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September 2, 2011 ED Review
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 September 2, 2011
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Early Learning Grants
Back to School Tour
Twitter Town Hall
All About Students
Constitution Day
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning Grants

In dramatic fashion, only minutes after an earthquake rocked the East Coast, the Administration released the final application for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), which will provide $500 million in state competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs. The goal of the RTT-ELC is to prepare more children with high needs for kindergarten, because children from birth to age 5 need a strong foundation for success in school and beyond. Robust research shows that high-quality early learning programs improve children's health, social-emotional development, cognitive ability, and school success. High-quality programs also help close the wide school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers. However, the U.S. lacks a coordinated system for improving and evaluating early learning and development programs, as well as sharing best practices across states.

The RTT-ELC sets a high bar and will reward states with the strongest plans to improve the quality of early learning and development programs. In their applications, states must demonstrate a commitment to building coordinated systems, aligning resources, and increasing access to high-quality early learning and development programs for children who need them the most. The RTT-ELC will focus on five areas of reform:

  • establishing successful state systems by building on the state's existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the state's early learning and development agenda, and carefully coordinating programs across key agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  • defining high-quality, accountable programs by creating a common-tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the state to improve and evaluate program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  • promoting early learning and development outcomes for children to develop common standards within the state and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, and inform, engage, and support families;
  • supporting an effective early childhood education workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation, and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  • measuring outcomes and progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten prepared to succeed.

Awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, depending on state population and proposed plans. Applications are due on October 19. The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will announce winners this December.

In addition to the final application, an executive summary, helpful budget spreadsheets, and a recording of the press call and a transcript of the stakeholder call are now available online.

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Back to School Tour

September 7-9, Secretary Duncan and senior Department officials will visit seven states and dozens of cities across the Midwest as part of the Department's second annual Back to School bus tour. This year's theme is "Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future." Various events will promote the work of educators, administrators, parents, and other key stakeholders in building a strong cradle-to-college- and career-continuum that prepares all students to compete in the global economy.

Throughout the tour, the Secretary will discuss the Administration's dual commitments of investing in education to secure our future and reducing spending while increasing efficiency. "No other issue is more critical to our economy and our way of life than education," the Secretary said. "While visiting cities across the Midwest, I want to take the opportunity to promote the valuable work teachers, staff, and parents do every day to change students' lives and, ultimately, invest in our nation's future."

The public will be able to follow the tour on ED.gov. Some of the Secretary's events will be webcast live. Also, along the way, Department staff will blog and use social media.

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Twitter Town Hall

Speaking of social media, if you missed the first-ever #AskArne Twitter Town Hall last week, you can watch the archived video online. You can also see a comprehensive list of questions and answers through the Department's Twitter page. To recap, the event's moderator, veteran journalist John Merrow, asked the Secretary tough questions covering a range of topics, including standardized testing, cheating, and performance pay for educators.

Moreover, this week, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White hosted this agency's first-ever Twitter Rural Forum (#EDRuralChat).

Meanwhile, the Secretary welcomes music suggestions for his bus tour playlist (#EDTour11).

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All About Students

On August 25, Secretary Duncan joined Mayor Vincent Gray, State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley, and Chancellor Kaya Henderson at the District of Columbia's Eastern High School to celebrate the first day of school. After greeting students and touring the renovated facility, he addressed the student body of incoming ninth-graders. Eastern has received a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) to raise expectations, improve the quality of teaching, and provide students with the help they need to graduate and be ready to go to college and enter the workforce. Of note, the school is adding an International Baccalaureate (IB) program and is preparing to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses when the Class of 2015 reaches the upper grades. Also, 63 students have joined the school's Health and Medical Services Academy, which will prepare them to work in one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation's economy.

Earlier, the Secretary met with delegates from YouthBuild USA's Rural and Tribal Initiative, learning from rural and tribal youth about their experiences and how the Department can better help them achieve their potential.

On August 26, the Secretary was in Mission, South Dakota, to deliver the commencement address and participate in the awarding of academic diplomas, GED certificates, and traditional cultural honors at Sinte Gleska University. While on the Rosebud reservation, he also held a roundtable discussion with tribal educators and stakeholders at an elementary school and attended the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Fair. He was joined by Congresswoman Kristi Noem, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk (from the Department of the Interior), and Director of the White House Initiative for Tribal Colleges and Universities William Mendoza.

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Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funds take a day to teach about the seminal document. (Note: As September 17 falls on a Saturday this year, institutions may celebrate either the preceding or the following week.) To assist students and educators in their studies, free online resources are available from the Department's Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site, as well as the National History Education Clearinghouse and the National Archives and Records Administration.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Department has added a searchable database of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Facebook. Visitors can browse categories ranging from general information to federal student aid. In addition, visitors that do not find an answer to their question may submit it directly to the agency through Facebook and receive a personal answer from an Information Resource Specialist.

  • A new Department web site compiles materials developed by federal agencies and grantees in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of September 11.

  • Version 2.0 of ED Data Express, an interactive web site making accurate and timely K-12 education data available to the public, adds new data visualization tools, enhanced documentation, and social networking options for users.

  • This summer, the Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the White House Council on Environmental Quality have been receiving input and development award criteria for the new Green Ribbon Schools initiative. This recognition award will honor schools that save energy, reduce costs, and feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, as well as protect health, foster wellness, and impart effective environmental education. Until September 14, the public can comment on a package of Green Ribbon Schools documents online. Also, the initiative's Facebook page highlights many resources that may be useful to schools and other participating authorities in their efforts toward Green Ribbon status. The application will be released by the end of the month, with the initial group of schools named next spring. (Note: To sign-up for email announcements, go here.)

  • Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director John Easton recently announced the appointment of Deborah Speece as Commissioner of the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

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Quote to Note

"Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, upending families and ravaging communities. No one will forget the tragic events of those days. But, what's required of us is more than remembrance. What's required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover and to make sure that our response to such disasters is the best it can possibly be.... We've cut through red tape to free up funding for recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi. We've taken steps to help school systems get children the tools and resources they need for a proper education. And, we've broken through gridlock on behalf of tens of thousands of displaced families.... Today is a reminder of not just the immediate devastation that can be caused by these storms but also the long term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters, whether it is in Mississippi or Alabama, Tennessee or Missouri, North Dakota, or the East Coast states impacted by Hurricane Irene. This Administration will stand by those communities until the work is done."

        President Barack Obama (8/29/11), in a statement on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

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Upcoming Events

On a weekly basis, the Secretary's public schedule is posted online.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is recognizing the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by issuing a challenge to organizations to bring Americans together in the same spirit of compassion, unity, and service as so many have after the attacks. The CNCS challenges organizations to effectively engage individuals in service to their communities during this National Day of Service and Remembrance. Service activities should honor those who died and those who have served because of the tragedies of 9/11 and include a time of reflection and remembrance.

Planning is underway for International Education Week 2011 (November 14-18, coinciding with American Education Week), jointly sponsored by the Departments of Education and State. The week provides educational institutions and communities the opportunity to promote and celebrate the benefits of international education worldwide. This year's theme is "International Education: Inspiring Students Locally to Succeed Globally."

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Last Modified: 09/09/2011