NEWSLETTERS
September 21, 2012 ED Review
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 September 21, 2012
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ESEA Flexibility
Back To School Tour
NAEP Writing
Grant Awards
Online Community: Adult Educators
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

ESEA Flexibility

On September 7, the Department received requests from seven new states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia), as well as Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), for waivers from key provisions of No Child Left Behind in exchange for state-developed plans to prepare all students for college and career, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership. These requests bring the number of states that have either requested waivers or been approved to implement reforms to 44. "This is a nationwide movement, and the message from coast to coast is clear: America can't wait any longer for real education reform," said Secretary Duncan. "My hope is that Congress will come together to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), but we know states need flexibility now." The new waiver requests are posted online, along with the names of the peer reviewers who will convene next month to review them.

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Back To School Tour

Today is the last day of the Department's third annual Back to School bus tour, entitled "Education Drives America." Over the last two weeks, Secretary Duncan and senior Department officials held more than 120 events in 23 cities and 12 states across the country. The Department's blog has a wealth of stories, pictures, and videos chronicling the tour, including daily recaps (September 12 [California and Reno, Nevada]; September 13 [Elko, Nevada and Utah]; September 14 [Wyoming]; September 17 [Colorado]; September 18 [Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri]; September 19 [Columbia and St. Louis, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana]; September 20 [Kentucky and West Virginia]; and September 21 [Virginia and Washington, D.C.]). Also, the Secretary's signature bus tour speech, delivered at the stop in Topeka, Kansas, is available online.

Throughout the tour, participants have been using social media to record their experiences.

Also, tonight, starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department will host a Welcome Back Block Party at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. On behalf of the President, Secretary Duncan will deliver this year's Back to School speech. The program also includes youth talent and a college access fair.

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NAEP Writing

For the first time in history, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) used computers to assess students' writing, with national samples of eighth- and twelfth-grade students. More than 75% of students at those grade levels performed at or above the Basic achievement level, meaning that they have at least partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed to communicate clearly in writing. However, only about one-quarter of eighth- and twelfth-grade students performed at or above the Proficient level, meaning that they demonstrate solid academic performance.

The "Nation's Report Card: Writing 2011" asked students to write for various purposes and communicate to different audiences. Students were presented with a range of interactive tasks that included audio or video segments, newspaper articles, data from real world settings, and other materials on which to base their writing. Each student was given two writing tasks and had 30 minutes to complete each one. For both grades, students' writing was scored on a six-point scale, ranging from "effective" to "little/no skill." This scoring acknowledges that students were being evaluated on their first-draft writing in an "on demand" situation and not on their final, polished pieces of writing. The assessment measures how well students develop, organize, and use language to convey ideas. The computer-based testing format allowed NAEP to gather data on the extent to which students used commonly available word processing tools, like spell check and copy, cut, and paste.

Among the additional findings:

  • At both grades, African-American and Hispanic students had lower average scores than white and Asian students and students of two or more races, and female students outscored male students.
  • At both grades, students who used the Backspace key and thesaurus tool more frequently scored higher than those who engaged in these actions less frequently.
  • Twelfth-grade students who write four- to five-pages a week for English/language arts homework scored higher than those who write fewer pages. (Note: A recording of the webinar discussing the results will be posted shortly here.)
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Grant Awards

This month, the Department has announced grant awards under a number of programs. First, more than $9.8 million in grants were awarded to 16 states to operate 25 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) for parents of students with disabilities, and $1.1 million in grants were awarded to nine states and Puerto Rico to operate 11 Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). With these new grants, the Department funds 101 information centers for parents of children and youth with disabilities. Every state has at least one PTI, and CPRCs provide services in targeted communities throughout the country. Second, $5.4 million in grants were awarded to 14 colleges and universities as part of the Strengthening Institutions Program. This initiative helps schools expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions and build a framework to help students complete college. Funds may be used for many purposes, including planning, staff development, administrative management, establishment of an endowment fund, and the development and improvement of academic programming. Third, $6 million in grants were awarded to 13 states to improve education opportunities for American Indian children and provide professional development for individuals of American Indian descent who serve in the field. Fourth, $227.9 million was awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to strengthen academic resources, financial management systems, endowment-building capacity, and physical plants. And, lastly, $6.64 million was awarded to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to implement and expand its national efforts in arts education and arts integration.

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Online Community: Adult Educators

The Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education recently re-launched the "Literacy Information and Communication System" (LINCS), its first-ever, online professional learning community for adult educators. LINCS provides adult educators with access to resources; on-demand, web-based professional development opportunities, including online courses and targeted, face-to-face trainings; and a connected network of practitioners, called a "community of practice." It also offers specialized tools, including the ability for adult educators across the U.S. to engage in real time discussions. One of the key features of the web site is the "LINCS Community" with 16 topic area groups, providing an opportunity for those in the field and related fields to engage in topic-specific information sharing and networking. By engaging in a group, adult educators may share and obtain real time answers to peer-driven questions based on their collective professional experiences.

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Odds and Ends

  • Following President Obama's recent Executive Order creating a White House initiative focusing on African-American education, the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) and the Department held a National Summit on Educational Excellence and Opportunity for African-American Males. The summit—which was recorded and is available for viewing in three parts—brought together educators, policymakers, researchers, and students for a town hall discussion, presentations, and roundtables to highlight promising practices that are closing achievement and opportunity gaps and focus on new strategies and partnerships to improve the educational, economic, and social outcomes for African-American males.

  • A Notice Inviting Applications and Notice of Final Requirements for Phase 2 of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge were published in the Federal Register this week. The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are funding down the slate from last year's competition, making awards available to the next five highest-scoring applicants: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin. States may apply for up to 50% of their requested amount from last year's application.

  • In both a statement and video, the Secretary invites the public to participate in International Education Week 2012 (November 12-16, coinciding with American Education Week). This year's theme is "International Education: Striving for a Healthier Future Worldwide."

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual "Education at a Glance" report compares education systems in 34 member countries using a range of indicators. The primary topics covered are student participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and educators, and the state of lifelong learning. Notably, the U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of young adults (25-34-year-olds) with a college degree, at 42%—above the OECD average (38%) but behind leader Korea (65%).

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Quote to Note

"The persistence and even the recent expansion of the opportunity gap should be an urgent wake-up call that America is still not a color-blind society that provides equal educational opportunity. That painful recognition is deeply at odds with the American creed—that if you study hard and play by the rules, you get a fair shot at the future, regardless of your skin color, zip code, or size of your bank account. The American dream was never about guaranteeing equality of results, but it has always been about ensuring equality of opportunity. Today, our nation is failing to live up to that core American ideal."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (9/18/12), speaking at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site in Topeka, Kansas

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Upcoming Events

September 23-25, NBC News will convene its third annual Education Nation Summit in New York City. Summit sessions will spotlight a series of case studies from communities across the country, providing tools and takeaways for participants and viewers. Secretary Duncan will participate in several sessions.

On October 18, Lights On Afterschool!, a coast-to-coast rally organized by the Afterschool Alliance, will illuminate the nation by celebrating afterschool programs and the need they meet in keeping students safe, helping working families, and improving academic achievement. More than 7,500 communities, including many of the Department-funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers, will host activities.

On October 24, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department's Family Policy Compliance Office will present via webinar a basic overview of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This one-hour presentation will be geared toward local school officials.

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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: 09/25/2012