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October 29, 2010 ED Review
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 October 29, 2010
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Guidance Targeting Bullying
Student Aid Rules
In NY, NY
Additional Travel and Remarks
Renewing the Hispanic Initiative
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Guidance Targeting Bullying

This week, the Department issued guidance to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance also makes clear that while current laws enforced by the agency do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do protect against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics and both gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals. The guidance is in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to schools, colleges, and universities nationwide. The letter explains educators' legal obligations to protect all students from student-on-student racial and national original harassment, gender and sexual harassment, and disability harassment. It also provides examples of harassment and illustrates how a school should respond in each case. (Note: A detailed fact sheet on the letter is available online.)

"We've got to dispel the myth that bullying is a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not," President Obama said. "We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment."

Moreover, the White House and the Department announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches, and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. And, the Department plans to hold technical workshops around the county to help educators understand their obligations and the resources available to end bullying and harassment in schools.

Other related items:

  • With the release of the guidance, Secretary Duncan, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools Kevin Jennings held a national press call.
  • Earlier, President Obama recorded a personal message, telling bullied students "you are not alone" and "it gets better."
  • In August of this year, the White House hosted the first National Bullying Summit (the Secretary's keynote address can be viewed online) and launched BullyingInfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying programs.
  • The Department partners with StopBullyingNow.org, with resources for students and educators.
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Student Aid Rules

Also this week, the Department released a broad set of rules to strengthen federal student aid programs at for-profit, non-profit, and public institutions of higher education by protecting students from aggressive or misleading recruiting practices, providing consumers with better information about the effectiveness of career college and training programs, and ensuring that only eligible students or programs receive aid. Students at for-profit schools represent 11% of all postsecondary students, 26% of all student loans, and 43% of all loan defaulters. The median federal student loan debt carried by students earning associate degrees at for-profit institutions was $14,000, while the majority of students at community colleges do not borrow. More than a quarter of for-profit schools receive 80% of their revenues from taxpayer-financed federal student aid. This rapid growth of enrollment, debt load, and default rates at for-profit institutions prompted the Department to embark on an 18-month negotiation with the higher education community over new regulations, which was required by Congress. During this negotiation, the Department developed a set of proposals around 14 specific issues. The final regulations, published in two parts, follow that deliberative process and will go into effect on July 1, 2011. They address 13 of the 14 issues in their entirety and partially address the last issue, which involves the definition of "gainful employment."

The Department received over 1,200 comments during the public comment period on these regulations. These comments were carefully considered and led to 82 thoughtful revisions in the proposals, including giving institutions additional time to put in place systems required by the regulations; clarifying institutions' flexibility in the way they define a credit hour; and clarifying exemptions for religious institutions.

After receiving 90,000 comments during the public comment period on the gainful employment proposals dealing with a program's eligibility to receive federal student aid, the Department announced plans to push the publication date of these final regulations to early 2011. This will still allow the Department to publish final regulations in time for them to go into effect on or around July 1, 2012, as was originally planned. Department officials are taking additional time to hold several meetings with interested parties, as well as public hearings on November 4 and 5. These meetings will give people the opportunity to clarify the comments they have submitted and respond to questions from officials.

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In NY, NY

On October 19, Secretary Duncan joined philanthropist Eli Broad in New York City to announce Gwinnett County Public Schools, outside of Atlanta, Georgia, as the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education—the largest education prize in America awarded to the most improved urban district. Gwinnett County, where more than half the students are African-American or Hispanic and half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, bested four other finalists: Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC), Montgomery County (MD), Socorro (TX), and Ysleta (TX). (Gwinnett County and Socorro were also finalists last year, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg won the 2004 prize.) The $2 million prize goes to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships. Gwinnett County gets $1 million, while the other finalists receive $250,000 each. Scholarships are granted to students who demonstrate significant financial need and have a record of academic improvement. Recipients who enroll in four-year colleges receive up to $20,000 ($5,000 per year). Recipients who enroll in two-year colleges receive up to $5,000 ($2,500 per year).

Later that day, the Secretary addressed the Council on Foreign Relations, previewing his upcoming essay in Foreign Affairs magazine on enhancing U.S. education and competitiveness. "I welcome the opportunity to talk about the relationship of education and international competition because it is a subject rife with misunderstanding," he asserted. "In a nutshell, my message is that policymakers and voters have treated international competitiveness for too long as a zero-sum game. The success of other nations at increasing educational attainment and economic competitiveness has been assumed to be America's loss.... I want to suggest to you that enhancing educational achievement and economic vitality overseas and at home is really more of a win-win game. It is an opportunity to grow the economic pie, instead of carve it up." Admittedly, he continued, the race to boost educational attainment and economic competitiveness is a "race that—to be brutally honest—the U.S. is losing.... Yet, there is a paradox at the heart of America's efforts to bolster international competitiveness. To succeed in the global economy, the U.S. will have to become both more economically competitive and more collaborative." (Note: Through November 14, the Secretary's Foreign Affairs essay is available online.)

A reminder: International Education Week, celebrating international education and exchange worldwide, is November 15-19.

