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May 27, 2011 ED Review
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 May 27, 2011
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Race to the Top
Budget Tables
Student Loan Default Rate
Lessons from High-Performing Nations
Condition of Education 2011
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Race to the Top

In the Fiscal Year 2011 budget agreement passed in mid-April, Congress appropriated $700 million for the Race to the Top initiative and authorized a specific early learning initiative. In response, on May 25, the Department announced plans for two state-level competitions: $500 million will support the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, while $200 million will support those finalists that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development. In both a town hall meeting and conference call, Secretary Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also challenged the full innovation community—leading researchers, high-tech entrepreneurs, foundations, non-profits, and others—to fully engage with the early learning community and to close the school readiness gap. States applying for grants will be encouraged to increase access to quality early learning programs for disadvantaged and low-income children, design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and programs, and help parents make informed decisions about child care.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will be administered jointly by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The public may provide input, including data and relevant research, here. Guidance, eligibility, and number and range of awards will be announced in coming weeks. The application will be released later this summer, with grants awarded to states no later than December 31, 2011.

Meanwhile, the nine finalist states that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top will be eligible to compete for $200 million in additional funds this year. Applications will be available this fall. The states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—may seek grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million, depending on population and the final number of grants. Given that these grants are smaller than the grants they originally applied for, states will work with the Department to redo their Race to the Top plans to reflect a more limited scope of work. States' Race to the Top applications were scored on a 500-point scale across a broad set of criteria. While the 12 original winners of Race to the Top scored 440 or above, all of the 21 finalists scored above 412. The non-finalists scored more than 20 points lower.

The Obama Administration has also proposed to continue Race to the Top in fiscal year 2012 and is seeking authority to develop a school district-level competition.

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Budget Tables

Last week, the Department posted budget tables showing program funding levels for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, through September 30. Despite the need to make some tough cuts, the Administration successfully sought for, and received, a $5.5 billion increase in funding for Pell Grants, ensuring that over nine million students will continue to receive grants up to a maximum of $5,550. The Department also received funding for several of the President's education priorities, including $700 million for Race to the Top (see above), $150 million for the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund, and $30 million for the Promise Neighborhoods program, as well as funding to maintain levels for critical formula programs, including Title I grants to school districts and special education grants to states. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE GO TO. (Note: A comparison table showing the change between FY 2010 and FY 2011 and state allocations by program and state are available online.)

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Student Loan Default Rate

The Department recently announced that the draft Fiscal Year 2009 national student cohort default rate is 8.9%, up from 6.7% in FY 2007 and 7% in the FY 2008. The default rate is a snapshot in time, representing the cohort of borrowers whose loan repayments came due between October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2009, and who defaulted on or before September 30, 2010. Some 3.7 million borrowers entered repayment during this time, and 327,669 borrowers went into default. They attended 5,956 participating institutions. (Borrowers who default after their first two years of repayment are not measured as defaulters in this data.) As a historical comparison, in FY 1990, nearly one in four borrowers defaulted on their federal loans when rates set an all-time high of 22.4%. The rate dropped to a record low of 4.5% in FY 2003. (Note: Institutions with excessive default rates—of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years—may lose eligibility from federal student aid programs. However, draft rates do not result in sanctions and can change between now and the release of the official default rate in September. Therefore, institutional draft default rates are not made public.)

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Lessons from High-Performing Nations

This week, Secretary Duncan delivered the keynote address at a National Center on Education and the Economy symposium focused on "What the U.S. Can Learn from the Nations with the Best Performing Education Systems." He discussed lessons on improving education from around the world, highlighting examples from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education" and the International Summit on the Teaching Profession hosted by the Department—with U.S.-based and international education organizations—in March. "I would sort the lessons into three baskets," he stated. "First, I think it is clear that most high-performing countries establish a number of common principles and cornerstones to build a strong education system and high-quality teaching profession. Every nation has unique characteristics of its teaching profession, culture, and education system, which may not be directly analogous to the U.S. But to the extent that the U.S. can copy or adapt, and beg, borrow, and steal, successful practices from other nations, we should do so.... In the second basket of lessons are reforms that, while important and invaluable, cannot be easily replicated or exported to the U.S. at a national level. In the third basket of lessons, I would place educational innovations here in the U.S. that are of great interest overseas and may help lead the way to strengthening the education system both here and abroad. The U.S. absolutely has much to learn from other nations. But we can also lead by example in some areas as well."

