Adolescent Readers Initiative
A Competitive Edge
Higher Education Regulations
Doing What Works
Quote to Note
On October 30, Secretary Spellings joined Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at a high school in suburban Virginia to announce the availability of three new brochures that present guidance on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In the wake of the Virginia Tech University shootings, these brochuresone for K-12 officials, one for higher education officials, and one for parentsseek to empower schools to better balance students' privacy rights with school safety concerns by explaining the agency's interpretations in plain language. "I think it is important for people to understand what the current law allows," Secretary Spellings said. "It does allow [student records] to be shared, particularly when the student is a dependent (a childnot an emancipated adult). So, before we leap into legislative changes, let's make sure that we're maximizing all of the flexibilities and information and latitudes that the law does provide within the context of privacy." The brochures also include contact information for obtaining additional assistance and guidance. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/safeschools/.
Along with the brochures, the Secretary shared a handout on emergency management resources, including a variety of materials from the Department and partners across the federal government. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/071030enc.html.
Meanwhile, in September, the Department's Family Policy Compliance Office (http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/) issued its annual notification to states and school districts of their obligations under FERPA and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). PPRA gives parents and students over 18 certain rights regarding the conduct of surveys, the collection and use of information for marketing, and some physical exams.
Also: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has supplied schools and parents with a concise summary of guidelines on how to prevent the spread of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. For more information, please go to http://www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAInSchools/.
Adolescent Readers Initiative
On November 2, Secretary Spellings announced the national distribution of 520,000 free, new books as part of the 2007 Adolescent Readers Initiative. The initiative, a joint venture between the Department and the non-profit entity First Book, is designed to improve the literacy skills of struggling young adults in low-income schools and communities. Most of the books donated for this effort are from Townsend Press's "Bluford Series," a batch of 13 novels that focus on the lives of a group of young high school students and their families. Set in contemporary urban America, each novel addresses topics relevant to the lives of today's students. Since June 2006, the Department, First Book, and major book publishers have collaborated to distribute more than 1.65 million children's books to schools, libraries, and organizations serving low-income students in hurricane-affected communities and throughout the country. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/11/11022007b.html.
Also: A recent study by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), "Reading First: Locally Appreciated, Nationally Troubled," finds the Department's Reading First program, while embattled in Washington, is the most highly rated No Child Left Behind program in terms of its effect on achievement. More than three-fourths of states and two-thirds of school districts with Reading First grants reported that the program's instructional initiatives and assessment systems were "important" causes of gains in student achievement. And, the program's impact is felt beyond just participating schools: over half of Reading First districts reported using elements of Reading First in non-Reading First schools and in the upper grades. Therefore, CEP recommends fixing and expanding the program. For more information, please go to http://www.cep-dc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=
A Competitive Edge
The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (November 20, 8:00-9:00 ET) will focus on how the Department, institutions of higher education, and other key stakeholders are working together to better prepare students for postsecondary education and the jobs of the 21st century. Today, more than 90% of the fastest-growing jobs require higher education and/or training. Moreover, three-quarters of those jobs require a college degree. Yet, 60% of Americans have no postsecondary credentials, and only one-third have a degree. At the same time, many Americans want to go to college but decide not to, either because they are unprepared or cannot afford the cost. In response to these challenges, in the fall of 2005, Secretary Spellings formed the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, facilitating a dialogue on the vital issues of accessibility, affordability, and accountability. Then, based on the commission's findings, she developed and began implementing a detailed Action Plan (http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/
hiedfuture/actionplan-factsheet.html). The broadcast will discuss what has been accomplished under the plan as well as explore strategies to better prepare students for college and help them succeed once they are enrolled. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/edtv/. (You can watch archived webcasts at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/.)
Higher Education Regulations
In a Federal Register notice (http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/
proprule/2007-4/102207a.html), the Department declared its intention to establish one or two negotiated rulemaking committees to prepare proposed regulations for changes made by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The actual number of committees and their organization will be based upon comments received in writing and at regional hearings. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/
During the week of October 29, the agency published in the Federal Register three regulatory packages implementing changes to current federal student aid regulations. First, it published final regulations for Academic Competitiveness and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants (http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/
finrule/2007-4/102907a.html). Second, it published final regulations for the Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Family Education Loan, and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan programs (http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/
finrule/2007-4/110107a.html), addressing, among other items, preferred lender lists, prohibited inducements, and "total and permanent disability" discharge. Third, it published final regulations for general provisions (http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/
finrule/2007-4/110107b.html). All of the regulations become effective on July 1, 2008. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/11/11012007.html.
Other higher education-related resources:
- 2008-09 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Web PowerPoint presentation (http://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/
- "Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid 2008-09" (http://www.fsapubs.org/app/search/
- 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement (http://nsse.iub.edu/NSSE%5F2007%5FAnnual%5FReport/), which summarizes the views of 313,000 first-year and senior students at 610 four-year colleges and universities on five benchmarks: (1) level of academic challenge, (2) active and collaborative learning, (3) student-faculty interaction, (4) enriching education experiences, and (5) supportive campus environment.
On November 5, at a LEAGUE town hall meeting in New York City, Secretary Spellings highlighted the critical role schools play in developing character and teaching lessons like integrity and responsibility. "In today's competitive world, our students obviously need solid academic skills to succeed," she said. "But, they also need the ability to make responsible choices, the courage to stand up for what's right, and the compassion to help others." At the event, the Secretary released a new guidebook, "Mobilizing for Evidence-Based Character Education," with a roadmap to help educators fully evaluate their programs. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/programs/charactered/resources.html.
Doing What Works
Earlier this month, the Department launched a "Doing What Works" web site (http://dww.ed.gov/) to provide educators with recommendations on effective teaching practices to improve student achievement. The site has a user-friendly interface to quickly identify teaching practices that have been found effective by the agency's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and similar organizations. It also cites examples of possible waysalthough not necessarily the only waysthis research may be used to help students reach their academic potential. For example, teachers interested in successful strategies for helping English language learners can watch a video of eight techniques that teachers at one school use to teach vocabulary. Classroom scenes, student reactions, and graphic aids can all be viewed. In the future, similar resources will be available in the areas of cognition and learning, early childhood education, literacy, math and science, high school reform, and school restructuring.
Quote to Note
"I don't think the way to do it is a one-size-fits-all national standard that morphs into a national curriculum that morphs into national textbooks. It's the wrong way to go, and it's a giant time-waster."
|||Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (11/5/07), answering a question on national standards during an interview with U.S. News & World Report|
Remember! Next week (November 12-16) is International Education Week. This year's theme is "International Education: Fostering Global Citizenship and Respect," recognizing the importance of teaching children to be responsible, thoughtful world citizens. For more information, please go to http://iew.state.gov/.
On November 15, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will release results from the 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in reading and math. Eleven urban districts participated in this fourth iteration of the pilot project. For more information, please go to http://nationsreportcard.gov/.
November 28-December 6, the Department's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is hosting a series of technical assistance workshops for organizations interested in becoming supplemental educational service (SES) providers. The workshops are free, but pre-registration is required. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/list/
Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the Latino Book and Family Festival in Chicago (November 10-11), the National Association of Black School Educators' Annual Conference in Nashville (November 13-17), and the National League of Cities' Annual Congress of Cities and Exposition in New Orleans (November 13-17). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.
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