NEWSLETTERS
September 3, 2010 ED Review
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 September 3, 2010
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Hold the Date
Race to the Top
Assessment Grants
Bus Tour
Constitution Day
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Hold the Date

President Obama will deliver his second annual Back to School speech on September 14. The speech is an opportunity for the President to speak directly to students across the nation. Last year, he encouraged students to stay in school, study hard, and take responsibility for their education. His speech will be broadcast live online. More details will be announced shortly. (Note: Relevant details, including time and location, will be posted on ED.gov and WhiteHouse.gov.)

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Race to the Top

On August 24, Secretary Duncan announced that nine states and the District of Columbia had won grants in Phase 2 of the Race to the Top competition. Along with Phase 1 winners Delaware and Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia will be awarded significant funding under the Administration's groundbreaking reform program that will directly impact 13.6 million students and 980,000 teachers in 25,000 schools. As with any federal grant, 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. "These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children," the Secretary declared. "Every state that applied showed a tremendous amount of leadership and a bold commitment to reform. The creativity and innovation in each of these applications is breathtaking." While peer reviewers rated these 10 as having the highest-scoring plans, few points separated them from the remaining applications. The number of winners selected hinged on both the quality of the applications and the funding available. "We had many more competitive applications than money to fund them this round," the Secretary noted. "We're hopeful there will be a Phase 3 of Race to the Top and have requested $1.35 billion in next year's budget. In the meantime, we will partner with every state that applied, to help them find ways to carry out the bold reforms they've proposed in their applications."

A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia put together comprehensive reform plans to apply for Race to the Top in Phases 1 and 2. During the competition, 35 states and the District of Columbia adopted common core college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, and 34 states altered laws or policies to improve education. Every state that applied has already done the hard work of collaboratively creating an education reform agenda. In the coming months, the Department plans to convene all states to help ensure the success of their work implementing reforms around college- and career-ready standards, quality data systems, great teachers and leaders, and school turnarounds. In addition to Race to the Top, the Department has made unprecedented resources available through reform programs like the Investing in Innovation Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and Title I School Improvement Grants. Through all of these programs, the agency will be distributing almost $10 billion to support education reform in states and local communities.

As it did for Phase 1, the Department has made states' Phase 2 applications, reviewers' comments and scores, and videos of states' presentations available online.

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Assessment Grants

In an effort to provide ongoing feedback to teachers throughout the course of the school year, measure annual student growth, and move beyond narrowly focused "bubble tests," the Department has awarded two groups of states substantial grants to develop a new generation of tests. The new tests will be aligned to the higher standards that were devised by the nation's governors and Chief State School Officers. "As I travel around the country, the number one complaint I hear from teachers is that bubble tests pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn't measure what really matters," Secretary Duncan stated. "Both of these winning applicants are planning to develop new assessments that will move us far beyond this and measure real student knowledge and skills." The tests, to be ready for use by the 2014-15 school year, will assess students' knowledge of language arts and math from third-grade through high school.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a coalition of 26 states. PARCC will test students' ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. PARCC will also replace the one end-of-year high stakes test with a series of assessments during the year that will be averaged into one score for accountability purposes, reducing the weight given to a single test administered on a single day and providing valuable information to students and teachers throughout the year.

The SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a coalition of 31 states. SBAC will test students using computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on previous answers. SBAC will also continue to use one test at the end of the school year for accountability purposes but will create a series of interim tests used to inform students, parents, and teachers about whether students are "on track."

The grant requests, totaling approximately $330 million, are part of the Race to the Top competition.

A variety of related materials, such as Secretary Duncan's remarks at Achieve's American Diploma Project (ADP) Leadership Team meeting, are listed in a new blog entry.

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Bus Tour

Secretary Duncan just concluded his "Courage in the Classroom: Honoring America's Teachers" bus tour, spanning eights states, 14 cities, and more than 800 miles. Along the way, he heard from teachers and other educators about the vital work they are doing to educate America's young people and talked with students, parents, and community leaders about their goals for the new school year and beyond. He was joined by some of the Department's Teaching Ambassador Fellows. (Note: A detailed trip report, including links to blog entries and videos from each stop, is available online.)

