Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 4, 2011 ED Review
Archived Information


 February 4, 2011
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What's inside...
State of the Union
Commencement Challenge
Education Dashboard
NAEP 2009: Science Assessment
Supporting Military Families
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

State of the Union

President Obama devoted a significant portion of his 2011 State of the Union address to education. "Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success," he stated. "But, if we want to win the future—if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas—then we also have to win the race to educate our kids."

Among the notable excerpts:

  • "That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline. Our schools share this responsibility."

  • "Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1% of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind—with a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our children."

  • "Let's remember that, after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And, over the next 10 years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math."

  • "Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today's fast-changing economy, we're revitalizing America's community colleges."

  • "If we take these steps—if we raise expectations for every child and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take—we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."

  • "One last point. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But, as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to then compete against us.... Let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people... who could be further enriching this nation."

As a symbol of the President's commitment to the STEM fields, four remarkable science students sat with First Lady Michelle Obama during the address.

Immediately after the address, senior White House officials, including Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, took questions about the issues covered in the speech live from the White House.

Then, on January 27, Secretary Duncan took questions about the education issues covered in the speech in a roundtable discussion.

In addition, in a series of conference calls that week, the Secretary discussed the importance of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In succession, he spoke with education funders; the national media, joined by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who serve on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and journalists from rural communities and education writers who cover rural schools, joined by National Rural Education Association Executive Director John Hill.

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Commencement Challenge

On February 1, the White House opened the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge. Students from public high schools across the U.S. are invited to demonstrate how their school prepares them for college and a career by submitting an application. The winning school will host President Obama as their 2011 commencement speaker. The application includes essay questions and statistical information that illustrate how schools are promoting college and career readiness while establishing a culture of student success and academic excellence. Applications must be submitted by Friday, February 25, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Following the application deadline, the White House and the Department will select six finalists. Viacom's Get Schooled Foundation will then work with these schools to create short videos that will be featured—along with the essay questions—on the White House web site. The public will have the opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President's goal. (Last year, more than 1,000 schools applied, and some 170,000 individuals weighed in on short videos and essays from the six finalists.) The President will pick a winner from among these three. Senior officials will attend the commencements of the runner-up schools.

In a video kicking-off the latest challenge, Simon Boehme, the salutatorian from last year's winning school (Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan) and current freshman at the University of Michigan, visited the White House to discuss the challenge with President Obama.

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Education Dashboard

The Department has launched a web site providing convenient and transparent access to key national and state education data, highlighting the progress being made at every level of the education system and encouraging communities to engage in an informed conversation about their schools. This first version of the U.S. Education Dashboard contains a set of 16 indicators, ranging from student participation in early learning through completion of postsecondary education, as well as indicators on teachers and leaders and equity. This version also includes a section which supplies data on whether subgroups are performing sufficiently. The interface allows users to easily find information they need and view it in several different ways. For example, on a single web page, those interested are able to view indicators of the nation's performance in education, gauge their state's progress, and see how their state is performing compared to other states. The interface also allows users to download customized reports for further analysis. The Department is committed to regularly updating the Dashboard's data and to enhancing the tools on the web site. The indicators will be updated as new information becomes available, and users are encouraged to send comments (to dashboard@ed.gov) so that usability and functionality can be improved.

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NAEP 2009: Science Assessment

The Nation's Report Card: Science 2009 presents the achievement of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered by the Department in 2009. National results for each of the three grades are based on representative samples of public and private school students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense schools. State results are reported separately for fourth- and eighth-graders from 46 states and the Department of Defense schools. Only 34% of fourth-graders, 30% of eighth-graders, and 21% of twelfth-graders nationwide performed at or above the proficient level in science. Scores were higher than the nation in 24 states/jurisdictions at fourth-grade and 25 states/jurisdictions at eighth-grade. Because of changes to the assessment, the 2009 results cannot be compared to those from previous assessment years. Yet, they provide a current snapshot of what American students know and can do in science that will serve as the basis for comparison with future assessments. The results also underline differences in students' performance based on certain demographic characteristics. Indeed, some states that scored lower than the nation overall had racial/ethnic groups that scored higher than their peers nationally. Note: The Secretary's statement on the report card is available online.)

