NEWSLETTERS
June 15, 2012 ED Review
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 June 15, 2012
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Focus On Higher Education
Placed-Based Strategy
Teacher Incentive Fund
Green Ribbon Schools
Presidential Teaching Award
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Focus On Higher Education

Over the last two weeks, the Administration has made several major announcements in higher education.

First, on June 5 at the White House, Vice President Biden, Secretary Duncan, and Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray met with the presidents and senior officials of 10 colleges, universities, and state systems of higher education from across the country to discuss the importance of providing students and families with transparent information about the cost of attendance and financial assistance. These schools have committed to provide all incoming students the following key pieces of information, as part of their financial aid package, beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year:

  • how much one year of college will cost;
  • financial aid options to pay this cost, with a clear differentiation between grants and scholarships, which do not have to be repaid, and loans, which do;
  • net costs after grants and scholarships are taken into account;
  • estimated monthly payments for federal student loans the student would likely owe after graduation; and
  • information about student results, including comparative information about the rates at which students enroll from one year to the next, graduate, and repay their loans without defaulting on their obligation.

As the Vice President noted, this commitment is "going to empower students and their families to be back in the driver's seat when they're choosing a college and how to pay for that education." (Note: Immediately after this convening, Secretary Duncan and Director Cordray joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and called on all college and university presidents to make the same commitment to provide transparent information.)

Next, on June 7 at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), President Obama reasserted his call for Congress to stop student loan interest rates from doubling (from 3.4% to 6.8%) on July 1 and issued a Presidential Memorandum to make it easier for students to benefit from the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program, which caps borrowers' monthly student loan payments based on their ability to pay. While the Department recently removed some of the hurdles to completing the IBR process, too many borrowers are still struggling to access this option, due to difficulty in applying. The memorandum (see fact sheet) calls for the Department to:

  • work with the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to streamline the IBR application process, by allowing student loan borrowers with federally held loans to import their tax return income data directly into the IBR application (meaning borrowers will no longer be required to contact their loan servicers as the first step and can complete the application in one sitting);
  • enhance online and mobile resources for loan repayment options and debt management; and
  • increase awareness of IBR, by instructing federal Direct loan servicers to make borrowers aware of the option to participate in IBR before a student leaves school and upon entering repayment and making available for schools a model exit counseling module.

The Department and IRS will implement the first two improvements in the coming months (enhancing online and mobile content by mid-July and streamlining the application with IRS data by the end of September), while the model exit counseling module will be available by this time next year. (Note: A blog post, detailing "everything you need to know" about IBR, is available here.)

Then, on June 12, the Department updated lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center, highlighting institutions with the highest and lowest tuition and net price and those schools where prices are rising the fastest. In addition, this year, the agency is releasing full lists, so consumers can see how much a specific school costs in comparison to similar institutions. Schools where prices are rising the fastest will report why costs have gone up and how they will address the increases, and the Department will summarize these reports in a document.

Also, the Secretary penned an op-ed on the student loan process for the June 11 edition of Politico, and the White House Open Government Initiative blogged on how "technology, data, and entrepreneurs can help with college affordability."

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Placed-Based Strategy

The Department recently adopted a "place-based" approach to improve the impact and effectiveness of its investments. This approach recognizes that the federal government can support strategies to achieve better outcomes for students and families by taking into account where investments are made and how those investments interact with other policies, programs, and resources. A new report, "Impact in Place: A Progress Report on the Department of Education's Placed-Based Strategy," explains how the agency is able to better align its work with other levels of government to address common challenges. Indeed, for the first time, the agency is explicitly using "place" as the unit of analysis, not just the set of programs that the agency funds. Specifically, the report lays out six critical elements for the development and success of place-based strategies and gives examples of implementation. By explaining what it means to be "placed-based" and showing how communities around the nation have adopted this model, the Department hopes to encourage other agencies and communities to work in a place-based way as well.

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Teacher Incentive Fund

Last week, the Department announced the final application period for the 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) competition. This year's $285 million competition includes a new focus on supporting district-wide evaluation systems that reward success, offer greater professional opportunities, and drive decision-making on recruitment, development, and retention of effective teachers and principals. It also invites applications for a separate competition that centers on improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. School districts may apply for a share of funds either individually or in partnership with one or more districts. States and not-for-profit organizations are also invited to apply in conjunction with one or more districts.

