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September 30, 2011 ED Review
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 September 30, 2011
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Back to School Speech
ESEA Flexibility
American Jobs Act
Education Nation
Grant and Recognition Awards
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Back to School Speech

This week, President Obama delivered his third annual Back to School speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School—a 2007 National Blue Ribbon School—in Washington, D.C. As in past years, this was an opportunity for the President to speak directly to students. The speech was broadcast live (on MSNBC and online) and shown in schools across the country. Below are some excerpts:

"All of you have a lot on your plates. You guys are growing up faster and interacting with a wider world in a way that old folks like me, frankly, just didn't have to. So, today, I don't want to be just another adult who stands up and lectures you like you're just kids—because you're not just kids. You're this country's future. You're young leaders. And, whether we fall behind or race ahead, as a nation, is going to depend in large part on you. So, I want to talk to you a little bit about meeting that responsibility."

"It starts, obviously, with being the best student that you can be.... It means that you have to stay at it. You have to be determined, and you have to persevere. It means you've got to work as hard as you know how to work. And, it means that you've got to take some risks once in a while. You can't avoid the class that you think might be hard because you're worried about getting the best grade—if that's a subject that you think you need to prepare you for your future. You've got to wonder. You've got to question. You've got to explore. And, every once in a while, you need to color outside of the lines.... That's what school is for—discovering new passions, acquiring new skills, making use of this incredible time that you have to prepare yourself and give yourself the skills that you're going to need to pursue the kind of careers that you want."

"I want all of you to set a goal to continue your education after you graduate. If that means college for you, just getting into college is not enough. You have to graduate. One of the biggest challenges we have right now is that too many of our young people enroll in college but don't actually end up getting their degree.... As a consequence, [whereas] our country used to have the world's highest proportion of young people with a college degree, we now rank 16th. That's not good enough. We've got to make sure your generation gets us back to the top of having the most college graduates relative to the population of any country on Earth. If we do that, you guys will have a brighter future, and so will America."

In his remarks, the President also spoke about the tireless work America's teachers do on behalf of students.

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ESEA Flexibility

Last week, from the East Room of the White House, President Obama outlined how states can get relief from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready. States can request flexibility from NCLB requirements that are stifling reform, but only if they are transitioning students, teachers, and schools to a system aligned with college- and career-ready standards for all students, developing differentiated accountability systems, and undertaking reforms to support effective classroom instruction and school leadership. The release of this package comes a decade after NCLB became law, and four years after it was due to be rewritten by Congress.

The package—developed with input from Chief State School Officers and other stakeholders—will spur momentum across the nation to implement a new educational system aligned to college- and career-readiness, even as more comprehensive reforms outlined in the President's Blueprint for Reform await Congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Waiver authority is explicitly granted to the Department under the ESEA and was exercised under the previous Administration. Flexibility will begin to have an impact during the 2011-12 school year and have increasing impact in subsequent years.

The Department's ESEA flexibility web site offers many resources, including the President's remarks and a White House fact sheet, brochures on "Bringing Flexibility and Focus to Education Law," and questions-and-answers on what flexibility means for students, teachers, and parents, as well as information from recent technical assistance webinars for states. States should notify the Department by October 12 of their intent to request flexibility and will have multiple opportunities to submit requests. In order to provide flexibility to states by the end of the 2011-12 school year, there are two specific windows: by November 14, 2011, for a December peer review, and by mid-February 2012, for a spring 2012 peer review.

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American Jobs Act

Also this week, the President visited Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver, Colorado, to highlight how the American Jobs Act will help modernize schools all across the country. The President is proposing a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure to repair and upgrade at least 35,000 public schools. This investment would create jobs, while improving classrooms and schools to meet 21st century needs. Funding could be used for a range of emergency renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, and efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade the technology infrastructure. The President is also proposing a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges. (Secretary Duncan's blog entry on the visit is posted here.)

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Education Nation

September 26 and 27, Secretary Duncan and senior Department officials participated in NBC News' second Education Nation Summit in New York City, addressing the developments, challenges, and progress over the last year and identifying and exploring new and exciting opportunities to recreate America as an "Education Nation." Video is available for many of the sessions, such as:

Also, on September 25, NBC News brought together teachers for a town hall, while Scholastic, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and DonorsChoose.org announced the launch of the Teacher Wall, a video network for teachers.

