NEWSLETTERS
October 30, 2009 ED Review
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 October 30, 2009
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Elevating the Teaching Profession
ARRA Outreach (Assessment)
ARRA Outreach (Reporting)
Terrel Bell Awards
STEM Education
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Elevating the Teaching Profession

At Columbia University's Teachers College on October 22, capping a month of events focused on the teaching profession on October 9, speaking to prospective teachers in the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, and, on October 20, hosting a virtual town hall meeting with current teachers Secretary Duncan called for America's colleges of education to dramatically change how they prepare the next generation of teachers, so they are ready to prepare their future students for success in college and careers. "By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom," he said. "America's university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change, not evolutionary thinking. However, I am optimistic that, despite the obstacles to reform, the seeds of real change have been planted." More than half of the nation's new teachers (220,000 annually) graduate from a school of education. High-quality alternative certification and teacher residency programs have emerged, but those programs produce fewer than 10,000 new teachers annually. Therefore, the task of "recruiting and preparing an army of great new teachers depends heavily on our nation's colleges of education." What needs to change? "I don't think the ingredients of a good teacher preparation are much of a mystery anymore," the Secretary explained. "Our best programs are coherent, up-to-date, research-based, and provide students with subject mastery. They boast a strong and substantial field-based program, in local public schools, that drives much of the course work in classroom management and student learning and prepares students to teach diverse pupils in high-needs settings. And, they have a shared vision of what constitutes good teaching and best practices including a single-minded focus on improving student learning and using data to inform instruction." The Secretary used the remainder of his address to highlight rising efforts to improve teacher education. "I cite all these examples to point out that, with courage and commitment, our teacher preparation programs absolutely can provide dynamic and effective teacher preparation for the 21st century.... In place of the uncertain profession, I want to see teacher preparation programs one day rival those of other professions."

Also: First Lady Michelle Obama recently penned an op-ed on the importance of high-quality teachers for a successful economy.

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ARRA Outreach (Assessment)

The Department has announced public meetings in Boston, Atlanta, and Denver to listen and learn from assessment experts and practitioners. The goals of these meetings are two-fold: to gather technical input to inform development of a Race to the Top Assessment Competition and to enable states who will be the grant applicants and the public to participate in and learn from these events. Secretary Duncan has pledged to reserve up to $350 million (of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund) to support consortia of states that are working to create new assessments tied to a common set of standards. The grants would be distributed through a competitive process next year.

Over six days of meetings in the three cities throughout November and December, Department staff will solicit a range of input about effective and innovative approaches to the development of the next generation of assessments. In each city, there will be a full-day focused on general assessment issues and half-days concentrating on specific topics, such as technology, high school assessment, assessment of students with disabilities, and assessment of English language learners.

All the meetings are open to the public. The official notice, along with information on how to RSVP for the meetings, can be found online. The Department also encourages the submission of written input (see instructions on the submission process online), and plans to post transcripts of every meeting session and all written input submitted to the agency.

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ARRA Outreach (Reporting)

Final state reports on education jobs created or saved under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will be published on Recovery.gov later today, but, according to a preliminary report issued on October 19, at least 250,000 education positions across the nation were directly credited to the ARRA. ARRA funding has enabled states to restore nearly all of their projected education shortfalls for both Fiscal Year 2009 and Fiscal Year 2010. Filling these budget gaps has allowed states to avert layoffs of educators in school districts and colleges and universities while helping districts make progress on reforms that will improve teaching and learning in classrooms.

For example, in 2008, the St. Louis Public Schools faced a significant budget deficit due to the economy. Using ARRA funding, the district was able to address critical needs, including saving the jobs of 85 teaching and learning facilitators. A new Department video tells the story of three of those facilitators.

Looking forward, to assist grantees and subgrantees in managing ARRA grants, the Department will hold web conferences on Cost Allocations/Indirect Costs (November 2, 2-3:30 p.m. ET) and Internal Controls (November 16, 2-3:30 p.m. ET).

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Terrel Bell Awards

Next week, the Department will honor 2009 Blue Ribbon Schools at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. (Note: This week, the Secretary visited a Blue Ribbon School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.) This ceremony will include recognition of eight Blue Ribbon principals as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients:

  • Sheila Holas (Oakwood Elementary School, Norfolk, VA);
  • Eleanor Matthews (Western High School, Baltimore, MD);
  • Raymond Myrtle (Highland Elementary School, Silver Spring, MD);
  • Donna Newman (Garner Middle School, San Antonio, TX);
  • Kimm O'Connor (Cedar Springs Elementary School, House Springs, MO);
  • Lenora Roundy (Enoch Elementary School, Enoch, UT);
  • Wayne Ryan (Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, Washington, D.C.); and
  • Wesley Sever (John W. Wash Elementary School, Fresno, CA).

The awards named for a former U.S. Secretary of Education and presented by the Department in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the National Middle School Association formally recognize outstanding school leaders and the vital role they play in overcoming challenging circumstances to foster successful teaching and learning at their schools. (Note: Each school's Blue Ribbon application is available online.)

