Achievement on the Rise
Recognition: College Navigator
The Big Read
New Year Fun Facts
On January 10, at 1:00 p.m. ET, Secretary Spellings will kick-off the new year with a major address at the National Press Club. She will highlight states' progress on core principles of No Child Left Behind and lay out her policy goals for 2008. The text of the speech will be available at http://www.ed.gov/ shortly after it is delivered. Also, excerpts from the speech will be streamed on the web site.
At the state level, the Department has begun awarding $125 million in School Improvement Grants to help turn around low-performing schools. These grants assist states in taking a greater role in creating and delivering leadership and technical assistance to reform schools and school districts that are not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Authorized activities include the development and implementation of school improvement plans, targeted professional development for teachers and staff, corrective actions (such as instituting a new curriculum), the development and implementation of restructuring plans, and the provision of public school choice and supplemental educational service options for students enrolled in schools identified for improvement. The first group of awards ($52 million to 21 states) was announced December 20 (see http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2007/12/12202007.html). Another group of awards ($11 million to seven states and the District of Columbia) was announced last week. All awards are based on the Title I allocation for each state. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/stateletters/#schimp.
At the local level, the Department is currently accepting nominations for its 2007 American Stars of Teaching awards, which recognize educators who are improving student achievementusing innovative instructional strategiesand making a difference in the lives of their students. Anyone can nominate an American Star. After the Department receives a nomination, a verification form is sent to the teacher's principal. One teacher will be recognized from each state and the District of Columbia. The deadline for nominations is March 31. For more information, please go to https://www.t2tweb.us/AmStar/About.asp. (Note: 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 award winners are posted at https://www.t2tweb.us/AmStar/Prior.asp.)
Achievement on the Rise
In celebration of the sixth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, the next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (January 15, 8-9 p.m. ET) will answer the question, "How do we know that NCLB is working?," by showcasing three No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools. These schools have been effective in using the law's emphasis on accountability, parental involvement, and doing what works to close academic achievement gaps and help all students succeed. Among other components, the show will feature video stories of the schools' classrooms in action as well as conversations with the principals and other education experts about raising the bar as never before by having high expectations for all students, analyzing student data to track progress, identifying individual student needs to improve instruction, providing a rich curriculum aligned with state standards, and using professional development to improve teachers' skills. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/edtv/. (You can watch archived webcasts at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/.)
Note: Don't want to wait for the good news? NCLB Success Stories from past broadcasts are regularly added to http://www.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/reauth/successstories/.
As the last act of the year, Congress passed and President Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) with funding for U.S. Department of Education programs. It includes:
- $13.9 billion for Title I grants to local education agencies, an 8.3% increase over fiscal year 2007;
- $11.8 billion for special education grants;
- $2.94 billion to help states improve the quality of their teachers;
- $1.27 billion for career and technical education grants, a small decrease from FY 2007; and
- $16 billion in Pell Grants for low- and middle-income college undergraduates, a 16.7% increase over FY 2007 when funding from both the appropriations bill and the separate College Cost Reduction and Access Act (approved in September) are combined.
Also, the Reading First program was significantly cut from $1 billion last year to $393 million this year. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/news.html#08action.
Recognition: College Navigator
College Navigator (http://collegenavigator.ed.gov), the Department's web site for information about colleges and universities, has been named by Money magazine as "the best first screen" for researching higher education institutions. Navigator was cited in the publication's December 4, 2007, issue, which rated the Top 28 web sites in seven categoriesone of which was college search tools. Money notes that the web site, unlike many other college search tools, is not tied to any marketing department seeking students' personal information. It also credits the web site for being "one of the simplest" to use, for having "a good comparison tool," and for providing "a full set of the latest data on expenses, aid, enrollment, admission and graduation rates, majors, and more, along with a Google map pinpointing location." Launched in September, Navigator is one of several agency resources developed to supply the public with clear and reliable information on the college selection process and federal financial aid. They are part of Secretary Spellings' plan to make the American higher education system more accessible, affordable, and accountable. For more information, please go to http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/29/pf/
The Big Read
The National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) The Big Read, now in its third year, provides citizens with the chance to read and discuss a single book within their communities. Libraries, municipalities, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of approximately 300 grants that will be awarded for programming occurring between September 2008 and June 2009. The application deadline is February 12. Aside from a grant, communities will receive many resources, including reader's and teacher's guides and audio guides with commentary from artists, educators, and public figures. Communities will also receive publicity materials. For this cycle, communities will choose from 16 prominent classics used in 2007 and 2008 and six new titles: Washington Square by Henry James; A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin; The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz (in a special cultural exchange initiative with Egypt); Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain; and Old School by Tobias Wolff. For more information, please go to http://www.neabigread.org/.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 21 by making the holiday a day ONversus a day off. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination and the 21st observance of the holiday. King Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site enables organizers to register projects in every state and the District of Columbia. The site has ideas and resources, as well as photographs of previous activities. For more information, please go to http://www.mlkday.gov/.
Note: The King Day of Service falls during National Mentoring Month, which stresses the importance of bringing caring adults into the lives of children who need guidance, support, and encouragement. For more information, please go to http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/initiatives/nmm.asp.
New Year Fun Facts
To ring in the new year, the U.S. Census Bureau presented the following statistics:
- 73,685 The estimated July 1, 2006, population of Champaign, Illinois, a place whose name alone may get you into a celebratory mood.
- $475 million U.S. manufacturers' shipments of effervescent wines (including sparkling wines, such as champagne) in 2002.
- Over 303 million The nation's projected population as we ring in the New Year. This compares with less than 175 million 50 years earlier (1958) and less than 90 million one century earlier (1908).
The National School and Business Partnerships Awards, created by the Council for Corporate and School Partnerships, recognize strong school-business partnerships that improve the academic, social, or physical well-being of students. Partnerships involving public schools and/or districts and businesses are eligible to apply. The Council will make six awards; those selected will receive $10,000 to support partnership efforts. Applications are due by January 30. For more information, please go to http://www.corpschoolpartners.org/award.shtml.
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