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July 27, 2012 ED Review
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 July 27, 2012
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Focus on Higher Education
ESEA Flexibility
From the White House
Title VI Anniversary
Sequestration
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Focus on Higher Education

Once again, over the last two weeks, the Administration has been active on higher education issues.

First, on July 20, the Department announced a new, streamlined web site and several social media tools that will make it easier for students and families to navigate the financial aid process and make informed decisions about paying for college. StudentAid.gov is the initial step in a multi-phase project to offer a "one-stop shop" where consumers can access federal student aid information, apply for federal aid, repay student loans, and navigate the college decision-making process. Available in English and Spanish and fully accessible on smartphones and tablets, the web site combines content and interactive tools from several web sites and features instructional videos and infographics to help answer frequent questions about financial aid. Also, the Department has revamped its federal student aid-related social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to provide more options for students to learn about student aid. These resources, along with the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool introduced earlier this month, are the agency's response to President Obama's June 7 directive to enhance online and mobile resources for loan repayment options and debt management.

The launch of the new web site followed the release of a joint report by the Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding consumer protection issues with private student loans and recommendations to improve the student loan marketplace.

Then, on July 24, the Department unveiled the Administration's model financial aid award letter, known as the Shopping Sheet. The Department partnered with the CFPB to develop the Shopping Sheet to promote transparency in student aid financial disclosures. The Shopping Sheet makes student costs clear up front—before students have enrolled—by outlining total estimated annual costs; how much grant money students will receive, and how much they may have to take out in the form of student loans; the institution's graduation and default rates; and an estimate of monthly loan payments after graduation. While the Shopping Sheet is not mandatory, its format should be considered a best practice in helping students to compare costs across different institutions. Indeed, Secretary Duncan published an open letter to more than 7,000 college and university presidents, asking them to voluntarily adopt the Shopping Sheet as part of their financial aid awards beginning in the 2013-14 academic year.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), issued three new postsecondary education studies:

  • "Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance: 2011-12, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2010-11, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2010 11" (report).
  • "Trends Among Young Adults Over Three Decades, 1974-2006" (report), describing patterns of continuity and change over time in four areas of the transition to adulthood: higher education enrollment, labor force roles, family formation, and civic engagement.
  • "New Americans in Postsecondary Education, 2007-08" (report), describing the characteristics and undergraduate experiences of students who immigrated or who had at least one immigrant parent.
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ESEA Flexibility

Last week, Secretary Duncan announced that six additional states—Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, and South Carolina—and the District of Columbia will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In exchange for this new flexibility, they have agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness. This announcement brings the number of states with waivers to 32, plus the District. Five other applications are still under review, and there is time for other states to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility. The deadline for the next round of waivers is September 6.

In the interest of transparency and to help inform other states, the Department has posted here both initial and approved flexibility requests, highlights of each state's plan, and peer review notes, as well as the agency's letter regarding peer review feedback and the Secretary's approval letter.

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From the White House

Also last week, in a roundtable with a group of K-12 math and science teachers at the White House, Secretary Duncan and members of the Administration announced the President's plan for the creation of a new, nationwide Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Master Teacher Corps, comprised of some of the nation's finest educators in STEM subjects. The Corps will kick-off with 50 exceptional STEM teachers in 50 sites and be expanded over four years to reach 10,000 teachers. These selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership, and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. The Administration intends to launch the Corps with $1 billion from the President's 2013 budget request currently before Congress. Also, the Administration is immediately dedicating roughly $100 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) toward helping school districts implement high-quality plans to establish career ladders that identify, develop, and leverage effective STEM teachers.

This week, the President signed an Executive Order to improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African-Americans. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, within the Education Department, will work with the Executive Office of the President and federal agencies to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African-American student achievement in school and college, as well as develop a national network of individuals, organizations, and communities that will share and implement such practices. It will also help ensure federal programs and initiatives maintain a focus on serving and meeting the educational needs of African-Americans. (Note: The initiative will complement the existing White House Initiative that strengthens Historically Black Colleges and Universities by working with federal agencies and partners to provide all African-American students with a more effective continuum of education programs.)

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Title VI Anniversary

On the topic of civil rights, Secretary Duncan and senior officials from the White House and the Smithsonian Institution recently joined high school student leaders from New York and Washington, D.C., for a series of events celebrating the 48th anniversary of the enactment of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Students explored civil rights history through discussions with officials about the struggle to achieve legislation prohibiting discrimination based on race in the nation's schools and institutions. They also debated current issues and perspectives and developed their own visions for advancing equality. In support, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report on Title VI enforcement activities conducted by OCR during the Obama Administration, in areas such as discriminatory discipline, racial harassment, and barriers to education for English language learners. OCR received nearly 5,500 Title VI-related complaints over the last three years—a record—and launched some 55 systemic, proactive investigations.

