State of the Union
Completing the FAFSA
ADA Amendments Guidance
Teacher Ambassador Fellowship
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
State of the Union
Education was one of key areas President Obama focused on during his 2012 State of the Union address. Specifically, he mentioned four education issues:
"When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the college tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And, give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.... Of course, it's not enough for us to increase student aid. We can't just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we'll run out of money. States also need to do their partby making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And, colleges and universities have to do their part, by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who've done just that. Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it's possible. So, let me put colleges and universities on notice: if you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can't be a luxuryit is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."
"At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to layoff thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to a child who dreams beyond his circumstances. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging in their own pocket for school supplies, just to make a difference. Teachers matter. So, instead of bashing them or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn."
"We also know that when students don't walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So, tonight, I am proposing that every state requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."
"I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity.... Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My Administration has lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now, you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centersplaces that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now. And, I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that, from now on, people have one program, one web site, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need. It is time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work."
A handful of students, educators, and advocates were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama during the address.
After the address, the Administration released "A Blueprint for an America Built to Last," a series of ideas (such as those cited above) to build an economy that works for everyone.
Meanwhile, anyone who watched the online broadcast of the address saw something a little different: a side-by-side display of charts, graphs, and other visual representations of why the President's policies are important for the country and the economy.
This week, the Department posted budget tables for the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations. Funds included in the state-by-state tables are for agency programs that allocate funds to states or school districts using statutory formulas. The totals do not reflect all Department funds that a state may receive. States and other entities may also receive Department funds awarded on a competitive basis. The tables also include, for each state, financial support from selected student aid programs that provide funds to the postsecondary institutions that students attend, as well as the amount of new federally supported loans made to students attending postsecondary institutions in the state.
Note: The President is now scheduled to release his FY 2013 budget on February 13.
Completing the FAFSA
Last week, Secretary Duncan announced the expansion of a pilot project to increase the number of students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in selected school districts. The one-year-old project will be expanding to an additional 92 districts, helping identify students who have not completed a FAFSA. Research indicates that 90% of students who complete a FAFSA will enroll in postsecondary education. Through the project, participating districts will have access to FAFSA completion data and give students information about how to pursue a college education. The Department is accepting applications for the pilot project until March 2.
In related news, the Secretary traveled to Minneapolis on January 20 to speak with students, parents, and local, state, and national leaders at South High School about the importance of higher education and college affordability. The Administration has taken a number of steps to make it easier for students to get financial aid and understand the true cost of college: the biggest investment in college since the G.I. Bill; $40 billion for Pell Grants; simplifying the FAFSA; "Pay as You Earn" income-based repayment; and "Know Before You Owe" financial aid shopping sheet, among other items. The Secretary also launched the @FAFSA Twitter account.
Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter is also hosting "FAFSA Office Hours," during which she will solicit and answer students' FAFSA questions live on Twitter using the #askFAFSA hashtag.
ADA Amendments Guidance
Also last week, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague letter regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act. The letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions provide guidance on the requirements of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in elementary and secondary schools, given changes to those laws under the Amendments Act. That act broadened the meaning of disability and, in most cases, shifts the inquiry away from the question of whether a student has a disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504 and toward actions and obligations to ensure equal education opportunities.
Teacher Ambassador Fellowship
Applications for the Department's fifth cohort of Teaching Ambassador Fellows recently opened and are scheduled to close on February 22. Since 2008, this highly competitive program has enabled a total of 69 outstanding teachers, each with a record of leadership, strong communications skills, and insights into education policy based in classroom expertise to work with the agency on either a full- or part-time basis. The program offers three separate paid positions. The Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment based at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Classroom Fellowship enables teachers to participate on a part-time basis with the Department, working with the agency's regional offices, in addition to their regular school responsibilities. The Regional Fellowship, offered for the first time this year, is a full-time appointment based at one of the Department's regional offices. All fellows spend a year learning about federal programs and policies, sharing their expertise with federal staff members and providing communication and outreach about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the agency in order to help teachers understand and implement these efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. (Note: In a blog post, current Washington fellows react to the President's comments on teachers in his State of the Union address.)
Odds and Ends
The December 2011 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features President Obama's Osawatomie, Kansas, speech emphasizing the importance of education for middle-class prosperity, a celebration of the teaching profession at the White House, and recent grants for education reform.
The President recently announced his intent to nominate Deborah Delisle as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.
When the White House celebrated the latest class of National Board Certified teachers, several of the honorees traveled from some of America's most remote and distant rural communities. Department staff caught up with these teachers to hear their stories. The teachers describe challenges with funding, a lack of technology, and the need to elevate the teaching profession, while expanding curriculum to prepare students for today's economy.
Today, the Department will welcome more than 200 teachers for a screening of the documentary "American Teacher," which chronicles the stories of four teachers working in different areas of the country. It follows the teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers and provides a compelling portrait of the teaching profession in America today. Following the screening, participants will engage in a discussion regarding how to reshape the culture of American education to better attract, retain, and support highly effective teachers, and teachers all across the country are welcome to join the discussion by logging onto Twitter and using the hashtag #TeachTalk starting at 7:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The Promise Neighborhoods Program released a list of applicants that scored 80 points or higher in its 2011 competition, spotlighting high potential applicants who, due to limited funding, did not receive grants.
The next in a series of blog posts on the Green Ribbon Schools' pilot year is an open letter to potential applicants, thanking them for their enthusiasm and encouraging them to apply and take advantage of the resources available on the program web site.
On January 25, at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and celebrity cook Rachel Ray introduced final guidelines improving nutrition standards for school lunches. The guidelines substantially increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on the menu, while reducing saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. They also set calorie limits based on the age of children being served.
The Department is collecting information and gathering suggestions to assist states, districts, and organizations in preventing, detecting, and responding to irregularities in academic testing.
The new year marked the start of new five-year contracts for the Regional Educational Laboratories.
In its latest Challenge to Innovate (C2i) initiative, the NEA Foundation has partnered with Microsoft-U.S. Partners in Learning to urge public school educators to explore, share, and discuss their responses to this question: how can interactive technology and game-based learning help students learn? Proposed solutions for the challenge will be accepted through March 5. The 10 best ideas, as judged by the community on the Department's Open Innovation Portal, will receive $1,000 cash awards and recognition as their solutions are shared with educators nationwide.
Quote to Note
"One of the biggest disagreements I have with some folks in Washington is the nature of America's success. Each of us is here only because somebody somewhere felt a responsibility to each other and felt a responsibility to our country's future. And, that starts within our own families. It starts with us making sure our kids are responsible, and we're instilling in them the values of hard work and doing your homework and treating other people with respect. But then it expands from there, to our neighborhoods and our communities. And, we recognize that if everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody has a chance to do better."
|||President Barack Obama (1/25/12), speaking on "An America Built to Last" in Cedar Rapids, Iowa|
February is African-American History Month. Need help planning activities? The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers over 1,500 free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 69 resources specifically highlighted for the month.
Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar have organized Tribal Leader Education Roundtables to engage tribal and other community leaders, Indian education stakeholders, and the public on the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two Departments that will take advantage of both agencies' expertise, resources, and facilities to improve American Indian and Alaska Native students. Three roundtables have been held to date, and a fourth roundtable is planned for Seattle (on February 16). Additional roundtables may be held at a later date.
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