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December 21, 2007 ED Review
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 December 21, 2007 (Happy Holidays!)
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Growth Model Expansion
Holiday Book Donation
Transforming Higher Education
Monitoring the Future
Projections to 2016
Barney Cam VI
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Growth Model Expansion

In a December 7 letter to Chief State School Officers (http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/071207.html), Secretary Spellings offered states an opportunity to submit proposals that incorporate growth models into their current accountability system. Such models allow states to receive credit for improving individual students' performance over time but retain the No Child Left Behind principles of annual assessment, disaggregation of data, and grade-level proficiency for all students by 2014. To date, nine states have been approved to implement their models under a pilot program established in November 2005. However, the pilot was capped at 10 states. Now, based on the promising results of the pilot, the Secretary is opening eligibility to all qualified states. "As I have consistently stated during our reauthorization discussions, I believe that growth models promote two important goals," she noted. "First, growth models allow states another effective way of measuring Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).... Second, these models continue to expand the flexibility available to states under No Child Left Behind." The approval process will be similar to the process the agency used for the past two years. Proposals are due by February 1. Department officials will conduct an initial review of each proposal to make sure the growth model meets seven core principles and the state is making progress in specific areas. If the agency has any questions about a state's proposal, it will contact the state by February 15 and ask the state to respond by March 14. Then, those proposals determined to have met requirements will be forwarded to a team of peer reviewers, who will meet during the week of April 14-18. The Secretary anticipates reaching a final decision by mid-May. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/growthmodel/. (Interested states are encouraged to review the Department's peer review guidance for the pilot, previous state proposals, and a document on cross-cutting issues identified by peer reviewers, all of which can be found on the web site.)

Among the core principles for growth models is the ability to "track student progress as part of the state's data system." Yet, according to a recent survey by the Data Quality Campaign, only 34 states collect all of the data they need to produce reports for growth models. For more information, please go to http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/survey_results/.

Concerning data, consider these new reports:

  • "Innovations in Education: Connecting Students to Advanced Courses Online" (http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/
    academic/advanced/
    ), a guide for administrators who are working to provide students with greater access to online advanced coursework.
  • "An Evaluation of the Participation of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Department of Education Discretionary Grant Programs and as Supplemental Educational Services (SES) Providers" (http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/
    faith-based/faith-based-exec-sum.html
    ). Indeed, the number of faith-based SES providers increased twenty-fold (from 11 to 261) between December 2002 and March 2005.
  • "The Interagency Committee on Disability Research 2004-06 Report to the President and Congress" (http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/
    research/pubs/icdr/
    ), which details the interagency committee's scientific meetings and highlights those projects that support the New Freedom Initiative (NFI).
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Holiday Book Donation

Last week, Deputy Secretary Ray Simon announced the donation of some 400,000 new books as part of the agency's 2007 Holiday Book Donation. The effort, a joint venture including the Department, the non-profit entity First Book, and Random House Children's Books, is designed to provide brand-new, age-appropriate children's books to schools, libraries, and literacy organizations serving low-income youth throughout the country. This donation is the latest in the agency's multi-year book donation campaign, which began last year with the distribution of books to communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Since June 2006, the Department, First Book, and various major book publishers have collaborated to distribute more than two million children's books. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/bookcampaign/.

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Transforming Higher Education

On December 18, Secretary Spellings addressed a regular meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), the appointed body that advises the Secretary on matters related to accreditation and to the eligibility and certification process for institutions of higher education. She used the forum to underscore the importance of transparency across higher education and to stress the need to supply valuable information about colleges and universities so students and parents can make informed decisions. "By law, student learning is a core part of accreditation," she explained. "Unfortunately, students are often the least informed and the last to be considered. Accreditation remains one of the least publicized, least transparent parts of higher education, even compared to our Byzantine and bewildering financial aid system. Most students don't know that different types of accreditation exist until they encounter hurdles. Every year, millions repeat coursework because their credentials don't transfer." In calling for changes, the Secretary emphasized she would never work to undermine the diversity or excellence of America's system of higher education. "Every institution has its own unique strengths and attributes," she said. "But, on behalf of consumers—be they students, families, or institutions—we have the right and the responsibility to ask for more and better information." (In the fall, to assist this process, the Department awarded a $2.45 million grant to help institutions measure student achievement.) "If we do our jobs well, students will be able to base their actions on a more full understanding of their options," she concluded. "Policymakers will be better able to assure taxpayers that institutions receiving their support are reputable and effective. Governors and state legislators will be better able to direct their resources. Employers will be better able to see that graduates are prepared to do their jobs. And, university leaders will be better able to refine and improve their offerings." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/12/12182007.html.

