NEWSLETTERS
April 2, 2010 ED Review
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 April 2, 2010
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ARRA Outreach (Race To The Top)
ARRA Outreach (School Improvement Grants)
NAEP 2009: Reading Assessment
Higher Education Legislation
Student Financial Assistance
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

ARRA Outreach (Race To The Top)

On March 29, Secretary Duncan announced that Delaware and Tennessee had won grants in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top competition. "We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others," he explained. "Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written laws to support their policies. And, they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students." As with any federal grant program, budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Department, and the money will be distributed over time as the grantees meet benchmarks. Delaware will receive approximately $100 million, and Tennessee will receive approximately $500 million. That means the Department will have about $3.4 billion available for Phase 2 of the Race to the Top competition.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for Phase 1. Fifteen states and D.C. were selected to present their proposals to panels of peer reviewers last month. They awarded Delaware and Tennessee the top scores. Both states earned high marks for the commitment to reform from key stakeholders, including elected officials, teacher union leaders, and business leaders. Moreover, in both states, 100% of school districts committed to implementing Race to the Top reforms. Plus, Delaware and Tennessee have aggressive plans to improve teacher and principal evaluation, use data to inform instructional decisions, and turn around their lowest-performing schools.

Applications for Phase 2 are due on June 1. To help states as they prepare their proposals and to continue the nationwide dialogue on education reform, the Department has made all Phase 1 applications, reviewers' comments, and scores available online. Videos of states' presentations will be posted shortly. Be advised: the Department is making one change to the rules for Phase 2. To fund as many high-quality applications as possible, the Department is requiring states' budgets to be within the ranges that were suggested in the original notice. (Note: A technical assistance workshop for Phase 2 applicants has been scheduled for April 21 in Minneapolis.)

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ARRA Outreach (School Improvement Grants)

Five more states (Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington) have received funding under the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. These funds are distributed by formula to the state and then competed out by the state to districts. For a district to apply for funding, it must have a state-identified "persistently lowest achieving" school or a so-called Tier III school (which has failed to make adequate progress for two years but is not identified as a persistently lowest achieving school). Also, in response to numerous inquiries from districts about the program, the Department has added to the resources Frequently Asked Questions for LEAs. The order in which these questions and answers are presented reflects the frequency with which the Department has received inquiries about the issues addressed.

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NAEP 2009: Reading Assessment

The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2009 details the achievement of fourth- and eighth-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered by the Department last year. The report compares national and state results in 2009 with every prior assessment year back to 1992. Fourth-graders showed no overall increase at the national level since 2007, though scores were significantly higher in 2009 than 1992. Among eighth-graders, scores were higher when compared to both 1992 and 2007. These nationwide patterns held for most student subgroups, and none of the achievement gaps in either grade narrowed from 2007 to 2009. Furthermore, compared to 2007, scores in just one state increased in both grades, scores in two states increased in grade 4 only, and scores in eight states increased in grade 8 only. Scores decreased in four states in grade 4. No states showed declines in grade 8.

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Higher Education Legislation

Last month, Congress took an important step toward achieving President Obama's 2020 goal of having a greater percentage of college graduates than any country in the world. Passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which was included as part of the health care reconciliation bill, will make college more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans. Specifically, the legislation eliminates generous subsidies for financial institutions under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), converting all new federal student lending to the Direct Loan program, and redirects those savings in a number of ways:

  • investing $36 billion over 10 years to increase Pell Grants for low-income students, increasing the maximum award to $5,975 by 2017 and adjusting the maximum award annually to match rising costs of living;
  • investing $750 million over five years to bolster college access support for students;
  • making federal loans more affordable for borrowers to repay by strengthening the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program, allowing borrowers to cap monthly payments at 10% (down from 15%) of discretionary income and shortening the repayment period to 20 years (down from 25 years);
  • investing $2.55 billion over 10 years in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, tribal colleges, and other minority-serving institutions; and
  • investing $2 billion in a competitive grant program for community colleges to develop and improve both educational and career training initiatives.

