NEWSLETTERS
September 16, 2011 ED Review
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 September 16, 2011
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American Jobs Act
Back to School Tour
Blue Ribbon Schools
IDEA Regulations
Student Loan Default Rate
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

American Jobs Act

On September 12, four days after he addressed a joint session of Congress, President Obama sent lawmakers the American Jobs Act—a set of ideas supported by both Democrats and Republicans to put more Americans back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. Among other provisions, the bill proposes two jobs programs to ensure every child has the opportunity for a world-class education. First, it allocates $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators facing potential layoffs and furloughs in classrooms where they belong. Second, it invests $30 billion to put hundreds of thousands of construction workers, engineers, boiler repairmen, carpenters, and electricians back to work rebuilding and modernizing aging public schools and community colleges. The full text of the bill, as well as videos, fact sheets, and state-by-state impact information and officials' responses, is available here.

Getting outside of Washington, D.C., the President also highlighted the American Jobs Act in a series of events in Richmond, Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Secretary Duncan joined the President at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School in Columbus, where they praised recent renovations—computers in every classroom, state-of-the-art graphic design and science labs, a new media center, and new music rooms—as "a great example of where jobs can come from if we can finally get our act together..." For details on the modernization program for each state and the 100 largest high-need public school districts that will receive funding directly, see the fact sheet.

Meanwhile, from the road (see below), the Secretary (here) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications Development Dave Hoff (here and here) blogged about the American Jobs Act's programs, and the Department welcomed educators "who have personally felt the sting of tough economic times."

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Back to School Tour

Students were not the only ones getting back on buses last week. Secretary Duncan and senior Department officials held more than 75 events in seven states across the Midwest as part of the Department's second annual Back to School bus tour, entitled "Education and the Economy: Investing in Our Future." The Department's blog has a wealth of stories, pictures, and videos chronicling the tour, among them the top 10 tour highlights, daily recaps (September 6, September 7, and September 8), and a brief video review of the tour by the Secretary. Also, the Secretary's signature bus tour speech, delivered at the stop in Merrillville, Indiana, is posted online.

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Blue Ribbon Schools

Yesterday (September 15), Secretary Duncan named 305 schools as "2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools." This program recognizes high-performing schools (schools, regardless of their students' backgrounds, that rank among the state's best performing as measured by state assessments [public] or that score at the highest performance level on nationally normed tests [private]) and improving schools (schools, with at least 40% of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, that have reduced the achievement gap by improving performance to high levels, again as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests). Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. Of the schools nominated by each state, at least a third must have 40% or more of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and public schools must meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements, as defined by their states. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 14 and 15. The principal and a teacher will receive a Blue Ribbon School flag and plaque.

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IDEA Regulations

The Department has released final regulations under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These final regulations will help improve early intervention services and outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Part C is a $436 million program administered by states that serves infants and toddlers—through age 2—with developmental delays or who have diagnosed physical or mental conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays.

The final Part C regulations incorporate provisions in the 2004 amendments to Part C of the IDEA. Also, they offer states with flexibility in some areas, while ensuring state accountability to improve results and providing needed services. The regulations focus on measuring and improving outcomes for the around 350,000 infants and toddlers served by the Part C program, with the goal of ensuring that such children are ready for preschool and kindergarten.

Additionally, the Department has released a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations under Part B of the IDEA, regarding when a state or district seeks to use a child's or parent's public benefits or insurance (for example, Medicaid) to pay for special education services.

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Student Loan Default Rate

The Department announced this week that the Fiscal Year 2009 national student cohort default rate increased to 8.8%, up from the FY 2008 rate of 7%. The rate increased for all sectors: from 6% to 7.2% for public institutions, from 4% to 4.6% for private institutions, and from 11.6% to 15% at for-profit schools. This 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 before September 30, 2010. Roughly 3.6 million borrowers entered repayment during this time, and 320,000 borrowers went into default. They attended 5,900 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, 22.4% of borrowers defaulted on their federal loans, an all-time high. The rate dropped to a record low of 4.5% in FY 2003. Schools with excessive default rates (of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years) may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs. This year, five sites are subject to sanctions. (Note: The public can search for individual school default rates online.)

