NEWSLETTERS
September 17, 2010 ED Review
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 September 17, 2010
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Blue Ribbon Schools
Back to School
Back to School (Cont.)
Challenge to Innovate
Student Loan Default Rate
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Blue Ribbon Schools

Last week, at School Without Walls Senior High School in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan named 304 schools as "2010 National Blue Ribbon Schools." This program recognizes high-performing schools (schools, regardless of their students' backgrounds, that rank among the state's best performing as measured by state assessments [public] or that score at the highest performance level on nationally normed tests [private]) and improving schools (schools, with at least 40% of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, that have reduced the achievement gap by improving performance to high levels, again as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests). Chief State School Officers nominate the public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates the private schools. Of the schools nominated by each state, at least one-third must have 40% or more of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and public schools must meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, as defined by their states. All schools will be honored at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 15 and 16. The principal and a teacher will receive a Blue Ribbon School flag and plaque.

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Back to School

On September 14, President Obama delivered his second annual Back to School speech at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School—a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School—in Philadelphia. Like last year, this was an opportunity for the President to speak directly to students. The speech was broadcast live (on CNN and online) and shown in schools across the country.

Some excerpts:

  • "I came to Masterman to tell you what I think you're hearing from your principal and your superintendent and from your parents and your teachers. Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing—absolutely nothing—is beyond your reach, so long as you're willing to dream big, so long as you're willing to work hard. So long as you're willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish. I believe that. And that last part is absolutely essential, that part about really working hard in school, because an education has never been more important than it is today…. There is nothing more important than what you're doing right now. Nothing is going to have as great an impact on your success in life as your education, how you're doing in school."
  • "Excelling in school or in life isn't mainly about being smarter than everyone else. It's about working harder than everybody else. Don't avoid new challenges—seek them out, step out of your comfort zone, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Your teachers and family are there to guide you. Don't feel discouraged or give up if you don't succeed at something. Try it again, and learn from your mistakes. Don't feel threatened, if your friends are doing well. Be proud of them, and see what lessons you can draw from what they're doing right…. The truth is, an education is about more than getting into a good college, or getting a good job when you graduate. It's about giving each and every one of us the chance to fulfill our promise, to be the best version of ourselves we can be."
  • "What I want to say to you today—what I want all of you to take away from my speech—is that life is precious, and part of its beauty lies in its diversity. We shouldn't be embarrassed by the things that make us different. We should be proud of them. Because it's the things that make us different that make us who we are. The strength and character of this country have always come from our ability to recognize ourselves in one another, no matter who we are or where we come from, what we look like or what abilities or disabilities we have."

During the speech, President Obama also announced the second High School Commencement Challenge. In the coming months, public schools will be invited to submit applications to have the President speak at their graduation next spring. This spring, he spoke at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan.

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Back to School (Cont.)

This week, Secretary Duncan addressed an international education symposium in Canada, highlighted a turnaround school in North Carolina, and hosted Race to the Top grantees in Washington, D.C., as well as released a progress report on key Department-wide education initiatives.

In Toronto, he participated in a conference titled "Building Blocks for Education: Whole School Reform," sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Education, which convened education policymakers and experts from six nations to share ideas and look at new ways to solve issues. "Systemic change... takes time," he said. "Yet, I am convinced that the U.S. education system now has an unprecedented opportunity to get dramatically better and that nothing is more important in the long-run to American prosperity than boosting the skills and attainment of the nation's students." This was the Secretary's first official trip outside the U.S. as a Cabinet member. The Secretary will travel to Paris in November to attend the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Ministerial Conference.

In Charlotte, he joined Governor Bev Perdue and State Board Chairman Bill Harrison at Sterling Elementary School, which has greatly improved student achievement under the district's Strategic Staffing Initiative. There, he facilitated a roundtable discussion with teachers, staff, and community leaders on turning around low-performing schools and visited a fourth-grade classroom. North Carolina recently won a Race to the Top grant.

Then, in Washington, D.C., he welcomed all Race to the Top grantees for a discussion of the work ahead. This session was part of a day-long grantee meeting focused on finalizing each state's Race to the Top budget, hearing directly from grantees about how the Department can support their reform efforts, and providing the opportunity for grantees to collaborate as they begin their work to significantly improve student outcomes through this unprecedented federal investment in reform. Members of Congress and representatives from key education associations also attended.

Meanwhile, the Department released its 2010 Education Progress Report, including distributing nearly $100 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to help save roughly 400,000 jobs, support historic reforms at the state and local level, and boost college enrollment with billions of dollars in additional grants and loans.

Also: Before the end of the month, the Administration will announce Investing in Innovation (i3) (notably, all 49 highest-rated applicants secured their required private sector matches), Promise Neighborhoods, and Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant winners.

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Challenge to Innovate

On September 7, the Department and the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation launched a new program for teachers to identify and solve education's most pressing classroom challenges. "Challenge to Innovate" (C2i) enlists teachers to think creatively and implement innovative classroom ideas. C2i also recognizes the urgency of improvement by providing a new model that moves rapidly from idea conception to implementation and evaluation, while simultaneously supplying critical support to educators. The Department's Open Innovation Portal will host the three-phase C2i. Phase 1, through October 19, asks teachers to share their most pressing classroom challenges that can be solved with $500 or less. The five ideas receiving the most votes—judged by the portal's community—will receive $1,000 from the NEA Foundation. In Phase 2, from November 16 through January 14, teachers will post the best solutions to the five winning challenges. Up to 10 solutions will receive a $2,500 implementation grant from the NEA Foundation. In Phase 3, from January 17 through February 4, the NEA Foundation will select up to three solutions to receive a $5,000 planning grant and technical support. These solutions will be posted on the Donors Choose web site, where teachers will be invited to submit requests to receive up to $500 in implementation costs. The NEA Foundation, with citizen philanthropists, will provide the funding for teachers to implement and test these innovation solutions.

