
add,``particularly in high-poverty schools (as defined in this 
notice),'' after the word ``retention.''

Priority 4--Turning Around Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools

    Comment: A number of commenters recommended that we revise the 
priority to include specific strategies to turn around persistently 
lowest-achieving schools. Many commenters recommended that the priority 
mention expanded learning time, including after-school and summer 
programs, as an acceptable approach to turning around schools. One 
commenter recommended revising the priority to provide support for 
career and technical education as a strategy to improve student 
achievement and increase graduation rates. Another commenter suggested 
that the Department revise the priority to encourage the use of 
technology to increase the capacity of schools to improve student 
achievement and graduation rates. One commenter expressed concern that 
the proposed priority did not mention ``response to intervention'' as a 
successful strategy for improving results for at-risk students. Another 
commenter recommended that the Department add language to specify that 
services be aligned with the efforts of other agencies in order to 
create a coordinated system of supports.
    Discussion: We appreciate commenters' suggestions of promising 
strategies to turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools, but we 
are intentionally allowing flexibility in the possible approaches that 
could be used under this priority. Therefore, we decline to include the 
recommended strategies in this priority. This priority would not 
preclude an applicant from including in its proposal the suggested 
strategies provided that such strategies are authorized by the 
applicable program statute and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concern that the four turnaround 
models required under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program would 
be required in order for an applicant to meet this priority. These 
commenters recommended that a fifth option be added to provide more 
flexibility on the strategies that can be used in turning around 
persistently lowest-achieving schools.
    Discussion: Priority 4 does not require implementation of the four 
SIG models (i.e., school turnaround, school transformation, school 
closure, restart), nor does it specify any strategies that must be used 
for turning around persistently lowest-achieving schools. As noted 
previously, this priority is focused on the outcomes listed in the 
priority, not on prescribing specific strategies for achieving those 
outcomes.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to include support specifically for school turnaround efforts 
that are sustainable. The commenter stated that this change would help 
ensure that successful turnaround efforts will be rewarded with 
additional funding.
    Discussion: We decline to make the change recommended by the 
commenter because the likelihood that a particular model or strategy 
would be sustainable in a given school is a factor that school 
officials must necessarily consider in making decisions about the model 
or strategies to implement in a school in need of improvement. It is 
unclear how selecting a sustainable model or strategies would 
necessarily lead to additional funding, as stated by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter requested that the Department add a focus in 
Priority 4 on providing services to support military-connected 
students.

[[Page 78493]]

    Discussion: Priority 4 is focused on the outcomes listed in the 
priority, not on specific subgroups of students. Therefore, we decline 
to make the change requested by the commenter. We note that new 
Priority 12 (proposed Priority 9) specifically focuses on support for 
military-connected students and their families.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority be revised to 
require projects to focus on narrowing achievement gaps for all 
subgroups of students in persistently lowest-achieving schools. The 
commenter stated that the success of the whole school relies on the 
achievement of all students.
    Discussion: We agree that narrowing the achievement gap for 
subgroups is an important goal for all schools, including persistently 
lowest-achieving schools. However, we decline to revise the priority 
because we believe that in persistently lowest-achieving schools, which 
are among the lowest-achieving schools in each State, the primary focus 
should be on improving student achievement for all students in the 
school.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (b) of this priority to include a focus on increasing 
graduation rates of students with disabilities. The commenter also 
recommended that the Department revise paragraph (c) to ensure that 
services provided to students are available and adequate for students 
with disabilities.
    Discussion: We agree that it is important to include a focus on 
improving student achievement and increasing the graduation rates of 
students with disabilities. For this reason, we included a specific 
provision in new Priority 9 (proposed Priority 6) (Improving 
Achievement and High School Graduation Rates) that focuses on projects 
that accelerate learning and help improve high school graduation rates 
and college enrollment rates for students with disabilities. However, 
we decline to modify Priority 4 in the manner suggested by the 
commenter because the focus of this priority is on improving student 
achievement for all students in persistently lowest-achieving schools.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concern that this priority's 
focus on schools meeting the definition of persistently lowest-
achieving schools is too narrow. The commenters recommended that the 
priority be expanded to include support for other low-performing 
schools and for schools at risk of becoming low performing.
    Discussion: We appreciate the commenters' concern about serving 
low-performing schools other than those that are persistently lowest-
achieving. However, our intention with this priority is to focus 
specifically on the schools most in need of improvement, which are the 
persistently lowest-achieving schools, as defined in this notice. 
Accordingly, we decline to expand the scope of this priority.
    Changes: None.

New Priority 5--Improving School Engagement, School Environment, and 
School Safety and Improving Family and Community Engagement

    Comment: Numerous commenters suggested that the Department modify 
the proposed priorities to include support for projects that create 
safe and supportive schools and engage communities and families to 
improve student achievement.

Safe and Supportive Schools

    Many commenters expressed support for the Department's discussion 
of school culture and climate in the background for proposed Priority 4 
(Turning Around Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools), and proposed 
Priority 10 (Data-Based Decision Making). Several commenters suggested 
that the Department add a separate priority that would support projects 
designed to improve school climate. For example, numerous commenters 
noted that a positive and supportive school climate and culture can 
help to improve students' academic achievement, especially for those 
students most at risk of not succeeding academically and for students 
attending persistently lowest-achieving schools. Several commenters 
articulated concerns about the negative impact that bullying and 
harassment can have on students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and 
transgender (LGBT) students, and these students' ability to achieve 
academic success. Commenters noted that bullying and harassment can 
lead to poor learning environments where students feel unsafe or in 
danger of physical harm, negatively affecting a student's ability to 
successfully complete high school and pursue postsecondary education. 
Multiple commenters cited research demonstrating that school 
environments influence student achievement. For example, one commenter 
described evidence showing that bullying, harassment, and unduly harsh 
disciplinary practices have serious academic consequences, including 
decreased interest in school, increased absences, decreased 
concentration levels, lower grades, and higher dropout rates. Multiple 
commenters also noted how important school climate is for military-
connected students and, in particular, the need for schools to provide 
mental health support for students with deployed parents.

Family and Community Engagement

    Numerous commenters urged the Department to establish a separate 
priority for projects that would focus on enhancing family engagement 
in students' learning. Commenters cited research showing that family 
engagement is a significant factor in student success, including in 
ensuring that students meet high academic standards and are college- 
and career-ready when they graduate from high school. Several 
commenters also noted how important it is to support parents' 
involvement in their children's education, particularly for children 
from low-income families, young children who participate in early 
learning programs, and children with disabilities. Multiple commenters 
emphasized the importance of engaging families as key partners in their 
children's education, working hand in hand with them in schools and 
ensuring that parents and families understand data and information on 
student performance. Another commenter recommended that if the 
Department establishes a priority focusing on family engagement, the 
priority should include support for projects that provide technical 
assistance to families of high-need students to support higher 
education and postsecondary success.
    Multiple commenters suggested that the Department add a new 
priority that would support projects designed to promote community 
engagement in students' education. One commenter observed that family-
led and community-based organizations can play a key role in 
implementing education reforms. Another commenter stated that for 
education reforms to be successful, there needs to be a strong 
relationship among communities, schools, and families at the very 
beginning of the reform process. Specifically, the commenter stated 
that community schools are the best vehicles to encourage and ensure 
high school completion and postsecondary success. These commenters also 
provided definitions for ``community engagement'' and ``family 
engagement'' and recommended that definitions of these terms be added 
to the final notice along with the new priority.
    Discussion: The Department agrees that safe and supportive schools 
are

[[Page 78494]]

critical to improving students' learning and enhancing teacher 
effectiveness. Students learn best when they are in a school 
environment with, among other things, positive relationships between 
adults and students; the absence of violence, bullying, harassment, and 
substance abuse; and readily available physical and mental health 
supports and services. The Department has been clear that preparing 
students for success requires learning environments that help all 
students to be safe, healthy, and supported in their classrooms, 
schools, and communities. For example, on July 9, 2010, the Department 
published a notice inviting applications for the Safe and Supportive 
Schools program to support statewide measurement of, and targeted 
interventions to improve, conditions for learning, and provided 
definitions of ``school engagement,'' ``school environment,'' and 
``school safety'' (see 75 FR 39504). The Department also has been clear 
that bullying and harassing students, including LGBT students, is 
damaging to those students and unacceptable (see the guidance the 
Department provided on October 26, 2010, available at: 
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.pdf).
    Similarly, the Department is committed to improving family and 
community engagement as part of its comprehensive approach to improving 
student achievement. Preparing students for success requires greater 
opportunities to engage families in their children's education and 
strengthening the role of schools as centers of communities. For 
example, the Department's Promise Neighborhoods program encourages 
robust development and implementation of a continuum of effective 
community services, strong family supports, and comprehensive education 
reforms to improve education and life outcomes for children and youth 
in high-need communities. In addition, in May, 2010, the Department 
proposed doubling funding (through the ESEA reauthorization) for 
activities promoting family engagement from 1 percent to 2 percent of 
Title I dollars and proposes to ask LEAs to use these funds in a more 
systemic and comprehensive way.
    Based on the many informative comments we received and our strong 
belief in the need to promote safe and supportive school environments 
and enhanced family and community engagement in students' learning, we 
are adding a priority that would support projects designed to improve 
school environment and safety, and projects designed to improve parent 
and family and community engagement. We are establishing a separate 
priority rather than modifying each individual priority to ensure that 
there is appropriate focus on these important issues. We also believe 
this priority will be broad enough for many of our programs to use 
within the parameters of their authorizing program statutes and 
regulations and, thereby, will support many of the types of strategies 
and supports mentioned by the commenters. Programs also will be able to 
use this priority in conjunction with one or more of the other 
priorities established in this notice.
    Changes: The Department has added a new priority, Priority 5--
School Engagement, School Environment, and School Safety and Family and 
Community Engagement, that reads as follows:
    ``Projects that are designed to improve student outcomes through 
one or more of the following priority areas:
    (a) Improving school engagement, which may include increasing the 
quality of relationships between and among administrators, teachers, 
families, and students and increasing participation in school-related 
activities.
    (b) Improving the school environment, which may include improving 
the school setting related to student learning, safety, and health.
    (c) Improving school safety, which may include decreasing the 
incidence of harassment, bullying, violence, and substance use.
    (d) Improving parent and family engagement (as defined in this 
notice).
    (e) Improving community engagement (as defined in this notice) by 
supporting partnerships between local educational agencies, school 
staff, and one or more of the following:
    (i) Faith- or community-based organizations.
    (ii) Institutions of higher education.
    (iii) Minority-serving institutions or historically black colleges 
and universities.
    (iv) Business or industry.
    (v) Other Federal, State, or local government entities.''
    We have also added to this notice definitions for community 
engagement and parent and family engagement that read as follows:
    ``Community engagement means the systematic inclusion of community 
organizations as partners with local educational agencies and school 
staff. These organizations may include faith- and community-based 
organizations, institutions of higher education (including minority-
serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities), 
business and industry, or other Federal, State, and local government 
entities.''
    ``Parent and family engagement means the systematic inclusion of 
parents and families, working in partnership with local educational 
agencies and school staff, in their child's education, which may 
include strengthening the ability of (a) parents and families to 
support their child's education and (b) school staff to work with 
parents and families.''

