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August 6, 2010 ED Review
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 August 6, 2010
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What's inside...
Quiet Revolution
Investing in Innovation
Earlier Speeches
Rural Education Technology Summit
Civil Rights Agenda
Hearing from Teachers
Gainful Employment
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Editor's Note

ED Review has been on brief hiatus. However, it was a busy month in the field of education, and I hope you have been able to track key developments via the ED.gov web site. If not—or, to ensure you did not miss anything of significance—please accept this "catch-up" issue of the newsletter. It is a bit longer than most issues, with multiple links for additional information. Hereafter, ED Review will return to its standard format and schedule.

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Quiet Revolution

On July 27, in a speech at the National Press Club, Secretary Duncan saluted the education community for leading a "quiet revolution" of reform across the country. "From educators to parents and political leaders to journalists, there is a growing sense that a quiet revolution is underway in our homes and schools, classrooms, and communities," he said. "This quiet revolution is driven by motivated parents who want better educational options for their children. It is driven by great educators and administrators who are challenging the defeatism and inertia that has trapped generations of children in second-rate schools. It is driven by elected officials and stakeholders outside the school system who value education enough to fund it adequately and give generously of their time, energy, and resources. It is driven by foundations and entrepreneurs that seed the fresh, new thinking that every sector of society needs in order to change and grow and improve." Among the reforms, the Secretary specifically praised the momentum for adopting rigorous academic standards (so far, 35 states and the District of Columbia have approved common core college- and career-ready standards), elevating the teaching profession to reward excellence, turning around low-performing schools, and building better data systems to inform reform. Of course, the bulk of the work is being done by governors, superintendents, and teachers, but the federal government is supporting their work through Race to the Top and other reform programs, including the Investing in Innovation Fund, School Improvement Grants, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the charter school program. Through all of these programs, the Department is distributing almost $10 billion to support reform in states and communities. "As we look at the last 18 months, it is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened... because of these incentive programs," the Secretary concluded. "Recently, the President said that we can't rebuild our economy on the same pile of sand. Similarly, we can't rebuild public education on the same old system of rules and regulations. We have to change the rules, eliminate the excuses, and hold ourselves accountable." (Note: You can watch the Secretary's speech online.)

After his remarks, the Secretary announced that 18 states at the District of Columbia are finalists for $3.4 billion available in the second round of the Race to the Top program: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of funding. The finalists will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to present their plans to the peer reviewers who scored their applications. After the states' presentations and an extended question-and-answer period, the peer reviewers will finalize their scores and comments. The Department intends to announce the winners of the competition in September. (Note: States' Race to the Top Phase 2 applications are available online.)

In a letter to governors, the Secretary congratulated the finalists. To others who applied, he applauded them for doing so and encouraged them to continue their work on meaningful reform. "The Department pledges to support you and your state in this work by sharing the lessons learned and the materials developed through Race to the Top, and by including you in relevant collaborative learning communities. In addition, as you are aware, President Obama has proposed $1.35 billion for Race to the Top in his fiscal year 2011 budget. We hope to continue this program and its support of reform across the country."

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Investing in Innovation

A cross-section of 49 school districts, non-profit organizations, and institutions of higher education were selected from among almost 1,700 applicants for potential funding under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. To receive a share of the $650 million in i3 grants, the winning applicants must secure a commitment for a 20% private sector match by September 8. The Department selected the proposals based on recommendations from independent peer review panels. The grants fall into three categories: up to $50 million per "scale-up" grant for programs with a strong track record of success; up to $30 million per "validation" grant for programs with emerging evidence of success; and up to $5 million per "development" grant for promising ideas. Winning applicants will serve 42 states, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, with about half intending to serve limited English proficient students and students with disabilities and 37% intending to serve rural districts.