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Student Loan Default Rate

The Department announced this week that the Fiscal Year 2008 national student cohort default rate increased to 7%, up from the FY 2007 rate of 6.7%. This default rate is a snapshot in time, representing the cohort of borrowers whose loan repayments came due between October 1, 2007, and September 30, 2008, and who defaulted before September 30, 2009. Some 3.4 million borrowers entered repayment during this time, and 238,000 borrowers went into default. They attended 5,860 participating institutions. (Borrowers who default after their first two years of repayment are not measured as defaulters in this data.) As a historical comparison, in FY 1990, nearly one in four borrowers defaulted on their federal loans when rates set an all-time high of 22.4%. The rate dropped to a record low of 4.5% in FY 2003. Schools with excessive default rates (of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years) may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs. This year, five sites are subject to sanctions. (Note: The public can search for individual school default rates online.)

Also: For 2008-09, students at for-profit schools represented 26% of the borrower population and 43% of all defaulters. The median federal student loan debt carried by students earning associate degrees at for-profit institutions was $14,000. The rapid growth of student enrollment, debt load, and default rates at for-profit schools in recent years prompted the Administration to embark on a year-long negotiation with the higher education community to develop a set of proposals that strengthen the integrity of federal student aid programs and ensure that taxpayer funds are used appropriately. Thirteen issues were addressed in a proposed regulation published on June 18. Another proposed regulation, published on July 26, aimed to protect students by requiring for-profit schools to better prepare students for "gainful employment" or risk losing access to federal student aid. The Department is now developing final regulations on the issues, which it anticipates publishing in the coming months.

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Odds and Ends

  • A new brochure written by teachers and for teachers, "Built for Teachers: How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Teachers," spotlights issues in the Secretary's plans to revise and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), focusing on those of particular concern for educators.

  • As part of his "Educate to Innovate" campaign to raise American students to the top of the pack in math and science achievement over the next decade, President Obama announced the launch of "Change the Equation," a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). (Note: The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has issued a plan for improvements in K-12 STEM education.)

  • OECD's annual "Education at a Glance" report compares education systems in 33 member countries using a range of indicators. The primary topics covered are participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and teachers, and the state of lifelong learning. Regarding President Obama's goal of regaining the lead in college completion by the end of the decade, the U.S. has improved from 12th in the world in the percentage of young adults with a college degree (in 2007) to tied for ninth (in 2008). (Note: Secretary Duncan's statement on the report is posted online.)

  • According to a survey released by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), while 89% of teachers agree that their students should take a financial literacy course or pass a test for graduation, only 29% were actually teaching it, and less than 20% of teachers said they feel competent to teach financial literacy. As one response, the Departments of Education and the Treasury have teamed up to continue administering the National Financial Capability Challenge for high school students. Educators who sign up for the challenge receive a teachers' toolkit and other free materials to prepare their students. Between March 7 and April 8, 2011, students will take a voluntary, online exam to demonstrate what they have learned, assess their financial knowledge, and learn more about why financial capability is important. Top-scoring students from each school will earn award certificates, and both outstanding teachers and schools will be recognized. Educators are encouraged to sign-up today. Last year, over 76,000 students and 1,500 teachers participated in the challenge. This year, the goal is to increase participation by 15%.

  • Building on the strong momentum of the "Let's Move!" campaign, the President issued a proclamation making September National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Soon thereafter, the First Lady traveled to Louisiana to kick-off the next phase of "Let's Move! with the National Football League (NFL).

  • Secretary Duncan recently joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to promote the ongoing Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge, which aims to enroll five million children in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid within five years.

  • The U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless has issued the first federal plan to end homelessness, with a special emphasis on homeless children and youth.

  • On the SAT, this year's college-bound seniors averaged 501 (out of 800) in reading, 516 in math, and 492 in writing. Students' math scores have experienced an upward trend and are now two points higher than in 2000 and 15 points higher than in 1990. Meanwhile, students' reading scores have declined four points in the last decade but are one point higher than in 1990.

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Quote to Note

"American educators and policymakers have much to learn from other countries. One of the most encouraging lessons of the [OECD's] Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is that high-achieving nations can significantly narrow achievement gaps and advance achievement nationwide. Other nations, like Singapore and Finland, are showing the way to building a top-notch teaching force, creating better assessments of student learning, and ensuring that outstanding teachers instruct the most-challenging students. At the same time, the U.S. has much to teach other nations. Our system of higher education is, in many respects, still without parallel."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (9/13/10), in Canada for an international education symposium

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Upcoming Events

September 12-18 is Arts in Education Week . In celebration, the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) is offering up-to-date information on the actions that it and hundreds of schools, associations, and others are taking to heighten awareness of the importance of arts education. The Secretary has declared it is "time to rethink and strengthen arts education."

Dr. Jill Biden will convene the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges on October 5. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing segment of America's higher education system, enrolling more than eight million students annually. The Administration has made historic investments in new innovations and reforms to expand and strengthen opportunities at community colleges. (Note: The White House has set up a number of ways for the public to participate in the summit online.)

September 27-October 2, the Department will exhibit at the University of Texas-Pan American's Hispanic Engineering, Science, and Technology (HESTC) Week events in Edinburg, Texas. If you are attending these events, please visit the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 06/13/2012