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Monitoring the Future

The annual Monitoring the Future survey of U.S. secondary students, conducted since 1975, finds alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use by American teenagers continues to fall overall. In fact, since 2001, use of alcohol (including binge drinking) and cigarette smoking have decreased by 15% and 33%, respectively, while use of any illicit drug has dropped by 24%. Moreover, use of marijuana, still the most widely used illicit drug, dropped by 25%. On the other hand, prescription drug abuse remains a serious issue (use of Oxycontin increased by 30% from 2002 to 2007), and attitudes toward ecstasy use have softened (eighth-graders show a sharp erosion in perceived risk and disapproval). For more information, please go to http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/. (The Office of National Drug Control Policy's survey fact sheet is available at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/
news/youthdrug_declines.html
.)

Also: The Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) is soliciting applications under several grant programs: Elementary and Secondary School Counseling (eligible: school districts; deadline: January 28), Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems (eligible: states, districts, and Indian tribes; deadline: January 30), and School-Based Student Drug-Testing (eligible: districts; deadline: March 21). For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/news.html.

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Projections to 2016

Anxious to look ahead? The National Center for Education Statistics' "Projections of Education Statistics to 2016" projects key statistics, including student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for elementary and secondary schools and degree-granting institutions. For example, K-12 enrollment rose 16% between 1991 and 2004 and is projected to increase an additional 9% between 2004 and 2016. Also, college enrollment rose 22% between 1991 and 2005 and is projected to increase an additional 17% by 2016. For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/programs/projections/projections2016/.

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Barney Cam VI

Earlier this month, the White House unveiled "Holiday in the National Parks," the sixth installment of "Barney Cam," which features the President and First Lady's Scottish terriers touring the White House to give viewers a dog's eye view of the holiday decorations. This year, Barney learns that the White House is a national park and seeks to become a Junior Park Ranger. Therefore, he meets with both Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Director of the National Park Service Mary Bomar, who advise him to "come up with a big idea" to spotlight the parks. Meanwhile, Barney and Miss Beazley supervise the decorating of the White House. Alas, that task proves too overwhelming to brainstorm park ideas, although Barney does have a daydream where he is named a Junior Park Ranger and congratulated by country singer Alan Jackson ("OK, Barney, now you've gone country!") and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair ("As someone born in Scotland, it's always good to see the Scots doing well!"). The video has cameos by President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Barbara and Jenna Bush. Don't miss the amazing soundtrack by the U.S. Marine Band! For more information, please go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/holiday/.

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Quote to Note

"If you ever doubt the need or appetite for your mission [accrediting colleges and universities], consider the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. It's been called the 'swimsuit edition' of postsecondary reporting. Within 72 hours of its release, the U.S. News web site was viewed 10 million times.... As I said before, families know that selecting and paying for college is one of the most important decisions they will ever make. They need and deserve the best information to guide them. They should be able to get it from the people who make our higher education system the envy of the world."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (12/18/07), addressing current members of NACIQI

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Upcoming Events

The Department's next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, celebrating the sixth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, is scheduled for January 15. It will showcase No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools, with video stories of their classrooms and conversations with award-winning principals and education experts. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/edtv/.

The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching is the highest award a K-12 math or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the U.S. Awards alternate between elementary (2008) and secondary (2009) teachers. The President names up to 108 teachers annually. Awards are given to teachers from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the outlying territories, and Department of Defense schools. The deadline for online nominations is March 1. For more information, please go to http://www.paemst.org/.

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Last Modified: 12/21/2007