The i3 web site has a detailed list of the 2010 highest-rated applicants, along with a summary of the characteristics of the highest-rated applicants and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to yesterday's announcement. Also, the Department has posted reviewers' comments and scores for all of the highest-rated applicants, as well as application narratives for the highest-rated scale-up applicants. In addition, winning applicants can take advantage of new resources such as the Open Innovation Portal and the Foundation Registry i3 to connect with a wide variety of funders.

In order to continue to support innovation and evidence-based practices, the Department will convene an event in November 2010 for other promising applicants that were not among the applicants selected. The agency plans to highlight these high-quality programs and provide them with a forum through which potential funding partners may support efforts that the Department is unable to support at this time. This list of promising applicants and the details of the event will be announced in the coming weeks.

President Obama has requested an additional $500 million in funding for the i3 program in fiscal year 2011.

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Earlier Speeches

Stepping back, Secretary Duncan delivered three major speeches in mid-July:

  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Convention in Kansas City, MO (July 14). In his address, the Secretary outlined the Administration's education reform agenda, calling on the civil rights community to "make education reform not just a goal but a movement—by placing education at the very core of the NAACP's agenda," and summarized other steps the Department is taking to advance educational equity, including rejuvenating the Office for Civil Rights, investing heavily in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions, and boosting Pell Grant funding for low-income students attending college. He also announced that the Administration will revise its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal to require parent and community involvement before schools can be turned around under the School Improvement Grant program.

  • College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Conference in Washington, D.C. (July 15). The Secretary's remarks addressed three widely-shared myths impeding the transformation of U.S. high schools: first, that setting higher standards and expectations for students will only lead more students to fail; second, that poverty is destiny; and, third, that high school educators and counselors cannot really prepare students for college or careers because the concept of college- and career-readiness is itself too elusive to evaluate meaningfully with assessments or to track with longitudinal data systems. "I am thrilled to be here," he said, "because I think the work of those assembled in this room offers a powerful rebuttal to all three myths."

  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Joint Summer Meeting in Minneapolis, MN (July 16). "In the past, the K-12 and postsecondary systems have frequently acted as though they occupied separate universes, except to the extent that the two systems competed for funding," the Secretary stated early. "The truth, which this conference attests to, is that K-12 and postsecondary are inter-dependent. Rather than being engaged in a zero-sum game where you compete for resources, you are in fact synergistic. Working together you can accomplish much more than working apart."

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Rural Education Technology Summit

Also last month, 150 rural education stakeholders and technology experts from 26 states came together to learn from one another and provide critical feedback to federal leaders at the National Rural Education Technology Summit in Washington, D.C. (July 21). Federal officials in education, content, and connectivity held up the work of rural superintendents, school leaders, education service agencies, and researchers as examples of leveraging technology to overcome distance and boost access to high-quality teaching and learning in rural schools. "Knowledge truly knows no boundaries, and we cannot allow distance to stand between students, education, and opportunity," Secretary Duncan noted in his opening address. "We have the best hardware, the latest software, and huge investments are being made in the build-out of the national broadband plan to connect us as never before." The Secretary convened the summit in partnership with Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, who is aggressively seeking to increase student access to the wealth of content, resources, and scientists available via the Smithsonian Institution. The Secretary also enlisted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for this effort to challenge the country to rethink and redesign schools as broadband and other innovations come online. (Note: The Secretary's remarks are available online.)

At the summit, the Secretary announced the formation of an Online Learning Registry to provide access to priceless historical, artistic, and scientific primary source materials, like those found at the Smithsonian. Many of these resources have associated educational materials that have been created by professionals, and some are available online. But, currently, it can be difficult to locate and make sense of this vast array of resources available across numerous agencies.

Regarding broadband, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced the funding of 126 new Recovery Act broadband infrastructure projects that will create jobs and provide rural residents in 38 states and Native American tribal areas access to improved service.

