Press Room NEWSLETTERS
October 14, 2011 ED Review
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 October 14, 2011
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Our Future, Our Teachers
ESEA Flexibility
American Jobs Act
Civil Rights Action
Request for Ideas
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Our Future, Our Teachers

On September 30, Secretary Duncan announced the Administration's strategy to ensure teachers are ready to enter the classroom by proposing a series of initiatives to reward the best teacher preparation programs, improve the quality of schools of education, and remove burdensome regulations. First, the Administration has proposed a $185 million Presidential Teaching Fellows program to support rigorous state-level policies and provide scholarships for future teachers, to attend top programs. The students would be prepared to teach high-need subjects, and, upon graduation, teach for at least three years in high-need schools. Second, the Administration has proposed $40 million for the Hawkins Centers for Excellence program to prepare the next generation of minority teachers. Minority-serving institutions, or MSIs, would be eligible to receive competitive grants to reform and expand teacher preparation programs. Funding could be used to partner with local school districts or non-profit organizations to help place minority candidates into high-need schools. Finally, based on existing authority in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Administration is proposing to reduce the reporting burden on schools of education and states, which are currently required to report 440 different measures annually. The Department recommends far fewer input measures and, instead, wants to focus on outcome measures like student academic achievement, teacher retention rates, and teacher/employer satisfaction rates. The aim is to allow states to identify the best teacher preparation programs and encourage others to improve by linking student test scores back to teachers and schools of education. Through negotiated rulemaking, the Department hopes to receive valuable feedback on what this reform should look like and how it would work best. The Administration's plan has broad support across the education community, including the National Education Association, Teach for America, and education school leaders. (Note: The Secretary's remarks regarding the plan are available online.)

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ESEA Flexibility

More than half the nation's states have now notified the Department of their intent to request 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. As of October 12, 17 states (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin) had indicated an intent to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility by November 14, 2011, for a December peer review, and 18 states (Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had indicated an intent to request flexibility by mid-February 2012, for a spring 2012 peer review. Two more states (Connecticut and Oregon) have also indicated intent without a specific timeline.

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American Jobs Act

Last week, the White House released a report outlining how the American Jobs Act will support nearly 400,000 education jobs, preventing layoffs of teachers and allowing thousands more to be hired or rehired. "Teacher Jobs at Risk" highlights the significant cuts in education spending that have resulted from state budget shortfalls since 2008, including the loss of nearly 300,000 teaching jobs across the country. And, in the coming school year, without additional support, many districts will have to make another round of difficult decisions. As a result of state and local funding cuts, as many as 280,000 teacher jobs could be at risk. Unless they receive federal assistance, many districts will be forced to reduce the number of teachers in classrooms or resort to other measures such as shortening the school year, cutting afterschool and summer school programs, or cutting extracurricular activities.

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Civil Rights Action

This week, Secretary Duncan, joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali, declared the successful resolution of the first proactive civil rights enforcement action taken by the Department under the Obama Administration. The voluntary agreement concludes an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation launched in March 2010 focused on the educational opportunities of Los Angeles Unified's English Learners and comparability of resources for African-American students. Under the agreement, the district will revamp its entire program for English Learners and accelerate its efforts focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap for African-American students. The district will also increase focus on college- and career-ready curricula and programs and ensure access to needed supports, including effective teachers, to accelerate student progress. OCR will monitor the agreement until such time it determines the district has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with Title VI.

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Request for Ideas

On February 28, 2011, President Obama issued a memorandum to federal agencies entitled "Administrative Flexibility, Lower Costs, and Better Results for State, Local, and Tribal Governments." The memo directed federal agencies to take actions that would provide increased flexibility—where it will yield the same or improved outcomes at lower cost—in federal programs administered by state, local, and tribal governments. As part of its efforts to meet the objectives of the memo and to encourage the greater use of existing flexibilities, the Department is soliciting ideas until November 11 for three different types of pilot projects.

Two of these types of projects would allow for the relaxation or waiver of requirements related to either (1) time-and-effort reporting under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-87 or (2) the documentation or demonstration of compliance with other administrative recordkeeping and reporting requirements similar to time-and-effort. In exchange for granting flexibility in either of these areas, the Department would require entities selected for a pilot project to use alternative methods of ensuring that federal funding is appropriately used to meet overarching program goals (for example, by measuring outputs or improvements in student achievement associated with federal investments). The Department is also looking for examples of burdensome administrative recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as ideas on alternative methods for ensuring proper oversight of federal funds.

A third type of project would consider better mechanisms for taking advantage of the existing flexibility that allows for the consolidation of federal funding by schools that operate a Title I schoolwide program under authority in Section 1114 of the ESEA. This flexibility can reduce requirements associated with time-and-effort reporting, as well as providing other benefits. The Department is also seeking ideas for better promoting this existing but underutilized consolidated authority.

Based upon ideas received in the three areas, the Department will solicit applications for a small number of pilot projects. These projects may be led by states, districts, or consortia of districts within a state. By reducing reporting burden and replacing it with more effective alternatives, states and districts will have the opportunity to realize efficiency gains and cost savings, a critical objective in a time of constrained resources.

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Odds and Ends

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Quote to Note

"The current system that prepares our nation's teachers offers no guarantees of quality for anyone—from college students themselves who borrow thousands of dollars to attend teacher preparation programs, to districts, schools, parents, and, most importantly, children that depend on good teachers to provide a world-class education. It is stunning to me that, for decades, teacher preparation programs have had no 'feedback loop' to identify where their programs prepare students well for the classroom and where they need to improve. Our teacher preparation programs have operated largely in the dark, without access to meaningful data that tells them how effective their graduates are in the classroom. A good loop and accountability system would reward high-performing teacher preparation programs and scale them up. It would also help programs in the middle of the spectrum, to self-correct and improve. And, it would support states to reshape low-performing programs—or eliminate low-performers that fail to improve over time, even after receiving help. Under our new plan, teacher preparation programs will be held to a clear standard of quality that includes but is not limited to their record of preparing and placing teachers who deliver results for P-12 students."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (9/30/11), announcing a new approach to teacher preparation and improvement

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Upcoming Events

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

On October 17, Secretary Duncan will hold an Education Summit in San Juan, Puerto Rico, convening educators, stakeholders, and elected officials, as well as the business and not-profit community, to discuss improving public education on the island.

The next meeting of the Department's Equity and Excellence Commission will be held on October 26, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Members of the public who wish to attend should RSVP by sending a message to equitycommission@ed.gov. More information about the commission and transcripts from previous meetings are available here, and you can watch video from some of the meetings here.

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Last Modified: 10/18/2011