NEWSLETTERS
July 8, 2011 ED Review
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 July 8, 2011
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Early Learning Grants
Promise Neighborhoods
Civil Rights Data Collection
College Cost Lists
Data Integrity
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning Grants

On July 1, the Obama Administration published proposed competition criteria for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) and invited public input through Monday, July 11, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The proposal outlines draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions, in accordance with the program's stated purpose: to improve the quality of early childhood programs in order to close the achievement gap for high-need children. Proposed criteria ask applicants to approve a common set of standards for children and early learning and development programs, promote high-level outcomes, implement high-quality, accountable programs, and support a strong early childhood education workforce.

As proposed, RTT-ELC awards will support comprehensive statewide plans to coordinate and elevate early learning and development programs with award sizes ranging from $50 million to $100 million, depending on state population. To better serve the needs of rural communities, the Administration may exercise discretion in choosing the winners to ensure that states with bold comprehensive reform plans that also serve large rural populations are well represented.

States will be encouraged to move their early learning and development programs to high-quality levels focused on producing successful outcomes for all children. Strong applicants would illustrate a strategy to increase access to high-quality initiatives for high-need children, as well as engage families and invest in enhancing the early childhood education workforce. Under the proposed requirements, grantees will also be expected to publicly document effective programs, to help parents make informed decisions.

Earlier, in a joint letter to the nation's governors, Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius provided additional information about the RTT-ELC and its connection with other efforts to improve the quality of early learning and development programs.

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Promise Neighborhoods

On July 6, the Department released the application for the next phase of the Promise Neighborhoods program, including a second round of planning grants and new implementation grants, totaling $30 million. Non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and Indian tribes are all eligible to apply for funds to develop or execute plans that will improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in distressed neighborhoods. The Department expects to award four to six implementation grants with an estimated grant award of $4 million to $6 million. Grantees will receive annual grants over a period of three to five years, with total awards ranging from $12 million to $30 million. Remaining 2011 funding will go toward 10 new one-year planning grants with an estimated grant award of $500,000. (Note: The Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement will conduct several webinars for potential applicants. All webinars require advance registration. Registration and additional information will be posted in the coming days.)

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Civil Rights Data Collection

The Department recently released Part 1 of a two-part biennial survey: the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The survey covers approximately 7,000 school districts and over 72,000 schools and has been enhanced and made further accessible through improved data collection, additional data indicators, and publicly accessible online tools for analysis. The data provides parents, educators, and policymakers with critical information to assist them in identifying inequalities and targeting solutions to close the persistent achievement gap in America.

The data released in Part 1 includes information on access to the rigorous sequence of college and career-ready math and science courses, the number of first- and second-year teachers in schools, the number of high school counselors in schools, availability of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs, districts operating under desegregation orders or plans, and whether districts have written policies prohibiting harassment and bullying.

Among the notable findings:

  • Just 22% of districts reported that they operated pre-kindergarten programs targeting children from low-income families.
  • An estimated 3,000 schools serving some 500,000 high school students offer no Algebra II classes, and roughly 7,300 schools serving over two million students had no access to Calculus classes.
  • Students with limited English proficiency make up 6% of the high school population but are 15% of the students for whom algebra is the highest-level math course taken by the final year of high school.
  • Only 2% of students with disabilities are taking at least one Advanced Placement (AP) class.
  • Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have teachers with one or two years of experience than are schools within the same district that serve mostly white students.

Part 2 of the CRDC is expected to be released this fall. It will include the numbers of students passing Algebra I, taking AP tests, and passing AP tests, expanded discipline data, data on restraint and seclusion, retention data by grade, teacher absenteeism data, school funding data, and data on incidents of harassment and bullying. State and national projections, based on the sample data collected, will also be available before the end of the year.

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College Cost Lists

Concerning data, the Department also released several college affordability and transparency lists as part of its effort to help students make informed decisions about their choice for higher education. "The lists are a helpful tool for students and families as they determine what college or university is the best fit for them," said Secretary Duncan. "We hope this information will encourage schools to continue their efforts to make the cost of college more transparent so students make informed decisions and aren't saddled with unmanageable debts." The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 called for these lists to be created by July 1 of this year. Under the requirements, six lists will be created. Three lists will focus on tuition and fees, while three lists will look at the institution's "average net price," which is the average price of attendance that is paid by full-time students after grants and scholarships are accounted for. Each list is broken out into nine different sectors, to allow students to compare costs at similar types of institutions. In addition, users can look up information on the prices of career and technical programs. (Note: Some related higher education activities are summarized here.)