Grants will be awarded to applicants that demonstrate readiness to transition to a new evaluation system, involvement of teachers and principals in developing a plan, and effective methods for placing and keeping talent in hard-to-staff schools. Funds would support performance-based compensation and related professional development, as well as the creation and improvement of systems and tools that benefit the entire district. Evaluation systems will incorporate performance tiers and multiple measures, including student growth. Like the 2010 competition, TIF 2012 gives preference to new applicants. Also, new competitive preferences have been added to support salary structures that incorporate teacher and principal performance and applications serving rural districts.

The Department anticipates awarding around 30 grants ranging from $500,000 to $12 million, depending on the size of the grantee and the content outlined in the plan. Awards will supply first-year funding. Additional funding, for years 2 through 5, are dependent on Congressional action. Applications are due July 27. Winners will be announced in September.

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Green Ribbon Schools

Also last week, senior officials honored the first 78 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools at a national ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Department released a document with highlights and success stories from the 2012 honorees. Secretary Duncan also announced the initial installment of the Green Strides Webinar Series, to help all schools move toward reduced environmental impact, improved health, and effective sustainability literacy, the three "pillars" of the award. This winter, all schools in participating states will have another opportunity to apply to their state education agencies in competition for states' nominations for next year's awards. The agency will publish 2013 nomination criteria this summer and require states to submit their nominees in early 2013. To date, 29 states and the District of Columbia have already indicated their intent to nominate schools in the next round.

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Presidential Teaching Award

This week, President Obama named 97 teachers as recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award is conferred annually to outstanding K-12 math and science teachers from across the country. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished educators, mathematicians, and scientists, following an initial selection process at the state level. Each year, the award alternates between elementary and secondary school teachers; the 2011 recipients teach seventh- through twelfth-grade. Winners receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. They are also invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events.

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Odds and Ends

  • On June 13, the White House Rural Council announced a new online community of practice group for rural schools, providing a platform for educators to connect to resources, tools, and learning activities, both within and beyond schools. Rural school leaders and teachers can join this online community by going here. As membership grows, rural educators will be able to connect with peers in their home states and across the nation to exchange ideas and learn from one another.

  • Reading over the summer is important not only because it improves literacy and language skills, but also because it prevents what has become known as the "summer slide," a regression in reading ability. With that in mind, a blog post lists five of the best ways to keep your child reading this summer.

  • Thirty-two communities have been named finalists for the All-American City Award, and another 25 cities and counties were named finalists for Pacesetter Honors. These communities are among the 124 members of the Grade-Level Reading Community Network, all of whom have pulled together to create plans to increase the number of low-income children who are reading proficiently by the end of the third-grade. The full network will gather in Denver on June 30 to explore and share innovative strategies to turn these early literacy plans into action.

  • The College Savings Account Research Demonstration Project commits $8.7 million to support college savings accounts for students participating in the GEAR UP program, which is designed to increase the college readiness of low-income middle and high school students. The project will provide about 10,000 high school students with savings accounts, as well as counseling, to develop smart financial habits. The project will also study the impact of savings accounts on college access and success by comparing the outcomes of students receiving savings accounts with a control group.

  • Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, a developmental psychologist and youth violence prevention researcher at Johns Hopkins University, recently took some time to answer questions about her latest research on bullying and school climate.

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Quote to Note

"All of us share responsibility for making college affordable and keeping the middle class dream alive. Parents need to be smart consumers, and students need to finish on time or even early. Colleges and universities need to be efficient and productive in delivering educational value to students. Graduating students ready for success should be as important to professors as research and publishing. Institutions should ensure that keeping costs down does not take a back seat to expensive amenities outside the classroom. Where it makes sense, they should offer lower-cost options such as online learning. States must do their part to make higher education a higher priority in their budgets.... The Obama Administration is working every day to do its part. But, we need Congress to step up and help."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/11/12), in an op-ed published in Politico

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Upcoming Events

The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge invites parents of children ages 8-12 to submit an original recipe for a lunch that is nutritious and delicious. Entrants have the chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C., as well as the opportunity to be invited to attend a Kids' "State Dinner" at the White House in August, where a selection of the winning healthy recipes will be served. Recipes may be submitted, online or via mail, through June 17.

On June 19, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board and a panel of experts will discuss, via live webcast, "Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Tasks from the 2009 NAEP Science Assessment," which describes how students performed when asked to predict, observe, and explain results within the context of scientific investigations.

Over the next two weeks, the Department will exhibit at the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Convention in San Jose (June 21-24) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Convention in Orlando (June 25-30). If you are attending either of these events, please stop by the Department's booth.

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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: 06/19/2012