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March 18, 2011 ED Review
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 March 18, 2011
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Education Month
Visiting Capitol Hill
All Means All
Preventing Bullying
International Teaching Summit
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Education Month

Over the past several weeks, celebrating a month focused on education, President Obama has highlighted schools across the nation that demonstrate the impact of reforms at the state and local level, the importance of shared responsibility in education, and, most importantly, the goal of achieving results. First, at Florida's Miami Central High School, along with Secretary Duncan and former Governor Jeb Bush, he commended the school community for coming together and carrying out the difficult reforms necessary to turn around a low-performing school. Central has received roughly $784,000 in federal funding to support and accelerate turnaround efforts already underway, which has seen some early successes (see background and the Secretary's op-ed. Next, at Massachusetts' TechBoston Academy, along with the Secretary and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the President discussed the shared responsibility and positive results of public and private sectors in the education of America's children. TechBoston incorporates technology into every classroom, provides access to cutting-edge curriculum, and establishes partnerships with business and philanthropic leaders to supply its students with a powerful educational program (see background and the press release. Then, at Kenmore Middle School in northern Virginia, the President articulated key priorities for reforming No Child Left Behind that will enable "us to win the future and prepare our students to out-educate and out-compete the world in the 21st century economy." He praised current efforts by Congressional leaders to replace the law and urged lawmakers to make these vital changes before the start of the next school year (see the fact sheet and the Secretary's remarks.

Also, last week, President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited an Advanced Placement (AP) history class at Wakefield High School in northern Virginia.

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Visiting Capitol Hill

On March 9, Secretary Duncan testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on the President's education agenda. "No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken, and we need to fix it this year," he stated. "It has created dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair, flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk." No Child Left Behind requires all schools to meet annual targets—Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)—aimed at making all students 100% proficient in language arts and math by 2014. The Administration's Blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act recognizes and rewards high-poverty schools and school districts that show improvement based on progress and growth. States and districts would have to identify and intervene in schools that persistently fail to narrow achievement gaps. For schools making modest gains, states and districts would have more flexibility to determine improvement and support outcomes.

Also, on March 15, Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on the importance of Pell Grants.

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All Means All

In prepared remarks to the American Association of People with Disabilities, Secretary Duncan declared students with disabilities should be judged with the same accountability system as everyone else. "I want to say—here and now, for the record—we are moving away from the 2% rule," he stressed. "We will not issue another policy that allows districts to disguise the educational performance of 2% of students." Instead, he continued, "We have to expect the very best from our students—and tell the truth about student performance—so that we can give all students the supports and services they need." Since 2005, the Department has exercised its regulatory authority to permit states and districts to essentially shield certain test scores of students with disabilities when determining AYP. Specifically, proficient scores for up to 2% of all students within the grades assessed can be reported using alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards, and states without appropriate alternate assessments had been allowed, for purposes of AYP, to use a proxy, counting as proficient the scores of that 2% of students, regardless of how they actually performed. While the Department will continue to allow states with approved alternate assessments to use these tests, consistent with the regulation, until the development of new and improved assessments, the so-called "proxy rule," which was discontinued back in 2009, remains off the table.

Also, a day earlier, the Secretary stopped by Beers Elementary School in Washington, D.C. to get a close-up look at one school that is successfully integrating students with disabilities into the school culture.

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Preventing Bullying

At the recent White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, the President and the First Lady called for a united effort to address bullying. Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, advocates, and policymakers convened to discuss how they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students. "If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not," President Obama said. "Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And, it's not something that we have to accept. As parents and students, teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe."

Also, the White House spotlighted federal, non-profit, and private commitments to the prevention of bullying, including a new web site with information on what bullying is, its risk factors, its warning signs, and its effects, as well as how to get help for those that have been victimized by bullying; the First Couple released a special video message; and Secretary Duncan delivered remarks.

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International Teaching Summit

This week, in New York City, Secretary Duncan joined ministers, teachers, and union leaders from high-performing and rapidly-improving educational systems around the world for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. The event aimed to identify and elaborate on best practices for recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers in ways that enhance the profession and elevate student performance. Foreign delegations held sessions on teacher recruitment and preparation; development, support, and retention of teachers; teacher evaluation and compensation; and teacher engagement in education reform. In the following weeks, the Asia Society will lead host organizations in preparing and publishing a paper outlining summit discussions and emerging lessons on how to strengthen the teaching profession.

Also, in an op-ed, the Secretary, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Angel Gurria, and General Secretary of Education International Fred van Leeuwen previewed the summit.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a letter to Chief State School Officers, the Secretary announced he had established the Implementation and Support Unit (ISU) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, to better assist states as they implement comprehensive reforms to improve student outcomes. The ISU will serve as a single point of contact at the Department for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) programs that require the direct involvement of governors and Chiefs. The ISU will also function as a laboratory for ideas on how the Department can improve its services to states and identify and share best practices across the agency.

  • With March Madness underway, the Secretary discussed the latest NCAA graduation rates, noting that 10 of the 68 men's basketball teams in the postseason tournament are not on track to graduate even half of their players.

  • As part of the Administration's efforts to support military families, the Department issued guidance regarding public school attendance policies and children of military-connected families.

  • Karen Cator, Director of the Department's Office of Educational Technology, answered a range of questions from the Edutopia.org community about the latest National Education Technology Plan.

  • The Department's Family Policy Compliance Office released its annual notice to states and districts of their responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

  • A separate Chiefs' letter announces the extension of Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) through 2011.

  • Proposed priorities for the Promise Neighborhoods competition are available for public comment and include planning and implementation grants, contingent upon the final Fiscal Year 2011 budget.

  • "Projections of Education Statistics to 2019" provides data on student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for K-12 schools and degree-granting institutions.

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Quote to Note

"In the midst of economic recovery and global upheaval, disasters like [the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan] remind us of the common humanity that we share. We see it in the responders who are risking their lives at Fukushima. We show it through the help that has poured into Japan from 70 countries. And, we hear it in the cries of a child, miraculously pulled from the rubble. In the coming days, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety of American citizens and the security of sources of energy. And, we will stand with the people of Japan, as they contain this crisis, recover from this hardship, and rebuild their great nation."

        President Barack Obama (3/17/11), during a press conference on the situation in Japan

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Upcoming Events

March is Women's History Month. Need help planning 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 37 resources specifically highlighted for this month.

In April and May, the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) is planning four capacity-building conferences on successfully implementing School Improvement Grants.

The violent earthquake in Japan is a stark reminder for American schools that earthquake preparedness is important. The 2011 Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is an earthquake drill that will take place on April 28 at 10:15 a.m. in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Indiana will ShakeOut, at the same time, on April 19. Over 1.1 million participants, across 766 schools and districts and 43 colleges and universities, have registered. Seven million Californians participated in 2009's Great California ShakeOut, practicing "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" and other aspects of family, school, and organizational emergency plans, and the ShakeOut is now spreading to other areas.

Through tomorrow (March 19), the Department is exhibiting at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City and TESOL's Convention in New Orleans. If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 03/24/2011