Meanwhile:

  • Before departing on the tour, the Secretary joined more than 100 students and their parents, grandparents, and younger siblings for a stroll—a walking school bus—from a park to an elementary school in a neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
  • Then, on the eve of his tour, the Secretary delivered remarks at the Little Rock Convention Center in Arkansas. "As I said in a speech a few weeks ago, no one thinks [student] test scores should be the only factor in teacher evaluations, and no one wants to evaluate teachers based on a single test on a single day," he stated. "But looking at student progress over time, in combination with other factors like peer review and principal observation, can lead to a culture shift in our schools where we finally take good teaching as seriously as the profession deserves." He was responding to a recent report by the Los Angeles Times that used students' performance on standardized tests to determine which teachers get the greatest gains out of their students.
  • And, in between legs of the tour, the Secretary participated in the "Reclaim the Dream" rally at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. and appeared on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" to discuss the need to recognize great teaching.
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Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funds take a day to teach the seminal document. To assist students and educators in their studies, free online resources are available from the Department's Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site, the National History Education Clearinghouse, and the National Archives.

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Odds and Ends

  • Thirteen states and American Samoa have received new federal funding to support education jobs.

  • In advance of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Administration announced a final agreement for the obligation of $1.84 billion to repair and replace public schools damaged by the hurricane. The Governor of Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), Orleans Parish School Board, Recovery School District, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed a project agreement to repair, replace, and rehabilitate 127 damaged campuses and, over an eight year period, return the two districts to operation with a total of 87 campuses. The Administration recognizes that high-quality schools help provide a critical foundation for stable and prosperous communities, a foundation that is especially crucial in communities working to recover from disasters. (Note: The Secretary's personal blog entry on the agreement and a White House fact sheet on Gulf Coast hurricane recovery and nationwide disaster preparedness and responses efforts are available online.

  • The Investing in Innovation program, which announced its 49 highest-rated applicants last month, has released its list of peer reviewers and six examples of the type of documentation that would be deemed as "adequate evidence" of a private sector match.

  • A First Look report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), presents findings from three different postsecondary education data collections: institutional characteristics for the 2009-10 academic year; student completions from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009; and student enrollment for the 2008-09 academic year.

  • According to NCES' new "Back to School Statistics for 2010," America's schools and colleges will welcome back large numbers of students this fall, as population increases and high enrollment rates continue to be reflected in more students in America's schools than ever.

  • The long-running Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, launching on September 15 (in conjunction with Arts in Education Week), offer teens in grades 7-12 the opportunity earn recognition and scholarships, as well as have their works exhibited and published, in 30 distinct categories of art and writing.

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Quote to Note

"You [teachers] are our national unsung heroes. Not only do we trust you, but we hold you in the very highest esteem. We understand that you are doing society's most important work. We will support you in your work, and we will work together with you to elevate and strengthen the teaching profession, because nothing less than America's future rests on your collective shoulders."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (8/25/10), framing the "Courage in the Classroom" bus tour

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Upcoming Events

On September 13, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering a special webinar on procuring goods and services with federal education grant funds. With the major increase in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), grantees have a heightened responsibility to ensure that procurements using ARRA funds are conducted in full compliance with federal rules, such as the Department's General Administration Regulations (EDGAR) requirements, and in accordance with sound business practices. This webinar will provide the audience with a review of EDGAR procurement requirements; a discussion on the commonly identified procurement weaknesses found in audits and reviews; and best practices used to avoid procurement problems and for the overall improvement of an organization's procurement system and processes.

Planning is underway for the annual International Education Week (November 15-19, coinciding with American Education Week). The week provides educational institutions and communities the opportunity to promote and celebrate the benefits of international education worldwide. This year's theme is "International Education: Striving for a Sustainable Future." Both individuals and entities are encouraged to join the listserv and submit a report on planned activities.

On September 11, the Department will exhibit at the National Council on Negro Women's Black Family Reunion Celebration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. If you are attending this event, please visit the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 09/09/2010