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October 10, 2008 ED Review
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 October 10, 2008
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Transforming Higher Education
Safeguarding America's Colleges
Education Appropriations
Teacher Resources
Community Resources
Faith-Based Urban Schools
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Transforming Higher Education

On October 1, Secretary Spellings delivered a major address, entitled "Educating America: The Will and the Way Forward," at the John F. Kennedy Forum at Harvard University. "[W]e need to ask ourselves, is our education system all it should be?," she said, rhetorically. "Is it preparing all of our children for success in college and the workforce? Is it giving them the skills to make a difference in solving the vital issues of the day?.... In all candor, we must answer no." Yes, she continued, some schools are "challenging the status quo," lengthening the school day and year, spending more time on basic subjects, customizing instruction, and paying teachers for results. Moreover, the No Child Left Behind Act is "spurring change and innovation," shifting the conversation from how much we are spending to whether students are actually learning. Nevertheless, "We cannot be content with having some good schools and some bad ones, or a bright future for some and not for others. We live in a global economy—not a gated community." Therefore, "[W]e need the support of the higher education community," she concluded. "You have a major skin in this game. You pick-up where the schools leave off—paying the price with remedial coursework and lost opportunities. Over the past three decades, federal investment in higher education tripled. Yet, college enrollment and attainment is virtually flat. In 1975, the U.S. was number one in college completion rates. In 2005, we were number 10.... We may have 'the will.' But it's 'the way' that has me worried." For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/10/10012008.html.

At the forum, the Secretary specifically proposed a dramatic simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which new and returning college students must complete to qualify for a share of more than $80 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study assistance. The current form is six pages long, with four additional pages of instructions, and asks students to answer some 120 questions. The Secretary's new form—which must be approved by Congress—would contain less than 30 questions, arranged in eight evident categories, and, coupled with other reforms, provide "real-time" notification of eligibility and financial aid amounts. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/students/college/aid/fafsa.html.

One day later, at Boston's Charlestown High School, the Secretary demonstrated College.gov, the new, student-focused web site designed to inspire and motivate students to continue their education beyond high school. This site—a gateway to credible information—has three main sections: why go to college, what to do to get to there, and how to pay for it. Each section features videos of college students sharing their stories of overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams. The Secretary also visited Steven Berbeco's Arabic class. Berbeco is one of the Department's 25 Teaching Ambassador Fellows, contributing to and learning about education policy at the national level. James Liou, a Fellow at Boston Community Leadership Academy, attended the event as well. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/10/10022008.html. (Note: Looking for information about individual institutions? Explore College Navigator [http://collegenavigator.ed.gov/], College Portrait [http://www.collegeportraits.org/—including recent results from one of three standardized measures of learning], and the University and College Accountability Network [http://www.ucan-network.org/—with the ability to search by an array of variables.)

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Safeguarding America's Colleges

The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (October 21, 8:00-9:00 ET) will focus on preventing and mitigating safety breaches on college campuses and more effectively responding to emergencies if they occur. The U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies have created safety guidance for the K-12 and higher education community based on a common framework. However, the nature of college life—where students enjoy open campuses and considerably more freedom and privacy rights than younger students—presents unique challenges. In turn, colleges and universities are encouraged to be thoughtful and comprehensive as they go about creating their own plans to furnish a safe learning environment. The broadcast will: highlight several Department programs available through the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools that seek to enhance safety on campus; discuss the rights students and parents have under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); feature institutions that are leading the effort to enhance campus safety; and supply tips for parents on the health and security of students. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/edtv/. (You can watch archived webcasts at http://www.connectlive.com/events/ednews/.)

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Education Appropriations

On September 30, President Bush signed into law a continuing resolution package, extending funding for most education programs and other parts of the federal budget at Fiscal Year 2008 levels through March 6, 2009. The bill does include some new spending, such as $2.5 billion more for Pell Grants, to prevent a possible reduction in awards in the middle of the academic year, $15 million for school districts whose enrollments of homeless youths have increased as a result of presidential-declared natural disasters in 2008 (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act), and $15 million for colleges and universities located within areas impacted by presidential-declared natural disasters (Title VII-B of the Higher Education Act). Separately, as part of the financial rescue package, Congress approved and President Bush signed the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which supplies federal aid to replace timber tax revenues in districts that are near national forests, and a two-year extension of various tax benefits, such as college tuition and expenses, out-of-pocket teacher expenses, and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). For more information, please go to http://appropriations.house.gov/ AND http://financialservices.house.gov/. (Note: State-by-state tables, with many final FY 2008 allocations, are available at http://www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/statetables/.)