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Additional Travel and Remarks

During the last two weeks, the Secretary also visited Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Richmond, Virginia. In Boston, he engaged in a question-and-answer session with local City Year members, stressing the importance of turning around low-performing schools and the key role that volunteers can play in that effort, and was honored with the Robert Coles "Call of Service" Lecture and Award at Harvard University. In his remarks at the university, he outlined his experiences with public serve and encouraged students to embrace teaching as part of a larger life dedicated to service. In Indianapolis, before the National FFA Convention, he delivered a message on the power of education to lift the human spirit, to broaden horizons, and to bridge differences. He said he was completely "blown away" by how impressive FFA students are and called agricultural education central to the future of U.S. prosperity. In Philadelphia, he participated in the first official TEACH.gov event since the campaign launched back in September: a town hall meeting hosted by A&E, Comcast, and Temple University featuring 1,100 students and teachers. He also participated in a discussion on the state of education with Governor Ed Rendell. In Richmond, he delivered a keynote address at Governor Bob McDonnell's Innovate to Educate Summit, linking standards with innovation.

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Renewing the Hispanic Initiative

In a recent ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Obama signed an Executive Order to renew the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Among the changes, the order provides a better structure for the Initiative to take action and forge partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors in local communities nationwide. Also, an enhanced interagency working group and a 30-member Presidential advisory commission will work with the Initiative, to bring the voice of the American people into the policymaking process. As the nation's largest minority group, Latinos number over 11 million students in America's schools and constitute more than 22% of all pre-kindergarten through twelfth-grade students. The ceremony followed a National Education Summit hosted by the Department, bringing Administration officials together with education experts and Hispanic community leaders on many issues, ranging from early childhood learning to higher education. (Note: A fact sheet on the Administration's efforts to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Latino students is available online.)

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Odds and Ends

  • The Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and Promise Neighborhoods Program have released lists (here and here) of applicants who scored 80 and above in their competitions, spotlighting high potential applicants who, due to limited funding, did not receive grants. (Note: Peer reviewers' comments and scores, as well as the application narratives and memoranda of understanding for all 2010 Promise Neighborhood grantees, are now available online).

  • At the first-ever White House Science Fair, President Obama welcomed middle and high school students from across the country with their award-winning science fair projects in tow. (Note: A new behind-the-scenes video, including Bill Nye the Science Guy and the hosts of the show "Mythbusters," Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, is posted online.)

  • Soon after joining the President in welcoming students to the White House Science Fair, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren joined a half a million other visitors on the National Mall for the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

  • Also, First Lady Michelle Obama, the honorary chair of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), celebrated 15 exemplary programs from across the nation that reach underserved youth by hosting the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.

  • Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach Peter Cunningham participated in a variety of events in Columbus, Ohio, culminating in remarks at the Columbus Museum of Arts.

  • The College Board has released its annual studies on trends in college pricing and trends in student aid, as well as the benefits of postsecondary education. In a subsequent blog entry, the Secretary noted the net price of tuition—the cost after grant aid and tax benefits—is lower than it was five years ago, thanks largely to investments in Pell Grants and the GI Bill.

  • In advance of Veterans Day (November 11), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released a guide for schools and teachers to observe the day with students. The guide discusses the origins of Veterans Day and how it differs from Memorial Day and includes facts about America's wars. It also suggests ways for schools to plan their own Veterans Day assemblies and supplies information about college scholarships for veterans and their family members. Today, there are nearly 24 million veterans living among us, in every state and territory and from every walk of life.

  • In a new report, the National Civic League profiles remarkable teachers and principals, recognized by the MetLife Foundation's Ambassadors in Education Awards Program, who went above and beyond their traditional classroom duties to help build bridges between their schools and their communities.

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Quote to Note

"As a nation, we're founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; and, most of all, to be true to ourselves. That's the freedom that enriches all of us. That's what America is all about."

        President Barack Obama (10/21/10), in a video message responding to student bullying

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Upcoming Events

On November 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department is offering a webinar on grantee reporting required under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA). This webinar will: (1) provide an overview of the FFATA's subrecipient reporting mandates; (2) explain which grants are subject to and which grants are exempt from these requirements; (3) explain how the required data are to be reported; (4) describe the reporting timelines; and (5) answer related questions. To give participants the opportunity to help shape the conversation, everyone who registers for the webinar is invited to submit, in advance, questions about the FFATA (deadline: November 8 at 5:30 p.m. ET). Department officials will address as many of the questions as possible during the session. Also, while logged in for the webinar, anyone may submit questions for consideration.

The first National Drugs Fact Week, November 8-14, is an opportunity for teens to shatter myths about drug abuse and get answers from a scientific expert.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at National Association for the Education of Young Children's Annual Conference in Anaheim (November 3-6), the National Middle School Association's Annual Conference in Baltimore (November 4-6), the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth's National Conference in Houston (November 6-9), the Coalition of Essential Schools' Forum in San Francisco (November 10-13), and the National Council for Social Studies' Annual Conference in Denver (November 12-14). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 11/02/2010