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June 15, 2007 ED Review
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 June 15, 2007
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On Assessment
Grant Awards
Transforming Higher Education
School Safety Report I
School Safety Report II
Multicultural Literacy Campaign
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

On Assessment

Successive reports issued last week reveal the significant progress made since enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 as well as the substantial challenges that remain. First, according to a new study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), student scores on state assessments have increased consistently over the last five years—often at a faster clip than before 2002—while achievement gaps have narrowed. For example, 29 of 41 states with three years of data for elementary reading reported increases of at least one percentage point per year in proficiency; just five states experienced declines. Likewise, for elementary math, 37 of 41 states reported increases of at least one percentage point per year in proficiency; only two states experienced declines. Moreover, across all three grade spans, the achievement gap between white and black students narrowed in 14 states in reading (widening in none) and 12 states in math (widening in one), and the gap between white and Hispanic students narrowed in 13 states in reading (widening in none) and 11 states in math (widening in none). Overall, of the 13 states with comparable state assessment data before and after 2002, nine reported greater average annual increases in scores after 2002. CEP's panel of experts identified a number of reasons for the positive gains, careful not to attribute results to any single policy. Still, "This study confirms that No Child Left Behind has struck a chord of success with our nation's schools and students," the Secretary emphasized in a statement. "We know the law is working, so now is the time to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and continue the promise of a quality education for all America's children." For more information, please go to http://www.cep-dc.org/_data/n_0001/resources/
live/07073-StudentAchievement.pdf
. (The Secretary's statement is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06052007.html.)

Second, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released findings of a unique mapping exercise, whereby it placed fourth- and eighth-grade state proficiency standards in reading and math onto the appropriate National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scale for comparison. (NAEP, also known as the "nation's report card," provides a common scale, as it is given in all 50 states.) Unfortunately, most state proficiency standards fall within NAEP's Basic (versus Proficient) range, with most fourth-grade reading standards falling into NAEP's Below Basic range. While this variation may be explained to a point by differences in the design and purposes of state tests and NAEP, the gap (spanning a range of 60 to 80 points) is alarming. "This report offers sobering news that serious work remains to ensure that our schools are teaching students to the highest possible standards," the Secretary stated. "[President Bush's] reauthorization proposal for No Child Left Behind would require students' performance on state and NAEP assessments to appear side by side on the same report card so parents can compare how their state and school stack up. Through transparency, we can better gauge where states are and how far they have to go to reach grade-level proficiency for all students by 2014." For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2007482.pdf. (The Secretary's statement is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06072007.html.)

Considering these reports, some have called for national standards and assessments. However, in a recent Washington Post op-ed, Secretary Spellings reiterated her opposition to a federal government-led effort. "National standards are not synonymous with higher standards," she noted. "In fact, they would threaten to lower the academic bar. And, they would do little to address the persistent achievement gap." Instead, she said, "The proper role of the Department is in helping states, districts, and schools collect data to drive good decision-making. Information is our stock in trade." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/opeds/edit/2007/06112007.html.

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Grant Awards

In preparation for the upcoming school year, the Department awards a series of grants over the summer. Last week, 10 states received $284 million in three-year grants to create new charter schools and increase school choice (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06052007a.html). This week, 18 states, school districts, university systems, and non-profit organizations received $38.2 million in first-year grants ($237 million over five years) to provide financial incentives to teachers and principals who improve student achievement and close achievement gaps within high-poverty schools or recruit effective teachers into those schools, especially for hard-to-staff subjects like math, science, and special education (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06132007.html).