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Teacher Resources

The Department's Doing What Works web site (http://dww.ed.gov/), a growing collection of research-based tools for teachers, has developed new, interactive sections on how to organize teaching to improve student learning and the critical foundations for algebra. This site has a user-friendly interface to quickly identify practices that have been determined effective by the agency's research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and similar organizations. It also offers examples of possible ways—although not necessarily the only ways—this research may be used to help students reach their academic potential. Under organizing instruction, the site details: space learning over time with review and quizzing; alternate worked examples with problem-solving practice; connecting abstract and concrete representations of concepts; and using higher-order questions to help students build explanations. Under foundations for algebra, the site specifies: preparing students for entry by developing a focused, coherent progression of topics and skills; providing instruction that develops conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem-solving skills; and using a mastery framework to guide instructional planning and student assessment. (Note: The findings of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel underpin all the algebra material.)

Other resources for educators:

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Community Resources

Earlier this month, at an elementary school in Washington, DC, Deputy Secretary Ray Simon unveiled a new series of publications, called "Helping Your Child" brochures. These brochures provide clear and concise advice to parents for helping their school-aged children with different subject areas—including reading, math, science, history, homework, and citizenship. Each brochure also contains helpful tips for parents, learning activities that families can do together, and resources for additional insight. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/hyc.html.

Other resources for the community:

  • The Achiever newsletter (http://www.ed.gov/achiever/), available solely online, focuses on how successful schools across the U.S. are working toward the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act: to have every student reading and doing math at grade-level by 2014. The latest story spotlights a Richmond, Virginia, elementary school whose parent and community connections are credited for the more than 90% of its students passing state assessments in reading, math and science.

  • "Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008" (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?
    pubid=2008084
    ) examines the educational progress of American Indian/Alaska Native children and adults and challenges in their schooling.

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) "Education at a Glance 2008" (www.oecd.org/edu/eag2008/) enables OECD's 30 member countries to compare performance using a range of indicators. The main topics covered are participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and teachers, and the state of lifelong learning. On average, 57% of OECD high school graduates went on to higher education in 2006, compared to 37% in 1995.

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Faith-Based Urban Schools

Inner-city faith-based schools have helped educate generations of low-income American students. Yet, between the 1999-2000 and 2005-06 academic years, the U.S. lost nearly 1,200 of these schools, and those remaining reported nearly 425,000 fewer students. In response, the White House recently released a new report, "Preserving a Critical National Asset," chronicling the historical role of faith-based schools in America (particularly their service of low-income urban populations), explaining the causes of their disappearance, and offering recommendations for reversing this precarious trend. The report follows-up on the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, where the President convened stakeholders to develop potential strategies for preserving these valuable educational institutions. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice/faithbased/.

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Quote to Note

"While Harvard's $35 million endowment will help you graduate with less debt, others are not so lucky. The average private school graduate leaves college $20,000 in debt. One in 10 carries $40,000. This often closes the door to opportunities like public service or teaching.... In these consequential times, I know you are eager to make a difference. And, you will have the means to do it. You have been blessed with one of the finest educations in the world. You are earning not just a degree but status as a role model in society. Have the will to use it—to pay it forward.... You never know where your efforts will lead you. But, your leadership is needed. Because where Harvard leads, others follow."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (10/1/08), to students at the John F. Kennedy Forum at Harvard University

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Upcoming Events

This year's Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conferences are premiere training and networking opportunities for financial aid professionals. Register now for either Dallas (October 28-31) or Las Vegas (December 2-5). The program and session content at each event is similar. For more information, please go to http://fsaconferences.ed.gov/.

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. The President officially names up to 108 teachers annually. Awards alternate between elementary and secondary teachers, with secondary teachers eligible in 2009, and 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 nominations is May 1, 2009. For more information, please go to http://www.paemst.org/.

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Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Rogers Johnson, (202) 401-0026, Rogers.Johnson@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 02/06/2009