NEWSLETTERS
November 13, 2009 ED Review
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 November 13, 2009
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ARRA Outreach (Race to the Top)
ARRA Outreach (Stabilization Fund)
ARRA Outreach (Reporting)
Economic Security
Coming Up Taller
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

ARRA Outreach (Race to the Top)

On November 4, in anticipation of this week's announcement of Race to the Top's final application, President Obama and Secretary Duncan visited James C. Wright Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin. "In the coming weeks, states will be able to compete for what we're calling a Race to the Top award," the President explained. "We're putting over $4 billion on the table, one of the largest investments that the federal government has ever made in education reform. But we're not just handing it out to states.... We're staying to states, if you're committed to real change in the way you educate your children, if you're willing to hold yourselves more accountable, and if you develop a strong plan to improve the quality of education in your state, then we'll offer you a big grant to help you make that plan a reality.... And, I'm proud to say that, already, a number of states have taken us up on this challenge." The President used the remainder of his remarks to "get into some details" about Race to the Top's four key measures of reform: designing and implementing rigorous standards and high-quality assessments; attracting and retaining great teachers and leaders; supporting data systems that inform decisions and improve instruction; and using innovation and effective approaches to turn-around struggling schools. "Don't just expect teachers to set a high bar," he stressed. "It will take parents and teachers unions and elected officials working together as partners in a common effort—not seeing each other as antagonists, but all of us having the same goal. It will take each and every one of us doing our part on behalf of our children and our country and the future we share."

Then, yesterday (November 12), the Secretary released the final application for the Race to the Top Fund, which will reward states that have raised student performance and have the capacity to accelerate achievement gains with innovative reforms. The final application includes significant changes to the proposal from the Department in July. After reviewing responses to the draft proposal from 1,161 people, who submitted thousands of unique comments, the Department restructured the application and changed it to reflect the ideas of the public. The Department will hold two rounds of competition for these grants. For the first round, it will accept states' applications until January 19, 2010. Peer reviewers will evaluate the applications, and the winners will be announced in April. For the second round, it will accept states' applications until June 1, and all the winners will be announced by September 30. (Note: Aside from the application, the web site has an executive summary of the program and a helpful summary of the significant changes that were based on comments received. Also, the Department intends to host two technical assistance planning workshops in December. One will be in Denver on December 3, 2009; the other will be in the Washington, D.C., area on December 10, 2009.)

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ARRA Outreach (Stabilization Fund)

Also this week, the Secretary announced the availability of applications for the second and final phase of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF). "The Department has moved quickly to award more than $67 billion in education stimulus aid to date to stabilize state budgets and save jobs," he said. "We are now asking states to implement reform-based action items in order to get the remaining $11.5 billion."

Specifically, the Department is asking states to provide basic information on the four key measures of reform, including:

  • How teachers and principals are evaluated, and how this information is used to support, retain, promote, or remove staff.
  • The extent to which the state has a statewide longitudinal data system that includes the elements prescribed by the America COMPETES Act and how it will implement a comprehensive system by 2011.
  • Whether the state provides student achievement growth data on current students and students taught in the previous year to, at a minimum, teachers of reading/language arts and math, in grades in which the state administers assessments in those subjects, in a manner that is both timely and informs instructional programs.
  • The number and identity of the schools that are Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are identified as persistently lowest-achieving schools.

State applications must describe the state's current ability to collect the data or other information needed, as well as the state's current ability to make the data or information easily available to the public. If the state is able to fully collect and publicly report the required data or other information at least annually, the state must furnish the most recent data or information with its plan. If a state is not able to fully collect or publicly report the data or other information at least annually, the plan must describe the state's process and timeline for developing and implementing the means to do so—as soon as possible, but no later than September 30, 2011.

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ARRA Outreach (Reporting)

On October 30, in reports covering approximately $160 billion (representing about half of the funds put to work through September 30, 2009), American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) recipients informed the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that they have created or saved 640,329 direct jobs. These reports support government and private forecasters' estimates that the ARRA has created or saved, overall, an estimated one million jobs. The majority of the jobs reported were in the construction (about 80,000 jobs) and education (about 325,000 jobs) sectors.