New Priority 6--Technology

    Comment: We received a number of comments requesting that the 
Department add a priority that recognizes the role that educational 
technology can play in increasing student achievement, implementing 
school reforms, and improving teacher effectiveness. Commenters also 
suggested that we include language focused on education technology in 
the individual priorities. Several commenters stated that in its FY 
2011 budget request, the Department emphasized the importance of 
integrating technology into instruction and using technology to drive 
improvements in teaching and learning. Commenters also noted that the 
Department's Blueprint for the ESEA reauthorization highlighted the 
necessity of supporting projects that leverage technological tools, 
including digital information and communications technologies. These 
commenters stated that these priorities should similarly reflect a 
significant level of support for the use of technology in education.
    Commenters recommended that the Department support projects that 
are designed to use technology to raise student achievement, to develop 
student skills in the effective use of technology, and to use 
technology to support individualized instruction. One commenter 
specifically noted the role that technology will play in the 
assessments to be developed by State consortia under the Race to the 
Top Assessment program. Commenters also encouraged the Department to 
support projects that use technology to provide professional 
development to teachers.
    Several commenters recommended that a priority on education 
technology focus on several areas, including transitioning from print 
to digital instructional materials (including open educational 
resources); accelerating the adoption of high-quality formative and 
summative assessments; and increasing the availability of online and 
blended opportunities for students, especially where students' 
opportunities are limited by geography or personal circumstance. Other 
areas the commenters suggested should be

[[Page 78495]]

included in such a priority are the fostering of 21st century, 
personalized learning environments centered on improving student 
achievement in the core subject areas and providing professional 
development to educators and school leaders to assist them in 
effectively selecting, using, and evaluating the effectiveness of 
technology tools and information systems.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenters that technology can play a 
vital role in improving student achievement, increasing students' 
access to instructional content, and increasing teacher and school 
leader effectiveness through enhanced professional development. As 
several commenters noted, we have recognized the critical role of 
technology in education in our Blueprint for the ESEA reauthorization 
and in our FY 2011 budget request. We agree with those commenters that 
these final priorities should reflect a similar emphasis on educational 
technology.
    Rather than modify each individual priority, we have decided to 
establish a new priority focused solely on educational technology. 
Under this new priority, the Department would support projects that are 
designed to improve student achievement or teacher effectiveness 
through the use of high-quality digital tools and materials. We believe 
this priority will be broad enough for many of our programs to use 
within the parameters of their authorizing program statute and 
regulations and, thereby, will support many of the types of innovative 
uses of technology mentioned by the commenters, while ensuring that the 
development and implementation of these new approaches are based on 
data demonstrating the effectiveness of the technology in improving 
student achievement or teacher effectiveness. Programs will be able to 
use this priority in conjunction with one or more of the other 
priorities established in this notice.
    Changes: We have established a new priority, Priority 6--
Technology, that reads as follows: ``Projects that are designed to 
improve student achievement or teacher effectiveness through the use of 
high-quality digital tools or materials, which may include preparing 
teachers to use the technology to improve instruction, as well as 
developing, implementing, or evaluating digital tools or materials.''

New Priority 7--Core Reforms

    Comment: A number of commenters strongly supported the adoption of 
college- and career-ready standards and stated that implementation of 
such standards can serve as a catalyst for education reform. Other 
commenters noted the importance of effectively evaluating teachers and 
principals, and implementing statewide longitudinal data systems that 
provide educators and families the data they need to increase student 
achievement. One commenter stated that statewide longitudinal data 
systems are the foundation for successfully implementing other 
education reforms. Several commenters supported the Department's 
efforts to outline a comprehensive reform agenda and to better allocate 
limited Federal resources to areas of significant need. One commenter 
recommended that the Department consider ways in which it could 
encourage applicants for discretionary grant programs to continue their 
comprehensive reform efforts.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenters that implementing college- 
and career-ready standards and increasing data-based decision making 
are key drivers of comprehensive reform. Given the critical role that 
teachers and principals play in improving student learning, we believe 
that teacher and principal evaluation systems are another key driver of 
reform. We appreciate the commenters' support for the Department's 
comprehensive reform efforts and agree that the Department should 
support and encourage States to continue implementing comprehensive 
reforms that result in improved student achievement, narrowed 
achievement gaps, and increased high school graduation and college 
enrollment rates. Therefore, we are adding a new Priority 7 to support 
projects in States, LEAs, or schools where core reforms are being 
implemented. This priority focuses on projects conducted in a State 
that has adopted K-12 academic standards that build toward college- and 
career-readiness; in a State that has implemented a statewide 
longitudinal data system; and is in an LEA or school that provides 
student growth (as defined in this notice) data to teachers.
    Changes: The Department has added a new priority, Priority 7--Core 
Reforms, that reads as follows:
    ``Projects conducted in States, local educational agencies, or 
schools where core reforms are being implemented. Such a project is one 
that is conducted--
    (a) In a State that has adopted K-12 State academic standards in 
English language arts and mathematics that build towards college- and 
career-readiness;
    (b) In a State that has implemented a statewide longitudinal data 
system that meets all the requirements of the America COMPETES Act; and
    (c) In a local educational agency or school in which teachers 
receive student growth (as defined in this notice) data on their 
current students and the students they taught in the previous year and 
these data are provided, at a minimum, to teachers of reading/language 
arts and mathematics in grades in which the State administers 
assessments in those subjects.''

New Priority 8 (Proposed Priority 5)--Increasing Postsecondary Success

    Comment: Two commenters stated that one of the biggest challenges 
faced by those who are unemployed is that a majority of the fastest-
growing industries require postsecondary education. The commenters 
noted that rigorous career and technical education programs play a 
significant role in preparing individuals with the skills they need to 
succeed in today's workforce. Another commenter recommended revising 
the language in this priority to emphasize the importance of ensuring 
that postsecondary education has value in the labor market. The 
commenter recommended that the language in the priority be changed to 
focus not only on students who are in the education pipeline, but also 
young adults who need to receive additional training to be successfully 
employed. One commenter recommended that the priority specifically 
reference current military service members and veterans who have served 
in the military since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
    Other commenters stated that while academic standards are 
important, the Department should consider ways to encourage a broader 
definition of what it means to be successful in a global economy. The 
commenters noted that successful schools consider both ``the context of 
learning and the full range of human development including civic 
standards and measures, learning and innovation skills, and other 
applied workplace skills.'' One commenter urged that we support the 
implementation of standards ``in a broad range of subjects and 
competencies that address the needs of the whole student and prepare 
students to succeed in a modern, globally interdependent society.''
    Discussion: We agree that new Priority 8 (proposed Priority 5) 
should include a focus on completing college or other postsecondary 
training that leads to successful employment. While we agree that the 
labor market values the education and training provided by

[[Page 78496]]

postsecondary institutions, we do not believe that it is necessary to 
include this specific language in the priority. Therefore, we decline 
to make the change requested by the commenter.
    With regard to the recommendation that the language in the priority 
be changed to focus not only on students who are in the education 
pipeline, but also young adults who need to receive additional training 
to be successfully employed, we note that paragraph (d) focuses on 
individuals who return to the educational system. However, we agree 
that the language in paragraph (d) could be strengthened to focus on 
college enrollment and success, similar to the focus in paragraphs (a), 
(b), and (c) for high-risk students, and we are adding language 
accordingly.
    The Department agrees that it is important to increase the number 
of current service members and post-9/11 veterans who enroll in, 
persist in, and complete college or other postsecondary training. To 
ensure that this priority is as broad and inclusive as possible, and 
thereby could be used by multiple programs across the Department, we 
decline to reference in the priority specific groups within the 
military services. However, in order to reflect the importance of 
providing services to current service members and post-9/11 veterans, 
and as discussed later in this notice, we are revising the definition 
of military-connected student (used in new Priority 12 (proposed 
Priority 9)) to include a reference to current service members and 
veterans.
    With regard to the commenters who recommended that this priority 
focus on the ``whole student'' and the knowledge and skills that are 
needed to compete successfully in the global economy, we believe that a 
high-quality education includes developing students who are well-
rounded and well-prepared for the challenges and responsibilities they 
will confront throughout their lives. Preparation for a lifetime of 
learning experiences is necessary for effective participation in 
democratic society. We believe that these priorities, as written, 
encapsulate this idea; however, to clarify our commitment to the 
development of the whole student, we are adding a new paragraph (f) to 
this priority.
    Changes: We have revised paragraph (d) of this priority, which 
reads as follows: Increasing the number of individuals who return to 
the educational system to obtain a high school diploma; to enroll in 
college or other postsecondary education or training; to obtain needed 
basic skills leading to success in college or other postsecondary 
education or the workforce; or to enter, persist in, and complete 
college or rigorous postsecondary career and technical training leading 
to a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate.''
    We also have added new paragraph (f) to this priority, which reads 
as follows: ``Increasing the number and proportion of postsecondary 
students who complete college or other postsecondary education and 
training and who are demonstrably prepared for successful employment, 
active participation in civic life, and lifelong learning.''
    Comment: One commenter expressed support for this priority's goal 
of preparing high-need students for postsecondary education and future 
careers. The commenter recommended using the definition of 
``postsecondary education'' that is used in Department program 
statutes, and focusing the priority on a broad range of postsecondary 
options in order to convey that ``college'' is not limited to four-year 
baccalaureate degree programs. Similarly, one commenter recommended 
changing ``increasing the number of students who are academically 
prepared'' to ``increasing the number of students who are prepared'' in 
paragraph (a). Another commenter recommended that the priority refer to 
existing national programs and examinations, such as Advanced 
Placement, ACT, and International Baccalaureate courses and exams, as 
examples of ways to adequately prepare students for college-level 
coursework without the need for remediation.
    Discussion: New Priority 8 (proposed Priority 5) includes specific 
references to training leading to a ``degree, credential, or 
certificate,'' in order to make clear that the priority focuses on a 
broad range of postsecondary options and is not limited to four-year 
degree programs. Therefore, we believe it is unnecessary to add a 
definition of ``postsecondary education'' in this notice or to change 
the language in paragraph (a) in the manner suggested by the commenter. 
However, in order to make clear in paragraphs (c) and (d) that the 
outcome is a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate, we are 
adding ``postsecondary'' before ``degree, credential, or certificate.'' 
We decline to include in the priority the specific courses and exams 
recommended by the commenter because the priority focuses on the 
outcome of increasing postsecondary success rather than on the specific 
strategies for attaining that outcome. In fact, rather than focusing on 
completing specific courses that do not necessarily lead to a 
postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate, we believe the focus 
in paragraph (c) regarding career and technical education should be on 
programs of study (as defined in this notice). We are changing the 
language in paragraph (c) accordingly.
    Changes: In paragraphs (c) and (d), we have added ``postsecondary'' 
before ``degree.'' We also have removed ``secondary or postsecondary 
career and technical courses or'' in paragraph (c).
    Comment: Two commenters recommended that we revise this priority to 
include a focus on increasing the rates at which high-need students 
enroll in and complete doctoral or other terminal degree (i.e., the 
highest degree in a particular field of study) programs.
    Discussion: This priority already focuses on increasing the number 
and proportion of high-need students who enroll in and complete 
graduate programs. This would encompass students enrolling in and 
completing doctoral or other terminal degree programs. We believe that 
adding specific references to doctoral or terminal degrees would unduly 
narrow the priority such that it could not be used across many of the 
Department's programs. We decline, therefore, to make the change 
recommended by the commenters.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the priority include a 
specific focus on providing comprehensive guidance and advice to high-
need students on applying for college and financial aid.
    Discussion: As noted in a response to an earlier comment, this 
priority focuses on the outcome of increasing postsecondary success 
rather than the specific strategies for attaining that outcome. 
Therefore, we decline to make the change recommended by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that this priority include a 
focus on recruiting and retaining high-quality educators to teach 
students in rural areas and high-need students.
    Discussion: Paragraph (a) of the priority supports projects that 
increase the number and proportion of high-need students who are 
academically prepared for and enroll in college or other postsecondary 
education and training. This priority would not preclude an applicant 
from proposing a project that supports retaining high-quality educators 
in rural areas, so long as the project supports the goals of this 
priority and complies with the program statute and regulations. For 
this reason, the change recommended by the commenter is unnecessary.

[[Page 78497]]

    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter, while generally supportive of the priority, 
recommended that schools use open educational resources (OER) to 
improve and ensure postsecondary success. Another commenter recommended 
that products developed with discretionary grant funds be developed 
consistent with the requirements for OER.
    Discussion: New Priority 16 (proposed Priority 13) (Improving 
Productivity) specifically refers to the use of OER to improve results 
and strategies. If the Department decides to focus a program 
competition on postsecondary success and the use of OER to increase 
productivity, and provided such a focus is authorized by the program 
statute and regulations, we will be able to include both priorities in 
the notice inviting applications. Therefore, we decline to make the 
change requested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: During the Department's review of this priority, we 
determined that it would be clearer to refer to the ``number and 
proportion of high-need students'' rather than to ``rates'' in 
paragraphs (a), (b), (c), and (e). We also are correcting an error in 
paragraph (d)--``career or technical training'' in paragraph (d) should 
be ``career and technical training. Therefore, we are making these 
changes in the priority.
    Changes: We have revised new Priority 8 to read as follows:

Priority 8--Increasing Postsecondary Success

    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who are academically prepared for and enroll in 
college or other postsecondary education and training.
    (b) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who persist in and complete college or other 
postsecondary education and training.
    (c) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who enroll in and complete high-quality 
programs of study (as defined in this notice) designed to lead to a 
postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate.
    (d) Increasing the number and proportion of individuals who return 
to the educational system to obtain a high school diploma; to enroll in 
college or other postsecondary education or training; to obtain needed 
basic skills leading to success in college or other postsecondary 
education or the workforce; or to enter, persist in, and complete 
college or rigorous postsecondary career and technical training leading 
to a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate.
    (e) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who enroll in and complete graduate programs.
    (f) Increasing the number and proportion of postsecondary students 
who complete college or other postsecondary education and training and 
who are demonstrably prepared for successful employment, active 
participation in civic life, and lifelong learning.

