Higher Education and the Economy
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Higher Education and the Economy
On August 9, President Obama delivered a major speech on higher education at the University of Texas at Austin. "I want you to know we have been slipping," he said. "In a single generation, we've fallen from 1st place to 12th place in college graduation rates for young adults.... Now, that's unacceptable, but it's not irreversible. We can retake the lead. If we're serious about making sure America's workersand America itselfsucceeds in the 21st century, the single most important step we can take is make sure that every one of our young people has the best education that the world has to offer." (For state, national, and global data on college completion rates, see the College Board's "College Completion" web site.) "Now," he continued, "when I talk about education, people say, well, you know what, right now we're going through this tough time.... So, Mr. President, you should only focus on jobs, on economic issues. And what I've tried to explain to people... is that education is an economic issue. Education is the economic issue of our time. It is an economic issue when the unemployment rate for folks who've never gone to college is almost double what it is for folks who have gone to college. It is an economic issue when almost eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or higher education by the end of this decade. And it is an economic issue when we know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow."
What is being done? At the K-12 level, the Administration launched the Race to the Top Fund, which is "already seeing powerful results across the county." At the postsecondary education level, the Administration is helping make college more affordable by shifting all federal student loans to Direct Loans and expanding Pell Grants; reinvesting in community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs); and focusing on college completion by identifying best models. (A fact sheet outlining the White House's commitment to restoring America's leadership in higher education is posted online.) "When I look at all the young people here today," the President concluded, "I think about the fact that you are entering into the workforce at a difficult time in this country's history.... But I want everybody here to remember, at each and every juncture throughout our history, we've always recognized that essential truth: that the way to move forward, in our own lives and as a nation, is to put education first."
In other higher education news:
- Secretary Duncan participated in a conference call with reporters to preview the President's speech and to discuss the impact of the Administration's agenda on the Hispanic community.
- Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter delivered related remarks at the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Higher Education Policy Conference.
- The Department recently released the analysis that helped inform its proposed regulation providing a standard for for-profit and occupational postsecondary programs to demonstrate that they prepare students for "gainful employment."
Last week, the President signed into law a bill providing $26 billion to states: $10 billion to support an estimated 160,000 education jobs and $16 billion to help fund Medicaid budgets. The Senate approved the bill, by a vote of 61-39, on August 5. The House of Representatives followed, with a vote of 247-161, on August 10, and the President affixed his signature yet that evening. "With the aid of the jobs bill, these educators will be helping our children learn instead of looking for work," Secretary Duncan stated. "This is absolutely the right thing to do for our children, for our teachers, and for our economy."
Over the last two years, the Department has been able to support 300,000 education jobs through stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). At this time, seven states have drawn down 100% of previously allocated funding under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, while 18 states have drawn down 80% or more. An independent report from the Center on Education Policy found 75% of school districts that received stimulus funds expect to cut teaching positions in the upcoming school year.
The application and guidance for states under the Education Jobs Fund have been sent to governors and made available on the Department's web site, and the Secretary and senior officials spoke with governors, Chief State School Officers, State Board of Education members, state legislators, superintendents, school board members, and union leaders about the release of the application and appropriate uses of funds. The Secretary urged governors to act quickly and to submit their applications as soon as possiblebut no later than the statutory deadline of September 9so money can flow to districts immediately and be used to support jobs this fall. The Department is using a streamlined application and is committed to turning around approvable applications within two weeks. (Note: Submitted state applications are available online.)
Also last week, the Department convened the first-ever National Summit on Bullying. The summit gathered a range of non-governmental organizations, corporate leaders, and state and local officials, as well as the members of the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Working Group. "Bullying is undeniable," Secretary Duncan explained, dispelling multiple myths about bullying. "It has a common definition, and a legal definition in many states. Effective prevention programs work to reduce bullying. And bullying is very much an education priority that goes to the heart of school performance and school culture." (Note: The Secretary's remarks are available online.)
Meanwhile, a new web site is a "one-stop" site for parents, educators, and community members seeking federal resources on bullying. The Department's reinvigorated Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has also stepped up enforcement in the last year, vigorously investigating complaints of bullying and harassment. In addition, many federal agencies (Education, Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Justice) have beenand will continuecollaborating to combat bullying.
Over the past year, the Department has stepped up its efforts to address bullying to include a new, $27 million Safe and Supportive Schools grant program, a pilot that will enable states to measure school safety at the building level and to provide federal funds for interventions in those schools with greatest needs. Moreover, the Department's proposed blueprint for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) calls for a dramatic increase in appropriations for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students grants program.
On August 6, Secretary Duncan announced the awarding of $115.3 million to 124 school districts to improve the quality of teaching American history. The Teaching American History grant program aims to enhance teachers' understanding of American history through intensive professional development, including study trips to historic sites and mentoring with professional historians and other notable experts. Projects are required to partner with groups that have broad knowledge of American history, such as higher education institutions, libraries, museums, and non-profit historical and humanities organizations.
