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September 18, 2009 ED Review
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 September 18, 2009
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Update: Higher Education
Practice Guide
Recognition Programs
ARRA Recipient Reporting
Projections to 2018
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Update: Higher Education

Last week, Secretary Duncan joined Vice President Joe Biden at Syracuse University for a meeting of the Middle Class Task Force, focused on college affordability. Members of the task force reported on some of the work they have been doing, including simplifying the federal loan application process, implementing the new Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan, and studying ways to improve Section 529 college savings plans. Also, the task force released a staff report on barriers that still block the pathway to higher education.

This week, the Secretary participated in a press conference and the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) in support of H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The bill—which was just approved by the House—eliminates subsidies for financial institutions under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program (converting all new federal student lending to the Direct Loan program) and redirects those savings to increasing Pell Grants and funding other early learning, K-12, and postsecondary education programs, including the Early Learning Challenge Fund, the American Graduation Initiative, the College Access and Completion Innovation Fund, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The bill also makes it easier for students and families to apply for federal financial aid by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Meanwhile, the Department announced that the Fiscal Year 2007 national student cohort default rate increased to 6.7%, up from the FY 2006 rate of 5.2%. This default rate is a snapshot in time, representing the cohort of borrowers whose loan repayments came due between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2007, and who defaulted before September 30, 2008. Some 3.3 million borrowers entered repayment during this time, and 225,300 borrowers went into default. They attended 5,776 participating institutions. As a historical comparison, in FY 1990, nearly one in four borrowers defaulted on their federal loans when rates set an all-time high of 22.4%. The rate dropped to a record low of 4.5% in FY 2003. Schools with excessive default rates (of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years) may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs. This year, two sites are subject to sanctions. (The public can search for individual school default rates online.)

Note: The Department recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intent to establish two negotiated rulemaking committees (Team I—program integrity; Team II—foreign schools) to prepare proposed regulations under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The same notice solicits nominations for negotiators. The deadline for nominations is next Friday (September 25).

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Practice Guide

A new practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse, titled "Helping Students Navigate the Path to College: What High Schools Can Do," recommends steps that educators, administrators, and policymakers can take, beginning in the ninth-grade, to increase access to higher education. Recognizing that simply providing students with information is insufficient, the guide recommends that high schools offer hands-on assistance and guidance in preparing students for college. The guide also acknowledges implementation challenges and suggests solutions for circumventing roadblocks. What Works is an initiative of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Note: The next Scientific Evidence in Education (SEE) forum, scheduled for September 29 (12:00-1:30 p.m. ET) at the Sumner School (1201 17th Street, N.W.) in Washington, D.C., will discuss the latest research on the topic of pathways to college. These forums are free, but space is limited, so please register in advance online.

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Recognition Programs

On September 15, at Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Secretary Duncan named 314 schools as "2009 National Blue Ribbon Schools." This program recognizes high performing schools (whose students, regardless of background, perform in the top 10% on their state assessments [public] or nationally normed assessments [private]) and dramatically improving schools (whose students, at least 40% of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, dramatically improved on tests to score in at least the top 40% statewide). Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. Of the schools nominated by each state, at least one-third must have 40% or more of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and public schools must meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, as defined by their states. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 2-3. The principal and a teacher from each school will receive a flag and plaque signifying their Blue Ribbon status.

A day later (September 16), the Secretary joined philanthropist Eli Broad to announce Aldine Independent School District as the winner of the 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education—the largest education prize in America awarded to the most improved urban district. Aldine, located outside of Houston, TX, where four of five students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, bested four finalists: Broward County (FL), Gwinnett County (GA), Long Beach (CA), and Socorro (TX). (Aldine had been a three-time finalist. Long Beach won the 2003 prize and is also a three-time finalist. Broward County is a two-time finalist, while this is Gwinnett County's and Socorro's first year on the list.) The $2 million prize goes to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships. Aldine receives $1 million, while the other finalists receive $250,000 each. Scholarships are granted to students who demonstrate significant financial need and have a record of academic improvement. Recipients who enroll in four-year colleges receive up to $20,000 ($5,000 per year). Recipients who enroll in two-year colleges receive up to $5,000 ($2,500 per year).