New Priority 9--Improving Achievement and High School Graduation Rates 
(Proposed Priority 6--Improving Achievement and High School Graduation 
Rates of Rural and High-Need Students)

    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that the needs of urban 
students were not sufficiently addressed in proposed priority 6 and 
recommended that the Department revise it to focus on both urban and 
rural students.
    Discussion: The intent of this priority is to focus on improving 
achievement and high school graduation rates and college enrollment 
rates of high-need students, in both urban and rural areas. We 
recognize that the title of the proposed priority may have incorrectly 
implied that this priority was exclusively focused on students in rural 
areas. Therefore, we are removing the reference to rural and high-need 
students from the title of the priority.
    Changes: We have removed ``of Rural and High-Need Students'' from 
the title of the priority. Based on this change, the title of new 
Priority 9 now reads: ``Improving Achievement and High School 
Graduation Rates.''
    Comment: One commenter recommended that this priority include a 
focus on students with disabilities, including students with 
disabilities who are also gifted. Another commenter recommended adding 
a focus on English learners, stating that these students need extra 
support to be successful because they must learn English at the same 
time they are trying to meet challenging student achievement standards.
    Discussion: Although students with disabilities and English 
learners are included in the definition of high-need children and high-
need students as examples of students who may be at risk of educational 
failure, we understand that there may be programs for which it would be 
appropriate to focus particularly on improving achievement and 
graduation rates of students with disabilities or English learners, and 
not a broader group of high-need students. Therefore, within this 
priority, we are adding a separate priority area for students with 
disabilities and a separate priority area for English learners.
    Changes: We have added a new paragraph (b) to the priority, which 
reads as follows: ``Accelerating learning and helping to improve high 
school graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college 
enrollment rates for students with disabilities.'' We also have added a 
new paragraph (c), which reads as follows: ``Accelerating learning and 
helping to improve high school graduation rates (as defined in this 
notice) and college enrollment rates for English learners.'' Subsequent 
paragraphs have been renumbered.
    Comment: A number of commenters expressed support for this priority 
and recommended specific strategies to improve student achievement and 
graduation rates. One commenter suggested that the priority focus on 
physical education programs because students in schools with high 
poverty rates often do not have access to high-quality physical 
education programs. Several commenters recommended focusing on specific 
dropout prevention programs. One commenter requested that the priority 
focus on programs that support collaboration between education and 
juvenile and family justice systems to support students in juvenile 
detention centers and students in foster care. One commenter stated 
that summer learning programs play a critical role in accelerating 
learning for students in rural and high-poverty areas and should be 
included in this priority. Two commenters recommended adding language 
to provide incentives for schools and districts to implement 
initiatives that help high-need students stay in school, such as 
programs that provide multiple or alternative pathways to graduation. 
One commenter recommended that the Department revise the priority to 
support the development of data collection systems to help school 
districts report data, such as graduation rates, more effectively. 
Another commenter recommended adding a focus on systems that identify 
students at risk of dropping out of school.
    Discussion: This priority focuses on outcomes--that is, improving 
student achievement and high school graduation rates and college 
enrollment rates for students in rural LEAs, students with 
disabilities, English learners, other high-need students, and students 
in high-poverty schools--rather than on the

[[Page 78498]]

specific strategies for attaining those outcomes. Many of the 
strategies proposed by the commenters may accelerate learning and 
improve graduation and college enrollment rates. However, we decline to 
reference specific strategies in this priority because it would limit 
the types of programs to which this priority could be applied. We do 
agree that this priority should include a focus on projects that meet 
the needs of all students, while ensuring that the specific needs of 
high-need students participating in such a project are met. Therefore, 
we are adding a new paragraph (f) to focus on projects that accelerate 
learning and improve high school graduation rates and college 
enrollment rates for all students in an inclusive manner while ensuring 
that the specific needs of high-need students are addressed.
    Changes: We have added a new paragraph (f) that reads as follows: 
``Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school graduation 
rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment rates for all 
students in an inclusive manner that ensures that the specific needs of 
high-need students (as defined in this notice) participating in the 
project are addressed.''
    Comment: Two commenters recommended revising the priority to 
specifically support disadvantaged populations of gifted students.
    Discussion: This priority already focuses on the needs of gifted 
students who are high-need students at risk of educational failure 
(paragraph (d)), as well as students who attend high-poverty schools 
(paragraph (e)), which may include gifted students. Therefore, we 
decline to make the change recommended by the commenters.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended adding a priority to focus on 
schools located in areas of concentrated poverty and the students 
living in those areas.
    Discussion: The groups of students and schools already included in 
this priority could encompass schools located in areas of concentrated 
poverty and students living in those areas. Because we intend to use 
this priority across a number of Department programs, we do not want to 
unnecessarily limit its scope by limiting its application to the 
specific schools and students suggested by the commenter. Therefore, we 
decline to make the change suggested by the commenters.
    Changes: None.

New Priority 10 (Proposed Priority 7)--Promoting Science, Technology, 
Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department support 
projects that include a focus on providing information to students 
about educational and career pathways into STEM fields. According to 
the commenter, students need better information about educational 
programs that can lead to careers in STEM fields.
    Discussion: We agree that providing students with more information 
about STEM careers and the pathways to those careers would help 
increase students' level of interest in STEM coursework and careers. We 
do not think it is necessary to reference this type of activity in the 
text of the priority, however, because the priority focuses on the 
outcome of increased access to STEM coursework rather than specific 
strategies for attaining that outcome. Grant applicants could propose 
increasing the amount of information available to students about 
educational and career opportunities in the STEM fields as a strategy 
for achieving the goal of increased access to STEM coursework.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that we revise the priority to 
specifically support providing high school students with access to 
rigorous and engaging courses of study in STEM. Two commenters 
recommended that we revise paragraph (a) of the priority to 
specifically identify elementary, middle, and high school students, and 
another commenter recommended that we revise the priority to ensure 
that it supports early learning in STEM. These commenters stated that 
if students have access to STEM content early in their education, they 
are more likely to pursue STEM opportunities at the postsecondary level 
and STEM careers. Another commenter recommended that the Department 
revise the priority to support projects that provide gifted and 
talented students with access to rigorous and engaging STEM courses as 
soon as those students are academically ready for such coursework. The 
commenter stated that students should be permitted to take STEM-related 
coursework as early as possible in their education in order to ensure 
that the Nation has a sufficient number of STEM professionals in the 
future. Another commenter recommended that we revise the priority to 
reference underrepresented and high-need students.
    Discussion: Our intent in paragraph (a) of this priority is to 
support access to rigorous and engaging courses of study in STEM for 
all students, including students in elementary, middle, and high 
schools; gifted and talented students; and high-need students. We agree 
that providing these students with access to STEM-related coursework is 
essential to increasing the number of students prepared for 
postsecondary or graduate study and careers in STEM fields. However, 
the Department plans to use these priorities across a number of its 
discretionary grant programs, and some of those programs may not 
support a focus on particular groups of students. Accordingly, we 
decline to narrow the scope of paragraph (a), as suggested by the 
commenters. The priority does not preclude an applicant from focusing 
its project on increasing access to STEM coursework for specific groups 
of students, provided such a focus is authorized by the program statute 
and regulations.
    In reviewing these comments, however, we noted that our use of the 
term ``courses of study'' in paragraph (a) of the priority could be 
read to refer to STEM courses that are offered only after elementary 
school. Given that this is not our intention and to eliminate any 
confusion, we have revised the priority to refer to ``coursework'' 
rather than to ``courses of study'' to clarify that paragraph (a) 
refers to all students regardless of their level of education.
    Changes: We have revised paragraph (a) of the priority to delete 
the reference to ``courses of study'' and replaced it with ``coursework 
in STEM.'' Specifically, paragraph (a) reads: ``Providing students with 
increased access to rigorous and engaging coursework in STEM.''
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the Department revise 
paragraph (c) of the priority, which provides for increasing the 
opportunities for high-quality preparation of, or professional 
development for, teachers of STEM subjects, to refer to a broader group 
of education professionals who could benefit from professional 
development in this area. The commenters suggested that we use the term 
``educator'' rather than ``teacher.''
    Discussion: We agree that it is important to support all types of 
educators who work in STEM fields. Accordingly, we have revised the 
priority to include a reference to other educators in the STEM fields.
    Changes: We have added ``or other educators'' following 
``teachers'' in paragraph (c). Paragraph (c) of the priority reads as 
follows: ``Increasing the

[[Page 78499]]

opportunities for high-quality preparation of, or professional 
development for, teachers or other educators of STEM subjects.''
    Comment: One commenter recommended that we add a priority area for 
increasing opportunities for collaboration related to STEM-focused 
initiatives, projects, and programs among military and civilian 
research centers, institutions of higher education, LEAs, non-profit 
organizations, museums, and other partners engaged in STEM fields.
    Discussion: As stated in the NPP, we agree that such collaborations 
can be important and effective strategies for increasing the number of 
students prepared for postsecondary study in STEM and for assisting 
teachers in providing effective STEM instruction. We decline to make 
the suggested change, however, because the priority emphasizes the 
outcomes to be achieved rather than specific strategies for attaining 
those outcomes. We note that the priority does not preclude an 
applicant from proposing a project that focuses on these types of 
collaborations. Collaborations with STEM organizations could be 
proposed as a strategy for achieving the outcomes called for in the 
priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the Department revise the 
priority to include a specific reference to career and technical 
education courses. The commenters stated that many career and technical 
education programs include STEM-focused instruction and can be used to 
help students acquire knowledge and skills in a variety of STEM fields, 
including preparing students for postsecondary studies and careers in 
STEM fields. Another commenter recommended that we revise the priority 
to support career and technical education programs that encourage women 
to go into high-earning careers; the commenter stated that many women 
are directed to career and technical education professions that have 
been traditionally occupied by women, such as cosmetology and 
childcare, which also tend to be lower-paying professions.
    Discussion: We agree that career and technical education courses 
can be instrumental in preparing students for postsecondary study and 
careers in STEM fields. However, we do not believe it is necessary to 
specifically mention career and technical education courses in the 
priority. As indicated earlier in this notice, our intent is to use 
this priority across a number of different Department programs, some of 
which may not permit a focus on career and technical education courses, 
and we do not wish to unnecessarily limit the scope of this priority 
and risk precluding applicants in some Department programs from 
addressing it.
    We also agree that the underrepresentation of women and girls in 
certain STEM fields is a significant problem. Paragraph (b) of the 
priority was designed to address that concern by encouraging a focus on 
increasing the participation of students from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM careers, including women. However, upon 
further reflection, we believe that, rather than focusing on increasing 
the number of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in 
STEM careers only in paragraph (b) (with regard to postsecondary and 
graduate study and careers in STEM), there should be a similar emphasis 
with regard to increasing access to rigorous and engaging coursework in 
STEM (paragraph (a)) and with regard to increasing opportunities for 
high-quality preparation of, or professional development for, teachers 
or other educators of STEM subjects (paragraph (c)). Therefore, we are 
adding two new paragraphs that focus on individuals from groups 
traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers, and removing the 
reference to such individuals in paragraph (b). New paragraph (d) 
focuses on increasing the number of students from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM who are provided with access to rigorous and 
engaging coursework in STEM or who are prepared for postsecondary or 
graduate study and careers in STEM; and new paragraph (e) focuses on 
increasing the number of individuals from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM who are teachers or educators of STEM subjects 
and who have increased opportunities for high-quality preparation or 
professional development.
    Changes: We have added a new paragraph (d) to read as follows: 
``Increasing the number of individuals from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM, including minorities, individuals with 
disabilities, and women, who are provided with access to rigorous and 
engaging coursework in STEM or who are prepared for postsecondary or 
graduate study and careers in STEM.''
    We have added a new paragraph (e) to read as follows: ``Increasing 
the number of individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in 
STEM, including minorities, individuals with disabilities, and women, 
who are teachers or educators of STEM subjects and have increased 
opportunities for high-quality preparation or professional 
development.''
    We have removed the following from paragraph (b): ``With a specific 
focus on an increase in the number and proportion of students so 
prepared who are from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM 
careers, including minorities, individuals with disabilities, and 
women.''
    Comment: While several commenters supported this priority and noted 
the importance of ensuring that students have access to STEM coursework 
well before entering college, one commenter recommended that the 
Department revise the priority to focus on both the preparation for and 
the completion of graduate degrees in STEM fields.
    Discussion: The priority supports both the preparation and the 
completion of postsecondary or graduate study in STEM. Specifically, 
paragraph (b) of the priority emphasizes increasing the number of 
students prepared for postsecondary and graduate study and careers in 
STEM. Thus, the language supporting increasing the number of students 
prepared for careers in STEM already supports projects that are 
designed to increase the number of students completing their 
postgraduate studies in STEM.
    During the Department's review of the NPP, we determined that the 
phrase ``advanced postsecondary or graduate study'' in paragraph (b) 
was vague and confusing. Therefore, we are removing the word 
``advanced'' from paragraph (b). We also determined that, rather than 
focusing only on increasing the number of students prepared for 
postsecondary or graduate study and careers in STEM that the priority 
should also focus on increasing the proportion of those students. We 
are, therefore, making these changes in paragraph (b).
    Changes: In paragraph (b), we have removed ``advanced'' before 
``postsecondary''; and added ``and proportion'' before ``of students 
prepared for''. With this change and the changes noted in response to 
an earlier comment, paragraph (b) now reads: ``Increasing the number 
and proportion of students prepared for postsecondary or graduate study 
and careers in STEM.''
    Comment: One commenter applauded the Department's focus on issues 
affecting underrepresented students in STEM fields. The commenter 
suggested, however, that the Department narrow its focus to address 
specific achievement gaps between males and females in general, and 
between minority males and white males, in particular. The commenter 
stated that minority males in particular face access, academic success,