In a separate report, the Department describes each of the ARRA education grants and their allocations. The report also contains a profile of each state that summarizes any restoration of education budgets by ARRA funds per program and compiles all reported information regarding the state's use of ARRA funds per program. To summarize: over $67 million in formula grants were awarded by the Department as of September 30, 2009. Roughly 400,000 jobs have been created or saved through these formula grants. Of those, 325,000 are education jobs; the remaining portion is attributable to general public service positions.

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Economic Security

More recently, Secretary Duncan addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's annual Education and Workforce Summit. This wide-ranging speech hit on many topics, such as the federal role in education, the compelling case for reforming education at every level (featuring a range of important indicators), and the core ideas that are central to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). "I believe that the quality of our education system says as much about the long-term health of our economy as the stock market, the unemployment rate, and the size of the gross domestic product," he stated. "That's because the quality of our workforce and the intellectual breadth and depth of our future leaders is directly related to the quality of education we provide today."

At the summit, the Chamber released the second in its "Leaders and Laggards" series of state report cards. The report cards examine the 50 states and the District of Columbia in eight categories: school management, finance, staffing: hiring and evaluation, staffing: removing ineffective teachers, data, pipeline to postsecondary, technology, and state reform environment. Overall, the states posted mediocre results, and, across all the categories, not a single state earned top grades in more than one or two areas.

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Coming Up Taller

First Lady Michelle Obama, honorary chair of the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities, has presented 15 programs from around the world with the Coming Up Taller Award. Bestowed to arts and humanities organizations that reach underserved youth, the award is a reminder of the meaningful role cultural activities in the lives of children. This year's recipients include the Shakespeare Remix program in New York City, where inner-city teens adapt and perform Shakespearean texts to reflect their lives, and the Harmony Project in Los Angeles, which provides free music instruction to at-risk children.

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Odds and Ends

  • Last week, capitalizing on advanced technology, Secretary Duncan and Jordanian Minister of Education Waleed Ali-Ma'ani lead students from the U.S. and Jordan in a two-way video exchange on climate change, and the Secretary and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined local students for a live discussion (questions were asked in English, Russian, French, and German) with the crew aboard the International Space Station.

  • Also last week, the Secretary joined military leaders to discuss the importance of early learning in improving a child's chances for success in life, whether choosing college, the workforce, or the military.

  • Then, this week, the Secretary delivered remarks on "The Promise of Promise Neighborhoods" at a Harlem Children's Zone meeting.

  • Preceding the White House Tribal Nations Conference, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Carmel Martin and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez met with Tribal leaders at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian to discuss reauthorization of the ESEA.

  • To improve preparedness in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak, the Department has issued guidance under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to answer questions that school officials may have concerning the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students' education records to outside entities when facing a outbreak.

  • In accordance with Section 111 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the Department's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued a net price calculator template. All institutions participating in student financial aid programs have two years to implement use of the template on their web sites or develop a customized version that must include, at a minimum, the same elements as the Department's version. Utilizing both student-entered and institution-provided data, the template allows prospective students to calculate a net price at an institution using the following basic formula: price of attendance minus grant aid.

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Quote to Note

"For much of the past year, I have spent time highlighting our challenges. I have been to 32 states and hundreds of schools in cities, suburbs, and rural communities. I have met with thousands of students, parents, and teachers.... They know what's wrong. And, they know what has to change. Now, we need to come together around the solutions. Thus, today, I extend my hand in partnership to the Chamber and, more broadly, to the business community. I ask for your help, your input, your ideas, and your support. I need your members across America to take a more active role in education reform."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (11/9/09), speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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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.)

Next week is International Education Week (November 16-20), jointly sponsored by the Departments of Education and State. This year's theme is "Creating a Vision for a Better Future," emphasizing the role international education plays in ensuring both a more secure and prosperous future. (Note: A list of planned activities across the globe is online.)

The next "Education News Parents Can Use" broadcast, a national town hall meeting for students, is planned for December 15 (2:00-3:00 p.m. ET). The Secretary will take comments and questions from students in the studio audience and around the country via telephone, email, and video.

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Last Modified: 06/15/2012