NEWSLETTERS
April 15, 2011 ED Review
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 April 15, 2011
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Budget Agreement
Addressing Sexual Violence
Safeguarding Student Privacy
Commencement Challenge
One Million Volunteers
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Budget Agreement

On Friday evening and in his Saturday weekly address, President Obama discussed the bipartisan budget agreement that averted a government shutdown, cuts spending, and invests in the future.

"This is good news for the American people," the President said in his weekly address. "This is an agreement to invest in our country's future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful—programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But, we also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues. And, beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect the investments that will help us compete for new jobs—investments in our kids' education and student loans; in clean energy and medical research."

The deal, which finances the federal government through September 30, cuts spending by $78.5 billion from the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request and is $37.6 billion below FY 2010 enacted levels. Funding levels for certain agency programs are specified; the Department is determining funding levels for remaining agency programs. Key education programs, including Title I grants to school districts ($14.5 billion) and special education grants to states ($12.3 billion), are approximately level-funded. (All domestic discretionary programs are reduced by 0.2% due to an across-the-board rescission.) The maximum Pell Grant award will stay at $5,550. There is also new funding for innovative programs, with approximately $700 million for a new round of Race to the Top (with a priority on early childhood education), $150 million for another round of Investing in Innovation (i3) grants, and a $20 million increase for the Promise Neighborhoods program.

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Addressing Sexual Violence

Last week, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges, and universities better understand their obligations, under federal civil rights laws, to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault. The guidance (announced at the University of New Hampshire, which has demonstrated a strong commitment to fighting sexual assault) makes clear the obligations under Title IX of any educational institution receiving federal aid to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence. It also provides practical examples to aid educators in ensuring the safety of their students.

Under Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, discrimination may include sexual violence—such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. This guidance is the first to specifically advise schools, colleges, and universities that their responsibilities under Title IX involve protecting students form sexual violence. It also details enforcement strategies that schools and the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may use to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects.

For 20 years, the Vice President has led the fight to combat violence against women. As the lead author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, then-Senator Biden exposed high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking experienced by women every day in this country, redefining the way domestic violence is handled via changes in law enforcement, improvements in the criminal justice system, and the establishment of shelters and services for victims. Yet, in spite of the major progress made since the passage of VAWA, the threat of violence and abuse continues for a new generation of women. Women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while 1 in 5 will be a victim of sexual assault during college. The Administration is fully committed to raising awareness and promoting policies to prevent sexual violence against women of all ages. (Note: Related resources include a fact sheet and a "Know Your Rights" two-pager.)

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Safeguarding Student Privacy

This week, the Department announced a series of initiatives to safeguard student privacy while also clarifying that states have the flexibility to share school data that are necessary to judge the effectiveness of government investments in education. Over time, interpretations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) have complicated valid and necessary disclosures of student information without increasing privacy protections and, in some cases, dramatically decreased the protections afforded students. To help strike a balance between student records privacy and data availability, Secretary Duncan has taken the following steps:

  • Chief Privacy Officer. Kathleen Styles joins the Department from the U.S. Census Bureau, where she most recently served as Chief of the Office of Analysis and Executive Support. She will serve as senior advisor to the Secretary on all of the agency's policies and programs related to privacy, confidentiality, and data security. She will also lead a new division dedicated to advancing the responsible stewardship, collection, use, maintenance, and disclosure of information at the national level, and she will coordinate technical assistance efforts for states, districts, and other stakeholders, helping them understand important privacy issues.
  • Privacy Technical Assistance Center. The center has been established in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which is part of the Department's Institute for Education Sciences (IES). It will serve as a one-stop resource for the P-20 community on privacy, confidentiality, and data security. It will also develop a toolkit, a library of resources, and checklists for data governance plans, as well as provide technical assistance site visits to states and coordinate regional meetings to share training materials.
  • Technical Briefs Featuring Best Practices. NCES has launched a new series of technical briefs that further the national conversation on the best practices of data security and privacy protections. The briefs are intended to serve as resources for practitioners to consider adopting and/or adapting to complement the work they are already doing. A number of briefs have already been released and are posted online.

In addition, the Department has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) under FERPA. The proposed regulations would give states the flexibility to share data to ensure that taxpayer funds are invested wisely in effective programs and increase accountability for institutions that handle FERPA-protected records. The public has until May 23 to submit written comments at Regulations.gov.