[[Page 78500]]

and persistence difficulties when they enter the STEM fields.
    Discussion: We appreciate the commenter's support and recognize the 
seriousness of these achievement gaps. Our intent under paragraph (b) 
of the priority was to address those gaps by supporting projects that 
are designed to increase the representation of all students from groups 
traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers, including minorities, 
individuals with disabilities, and women. As noted in response to an 
earlier comment, we are removing the reference to increasing the number 
of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers 
who are prepared for postsecondary or graduate study and careers in 
STEM in paragraph (b) and adding it in new paragraph (d). We think the 
priority, as we have revised it, addresses these gaps and do not 
believe it is necessary to identify achievement gaps involving specific 
populations in order to provide support for strategies that can serve 
to narrow these achievement gaps.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters recommended that we revise the priority to 
include support for increasing the actual number of STEM teachers in 
addition to increasing the opportunities for the preparation of, or 
providing professional development for, teachers of STEM subjects. The 
commenters stated that STEM subjects are difficult to staff with 
qualified teachers and, therefore, there should be an emphasis on 
increasing the actual number of teachers in STEM fields.
    Discussion: We recognize that some LEAs struggle to recruit and 
retain a sufficient number of teachers with the knowledge and skills 
required to teach STEM content. Paragraph (c) of the priority is 
designed to address that problem because it focuses on increasing the 
support provided to teachers of STEM subjects so that they are 
adequately prepared to provide effective instruction to students. We 
believe that increasing these types of opportunities for STEM teachers 
and other educators will lead to increases in the actual numbers of 
teachers and other educators prepared to teach and improve student 
achievement in STEM subjects.
    We do not believe it is necessary, therefore, to revise the 
priority as suggested by the commenter.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise 
paragraph (c) of the priority to specify that the opportunities for 
preparation of or professional development for teachers of STEM 
subjects be designed to equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, and 
abilities to address the diverse learning and support service needs of 
high-need students in teachers' classrooms.
    Discussion: We agree that it is important that STEM teachers have 
the knowledge and skills needed to address the learning needs of high-
need students, as well as the needs of all other students. However, as 
indicated earlier, because we plan to use these priorities across a 
number of our discretionary grant programs, it would not be appropriate 
to focus on a particular group of students or a particular type of 
activity. As written, the priority does not preclude an applicant from 
focusing its project on the type of professional development or teacher 
preparation mentioned by the commenter provided that this focus is 
authorized under the applicable program statute and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that the priority include a focus 
on improving online access to STEM courses. The commenter noted that 
providing online courses in STEM and improving access to those courses 
could provide a solution to the shortage of STEM teachers.
    Discussion: We agree that the use of online STEM courses could be 
effective in increasing students' access to this coursework and that, 
at least in part the availability of these courses could address the 
challenges that certain LEAs face in recruiting and retaining STEM 
teachers. However, we do not believe it is necessary to include a 
separate priority area supporting online STEM courses since our intent 
under this priority is to support all types of strategies that may be 
effective in increasing student access to STEM instructional content.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to promote increased access to the full range of tools and 
processes employed by STEM educators, including access to experts in 
STEM via online and distance learning coursework.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenter that current and 
prospective STEM educators need a full range of resources and supports 
as they prepare for teaching STEM subjects or to enhance their teaching 
skills. We think this objective is addressed in the language in 
paragraph (c) and new paragraph (e) of the priority regarding 
increasing the opportunities for high-quality preparation of, or 
professional development for, teachers or other educators of STEM 
subjects.
    Changes: None.

New Priority 11 (Proposed Priority 8)--Promoting Diversity

    Comment: Multiple commenters expressed support for this priority, 
noting the importance of diversity generally and, more specifically, 
the educational benefits that inure to students in diverse learning 
environments. Several commenters recommended that the Department expand 
the definition of ``diversity'' or mention additional groups. For 
example, a number of these commenters suggested adding lesbian, gay, 
bisexual, and transgender students as examples of a diverse student 
body. Several commenters recommended that the Department include gender 
as an additional example of students within a diverse student body. One 
commenter recommended that the Department include gifted students as 
part of the priority. Another commenter recommended that the priority 
include students of different socioeconomic status. Two commenters 
recommended that the Department revise the priority to include students 
with disabilities and English learners.
    Several commenters recommended that the Department expand the 
priority to include support for diversity among teachers and other 
school staff. One commenter recommended that the Department revise the 
priority to encourage diversity in early learning providers.
    One commenter recommended that the Department revise the priority 
to require charter schools to promote student diversity. Another 
commenter suggested that the Department revise the priority to promote 
diversity in the academic and societal preparation of our youth. One 
commenter recommended that the Department revise the priority to 
provide examples of programs that would be supported under this 
priority.
    Discussion: The Department agrees that school, teacher, and school 
staff diversity is important. The intent of this priority, however, is 
to focus on the racial and ethnic diversity of students in order to 
promote cross-racial understanding, break down racial stereotypes, and 
prepare students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society. 
Therefore, we decline to expand the definition of ``diversity'' or 
mention the additional groups that commenters recommended. The priority 
does not preclude programs that focus on teacher diversity, so long as 
they also focus on student diversity.

[[Page 78501]]

    We intend to use this priority across a number of different 
Department programs. Therefore, we do not wish to unnecessarily narrow 
the focus of the priority or limit its applicability by adding specific 
age ranges or referring to specific types of schools or programs in the 
priority.
    Changes: None.

New Priority 12 (Proposed Priority 9)--Support for Military Families

    Comment: Many commenters expressed support for this priority. These 
commenters noted that the families of men and women in the military 
face unique challenges requiring specific types of support to ensure 
successful educational outcomes. Two commenters recommended including 
in the priority examples of strategies to support students whose 
parents are in the military. Many commenters noted that an effective 
strategy is creating a year-round program for military families. 
Another commenter suggested expanding the priority to include supports 
for students inside and outside of the classroom that are school- and 
community-based (e.g., school health and counseling clinics, family 
resource centers, tutoring programs).
    One commenter requested that the Department clarify whether the 
term military-connected student includes a student with at least one 
parent who is in the military, regardless of whether the student 
resides with the parent. Another commenter commended the Department for 
including a priority on military-connected students and recommended 
that the broadest definition of ``pre-kindergarten'' be applied to 
include children from birth through kindergarten.
    Discussion: We recognize that military deployments place an 
enormous strain on military families and their children. However, we 
decline to make the changes recommended by the commenters because we do 
not want to unnecessarily limit the scope of this priority given our 
intent to use this priority across different Department programs. We 
note that this priority would not preclude an applicant from proposing 
the types of projects suggested by the commenters, provided that the 
proposal is authorized by the program statute and regulations.
    With respect to the definition of military-connected student, we 
are making a number of changes based on the comments we received. We 
agree with the commenter that the definition of military-connected 
student should apply to children from birth through grade 12 and are 
adding language to refer to a child participating in an early learning 
program. We are also replacing ``pre-kindergarten'' with ``preschool'' 
in order to be more inclusive of a broader group of children; ``pre-
kindergarten'' generally refers to children between four and six years 
of age, while ``preschool'' generally refers to children between 
infancy and school age. In response to comments regarding the unique 
challenges faced by the families of men and women in the military, we 
are adding the spouse of an active-duty service member to the 
definition of military-connected student. Finally, as described earlier 
in this notice, we agree with commenters that it is important to 
increase the number of current service members and post-9/11 veterans, 
who enroll in, persist in, and complete college or other postsecondary 
training and, therefore, are revising the definition of military-
connected students to add this reference.
    With regard to the commenter who asked for clarification regarding 
whether a student must reside with the parent who is in the military to 
be considered a ``military-connected student,'' the definition of 
military-connected student does not require a student to reside with 
the parent who is on active duty in the military to be considered a 
``military-connected student.''
    Changes: We have revised the definition of military-connected 
student to read as follows: Military-connected student means (a) a 
child participating in an early learning program, a student in pre-
school through grade 12, or a student enrolled in postsecondary 
education or training who has a parent or guardian on active duty in 
the uniformed services (as defined by 37 U.S.C. 101, in the Army, Navy, 
Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or the reserve 
component of any of the aforementioned services) or (b) a student who 
is a veteran of the uniformed services, who is on active duty, or who 
is the spouse of an active-duty service member.

