NEWSLETTERS
July 2, 2009 ED Review
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 July 2, 2009
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Race To The Top (Four Assurances)
ARRA Outreach
Milestone Date
FAFSA Simplification
Read to the Top!
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Race To The Top (Four Assurances)

Over the last two weeks, Secretary Duncan delivered the final two of four major policy speeches on priorities for the "Race to the Top" Fund. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), states must offer assurances that they are making progress in four critical areas of reform: adopting rigorous standards; recruiting and retaining effective teachers; turning around chronically low-performing schools; and building data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness. States must report on their progress toward completing these assurances in their applications to receive formula funding under the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF). The Department will evaluate states' success in meeting assurances when reviewing states' applications for competitive grants under the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" Fund.

As a reminder, the Secretary discussed data systems on June 8 and higher standards on June 15.

Next, on June 22, at the National Charter School Conference, the Secretary focused on the challenge of turning around chronically under-achieving schools. "There are approximately 5,000 schools in this category," he said. "About half are in big cities, maybe a third are in rural areas, and the rest in suburbs and medium-sized towns. This is a national problem.... We need everyone who cares about public education to take on the toughest assignment of all and get into the business of turning around our lowest-performing schools—including states, school districts, non-profits, for-profits, universities, unions, and charter organizations." As for "how," he continued, "We have four basic models in mind," including awarding planning grants in the fall so new principals and lead teachers can develop curricula to meet students' needs, followed by recruiting new teachers in the spring; turning the school over to a charter or for-profit management organization; changing the school culture through a variety of actions (for example, extending learning time for students); and closing low-performing schools and re-enrolling the students in superior schools. The Secretary also called on charter leaders to ensure their schools are held accountable for results. "The charter movement is putting itself at risk by allowing too many second- and third-rate schools to exist," he noted. "Your goal should be quality, not quantity. Authorizers need to do a better job of holding schools accountable, and the charter schools need to support them—loudly and sincerely."

Later, following up on his charter remarks, the Secretary issued a statement urging states to work with charter operators to turn around struggling schools and provide choice and innovation to students and parents. "States need to have a plan to turn around their lowest-performing schools," he said. "I'm an advocate of using whatever model works for children, and I want charter schools to join that work. But, they won't be able to get into the turn around business in states that restrict the growth of charters. States that slow innovation are not only limiting opportunities for students but also placing themselves at a competitive disadvantage for Race to the Top grants."

Then, on July 2, at the National Education Association's Annual Meeting in San Diego, the Secretary addressed the quality of the education workforce. "I begin our conversation around some important areas of agreement: excellence in teaching, good professional development, schools open longer hours, and a shared responsibility for student success among all the adults in the school building," he explained. "But, the President and I want to go further. I want to describe some tough challenges and ask you how we can work together to meet them." Concerning under-performing schools, he said, "If we agree that the adults in these schools are failing these children, we have to find the right people—and we can't let our rules and regulations get in the way.... This is not about adult jobs. This is about children's education." Regarding data systems, he noted, "It's time we all admit that, just as our student testing system is deeply flawed, so is our teacher evaluation system—and the losers are not just the children. When great teachers are unrecognized and unrewarded, when struggling teachers are unsupported, and when failing teachers are unaddressed, the teaching profession is damaged." "The President and I have said, repeatedly, that we are not going to impose reform but rather work with teachers, principals, and unions to find what works," he added. Take merit pay. "We're asking Congress for more funds to develop compensation programs 'with' you—and 'for' you—not 'to' you. Such programs put money in the pockets of your teachers and support personnel by recognizing and rewarding excellence."

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ARRA Outreach

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have submitted applications for the first round of funding under the SFSF. And, as of today, 40 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have been approved for nearly $26.8 billion in stabilization funding. Initial applications, approved applications, and any amendments are posted online.

Moreover, Secretary Duncan announced that more than $2.7 billion is being made available early to help states as they confront increasing budgetary pressures. This funding is the last third of the SFSF's government services fund, which was initially scheduled to be made available with the completion of second round SFSF applications. Of the $2.7 billion being distributed early, $2.4 billion is being awarded immediately to states that have approved Phase I applications. The remaining $316.6 million will be awarded within the coming days as outstanding states are approved. The government services fund is available for education, school building modernization, public safety, and other government services.

Also, last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published "Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the ARRA." This guidance implements the reporting requirements included in Section 1512 of the ARRA for recipients of grants, loans, and other forms of assistance. The reports required by Section 1512 will be submitted by recipients beginning in October 2009 and will answer such important questions as the impact of projects/activities on job creation and retention. (Note: The Department is working on its own ARRA reporting guidance, expected to be published in the fall, which will include specific examples for key programs.)

