NEWSLETTERS
June 10, 2011 ED Review
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 June 10, 2011
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Innovation Grants
Lessons from High-Performing Nations
Gainful Employment
Tools for Higher Education
Regulatory Review
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Innovation Grants

On June 3, the Department kicked-off the 2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition to continue support for evidence-based practices in education. This second round of i3 makes $150 million available to individual school districts, consortia of districts, and non-profit organizations in partnership with districts or groups of schools. Grants will be available within the same three categories as in round one:

  • up to $25 million each for scale-up grants to applicants with the strongest evidence and track record of success;
  • up to $15 million each for validation grants to verify effectiveness of programs with moderate levels of evidence; and
  • up to $3 million each for development grants to support new, high-potential practices whose impact should be studied further.

Grant recipients will be required to secure private sector matching funds of 5%, 10%, or 15%, respectively.

Three absolute priorities remain from last year's grant competition: supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. For this year's competition, the Department has included two new absolute priorities focusing on achievement and high school graduation rates in rural schools and promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. All applicants must address one of these five areas of reform. In addition, competitive preference will be given to applications that demonstrate support for improving early learning outcomes, increasing college access and success, addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and limited English proficient students, or improving productivity or technology.

The Department will offer pre-application workshops in the coming weeks (June 17 in Washington, D.C., June 24 in San Francisco, and June 28 in Houston), along with several webinars on key topics. Applications are due on August 2. Awards will be made no later than December 31. (Note: Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a notice of intent to apply by June 23.)

Meanwhile, the Department is seeking peer reviewers from a variety of backgrounds and professions for the competition. Reviewers must have expertise in at least one of the program's five absolute priorities or in educational evaluation and be available for roughly four weeks, in August and September, to review applications. Resumes and an information checklist are due by July 8.

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Lessons from High-Performing Nations

"Improving Teacher Quality Around the World," a report authored by Asia Society's Senior Advisor for Education Vivien Stewart on behalf of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession's partner organizations, discusses lessons shared during the two-day event held in New York City in March. The summit marked the first-ever convening of education ministers, teachers, and union leaders from high-performing and rapidly improving countries and regions. Discussions were framed around four overarching themes: teacher recruitment and preparation; development, support, and retention of teachers; teacher evaluation and compensation; and teacher engagement in reform. "The report concludes that achieving consistency in teaching quality has become central to the agenda of every country," said Stewart. "To make progress, governments and teachers organizations will need to work together—as they did at this summit—to invent a new vision for the teaching profession." Plans are already underway to convene a second international summit in spring 2012.

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Gainful Employment

Recently, after an 18-month negotiation with the higher education community, the Administration released final regulations requiring career college programs to better prepare students for "gainful employment" or risk losing access to federal student aid. While many career college programs are helping to prepare America's workforce for the jobs of the future, far too many students at these schools are taking on unsustainable debt, in exchange for degrees and certificates that fail to help them get the jobs they need or were promised. The regulations, which go into effect on July 1, 2012, are designed to ramp up over the next four years, granting colleges time to reform while protecting students and their families from exploitative programs.

To qualify for federal aid, the law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at non-profit and public institutions prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. Under the new regulations, a program would be deemed to lead to gainful employment if it meets at least one of the following three metrics: at least 35% of former students are repaying their loans (defined as reducing the loan balance by at least $1); the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30% of discretionary income; or the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12% of total earnings. While the regulations apply to occupational training programs at all types of institutions, for-profit programs are most likely to leave their students with unaffordable debts and poor employment prospects.

At present, students at for-profit institutions represent 12% of all higher education students, 26% of all student loans, and 46% of all student loan dollars in default. The median federal student loan debt carried by students earning associate degrees at for-profit institutions is $14,000, while the majority of students at community colleges do not borrow. More than a quarter of for-profit institutions receive 80% of their revenue from taxpayer-financed federal student aid.

Based on thoughtful consideration of public comments and concerns, the new regulations improve upon the previously released draft proposal. Colleges will now be required to disclose their total program costs, loan repayment rates, graduates' debt-to-earning ratio, and other critical consumer information to help students better choose the program that is right for them. Also, poorly performing programs must fail the debt measure three times in a four-year period before losing access to participate in federal student aid programs—rather than losing eligibility immediately. Under the framework, the first year a program could become ineligible would be 2015. "We're asking companies that receive up to 90% of their profits from taxpayer dollars to be at least 35% effective," Secretary Duncan asserted. "This is a perfectly reasonable bar and one that every for-profit program should be able to reach."

