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December 9, 2011 ED Review
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 December 9, 2011
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Keeping College Affordable
Use of Race Guidance
New Studies: Title I Comparability and Anti-Bullying Laws
NAEP Reading and Math
Tribal Nations Conference
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Keeping College Affordable

Rising college costs and strategies to reduce those costs while improving quality have been a key focus of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Duncan the past couple of weeks. First, on November 29, in his remarks at the Department's Federal Student Aid (FSA) conference in Las Vegas, the Secretary called on FSA administrators and the "entire higher education community to look ahead and start thinking more creatively, and with much greater urgency, about how to contain the spiraling costs of college and reduce the burden of student debt on our nation's students." Acknowledging that containing the cost of college and student debt "will always be some of the most controversial and thankless work in all of higher education," he noted, "With higher productivity and better accountability, institutions of higher education can boost both quality and access and constrain costs, all at the same time. In the era of the knowledge economy, the urgency of controlling college costs is not at odds with the urgency of increasing college attainment. Both goals are necessary if society is to do all it can to help more Americans succeed and thrive in the global job market." (Note: FSA conference sessions were videotaped and will be posted here.) Then, on December 5, the President and the Secretary held a roundtable discussion at the White House with a dozen college presidents and higher education leaders. Participants shared how they have worked to promote innovation, reduce costs, and increase productivity during a time of reduced funding for higher education at the state level. Finally, yesterday (December 8), the Vice President and the Secretary traveled to Neptune Beach, Florida, to discuss with students and their families the importance of college and the steps the Obama Administration has taken to help keep college affordable. They also urged colleges and universities to do their part to contain costs to ensure college remains within reach for the middle class.

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Use of Race Guidance

On December 2, the Departments of Justice and Education released two guidance documents—one for school districts and one for colleges and universities—detailing the flexibility that the Supreme Court has provided to educational institutions to promote diversity and, in the case of K-12 schools, reduce racial isolation among students, within the confines of the law. This guidance makes clear that educators may permissibly consider the race of students in carefully constructed plans to promote diversity or reduce racial isolation. It also recognizes the learning benefits to students when institutions include students of diverse backgrounds. The guidance is primarily based on three Supreme Court decisions which specifically addressed the consideration of race by institutions. It provides numerous examples of options that schools, colleges, and universities can consider to further diversify or reduce racial isolation. For K-12 schools, the guidance discusses school and program siting, drawing school attendance boundaries, grade realignment, and restructuring feeder patterns, among other options. In postsecondary institutions, race may be taken into account in admissions, in pipeline programs, in recruitment, and in mentoring, tutoring, retention, and support programs as efforts to achieve diversity.

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New Studies: Title I Comparability and Anti-Bullying Laws

A new report from the Department's Policy and Program Studies Service (PPSS) analyzing school-level spending and teacher salary data documents that schools serving low-income students are being shortchanged because many school districts across the country are inequitably distributing their state and local funding. This first-time ever national data collection on school-level expenditure data—required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and submitted by over 13,000 districts for the 2008-09 school year—reveals that many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding, leaving them with fewer resources than schools attended by wealthier students. Indeed, more than 40% of schools that received federal Title I money to serve disadvantaged students spent less state and local funding on teachers and other personnel than schools that did not receive Title I money at the same grade level in the same district.

In a policy brief accompanying the report, PPSS found that providing low-income schools with comparable spending would cost just 1% to 4% of the average district's total school-level spending. It also found that fixing the Title I "comparability of services" loophole—whereby districts can show comparability in less rigorous ways, such as using a district-wide teacher salary schedule, which masks the fact that schools serving disadvantaged students often have less experienced teachers who are paid less and allows districts to use federal funds to fill state and local funding gaps instead of providing extra services to students in poverty—would have a big impact on low-spending, high-poverty schools, by adding between 4% and 15% to their budgets. The Administration's Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would amend the Title I comparability provision to ensure that state and local funding is more equitably distributed between Title I and non-Title I schools.

Meanwhile, PPSS also released a report—summarizing current approaches in the 46 states with anti-bullying laws and the 41 states that have created anti-bullying policies as models for schools. From 1999 to 2010, more than 120 bills were enacted by state legislatures to either introduce or amend statutes that address bullying and related behaviors in schools. Twenty-one bills were enacted in 2010, and another eight bills were signed into law through April 30, 2011. Of the 46 anti-bullying laws in place, 36 have provisions that prohibit cyber-bullying, while 13 have provisions that grant schools the authority to address off-campus behavior that creates a hostile school environment.

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NAEP Reading and Math

The average reading scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 21 urban school districts followed the national trend by remaining mostly flat, with no significant change from 2009. However, average math scores rose in several districts from 2009, including some districts where scores were higher than those of large cities and the nation. Among the results:

Reading

  • Although the average score for fourth-grade students in large city schools remained unchanged from 2009, it was higher than in 2002.
  • The average score for eighth-graders in large city schools was higher in 2011 than both 2002 and 2009.
  • None of the participating districts made gains at grade 4 since 2009; only one district (Charlotte-Mecklenburg) made gains at grade 8 compared to 2009 scores.
  • Five districts recorded higher scores at both grades 4 and 8 than the average for large city schools nationally: Austin, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Hillsborough County (FL), Jefferson County (KY), and Miami-Dade.

