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July 2, 2008 ED Review
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 July 2, 2008
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NCLB Update
Military Children Pact
Evaluating Online Learning
Student Loan Access
Administrative Items
Public School Choice
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

NCLB Update

Yesterday (July 1), at the Education Commission of the States' National Forum on Education Policy, Secretary Spellings announced that Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, and Ohio have been approved to participate in the Department's differentiated accountability pilot program. No Child Left Behind currently treats all schools in improvement alike. The pilot allows states to vary the intensity and type of interventions to match the academic reasons that lead to a school's identification for improvement. And, in states with a large percentage of schools identified, it allows officials to target interventions and resources to schools most in need of reform. The Department received 17 state proposals. A peer review panel evaluated the proposals against core principles and priorities (set out in agency guidance). After considering the peers' comments, the Secretary approved these six proposals. "The plans these states submitted speak to the fact that many were among the first to embrace data-based decision-making and accountability," she explained. "I'm hopeful that they will build on this progress, by creating effective new strategies that we can share and take to scale. However, I'm also discouraged that more states didn't take this as an opportunity to take more dramatic action to improve schools that have not met reasonable goals for multiple years running. We need more states to be pioneers in advancing positive change." The Department intends to invite additional state proposals in the fall. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/07/07012008.html.

Expanding on a similar study from last year, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that reading and math achievement has increased since 2002 (when the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect) and achievement gaps between subgroups of students have narrowed. Indeed, in reading, 17 of 28 states made moderate-to-large gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient at the elementary level, while 14 states recorded such gains in middle school and eight states recorded such gains in high school. Likewise, in math, 21 of 27 states made moderate-to-large gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient at the elementary level, 22 states recorded such gains in middle school, and 12 states recorded such gains in high school. (The number of states included varies depending on the trend being referenced. CEP excluded state data from years that should not be compared because a state introduced a new test, changed the passing score on its test, or made other major test changes.) In general, although proficiency gains on the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tended to be smaller, the overall trends on state tests and NAEP moved in the same direction. For example, in fourth-grade math, of 33 states with sufficient data, 31 recorded gains on both assessments. Moreover, achievement gaps between white and minority students have narrowed more often than widened. For example, in elementary reading, the proficiency gap between white and black students narrowed in 13 states on state tests, while it widened in only one. The study's authors were careful not to credit any particular initiative for these positive trends, praising local, state, and federal reforms. For more information, please go to http://www.cep-dc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=
document_ext.showDocumentByID&nodeID=1&DocumentID=241
.

In a recent letter to Congressional appropriators, Secretary Spellings argued against the "zeroing out" of the Reading First program. As evidence, she presented state-reported performance data indicating impressive gains in reading comprehension—with improvements in nearly every grade and subgroup of students. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/06/06232008.html.

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Military Children Pact

On June 25, at the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between their agencies that addresses the quality of education and the unique challenges faced by children of military families. Hundreds of thousands of students in military families will be affected by moves precipitated by recent Base Realignment and Closure Act decisions and the relocations of military units from overseas bases to stateside installations as part of global defense posture realignment moves. The MOU generally defines how the entities will work together with school districts to strengthen and expand school-based efforts to ease student transitions and help students develop academic skills and coping strategies during parental deployments. Of the nation's 1.2 million school-age military students, only 8% attend Defense-run schools; the overwhelming majority attend America's public and private schools. For more information, please go to http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=12014.

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Evaluating Online Learning

This week, the Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) released the latest guide in its "Innovations in Education" series: "Evaluating Online Learning: Challenges and Strategies for Success." The guide highlights seven evaluations that address a broad spectrum of online learning options, from programs that provide online courses to web sites that feature education resources. These evaluations help to hold programs accountable for results and can assist schools in identifying whether online programs and resources are performing as promised (identifying critical areas for improvement). For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/academic/evalonline/. (For an archived webcast discussing the guide, see http://evalonline.ed.gov/.)

