NEWSLETTERS
December 23, 2011 ED Review (Happy Holidays!)
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 December 23, 2011 (Happy Holidays!)
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What's inside...
New Grant Awards
Community College Prize
The Great Equalizer
American Jobs Act
Evidence Framework Panel
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Editor's Note

This is the final issue of ED Review for 2011. Publication will resume January 13, 2012. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

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New Grant Awards

Within the last week, the Department announced funding under several competitive programs:

  • On December 16, in a White House ceremony, Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, Secretary Duncan, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that nine states—California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington—had been selected to receive a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. Through this $500 million competition, 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico created plans to increase access to high-quality early learning programs for children from low-income families, providing more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation they need to succeed in school and beyond. The number and list of winners was determined by the quality of the applications and the funds available. The awards will impact all early learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-kindergarten, child care, and private preschools. Reforms include: aligning and raising standards for existing early learning and development programs; improving training and support for the early learning workforce through evidence-based practices; and building robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help families make informed decisions. (Note: A summary chart of scores, grant award amounts, and peer reviewers' comments and scores are posted here.)
  • On December 19, on the site of a new grantee in Minneapolis, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton announced that 20 organizations had been selected to receive a Promise Neighborhoods grant. Over 200 non-profits, higher education institutions, and Indian tribes from 45 states applied in this $30 million competition, which puts school improvement at the center of local efforts to revitalize underserved neighborhoods. Five organizations will be awarded a first-year grant of up to $6 million (totaling up to $30 million over five years) to support implementing cradle-to-career services that improve the educational achievement and healthy development of children. Another 15 organizations will be awarded up to $500,000 to fund planning activities. Reforms include: improving a neighborhood's health, safety, and stability; expanding access to learning technology; and boosting family engagement.
  • Then, on December 20, Secretary Duncan announced that private donors have committed $18 million to the 23 highest-rated projects in the 2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, meeting i3's matching requirement and qualifying them to receive $150 million from the program. Earlier this fall, the Department revealed 23 applicants as finalists. The projects, which were the highest-rated among nearly 600 applicants, had roughly four weeks to secure matching funding through financial support or in-kind donations.

Also, awards under the third round of the Race to the Top program will be announced shortly.

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Community College Prize

At the National Press Club earlier this month, Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Duncan took time to salute the winner and finalists of the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. During the past year, the Aspen Institute assembled and reviewed an unprecedented collection of data on community colleges and the critical elements of student success: student learning, degree completion and transfer, equity, and employment/earnings after college. Valencia College in Orlando was named by a jury as the nation's top community college and will receive $600,000 to support its programs. Nearly half of Valencia's students are under-represented minorities, and many are low-income. Nevertheless, more than 50% graduate or transfer within three years of entering college, versus under 40% for community colleges nationally. Four "finalists with distinction"—Miami Dade College, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah), Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, South Dakota), and Walla Walla Community College (Walla Walla, Washington)—will receive $100,000.

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The Great Equalizer

Staying with higher education, Secretary Duncan recently addressed graduates at Fayetteville State University's winter commencement. He described the importance of education in today's economy and noted that education is, in the long run, one of the best investments one can make for the future. "On average, students with bachelor degrees are projected to earn about a million dollars more over their lifetime than students with only a high school diploma," he said. "And, please know that help in keeping student debt manageable is on the way, through the Obama Administration's new Pay as You Earn proposal. We want to help people better manage student loan debt by capping monthly payments to what people can afford. Our proposal would give 1.6 million students the ability to cap their loan payments at 10% of their discretionary income beginning later next year.... We want people to be able to follow their heart and passion—and not just chase a big paycheck because they have to pay back loans. America can't afford to lose that talent. Please think about public service, think about teaching, and think about the impact you can have in molding the lives of the next generation." (Note: The White House's fact sheet on the Pay as You Earn proposal is available here.)