Math

  • Only one of the participating districts (Atlanta) recorded higher scores at both grades 4 and 8 than in any previous math assessment.
  • Three districts made gains since 2009 at grade 4 only (Austin, Baltimore City, and Philadelphia) and five other districts made gains since 2009 at grade 8 only (Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Chicago, Detroit, the District of Columbia, and Jefferson County).
  • Six districts recorded higher scores at both grades 4 and 8 than the average for large city schools nationally: Austin, Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Hillsborough County, Houston, and San Diego.
  • At grade 4 only, two other districts recorded higher scores than the average for large city schools nationally: Jefferson County and Miami-Dade.

The Department administered the 2011 NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in reading and math to representative samples of students in grades 4 and 8 in each district. Of the 21 participating districts that volunteered to have their NAEP results reported separately, three participated for the first time in 2011: Albuquerque, Dallas, and Hillsborough County. Among the other 18 districts, six have participated since 2002 (reading and writing assessments), 10 since 2003 (reading and math), 11 since 2005 (reading, math, and science) and 2007 (reading, math, and writing), and all since 2009 (reading, math, and science).

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Tribal Nations Conference

President Obama recently hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. The goal of this event is to provide leaders from America's 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with members of the Administration. The President discussed the work the Administration has done to improve communications between tribal leaders and the federal government and its commitment to helping Indian communities realize prosperous futures. Before his remarks, the President signed an Executive Order expanding educational opportunities for First American students aimed at helping to preserve Native languages, cultures, and histories, while ensuring that they are prepared for college and careers. Secretary Duncan and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will co-chair the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

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Odds and Ends

  • On the heels of several efforts undertaken by the Administration to ensure that private student data is protected, the Department announced new regulations to safeguard student privacy while giving states the flexibility to share school-level data that can be helpful in judging the effectiveness of government investments in education. The regulations will strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by protecting the safety of student information, increasing the agency's ability to hold those who abuse or misuse student data accountable, and ensuring taxpayer funds are invested wisely and effectively.

  • Last month, Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Alexa Posny visited Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland, to observe classrooms and join in a discussion with students, teachers, parents, and community members about the importance of inclusion and closing the achievement gap for student with disabilities.

  • This month, the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities released a report providing Congress with recommendations for improving the ability of college students with disabilities to obtain accessible instructional materials in a timely and cost-effective manner.

  • Also this month, the Secretary delivered remarks, entitled "A Well-Rounded Curriculum in the Age of Accountability," at the National Council for Social Studies' (NCSS) annual conference.

  • And, on December 7, the Secretary joined Administration leaders at the White House to congratulate the newest class of Nationally Board Certified teachers and engage in a discussion with them on transforming the teaching profession. (Note: Video of the event will be posted here.)

  • The next in a series of blog posts on the Green Ribbon Schools' pilot year (notes that 33 states, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Education have indicated their intent to nominate schools for the recognition, offers quotes from states in support of the program, and highlights accolades for the substantive goals the award sets and the innovative way the Department encourages schools to achieve these aims.

  • "Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10," a new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), features national data about student enrollment in distance education courses, how educators monitor these courses, the motivations for providing distance education, and the technologies used for delivering distance education.

  • According to the latest annual report released by the Data Quality Campaign, while states have made strong progress increasing their capacity to build and use data systems, they are not yet helping teachers, parents, and other education stakeholders use the data to inform decisions to improve student achievement.

  • The Departments of Education and Labor have announced a number of initiatives to advance entrepreneurship, including youth entrepreneurship.

  • With funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology of the American Chemical Society is sponsoring two intensive, six-week summer schools in nuclear and radiochemistry for outstanding undergraduates. Selected students will receive an all-expenses-paid opportunity to complete coursework in either California or New York. They will also earn undergraduate credit through San Jose State University or the State University of New York at Stony Brook, respectively, as well as a $4,000 stipend.

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Quote to Note

"The world is shifting to an innovation economy, and nobody does innovation better than America. Nobody has better colleges and universities. Nobody has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one's workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or more daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of the moment. But, we need to meet the moment. We've got to up our game. We need to remember that we can only do that together. It starts by making education a national mission.... In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is nearly half the national average. And, their incomes are twice as high as those who don't have a high school diploma. We shouldn't be laying off good teachers right now, we should be hiring them. We shouldn't be making it harder to afford college, we should be a country where everyone has a chance to go and doesn't rack up $100,000 of debt simply because they went."

        President Barack Obama (12/6/11), speaking in Osawatomie, Kansas

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Upcoming Events

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

The deadline to participate in Project Tomorrow's annual Speak Up survey on education and technology, open to K-12 students, parents, teachers, principals, district administrators, and media specialists, is December 23.

December 9-13, the Department will exhibit at the National Head Start Association's Parent Training Conference in New Orleans. If you are attending this event, please stop by the Department's booth.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 12/13/2011