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Milestone Date

On a conference call this week, Secretary Duncan announced that $13 billion in "regular appropriations" is available for schools and that millions of current and former college students will benefit from better student loans and financial aid. Specifically, on July 1, the Department released more than $13 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 funding for the Title I program for disadvantaged students, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, and other categorical programs. (The rest of the money from the FY 2009 budget will be available starting October 1.) The agency also implemented several changes to student financial aid and student loan payments (see previous issue).

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FAFSA Simplification

The Obama Administration recently announced a shorter, simpler, and user-friendly Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that will make it easier to apply for college financial aid. The changes—some of which are already in place, while others will be phased-in over the next few months—are designed to increase postsecondary enrollment—particularly among low- and middle-income students. Among the changes:

  • Since May, the Department has provided instant estimates of Pell Grant and student loan eligibility, rather than forcing applicants to wait weeks.
  • Available summer 2009, enhanced "skip-logic" used in the new web-based FAFSA will reduce user navigation for many applicants by more than half.
  • Starting in January 2010, students applying for financial aid for the spring semester will be able to seamlessly retrieve their relevant tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for easy completion of the online FAFSA.

The Administration will also introduce legislation seeking statutory authority from Congress to eliminate financial information from the aid calculation formula that is not available from the IRS. This will remove 26 financial questions from the form that have little impact on awards and can be difficult to complete. Only questions that rely upon information that applicants must already supply to the IRS would remain.

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Read to the Top!

Last week, Secretary Duncan kicked off the Department's summer reading campaign—Read to the Top!—with "Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Where the Wild Things Are." The Secretary read to young children, including his own, on the plaza of the agency's headquarters building. This initiative is in response to President Obama's "United We Serve" national volunteer campaign that calls for all Americans to serve in their communities over the summer. Throughout the summer, the weekly reading campaign—which runs through September 11—will feature children's books read by the Secretary, other Cabinet heads, and top Administration officials. The agency, in collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service, is partnering with libraries and community-based organizations nationwide to combat summer reading loss. Scholastic has donated 1,700 books for the effort.

Note: Last week, the Secretary also led a delegation to Fanwood Memorial Library in New Jersey to hear how librarians are engaging students and communities in creating educational environments in school and out of school.

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Odds and Ends

  • A transcript of the Department's June 18 forum with education stakeholders—the first in a series of forums to share updates and information on important issues—is available at. (Note: An invitation for the next forum, planned for late July, will be posted shortly.)

  • The exterior facade of the Department's headquarters building is the site of a new photo exhibit designed both as art and as an illustration of the agency's goals. The 44 large photographs, all by Department photographers, show various aspects of education in America, from pre-kindergarten through college graduation, with images of public school students from all walks of life reading, in classroom settings, and participating in arts and athletics. Along with reminding staff and visitors of the agency's mission, the photographs are meant to attract the public into the lobby, where award-winning art by U.S. and international students is prominently displayed. The Student Art Exhibit Program—now in its sixth year—honors the artists and emphasizes the role of the arts as an effective path to learning.

  • On the 37th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, banning sex discrimination, the Secretary, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and an all-star cast of women athletes and scientists held a roundtable discussion on the legislation and awarded grants to 13 groups to support initiatives that will help high school girls attain higher proficiency in math and science.

  • On the 45th anniversary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, the Secretary issued a detailed fact sheet on the state of education for minority children.

  • The Department's Office of Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS) has released an analysis of controlled studies comparing online and face-to-face instruction. The meta analysis showed that "blended instruction"—combining elements of online and face-to-face instruction—had a larger advantage relative to instruction conducted wholly online or purely face-to-face instruction. Also, the analysis showed that the instruction conducted wholly online was more effective in improving achievement than the purely face-to-face instruction.

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Quote to Note

"We need to work together to help people better understand charter schools. Many people equate charters with privatization, and part of the problem is that charters overtly separate themselves from the surrounding school district. That is why opponents often say that charters take money away from public schools. But, that's misleading. Charters are public schools, serving our kids with our money. Instead of standing apart, charters should be partnering with districts, sharing lessons, and sharing credit. Charters are supposed to be laboratories of innovation that we can all learn from."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/22/09), at the National Charter School Conference

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Upcoming Events

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

Hold on! Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Education Association's Annual Meeting in San Diego (July 1-3), the Associated Black Charities' African-American Heritage Festival in Baltimore (July 3-5), the American Federation of Teachers' Town Hall Meeting in Washington, DC (July 13-14), the League of United Latin American Citizens' National Convention in San Juan, PR (July 13-18), and the American Legislative Exchange Council's Annual Meeting in Atlanta (July 15-18). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

As we move into July, there will be a brief break in ED Review's regular two-week cycle. In the interim, please visit http://www.ed.gov/ and check the headlines. Also, watch for the July 24 issue of ED Review, which will cover the major activities of the previous three weeks.

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Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Stacey Jordan, (202) 401-0026, Stacey.Jordan@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 06/15/2012