In total, the switch to the less-costly Direct Loan program will save taxpayers an estimated $61 billion over the next 10 years, reducing the federal budget deficit by at least $10 billion in that time. Meanwhile, there will still be a role for private companies and, importantly, for their workers in the U.S. They will service the loans the Department makes to students under contracts.

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Student Financial Assistance

Regarding financial aid, Secretary Duncan and Deputy Undersecretary Bob Shireman recently visited Northern Virginia Community College's (NOVA) Annandale campus to highlight financial assistance options available to college students and their families, particularly through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Nearly all the students attending an event roundtable would not have been able to enroll in college without federal grants, loans, and other financial assistance programs. For example, Jason Odum, a student who served in the U.S. Air Force, reported that the Post-9/11 GI Bill has been instrumental in enabling him to earn his degree. Under the ARRA, more students and families struggling to pay for college are able to find relief with the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This tax credit makes the cost of tuition and fees, at community colleges like NOVA, virtually free for a great many students. The credit covers up to $2,500 of college expenses and, for the first time, a portion of the credit is available to families who currently do not have income tax liability.

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Odds and Ends

  • On March 30, Secretary Duncan announced 12 new five-year Teacher Quality Partnership grants, totaling $99.8 million, that aim to raise student achievement by improving instruction in the nation's schools. These grants, funded by the ARRA, will be used to reform traditional university teacher preparation programs and create teacher residency programs for professionals from other fields entering the teaching profession. The partnerships are comprised of high-need school districts and their high-need schools, and institutions of higher education and their schools of education and arts and sciences.

  • According to a new analysis by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, in paying for more than 342,000 jobs—or 5.5% of total teaching jobs nationally—ARRA money "mitigated what might otherwise have been a much steeper job decline."

  • The ninth-edition of "Beating the Odds," from the Council of the Great City Schools, examines the academic progress of 65 urban school systems in 37 states and the District of Columbia, with measurable gains from 2006 to 2009 in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math on state assessments.

  • Last week, Secretary Duncan visited J. O. Wilson Elementary School to announce the distribution of 3,000 Easter Egg Roll tickets to public school students across the metropolitan area, including districts in Maryland and Virginia. The theme of the 2010 Easter Egg Roll is "Ready, Set, Go!" This event is tied to the First Lady's "Let's Move!" initiative—a national campaign to combat childhood obesity by promoting health and wellness.

  • "Alternative Schools and Programs for Public School Students," a report from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), presents data from a recent survey about alternative schools and programs available to students during the 2007-08 year.

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Quote to Note

"So far, the Race to the Top has been an extraordinary success. It's been little more than a year since Race to the Top was created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Since then, this historic program has been a catalyst for education reform across this country, prompting states to think deeply about how to improve the way we prepare our students for success in a competitive, 21st century economy and workplace. We now have two states that will blaze the path for the future of education reform. I fully expect all 48 states to be refining and improving their ideas, vying to join them as the leaders for reform in the decades to come. We look forward to supporting that hard work in Phase 2 and beyond. President Obama has proposed an additional $1.35 billion for Race to the Top in fiscal 2011 so we can continue to support more states in moving reform forward."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (3/29/10), announcing Phase 1 Race to the Top grantees

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Upcoming Events

National Library Week is April 11-17. This year's theme is "Communities thrive @ your library." To prepare for the celebration, the American Library Association has a wide range of programming and publicity materials.

April 11-17 is also National Environmental Education Week, inspiring environmental learning and stewardship among students the week before Earth Day. The theme is "Be Water and Energy Wise!" Registered partners gain access to a variety of free resources.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Catholic Educational Association's Annual Convention in Minneapolis (April 6-8), the Coalition for Community Schools' National Forum in Philadelphia (April 7-9), the National Association of Elementary School Principals' Annual Convention in Houston (April 8-11), the National School Boards Association's Annual Conference in Chicago (April 10-13), and National Art Education Association's Annual Conference in Baltimore (April 14-18). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 06/13/2012