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Supporting Military Families

Recently, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden announced nearly 50 commitments by federal agencies responding to the President's new directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive federal approach to supporting military families. "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment" details these commitments, grouped under four strategic priorities: (1) enhancing the well-being and psychological health of the military family; (2) ensuring excellence in military children's education and development, (3) developing career and educational opportunities for military spouses, and (4) increasing child care availability and quality throughout the Armed Forces. The Department will make supporting military families one of its supplemental priorities for discretionary grant programs. This priority, when applied, will favor grant applications that meet the unique needs of military-connected students. The Department has already made accessing and processing financial aid more tailored to military families and less prone to the financial fluctuations of Guard and Reserve personnel. And, the Department is seeking better ways to collect and report data pertaining to military-connected children. (Note: The Department's new Veterans and Military Families web site can be found here.)

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Odds and Ends

  • On January 21, Secretary Duncan addressed business and community leaders at an event hosted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis and joined U.S. Congressman John Kline and Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius for a visit to Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lakeville.

  • On January 31, Secretary Duncan joined U.S. Congressman John Lewis and filmmaker Spike Lee for a town hall meeting and panel discussion hosted by Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he renewed his call for more African-American men to teach. (Note: The Secretary wrote his own blog entry.)

  • The Department has selected 150 school districts—from among the 245 applications it received—to take part in the upcoming conference on labor-management collaboration February 15 and 16 in Denver. This broad cross-section of districts closely mirrors the make-up of the nation's schools. Approximately 34% are from cities, 34% are from suburbs, 8% are from towns, and 24% are from rural areas. The districts are almost evenly split, between those with less than 10,000 students and those with more than 10,000 students. Overall, 5.2 million students will be affected by the work of the districts participating.

  • The Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has a new blog, as well as a monthly e-newsletter for superintendents and staff.

  • In prepared remarks at the release of Harvard University's "Pathways to Prosperity" report, the Secretary said he wanted "to suggest two takeaway messages.... First, for too long, career and technical education has been the neglected stepchild of education reform. That neglect has to stop. And second, the need to re-imagine and remake CTE is urgent. CTE has an enormous, if often overlooked impact on students, school systems, and our ability to prosper as a nation.... The mission of CTE has to change. It can no longer be about earning a diploma and landing a job after high school. The main goal of CTE 2.0 should be that students earn a postsecondary degree or an industry-recognized certification and land a job that leads to a successful career." (Note: The Secretary's speech is available online.)

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Quote to Note

"Last night [in his State of the Union address], President Obama clearly signaled his commitment to education and his desire to fix No Child Left Behind. This strong interest in fixing NCLB comes from both sides of the aisle... as well as from governors of both parties and local education leaders from across the country. People realize that the current law has many flaws, from mislabeling to overreaching to lowering standards. On many issues Democrats and Republicans can share a common sense agenda."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (1/26/11), on a press call with a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators

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Upcoming Events

President Obama will release his Fiscal Year 2012 budget on February 14.

February is African-American History Month, and February 21 is Presidents Day. Need help planning your education activities? The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers more than 1,500 free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 140 resources specifically highlighted for these events.

The Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is hosting a series of regional meetings to engage stakeholders on what makes for quality education for English Learners. A diverse assembly of stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, policymakers, researchers, students, and parents, will have the opportunity to identify areas of concern, share promising practices for classrooms and schools, and define new directions for reform and transformation in English Learner instruction. The series consists of three common dialogues, on different dates, each with a satellite site. The first meeting is February 10 and 11, in Dallas (main) and Chicago (satellite). There is no registration fee, and participants may use state and local Title I and/or Title III funds (if available) to pay for their travel and lodging.

Also, building off the first White House Summit on Community Colleges, the Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) is sponsoring one-day community college regional summits in Philadelphia (February 28), Houston (March 9), Indianapolis (March 23), and San Diego (April 15) and a virtual community college symposium the week of April 25, to bring together community college leaders, students, faculty, business leaders, philanthropic organizations, and other workforce development experts to discuss the role that community colleges play in efforts to increase the number of college graduates and prepare graduates to lead today's workforce.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the 2011 National Reading Recovery and K-6 Classroom Literacy Conference in Columbus, OH (February 5-8), the Association of Teacher Educators' Annual Meeting in Orlando (February 12-16), the National Association of Bilingual Education's Annual Conference in New Orleans (February 16-18), and the American Association of School Administrators' Annual Meeting in Denver (February 17-19). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Stacey Jordan, (202) 401-0026, Stacey.Jordan@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 02/16/2011