In related news, seeking to broaden public awareness of the tools available to help students and families research the cost of a college degree, the Department just launched the College Net Price Calculator Student Video Challenge. The challenge asks high school and college students to produce videos highlighting why such calculators—which give students and families a sense of how much they would actually pay to attend a specific institution by factoring in which grants and scholarship aid students may be eligible for—are a valuable resource. Videos are due by January 31, 2012. A panel of higher education stakeholders will judge entries, and the top three videos will be announced by late spring. Each winner will receive a $1,500 cash prize. (Note: The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 required schools to publish net price calculators on their web sites by October 29. The Department has integrated the tool into its College Navigator site.)

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American Jobs Act

On December 15, the White House released "Education and the American Jobs Act: Creating Jobs through Investments in Our Nation's Schools" and interactive maps that highlight estimated benefits that states and school districts would receive if Congress passes the American Jobs Act. The report provides an analysis of the condition of America's schools, which have fallen into disrepair, as well as the difficult budget environment facing districts and teachers nationwide. In order to address these needs, President Obama has proposed $25 billion to renovate and modernize more than 35,000 public schools, $5 billion to update infrastructure at America's community colleges, and $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators in the classroom.

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Evidence Framework Panel

The Department's Office of Educational Technology (OET) is convening a panel of research and technology experts to work on developing a broad framework for research on technology-supported innovations that will leverage the state-of-the-art, the emerging field of learning analytics, and the insights of the very best forward-thinking researchers and practitioners. The panel's focus will be on exploring, constructing, and sharing an evidence framework that supports the design, development, implementation, adaptation, adoption, scaling, and diffusion of learning technologies, broadly conceived. It will place no prior restrictions on the definition of learning technologies, their contexts of use, or their design role in education in formal and informal settings. Interested parties are welcome to recommend a resource or submit an idea that may be helpful to the project and read, review, rate, and comment on resources and ideas submitted by others. By late fall 2012, a highly articulated framework, use cases, and practices will be published and shared widely with both the academic research community and the community of entrepreneurs and investors focused on learning technologies.

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Odds and Ends

  • "Homeroom" is the new name for the Department's blog. From our Homeroom, we will continue to provide important announcements and updates and new resources. We encourage you to join the conversation in the blog's comments and check-back regularly to keep up-to-date with everything that is happening at the Department and in schools and communities around the nation.

  • The November 2011 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features the first states to seek flexibility under No Child Left Behind in exchange for broad reforms, as well as the Secretary's visits to Rhode Island, Ohio, and Kentucky, new education innovation grants, and a report showing that schools with low-income students are not getting their fair share of state and local funding.

  • In an open letter, following the child abuse allegations at Penn State University and Syracuse University, Secretary Duncan calls on college presidents, athletic directors, and coaches to "return to their roots—to educate and protect."

  • The next in a series of blog posts on the Green Ribbon Schools' pilot year, "Sorry, Kermit—It Can Be Easy Being Green," observes that every school can take simple steps to save energy, reduce costs, increase health and wellness, and offer effective environmental education.

  • Last week, the Secretary announced the appointments of Jose Rico as the director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and William Mendoza as the director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

  • "America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood," a new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), compares the current generation of youth and younger adults in the U.S. to youth and younger adults in 1980, 1990, and 2000. As an example, the current generation is enrolled in school at higher rates than their predecessors. In 2009, 69% of 18- and 19-year-olds, 52% of 20- and 21-year-olds, and 30% of 22- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in school, versus 46%, 31%, and 16%, respectively, back in 1980.

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Quote to Note

"This is an important moment in our effort to build a world-class education system in America.... Everyone who works in education can agree that investing in early learning is one of the smartest things we can do. Whether it's elementary school teachers or prize-winning economists, they recognize that high-quality early learning programs pay dividends down the road."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (12/16/11), announcing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grantees

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Upcoming Events

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with other federal agencies, is seeking applications for the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. Twelve programs will receive $10,000. After-school and out-of-school arts and humanities programs sponsored by educational institutions, libraries, museums, performing arts organizations, community organizations, businesses, and certain government entities are eligible to apply. The deadline for applications is January 31, 2012.

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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
To be added or removed from distribution, or submit comments (we welcome your feedback!), please contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/index.html.


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Last Modified: 01/04/2012