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November 25, 2011 ED Review
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 November 25, 2011
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Blue Ribbon Schools
ESEA Flexibility
Race to the Top
Twitter Town Hall
Stopping Government Waste
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Blue Ribbon Schools

Last week, at an awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan honored 315 schools as 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools. "America's long-term economic prosperity and civic engagement depends on our children receiving a world-class education," the Secretary said. "Blue Ribbon Schools are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their success is an example for others to follow."

He also recognized seven Blue Ribbon School principals as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients:

  • Karen Daugherty (Rose Tree Elementary School, Media, PA)
  • Deirdra Gardner (Piedmont Open Middle School, Charlotte, NC)
  • Nichole Heyen (Lincoln Magnet School, Springfield, IL)
  • Lauren Kinney (Sundance Elementary School, Beaumont, CA)
  • Traci Jackson (Shirley Hills Elementary School, Warner Robins, GA)
  • Karen Noble (Hillcrest Elementary School, Nederland, TX)
  • Jack Spatola (Beacon School of Excellence/Public School 172, Brooklyn, NY)

These awards, named after the former Secretary of Education and presented by the Department in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association for Middle-Level Education, honor exceptional leaders who overcome challenging circumstances and maintain committed to providing an excellent education for every student.

Also, as part of the event, the Department's Teacher Ambassador Fellows facilitated roundtable forums with teachers and principals, helping them to collaborate on issues such as implementing college- and career-ready standards, measuring student learning, improving family and community engagement, and engaging teachers in school improvement efforts.

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ESEA Flexibility

Seven weeks after President Obama announced a plan to offer greater flexibility from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in exchange for a firm commitment to core reforms that boost student achievement, 11 states submitted official requests for waivers. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee filed requests based on locally-designed plans to implement college- and career-ready standards; develop rigorous accountability systems that include a focus on low-performing schools and schools with persistent achievement gaps; and create better systems for developing, supporting, and evaluating teachers and principals. The 11 waiver requests are posted online, along with the names of the peer reviewers who will convene immediately after Thanksgiving to review them. States seeking flexibility in the first round will be notified by mid-January or earlier.

Since the President's announcement, 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have signaled their intent to seek flexibility from NCLB. The next deadline for requests is in mid-February. States can also make requests later in the spring.

The flexibility package was developed with input from state education leaders across the country under waiver authority granted to the Department in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). More comprehensive reforms, as outlined in the Administration's Blueprint for Reform, await Congressional reauthorization of ESEA.

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Race to the Top

The nine finalist states that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top—Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—were recently invited to submit applications for a share of $200 million in funds tailored to support a portion of their Race to the Top plan, including a meaningful investment in advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. States are applying in two parts. First, seven states (all but South Carolina, which opted out, and California, which submitted an incomplete application) submitted portfolios of assurances confirming their commitment to comprehensively reform education across their states. These assurances include information such as state funding for education and efforts to raise academic standards, enhance data systems, improve teacher evaluation and support systems, and implement school interventions in under-performing schools. Next, by December 16, the seven states will submit a detailed plan and budget explaining how the selected reform effort will have a broader impact in supporting student learning and improving STEM. The states can expect a proportional share of the $200 million in available funding, depending on their population. The Department has adjusted amounts based on the number of participating states and notified states of new estimated award amounts, to inform Part 2 applications. Final awards will be announced in late December. The Administration's Fiscal Year 2012 budget requests $900 million to continue investing in education reform through a district-level Race to the Top competition.

Also: Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge state applications for initial funding are here.

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Twitter Town Hall

If you missed the second #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 some tough questions covering a range of topics, including respecting teachers, charter schools and choice, and student loan debt.

