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February 13, 2009 ED Review
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 February 13, 2009
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Inaugural Address
Secretary Duncan
Charters and Choice
Funding Opportunities
New Research
Reading on the Rise
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Editor's Note

ED Review has been on brief hiatus. However, it was a busy last month in the field of education, and I hope you have been able to track key developments via the ED.gov web site. If not—or, to ensure you did not miss anything of significance—please accept this "catch-up" issue of the newsletter. It is longer than most issues, with many links for additional information. Hereafter, ED Review will return to its standard format and schedule.

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Inaugural Address

Education was featured in President Obama's January 20 Inaugural Address. Below are relevant excerpts:

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.... Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many...."

"The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift. We will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.... And, we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world—duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and promise of citizenship."

Other news from the White House:

  • The President's complete education agenda is available online.
  • On February 4, in their first trip to a public school since the Inauguration, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited Capital City Public Charter School in northwest Washington, D.C. There, they read "The Moon Over Star," by Dianna Hutts Aston, to a second-grade class and met with fifth-graders who told them about their learning expedition on voting rights. "We're very proud of what's been accomplished at this school, and we want to make sure that we're duplicating that success all across the country," the President said. "Nothing is going to be more important than this." More information.
  • Days earlier (February 2), First Lady Michelle Obama began her tour of federal agencies with a visit to the U.S. Department of Education. "[T]he most important thing to tell you or remind you is that I am a product of your work," she said. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the public schools that nurtured me and helped me along. And, I am committed, as well as my husband, to ensuring that more kids like us, and kids around this country, regardless of their race, their income, their status, the property values in their neighborhoods, get access to an outstanding education." More information.
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Secretary Duncan

Shortly after the President delivered his Inaugural Address, the Senate confirmed Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan as the ninth U.S. Secretary of Education. Secretary Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, majoring in sociology. He was co-captain of the university's basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American. From 1987 to 1991, he played professional basketball down under in Australia, where he also worked with children who were wards of the state. In 1992, he returned to Chicago to direct the Ariel Education Initiative, which seeks to create outstanding educational opportunities for children on the city's South Side. He was also part of the team that later started a new public elementary school around a financial literacy curriculum. In 1998, he joined the Chicago Public Schools, and, in June 2001, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley named him CEO.

During his confirmation hearing on January 13, Secretary Duncan outlined the President's education priorities:

  • "First, we must invest in early childhood education."
  • "Second, we know that teacher quality must be addressed on many levels: recruitment, preparation, retention, and compensation."
  • "Third, we know that only about 70% of high school students graduate."
  • "Fourth, we must make sure that our citizens have the means and the encouragement to aim for education and training beyond high school." Toward the end of his remarks, the Secretary also mentioned: appropriately supporting students with disabilities; helping English language learners to be successful; promoting innovation that accelerates student learning; and aligning the education system to prepare students for the jobs of the future and the responsibilities of active citizenship in a democratic society.

The Secretary stressed these same priorities in an early message to Department employees. "Both of us [President Obama and I] believe we must set high standards, recruit great teachers, and encourage innovative new approaches to education," he said. "Both of us believe that every child should have access to high quality preschool programs, and every high school graduate eager to continue in school should have access to college. Both of us believe that providing a quality education to all children is not just a moral obligation but an economic imperative. This is both the civil rights issue of our generation and the economic foundation of our future."

Other news from the Secretary:

  • Secretary Duncan has praised President Obama's intent to nominate three new assistant secretaries—Peter Cunningham as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach; Russlynn Ali as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights; and Carmel Martin as Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.
  • On February 9, the Secretary delivered remarks at the American Council on Education's meeting. "Taken together," he noted, "the Barack effect ["the soft power that accompanies the symbolism of an African-American president who has made education cool and exciting and infinitely promising"], the leadership on the Hill, the proven strategies, and the money in the stimulus package represent what I call the perfect storm for reform—a historic alignment of interests and events that could lift American education to an entirely new level. Given the state of our economy, the pace of technological change, and the scope of our collective challenges—no issue is more pressing." More information.
  • Later that same day, the Secretary visited Wakefield High School in nearby Arlington, Virginia, to urge swift passage of the economic stimulus legislation currently being debated in Congress. Wakefield, constructed in 1953, is slated to undergo renovations. "There is no more immediate way to stimulate the economy—short-term and long-term—than to keep teachers teaching and to keep students learning," he said. "As the bill moves to conference, we must get every dollar possible into America's classrooms." More information. (Note: At this time, the House and Senate are considering a compromise bill. ED Review will summarize the final act in a future issue.)
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Charters and Choice