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STEM Education

On October 23, Secretary Duncan discussed Department activities and plans concerning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in a live webcast from the National Academy of Sciences. "Our Administration is committed to raising standards, upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the use and understanding of science and technology in our classrooms," he said. "We are calling on states to enhance teacher preparation and training and to attract qualified math and science teachers to better engage students and reinvigorate those subjects in our schools. We support initiatives to pay more teachers in high-need subjects like math and science and rewarding excellence by paying teachers and principals who do a great job in the classroom." The event was being sponsored by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), in response to the President's agenda to focus on general science and technology literacy to help the U.S. workforce become more competitive internationally and to grow the number of Americans who are interested in pursuing science and engineering careers. (Note: An archive of the video webcast is available online, while the White House posted an event blog entry.)

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Odds and Ends

  • According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences, states vary widely in where they set their student proficiency standards for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics. Specifically, using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement levels as a reference point for understanding the stringency of state standards, most were in the NAEP basic achievement level range, except in fourth-grade reading, where most fell below NAEP's basic level. Overall, only two states set standards within NAEP's proficient achievement level. "This study confirms what we've known for a long time: states are setting the bar too low," the Secretary said. "We're lying to our children when we tell them they're proficient, but they're not achieving at a level that will prepare them for success once they graduate." (Note: The Secretary's statement is available online.)

  • "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data," another NCES study, presents the number of high school graduates, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and dropout data for grades 9-12 for public schools during the 2006-07 school year. Among the findings: 2,892,351 public school students received a high school diploma in 2006-07, resulting in an AFGR of 73.9%; 16 states had an AFGR above 80%, while 12 states had an AFGR below 70%; and there were nearly 618,000 dropouts from high school among 48 states, resulting in a dropout rate of 4.4%.

  • In an October 21 letter to Chief State School Officers and State Directors of Special Education, the Secretary urged states to maintain high standards and not compromise the Section 616 determination process under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  • In an October 26 letter to college presidents, the Secretary urged institutions of higher education to become Direct Loan-ready for the 2010-11 school year. While a majority of institutions continued to use the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program delivery process last year, over 500 others responded to the fiscal uncertainty by switching to the Direct Loan Program. These colleges' move to direct lending happened in an effective and efficient manner, without interruption of service to students, and the number of Direct Loans increased by nearly two-thirds compared to the previous year. The President has proposed lawmakers make the loan system more reliable by moving to a 100% Direct Loan delivery system.

  • The College Board has released its annual studies on trends in college pricing and trends in student aid, as well as the benefits of postsecondary education.

  • The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, is accepting applications from non-profit organizations to conduct month-long, community-wide reads between September 2010 and June 2011. Roughly 75 organizations will be selected to participate, receiving a grant ranging from $2,500 to $20,000, educational and promotional materials, and access to online training resources. Organizations will select from 31 reading choices. (Note: The deadline for all applications is February 2, 2010.)

  • Through December 18, elementary and secondary students, teachers, administrators, and parents from across the nation have the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions on how technology should be used in the education process, through Project Tomorrow's latest annual Speak Up survey. Results are shared with participating schools, so that they can use the data for planning and community discussions. Results are also used by government agencies and other organizations to inform programs and policies.

  • DASH+, a hands-on contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, challenges teams to design, describe, and pitch the "next generation" of automotive dashboards that support behavioral change to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency and reduce environmental impact. The winning team will make their mark in the industry by inventing a new way to think about transportation and eco-driving, by collaborating with fellow students and putting their STEM skills to the test. The team will have the chance to travel to Detroit for a VIP experience, where they can share their ideas with representatives from the industry and obtain feedback. (Note: Team registration closes February 1, 2010.)

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Quote to Note

"From the moment humans first walked on this Earth, we've been endlessly fascinated by the stars. As long as we've been around, we've been trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe and figure out our proper place in the cosmos and somehow make sense of it all.... There are a lot of mysteries left, and there are a lot of problems for you students to solve. I want to be a President who makes sure you have the teachers and the tools you need to solve them. That's why we're working to reinvigorate math and science in your schools and attract new and qualified math and science teachers into your classrooms, some with lifetimes of experience. That's why we've launched a Race to the Top to raise standards and upgrade your curricula and improve teaching and learning in math and science. That's why we're making a college education more affordable, so that by the time many of you graduate in 2020, America will again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And, that's how we'll move American students to the top of the pack in math and science over the next decade, and guarantee that America will lead the world in discovery in this new century."

        President Barack Obama (10/7/09), at Astronomy Night at the White House

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Upcoming Events

Don't forget! Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Carmel Martin and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez are hosting a series of events at the Department's headquarters (400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.) where stakeholders can offer input on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). (Note: Stakeholders are also invited to send comments to ESEA.Comments@ed.gov.)

National Veterans Awareness Week (November 8-14) reminds schools to invite veterans into their classrooms in the days leading up to and following Veterans Day (November 11). Veterans are asked to share their experiences and teach short lessons about the history and significance of Veterans Day, helping students reflect upon the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy. (Note: A school kit, with sections for students and teachers, may be downloaded.)

Next week, the Department will exhibit at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' Annual Conference in Orlando (October 31-November 2) and the National Middle School Association's Annual Conference in Indianapolis (November 5-7). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 06/15/2012