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May 14, 2010 ED Review
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 May 14, 2010
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Appreciating Teachers
Honoring Students
Parental Engagement
Childhood Obesity Report
Drug Control Strategy
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Appreciating Teachers

In a series of events during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7), Secretary Duncan honored America's 7.2 million early learning, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary teachers. On National Teacher Day (May 4), he visited Washington, D.C., schools: Friendship Chamberlain Elementary and Junior Academy, where he stopped by special education teacher Stephanie Day's classroom to congratulate her on being named the 2010 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year, and Houston Elementary School, where he dropped in on Mary Riley, a first-grade teacher with 43 years of service, and Tracy Thomas, a fifth-grade teacher with a perfect evaluation score. Next, on May 6, he visited George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, where he stopped by the classrooms of Jamie Schraff, a social studies teacher and the 2010 Falls Church City School District Gifted and Talented Teacher of the Year; Karin Tooze, the English Department chairwomen and a former Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award nominee; and Julie Bravin, a foreign language teacher and assistant athletic director who is also a former Agnes Meyer nominee and a former Virginia Coach of the Year. Then, on May 7, he joined Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), in New Orleans for an intimate discussion with about a dozen African-American men, inspired to become teachers after working as Servant Leader Interns in CDF's Freedom Schools program. The Secretary also taped video messages thanking all teachers for their "extraordinary hard work and commitment" and joyfully acknowledging his favorite teacher, Darlene McCampbell, who teaches high school English.

Also, throughout the spring, the Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows have been having conversations with teachers about reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In their first blog entry, they asked about assessments. Now, in their second blog entry, they solicit thoughts on defining teacher effectiveness. Should it be based in significant part on student growth? And what other measures should be taken into account?

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, Secretary Duncan sent a letter to Congressional leadership that supports emergency funding legislation to help states and school districts save jobs in the upcoming school year. In recent weeks, the Secretary has voiced serious concern about the hardships that educators, students, and schools would face if emergency funds do not become available quickly. Recognizing the difficulty of improving the quality of education while losing teachers, raising class sizes, and eliminating programs, he is urging Congress to include $23 billion in supplemental appropriations to preserve education jobs, with an additional $1 billion to protect early childhood education jobs and $2 billion to support public safety.

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Honoring Students

On May 3, Secretary Duncan announced the selection of 2010 Presidential Scholars. The program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts. Each year, 141 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, and 20 students are scholars in the arts. Over 3,000 candidates qualified on the basis of significant ACT or SAT scores or nomination through the national youngARTS competition of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. The Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by the President, chooses finalists. Scholars will be recognized June 19-22 in Washington, D.C. Each scholar will invite the teacher who had the greatest impact on his or her success to participate in the activities and receive a certificate of appreciation.

Several days later, President Obama announced Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as the winner of the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. More than 1,000 high schools competed for the honor of having the President as a graduation speaker. The applications, consisting of short videos and essays showing dedication to academics at all levels, were narrowed down by the Department and the White House Domestic Policy Council to six finalists, and, between April 26 and April 29, over 170,000 people voted online. The President selected the winner from among the three finalists with the highest average ratings. The White House was looking for a school that would serve as a model for preparing students for college. Kalamazoo Central's application focused on the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship program providing up to 100% college tuition for graduates. (Note: Recognizing the extraordinary achievements and outstanding efforts by each finalist, a Cabinet secretary or senior Administration official will deliver the graduation address at the five non-winning schools.)

Secretary Duncan visited D.C.'s Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School for National Lab Day. On site, he received a lesson from students on assembling and operating battery-powered cars and spoke on the long-term value of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. National Lab Day is a component of the President's "Educate to Innovate" campaign.

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Parental Engagement

Last week, Secretary Duncan addressed the 51-delegate Mom Congress at Georgetown University. Organized by Parenting magazine, the Mom Congress gathered some of the most passionate parent involvement advocates from across the county to discuss how to effect meaningful change in American education and to mobilize millions of parents to become more involved in their children's learning. The Secretary encouraged parents to work with teachers, principals, counselors, and other key stakeholders as advisors and decision-makers. "When parents demand change and better options for their children, they become the real accountability backstop for the educational system," he said. He also urged parents to develop a "can do" list of actions for how they can improve schools and better support student learning. On the policy front, he proposed doubling federal funding for parent engagement (from 1% to 2% of Title I, Part A funds) for a total of $270 million, as well as allowing states to use another 1% of Title I, Part A funds for grant programs that incentivize, support, and help expand best practices in family involvement.

