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May 4, 2012 ED Review
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 May 4, 2012
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Student Loan Interest Rates
Honoring Students
Honoring Teachers
Education Record
Green Ribbon Schools
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Student Loan Interest Rates

On July 1, the interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans are slated to double, from 3.4% to 6.8%. If Congress does not step in to keep rates low, more than 7.4 million students will be affected. Based on the average student loan amount, the increase will add over $1,000 in costs over the life of that loan.

Secretary Duncan raised this issue in an April 20 press briefing at the White House. "At a time when going to college has never been more important, it has also, unfortunately, never been more expensive," he said. "Families and students are struggling to meet these costs, and there's no reason why we should add to their burden.... More and more middle class families are starting to think college might not be for them, it's for rich folks. There's a real problem with that when we know going to college is the path to the middle class."

Also, President Obama focused on this issue in his April 21 weekly address. "We should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American," he said, "because, at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it's never been more important.... In America, higher education cannot be a luxury. It's an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford."

Then, April 24 and 25, the President traveled to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa, calling on Congress to stop student loan interest rates from doubling. He spoke to students the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Iowa. He also "slow jammed" the news on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which was taping on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Some additional resources:

  • A White House fact sheet outlines the issue.
  • The White House's "Keep Student Interest Rates Low" web page has a map detailing how many students who go to school in each state would be affected by higher rates and how much they will save over the life of their loan if Congress acts to stop the rates increase.
  • A Federal Student Aid (FSA) web page summarizes new requirements for federal student aid programs. Most of these changes are effective with the 2012-13 school year (July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013).

In related news, the Department intends to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to develop proposed regulations designed to prevent fraud and otherwise ensure proper use of federal student aid, especially in the context of current technologies. It also plans to propose regulations to improve and streamline campus-based federal student aid programs. The agency will hold two public hearings for interested parties to discuss the rulemaking agenda: May 23 in Phoenix, AZ, and May 31 in Washington, D.C.

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Honoring Students

This week, Secretary Duncan announced the 2012 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts. Each year, 141 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, and 20 students are scholars in the arts. Over 3,300 candidates qualified on the basis of outstanding ACT or SAT scores and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts nationwide youngARTS competition. The Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by the President, chooses finalists. Scholars will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 16. Each scholar will invite the teacher who had the greatest impact on his or her success to participate in the activities and receive a certificate of appreciation.

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Honoring Teachers

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a committee of the major national education organizations, organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers. This year's winner, Rebecca Mieliwocki, is an English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, California. She has been teaching for 14 years, the last nine years in her current position. During the year, she is released from classroom duties to travel the country as a spokesperson and advocate for the teaching profession.

On April 24, the President, the Secretary, and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and the State Teachers of the Year at the White House for a ceremony in the East Room. In his remarks, President Obama highlighted the crucial work America's teachers do for all society: "Even in the best of times, teachers are asked to do more with less. Today, with our economy still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, states and communities have to stretch budgets tighter than ever. So, we've got a particular responsibility as elected officials in difficult times, instead of bashing teachers to support them."

The White House ceremony was just one of many activities the Teachers of the Year participated in while in town. On April 26, they visited the Department to discuss ways to elevate the teaching profession via the RESPECT Project. The RESPECT Project is a national conversation led by the agency's Teaching Ambassador Fellows to provide input on the Administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal and on the broader effort to reform teaching.

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Education Record

In his recent address before Parenting magazine's annual Mom Congress, the Secretary underscored the Administration's accomplishments to date on its education agenda, how the reforms support students and families, and how parents can be advocates for change within their states and communities. "Under the President's leadership, our role here in Washington is to support you," he said. "At the Department of Education, our first three years were really about building a foundation for this transformation. We have challenged the status quo wherever it is needed and championed bold education reform wherever it is happening along the educational pipeline from cradle to career." Among the accomplishments, he raised investing in early learning, strengthening elementary and secondary education, keeping teachers on the job (under the Recovery Act and emergency jobs aid), and investing in higher education. "The bottom line is: we can't stop," he resolved. "The costs of educational stagnation and mediocrity are too high. The President has put us on a path to reach our goal of being the best-educated country in the world by 2020, and we have to keep going."

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Green Ribbon Schools

On Earth Week Monday, Secretary Duncan, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the first U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), including 78 schools that span 29 states and the District of Columbia. ED-GRS is a recognition program that opened in September 2011. Honored schools exercise a comprehensive approach to creating green environments through reducing environmental impact, promoting health and wellness, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy. "Today, we are shining the spotlight on 78 terrific and innovative schools, but our real aim is more ambitious," the Secretary stressed in a related blog post. "We don't want pockets of excellence. We want success to be the norm." (Note: These are one-year recognition awards. Next year's competition will open this summer. State education agencies are requested to indicate their intent to submit nominees by June 15 to Green.Ribbon.Schools@ed.gov.)

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Odds and Ends

  • The March 2012 edition of "School Days," the Department's monthly video journal, features data on student progress in the nation's lowest-achieving schools, the Secretary's visit to the SXSWedu conference, and a new tool to help high school guidance counselors track whether students are applying for federal student aid.

  • The Senate confirmed Deborah Delisle as the Department's Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.

  • Five more states—California, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—have received new funds to turn around lowest-performing schools through the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.

  • The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) recently announced the launch of a new arts education initiative to help turn around lowest-performing schools.

  • The Department's newly-established Office of Early Learning (OEL) now has a web site, with timely and useful information about the early learning programs and initiatives at the agency.

  • April was the Month of the Military Child. In a letter to local superintendents, the Secretary shares information and asks for assistance in meeting the needs of military-connected school children. Nearly all school districts educate a child whose parent or guardian serves in the Armed Forces, whether stationed here or abroad and on active duty or in the National Guard or Reserves.

  • The education and business community, as well as several members of Congress, have been weighing-in on the Administration's blueprint for transforming career and technical education.

  • On April 25, Secretary Duncan joined Small Business Administrator Karen Mills on Twitter to answer questions about how to start a new business, the loan repayment and forgiveness plans available to student borrowers, and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Quote to Note

"In 2020, today's eighth-graders will be finishing college. At that point, we must again be first in the world in graduation rates, not 16th. And, with the foundation that President Obama has laid, I can imagine all of us at their graduation ceremony, like a proud family. We'll be there as parent advocates, secretaries of education, state governors and legislators. We'll be there as mayors, school board members, college presidents and professors. We'll be there as superintendents, principals, teachers, and union leaders. Democrats, Republicans, independents—it doesn't matter. We'll all cheer for our students and ourselves as America's graduates are declared the world's valedictorians.... At graduation, no one cheers louder than mom."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (4/30/12), addressing the third Mom Congress

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Upcoming Events

On May 10, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Department will release the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science results for eighth-grade students.

In an April 14 letter to Tribal leaders, the Secretaries of Education and the Interior announced four upcoming consultation sessions to continue work on the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (an Executive Order signed by President Obama last year): May 18 in Lincoln, CA; May 24 in Flagstaff, AZ; May 31 in Bloomington, MN; and June 5 in Nashville, TN.

This spring, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver commencement addresses at Broward College in Florida and Southwestern Community College in Iowa.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Intergovernmental Affairs—Stacey Jordan, (202) 401-0026, Stacey.Jordan@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 05/08/2012