New Priority 13 (Proposed Priority 10)--Enabling More Data-Based 
Decision-Making

    Comment: While many commenters supported this priority, several 
commenters requested that the priority include the specific types of 
data to be collected and disaggregated. One commenter suggested 
collecting health outcomes data in addition to academic data. Many 
commenters stated that in order to make decisions about the best 
strategies for improving learning environments, demographic information 
about sexual orientation, gender identity, and student diversity should 
be collected. One commenter recommended collecting data on highly 
mobile students and military-connected students. Another commenter 
recommended collecting data on gifted and talented students. One 
commenter stated that the Department should provide a competitive 
preference for projects that collect and disaggregate data that can be 
used to address achievement gaps across student subgroups. Another 
commenter recommended adding language to the priority to highlight the 
need for high-quality, timely, and disaggregated data. Several 
commenters stated that having additional data on school climate issues, 
such as bullying, violence, and substance abuse, would help educators 
identify strategies to improve the school climate for all students.
    Discussion: Our intent is to use this priority across a number of 
different Department programs to encourage applicants to think 
strategically and innovatively about what data are available to a 
specific project and how best to use those data to improve student 
outcomes. We decline to make the changes recommended by the commenters 
because doing so would unnecessarily limit the nature and scope of the 
priority.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the priority should emphasize 
the importance of protecting the privacy of student and educator data 
and recommended revising the definition of privacy requirements to 
include educator privacy in addition to student privacy.
    Discussion: While we agree that the privacy of teachers and 
principals must be protected, we note that there are no Federal privacy 
requirements specifically targeted to teachers or principals that would 
apply to data collected through programs that are funded using these 
priorities. The definition of privacy requirements in this notice 
refers to the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy 
Act (FERPA), which apply to the disclosure of information from 
education records of students, the Privacy Act of 1974, and all 
applicable Federal, State, and local requirements regarding privacy. We 
expect all grantees to abide by all applicable Federal, State, or local 
laws and requirements regarding the privacy of educators.
    Changes: None.
    Comments: We received numerous comments recommending that the 
priority focus on collecting and analyzing data that can be used to 
support particular groups of

[[Page 78502]]

individuals. For example, several commenters emphasized the need for 
parents to have data that will help them make informed decisions about 
their child's education. Two commenters encouraged the Department to 
focus the priority on training for parents on how to effectively access 
and use data. Another commenter recommended revising the priority to 
include a focus on child and family outcomes and not just student 
outcomes.
    We also received a number of comments requesting that the priority 
focus on collecting and analyzing data that will help teachers. Two 
commenters recommended that the priority support ongoing professional 
development for teachers on how to use research and data to improve 
practices and strategies in the classroom. One commenter recommended 
focusing the priority on projects that train teachers to use student 
outcomes as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Another commenter 
suggested that the priority be targeted to support training for school 
board members, administrators, and other school personnel.
    Discussion: We believe that it is essential for parents to be 
involved with their child's education and to be aware of the data that 
are being collected and used by schools to make educational decisions. 
Likewise, the Department agrees that teachers need high-quality and 
timely data, and training on the use of that data, to help improve 
their instruction and student outcomes. We purposefully refer to 
``program participant outcomes'' in the priority because we anticipate 
using this priority across a number of programs in the Department and 
do not want to limit the focus of this priority to student outcomes 
when we have a wide range of participants, including parents and 
teachers, involved in the Department's programs. Furthermore, program 
participants are generally defined in the authorizing legislation of a 
program; thus, Department officials who use this priority will define 
in their notices inviting applications the program participants for 
their particular grant program. Therefore, we decline to make the 
changes suggested by the commenters.
    Changes: None.
    Comments: Several commenters recommended that the priority focus on 
the various stakeholders that would be involved in the analysis of data 
to improve outcomes for participants. One commenter recommended that 
the priority provide support for intermediary organizations, such as 
research institutions, coalitions, community organizations, 
constituents, and peers, to collect, interpret, synthesize, and share 
research knowledge.
    Discussion: The Department agrees with the commenters on the 
importance of promoting collaboration among education agencies, 
research institutions, community organizations, and other stakeholders. 
However, we decline to add the recommended language to this priority 
because we do not want to unnecessarily limit its scope. This priority 
would not preclude an applicant from proposing this type of 
collaboration among stakeholders provided that such collaboration was 
authorized by the program statute and regulations.
    Changes: None.
    Comments: Several commenters recommended that the Department 
provide specific performance metrics that would be used to judge the 
progress of grants awarded under this priority. Another commenter 
recommended requiring postsecondary grantees that receive awards under 
this priority to report on common metrics for the completion of 
postsecondary degrees.
    Discussion: We appreciate the need for establishing metrics to 
measure the success of our programs and specific projects. However, 
under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, each of the 
Department's discretionary grant programs has already established 
performance measures for that purpose, which are specific to the goals 
of and activities supported by those programs. We believe that these 
program-specific measures will provide an appropriate means of 
analyzing the success of those programs.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Several commenters recommended that the Department use 
this priority to emphasize the sharing of data between data systems at 
State agencies, institutions of higher education, and districts. The 
commenters argued this sharing would help to bring all stakeholders 
``to the table'' to develop integrated data systems for students from 
pre-kindergarten through college. However, one commenter suggested 
refocusing the emphasis from State longitudinal data systems for 
accountability purposes to data for local classroom instructional 
purposes.
    Discussion: We agree with the commenters that the sharing of data 
between data systems at State agencies, institutions of higher 
education, and districts is important in order to strengthen 
accountability and obtain the accurate and reliable data necessary to 
drive sound educational decisions. We believe that the focus on using 
data from State longitudinal data systems in paragraph (d) sufficiently 
emphasizes the importance of sharing data between these data systems 
and, therefore, decline to add the language recommended by the 
commenter. However, we agree that it would be appropriate to emphasize 
the use of data from State longitudinal data systems and are revising 
paragraph (d) accordingly.
    With regard to the recommendation to refocus State longitudinal 
data systems for accountability purposes to data for instructional 
purposes, paragraph (d) specifically focuses on State-level data that 
would appropriately be provided by a State's longitudinal data system. 
Paragraphs (a) and (b) could be used for programs that focus on using 
data for instructional purposes.
    Changes: We have revised paragraph (d), which reads as follows: 
``Providing reliable and comprehensive information on the 
implementation of Department of Education programs, and participant 
outcomes in these programs, by using data from State longitudinal data 
systems or by obtaining data from reliable third-party sources.''
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: During our review of this notice, we identified several 
errors in this priority. In the introduction, we intended the priority 
to permit projects to focus on ``one or more'' of the priority areas 
(a) through (d), rather than on just one of the priority areas. 
Therefore, we are changing ``one of the following priority areas'' to 
``one or more of the following priority areas.'' In paragraph (a), 
which relates to early learning settings, we should have referred to 
``child outcomes'' instead of ``student outcomes,'' and are making this 
change accordingly. Finally, we intended paragraph (b) to provide the 
option for an applicant to focus on improving instructional practices, 
policies, and student outcomes in elementary or secondary schools, 
rather than elementary and secondary schools. Therefore, we are 
changing the ``and'' to an ``or'' in paragraph (b).
    Changes: In the introduction to the priority, we have changed ``one 
of the following priority areas'' to ``one or more of the following 
priority areas.'' In paragraph (a), we have changed ``student 
outcomes'' to ``child outcomes.'' ``Elementary and secondary schools'' 
has been changed to ``elementary or secondary schools'' in paragraph 
(b).
    With these changes and those noted earlier, priority 13 reads as 
follows:
    ``Priority 13--Enabling More Data-Based Decision-Making.

[[Page 78503]]

    Projects that are designed to collect (or obtain), analyze, and use 
high-quality and timely data, including data on program participant 
outcomes, in accordance with privacy requirements (as defined in this 
notice), in one or more of the following priority areas:
    (a) Improving instructional practices, policies, and child outcomes 
in early learning settings.
    (b) Improving instructional practices, policies, and student 
outcomes in elementary or secondary schools.
    (c) Improving postsecondary student outcomes relating to 
enrollment, persistence, and completion and leading to career success.
    (d) Providing reliable and comprehensive information on the 
implementation of Department of Education programs, and participant 
outcomes in these programs by using data from State longitudinal data 
systems or by obtaining data from reliable third-party sources.''

Priority 14 (Proposed Priority 11)--Building Evidence of Effectiveness

    Comment: Many commenters expressed support for proposed Priority 11 
(new Priority 14). One commenter suggested that this priority be used 
in all grant programs. Several commenters agreed with the Department's 
position that while experimental and quasi-experimental designs provide 
the most rigorous evidence of a program's impact and should be used 
when feasible, such research designs are not always feasible and other 
designs may be more appropriate for the question being asked. One 
commenter stated that this flexibility allows for smaller programs and 
projects to be evaluated even though they may not have the number of 
participants needed for a random assignment or quasi-experimental 
research design. One commenter recommended being more explicit in the 
priority regarding this flexibility. However, one commenter stated that 
the priority places too narrow an emphasis on analyses from a limited 
set of highly controlled experimental and quasi-experimental designed 
studies and as a result would not recognize the work of school-level 
practitioners and others. The commenter recommended revising proposed 
Priority 11 (new Priority 14) to include various measures of student 
achievement and require the use of readily available data in schools 
and districts. The commenter pointed to programs where a project would 
not meet the proposed definitions of strong evidence and moderate 
evidence, and concluded that the proposed priority failed to take into 
account many district and school practices, which would be 
counterproductive to the identification of effective techniques, 
strategies, and methods. The commenter proposed incorporating a new 
category of ``Promising Evidence'' that reflects various measures of 
student achievement and progress more readily available in schools and 
districts. Another commenter argued that experimental research design 
is not always conducive to studying complex educational issues or areas 
of innovation.
    Discussion: We appreciate the commenters' support for the proposed 
priority and for using other rigorous evaluation methods when it is not 
feasible to use experimental and quasi-experimental research designs. 
We do not, however, agree with the one commenter's suggestion that we 
be more explicit in the priority regarding this ``flexibility.'' Nor do 
we agree with the commenter that this priority is too narrow and 
restrictive.
    When taken together, new Priorities, 13, 14, and 15 (proposed 
Priorities 10, 11, and 12, respectively), along with the Department's 
notice of final priority on scientifically based evaluation methods, 
published on January 25, 2005 in the Federal Register (70 FR 3586), 
provide an appropriate, flexible spectrum of approaches for taking into 
account evidence in competitive grant programs.
    New Priority 15 (proposed Priority 12) (Supporting Programs, 
Practices, or Strategies for which there is Strong or Moderate Evidence 
of Effectiveness) asks applicants to provide strong or moderate 
evidence to support their proposals. By contrast, new Priorities 13 and 
14 (proposed Priorities 10 and 11, respectively), and the Department's 
2005 notice of final priority on scientifically based evaluation 
methods focus on developing and using evidence during the life of the 
project and beyond.
    New Priority 13 (proposed Priority 10) (Enabling More Data-Based 
Decision-Making) encourages applicants to collect, analyze, and use 
data to improve practices, policies, and outcomes, and build evidence 
into program operations and improvement.
    New Priority 14 (proposed Priority 11) (Building Evidence of 
Effectiveness) encourages applicants to evaluate their programs. 
Recognizing that it is not always feasible or appropriate to use 
experimental and quasi-experimental research designs, new Priority 14 
encourages the use of methods likely to produce valid and reliable 
results, and requires, at a minimum, that the outcome of interest be 
measured multiple times before and after the treatment for project 
participants and, where feasible, for a comparison group of non-
participants.
    The Department expects that grants made pursuant to new Priority 14 
will use the most rigorous evaluations feasible to provide the 
strongest available empirical evidence of the impact of programs. The 
Department considers random assignment and quasi-experimental designs 
to be the most defensible methods for addressing the question of 
project effectiveness in that they reliably produce an unbiased 
estimate of effectiveness and should be the preferred method of 
determining effectiveness when sufficient numbers of participants are 
available to support these designs. Random assignment and quasi-
experimental designs are considered the most rigorous models for 
producing evidence of the impact of a program because they are best 
able to eliminate plausible competing explanations for observed 
results. The Department's notice of final priority on scientifically 
based evaluation methods allowed the Department to expand the number of 
programs and projects Department-wide that are evaluated using 
experimental and quasi-experimental designs. This priority remains in 
effect; however, acknowledging that the use of such research designs is 
not always feasible or appropriate, the Department would use Priority 
14 to support studies using other rigorous evaluation methods 
consistent with the principles of scientific research. Given the 
spectrum of approaches for taking into account evidence across these 
priorities, we do not agree with the commenter's recommendation to 
incorporate a ``Promising Evidence'' category.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter applauded the inclusion of this priority but 
recommended that the Department reserve the highest percentage of 
available funds for grants to support programs that are evaluated 
through rigorous randomized control studies or high-quality comparison 
group studies.
    Discussion: It would not be appropriate to use this notice to 
specify how the funds that are appropriated for a particular 
discretionary grant program will be spent; such decisions are made by 
the Department consistent with the statute and regulations under which 
a program is authorized.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Several commenters asserted that the proposed priority was 
not specific enough and stated that we also should include references 
to using data to improve early learning, teacher effectiveness, 
sexuality education, or summer programs, and to evaluate

[[Page 78504]]

school-based delinquency, truancy, or bullying prevention programs. 
Another commenter requested further clarification on outcome measures 
because the priority did not seem to reference context, process, or 
formative data as components of an evaluation plan.
    Discussion: We purposefully did not include in the priority the 
level of specificity suggested by the commenters because our intent is 
to use this priority across a number of different Department programs. 
By not defining the participants or strategies, we will be able to use 
this priority in programs across the Department. Each time we do so, we 
intend to provide further clarification to applicants about the 
expectations of the evaluation plan, including on data usage and 
program focus, and further clarification on how we will review those 
plans.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: One commenter requested defining the term ``scientifically 
valid research'' and recommended using the definition provided in the 
HEA.
    Discussion: We do not believe it is necessary to include a 
definition of ``scientifically valid research'' as this term is not 
used in these priorities. We believe the definitions included in this 
notice, which are in the What Works Clearinghouse evidence standards (see 
http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/references/idocviewer/doc.aspx?docid=19&tocid=1), 
and the Department's notice of final 
priority on scientifically based evaluation methods provide sufficient 
guidance regarding the use of scientifically based research in 
evaluating whether a project produces meaningful effects on student 
achievement or teacher performance.
    Changes: None.