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Childhood Obesity Report

This week, the Task Force on Childhood Obesity released its action plan to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. The action plan, reflecting input from 12 federal agencies and 2,500 submissions from parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, and others, includes 70 recommendations for public and private action, which can be broadly grouped into five areas:

  • Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their mothers; support for breast-feeding; limits on "screen time;" and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
  • Empowering parents and caregivers with more actionable messages on nutritious choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health services, including Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement for all kids.
  • Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall school environment.
  • Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating "food deserts" in America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
  • Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the "built environment" that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.

Many of these ideas can be implemented immediately, at little or no cost.

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Drug Control Strategy

Also this week, President Obama released the Administration's inaugural National Drug Control Strategy. Endorsing a balance of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement, the strategy calls for a 15% reduction in the rate of youth drug use over the next five years and similar reductions in chronic drug use and drug-related consequences, such as drug-induced deaths and drugged driving. The Department was involved in the development of the strategy and will be a partner with other federal agencies in implementing many of its activities.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Administration has released a series of documents outlining the research that supports the proposals in its blueprint for revising ESEA.

  • "Voices of Reform," a series of new Department videos, looks at schools in three cities that each underwent a different turnaround strategy.

  • The Department has received 1,669 applications requesting funding from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund.

  • The Promise Neighborhoods program is seeking peer reviewers for its grant competition. Reviewers will independently read, score, and provide written comments for applications. The review will be conducted, electronically, from the reviewer's location. Reviewers will receive an honorarium. The deadline to apply is June 1.

  • The Department has updated its "Grantmaking at ED" publication. This non-technical resource is intended for individuals and organizations that are interested in applying for Department discretionary grants and cooperative agreements, have received an award, or are interested in knowing more about the agency's discretionary grant process. It describes how grant programs are created by Congress and administered by the Department and the process for the public to apply for and receive discretionary grants.

  • "Teachers' Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009," a "First Look" report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), includes information on the use of computers and Internet access in the classroom; the availability and use of computing devices, software, and school and/or district networks by educators; students' use of educational technology; teachers' preparation to use technology for instruction; and technology-related professional development activities.

  • The Department's Policy and Program Studies Services (PPSS) recently published three new studies on Title III of ESEA, concerning English language learners.

  • After months of planning, designing, and collaborating, three teams of students from California and Michigan have been named as semi-finalists in the DASH+ contest—sponsored by the Department of Energy and the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE—which challenges high school students to use their STEM skills and creativity to design an eco-friendly automotive dashboard of the future. The public is invited to review each team's designs, technical plan, and pitch video and pick a winner. Voting closes May 31.

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Quotes to Note

"The truth is, our nation's destiny has never been certain. What is certain, what has always been certain, is the ability to shape that destiny. That is what makes us different. That is what sets us apart. That is what makes us Americans—our ability, at the end of the day, to look past all of our differences and all of our disagreements and still forge a common future. That task is now in your hands, as is the answer to the question posed at this university half a century ago about whether a free society can still compete. If you are willing, as past generations were willing, to contribute part of your life to the life of this country, then I, like President [John F.] Kennedy, believe we can. Because I believe in you."

        President Barack Obama (5/1/10), in his commencement address at the University of Michigan; the following weekend, he addressed graduates at Hampton University

"As I look at the world today, I realize the task in front of you is extremely difficult. You and the rest of this year's graduates face challenges of historic significance.... But for all of those challenges, I am absolutely optimistic about our future because you and millions of others graduating this year are a smart, passionate, and dedicated group who will use your education to solve the problems that our country and our world are facing today.... Wherever you go, and whatever you do, I hope you always remember that your knowledge and commitment to serve can—and will—change the world."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (5/9/09), in his commencement address at the University of Richmond; the day before, he addressed graduates at Xavier University of Louisiana

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Upcoming Events

The Nation's Report Card: Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) Reading 2009 will be released on May 20 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

One week later, on May 27 at 10:00 a.m. ET, NCES will release "Condition of Education 2010."

August 3 and 4, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will host a meeting for grantees focused on the innovation and integration of early childhood systems at the federal, state, and local levels.

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Last Modified: 06/13/2012