Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Digital Learning Day
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Yesterday, in a White House ceremony attended by state education officials, teachers, and business and civil rights leaders, President Obama announced that 10 statesColorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennesseewill receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In exchange for this new flexibility, these states have agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness. "Today, we're giving 10 states the green light to continue making reforms that are best for them," the President said. "Because, if we're serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren't going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas and hold states and schools accountable for making them work."
The Administration is continuing to work closely with New Mexico, the eleventh state that requested flexibility in the first round. Twenty-eight other states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have indicated their intent to seek flexibility in the second round. The next deadline to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility is later this month. More information.
In the interest of transparency and to help inform other states, the Department has posted here both initial and approved flexibility requests, peer review notes, and a summary of improvements, as well as the agency's letter regarding peer review feedback and the Secretary's approval letter.
Earlier, at the University of Michigan a few days after he called for a comprehensive approach to tackling rising college costs during his State of the Union address, the President delivered remarks and released a fact sheet on keeping college affordable and within reach for all Americans. Over the past three years, the Administration has taken historic steps to help students afford college, including reforming the student aid system to become more efficient and reliable and expanding grant aid and college tax credits. This year, the President is calling on Congress to advance new reforms that will promote shared responsibility to address the college affordability challenge.
The President outlined five key strategies:
- Reforming student aid to promote affordability and value. To keep tuition from spiraling too high and drive greater value, the President will propose reforms to federal campus-based aid programs to shift away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down and toward those colleges that do their fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well.
- Creating a Race to the Top for college affordability and completion. The President would invest $1 billion to spur systemic, state-level reforms (for example, revamping the structure of financing for higher education) that simultaneously lead to increased affordability, quality, and productivity.
- Creating a First in the World competition to model innovation and quality on campuses. The President would invest $55 million to support colleges and non-profit organizations that are working to establish or scale-up new programs (for example, redesigning courses to make better use of technology) that boost higher education attainment and outcomes.
- Providing better data for students to choose the right colleges. The President has called for a "College Scorecard" for all degree-granting institutions, designed to supply essential information about graduation rates, college costs, and potential earnings, in an easy-to-read format to help students and families select a college that is suited to their needs, priced affordably, and consistent with their career and educational goals. (Note: A sample screenshot is now available for public review and comment.)
- Providing federal support to tackle college costs. The President has called for Congress to keep interest rates low for 7.4 million student loan borrowers (if Congress does not act, the interest rates for subsidized Stafford student loans will increase from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1), double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years, and make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent.
In related news, Secretary Duncan discussed college affordability during two town halls in Florida; the Department hosted a "Evidence-Action-Innovation" college completion symposium and invited the higher education community to share best practices; and Under Secretary Martha Kanter testified at a Senate committee hearing on innovations in college affordability.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Meanwhile, Under Secretary Kanter joined Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes at the University of Maryland Baltimore to announce new efforts from the Department to help public servantsincluding teachers, nurses, and veteranstake advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). PSLF cancels the balance of a borrower's federal student loan debt after he or she has served full-time in a public service role for 10 years, while making on-time qualifying loan payments each month. Among the new materials is an employment certification form that allows borrowers to keep track of eligible employment and payments. Also, the new materials allow borrowers to find out, today, if their job and loan payments will qualify them for loan forgiveness in the future, as well as how many payments they have left to submit.
On February 7, President Obama hosted the second White House Science Fair, featuring inventions and research from over 100 students representing 30 student teams. From robots in the Blue Room to rockets in the Red Room to marshmallow cannons in the State Dining Room, projects showcased the talents of America's next generation. After viewing some of the displays and talking with students about their work, the President addressed students, parents, and teachers.
The President also announced several new initiatives to increase the number of students studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and prepare the educators needed to instruct future engineers, inventors, and innovators:
- A $100 million investment in the President's budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve undergraduate STEM education practices, to help meet the Administration's goal of producing one million additional STEM graduates in 10 years.
- A new education initiative jointly administered by the Department of Education and NSF to improve math education.
- Commitments from private sector groups and coalitions to get students excited about STEM.