The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast (February 17, 8:00-9:00 ET) will introduce Secretary Duncan, who will discuss President Obama's education plan, and discuss the movement to offer parents and communities greater choices in education. Today, parents have more educational choices available to them than ever before. Progressive school districts, like Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, Tampa, and Chicago (specifically through its Renaissance 2010 Initiative), are reforming their policies and practices; expanding student and community-based support services; and delivering a portfolio of high-quality educational options to ensure that students are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century, knowledge-based economy. In particular, charter schools are increasingly appealing to parents. As laboratories for new and rigorous educational strategies, many charter schools show that breaking tradition and establishing a high bar for performance can yield remarkable results for students. In turn, the President's education plan proposes to double funding for the federal Charter Schools Program, with the goal of increasing the number of successful charter schools that are committed to improving academic accountability. (You can watch archived webcasts online.)

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Funding Opportunities

Early March is the deadline for several grant competitions:

  • Carol M. White Physical Education Program (closes 3/6). This program allows school districts and community-based organizations to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in grades K-12. Recipients must implement programs that help students "make progress" toward meeting state standards. Estimated awards: 95. (Note: There is a sharing requirement. The federal share of a project's cost may not exceed 90% for the first year and 75% for subsequent years.)
  • Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program (closes 3/6). This program seeks to improve student reading skills and academic achievement by providing students with up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school library media centers; and well-trained, professionally certified school library media specialists. Estimated awards: 80. Eligibility: school districts in which at least 20% of the students are from families with incomes below the poverty line, based on the most recent available data from the Census Bureau.
  • Teaching American History Grant Program (closes 3/9). This program supports projects that aim to raise student achievement by improving teachers' knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of traditional American history. Awards assist districts, in partnership with entities that have extensive content expertise (colleges and universities, history and humanities organizations, and libraries and museums) to develop, implement, document, evaluate, and disseminate innovative, cohesive models of professional development. Estimated awards: 52-65.

Also: Be sure to review the FY 2009 Grants Forecast (as of January 30), which lists virtually all programs and competitions under which the Department has invited or expects to invite applications for awards and provides actual or estimated dates for the transmittal of applications under these programs. The lists are in the form of charts—organized by program office—and will be updated regularly through July 2009. (Note: This document is advisory only and not an official application notice of the U.S. Department of Education.)

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New Research

Don't miss these new statistical analyses from the Department:

  • "Title I Implementation: Update on Recent Evaluation Findings," from the Policy and Program Studies Services (PPSS), has findings from Title I evaluation studies that have become available since the National Assessment of Title I final report in 2007. It includes results from interviews with state education officials in all states; surveys of nationally representative samples of districts, principals, and teachers; data from consolidated state performance reports; and analyses of student trends on state assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). One key finding? In states with consistent student achievement trend data from 2004-05 to 2006-07, the percentage of students reaching the state's proficient level increased for most student groups, but most states will not meet No Child Left Behind's goal of 100% proficient by 2014 unless student achievement rises at a faster rate.
  • "Teacher Quality Under the No Child Left Behind Act—Final Report," also from PPSS, presents updated information on the progress states, districts, and schools have made in implementing No Child Left Behind's teacher quality, professional development, and paraprofessional provisions. Significantly, by 2006-07, the vast majority of teachers met their states' requirements to be considered "highly qualified" under the law. However, requirements for the demonstration of content knowledge expertise varied greatly.
  • "After-School Programs in Public Elementary Schools," out of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides a national profile of various types of after-school programs physically located at public elementary schools in 2008. The report focuses on four broad types of after-school programs: (1) fee-based stand-alone day care programs, (2) stand-alone academic instruction/tutoring programs, including supplemental educational services, (3) federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and (4) other types of stand-alone or broad-based programs. 56% of public elementary schools reported one or more after-school programs on campus.
  • "Course Credit Accrual and Dropping Out of High School," also out of NCES, examines the number of credits earned by high school students and the relationship between course credit accrual and dropping out. The findings indicate that dropouts earned fewer credits than on-time graduates within each year of high school, and the cumulative course credit accrual gap increased with each new year. This pattern remained across all examined student and school characteristics (for example, student sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, school location, and sophomore class size).
  • "An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification," published by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), compares the achievement of elementary students in the same grade, at the same school, who were randomly assigned to teachers who chose to be trained through different routes to certification: traditional and alternative. The evaluation found that students of teachers who chose to enter teaching through an alternative route did not perform statistically different from students of teachers who chose a traditional route to teaching.