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Grant and Recognition Awards

As the Education Nation Summit got underway, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter announced nearly $500 million in grants to community colleges for targeted training and workforce development to help economically dislocated workers who are changing careers. The grants support partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs. These grants are part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, for which the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act allocated a total of $2 billion over a four-year period.

Meanwhile, before the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30), the Department announced grants for transitions to teaching, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, school counseling, strengthening colleges and universities, charter school management organizations, special education training, and physical activity and nutritional programming.

Also, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has invited states to apply for grants to assist them in developing and implementing statewide longitudinal data systems.

In addition, in a video message, the Secretary invites state education authorities to take part in the inaugural year of the Green Ribbon Schools program, which will recognize schools for reducing environmental impact on their communities, promoting healthy school environments, and offering quality environmental education. The message has details on the program's eligibility requirements and nominating process. The Department intends to provide a nominee submission deadline in early 2012 and announce the initial group of Green Ribbon Schools before the end of the 2011-12 school year.

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Odds and Ends

  • In the October issue of Parenting magazine, the Department teamed up with the National PTA to offer a month-by-month guide for parents and guardians with advice, tools, and online resources to help make this school year a great one.

  • Twenty states will lead the development of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

  • According to new data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, teachers at schools with an African-American and Hispanic enrollment of between 20% and 80% are paid $2,500 less, on average, than teachers in the district as a whole.

  • On September 19, Secretary Duncan helped launch the National Teachers Initiative, a new effort of the oral history project StoryCorps. The initiative aims to record more than 600 conversations with Americans talking to and about teachers—some of which National Public Radio will broadcast and all of which will be archived in the Library of Congress.

  • On September 20, Secretary Duncan joined philanthropist Eli Broad to announce Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina as the winner of the 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education—the largest education prize in America awarded to the most improved urban district. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where more than half the students are African-American or Hispanic and half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, bested three other finalists: Broward County and Miami-Dade County public schools in Florida and the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. The $1 million prize goes to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships; Charlotte-Mecklenburg gets $550,000, while the other three finalists each receive $150,000.

  • Don't miss the Secretary's remarks from: the launch of "Digital Promise," the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week conference, and the Bullying Prevention Summit.

  • In a recent letter, Secretary Duncan and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske urge higher education leaders to join them and other federal agency partners working to prevent illegal drug use and high-risk drinking in college and university communities.

  • In response to a June 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Department's Office of Special Education Programs issued a policy clarification document with a summary of suggestions to increase physical education opportunities for students with disabilities.

  • NCES's Projections of Education Statistics to 2020 provides national-level data on student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures at the elementary and secondary school level and student enrollment and earned degrees at the postsecondary level for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2020.

  • Dr. Roy Levy, an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grantee, has been named by the President as the Department's recipient of the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals during the early stages of their independent research careers.

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Quote to Note

"As a nation, we have an obligation to make sure that all children have the resources they need to learn—quality schools, good teachers, the latest textbooks, and the right technology. That's why the jobs bill I sent to Congress would put tens of thousands of teachers back to work across the country and modernize at least 35,000 schools.... But, money alone won't solve our education problems. We also need reform. We need to make sure that every classroom is a place of high expectations and high performance. That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, 'If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money.' And that's why, in my State of the Union address this year, I said that Congress should reform the No Child Left Behind law based on the same principles that have guided Race to the Top.... Yesterday, I announced that we'll be giving states greater flexibility to meet high standards for teaching and learning. It's time for us to let states, schools, and teachers come up with innovative ways to give children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future."

        President Barack Obama (9/24/11), in his weekly address

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Upcoming Events

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

This morning, at an event hosted by the independent think tank Education Sector, Secretary Duncan will unveil a proposal to reform and improve teacher preparation programs.

On October 20, Lights On Afterschool!, a coast-to-coast rally organized by the Afterschool Alliance, will illuminate the nation by celebrating afterschool programs and the need they meet in keeping students safe, helping working families, and improving academic achievement. This year, 7,500 afterschool programs, including many of the Department-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers, will host activities.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 10/04/2011