- New policies to recruit, support, retain, and reward excellent STEM teachers, along with an $80 million investment in the President's budget to help prepare effective STEM teachers.
- A $22 million philanthropic and private sector investment to complement the Administration's goal of training 100,000 more STEM educators in 10 years.
Moreover, the President's Council of Advisors in Science and Technology released a new report, "Engage to Excel," providing a strategy for improving STEM education during the first two years of college.
Digital Learning Day
Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., 18,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students participated in the first-ever Digital Learning Day on February 1, which aimed to demonstrate how technology is improving teaching and learning across the nation. The day kicked-off with web sessions focused on leadership and innovation, instruction, and professional learning and teacher effectiveness before attendees viewed a national town hall webcast featuring Secretary Duncan, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, and video conferences with teachers and students from exemplary schools across the nation. "We have to do everything we can to foster education and to help us move from print to digital as fast as we can," the Secretary said, noting that while technology has transformed business and government around the world, it has only slightly changed the way most U.S. schools operate. "We have to move from being a laggard to being a leader." Next month, the Department and the FCC will convene a meeting with policymakers and stakeholders to develop real action plans. (Note: During the town hall, a collaborative of business and education leaders presented the "Digital Textbook Playbook," a guide to help K-12 teachers and administrators leverage broadband technology and develop rich digital learning experiences.)
Odds and Ends
A reminder: applications for the Department's fifth cohort of Teaching Ambassador Fellows are due February 22. Thinking about applying? Current and former fellows talk about their experiences here, while there is a summary of how fellows contribute to the work of the agency here.
Recently, state and local leaders from the 11 states and the District of Columbia receiving funds from Phases 1 and 2 of the Department's Race to the Top program met in Washington, D.C. Reflecting on more than a year's experience with implementing the program, they agreed that their efforts have been challenging but are clearly worth it. They see their reforms as a significant opportunity to better prepare students to succeed in college and careers.
In advance of National School Counseling Week (February 6-10), Secretary Duncan spoke at the American School Counselor Association's annual gala, thanking counselors for their hard work and praising them for the difference they make in the lives of students.
On February 6, the Secretary was in Boston for a series of education events. He discussed the state's Race to the Top grant with local superintendents and union leaders, visited Boston Public Schools' Parents University, met with students and college presidents about keeping college affordable, and delivered a speech at the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Askwith Forum.
An engaged audience with a broad range of questions joined Secretary Duncan on Twitter and via video to discuss educational issues facing the Latino community.
First Lady Michelle Obama is on a tour to celebrate the second anniversary of Let's Move! campaign.
A new study by the Department's Policy and Program Studies Services describes several aspects of the implementation of the first two cohorts of Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grantees.
According to the College Board's latest "Advanced Placement Report to the Nation," 18.1% of the Class of 2011 achieved mastery (at least a 3 on a 5-point scale) on one or more AP exams.
Quote to Note
"In my experience, tough-minded collaboration in education is typically more successful than tough-minded confrontation.... Collaborating with people who you disagree with doesn't mean you have to give up on transformational reform. You just have to give up the idea of getting everything you want, under the terms you want. In Chicago and in Washington, I've often been told: 'Don't aim too high,' 'You're going too fast,' and 'It will never happen.' But, I think the skeptics underestimate the commitment to change in the classroom and the capacity and desire of teachers and principals to advance student learning.... Let's stop defending the status quo when it hurts children. Let's wage the right battles. Together, let's work collectively to advance achievement and a love of learning in America."
|||Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2/6/12), speaking at Harvard's Askwith Forum|
On February 14, the Department will hold a briefing for associations and stakeholders on the President's Fiscal Year 2013 budget. The briefing, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, will be in the auditorium at the agency's headquarters (400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202). RSVPs are not required. This briefing will also be broadcast live and archived on the Department's USTREAM channel. (Note: On February 13, budget materials will be posted here.)
On February 28, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will offer via webcast a testing integrity symposium to identify and discuss critical issues in testing integrity.
Educators are encouraged to sign-up for the National Financial Capability Challenge (March 12-April 13), an effort to help high school students develop the knowledge and skills needed to take real control of their financial futures.
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