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Civil Rights Agenda

On July 28, in a speech at the conference marking the 100th anniversary of the National Urban League, Secretary Duncan promised to pursue federal policies to advance equity in the nation's public schools and declared he would form a new, bipartisan commission to examine educational equity. This 15-member Equity and Excellence Commission will gather information and submit recommendations on how the federal government can increase educational opportunity, by improving school funding equity. "In so many ways, our reform agenda is all about equity," he said. "Competition isn't about winners and losers; it's about getting better." The Secretary also promised to work hard to ensure that $14 billion in the Title I program is advancing equity within school districts, by providing effective teachers and other vital resources for students who need them most. Title I funds are intended to reduce inequity by supplying additional dollars to schools serving low-income children. Yet, under the law, districts can hide inequities in state and local spending between schools since they only have to show average salaries of teachers—not actual salaries.

President Obama spoke at the conference a day later. He discussed the importance of education for the success of the economy and the nation. He also spotlighted the Race to the Top program.

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Hearing from Teachers

Secretary Duncan just announced the appointment of 15 teachers as Teaching Ambassador Fellows for the 2010-11 school year . Five have become full-time employees at the Department. The others are continuing as full-time teachers, while working as fellows part-time. Now in its third year, this program was created to give outstanding teachers an opportunity to participate in policy development and to contribute their expertise to those discussions. Fellows, in turn, share what they have learned about federal initiatives with other teachers in their districts and states, encouraging broader input into efforts to improve education at all levels of government. This year's fellows were selected from 500 applications from teachers and instructional specialists from across the U.S., at every grade level and instructional area in urban, suburban, and rural schools. They submitted essays on their record of leadership, their impact on student achievement, and their insight into educational policy from school and classroom experience. The 2010-11 fellows join a network and continue to work with the Department's 38 previous fellows from the first two years of the program.

One of the first events the new fellows participated in this summer was a forum with Washington, D.C.-area educators, including classroom teachers, teacher educators, and future teachers. Jo Anderson and Brad Jupp, top advisers to Secretary Duncan, moderated the conversation, which covered issues such as teacher evaluation, professional development, equitable distribution of teachers at high-need schools, and teacher leadership. Perspectives varied, but all agreed on the need for stronger collaboration among teachers, administrators, and community members to help close student achievement gaps.

Meanwhile, in their final blog post, the 2009-10 fellows provide more resources for teachers about the Administration's ESEA reauthorization proposal and share thoughts on what they found promising for the profession.

The Secretary made a commitment to find better ways to support and honor the teaching profession in last week's town hall discussion on Sirius/XM Radio. A studio audience of 40 educators joined him and Tim Farley of XM's Politics of the United States (POTUS) Channel in a thoughtful discussion ranging from teacher evaluation to professional development. Comments and questions came from in-house, from teachers in the nationwide listening audience, and from people who posted on the Department's blog.

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Gainful Employment

On July 23, the Administration released its proposed regulations requiring for-profit career colleges to better prepare students for "gainful employment" or risk losing their access to federal student aid. The proposed rules seek to protect students from taking on unsustainable debt they cannot repay and to protect taxpayers from high loan default rates. To qualify for federal student aid, the law requires that career colleges and training programs prepare students for gainful employment in recognized occupations. The Department would define whether a program successfully prepares students for gainful employment using a two-part test: measuring the relationship between the debt students incur and their incomes after program completion and measuring the rates at which all enrollees, regardless of program completion, repay their loans on time. If a program fared poorly on these metrics, it would be required to clearly disclose debt burdens and repayment rates to both current and prospective students. Further, it could become ineligible to participate in federal student aid programs. Congress directly authorized the Department to set different rules for for-profit career colleges and training programs. The need for these new rules has become especially acute in recent years as enrollment, debt loads, and default rates have grown rapidly at for-profit colleges.

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Odds and Ends

  • On August 5, the Senate passed a state aid package, including $10 billion to help prevent layoffs of more than 100,000 educators. The House of Representatives will consider the legislation next week. In a statement, Secretary Duncan expressed gratitude for the 61 senators who voted to move forward on an amendment to support jobs for America's teachers.