Since the time when these borrowers enrolled, the Obama Administration has expanded flexible loan repayment options via the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan, which makes payments more affordable by capping the monthly payment at an amount based on income and family size.

And, this summer, the Department released several college affordability and transparency lists to supply students and their families with clear data about college costs to help them make informed decisions about their choice for higher education.

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Odds and Ends

  • The August 2011 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features the Administration's plans to give school relief from parts of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Secretary's visit to a tribal college in South Dakota (see his commencement address), and employees talking about the recent earthquake.

  • On September 7, some $180 million in grants were awarded to six states through the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, which helps states pursue a comprehensive approach to improving literacy outcomes for all children—birth through grade 12—including limited English proficient students and students with disabilities.

  • On September 13, $14.8 million in grants were awarded to 42 colleges and universities to support professional development activities to improve classroom instruction for English Learners.

  • Also on September 13, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services held a pre-application technical assistance workshop for states on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. This in-person workshop was held in Washington, D.C., with simultaneous video-teleconferencing to 11 cities throughout the U.S. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the complete transcript from the September 1 pre-workshop webinar, and the slides from the September 13 workshop are already available online, while the workshop video and transcript will be posted shortly.

  • The Department has issued proposed requirements for the $200 million Race to the Top grant competition for the nine finalist states that did not receive awards in the first two rounds of the program.

  • Dr. Karen Mapp, Director of the Education Policy and Management Program at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, recently sat down with Anna Hinton, Director of the Department's Office of Parental Options and Information, for a conversation about a number of issues, including the need to move family engagement from an event-driven approach to a strategy that is embraced as a critical component of whole school reform.

  • On the SAT, this year's college-bound seniors averaged 497 (out of 800) in reading, 514 in math, and 489 in writing. Since 2007, the first year for which June cohort data is available, students' reading and writing scores have decreased by four points, while math scores have remained stable. Also, 43% of this year's college-bound seniors met the new SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which indicates a 65% likelihood of achieving a "B-" average or higher during the first year of college.

  • Registration closes October 7 for America's Home Energy Education Challenge, aimed at educating youth about the benefits of energy efficiency.

  • Registration is open for the Real World Design Challenge, an annual aviation design competition for teams of high school students.

  • Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign mobilizes children and adults to close the early education achievement gap. On October 6, more than two million voices will read "Llama Llama Red Pajama," by Anna Dewdney, setting a world record in the process. (Jacqueline Jones, the Department's Senior Advisor on Early Learning, will read to children at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington, D.C.) There is still time to pledge to read, and simple tools are available to spread the word.

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Quote to Note

"Now that you've been back in class for more than a week, we're so happy that you've settled in and are enjoying school. Our hope for you this year is that you will be challenged academically. You have some terrific teachers to support you. We want your love of literature to grow, and we'll do our part by reading to you every night. We hope you will develop critical thinking skills in math, and we promise to help you when you're struggling and celebrate when you're succeeding. We would like to see you engaged in learning science, civics, and history, and we will continue to explore the natural world at nature centers, museums, and many of the other great resources in the Washington area. We also want you to enjoy so many other enriching experiences that are so important to a complete education. We know you have great music, art and physical education teachers at your school, and we believe that these subjects are essential for a well-rounded curriculum. And so is recess. We want you to have fun!.... We are proud of you and excited for you. We have dedicated our lives to learning and to helping others receive a great education. Our greatest hope I that you'll go back to school every fall excited and ready to learn."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Karen Duncan (9/2011), in an open letter to their children

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Upcoming Events

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

Today (September 16), the Secretary will help launch "Digital Promise," a new national center created by Congress to advance breakthrough technologies that can help transform teaching and learning.

Next week (September 21 and 22), the Department will host the second annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C.

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Last Modified: 09/24/2011