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Data Integrity

In a June 24 letter to Chief State School Officers, Secretary Duncan urges Chiefs "to do everything you can do to ensure the integrity of the data used to measure student achievement and ensure meaningful educational accountability. As I'm sure you know, even the hint of testing irregularities and misconduct within the test administration process could call into question school reform efforts and undermine the state accountability systems that you have painstakingly built over the past decade. Also, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires that states establish and maintain an assessment system that is valid, reliable, and consistent with professional and technical standards." The Secretary suggests some steps Chiefs can take to "strengthen your efforts to protect assessment and accountability data, ensure the quality of those data, and enforce test security" and explains "a state may use Section 6111 funds to ensure the continued validity and reliability of its assessment system."

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Odds and Ends

  • New blog entries highlight Race to the Top activities, including professional development and outreach to teachers and assessment program public forums.

  • Late last week, the Departments of Education and Justice reached a settlement agreement with the Tehachapi Unified School District in California to resolve an investigation into the harassment of a student based on his non-conformity with gender stereotypes.

  • Also last week, the Department announced it had obtained a settlement agreement related to its investigation of student-on-student sexual harassment, including sexual violence, at the University of Notre Dame.

  • This week, the Department held the first of four "Let's Read! Let's Move!" summer enrichment events on the outdoor plaza of the agency's headquarters building. As part of the series, the agency has invited Cabinet members, Administration officials, and other public figures to read children's books, promote healthy lifestyles, and participate in games and fitness activities with children, in pre-kindergarten through third-grade, from various local schools and summer programs. Additional events are scheduled for July 12, 20, and 26.

  • In his testimony at a Senate hearing on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, Secretary Duncan told Congress the Administration supports passage for two reasons: it is crucial for meeting our national goals and future workforce needs and sends the right message about the value of hard work and our nation's basic sense of fairness.

  • The Secretary also recently spoke at the National Forum's Annual Schools to Watch Conference, regarding middle grade reform.

  • "Addressing Emergencies on Campus" is intended to assist school officials who may be reassessing campus safety by offering a summary of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as pertinent provisions of the Higher Education Act (HEA) that apply to postsecondary institutions.

  • The Department is closing the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) and moving its programs to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). The new Office of Safe and Healthy Students will maximize limited resources while preserving the program's focus. The Department is also opening a new office within OESE focused on school turnarounds.

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Quote to Note

"The center of a classroom is not a test, a textbook, or the posters on the wall. It's not a state or district policy. It most certainly is not a federal law. The heart of the classroom is found in the unique relationships between students and teachers. In the same way that a family turns a house into a home, a transformation takes place when teachers and students work together to reach common goals. We see it in the trust, the expectations, the experiences, and the knowledge of every person in the class.... Government cannot create these relationships, but what federal, state, district, and school leaders can do is create conditions that nurture and grow the talents of our teachers.... We must treat our teachers well. They are the force that forges the meaningful connections that are at the heart of every great classroom. Without teachers, the center cannot hold."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (7/1/11), in a letter for a virtual conference this month

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Upcoming Events

Today (July 8) is the deadline for online registration for the popular STATS-DC 2011 Data Conference. This conference is an opportunity for professional networking, updates on federal and national activities affecting data collection and reporting, and information about the best new approaches in collecting, reporting, and using education statistics. The conference will include business meetings and training for states' Common Core Data (CCD) and EDFacts data coordinators.

On July 11 and 12, members of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities (AIM Commission) will meet at the Sheraton Seattle in Washington State, in conjunction with the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) annual conference. The AIM Commission was established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 to study the current state of accessible materials for students with disabilities in higher education and will make recommendations to the Secretary and relevant Congressional authorizing committees in the fall of 2011. The public is encouraged to attend the commission's public hearing on the evening of July 12 and/or submit commentary to AIMCommission@ed.gov.

Starting July 14 and continuing every other Thursday through August 25, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. ET, the Department is hosting "Summer Seminars at Six," a four-part summer information series for teachers. The seminars are designed to share information about education policy that will help educators to be engaged and participate in policy discussions at the federal, state, and local level. Led by teachers working at the Department, along with other agency staff, there will be opportunities for questions and conversations in person and online.

The Nation's Report Card: Geography 2010 for students in grades 4, 8, and 12 will be released on July 19.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National School Public Relations Association's National Seminar in San Antonio (July 10-13), the Association on Higher Education and Disability's Conference in Seattle (July 11-16), the Learning Forward Summer Conference in Indianapolis (July 17-20), and the Advanced Placement (AP) Conference in San Francisco (July 20-24). If you are attending any of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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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: 07/14/2011