Then, on August 16, the Secretary announced the awarding of 12 charter school grants, totaling roughly $136 million, to state education agencies in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and the District of Columbia to increase public school options. The purpose of the Charter Schools Program is to increase financial support for the start-up and expansion of these public schools, build a national understanding of the charter school model, and increase the number of high-quality charter schools across the U.S. The Administration will invest more than $256 million this year to assist in the planning and implementation of charter schools and dissemination of successful practices.
Finally, on August 19, the Secretary announced the awarding of $28.8 million to 98 districts in 28 states to improve plans addressing all four phases of emergency management: prevention-mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
In 2009, the Department launched a summer literacy series called "Read to the Top!" This series was created to combat summer learning loss in response to President Obama's national volunteer campaign, "United We Serve," which encouraged all Americans to participate in sustained service projects within their communities. This year, building on the structure of "Read to the Top!," the Department launched a summer literacy and enrichment series called "Let's Read. Let's Move." Through activities designed to promote reading and academic achievement, healthy lifestyles, and physical fitness, this series sought to bolster awareness about the high importance of summer learning and highlight the tenets of First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to combat childhood obesity. Over seven sessions held weekly at the Department between mid-June and early August, Secretary Duncan, Cabinet members, Administration officials, celebrities, and public figures read children's books, discussed being healthy, and participated in games and activities with Washington, D.C.-area children in pre-kindergarten through third-grade.
Odds and Ends
In a recent letter to Chief State School Officers, Secretary Duncan addresses implementation of the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.
Through September 7, the Department is soliciting comments on the Secretary's priorities for discretionary grant programs. There are 13 proposed priorities (from improving early learning outcomes to improving productivity) that the agency may use as appropriate for discretionary grant competitions in Fiscal Year 2011 and future years. These priorities will allow the Department and, by extension, program participants to focus limited federal resources on areas of greatest education need.
A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), presents findings about teacher mobility and attrition among elementary and secondary school teachers in grades K-12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among public school teachers with 1-3 years of experience, 77.3% stayed in their base school, 13.7% moved to another school, and 9.1% left teaching in 2008-09. Among private school teachers with 1-3 years of experience, 72.2% stayed in their base school, 7.2% moved to another school, and 20.6% left teaching in 2008-09.
NCES is also initiating a new effort to link national and international assessments so that states can compare their own students' performance against international benchmarks. The linking study, to be conducted in 2011, is intended to enable NCES to "project" state-level scores on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), using core data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). TIMSS measures students' learning in more than 60 countries.
The percentage of U.S. high school graduates meeting all four of ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks increased from 21% in 2006 and 23% last year to 24% this year, even as the "pool" of students taking the ACT continued to expand (up 30% since 2006). Based on the actual performance of successful students in college, these readiness benchmarks specify the minimum scores needed on each ACT subject area test to indicate a student is ready to succeed (a 50% chance of earning a "B" or higher or a 75% chance of earning a "C" or higher) in a typical first-year, credit-bearing college class in that subject area. Lack of college readiness is again most evident in the areas of math and science; just 43% of ACT-tested 2010 graduates are ready for college-level algebra, and only 29% are ready for college-level biology.
Quote to Note
"It's one thing for states to get their fiscal houses in order and tighten their belts like families across America. Because families have been doing it, there's no reason that states can't do it, too. But we can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe. That doesn't make sense. That's why a significant part of the economic plan that we passed last year provided relief for struggling statesrelief that has already prevented hundreds of thousands of layoffs. And that's why we're trying to pass a law that will save hundreds of thousands of more jobs in the coming year. It will help states avoid laying off police officers, firefighters, nurses, and first responders. And it will save the jobs of teachers like the ones who are standing with me today. If we do nothing, these educators won't be returning to the classroom this fall. And that won't just deprive them of a paycheck, it will deprive the children and parents who are counting on them to provide a decent education."
|||President Barack Obama (8/10/10), in remarks at a Rose Garden event prior to passage of the Jobs Bill|
As part of the Department's Back to School program, Secretary Duncan will be traveling by bus through the Southeast (August 26-27) and the Northeast (August 30-31). The title of the bus tour is "Courage in the Classroom." Senior staff will be blogging from the road.
On August 25, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering a webinar on subrecipient monitoring. This presentation will provide recipients and subrecipients of Department grants an overview of this agency's subrecipient monitoring policies, emphasizing requirements under the Department's own General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) A-133 Circular and Compliance Supplement, and new requirements under the ARRA. Agency staff and state-level representatives will spotlight several monitoring best practices in use by grantees that have proven both effective in ensuring compliance and cost-efficient, including using a risk-based monitoring approach, performing financial risk assessments, and using web-based monitoring.
Also, on August 31, also at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering another webinar: "ED's OCFO Recaps Cash Management Requirements for Recipients of Grants and Cooperative Agreements."
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