New Priority 15 (Proposed Priority 12)--Supporting Programs, Practices, 
or Strategies for Which There Is Strong or Moderate Evidence of 
Effectiveness

    Comment: Many commenters expressed support for this priority and 
the requirement for strong or moderate evidence of effectiveness. One 
commenter agreed with the Department's approach to award more points to 
a project supported by strong evidence when compared to a project 
supported by moderate evidence. One commenter recommended including 
guidance in the priority on how applicants should move from research to 
strategy implementation on a large scale.
    Discussion: The Department appreciates this support from 
commenters. The intent of this priority, as one of several addressing 
levels of evidence, is to support projects that use moderate or strong 
levels of evidence. We believe that the field of education needs to use 
the best available evidence to inform policy and practices and, where 
strong evidence does not exist, to build evidence over time. This 
priority will be applied to programs where we believe that 
implementation of activities or strategies supported by strong and 
moderate evidence is possible.
    Changes: None.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concern that small organizations 
and nonprofit organizations lack the evaluation resources to conduct 
studies that meet the threshold established for strong and moderate 
evidence, thereby resulting in an unfair advantage for larger school 
districts and organizations.
    Discussion: While it is true that small organizations, nonprofit 
organizations, and school districts may not have the resources to 
conduct evaluation studies that meet the evidence threshold established 
in this priority, applicants may be able to satisfy this priority by 
using third-party studies to demonstrate that the program or strategies 
they are using are supported by moderate or strong evidence. The 
practice, strategy, or program does not have to be one that was 
developed by the district or nonprofit organization.
    Changes: None.

Priority 16 (Proposed Priority 13)--Improving Productivity

    Comment: Several commenters supported the inclusion of a priority 
focused on improving productivity and making more efficient use of 
time, money, and staff. One commenter recognized the importance of 
efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of the education system and 
that improving productivity is an important goal in education. Several 
commenters suggested particular strategies for improving productivity 
that applicants should implement in order to meet the requirements of 
this priority. Two commenters stressed the importance of partnerships 
and collaboration in improving productivity and recommended including 
language encouraging partnerships with such entities as institutions of 
higher education, nonprofit organizations, city and county governments, 
businesses, parents, educators, and unions representing educators. One 
commenter suggested including ``staff wellness/staff satisfaction'' 
programs as a means of improving productivity. One commenter suggested 
that this priority be paired with broader values, such as improving 
teaching and learning conditions. Another commenter stated that summer 
school provides an ideal opportunity to test innovative practices in 
staffing, scheduling, and community partnering. Another commenter 
recommended adding specific performance benchmarks and indicators to 
the priority statement.
    Discussion: We appreciate the support that commenters expressed for 
this priority. As previously stated in this notice, the intent of these 
priorities is to apply one or more of the priorities to various 
programs across the Department in order to encourage applicants to 
develop innovative strategies to meet the priority within the context 
of the program. Priorities will only be used for a program where the 
Department determines the priority to be consistent with the purpose of 
the program and permitted under the applicable statute and regulations. 
We choose not to restrict applicants to specific strategies, such as 
those suggested by the commenters, but encourage grantees to develop 
innovative practices that will best improve results and increase 
productivity for their unique educational situation. Each of the 
Department's discretionary grant programs is required to have specific 
performance measures and indicators that help determine the impact of 
the program. Because indicators are program specific, the Department 
does not believe it is necessary to include benchmarks in this 
priority.
    During the Department's internal review of this notice, we 
determined that the focus of new Priority 16 could be stated more 
clearly. Therefore, we are making slight changes to the language in 
this priority and adding modification of teacher compensation systems 
as an example of a strategy to make more efficient use of time, money, 
and staff.
    Changes: We have revised new Priority 16 to read as follows:
    ``Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency 
in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources in order to 
improve results and increase productivity. Such projects may include 
innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school 
schedules and teacher compensation systems, and use of open educational 
resources (as defined in this notice), or other strategies.''

Definitions

Graduation Rate

    Comment: Several commenters expressed concern that the definition 
of graduation rate would not permit all States and districts to use an 
extended graduation rate for students who need

[[Page 78505]]

more than four years to graduate with a regular high school diploma.
    Discussion: We believe it is important to be consistent with the 
definition of graduation rate in 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1), which permits the 
use of an extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate if the State in 
which the proposed project is implemented has been approved by the 
Secretary pursuant to that regulation to use such a rate.
    Changes: None.

High-Need Children and High-Need Students

    Comment: The Department received numerous comments recommending 
that the definition of high-need children and high-need students 
include references to additional sub-groups of students. One commenter 
recommended adding Native American students and another commenter 
recommended adding students from racial minority groups with persistent 
achievement gaps and students who are new immigrants to the United 
States whose education has been inadequate or interrupted. Two 
commenters recommended adding highly mobile students and migratory 
students to this definition. Several commenters recommended including 
students who are gifted, especially those traditionally 
underrepresented in gifted education programs, such as students from 
low-socioeconomic backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English 
learners. Another commenter recommended adding students who are 
underrepresented in an academic program, such as minorities and women 
in STEM fields. One commenter recommended including students with 
parents who have the same characteristics as high-need children and 
students, for example, students with parents who are English learners 
or who are incarcerated. Another commenter recommended adding pregnant 
and parenting students because of the barriers they face in enrolling, 
attending, and succeeding in school.
    Discussion: The groups identified in the definition of high-need 
children and high-need students are examples of children and students 
who may be at risk of educational failure. The examples are provided 
for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to exclude other 
subgroups of students who may be at risk of educational failure. It is 
not practical or possible to include in the definition all the 
subgroups of students recommended by the commenters. We believe that it 
is appropriate to add students who are pregnant or parenting teenagers 
and students who are new immigrants and migrant students to call 
attention to the needs of these particular groups of students. We also 
believe that many of the groups of students that commenters recommended 
including in the definition would fall into the category of students 
who are not on track to becoming college- or career-ready by graduation 
and are at risk of educational failure and are, therefore, adding 
language to that effect in the definition.
    Changes: We have added students who are pregnant or parenting 
teenagers, students who are new immigrants, students who are migrant, 
and students who are not on track to becoming college- or career-ready 
by graduation to the definition. We are also changing ``English 
language learners'' to ``English learners.''
    Comment: None.
    Discussion: The proposed definition of high-need children and high-
need students referred to children and students at risk of educational 
failure ``or otherwise in need of special assistance and support.'' 
Upon further reflection, we believe that the phrase ``or otherwise in 
need of special assistance and support'' is confusing and detracts from 
the intended focus of the priority on children and students who are at 
risk of educational failure. Therefore, we are removing this phrase 
from the definition. We also are adding language to clarify that 
students who have left school include students who have left college 
before receiving a college degree or certificate.
    Changes: We have removed the phrase ``or otherwise in need of 
special assistance and support'' from the definition of high-need 
children and high-need students. We have replaced ``who have left 
school before receiving a regular high school diploma'' to ``who have 
left school or college before receiving, respectively, a regular high 
school diploma or a college degree or certificate.''

High-Poverty School

    Comment: One commenter expressed support for allowing middle and 
high schools to use data from feeder schools to demonstrate that they 
are high-poverty schools. The commenter noted that students in middle 
and high school are often reluctant to admit that they qualify for the 
free or reduced-price lunch program and that by defining a high-poverty 
school based on comparable data gathered at feeder schools, the 
Department would be able to reach more students in need. Several 
commenters requested that the definition of a high-poverty school be 
changed to mean a school with at least 40 percent of students eligible 
for the free or reduced-price lunch program, instead of 50 percent.
    Discussion: We decline to change the definition of high-poverty 
school to mean a school with at least 40 percent of students eligible 
for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Changing the definition in 
this manner would greatly increase the number of schools designated as 
``high-poverty schools'' and would be inconsistent with the intent of 
new Priority 9 (proposed priority 6), which is to target resources on a 
limited number of schools that have the greatest need. With regard to 
the recommendation to permit the poverty rate for middle and high 
schools to be based on school lunch data for their feeder elementary 
schools, the proposed priority specifically allowed the calculation to 
be made on that basis.
    Changes: None.

Open Educational Resources

    Comment: Many commenters supported including a reference to open 
educational resources in proposed Priority 13 (new Priority 16). Two 
commenters recommended revising the definition of this term to include 
language that makes clear that resources released under an intellectual 
property license should permit sharing, accessing, repurposing 
(including for commercial purposes), and collaborating with others.
    Discussion: We appreciate the commenters' support for including 
open educational resources in proposed Priority 13 (new Priority 16). 
We believe that the proposed definition of open educational resources 
includes the characteristics of open educational resources that the 
commenters recommended including in the definition and, therefore, do 
not believe it is necessary to change the definition in the manner 
recommended by the commenter.
    Changes: None.

Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools

    Comment: Several commenters recommended revising the definition of 
persistently lowest-achieving schools in ways that would expand the 
number of schools identified as persistently lowest-achieving. Two 
commenters recommended that the definition be expanded to include 
support for other low-performing schools and for schools at risk of 
becoming low-performing. One commenter recommended revising the 
definition to include schools that have a high rate of student or 
teacher turnover. Another commenter stated that States and LEAs should 
have the

[[Page 78506]]

flexibility to define persistently lowest-achieving schools.
    Discussion: As stated earlier, our intention with Priority 4 is to 
support projects that will serve the lowest-achieving schools in our 
Nation. Accordingly, we used the definition of persistently lowest-
achieving schools that is consistent with the definition used in the 
Department's SIG program authorized under section 1003(g) of the ESEA. 
Given this focus in Priority 4, we decline to make the changes 
recommended by the commenters.
    Changes: None.

Rural Local Educational Agency

    Comment: Several commenters noted that proposed Priority 6 (new 
Priority 9) (Improving Achievement and High School Graduation Rates) 
refers to students in rural communities and requested that the notice 
include a definition of ``rural community.''
    Discussion: We have changed ``rural community'' to ``rural local 
educational agency'' in new Priority 9 (proposed Priority 6) in order 
to be clear about the focus of paragraph (a) in this priority on 
students attending schools in rural local educational agencies. We, 
therefore, are adding a definition of rural local educational agency 
that is based on the definitions under the Small Rural School 
Achievement (SRSA) program or the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) 
program.
    Changes: We have added the following definition: ``Rural local 
educational agency means a local educational agency (LEA) that is 
eligible under the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program or the 
Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program authorized under Title VI, 
Part B of the ESEA. Eligible applicants may determine whether a 
particular LEA is eligible for these programs by referring to 
information on the Department's Web site at: 
http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/freedom/local/reap.html.''

Strong Evidence

    Comment: One commenter stated that additional language is needed in 
the definition of strong evidence to indicate that programs and 
projects that have been the subject of experimental and quasi-
experimental studies with small sample sizes that limit 
generalizability, such as those potentially used in rural or remote 
areas, are considered to have strong evidence if they have been the 
subject of more than one well-designed and well-implemented study that 
supports the effectiveness of the practice, strategy, or program.
    Discussion: We do not believe it is necessary to add language to 
the definition of strong evidence as recommended by the commenter. The 
definition of strong evidence includes evidence based on more than one 
well-designed and well-implemented experimental or quasi-experimental 
study that supports the effectiveness of the practice, strategy, or 
program. The language specifies that the ``studies that in total 
include enough of the range of participants and settings to support 
``scaling up'' to the State, regional, or national level (i.e., studies 
with high external validity)'' could include evaluations of a practice, 
strategy, or program in multiple rural sites even though each site may 
include small numbers of students. On this basis, an applicant could, 
for example, propose to scale up a practice, strategy, or program in 
rural settings within a State or region or at the national level.
    Changes: None.

