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May 13, 2011 ED Review
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 May 13, 2011
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Appreciating Teachers
Honoring Students
Educational Productivity
Arts in Education
Commencement Addresses
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Appreciating Teachers

In a series of events during Teacher Appreciation Week (open letter; personal video), Secretary Duncan honored America's 7.2 million early learning, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary teachers. On National Teacher Day (May 3), he stopped by Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, where he surprised staff at an appreciation breakfast sponsored by the school's PTA and congratulated Matt Tosilleo, a third-grade teacher and the 2011 Arlington County Teacher of the Year. Later that afternoon, he joined President Obama for a special Rose Garden ceremony honoring the 2011 National Teacher of the Year, Michelle Shearer of Maryland, and the State Teachers of the Year. A 14-year veteran, Shearer is certified in chemistry and special education and currently teaches Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry at Urbana High School in Frederick County. Previously, she taught chemistry and math at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Her "specialty," stated the President, "is taking students who are normally under-represented in science... and helping them discover the scientist within." Then, on May 5, the Department welcomed the State Teachers of the Year for roundtable discussions with senior staff and Teacher Ambassador Fellows. Among the topics of conversation were effective teaching, teacher preparation, school leadership, school turnarounds, and family/community involvement. Following the roundtables, groups presented key recommendations to senior staff and asked questions. Each recommendation and question was addressed by several members of the senior staff.

Also, Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez, and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny thanked teachers who had made a difference in their lives; the 2011 National Online Teacher of the Year, Kristin Kipp, spent a full day shadowing Director of Educational Technology Karen Cator; and the White House welcomed a group of teachers for a roundtable discussion as part of its "Champions of Change" listening series.

In addition, Teacher Ambassador Fellow Laurie Calvert authored and presented a new video for teachers. "A Teacher's Guide to Fixing No Child Left Behind" details some of the main problems created by the No Child Left Behind Act and describes the President's proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This video offers a vision that strengthens teaching, raises standards, narrows achievement gaps, and prepares all students for college and careers.

(Note: A comprehensive summary of the week is available online.)

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Honoring Students

Last week, the Secretary announced the selection of 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts. Each year, 141 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, and 20 students are scholars in the arts. Over 3,000 candidates qualified on the basis of significant ACT or SAT scores or nomination through the national youngARTS competition of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. The Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by the President, chooses finalists. Scholars will be recognized June 18-21 in Washington, D.C. Each scholar will invite the teacher who had the greatest impact on his or her success to participate in the activities and receive a certificate of appreciation.

Also last week, Deputy Secretary Tony Miller praised the accomplishments of Mathletes and presented medals to the winning MATHCOUNTS teams at the 2011 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition.

This week, President Obama announced Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee, as the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Some 400 high schools competed for the honor of having the President as a graduation speaker. The applications, consisting of short videos and essays showing dedication to academics at all levels, were narrowed down by the Department and the White House Domestic Policy Council to six finalists, and, between April 21 and April 29, nearly 100,000 people voted online. The President selected the winner from among the top three finalists receiving the highest average ratings. Booker T. Washington's graduation rate increased from 55% in 2007 to 81.6% in 2010. The school has taken steps such as creating separate freshmen academies for boys and girls to help students adjust to the school culture and establishing an atmosphere where educators can take personal interest in seeing students take pride in their school's work. Students now take AP classes, learn about engineering through robotics competitions, and earn college credits. (Note: Recognizing the extraordinary achievements and outstanding efforts by each finalist, senior Administration officials will attend the commencements of the runner-up schools.)

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Educational Productivity

In March, to help states meet the challenge of doing more with less and to protect public schools from counterproductive cuts, the Secretary released promising practices on the effective, efficient, and responsible use of resources in tight budget times. Building off of this work, the Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) has compiled information to help schools, school districts, and states increase their educational productivity. This information has been pulled from numerous resources, in particular the work of leading thinkers in the field. It is organized into 10 reform categories, each aligned with various strategies, practices, or approaches that seek to increase productivity by: (1) improving outcomes while maintaining current costs; (2) maintaining current outcomes while lowering costs; or (3) improving outcomes and lowering costs. The strategies seek to invest in what works, make better use of technology, reduce mandates that hinder productivity, pay and manage for results, take full advantage of existing opportunities, and make short-term investments for long-term results. Guiding these strategies are two underlying principles: putting student learning first and protecting the neediest children and communities. While some of these strategies will have a greater impact on budgets and spending than others, each represents a potential opportunity to contribute to improved productivity at the school, district, or state level.

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Arts in Education

During the Arts Education Partnership meeting in early May, the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities introduced its landmark report, "Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America's Future." The value of arts education is often phrased in enrichment terms -- helping kids find their voice, rounding out their education and tapping into their undiscovered talents. This is true, but, as the committee witnessed in schools across the country, it is also an effective tool in school-wide reform and in fixing some of the nation's biggest educational challenges. To realize the true potential of arts education, the report argues for a marriage of arts education strategies with overall educational goals. To accomplish this requires dynamic collaboration between classroom teachers, arts specialists, and teaching artists to develop creative environments and using all the tools available to reach and engage students in learning.

"A Snapshot of Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 2009-10," a new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), presents selected findings from seven Congressionally mandated arts in education surveys. During the 2009-10 school year, most of the nation's schools offered instruction in music (94% of elementary schools and 91% of secondary schools) and visual arts (83% of elementary schools and 89% of secondary schools), but instruction in dance (3% of elementary schools and 12% of secondary schools) and drama/theater (4% of elementary schools and 45% of secondary schools) was more limited. This first report will be followed by a second, fuller report that includes all 2009-10 items with comparisons by school characteristics.

