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April 16, 2010 ED Review
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 April 16, 2010
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Emergency Support for Education
ARRA Outreach (Race to the Top)
ARRA Outreach (Assessment)
ARRA Outreach (Investing in Innovation)
Digest of Education Statistics
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Emergency Support for Education

At a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing this week on the Department's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011, Secretary Duncan began his remarks by drawing members' attention to the looming financial shortfall that states and school districts face, even as the U.S. economy recovers. "We are gravely concerned that the kind of state and local budget threats our schools face today will put our hard-earned reforms at risk," he stated. "Every day brings reports of layoffs, program cuts, class time reductions, and class size increases." Potentially hundreds of thousands of educators and other personnel could be laid off if action is not taken quickly to help states and districts cover shortfalls. Mass layoffs "not only create hardships for educators who lose their jobs and the children they teach, but the damage ripples through the economy as a whole. Literally, tens of millions of students will experience budget cuts in one way or another." The Secretary urged members to consider another round of emergency support for America's schools, similar to the aid provided to states through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). "If we do not help avert this state and local budget crisis," he warned, "we could impede reform and fail another generation of children." (Note: Video of the hearing is available online.)

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ARRA Outreach (Race to the Top)

"Now that we have announced the Phase 1 winners of Race to the Top, it is worth stepping back and analyzing why our two winners—Delaware and Tennessee—did so well," Secretary Duncan articulated in a blog entry. "The data confirm that no single factor can make or break any particular application but rather a combination of a successful track record, bold reforms, broad buy-in, and statewide impact is the key to success. It is easy to be bold if no one buys in, and it is easy to get buy-in if you are not bold. Neither matter much at all if you are not successful in reaching the kids in the classroom, and the bottom line is you must show results. To win Race to the Top you need it all, and that requires courage, commitment, and capacity."

The Secretary noted that the winning states "built on their unique strengths and track records, rather than trying to manufacture a reform agenda from whole cloth." Delaware is building on its Vision 2015 blueprint, and Tennessee is focusing on its value-added assessment system. He also praised the winners for securing "broad support through a combination of changing their state laws and coalition building among districts, unions, businesses, advocacy groups, and local philanthropies."

"The bottom line is that we had many strong applications, but every state has room to improve, including the two winners," the Secretary concluded. "The point of Race to the Top is to challenge ourselves and each other to get better—not in one or two areas of reform...but in every area of reform simultaneously. The single most important investment we can make as a nation is to ensure that every child gets the best education possible. We have no time to waste. The Race to the Top continues."

Applications for Phase 2 of Race to the Top are due June 1.

Videos of the 16 Phase 1 finalists presenting and responding to questions from peer reviewers are now posted with states' Phase 1 applications, score sheets, and reviewers' comments and scores.

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ARRA Outreach (Assessment)

Secretary Duncan has set aside up to $350 million of Race to the Top funds to support a consortia of states in developing and implementing a new generation of assessments. The Race to the Top Assessment program is designed to fill an urgent need in the nation's education system: the need for valid and instructionally useful assessments that provide accurate information about what students know and can do and that are anchored in standards designed to enable every student to gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college or the workplace by the time he or she graduates from high school.

In addition to funding the development of a new generation of statewide standardized assessments to replace states' current tests, the Department will award up to $30 million of the $350 million to fund better assessments for high schools. These "end-of-course" tests will support high school improvement efforts in consortium states by promoting broader, more equitable access to rigorous courses and a diverse set of course offerings in both academic and career-technical areas.

To provide expert and public input to its notice, the Department hosted 10 public meetings to learn and facilitate the sharing of information with states and the public. (Note: A technical assistance workshop for potential applicants and partners has been scheduled for April 22 in Minneapolis.)

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ARRA Outreach (Investing in Innovation)

Webinar recordings of the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund's three pre-application workshops are available at online. The purpose of these workshops was to offer technical assistance to interested applicants for the scale-up, validation, and development grants. More than 1,000 attendees participated in the workshops, and over 2,000 attendees participated remotely through the webinar.

The deadline for all applications is May 11.

Also, with a $1.4 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation, the Rural School and Community Trust is providing customized technical assistance for rural school districts seeking i3 Fund grants.

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Digest of Education Statistics

The "Digest of Education Statistics, 2009," from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), is the 45th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by NCES. The digest contains data on the number of schools, students, and teachers, as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. One sample finding: the status dropout rate—that is, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds not enrolled in school and who have not received either a diploma or an equivalency credential -- declined from 13% in 1988 to 8% in 2008, while the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who completed high school in 2009 was almost the same as it was in 1999 (89% and 88%, respectively).

Other new statistical reports:

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Odds and Ends

  • The White House has announced six high schools as finalists for the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Over the next few weeks, each school's students will work with the Get Schooled Foundation to create a brief video highlighting how their school best fulfills the challenge's criteria. The videos, with portions of each school's written application, will be featured on the White House web site, and the public will have the opportunity to vote on the three schools they think best meet the President's goal. The President will select a winner from the three finalists, visiting that school to deliver the commencement address later this spring.

  • The Department has produced a series of videos that illustrate how several districts have successfully turned around persistently low-performing schools using the four models endorsed by the agency's $4 billion School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.

  • Last week, Secretary Duncan and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes participated in a live chat with HuffPost College. They answered a wide range of higher education questions, including: (1) How does the White House plan to encourage high school minority students to pursue higher education?, (2) How can the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which takes effect in 2014, help students who are in college today?, and (3) What can the federal government do about the ever-increasing cost of higher education? The questions came from HuffPost College's network of college newspaper sites across the U.S.

  • In response to requests from administrators, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) is establishing an official process which would allow leaders from a limited number of schools and districts to obtain Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) submission information for their students.

  • The Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) recently awarded three new Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grants, totaling some $137,000, to school districts in Alabama, California, and New Mexico to assist with recovery efforts following a middle school shooting and a series of student suicides. These grants supply funding to respond to a traumatic event and re-establish a safe learning environment. This fiscal year, OSDFS has awarded more than $1.1 million to 10 grantees.

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Quote to Note

"The case for a well-rounded curriculum begins with a disappointing reality: many schools today are falling far short of providing an engaging, content-rich curriculum. Instead, students are often saddled with boring textbooks, dummied-down to the lowest common denominator. It is no wonder that much of today's curriculum fails to spark student curiosity or stimulate a love of learning.... In the coming debate over ESEA reauthorization, I believe that arts education can help build the case for the importance of a well-rounded curriculum in at least three ways. First, the arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds students will go on to graduate from college. Second, the arts are essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical to young Americans competing in the global economy. And lastly, the arts are valuable for their own sake, and they empower students to create and appreciate aesthetic works. As First Lady Michelle Obama sums up, both she and the President believe "strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation's leaders for tomorrow."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (4/9/10), before the Arts Education Partnership National Forum

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Upcoming Events

Department officials will travel to Alaska (April 16), Oklahoma (April 19), South Dakota (April 28), and New Mexico (May 3) to strengthen government-to-government relations with Indian tribes. The consultations are in response to President Obama's November 5, 2009, Presidential Memorandum and Executive Order 13175, which directs agencies to develop a plan of actions for providing regular and meaningful consultation and strengthening of relationships with tribes. Specifically, the meetings will seek feedback from tribal leaders on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will hold a series of Listening and Learning About Early Learning meetings in April and May.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Afterschool Association's Annual Convention in Washington, DC (April 19-21), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Annual Meeting in San Diego (April 21-24), and the National Council on Educating Black Children's Annual Convention in Las Vegas (April 28-May 1). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 06/13/2012