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Transforming Higher Education

On June 5, Secretary Spellings opened the first of five higher education regional summits in Kansas City, Missouri. (Regional summits have also been held in Seattle, Phoenix, and Boston; on June 19, Atlanta will play host to the final summit.) These summits build on the national summit held in Washington, D.C., in March and focus on five recommendations from the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education report: aligning K-12 and higher education expectations; increasing need-based aid for access and success; using accreditation to support and emphasize student learning outcomes; serving adults and other non-traditional students; and enhancing affordability, decreasing costs, and promoting productivity. "Whether you are a business leader who needs talented workers, a state that needs an educated workforce, a parent who needs to figure out how the heck you're going to pay for college, or a student who needs an education," the Secretary observed, "each and every one of you has a critical role to play in maintaining the strengths of our colleges and universities." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06052007c.html.

Also, on May 31, the Department sent to the Federal Register proposed regulations to interject more choice, competition, and transparency into federal student aid. Among other measures, the regulations seek to protect a borrower's right to choose a lender and limit deceptive lending practices. Comments must be received by August 13. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/
2007/loans.html
.

Meanwhile, Secretary Spellings has designated the agency's Chief Financial Officer, Lawrence Warder, as acting Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Prior to joining the Department in 2006, Warder had a 36-year career in the private sector, 33 of those in management consulting to a variety of industries. He received his B.S. in math from the University of Akron and his M.B.A. from Kent State University. FSA, a performance-based organization, delivers approximately $77 billion in financial aid each year to more than 10 million students and their families. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/06/06012007a.html.

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School Safety Report I

After almost a year of meetings (six in person and six via conference call) and testimony from parents, researchers, and state and local education leaders (42 in all), the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools' Advisory Committee presented the Secretary with a 50-page report, "Enhancing Achievement and Proficiency through Safe and Drug-Free Schools." The 19-member committee, authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act and established by the Secretary, was asked to focus on three major areas in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: the State Grants Program, the unsafe school choice option that includes identifying "persistently dangerous schools," and data collection and reporting on school violence and drug incidents. Later, the Secretary also asked the committee to look at the effects of trauma on students as a result of school violence, the coordination of resources between public and non-public schools, and the varying challenges of rural and urban schools. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/sdfscac/comment.html.

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School Safety Report II

Regarding the effects of trauma on students, Secretary Spellings, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have presented President Bush with findings from their national dialogue with educators, mental health experts, and state and local officials on issues raised by the Virginia Tech University tragedy. The Cabinet leaders reached five conclusions and recommended specific actions at both the federal and state and local levels. The report did not attempt to examine what happened at Virginia Tech. For more information, please go to http://www.hhs.gov/vtreport.html.

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Multicultural Literacy Campaign

Reading is Fundamental (RIF) has launched a Multicultural Literacy Campaign to promote and support early childhood literacy in African-American, Hispanic, and Native American communities. This multi-year effort, sponsored by Macy's, will provide parents and caregivers of children under the age of 5 with new educational resources for building children's language skills, including an early childhood web site and educational video, funded by a Department grant; a partnership with the National Black Child Development Institute to conduct literacy workshops; and multicultural book donations for schools. For more information, please go to http://www.rif.org/multicultural_campaign.mspx.

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Quote to Note

"Accountability can light the way forward. But only higher standards can take us there. We've knocked down the blackboard wall that once stood between schools and parents. Now we must work with Congress and the states to share and replicate best practices, not scrap them for an untested system. Our goal is a public education system that is transparent and responsive to the needs of parents and children—not to the whims of Washington."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (6/9/07),
in a Washington Post op-ed

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Upcoming Events

June 28 through July 1, the Department will be exhibiting at the annual PTA National Convention and Exhibition in St. Louis. If you are attending this event, please stop by the Department's booth.

Applications and nominations are now being accepted for the 2008 Broad Superintendents Academy, a rigorous, 10-month executive management course designed to prepare leaders from both inside and outside education to become successful urban superintendents. Participants keep their current jobs while attending. All tuition and travel costs are covered. The application deadline is September 16. For more information, please go to http://broadacademy.org/.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Rogers Johnson, (202) 401-0026, Rogers.Johnson@ed.gov
Deputy Director—Marcie Ridgway, (202) 401-6359, Marcie.Ridgway@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 06/19/2007