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Condition of Education 2011

On May 26, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), released "The Condition of Education 2011," a Congressionally mandated report to the country on education in America today. The report includes 50 indicators in five major areas—education participation, learner outcomes, student effort and educational progress, the contexts of elementary and secondary education, and the contexts of postsecondary education. The report also includes a special analysis on postsecondary education. Among the notable findings: from 2000 to 2009, undergraduate enrollment increased from 13 million to 18 million students; in 2009, approximately 84% of students from high-income families (the top 20% of all family incomes) enrolled in either a two- or four-year college immediately after high school, versus 67% of students from middle-income families and 55% of students from low-income families (the bottom 20% of all family incomes); and, by 2009, about 57% of first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a four-year college in 2002-03 had completed their degree at that same institution within six years.

Also: Doing What Works staff are engaging national organizations to help bring research into action and to assist educators in implementing research-based practices more effectively.

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Odds and Ends

  • Test obsession, the narrowing of curricula, blaming teachers—these are a few of the problems resulting from the No Child Left Behind Act that are unpacked in the newly revised "Teacher's Guide to Fixing No Child Left Behind" animated video.

  • Five 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.

  • The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance through letters to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education on the legal obligation to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of technology.

  • Earlier this week, Secretary Duncan joined Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Francis Eberle, Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), to announce the launch of a new energy education initiative: America's Home Energy Education Challenge. This initiative is aimed at educating youth about the benefits of energy efficiency, motivating students to play an active role in how their families use energy, and helping families across the country save money. (Note: A blog entry further details the initiative.)

  • Also this week, Secretary Duncan joined Twitter. You can follow him here. A comprehensive list of the Department's social media channels is posted online.

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Quotes to Note

"Every commencement is a day of celebration.... But this one is especially hopeful. This one is especially hopeful because some people say that schools like [Booker T. Washington High School] just aren't supposed to succeed in America. You'll hear them say, 'The streets are too rough in those neighborhoods.' 'The schools are too broken.' 'The kids don't stand a chance.' We are here today because every single one of you stood tall and said, 'Yes, we can.' 'Yes, we can learn.' 'Yes, we can succeed.' You decided you would not be defined by where you come from but by where you want to go, by what you want to achieve, by the dreams you hope to fulfill.... Today, Booker T. Washington is a place that has proven why we can't accept excuses—any excuses—when it comes to education. In the United States of America, we should never accept anything less than the best that our children have to offer."

        President Barack Obama (5/16/11), in his commencement address at BTW High School in Memphis, winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

"We need to promote reform that gets results while encouraging communities to figure out what's best for their kids. That's why it is so important Congress replace No Child Left Behind this year, so schools have flexibility. Reform just cannot wait. If anyone doubts this, they ought to head to Booker T. Washington High School. They ought to meet these inspiring young students who overcame so much—and worked so hard—to earn their diplomas, in a school that believed in their promise and gave them the opportunity to succeed. We need to give every child in America that chance. That's why education reform matters."

        President Barack Obama (5/21/11), in his weekly address to the nation

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Upcoming Events

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday.

The Department's Equity and Excellence Commission is hosting a series of community outreach events, including town hall meetings June 8 in Dallas and June 10 in Boston. A complete list of meetings and events is available here. Also, video recordings of the second commission meeting are posted here.

On June 10, in Chicago, the Department will host the second in a series of public meetings related to the Race to the Top Assessment grants. This second meeting will bring together representatives from the two assessment consortia and an invitational panel of experts to discuss the use of automated scoring in the new assessment systems being developed by grantees. Future meetings will look at the inclusion of English Language Learner students and students with disabilities (August 10 in Washington, D.C.); innovation in item types; and the selection of a uniform growth model that is consistent with test purpose, structure, and intended uses.

The Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) will host its National Conference August 8-10 in suburban Washington, D.C. Sessions at the conference will focus on youth alcohol and drug abuse prevention; bullying and cyber-bullying; violence prevention in schools; emergency management; health, mental health, and physical education; data collection; special populations; and emerging issues. The conference targets, among others, potential OSDFS grantees, juvenile justice practitioners, policymakers, education and prevention leaders, and school administrators.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in New Orleans (June 6-8), the National PTA Convention in Orlando (June 9-12), and the National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development in Providence, Rhode Island (June 12-15). 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: 06/06/2011