NEWSLETTERS
March 19, 2010 ED Review
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 March 19, 2010
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ESEA Update
ARRA Outreach
Education Equity Agenda
National Educational Technology Plan
Childhood Obesity Task Force
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

ESEA Update

On March 13, in his weekly radio and Internet address, President Obama announced his proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). "On Monday, my Administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated ESEA to overhaul No Child Left Behind," he stated. "What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from the states and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar, but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it."

Under the blueprint, which was shared with ED Review subscribers in a special note on March 15, state accountability systems will set a high bar of all students graduating from high school ready to succeed in college and careers. States will be asked to recognize and reward schools and districts making the most progress, provide flexibility for local improvement efforts, and focus the most rigorous support and interventions on the very lowest-performing schools and districts; states and districts will continue to focus on the achievement gap by identifying and intervening in schools that are persistently failing to close those gaps. The blueprint asks states and districts to develop meaningful ways of measuring teacher and principal effectiveness in order to supply better support for educators, enhance the profession through recognizing and rewarding excellence, and ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school has a great leader. It also supports collaborative relationships with non-profit and community organizations that partner with schools and districts to help students succeed. "We're offering support, incentives, and national leadership," asserted Secretary Duncan, "but not at the expense of local control."

For additional background on the blueprint, read the Department's press release, listen to the Secretary's call with reporters, and review the Secretary's recent testimony before both the House and Senate education authorization committees. Also, this week, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Carmel Martin and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White hosted a call with rural education stakeholders.

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ARRA Outreach

Last week, Secretary Duncan announced the final priorities and grant application for the $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund. The i3 Fund, part of the $5 billion investment in education reform in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will support the development of path-breaking ideas, the validation of approaches that have demonstrated promise, and the scale-up of the most successful and proven education innovations.

School districts and non-profit organizations in partnership with districts or consortia of schools can apply for the grants. To qualify, applicants must address one of four priorities aligned with the reform areas under the ARRA: teacher and principal effectiveness; enhanced data systems; college- and career-ready standards and quality assessments; and improving achievement in persistently low-performing schools. Applicants may get competitive preference points if their projects sufficiently address one or more of following priority areas: early learning; college access and success; serving students with disabilities or limited English proficiency; and serving rural district students.

Evidence is a formal eligibility requirement. The regulations have specific definitions for what constitutes "moderate evidence" and "strong evidence," and the i3 Fund will award three types of grants based, at least in part, on the level of evidence. Development grants (up to $5 million each) will require a reasonable hypothesis and be aimed at developing fresh ideas. Validation grants (up to $30 million each) will require moderate evidence and be aimed at validating and spreading promising programs to regional scale. Scale Up grants (up to $50 million each) will require strong evidence and be aimed at bringing proven programs to national scale.

Once identified as "highest rated," applicants must also demonstrate that they have secured a 20% cash or in-kind match from the private sector. To assist potential grantees in their efforts to secure such a match, as well as to serve the larger purpose of creating a new innovation community, the Department launched the Open Innovation Portal.

Applications are due by May 11, with an intent to apply requested by April 1, and all grants will be awarded in September. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO. (Note: A helpful fact sheet, PowerPoint presentation, and overview webinar are among the available resources.

In the coming weeks, the Department is offering three pre-application workshops and webinars:

  • Today, March 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET in Baltimore, Maryland;
  • Wednesday, March 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. MT in Denver, Colorado; and
  • Tuesday, March 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET in Atlanta, Georgia. Applicants must register online for all events. (Note: The webinars will also be archived as resources.)

Meanwhile, the Department is seeking peer reviewers from a variety of backgrounds and professions for the competition. Reviewers should have expertise in education policy and reform, evidence, innovation, strategy, or application review and be available for approximately four weeks, in June and July, to review applications. Resumes and an information checklist are due by April 1.

