NEWSLETTERS
November, 2011 ED Review
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 November 11, 2011
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Investing in Innovation
Early Learning Office
NAEP Reading and Math
Green Ribbon Schools
Learning Registry
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Investing in Innovation

Yesterday (November 10), the Department announced 23 school districts, non-profit organizations, and institutions of higher education were selected from among nearly 600 applicants for potential funding under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. This year's competition required applicants to submit proposals focused on one of five priorities, including new priorities aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and increasing achievement and high school graduation rates in rural schools. The other three priorities focused on supporting effective teachers and principals, implementing high standards and high-quality assessments, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. Competitive preference was also given to applicants that demonstrated support for improving early learning outcomes, increasing college access and success, addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and limited English proficient students, or improving productivity or technology. The Department selected the highest-rated proposals based on recommendations from peer review panels. The 23 are aiming to secure a grant in one of three categories: up to $25 million per "scale up" grant for projects with the strongest evidence and track record of success; up to $15 million per "validation" grant for projects with emerging evidence of success; and $3 million per "development" grant for promising but relatively untested ideas with high potential. To receive a slice of the $150 million in i3 funds, the 23 must guarantee a privately funded match of 5%, 10%, and 15%, respectively, by December 9.

The i3 web site has a detailed list of the highest-rated applicants, along with a summary of applicant characteristics and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the announcement. Information is also available on securing the private sector match. In the next several weeks, the Department will post peer reviewers' comments and scores for the highest-rated applicants, as well as application narratives.

President Obama has requested an additional $300 million in program funding for i3 in fiscal year 2012.

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Early Learning Office

Also this week, the Department announced a proposal to create an Office of Early Learning, tasked with overseeing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants and coordinating early learning programs across the agency. "Effective early childhood programs are essential to prepare our children for success in school and beyond," asserted Secretary Duncan. "A dedicated early learning office will institutionalize, elevate, and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while also enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems." The proposal names Senior Advisor for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones as leader of the new office, which will operate within the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). Further details on staffing and operations will be shared over the coming months.

Meanwhile, in related news, President Obama announced important steps to improve the quality of services and accountability at Head Start centers across the nation. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will implement new rules that will—for the very first time—require all low-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued funding. This reform will help direct taxpayer dollars to programs that provide high-quality Head Start services and ensure Head Start programs provide the best early education services to children in every community. Based on an analysis of current program performance data, it is estimated that one-third of all grantees will be required to re-compete for continued funding under this new rule. HHS will notify the first group of grantees in December 2011.

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NAEP Reading and Math

According to data from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the "Nation's Report Card," the nation's fourth- and eighth-graders continued their steady upward trend in math, posting the highest scores to date on the test. On the other hand, in reading, the picture was mixed: the average score for fourth-graders was unchanged from 2009, while the average score for eighth-graders continued to rise. Among other findings:

In reading:

  • Though the average score for fourth-graders was unchanged from 2009, it was higher than in 1992. The average score for eighth-graders was higher than in both 1992 and 2009.
  • Also at grade 8, the percentage of students scoring at or above the "Proficient" level was higher than in 1992 or 2009.
  • Two states made gains since 2009 at both grades 4 and 8; two states made gains at grade 4 only; and eight states made gains at grade 8 only. Two states had lower scores at grade 4 in 2011 than in 2009.

In math:

  • Higher percentages of students at both grades 4 and 8 performed at or above the "Proficient" level than in any previous test.
  • Also at grade 4, higher percentages of students performed at or above the "Advanced" level.
  • Four states and jurisdictions made gains since 2009 at both grades 4 and 8; five states made gains at grade 4 only; and nine states made gains at grade 8 only. One state at grade 4 as well as one state at grade 8 had lower scores in 2011 than in 2009.

(Note: Secretary Duncan's statement on the results is available online.)

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Green Ribbon Schools

In September, Secretary Duncan opened the pilot year of the Green Ribbon Schools award, to recognize exemplary achievement in environmental impact, health, and education. State education officials can participate by nominating schools to the Department. School communities can participate by asking their state education authorities to nominate them and applying according to state-established procedures. Anyone can call on the many resources available in attaining the award's high standards. The Department encourages state education authorities to use the following dates to guide their selection process: by November 22, notify the Department of participation; by March 22, submit nominations to the Department. To date, 20 states have communicated their plans to nominate schools.