On May 10, the Department and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) hosted an event celebrating and supporting national music programs. Students from Maryland's George Fox and Lime Kiln middle schools performed on the plaza at the Lyndon Baines Johnson building in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, attendees participated in a public drum and ukulele circle to experience playing music first-hand.

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Commencement Addresses

President Obama and Deputy Secretary Miller recently gave commencement addresses at institutions of higher education (IHEs). The President spoke at Miami Dade College before an audience of 4,000 graduates, family members, and faculty. The college is one of the nation's largest IHEs, with more than 170,000 students, and one of the nation's largest Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), serving thousands of African-American and Hispanic students. "I believe that community colleges like this one are critical pathways to the middle class that equip students with the education and skills necessary to compete and win in this 21st century," the President noted. "That's why I've made community colleges a centerpiece of my education agenda -- along with helping more students afford college. I couldn't be prouder of the work we've done in community colleges. And your accomplishment today is vital to America reclaiming the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020." (Background on Miami Dade College is here). The Deputy Secretary spoke at Fayetteville State University. The university, North Carolina's second-oldest public institution, serves more than 6,300 students and is an Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Also, it has a strong footprint in China -- with dual degree exchange agreements with five universities there. "As you pursue your passions, your careers, and build a family in the years ahead," the Deputy Secretary said, "I would like to add one more path to follow. I hope that every graduate comes to feel an obligation to be involved in some way in transforming education so that the students behind you go to college and earn their degrees too. Take your education, and pay it forward. Res Non Verba; Deeds, Not Words."

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Odds and Ends

  • In a May 6 "Dear Colleague" letter, the Administration reminds school administrators of their obligation under federal law to enroll children, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The letter cites Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, among other factors, by public schools. It also cites Plyler v. Doe, the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a state may not deny access to a basic public education to any child, whether that child is present in the country legally or not. Both the letter and the accompanying materials (fact sheet; questions-and-answers) declare schools may require proof (for example, lease agreements, utility bills, or other documents) that a child lives within school district boundaries. However, schools may not discourage the enrollment of undocumented children by inquiring about their immigration status, deny enrollment to those with foreign birth certificates, or deny enrollment to children whose parents decline to provide their Social Security numbers or race/ ethnicity information.

  • The Nation's Report Card: Civics 2010 finds achievement by U.S. fourth-graders in civics has increased, while eighth-graders' performance was not significantly different and twelfth-graders' performance has declined. Indeed, the report shows that fourth-graders posted the highest civics score since 1998, with the percentages of students at or above the Basic and Proficient achievement levels higher than in 1998 and 2006. Yet, twelfth-graders scored lower in 2010 than in 2006 and had a lower percentage at or above Proficient compared to 2006.

  • NCES's latest edition of "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data" presents findings associated with public high school graduation and event dropout counts for the 2008-09 school year. Across the U.S., the 50 states and the District of Columbia reported that a total of 3,039,015 public school students received a high school diploma, resulting in a calculated Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate of 75.5%. On the other hand, the 50 states and the District of Columbia reported 607,789 students dropped out, resulting in a calculated overall event dropout rate of 4.1%.

  • Also, IES has released the Department's first report on the revamped School Improvement Grants (SIG) program, "Baseline Analyses of SIG Applications and SIG-Eligible and SIG-Awarded Schools." This report uses publicly available data from applications, state web sites, and NCES's Common Core of Data to provide some initial information on SIG-related policies and practices that states intend to implement, as well as key characteristics of SIG-eligible and SIG-awarded schools. There are 15,518 SIG-eligible schools nationwide, with 1,247 SIG-awarded schools across 49 states. (Note: A mapping tool for the SIG data is available online.)

  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has launched a public media initiative to help improve high school graduation rates. American Graduate expands on public media's record of success in early learning to connect with students attending middle school, a critical point when the disengagement that leads to dropping out in high school frequently begins. Local public radio and television stations are at the core of this initiative and are uniquely positioned to educate and engage various stakeholders on the dropout problem, rally support, and help coordinate efforts in communities.

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Quote to Note

"Your generation was born into a world with fewer walls, a world educated in an era of information, tempered by war and economic turmoil. As our globe has grown smaller and more connected, you've shed the heavy weights of earlier generations. You have grown up more accepting and tolerant of people for who they are, regardless of race or gender or religious belief or creed or sexual orientation.... You see our diversity as a strength, not a weakness. I believe those life experiences have fortified you, as earlier generations were fortified, to meet the tests of our time. Everything I have seen of your generation has shown me that you believe, just as deeply as any previous generation, that America can always change for the better."

        President Barack Obama (4/29/11), in his commencement address at Miami Dade College

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Upcoming Events

In a May 5 Federal Register notice, the Department announced its intent to establish one or more negotiated rulemaking committees to prepare proposed regulations under the Higher Education Act, as amended. This notice also announced three public hearings (May 16 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA; May 19 at Loyola University-Lake Shore Campus in Chicago; and May 26 at the College of Charleston, SC) at which interested parties may suggest issues that should be considered for action by the committees. Moreover, the notice announced four policy roundtable discussions (May 12 at Tennessee State University in Nashville; May 17 at Pacific Lutheran University; May 20 at Loyola University-Lake Shore Campus; and May 27 at the College of Charleston) to inform policy in the areas of college completion, teacher preparation, and the proposed "First in the World" competition.

Next week, the Department will exhibit at the Boys and Girls Club of America National Conference in New Orleans (May 18-20) and the Armed Forces Joint Services Open House and Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. (May 20-22). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Last Modified: 05/24/2011