Other new, insightful publications:

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Student Loan Access

The Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has developed a new web site to publish and disseminate information about the agency's authority to purchase federal student loans under the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act. The latest post—a Federal Register notice—outlines the final terms and conditions under which the agency will buy loans made by lenders who are unable to sell them to other investors. The terms are consistent with those the Department unveiled in May, as part of a broader, four-part plan (http://www.ed.gov/students/college/aid/loans.html) to ensure students will be able to access federal student loans in the 2008-09 academic year. Want more details? FSA is facilitating a series of live, Internet-based briefings (or webinars) on the Department's purchasing authority and, specifically, the plan to implement that authority. For more information, please go to http://federalstudentaid.ed.gov/ffelp/.

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Administrative Items

President Bush has announced his intention to nominate Holly Kuzmich to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs and Christopher Marston to be Assistant Secretary for Management. Kuzmich currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs at the Department. Previously, she served as Associate Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House. Earlier, she served as a professional staff member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). Marston currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Process Improvement of the Office of Management at the Department. Previously, he served as White House Liaison at the Department of the Interior. Earlier, he served as Washington Office Director for the State of Ohio. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/06/06252008.html and http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/06/06252008a.html.

Meanwhile, over the last two weeks, the Department made a number of substantial grant awards, including the Partnerships in Character Education Program (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/06/06202008a.html), the Arts in Education—Model Development and Dissemination Grant Program (http://www.ed.gov/programs/artsedmodel/awards.html), the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (http://www.ed.gov/programs/elseccounseling/awards.html), the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/07/07012008a.html), and the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/07/07022008.html). Also, the Department's Office of Special Education Programs' National Technical Assistance Center selected six states with which it will work to expand promising, evidence-based practices (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/06/06202008b.html).

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Public School Choice

BuildingChoice.org is a web-based toolkit for district administrators and others seeking to improve or expand public school choice options for students, parents, and teachers. Providing access to information about the initiatives profiled in OII's "Innovations in Education" guides and/or funded by the agency's Voluntary Public School Choice Program, the web site features descriptions of key practices, examples of district materials, and downloadable tools in five essential areas: Building a Vision; District Operations; Communication with Parents; Supporting Schools; and Evaluation and Improvement. The site is regularly updated with additional choice sites, more resources, and details on other public school choice options (charter schools, supplemental educational services, virtual schools, etc.). For more information, please go to http://www.buildingchoice.org/.

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Quote to Note

"With No Child Left Behind, we know what's working in schools and what's not and where students are falling behind. We've reached an important crossroads. Will we leverage the information we have to challenge the fundamental structures, customize instruction, and use time and people more effectively? Or will we go back to the ostrich approach—sticking our heads in the sand while problems multiply? Instead of turning our backs on students and teachers, we must defend the core principles of accountability. And we must use data and research to create innovative solutions to our most pressing problems."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (7/1/08), at the Education Commission of the States' National Forum on Education Policy

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Upcoming Events

Here is the remaining schedule for free Teacher-to-Teacher summer workshops: New York City (July 9-10), Newport News, Virginia (July 10-11), Fort Worth (July 15-16), New Orleans (July 17-18), Washington, D.C. (July 22-23), Lakewood, Washington (August 4-5), Philadelphia (August 7-8), Twentynine Palms, California (August 11-12), and Los Angeles (August 13-14). Registration is closed for some of the workshops, but all materials are available through the web site. For more information, please go to https://www.t2tweb.us/Workshops/Schedule.asp.

Take another deep breath! Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the National School Public Relations Association's National Seminar in Arlington, Virginia (July 6-9), the League of United Latin American Citizens' National Convention in Washington, D.C. (July 7-12), the American Federation of Teachers' Annual Convention in Chicago (July 10-14), and the National Council of La Raza's Annual Conference in San Diego (July 12-15). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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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—Keith Brancato, (202) 401-6178, Keith.Brancato@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 08/01/2008