Student Achievement

    Comment: We received a number of comments regarding the ``other 
measures of learning'' referenced in the proposed definition of student 
achievement. Some commenters recommended including references to 
advanced placement exam scores; others recommended using ACT or SAT 
scores, or scores on tests that result in the awarding of college 
credit. One commenter recommended that the definition include non-
academic factors such as peer, parent, and student evaluations; 
attendance rates; and rates of participation in extracurricular 
activities.
    Discussion: The proposed definition of student achievement already 
includes examples of other measures of student learning and performance 
measures. We, therefore, do not believe it is necessary to include the 
measures recommended by commenters. We also note that the nonacademic 
factors recommended by one commenter would generally not be acceptable 
measures of student learning as the definition requires that other 
measures of student achievement be rigorous and comparable across 
schools.
    Changes: None.

Student Growth

    Comment: One commenter stated that the definition of student growth 
should be changed to refer to students participating in academic 
programs where those individuals are from underrepresented groups.
    Discussion: We disagree with the commenter. The definition of 
student growth applies to all students, not to any specific subgroups 
of students.
    Changes: None.

Other Comments

    Comment: One commenter recommended adding a definition of 
``disaggregated data'' to focus on data that have been cross-tabulated 
by gender; race, ethnicity, or both; disability; socio-economic status; 
and other student demographic characteristics to enable the data to be 
used to identify where interventions need to be made to close gaps in 
performance among student subgroups.
    Discussion: The term, ``disaggregated data'' is not used in any of 
the priority language; therefore, we decline to add a definition in 
this notice.
    Changes: None.

Final Priorities

I. Advancing Key Cradle-to-Career Educational Reforms

Priority 1--Improving Early Learning Outcomes
    Projects that are designed to improve school readiness and success 
for high-need children (as defined in this notice) from birth through 
third grade (or for any age group of high-need children within this 
range) through a focus on one or more of the following priority areas:
    (a) Physical well-being and motor development.
    (b) Social-emotional development.
    (c) Language and literacy development.
    (d) Cognition and general knowledge, including early numeracy and 
early scientific development.
    (e) Approaches toward learning.

Priority 2--Implementing Internationally Benchmarked, College- and 
Career-Ready Elementary and Secondary Academic Standards

    Projects that are designed to support the implementation of 
internationally benchmarked, college- and career-ready academic 
standards held in common by multiple States and to improve instruction 
and learning, including projects in one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) The development or implementation of assessments (e.g., 
summative, formative, interim) aligned with those standards.
    (b) The development or implementation of curriculum or 
instructional materials aligned with those standards.
    (c) The development or implementation of professional development 
or preparation programs aligned with those standards.
    (d) Strategies that translate the standards into classroom 
practice.

[[Page 78507]]

Priority 3--Improving the Effectiveness and Distribution of Effective 
Teachers or Principals
    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Increasing the number or percentage of teachers or principals 
who are effective or reducing the number or percentage of teachers or 
principals who are ineffective, particularly in high-poverty schools 
(as defined in this notice) including through such activities as 
improving the preparation, recruitment, development, and evaluation of 
teachers and principals; implementing performance-based certification 
and retention systems; and reforming compensation and advancement 
systems.
    (b) Increasing the retention, particularly in high-poverty schools 
(as defined in this notice), and equitable distribution of teachers or 
principals who are effective.
    For the purposes of this priority, teacher and principal 
effectiveness should be measured using:
    (1) Teacher or principal evaluation data, in States or local 
educational agencies that have in place a high-quality teacher or 
principal evaluation system that takes into account student growth (as 
defined in this notice) in significant part and uses multiple measures, 
that, in the case of teachers, may include observations for determining 
teacher effectiveness (such as systems that meet the criteria for 
evaluation systems under the Race to the Top program as described in 
criterion (D)(2)(ii) of the Race to the Top notice inviting 
applications (74 FR 59803)); or
    (2) Data that include, in significant part, student achievement (as 
defined in this notice) or student growth data (as defined in this 
notice) and may include multiple measures in States or local 
educational agencies that do not have the teacher or principal 
evaluation systems described in paragraph (1).
Priority 4--Turning Around Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools
    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Improving student achievement (as defined in this notice) in 
persistently lowest-achieving schools (as defined in this notice).
    (b) Increasing graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and 
college enrollment rates for students in persistently lowest-achieving 
schools (as defined in this notice).
    (c) Providing services to students enrolled in persistently lowest-
achieving schools (as defined in this notice).
Priority 5--Improving School Engagement, School Environment, and School 
Safety and Improving Family and Community Engagement
    Projects that are designed to improve student outcomes through one 
or more of the following priority areas:
    (a) Improving school engagement, which may include increasing the 
quality of relationships between and among administrators, teachers, 
families, and students and increasing participation in school-related 
activities.
    (b) Improving the school environment, which may include improving 
the school setting related to student learning, safety, and health.
    (c) Improving school safety, which may include decreasing the 
incidence of harassment, bullying, violence, and substance use.
    (d) Improving parent and family engagement (as defined in this 
notice).
    (e) Improving community engagement (as defined in this notice) by 
supporting partnerships between local educational agencies, school 
staff, and one or more of the following:
    (i) Faith- or community-based organizations.
    (ii) Institutions of higher education.
    (iii) Minority-serving institutions or historically black colleges 
or universities.
    (iv) Business or industry.
    (v) Other Federal, State, or local government entities.
Priority 6--Technology
    Projects that are designed to improve student achievement or 
teacher effectiveness through the use of high-quality digital tools or 
materials, which may include preparing teachers to use the technology 
to improve instruction, as well as developing, implementing, or 
evaluating digital tools or materials.
Priority 7--Core Reforms
    Projects conducted in States, local educational agencies, or 
schools where core reforms are being implemented. Such a project is one 
that is conducted--
    (a) In a State that has adopted K-12 State academic standards in 
English language arts and mathematics that build towards college- and 
career-readiness;
    (b) In a State that has implemented a statewide longitudinal data 
system that meets all the requirements of the America COMPETES Act; and
    (c) In a local educational agency or school in which teachers 
receive student growth (as defined in this notice) data on their 
current students and the students they taught in the previous year and 
these data are provided, at a minimum, to teachers of reading/language 
arts and mathematics in grades in which the State administers 
assessments in those subjects.
Priority 8--Increasing Postsecondary Success
    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who are academically prepared for and enroll in 
college or other postsecondary education and training.
    (b) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who persist in and complete college or other 
postsecondary education and training.
    (c) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who enroll in and complete high-quality 
programs of study (as defined in this notice) designed to lead to a 
postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate.
    (d) Increasing the number of individuals who return to the 
educational system to obtain a high school diploma; to enroll in 
college or other postsecondary education or training; to obtain needed 
basic skills leading to success in college or other postsecondary 
education or the workforce; or to enter, persist in, and complete 
college or rigorous postsecondary career and technical training leading 
to a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate.
    (e) Increasing the number and proportion of high-need students (as 
defined in this notice) who enroll in and complete graduate programs.
    (f) Increasing the number and proportion of postsecondary students 
who complete college or other postsecondary education and training and 
who are demonstrably prepared for successful employment, active 
participation in civic life, and lifelong learning.

II. Addressing Needs of Student Subgroups

Priority 9--Improving Achievement and High School Graduation Rates
    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates for students in rural

[[Page 78508]]

local educational agencies (as defined in this notice).
    (b) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates for students with disabilities.
    (c) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates for English learners.
    (d) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates for high-need students (as defined in this notice).
    (e) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates in high-poverty schools (as defined in this notice).
    (f) Accelerating learning and helping to improve high school 
graduation rates (as defined in this notice) and college enrollment 
rates for all students in an inclusive manner that ensures that the 
specific needs of high-need students (as defined in this notice) 
participating in the project are addressed.
Priority 10--Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and 
Mathematics (STEM) Education
    Projects that are designed to address one or more of the following 
priority areas:
    (a) Providing students with increased access to rigorous and 
engaging coursework in STEM.
    (b) Increasing the number and proportion of students prepared for 
postsecondary or graduate study and careers in STEM.
    (c) Increasing the opportunities for high-quality preparation of, 
or professional development for, teachers or other educators of STEM 
subjects.
    (d) Increasing the number of individuals from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM, including minorities, individuals with 
disabilities, and women, who are provided with access to rigorous and 
engaging coursework in STEM or who are prepared for postsecondary or 
graduate study and careers in STEM.
    (e) Increasing the number of individuals from groups traditionally 
underrepresented in STEM, including minorities, individuals with 
disabilities, and women, who are teachers or educators of STEM subjects 
and have increased opportunities for high-quality preparation or 
professional development.
Priority 11--Promoting Diversity
    Projects that are designed to promote student diversity, including 
racial and ethnic diversity, or avoid racial isolation.
Priority 12--Support for Military Families
    Projects that are designed to address the needs of military-
connected students (as defined in this notice).

III. Building Capacity for Systemic Continuous Improvement

Priority 13--Enabling More Data-Based Decision-Making
    Projects that are designed to collect (or obtain), analyze, and use 
high-quality and timely data, including data on program participant 
outcomes, in accordance with privacy requirements (as defined in this 
notice), in one or more of the following priority areas:
    (a) Improving instructional practices, policies, and child outcomes 
in early learning settings.
    (b) Improving instructional practices, policies, and student 
outcomes in elementary or secondary schools.
    (c) Improving postsecondary student outcomes relating to 
enrollment, persistence, and completion and leading to career success.
    (d) Providing reliable and comprehensive information on the 
implementation of Department of Education programs, and participant 
outcomes in these programs by using data from State longitudinal data 
systems or by obtaining data from reliable third-party sources.
Priority 14--Building Evidence of Effectiveness
    Projects that propose evaluation plans that are likely to produce 
valid and reliable evidence in one or more of the following priority 
areas:
    (a) Improving project design and implementation or designing more 
effective future projects to improve outcomes.
    (b) Identifying and improving practices, strategies, and policies 
that may contribute to improving outcomes.
    Under this priority, at a minimum, the outcome of interest is to be 
measured multiple times before and after the treatment for project 
participants and, where feasible, for a comparison group of non-
participants.
Priority 15--Supporting Programs, Practices, or Strategies for which 
there is Strong or Moderate Evidence of Effectiveness
    Projects that are supported by strong or moderate evidence (as 
defined in this notice). A project that is supported by strong evidence 
(as defined in this notice) will receive more points than a project 
that is supported by moderate evidence (as defined in this notice).
Priority 16--Improving Productivity
    Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in 
the use of time, staff, money, or other resources while improving 
student learning or other educational outcomes (i.e., outcome per unit 
of resource). Such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses 
of technology, modification of school schedules and teacher 
compensation systems, use of open educational resources (as defined in 
this notice), or other strategies.