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Learning Registry

The Departments of Education and Defense announced this week the launch of "Learning Registry," an open source community and technology designed to improve the quality and availability of learning resources in education. The official launch is an important milestone in the effort to more effectively share information about learning resources among a broad set of stakeholders in the education community. The project was made possible by a $2.6 million investment, with the Departments of Education and Defense contributing $1.3 million each to the effort. Rather than creating an alternate destination to existing web sites, Learning Registry is a communication system allowing existing educational portals and online systems to publish, consume, and share important information about learning resources with each other and the public, while respecting the privacy of individual users. The community and technology are intended to create opportunities for future innovation in areas that are just now starting to be explored. (Note: The Secretary's remarks from the launch are available online.)

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Odds and Ends

  • On October 31, Secretary Duncan spoke at the opening and closing sessions of the U.S.-Indonesia Higher Education Summit.

  • The Secretary recently hosted town hall meetings in Providence, RI, and Mason, OH, and participated in a roundtable discussion in Louisville, KY. In Providence, he also addressed the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council's annual meeting. In Louisville, he also addressed the Association for Middle-Level Education's annual conference and the Improving Productivity in Kentucky Schools and Districts conference.

  • On November 2, First Lady Michelle Obama honored the 14 recipients of the President's Council on Arts and the Humanities Youth Award.

  • On November 4, Vice President Biden spoke to students at the University of Pittsburgh about the Administration's focus on making it easier to pay for college.

  • The Department will launch an investigation into whether Penn State University failed to comply with Clery Act requirements in regard to allegations of sex offenses, on campus, by a former school official.

  • In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month this past October, the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development held 10 town hall events on the topic of engaging boys and men in ending violence against women.

  • In remarks at a Microsoft forum, the Secretary announced that Partners in Learning, a division of Microsoft, won the competition to take over the Department's TEACH campaign and web site.

  • Speaking of teachers, in a blog entry, the Secretary refutes a white paper finding America's teachers are overpaid.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) "Student Victimization in U.S. Schools" uses data from the 2009 School Crime Supplement to examine student criminal victimization and the characteristics of crime victims and non-victims. It also provides findings on student reports of the presence of gangs and weapons and the availability of drugs and alcohol at school, student reports of bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors of crime victims and non-victims at school.

  • The proceedings report from the Department's "Sustainability Education Summit: Citizenship and Pathways for a Green Economy" provides an overview of summit activities and recommends ways to advance sustainability education.

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Quote to Note

"The only side in education that matters to me and to our country is the side of students. I absolutely recognize that we also want to ensure that our educators are treated fairly, and, in lean times, we want to be smart about how we invest resources. However, at the end of the day, the final lens through which we view reforms must be whether it helps children learn. If the answer is 'yes,' then we must press ahead, no matter how difficult or how far outside our comfort zone it takes us. Now, I don't pretend to be the only one who voices that sentiment. Many stakeholders feel they're representing the interests of children. And, of course, these issues are rarely black and white. We must embrace complexity, versus run from it. But, when things are clearly not in the interest of children, we must challenge it...."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (11/2/11), at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council's annual meeting

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Upcoming Events

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

Secretary Duncan will hold his second #AskArne Twitter Town Hall on Monday (November 14) at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Veteran education journalist John Merrow will return to moderate the town hall, which will also be broadcast live on the Department's USTREAM channel. Twitter users can submit questions to the Secretary using the hashtag #AskArne.

March 14 and 15, 2012, the Department, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Education International, the global federal of teacher unions, will again join U.S.-based education partners to host the second International Summit on the Teacher Profession in New York City. Next year's theme, "Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders," is based on feedback from the 2011 event, where the dialogue first started among ministers and teacher union leaders from 16 top-performing countries and regions. The host organizations will compile effective practices shared during the summit and publish a report in the weeks following the session.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 11/15/2011