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December 19, 2008 ED Review
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 December 19, 2008 (Happy Holidays!)
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Secretary Designate
NCLB Update
TIMSS Results
Privacy Guidance
Monitoring the Future
Barney Cam VII
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Secretary Designate

In response to the nomination of Arne Duncan, Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools, as U.S. Secretary of Education, Secretary Spellings issued the following statement:

"Arne Duncan is a visionary leader and fellow reformer who cares deeply about students. As the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Arne has advanced policies to hold schools accountable for providing all our nation's students—regardless of race, income level, or background—with a high-quality education. His credibility and expertise will be invaluable as we continue working to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and to make higher education accessible and affordable to all. Above all, Arne understands that, in today's global economy, we must stay focused on results for every child.... I look forward to being helpful to Arne and his team during the transition and beyond."
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NCLB Update

Asserting, "As Americans prepare for a change in government, one thing that must not change is the remarkable progress being made by our nation's schools," the Department has released a new fact sheet: "Progress by Our Schools and the Department of Education." The document offers a bulleted list of bipartisan accomplishments (e.g., test scores are higher, the achievement gap is narrowing, children once "left behind" have made great strides forward), discusses some of the significant changes in the culture of education, and looks ahead to the challenges of the 21st century. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/results/trends/progress.html.

Meanwhile, spurning any rumors of an "early departure" from the agency, Secretary Spellings visited with students, teachers, and other stakeholders in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. On December 9, she delivered remarks at the All-Stars Helping Kids Second Annual Sports, Business, and Philanthropy luncheon at the Sports Museum of America in New York City (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/12/12092008a.html). "We frequently hear that No Child Left Behind is punishing schools or narrowing the curriculum by excluding subjects like art and physical education," she noted. "I disagree. For one thing, the law doesn't punish schools; it supplies extra help, like free tutoring for students who fall behind. For another, there's no good reason why we can't focus on reading and math and still have art, recess, and other subjects. I've seen it for myself. Phil Mickelson uses golf to teach kids geometry and trigonometry.... We know that exercise helps kids focus and grow up healthy and confident." Two days later, on December 11, the Secretary delivered remarks at Chicago's Westcott Elementary School, one of 10 schools participating in the city's performance pay pilot program funded, in part, by the Department (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/12/12112008.html). "Recruiting and retaining good teachers is key to closing the achievement gap and preparing all students to compete in the 21st century," she said. "Yet, one-third of new teachers leave within five years, while, in high-poverty schools, about half leave within five years. Chicago is on the cutting edge of a movement to reward teachers for taking on more challenging assignments and getting results. I'm proud that my Department is supporting these awards and helping to make a difference for Chicago school children." Then, this week (December 17), the Secretary was at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Washington, D.C., only a few blocks from agency headquarters, to present the President's Volunteer Service Award to volunteers with the Foster Grandparent program (whereby senior citizens tutor and mentor children) and recognize Department employees and local residents for volunteering with Everybody Wins! (whereby individuals tutor children during recess and lunch).

The latest Achiever newsletter (http://www.ed.gov/achiever/) spotlights a Texas elementary school—where one in four students are English language learners and one in five transfer each year—that has built teacher collaboration to help achieve a near-perfect student proficiency rate of 98% in reading and math.

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TIMSS Results

A lengthy new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) summarizes the performance of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students on the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), comparing their scores with their peers internationally, as well as documenting changes in math and science achievement since 1995. The report also describes details about trends in the achievement of U.S. students, by sex, race/ethnicity, and the poverty level of the schools they attend. Consider:

Math

  • The 2007 average math scores of both U.S. fourth- (529) and eighth- (508) grade students were higher than the scale average (500). At grade 4, the average U.S. score was higher than those in 23 of the 35 participating nations, lower than those in eight nations (all in Asia or Europe), and not measurably different from those in four nations. At grade 8, the average U.S. score was higher than those in 37 of the 47 participating nations, lower than those in five nations (all in Asia), and not measurably different from those in five nations.
  • Comparing average scores from the first TIMSS administration in 1995 to the most recent results from 2007 shows that both U.S. fourth- (11 points higher than the 1995 average of 518) and eighth- (16 points higher than the 1995 average of 492) grade students improved in math.
  • While U.S. black and Hispanic students score lower in math than U.S. white students, over the 12-year period, the gap has narrowed in some areas: at grade 4, the white-black gap closed 17 points; at grade 8, the white-black gap closed 21 points, and the white-Hispanic gap closed 15 points.

