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June 5, 2009 ED Review
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 June 5, 2009
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NPC Speech
Higher ED: Negotiated Rulemaking
Grants for Displaced Workers
IDEA Determination Letters
Condition of Education 2009
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

NPC Speech

On May 29, Secretary Duncan discussed the Obama Administration's education agenda in a speech at the National Press Club. "We have some real resources—$100 billion—to invest in education," he said. But, "with unprecedented resources, we need unprecedented reform." Specifically, among other issues, he addressed raising academic standards, turning around the country's low-performing schools, and saving $4 billion annually with direct loans for college. The following excerpts concern those issues.

"We want to raise the bar dramatically in terms of higher standards. What we have had as a country, I'm convinced, is what we call a 'race to the bottom.' We have 50 different standards, 50 different goal posts. And, due to political pressure, those have been dumbed down. We want to fundamentally reverse that. We want common, career-ready, internationally benchmarked standards.... When children are told that they are 'meeting a state standard,' the logical assumption is to think they are 'on-track' to be successful. But, because these standards have been dummied down and lowered so much in so many places, when children are 'meeting the state standard' they are, in fact, barely able to graduate from high school. And, they are absolutely inadequately prepared to go to a competitive college, let alone graduate from college."

"What I want to ask the country to do is to think very different about...the schools that are absolutely at the bottom nationally. More of the same incremental change, tinkering around the edges, is not going to work. We need a dramatic overhaul. Our children have one chance to get a great education.... And, there are many different ways to do this. But, what we did in Chicago is we moved the adults out. We kept the children and brought in new teams of adults—same children, same families, same socioeconomic challenges, same buildings, same neighborhoods, different set of beliefs, different set of expectations. And what we saw was dramatic changes. We saw communities where children had fled where, in the first year, 125 families came back to the school, because something much better was going on."

"We're doing some things that we think are common sense—but a little controversial. We are asking, in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, to take our money out of banks, to stop subsidizing banks, and put all that investment into our children, into our high school graduates. Over the next decade, that will produce a savings of, conservatively, $40 billion. And, we can dramatically increase Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, and the tuition tax credit to make sure that our students can have the chance to go onto higher education and fulfill their dreams.... There's a lot of good debate—and that's healthy. But, at the end of the day, I fundamentally think we should be investing in children, not in subsidizing banks."

Note: A video of the speech is available online.

Three days later (June 1), the Secretary praised a new effort by the National Governors Association's (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), partnering with Achieve, ACT, and the College Board, to create a common core of state standards in language arts and math for grades K-12. Forty-six states and three territories have joined the state-led process. The goal is to have a common core of state standards that states can voluntarily adopt; states may choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85% of the state's standards in language arts and math. NGA and CCSSO are coordinating the process to develop these standards and will assemble an expert validation committee to provide an independent review of the common core standards, as well as grade-by-grade standards. The common core standards are expected to be completed in July 2009, while the grade-by-grade standards are expected to be finished by December 2009.

Higher standards were also a focus of the Secretary's May 27 visit to Montana for the "Listening and Learning" tour.

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Higher ED: Negotiated Rulemaking

On May 26, the Department published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intention to establish negotiated rulemaking committees to prepare regulations under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The agency intends to convene one committee to develop proposed regulations governing foreign schools. The agency also intends to convene at least one committee to develop proposed regulations to maintain or improve integrity within Title IV programs. The notice also announced three public meetings where interested parties may suggest other issues that should be duly considered for action by the committees: June 15 in Denver, June 18 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and June 22 in Philadelphia. In addition, on the day following each meeting, the Department will conduct two forums—concurrently—at the same location. One forum will focus on approaches to the agency's financial aid communications and processes (including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA) that could wholly improve college planning, preparation, and access. The other forum will focus on ways that federal higher education programs could play a stronger role in fostering student educational persistence and degree attainment. (Note: Recently, Deputy Undersecretary Robert Shireman held a conference call with analysts and investors who monitor the career college and education industry to discuss the purpose and nature of these committees. To hear a replay of this discussion, call 1-800-945-7621. This replay will be available until June 30.)