Also this week, the Intel Corporation named Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) of Aurora as the "Star Innovator" among six winners of the 2009 Intel Schools of Distinction Awards. Intel sponsors the awards to honor schools for implementing innovative math and science programs and serving as models for other schools. The Intel Foundation and sponsoring companies will distribute to this year's winning schools more than $1.3 million in cash, products, and services.

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ARRA Recipient Reporting

The Department has developed new guidance for recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) financial assistance that clarifies and elaborates on the Office of Management and Budget's Section 1512 reporting guidance. The first document addresses reporting requirements as they apply to the Department's direct grantees. And, it addresses the requirements for reporting the grants and contracts that the Department's direct grantees make to other agencies and companies, or subgrantees. The second document tackles job creation and retention estimates by recipients. As the guidance notes, direct grantees and subgrantees must have current DUNS numbers and register in the Central Contract Registration (CCR) database. Direct grantees and subgrantees that will be submitting reports directly into FederalReporting.gov must also register as users online. Reporting starts October 1. Reports will be made public October 30. For more information, please go to.

Note: The Department is conducting a web conference on Department-specific guidance on Monday, September 21, at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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Projections to 2018

The National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) "Projections of Education Statistics to 2018" projects key statistics, including student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for elementary and secondary schools and degree-granting institutions. For example: K-12 student enrollment rose 12% between 1993 and 2006 and is projected to increase an additional 8% between 2006 and 2018; postsecondary enrollment rose 28% between 1993 and 2007 and is projected to increase an additional 13% by 2018; and K-12 expenditures (in constant 2006-07 dollars) rose 43% between 1993-94 and 2005-06 and is projected to increase an additional 36% by 2018-19. NCES is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

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Odds and Ends

  • In a recent article in American School Board Journal, Secretary Duncan examines the challenges facing urban school districts and calls for school board members to seek active partnerships with city leaders.

  • On September 11, the Department awarded $12.4 million in Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grants, aimed at promoting the instruction of foreign languages critical to national security, to state and local school systems in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The funds will be used in elementary and secondary schools to establish or expand programs of study in one or more "critical foreign languages," such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and languages in the Indic, Iranian, and Turkic language families.

  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association's (ALA) Public Programs Office is now accepting applications for the "We the People" Bookshelf Project. This year's theme, "A More Perfect Union," invites reflection on the idea of the U.S. as a "union," as "one" as well as "many," and will complement library programs observing the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. To stimulate programming, the Bookshelf features a DVD edition of "The Civil War," the award-winning documentary by Ken Burns. Public and K-12 school libraries are invited to apply online through January 29, 2010. In spring 2010, NEH and ALA will select 4,000 libraries to receive the 17 books for young readers, as well as bonus materials for readers of all ages, and the option to receive three titles in Spanish transition. Since 2003, NEH has awarded some 13,000 bookshelves.

  • Yesterday (September 17) was Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. In support of students and teachers in their studies, online resources are available from the Department's Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the National History Education Clearinghouse.

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's "Education at a Glance 2009" enables the 30 member countries to compare performance using a range of indicators.

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Quote to Note

"I've given a lot of speeches about education. And, I've talked about responsibility a lot. I've talked about teachers' responsibility for inspiring you and pushing you to learn. I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and you get your homework done, and you don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with the Xbox. I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working—where students aren't getting the opportunities that they deserve. But, at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world, and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter, unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education."

        President Barack Obama (9/8/09), from his national address to America's schoolchildren

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Upcoming Events

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

With $150,000 in new grant funding designated for projects that integrate green-related topics and experiences into the classroom, the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation is growing its Learning and Leadership and Student Achievement grants program for individuals and teams of educators. Public school teachers are eligible to apply for individual grants worth up to $5,000 for development and implementation of ideas, techniques, and approaches for teaching green concepts. The first application deadline is October 15, and the first grants are slated to be awarded in January 2010. The NEA Foundation will award two more rounds of green grants in 2010, with deadlines for applications falling on February 1 and June 1.

On October 22, Lights On Afterschool!, a coast-to-coast rally organized by the Afterschool Alliance, will illuminate the nation by celebrating afterschool programs and the need they meet in keeping students safe, helping working families, and improving academic achievement. This year, 7,500 afterschool programs, including many of the Department's 21st Century Community Learning Centers, will host activities.

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Last Modified: 06/15/2012