Science

  • The 2007 average science scores of both U.S. fourth- (539) and eighth- (520) grade students were higher than the scale average (500). At grade 4, the average U.S. score was higher than those in 25 of the 35 participating nations, lower than those in four nations (all in Asia), and not measurably different from those in six nations. At grade 8, the average U.S. score was higher than those in 35 of the 47 participating nations, lower than those in nine nations (all in Asia or Europe), and not measurably different from those in three nations.
  • Unlike in math, comparing average scores from the first TIMSS administration in 1995 to the most recent results from 2007 shows that U.S. fourth- (3 points lower than the 1995 average of 542) and eighth- (7 points higher than the 1995 average of 513) grade students were not measurably different in science.
  • While U.S. black and Hispanic students score lower in science than U.S. white students, over the 12-year period, the gap has narrowed in some areas: at grade 4, the white-black gap closed 31 points; at grade 8, the white-black gap narrowed 26 points, and the white-Hispanic gap narrowed 27 points.

TIMSS, sponsored by an international organization of national research institutions and government agencies, has been administered four times: 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. For more information, please go to http://nces.ed.gov/timss/. (Note: Massachusetts and Minnesota participated separately. Both topped the U.S. average scores in fourth- and eighth-grade math and science, with Massachusetts performing on par with some Asian nations. See http://timss.bc.edu/timss2007/.)

Also: Last week, results were announced for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology. For more information, please go to http://www.siemens-foundation.org/en/competition.htm.

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Privacy Guidance

On December 9, the Department published in the Federal Register final regulations clarifying and making changes to the existing Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. These new regulations are intended to help educational agencies and institutions better understand and administer FERPA and make important updates to improve school safety, access to education data for research and accountability, and the safeguarding of education records, among other areas. (For example, language was removed requiring strict construction of the FERPA provision that permits the disclosure of education records, without consent, in order to deal with health or safety emergencies; now, in making a determination concerning disclosures, a school may take into account the totality of circumstances pertaining to a threat.) The regulations address public comments received on proposed regulations, published in March, from more than 100 individuals and organizations. They represent an appropriate balance between preserving students' privacy, promoting their safety, and facilitating research and accountability that will help ensure that students receive a quality education. For more information, please go to http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2008/12/12092008b.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. Indeed, among tenth-graders, lifetime use of any illicit drug other than marijuana declined from 18.2% in 2007 to 15.9% in 2008; past year use declined from 13.1% in 2007 to 11.3% in 2008; and past month use declined from 6.9% in 2007 to 5.3% in 2008. Likewise, the use of stimulants (amphetamine, crack cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine) declined in all prevalence periods for tenth-graders. On the other hand, marijuana use, which had fallen since the mid-1990s, appears to have leveled off, with past year use reported by 10.9% of eighth-graders, 23.9% of tenth-graders, and 32.4% of twelfth-graders. Also, 15.4% of twelfth-graders reported using a prescription drug non-medically within the past year. 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.org/news/press08/
MTF2008_factsheet.pdf.)

Also: The White House incorporated the survey findings in its summary of efforts to improve the lives of America's youth. For more information, please go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/12/20081211-6.html.

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Barney Cam VII

Earlier this month, the White House unveiled "A Red, White, and Blue Christmas," the final 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, to celebrate the family's last Christmas in the White House, Barney decides on a patriotic theme. However, the task of decorating proves exhausting, leading to an interesting daydream, with Barney capturing Olympic gold medals in gymnastics and swimming and sinking a difficult putt to secure golf's Ryder Cup. Awakened by the President ("We are sprinting to the finish, not napping to the finish!"), Barney is motivated to complete the decorations by Olympic champions Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Nastia Liukin, and Shawn Johnson and NBC's Jimmy Roberts and the U.S. Ryder Cup team. The video features President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Barbara Bush (with Willard the Cat!), and Henry and Jenna Hager. 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

"Pointing out weaknesses makes some people uncomfortable. And, we're hearing lots of reasons why the law's goals of all students on grade level by 2014 can't be achieved. But you know that winning stems from focusing on what's possible, not what seems impossible. Furthermore, as a parent, I want my daughters on grade level now, not six years from now. Why would we think other parents want anything less?.... To me, it comes down to a matter of how much we believe in our kids. If they're having a tough time at home, or if they start off far behind, do we really think that means they're doomed to fail?.... You know that if we have faith in our kids, and if we support them and their teachers, there's no limit to what we can achieve."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (12/9/08), speaking at the All-Stars Helping Kids luncheon

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Upcoming Events

Coming Up Taller Awards (http://www.pcah.gov/cut.htm), sponsored by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, focus national attention on exemplary programs fostering the creative and intellectual development of America's youth. Fifteen awards of $10,000 are presented each year, providing recognition and contributing to continued work. Applications must be postmarked by January 30, 2009.

Scholarships are now available for American students wishing to travel abroad and study languages that are critical to the nation, including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Russian, and Turkish. Students have the option of three different program lengths: a summer intensive, a semester, or a full academic year. Interested students must: (1) be U.S. citizens, (2) be 15-18 years of age at the start of the program, and (3) be enrolled in high school with at least a 2.5 grade point average. Students may travel abroad during high school or during a "gap year." Applications must be submitted by February 2, 2009. For more information, please go to http://www.nsliforyouth.org/.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 05/21/2009