Press Room NEWSLETTERS
January 7, 2011 ED Review
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 January 7, 2011 (Happy New Year!)
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Next Test
Budget Update
Bullying Policies
Teacher Fellowships
Discretionary Grant Priorities and Definitions
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Next Test

On January 3, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Secretary Duncan renewed his call for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Following are some excerpts.

"With a new Congress set to begin, key members on both sides of the aisle are poised to rewrite ESEA, currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In fact, the work has been underway for much of the past year, and few areas are more suited for bipartisan action than education reform."

"On many issues, Democrats and Republicans agree.... These issues are at the heart of the Obama Administration's blueprint for reauthorizing ESEA: more flexibility and fairness in our accountability system, a bigger investment in teachers and principals, and a sharper focus on schools and students most at risk."

"This common sense agenda also reflects the quiet revolution underway at the state and local level. With the incentive of the Race to the Top program, states and districts across America are implementing comprehensive plans to reform education systems and boost student achievement. School districts and their local partners in inner-cities and rural communities are overcoming poverty and family breakdown to create high-performing schools, including traditional and charter public schools."

"The urgency for reform has never been greater. Today, American students trail many other nations in reading, math, and science, and a quarter do not graduate high school on time. Many college students do not finish, despite the clear national need for more college-educated workers who can successfully compete in the global economy."

"In the past two years, I have spoken with hundreds of Democratic and Republicans members of Congress, governors, and mayors. While we don't agree on everything, our core goals are shared—and we all want to fix NCLB to better support reform at the state and local level. So, let's do something together for our children that will build America's future, strengthen our economy, and reflect well on us all."

Note: President Obama is expected to deliver his State of the Union address on January 25.

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Budget Update

Last month, President Obama signed into law legislation making further continuing appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011, through March 4. In general, this legislation provides for the continued operation of federal government programs and activities, including those currently administered by the Department, at the FY 2010 level, except that the Pell Grant level is $23.162 billion and the maximum Pell Grant award from discretionary funds is $4,860 for the 2011-12 award year (increased to $5,550 with mandatory funding from the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act).

Also last month, the President signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act, which, among other actions, extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a partially refundable tax credit that helps more than eight million students and their families afford the cost of college.

Note: President Obama is expected to release his FY 2012 budget proposal by mid-February.

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Bullying Policies

In response to requests for assistance from state and local officials across the country, following a rash of bullying-related suicides, Secretary Duncan recently distributed a memorandum to state leaders outlining critical components of strong state bullying laws and policies. This technical assistance memo is intended to serve as a useful reference for state and local officials developing or revising anti-bullying legislation or policies. In the memo, Department staff compiled key components of existing anti-bullying laws from 29 states. The laws were divided into 11 categories, ranging from listing examples of bullying behavior to specifying procedures for investigating incidents. In addition to the memo, staff are preparing a comprehensive summary of state anti-bullying laws and conducting a study of how those laws are implemented, in the hopes that the data could further guide states in crafting effective regulations.

For more on the Department's efforts around bullying prevention, visit BullyingInfo.org.

Meanwhile, the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Task Force is now accepting submissions from the public of field-based practices to combat bullying. Entries that are approved for posting online may be in any number of formats, from research articles to youth-produced Public Service Announcements (PSAs). All materials and resources posted online must be free of charge and hosted on a government or non-profit web site.

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Teacher Fellowships

The deadline for applications for the Department's 2011-12 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship, offering highly motivated and innovative school teachers the opportunity to work for one year for the agency—either full-time in Washington, D.C., or part-time in their home states—is fast approaching. In particular, to help achieve the program goal that "the final team of selected fellows... represent the diversity of our student body and settings in which students receive instruction across the country," the Department is seeking applications from the 22 states that have not had a fellow in the past three years: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. All fellows will be selected based on their record of leadership, impact on student achievement, communication skills, and insight from school and classroom experiences. Applications are due by January 17. Fellows will be named in early summer.