With the emphasis on program improvement under the final regulations, the Department estimates that fewer programs will ultimately lose eligibility for participation in federal student aid programs than under the draft proposal. The agency estimates that 18% of for-profit programs are expected to fail the thresholds at some point, with 5% of them failing to improve and ultimately losing eligibility. Among programs at all institutions, approximately 8% may fail the thresholds at some point, with 2% of them failing to improve and losing eligibility.

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Tools for Higher Education

Continuing its commitment to postsecondary institutions and students, the Department announced tools to help schools raise their performance to better serve students. First, it is providing institutions with guidance on tuition-free trial periods, which give students the chance to see if a program is right for them before they commit financially. A letter to schools describes trial periods and explains how federal student aid eligibility will work. Second, it is creating and implementing a pilot program on lower loan limits. This pilot program will allow selected schools to test alternative methods of administering federal student aid by providing waivers for specific student aid requirements. Third, it is accepting proposals from guaranty agencies that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program to enter into Voluntary Flexible Agreements, or VFAs, with the Secretary. The VFAs will improve services to students, schools, and lenders; use federal resources more cost-effectively and efficiently; and enhance the integrity and stability of the FFEL program.

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Regulatory Review

As part of its implementation of Executive Order 13563, issued by President Obama on January 18, 2011, the Department is seeking comments and information from interested parties on its "Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules," which outlines the agency's plan for the periodic review of its regulations. The Department welcomes views on how best to conduct an analysis of existing rules and how best to identify those rules that might be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed. Feedback on the plan should be submitted through Regulations.gov.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a television special that premiered this week, viewers have the chance to follow the experiences of students at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, winner of this year's Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

  • The Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), has issued three new reports: "Characteristics of Private Schools in the U.S.: Results from the 2009-10 Private School Universe Survey;" "Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2009-10;" and "Education and Certification Qualifications of Departmentalized Public High School-Level Teachers of Core Subjects: Evidence from the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey."

  • Last month, at the launch of a series of "Connecting Communities for the Common Good" meetings around the country, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a comprehensive partnership guide. This guide provides interested faith-based and community organizations with information about opportunities to form partnerships across government, on issues like housing, job creation, summer meal programs, responsible fatherhood, and disaster response. The Department's own Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is participating in the series, leading workshop sessions on how community organizations can strengthen education partnerships.

  • This month, on a conference call, Secretary Duncan and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke discussed comprehensive immigration reform with members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • Yesterday (June 9), President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. Chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the council will be responsible for making recommendations for investment in rural areas and coordinate federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments. In the coming months, the council will focus on job creation and economic development by increasing the flow of capital to rural areas, promoting innovation, expanding digital and physical networks, and celebrating opportunity through America's natural resources.

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Quote to Note

"Last year, we brought together companies and community colleges to launch a new campaign, led by business leaders from across the U.S., called Skills for America's Future. The idea was simple. If we could match-up businesses and schools, we could create pipelines—right from the classroom to the office or the factory floor. This would help workers find better jobs, and it would help companies locate the highly educated and highly trained people they need in order to prosper and to remain competitive. Today, we're announcing some new commitments by the private sector, colleges, and the National Association of Manufacturers, to help make these partnerships a reality. Through these efforts, we're going to make it possible for approximately 500,000 community college students to get industry-accepted credentials for manufacturing jobs that companies across America are looking to fill. The irony is even though a lot of folks are looking for work, there are a lot of companies that are actually also looking for skilled workers. There's a mismatch that we can close. And, this partnership is a great way to do it."

        President Barack Obama (6/8/11), in remarks at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria

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Upcoming Events

On June 14, NCES will release results from the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history.

The 2011 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference in Las Vegas (November 29-December 2) is designed to provide the most up-to-date information on Title IV programs and evolving federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners. It will also cover topics ranging from the technologies associated with FSA's information systems to improved practices for supporting aid applicants and recipients. The event is the largest federal aid conference offered to the financial aid community, hosting more than 5,700 attendees in 2010.

June 20-23, the Department will exhibit at the National Charter Schools Conference in Atlanta. If you are attending this event, 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: 06/16/2011