Types of Priorities

    When inviting applications for a competition using one or more 
priorities, we designate the type of each priority as absolute, 
competitive preference, or invitational through a notice in the Federal 
Register. The effect of each type of priority follows:
    Absolute priority: Under an absolute priority, we consider only 
applications that meet the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(3)).
    Competitive preference priority: Under a competitive preference 
priority, we give competitive preference to an application by--
    (1) Awarding additional points, depending on the extent to which 
the application meets the priority (34 CFR 75.105(c)(2)(i)); or
    (2) Selecting an application that meets the priority over an 
application of comparable merit that does not meet the priority (34 CFR 
75.105(c)(2)(ii)).
    Invitational priority: Under an invitational priority, we are 
particularly interested in applications that meet the priority. 
However, we do not give an application that meets the priority a 
preference over other applications (34 CFR 75.105(c)(1)).
    Definitions:
    Carefully matched comparison group design means a type of quasi-
experimental study (as defined in this notice) that attempts to 
approximate an experimental study (as defined in this notice). More 
specifically, it is a design in which project participants are matched 
with non-participants based on key characteristics that are thought to 
be related to the outcome. These characteristics include, but are not 
limited to:
    (1) Prior test scores and other measures of academic achievement 
(preferably, the same measures that the study will use to evaluate 
outcomes for the two groups);
    (2) Demographic characteristics, such as age, disability, gender, 
English proficiency, ethnicity, poverty level,

[[Page 78509]]

parents' educational attainment, and single- or two-parent family 
background;
    (3) The time period in which the two groups are studied (e.g., the 
two groups are children entering kindergarten in the same year as 
opposed to sequential years); and
    (4) Methods used to collect outcome data (e.g., the same test of 
reading skills administered in the same way to both groups).
    Community engagement means the systematic inclusion of community 
organizations as partners with local educational agencies and school 
staff. These organizations may include faith- and community-based 
organizations, institutions of higher education (including minority-
serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities), 
business and industry, or other Federal, State, and local government 
entities.
    Experimental study means a study that employs random assignment of, 
for example, students, teachers, classrooms, schools, or districts to 
participate in a project being evaluated (treatment group) or not to 
participate in the project (control group). The effect of the project 
is the average difference in outcomes between the treatment and control 
groups.
    Graduation rate means a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate 
consistent with 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1) and may also include an extended-
year adjusted cohort graduation rate consistent with 34 CFR 
200.19(b)(1)(v) if the State in which the proposed project is 
implemented has been approved by the Secretary to use such a rate under 
Title I of the ESEA.
    High-need children and high-need students means children and 
students at risk of educational failure, such as children and students 
who are living in poverty, who are English learners, who are far below 
grade level or who are not on track to becoming college- or career-
ready by graduation, who have left school or college before receiving, 
respectively, a regular high school diploma or a college degree or 
certificate, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, 
who are homeless, who are in foster care, who are pregnant or parenting 
teenagers, who have been incarcerated, who are new immigrants, who are 
migrant, or who have disabilities.
    High-poverty school means a school in which at least 50 percent of 
students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches under the 
Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act or in which at least 50 
percent of students are from low-income families as determined using 
one of the criteria specified under section 1113(a)(5) of the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended. For middle 
and high schools, eligibility may be calculated on the basis of 
comparable data from feeder schools. Eligibility as a high-poverty 
school under this definition is determined on the basis of the most 
currently available data.
    Interrupted time series design means a type of quasi-experimental 
study (as defined in this notice) in which the outcome of interest is 
measured multiple times before and after the treatment for program 
participants only. If the program had an impact, the outcomes after 
treatment will have a different slope or level from those before 
treatment. That is, the series should show an ``interruption'' of the 
prior situation at the time when the program was implemented. Adding a 
comparison group time series, such as schools not participating in the 
program or schools participating in the program in a different 
geographic area, substantially increases the reliability of the 
findings.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ A single subject or single case design is an adaptation of 
an interrupted time series design that relies on the comparison of 
treatment effects on a single subject or group of single subjects. 
There is little confidence that findings based on this design would 
be the same for other members of the population. In some single 
subject designs, treatment reversal or multiple baseline designs are 
used to increase internal validity. In a treatment reversal design, 
after a pretreatment or baseline outcome measurement is compared 
with a post treatment measure, the treatment would then be stopped 
for a period of time; a second baseline measure of the outcome would 
be taken, followed by a second application of the treatment or a 
different treatment. A multiple baseline design addresses concerns 
about the effects of normal development, timing of the treatment, 
and amount of the treatment with treatment-reversal designs by using 
a varying time schedule for introduction of the treatment and/or 
treatments of different lengths or intensity.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Military-connected student means (a) a child participating in an 
early learning program, a student in preschool through grade 12, or a 
student enrolled in postsecondary education or training who has a 
parent or guardian on active duty in the uniformed services (as defined 
by 37 U.S.C. 101, in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast 
Guard, National Guard, or the reserve component of any of the 
aforementioned services) or (b) a student who is a veteran of the 
uniformed services, who is on active duty, or who is the spouse of an 
active-duty service member.
    Moderate evidence means evidence from previous studies whose 
designs can support causal conclusions (i.e., studies with high 
internal validity) but have limited generalizability (i.e., moderate 
external validity), or studies with high external validity but moderate 
internal validity. The following would constitute moderate evidence:
    (1) At least one well-designed and well-implemented (as defined in 
this notice) experimental or quasi-experimental study (as defined in 
this notice) supporting the effectiveness of the practice, strategy, or 
program, with small sample sizes or other conditions of implementation 
or analysis that limit generalizability;
    (2) At least one well-designed and well-implemented (as defined in 
this notice) experimental or quasi-experimental study (as defined in 
this notice) that does not demonstrate equivalence between the 
intervention and comparison groups at program entry but that has no 
other major flaws related to internal validity; or
    (3) Correlational research with strong statistical controls for 
selection bias and for discerning the influence of internal factors.
    Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and 
research resources that reside in the public domain or have been 
released under an intellectual property license that permits their free 
use or repurposing by others.
    Parent and family engagement means the systematic inclusion of 
parents and families, working in partnership with local educational 
agencies and school staff, in their child's education, which may 
include strengthening the ability of (a) parents and families to 
support their child's education and (b) school staff to work with 
parents and families.
    Persistently lowest-achieving schools means, as determined by the 
State: (i) Any Title I school in improvement, corrective action, or 
restructuring that (a) is among the lowest-achieving five percent of 
Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring or 
the lowest-achieving five Title I schools in improvement, corrective 
action, or restructuring in the State, whichever number of schools is 
greater; or (b) is a high school that has had a graduation rate as 
defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is less than 60 percent over a number 
of years; and (ii) any secondary school that is eligible for, but does 
not receive, Title I funds that: (a) Is among the lowest-achieving five 
percent of secondary schools or the lowest-achieving five secondary 
schools in the State that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I 
funds, whichever number of schools is greater; or (b) is a high school 
that has had a graduation rate as defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is 
less than 60 percent over a number of years.
    To identify the persistently lowest-achieving schools, a State must 
take into

[[Page 78510]]

account both: (i) The academic achievement of the ``all students'' 
group in a school in terms of proficiency on the State's assessments 
under section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA in reading/language arts and 
mathematics combined; and (ii) the school's lack of progress on those 
assessments over a number of years in the ``all students'' group.
    Privacy requirements means the requirements of the Family 
Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. 1232g, and its 
implementing regulations in 34 CFR part 99, the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 
552a, as well as all applicable Federal, State and local requirements 
regarding privacy.
    Programs of study means career and technical education programs of 
study, which may be offered as an option to students (and their parents 
as appropriate) when planning for and completing future coursework, for 
career and technical content areas, that--
    (a) Incorporate secondary education and postsecondary education 
elements;
    (b) Include coherent and rigorous content aligned with challenging 
academic standards and relevant career and technical content in a 
coordinated, non-duplicative progression of courses that align 
secondary education with postsecondary education to adequately prepare 
students to succeed in postsecondary education;
    (c) May include the opportunity for secondary education students to 
participate in dual or concurrent enrollment programs or other ways to 
acquire postsecondary education credits; and
    (d) Lead to an industry-recognized credential or certificate at the 
postsecondary level, or an associate or baccalaureate degree.
    Quasi-experimental study means an evaluation design that attempts 
to approximate an experimental design (as defined in this notice) and 
can support causal conclusions (i.e., minimizes threats to internal 
validity, such as selection bias, or allows them to be modeled). Well-
designed and well-implemented (as defined in this notice) quasi-
experimental studies (as defined in this notice) include carefully 
matched comparison group designs (as defined in this notice), 
interrupted time series designs (as defined in this notice), or 
regression discontinuity designs (as defined in this notice).
    Regression discontinuity design study means, in part, a quasi-
experimental study (as defined in this notice) design that closely 
approximates an experimental study (as defined in this notice). In a 
regression discontinuity design, participants are assigned to a 
treatment or comparison group based on a numerical rating or score of a 
variable unrelated to the treatment such as the rating of an 
application for funding. Another example would be assignment of 
eligible students, teachers, classrooms, or schools above a certain 
score (``cut score'') to the treatment group and assignment of those 
below the score to the comparison group.
    Rural local educational agency means a local educational agency 
(LEA) that is eligible under the Small Rural School Achievement (SRSA) 
program or the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program authorized 
under Title VI, Part B of the ESEA. Eligible applicants may determine 
whether a particular LEA is eligible for these programs by referring to 
information on the Department's Web site at 
http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/freedom/local/reap.html.
    Strong evidence means evidence from previous studies whose designs 
can support causal conclusions (i.e., studies with high internal 
validity), and studies that in total include enough of the range of 
participants and settings to support scaling up to the State, regional, 
or national level (i.e., studies with high external validity). The 
following are examples of strong evidence:
    (1) More than one well-designed and well-implemented (as defined in 
this notice) experimental study (as defined in this notice) or well-
designed and well-implemented (as defined in this notice) quasi-
experimental study (as defined in this notice) that supports the 
effectiveness of the practice, strategy, or program; or
    (2) One large, well-designed and well-implemented (as defined in 
this notice) randomized controlled, multisite trial that supports the 
effectiveness of the practice, strategy, or program.
    Student achievement means--
    (a) For tested grades and subjects: (1) A student's score on the 
State's assessments under the ESEA; and, as appropriate, (2) other 
measures of student learning, such as those described in paragraph (b) 
of this definition, provided they are rigorous and comparable across 
schools.
    (b) For non-tested grades and subjects: alternative measures of 
student learning and performance, such as student scores on pre-tests 
and end-of-course tests; student performance on English language 
proficiency assessments; and other measures of student achievement that 
are rigorous and comparable across schools.
    Student growth means the change in student achievement (as defined 
in this notice) for an individual student between two or more points in 
time. A State may also include other measures that are rigorous and 
comparable across classrooms.
    Well-designed and well-implemented means, with respect to an 
experimental or quasi-experimental study (as defined in this notice), 
that the study meets the What Works Clearinghouse evidence standards, 
with or without reservations (see http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/references/
idocviewer/doc.aspx?docid=19&tocid=1 and in particular the 
description of ``Reasons for Not Meeting Standards'' at http://
ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/references/idocviewer/Doc.aspx?docId=19&tocId=4#reasons).
    This notice does not preclude us from proposing additional 
priorities, requirements, definitions, or selection criteria for a 
particular program, subject to meeting applicable rulemaking 
requirements.

    Note: This notice does not solicit applications. In any year in 
which we choose to use one or more of these priorities and 
definitions, we invite applications through a notice in the Federal 
Register.

    Executive Order 12866: Under Executive Order 12866, the Secretary 
must determine whether a regulatory action is ``significant'' and 
therefore subject to the requirements of the Executive order and 
subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget. Section 3(f) 
of Executive Order 12866 defines a ``significant regulatory action'' as 
an action likely to result in a rule that may (1) Have an annual effect 
on the economy of $100 million or more, or adversely affect a sector of 
the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public 
health or safety, or State, local or tribal governments or communities 
in a material way (also referred to as an ``economically significant'' 
rule); (2) create serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency; (3) materially alter the 
budgetary impacts of entitlement grants, user fees, or local programs 
or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) raise novel 
legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's 
priorities, or the principles set forth in the Executive order. The 
Secretary has determined that this regulatory action is significant 
under section 3(f)(4) of the Executive order.
    This notice has been reviewed in accordance with Executive Order 
12866. Under the terms of the order, we have assessed the potential 
costs and benefits of this final regulatory action.
    The potential costs associated with this final regulatory action 
are those resulting from statutory requirements

[[Page 78511]]

and those we have determined as necessary for administering the 
Department's discretionary grant programs effectively and efficiently.
    In assessing the potential costs and benefits--both quantitative 
and qualitative--of this final regulatory action, we have determined 
that the benefits of the final priorities and definitions justify the 
costs.
    We have determined, also, that this final regulatory action does 
not unduly interfere with State, local, and tribal governments in the 
exercise of their governmental functions.
    Intergovernmental Review: Some of the programs affected by these 
final priorities are subject to Executive Order 12372 and the 
regulations in 34 CFR part 79. One of the objectives of the Executive 
order is to foster an intergovernmental partnership and a strengthened 
federalism. The Executive order relies on processes developed by State 
and local governments for coordination and review of proposed Federal 
financial assistance.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or computer diskette) on request to the program contact 
person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.
    Electronic Access to This Document: You can view this document, as 
well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal 
Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) on the 
Internet at the following site: http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister. To 
use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at 
this site.

    Note:  The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/nara/index.html.


    Dated: December 8, 2010.
Arne Duncan,
Secretary of Education.
[FR Doc. 2010-31189 Filed 12-14-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P