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Stopping Government Waste

On November 15, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that the Administration cut wasteful improper payments by $17.6 billion in 2011, as part of the Campaign to Cut Waste. The results were driven by successes in specific programs, where results are improving because federal agencies are increasing scrutiny of payments by initiating more robust audits, leveraging new technologies, or building partnerships with states focused on improved program integrity. For example, the error rate for Pell Grants fell to 2.7%, avoiding about $300 million in payment errors compared to prior to the President's directive. In 2010, the Department implemented a process to allow Federal Student Aid (FSA) applicants filling out online applications to go to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) web site to retrieve their income information and transfer it directly to their application. This reform simplified the aid application process and will continue to reduce improper payments further as more students use the system in the future.

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Odds and Ends

  • The October 2011 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features President Obama's "Pay as You Go" proposal to make higher education more affordable, as well as Secretary Duncan's visit to Puerto Rico, higher education summits with India and Indonesia, and West Coast town hall meetings with parents and teachers.

  • Four superintendents from different parts of the country spoke on camera at last month's Council of the Great City Schools' fall meeting in Boston and agreed the American Jobs Act's proposed funding for teachers and modernizing facilities offers real hope to urban schools.

  • Philadelphia music teacher Jay Chuong discusses the impact of the economic downturn on the learning environment of his students in a new video: "Keeping the Beat: A Teacher Talks About Schools, Music Education, and the American Jobs Act."

  • In a blog entry on International Education Week, Secretary Duncan said the Department will be joining the All Children Reading Challenge, a multi-year effort that seeks to improve early grade reading outcomes in low-resource settings.

  • Speaking of international study, "Open Doors 2011," published annually by the Institute of International Education, reports on Americans studying abroad and international students in the U.S.

  • The first in a series of blog posts on the Green Ribbon Schools' pilot year (highlights how state agencies have taken "bold steps" to achieve the vision the award sets, reaching out to peer agencies with critical resources and enlisting help in designing processes for selecting and rating schools for submission of nominees to the Department.

  • The Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), has published new reports on who receives education tax benefits and the effect these benefits have on the price of college attendance, the characteristics of GED recipients in high school, finance data on education at the district-level, and postsecondary employees and salaries.

  • The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) recently announced a partnership with the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers to create the National Student Poets Program, the country's highest honor for youth poets whose original work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise. From a group of national winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a jury of literacy luminaries will choose five teen poets. Each teen will receive an academic award of $5,000, work with poet mentors, promote the importance of poetry and creative expression through readings and workshops, and serve as a resource for the Department and the Library of Congress.

  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) supports tuition-free summer programs for school and college and university educators. Participants receive stipends to help cover travel and living expenses. These one- to five-week study opportunities are held across the nation and abroad. They focus on major topics, texts, and questions in the humanities; enhance the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry; and promote connections between teaching and research in the humanities. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2012.

  • To learn about the history of Thanksgiving, find interesting food facts, and get tips on how kids can help with the meal, visit the Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site's Thanksgiving page.

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Quote to Note

"I join the President in his disappointment that the [Congressional] supercommittee has failed to reach a final deal. We must reduce America's debt. But we must do so in a thoughtful and deliberate way that protects national priorities like education at such a critical time. Because the committee failed to live up to its responsibility, education programs that affect young Americans across the country now face across-the-board cuts.... We need to ensure that every child has access to a good teacher and a high-quality public education and that students who want to pursue a college degree can count on federal loans and grants to help them achieve their dreams. That requires Congress to do important work in the coming weeks and to show some real leadership. I stand ready to work with them, and I know the President does as well."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (11/21/11), in an statement on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

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Upcoming Events

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

On December 7, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) will release the results of the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in reading and math. These results will compare the performance of students in grades 4 and 8 from each of the 21 participating school districts with the performance of public school students in the nation and in large cities (cities with populations of 250,000 or more). A panel of educational experts will discuss the results via a live webcast.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Council for the Social Studies' Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. (December 2-4) and Learning Forward's Annual Conference in Anaheim (December 3-7). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Director, Intergovernmental Affairs—Stacey Jordan, (202) 401-0026, Stacey.Jordan@ed.gov
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 11/29/2011