In other ARRA news:

  • Six more states have been approved for State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) Phase 2 funding.
  • West Virginia and Minnesota are the first states to receive their funds under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. (Note: New Department videos spotlight successful school turnarounds.)
  • As referenced in the previous issue, the revamped, $439 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) includes a special competition to participate in a rigorous evaluation study of TIF, with the opportunity for an additional $1 million over the course of the five-year program and access to applicant-specific evaluation results. To share more about the proposed requirements for the TIF evaluation competition and the benefits of participation, the agency will host a webinar on March 24, at 3:00 p.m. ET. This webinar is one in a series of webinars designed to support potential applicants.
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Education Equity Agenda

In a major speech at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the 45th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" civil rights protest that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Secretary Duncan outlined ongoing impediments to equal opportunity in education and the Administration's intentions to work with schools and postsecondary institutions to address them. "The struggle for equal opportunity in our nation's schools and universities is not at an end," he emphasized. "We will work with schools and enforce laws to ensure that all children, no matter what their race, gender, disability, or native origin, have a fair chance at a good future." To that end, he vowed to reinvigorate equity and enforcement activities within the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR's activities include issuing guidance letters to districts and postsecondary institutions around issues of fairness and equity; conducting compliance reviews to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities, such as college-preparatory curriculum or science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses; and reviewing disciplinary policies of schools and districts to make certain that they are administered fairly. OCR also offers technical assistance and outreach to parents, community groups, and others seeking to increase equity and promote diversity.

Days later, OCR announced its first new enforcement action: examining the academic opportunities and access of English language learners in the Los Angeles Unified School District, to assess whether they are receiving equal educational opportunities. "At this time, we have reached no conclusion as to whether any violations of federal law exist," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali stressed. "However, the number of English language learners and children of color in Los Angeles is large, and it is critical that all students in the district receive equal access to a quality education. If civil rights violations are found, we will seek to put an end to them promptly." The Los Angeles compliance review is part of a series of activities that OCR will be undertaking in the coming months.

Then, this week, OCR announced it will begin collecting new data to measure educational opportunity and inform enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

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National Educational Technology Plan

The Department is inviting comment on the draft National Educational Technology Plan. This plan was prepared by researchers and practitioners and represents, as Secretary Duncan explained in a recent speech at the Association of American Publishers' meeting, "their best ideas about how we can bring forward schools, making them centers of learning designed to close the gap between the technology-rich and exciting experiences that dominate students' lives outside of school while preparing them for success in today's competitive global marketplace." In particular, the Secretary is interested in thoughts on ways to accelerate the development and adoption of tools and resources that merge education and technology.

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Childhood Obesity Task Force

The Departments of Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services are asking the public for ideas to help the new Task Force on Childhood Obesity come up with recommendations for public and private actions to solve the problem of childhood obesity. The request for information asks a series of detailed questions that will guide the task force on its final report. The work complements the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama as she leads a public awareness campaign to tackle this critical public health issue.

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Odds and Ends

  • On March 15, Secretary Duncan addressed mayors and city councilmembers at the National League of Cities' meeting, declaring it takes "an all-hands-on-deck approach in the local community" to educate a student.

  • On March 17, the Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President and Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Jealous, and Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport held a joint call with reporters to discuss the graduation rates of basketball teams in the NCAA tournament and suggest some ways to increase college completion for teams with low rates.

  • The Departments of Education and Treasury have announced $11 billion in allocation authority to issue Qualified School Construction Bonds under the ARRA. The allocations include $6.6 billion of volume cap to the 50 states and $4.4 billion of volume cap to 103 large districts. Such bonds can be used to finance the construction, rehabilitation, or repair of a school facility or for the acquisition of land where a school will be built. Investors who buy these bonds receive federal income tax credits at prescribed tax credit rates, in lieu of interest, allowing state and local governments to borrow without incurring any interest costs.

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Quote to Note

"My Administration's blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is not only a plan to renovate a flawed law but also an outline for a re-envisioned federal role in education. This blueprint is a framework to guide our deliberations and shared work—with students, parents, educators, business and community leaders, elected officials, and others partners—to strengthen America's public education system. I look forward to working with the Congress to reauthorize ESEA, so that it will help to provide America's students with the world-class education they need and deserve."

        President Barack Obama (3/13/10), introducing "A Blueprint for Reform"

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Upcoming Events

On March 24 at 10:00 a.m. ET, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), will release results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading.

The deadline for educators to sign on for the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school-aged students across the country, has been extended to April 9, which is the final day to administer the exam.

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Last Modified: 06/03/2010