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Commencement Challenge

The White House has announced six high schools as finalists for this year's Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Over the next few weeks, each school's students will work closely with the Get Schooled Foundation to create a short video highlighting how their school best fulfills the challenge's criteria. The six videos, along with portions of each school's written application, will be featured on the White House's web site, and the public will have the opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best demonstrate a commitment to preparing students for college and a career. The President will select a winner from the three finalists, visiting the school to deliver the commencement address later this spring. Senior officials will attend the commencements of the runner-up schools.

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One Million Volunteers

The United Way Education Town Hall, held March 31 at Trinity University in Washington, D.C., was broadcast live over the Internet and is available for viewing here. During the event, United Way Worldwide President Brian Gallagher announced his organization's commitment to recruit one million readers, tutors, and mentors to enhance the education and lives of young people. CNN's Soledad O'Brien, the event moderator, interviewed Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes and Secretary Duncan, and staff from the Department's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Corporation for National and Community Service were leading participants.

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Odds and Ends

  • More states have been approved under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program to receive fiscal 2010 funding to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools. Four states were approved on April 1, and 11 states were approved on April 8. Also, at the National 4-H Youth Conference, the Secretary said the formation of partnerships with public and private groups, such as the 4-H and land grant university extensions, "provides the best chance for rural areas to turn around their lowest-performing schools and keep children from dropping out."

  • On April 4, Secretary Duncan and nearly 150 presidents and other leaders from Hispanic-serving institutions gathered at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' National Capitol Forum to discuss initiatives to ensure greater college access and completion for the nation's Latino population.

  • On April 8, in New Orleans, the Secretary delivered remarks at the Education Writers Association's National Seminar and hosted two events: a panel discussion highlighting the work of New Schools for New Orleans and the Recovery School District and a town hall to promote the TEACH Campaign.

  • At the second annual meeting of Parenting magazine's Mom Congress (April 12), the Secretary urged parents to demand better results from the country's educational system. "Your voice, your passion, your fierce advocacy is what the country has been missing," he stated. He called upon parents to be part of the solution and offer suggestions on how we can work together to close achievement gaps and improve student learning.

  • A reminder: mid-May is the deadline for submission of applications under several grant competitions, including the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program (May 9), the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (May 13), and the Advanced Placement Incentive Program (May 16).

  • NCES's "America's High School Graduates" transcript study presents information on the types of courses that high school graduates in the Class of 2009 took during high school, how many credits they earned, what grades they received, and how their coursetaking patterns related to performance on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math and science assessments, while NCES's "Digest of Education Statistics, 2010" provides a compilation of statistical information covering the field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, especially from surveys and other activities led by NCES.

  • The tenth edition of "Beating the Odds," from the Council of the Great City Schools, examines the academic progress of 65 urban school systems in 36 states and the District of Columbia, noting measurable gains from 2007 to 2010 in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics scores on state assessments and presenting some evidence that achievement gaps may be narrowing.

  • Earth Day (April 22) is fast approaching. The Environmental Protection Agency's Earth Day web site offers resources on how to be more environmentally friendly, including lesson plans for teachers. Also, there is an interactive map to help you find Earth Day activities in your community where you can attend an event or volunteer.

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Quote to Note

"The Department maintains its commitment to education, employment, and equality for all individuals on the autism spectrum. In addition to the 300,000 children on the autism spectrum receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 6,435 individuals with autism participating in vocational rehabilitation programs, federal grants fund research, technical assistance, and both family and personnel support to benefit those with autism and their families. April is also designated as National Autism Awareness Month. We encourage everyone to spend time this month learning more about autism and the issues that are important to the autism community."

        Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny (4/1/11)

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Upcoming Events

April is School Library Month. This year's theme is "Create Your Own Story." To celebrate the month, the American Association of School Librarians has a wide range of programming and publicity materials.

On April 19, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) are hosting a call for district superintendents and their staff to discuss productivity and flexibility—based on a set of documents released by the agency that share promising practices on how to spend education funds productively and highlight flexibility available for spending federal funds. To RSVP for the call, please contact Tina Chong at Tina.Chong@ed.gov. To be added to the superintendent email list, please visit here.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will be exhibiting at the National Afterschool Association's Convention in Orlando (April 16-18), the Council for Exceptional Children's Convention in suburban Washington, D.C. (April 25-28), the National Catholic Education Association's Convention in New Orleans (April 26-28), and the Council on Educating Black Children's Convention in Las Vegas (April 28-30). 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
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 04/26/2011