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Sequestration

On July 25, Secretary Duncan testified before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee about the impact of looming automatic budget cuts. Sequestration would mandate across-the-board cuts to the federal budget that would go into effect in January 2013, if Congress does not act. While a lot of attention has been given to impending cuts to defense, the Secretary emphasized the substantial impact the cuts would have on all government programs and services. "Sequestration is absolutely the wrong way to make policy," he said. "Essentially, we're playing chicken with the lives of the American people—our schools, communities, small businesses, farms, public safety, infrastructure, and national security.... Clearly, it is time for Congress to work together with the Administration to create a long-term plan to reduce the deficit while simultaneously supporting the economic recovery that is underway."

While most schools will not feel the impact of across-the-board cuts until fall 2013 (see Deputy Secretary Tony Miller's July 20 memorandum on sequestration), the reduction in federal funding would be felt throughout the nation. For example:

  • Title I funding would be cut by $1.1 billion, cutting off funding to an estimated 4,000 schools serving 1.8 million disadvantaged students. The jobs of over 15,000 teachers and aides would be at risk.
  • Funding for special education would be reduced by $900 million. That could translate into the layoffs of more than 10,000 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide instruction and other support to 6.6 million children with disabilities.
  • Up to 100,000 low-income children would be denied access to the Head Start program, which is critical to preparing them for success in kindergarten and beyond. (Note: A webcast of the hearing is here, and a Senate report on the impact of sequestration on non-defense jobs and services is here.)
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Odds and Ends

  • On July 13, Secretary Duncan addressed the nation's governors in Williamsburg, Virginia, during the National Governors Association's (NGA) annual meeting. Among the topics discussed were ESEA reauthorization, early childhood education, higher education, and teacher preparation.

  • On July 17, the Secretary delivered remarks at the National Academy Foundation NEXT Conference. He highlighted the Administration's blueprint for reforming career and technical education (CTE) and how the Department would implement a proposed $1 billion investment in career academies.

  • The Secretary also said goodbye to the 2011-12 Teaching Ambassador Fellows, thanking them for their year of service. This most recent cohort of 16 fellows helped to shape the agency's policies and programs so that they truly benefit students and teachers, mostly significantly by leading the effort to engage more than 3,500 educators directly in the work on the Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) Project. This project is the Department's initiative to help transform the teaching profession so that teachers are as well prepared, developed, compensated, and respected as other leading professions.

  • Video is available for the first two summer "Let's Read! Let's Move!" events on the Department plaza. On July 11, Secretary Duncan was joined by White House chef and policy advisor on healthy foods Sam Kass and the First Family's nutrition and fitness trainer Cornell McClellan. On July 18, the Secretary was joined by football player LaVar Arrington, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler, and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton.

  • Staying on theme: the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has released "America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012." This report continues a robust series of annual studies to the nation on conditions affecting children and families in the U.S. across a range of basic domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. NCES contributes indicators to the report and supports its production with 21 other federal agencies.

  • The Department's long-standing arts education grant programs have unleashed the creative minds of students, deepened their learning experiences in core academic subjects through arts integration, and enhanced the knowledge and skills of teachers to meet high standards in the arts. Several grantees recently took the time to explain how arts integration has impacted their students, teachers, schools, and communities.

  • Some one hundred videographers entered the "Why Open Education Matters" video competition, co-sponsored by the Department to help communicate the use and promise of free, high-quality open educational resources. In addition to the prize-winning videos, all qualifying videos are available for viewing.

  • On July 2, the National Civic League named 14 communities 2012 All-American Cities, recognized for their ambitious plans to ensure that more children are proficient readers by the end of third-grade.

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Quotes to Note

"As many of you know, early on Friday [July 20], at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The people we lost in Aurora loved, and were loved. They were mothers and fathers; husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters; friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and dreams that were not yet fulfilled. And, if there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's a reminder that life is fragile. Our time here is limited and precious. And, what matters in the end are not the small and trivial things which often consume our lives. It's how we choose to treat one another, and love one another. It's what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose."

        President Barack Obama (7/21/12), in his weekly address to the nation

"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Sally Ride. As the first American woman to travel into space, she was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and, later, fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Her life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will ensure for years to come."

        President Barack Obama (7/23/12), on the passing of astronaut and advocate Sally Ride

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Upcoming Events

The Department will host the third annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit August 6 and 7 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. The summit will focus on ensuring that anti-bullying efforts are coordinated and based on the best available research. Panels will spotlight the connection between bullying and suicide and ways to help students who bully others.

August 8 and 9, at the same location, the Department's Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) will hold its national conference, exploring five prevailing and emerging issues that influence conditions for learning: school discipline, gender-based violence, behavioral health, bullying, and school safety.

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Last Modified: 08/01/2012