  • Earlier today, the Department launched Version 1.0 of ED Data Express, an interactive web site designed to increase the transparency of K-12 data collected by the agency by providing public access to high-value, state-level education data. The site presents data in a clear, easy-to-use manner, with a variety of tools to accommodate different types of users. Version 2.0, which will include data filtering tools, graphing tools, and mapping tools, as well as links to social networking sites, will be launched this winter.

  • A new Department video showcases the rural transformation story of West Carter Middle School in Olive Hill, Kentucky.

  • The Department has posted a categorized list of all 339 applications for Promise Neighborhoods planning grants. Representatives from nearly every state and the District of Columbia submitted applications, including 48 rural and 21 tribal communities. Almost 20% of the communities are working with colleges and universities as their lead applicant for the program. Applicants will be reviewed this month by independent peer review committees. The agency will announce up to 20 planning grants of up to $500,000 each no later than September 30.

  • Focused on early childhood education? The Department's new Early Learning Initiative web site is live, and the Secretary's remarks at the "Early Childhood 2010—Innovation for the Next Generation" meeting are posted online.

  • Focused on special education? A statement on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Education Act (ADA) is available, and the Secretary's remarks—at the "Leadership Mega Conference" are posted online.

  • The Department has awarded $9.2 million in grants to improve the leadership and effectiveness of current and aspiring principals and assistant principals in high-need districts.

  • The latest issue of the Institute of Education Sciences' (IES) newsletter succinctly recaps the fifth-annual Research Conference and Poster Exhibition, which featured remarks by the Secretary.

  • The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released "America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2010." This report continues a series of annual reports to the nation on the well-being of children in the U.S. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within IES and in cooperation with 21 other federal agencies, contributes indicators to the report and supports its production.

  • NCES's "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups" examines the educational progress and challenges in the U.S. by race and ethnicity. The report finds that over time the numbers in each race/ ethnicity who have completed high school and continued their education in college have increased. Despite these gains, though, the rate of progress has varied.

  • NCES's "Student Victimization in U.S. Schools" states 4.3% of students ages 12-18 reported that they were victims of crime at school during the 2006-07 school year.

  • The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program provides K-16 educators with unique opportunities for overseas experience. The program is open to teachers and administrators with responsibilities for curriculum development in fields related to humanities, languages, and area studies. The topics and host countries of the seminars vary from year to year, although all seminars are in non-western European countries. There are 10 seminars being offered next summer, with 14-16 positions per seminar, subject to the availability of funds. The application will be available on August 20, with a deadline of October 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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Quote to Note

"I urge union leaders, administrators, and schools boards all across America to follow the example of their reform-minded colleagues and have a more open mind toward common sense reforms. They have nothing to fear from charter schools or incentive pay or a better system of teacher evaluation. The only real threat to them—and to all of us—is academic failure. I also challenge reformers to stop blaming unions for all the problems in American education. If unions were the only problem, all of our right-to-work states and charter schools would be outperforming the nation, which is simply not the case. That's the old frame. In the new frame, people are working together."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (7/27/10), in remarks at the National Press Club

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Upcoming Events

On August 31, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering a webinar, "ED's OCFO Recaps Cash Management Requirements for Recipients of Grants and Cooperative Agreements." This presentation will provide a review of the Department's cash management policies, emphasizing the Office of the Chief Financial Officer's (OCFO) memo and FAQs on cash management policies for grant recipients; highlights of the Cash Management Improvement Act and the Department's General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR); specific cash management policies, including minimizing the time between drawdown and disbursement of funds, the handling of interest earned on federal funds, and best practices; various other cash management policies for program-specific grants; and effects of non-compliance.

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) National Conference is scheduled for September 12-14 in suburban Washington, D.C.

The NASA Explorer Schools Project will be launched in September 2010. If you work in an accredited K-12 education institution in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and would like to participate in the project, please register for an orientation session online. You will be contacted at a later date to set up an orientation.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Stacey Jordan, (202) 401-0026, Stacey.Jordan@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 08/17/2010