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Discretionary Grant Priorities and Definitions

The December 15 Federal Register included the Department's notice of final supplemental priorities and definitions for discretionary grant programs. This notice finalized priorities in three key areas: advancing cradle-to-career educational reforms, addressing the needs of student subgroups, and building capacity for systemic continuous improvement. Within each of these categories, there are four to eight priorities, from improving early learning outcomes (Priority 1) to increasing postsecondary success (Priority 8) to improving productivity (Priority 16). The Department may use, as appropriate for particular discretionary grant programs, one or more of these priorities in any discretionary grant competition.

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Odds and Ends

  • Back on December 8, Secretary Duncan addressed the CIA Foreign Language Summit, noting "It's absolutely essential for the citizens of the U.S. to become fluent in other languages—and schools, colleges, and universities must include producing bilingual students as a central part of their mission."

  • A day later, the Secretary was in New York City for the announcement of a General Educational Development (GED) pilot program, aligning expectations for the GED test to standards that prepare all participants for success in college and careers.

  • Then, on December 10, the Secretary sat down for a conversation with the American Association of School Superintendents' 2010 Superintendents of the Year, focused on what works and what does not work in school turnaround implementation.

  • Regarding turnarounds, the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has released a list of schools receiving School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding, as well as its latest SIG Newsletter, linking states and districts with resources and tools that will help them turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools.

  • In advance of the White House Tribal Nations Conference (December 16), the Department hosted a town hall event with more than 100 tribal leaders and representatives from across the country. Secretary Duncan offered some remarks, announcing the launch of a new pilot program that will strengthen the role of tribal education agencies and the appointment of a senior advisor next year who will focus on improving education in Indian Country. A video was also shared in which Department staff discussed the lessons they learned at various tribal consultations during the past year.

  • Sean "Jack" Buckley was confirmed by the Senate as the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on December 22, 2010, for a term expiring June 21, 2015. He served as Deputy Commissioner of NCES from 2006 to 2008. He is known for his research on school choice, especially charter schools, and on statistical methods for public policy.

  • During the holiday season, NCES, a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), issued reports on bachelor's degree completion after eight years and the price of college and updated both its rural education and urban education data web sites.

  • "My heart goes out to the families of those who lost loved ones during the tragic events of April 16, 2007, and to the entire Virginia Tech community," the Secretary said in a statement on the release of the Department's Clery Act Final Program Review Determination Letter regarding Virginia Tech University. "The loss of that day can never be undone. While Virginia Tech failed to adequately warn students that day, we recognize that the university has put far-reaching changes in place since that time to help improve campus safety and better protect its students and community."

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Quote to Note

"In a few days, a new Congress will form, with one house controlled by Democrats and one house controlled by Republicans, who now have a shared responsibility to move this country forward. And, here's what I want you to know: I'm willing to work with anyone of either party who's got a good idea and the commitment to see it through. And, we should all expect you to hold us accountable for our progress or our failure to deliver.... We have come through a difficult decade, one of new threats and new trials we didn't expect when it began. But, a new year and a new decade stretch out before us. And, if we just remember what America is capable of, and live up to that legacy, then I'm confident that we are poised for a period of progress, one in which our economy is growing, our standing in the world is rising, and we do what it takes to make sure America remains in the 21st century what it was in the 20th: the greatest nation in the world."

        President Barack Obama (1/1/11), in his weekly address on New Year's Day

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Upcoming Events

The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 17 by making the holiday a day ON—versus a day off. King Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site enables organizers to register projects in every state and the District of Columbia.

School districts and labor leaders from across the U.S. have been invited to attend a conference in Denver on February 15 and 16 to identify ways that collaborative labor-management relationships, policies, and agreements can directly drive academic achievement. Invitations went out to approximately 2,000 districts that secured federal funding in the past year under major programs. The Department will randomly select attendees from those who apply but will also ensure diversity in terms of district size and geography. The event is being sponsored by the Department, in close partnership with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Secretary Duncan will join leaders from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Education International, along with AFT, NEA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Asia Society, and WNET, to host an International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York City, March 16 and 17. This summit will convene education ministers, education organization leaders, national union leaders, and effective teachers from nations with high-performing and rapidly improving education systems to identify best practices that strengthen the teaching profession in ways designed to enhance academic achievement. Participants will also engage in a discussion on the vital role teachers play in advancing progressive, sustainable education reform.

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Last Modified: 01/25/2011