Also: Making higher education more accessible and more affordable was the topic of the May edition of the "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast.

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Grants for Displaced Workers

Yesterday (June 4), Secretary Duncan visited Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin and announced a $7 million competitive grant to establish innovative and sustainable community college programs that prepare displaced workers—especially autoworkers—for second careers. "Education is the catalyst for a strong economy and the means by which adults will reinvent themselves and rebuild the industrial cities that have been the foundation of our nation," he said. "The Obama Administration is committed to supporting auto communities and workers who have been displaced from their jobs, and community colleges are invaluable resources for adults seeking to acquire new skills that are needed by employers." The programs could provide critical services, including academic and career counseling and tutoring, and help with the registration process. They could also remove financial constraints for adults returning to school, such as textbooks, child care, and transportation. All programs must be sustainable beyond the three-year grant period.

Also: Last week, at a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, the Secretary announced the Department's participation in a new federal partnership to foster job growth for a new green economy.

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IDEA Determination Letters

As required by law, the Department has issued determination letters regarding states' implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each state was evaluated on key indicators under Part B (ages 3 through 21) and Part C (infants through age 2) and placed into one of four categories: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and needs substantial intervention. Staff carefully considered states' Annual Performance Reports, information obtained through monitoring visits, and other records. Most states fell into the top two categories; 30 states met requirements for Part B, and 26 states met requirements for Part C. No states were in needs substantial intervention on either part. For states in the lower categories, the IDEA identifies technical assistance or actions which the agency must take under specific circumstances. The agency works with states that need assistance or intervention using its network of technical assistance centers. New determination letters are issued annually.

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Condition of Education 2009

On May 28, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its annual report (also required by law) on the condition of education in the U.S. "The Condition of Education 2009" includes 46 indicators in five major areas—participation in education, learner outcomes, student effort and educational progress, elementary and secondary education contexts, and postsecondary education contexts. (This summer, NCES will release a special analysis on international assessments.) Among the findings: in 2005-06, three-quarters of the 2002-03 freshman class graduated from high school with a regular diploma; the rate of college enrollment immediately after high school increased from 49% in 1972 to 67% by 1997 but has since fluctuated between 62% and 69%; and 58% of first-time students attending college full-time in 2000-01 completed a bachelor's degree or its equivalent at that institution within six years. (Note: A statement by Secretary Duncan on the report is available online.)

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Odds and Ends

  • Congressional testimony related to the President's budget: Deputy Undersecretary Robert Shireman (May 21), Secretary Duncan (June 3), and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton (June 4).

  • In a May 29 letter, the Secretary informed Chief State School Officers about the authorization of Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and Build America Bonds (BABs) and the extension of existing Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). The authorizations offer federal subsidies for public school improvement and modernization activities. Both QSCBs and BABs provide funding for new construction, as well as repairs and renovation; QZABs provide funding for repairs, renovations, and certain other actions but may not be used for new construction.

  • This week, the Secretary announced the appointment of William Taggart as Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Taggart has more than 24 years of business management experience with Fortune 50 companies. The President's budget would greatly expand federal student aid; in 2010, FSA would administer more than $129 billion in new grants, loans, and work-study assistance (a 32% increase over the amount available in 2008) to help nearly 14 million students and their families pay for college.

  • The Department has compiled, and continues to update, a list of political appointees to the agency.

  • The Department has also compiled, and continues to update, early childhood education programs and resources.

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Quote to Note

"If you look on our web site, you will see that, as part of Recovery Act guidance, we have posted a list of almost 13,000 schools that are identified for improvement during the current school year. That number is up by more than 1,000 schools, or 9%, from the previous year. And more than one-third of these schools, or almost 5,000 schools, currently are in restructuring status—the final stage of improvement for chronically under-performing schools that demands fundamental changes in instruction and governance to break the cycle of educational failure."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/3/09), testifying on the President's FY 2010 budget request

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Upcoming Events

On a weekly basis, the Secretary's public schedule is posted online.

On June 15, at 10:00 a.m. ET, NCES will release results of the 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in music and visual arts.

The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, on summer learning, is scheduled for June 16 (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET).

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Last Modified: 06/15/2012