Also: According to the College Board's fifth annual "Advanced Placement Report to the Nation," 15.2% of the Class of 2008 achieved mastery (at least a 3 on a 5-point scale) on one or more AP exams—up from 12.2% for the 2003 class. However, while six states have more than 20% of their students graduate from high school having earned an AP exam grade of 3 or higher, 19 states have less than 10%. Moreover, though several states have successfully closed the equity and excellence gap for Hispanic students, no state closed the gap for African-American students, and no state with significant numbers of American Indian students closed the gap.

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Reading on the Rise

For the first time in 25 years, more American adults are reading literature. "Reading on the Rise," a new study by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), documents a marked increase in the numbers and rates of American adults who read literature (any novels, short stories, poems, or plays, in print or online), with the biggest increases among young adults, ages 18-24. This growth reverses two decades of downward trends cited in previous NEA reports. Among the study's findings:

  • The overall adult literary reading rate has risen from 46.7% in 2002 to 50.2% in 2008.
  • There were 16.6 million new adult readers of literature in 2008 (112.8 million adult readers), versus 2002 (96.2 million adult readers).
  • The overall young adult literary reading rate has risen from 42.8% in 2002 to 51.7% in 2008.
  • Since 2002, reading among African-Americans has grown at a 15% rate (37.1%-42.6%) and reading by Hispanics has grown at a 20% rate (26.5%-31.9%).
  • As expected, the best-educated Americans have the highest reading rate (68.1%), yet the rates have climbed substantially for adults with only some high school (from 23.3% in 2002 to 34.3% in 2008).

The study does not identify the causes either for adult literary reading or for changes in reading behavior, but, as former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia suggests in the study's introduction, "Faced by a clear and undeniable problem, millions of parents, teachers, librarians, and civic leaders took action. Reading became a higher priority in families, schools, and communities. Thousands of programs, large and small, were created or significantly enhanced to address the challenge."

Also: One of television's iconic children's series, The Electric Company, is back, designed to advance the literacy of America's second-graders with 35 half-hour, truly interactive episodes. The new series launched January 19 on PBS with a special two-hour sneak preview, before settling into its regular weekly slot on Fridays (check local listings). The Department helped finance the new The Electric Company and its rich, online environment.

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Quote to Note

"We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It is a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the sake of our future and our children's future. The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That is the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead."

        President Barack Obama (2/9/09), from his first press conference

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Upcoming Events

February is African-American History Month, and February 16 is Presidents Day. Need help planning your education activities? The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers more than 1,500 free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 139 resources specifically highlighted for these events.

The Department has released tentative schedules for its five negotiated rulemaking teams under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a March 12 workshop to gather input for its advertising literacy initiative, which will educate and empower tweens to be better informed consumers of information. At the event, experts in advertising and marketing will discuss a range of issues, including what tweens experience in the commercial world, what they should know to navigate it, and what they understand about their experiences. The workshop is free.

The Presidential Academy for American History and Civics leads secondary school teachers in a study of the pivotal turning points in U.S. history, memorialized by the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the "I Have a Dream" speech. Participants will spend six days in Philadelphia, six days in Gettysburg, and five days in Washington, D.C., surrounded by the halls, battlefields, and public places where history took place. Teachers must apply by March 15. Fifty teachers, one from each state, will be selected. Aside from travel to and from the academy, there is no cost to teachers, and a $1,000 stipend is provided to cover the cost of travel. (Note: The academy is administered by the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University as a result of a grant from the Department.)

Here we go! Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Association for Bilingual Education's Annual Conference in Austin (February 18-21); the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference in San Francisco (February 19-21); the National Title I Conference in San Antonio (February 19-22); and the National Association of Secondary School Principals' Annual Convention in San Diego (February 26-28). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 06/14/2012