NEWSLETTERS
October 5, 2012 ED Review
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 October 5, 2012
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Moving Forward, Staying Focused
Focus on Higher Education
Education Appropriations
Grant Awards
Civic Learning and Engagement
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Moving Forward, Staying Focused

On October 2, in a major speech on the state of American education at the National Press Club, Secretary Duncan said the country is more focused on improving education than ever before and saluted students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders for embracing real change in a challenging economy. The Secretary highlighted ongoing reform activity across the entire educational continuum (early learning, elementary and secondary education, higher education, and adult education) and specifically referenced the Department's just completed "Education Drives America" bus tour, which took him and senior Department officials to 12 states for more than 120 events (Top 5 Highlights). "People everywhere understand that education and the economy are closely linked," he stated. "They know that the path to the middle class runs right through classrooms."

The Secretary also acknowledged budget pressures affecting states and school districts and raised concerns about more cuts to education. "Some people see education as an expense government can cut to help balance our budgets," he argued. "The President sees education as an investment in our future." Vowing to "double down on what we know is working—steadily moving forward while staying focused," he outlined several educational priorities for the nation:

  • High-quality early education for more low-income children.
  • State-driven accountability that demands progress for all students.
  • More support and training for teachers and principals to translate high standards into practice.
  • A new generation of math and science teachers recruited from top universities and from industry.
  • Passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, so the talent and potential of America's Dreamers can benefit the entire country.
  • Reforming career and technical education programs in high schools and community colleges and strengthening their ties to business and industry.
  • Closing the skills gap and helping millions of unemployed or under-employed adults.
  • Reforming and simplifying the student financial aid system to help drive college affordability and completion.

The Secretary closed his remarks with an appeal for bipartisan commitment to education reform, asserting, "We must unite behind the cause of public education and recognize that the solutions don't come from one party or one ideology.... They come from all of us—you and me—challenging ourselves and holding ourselves accountable. We don't have a minute to waste."

More from Secretary Duncan:

  • Last week, at NBC News' latest Education Nation Summit, he was interviewed regarding school turnarounds and participated in a special session with former U.S. Secretaries of Education.
  • Also last week, at a forum hosted by the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, he delivered remarks on the need for innovation to help advance education reform.
  • This week, he delivered the opening address at the Department's "Innovation to Drive Productivity in Postsecondary Education" symposium at Georgetown University.
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Focus on Higher Education

Over the last two weeks, the Administration has been active on higher education issues.

First, on the final day of the bus tour in Roanoke, Virginia, Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier released an Adult College Completion Tool Kit. It offers federal professional development resources and tools, to assist state and local stakeholders working with adult learners transitioning to postsecondary education. It also offers resources that help adult learners to be informed consumers, such as targeted information for returning veterans, skilled immigrants, and individuals currently or formerly incarcerated.

Next, on September 25, the Department announced that over 300 institutions have voluntarily adopted the Administration's model financial aid award letter, known as the Shopping Sheet, for the 2013-14 academic year. This letter 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 school's graduation and default rates; and an estimate of monthly loan payments after graduation. The institutions that have adopted the Shopping Sheet represent more than 1.9 million students, or 10% of the total undergraduate population.

Then, on September 28, the Department issued the official FY 2010 two-year and FY 2009 three-year federal student loan cohort default rates. This is the first time the agency has issued an official three-year rate, which was 13.4% nationwide for the FY 2009 cohort—a slight decrease from the trial three-year rate of 13.8% for the FY 2008 cohort. For-profit institutions registered the highest average three-year default rates, at 22.7%, with public institutions at 11% and private, non-profit institutions at 7.5%. As required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Department is in the process of switching from a two- to a three-year cohort default rate measurement. (The two-year rate rose from 8.8% in FY 2009 to 9.1% in FY 2010.) Congress mandated this transition because there are more borrowers who default beyond the two-year window, and the three-year rate is a more accurate picture of how many borrowers ultimately default on their loans. Schools with excessive default rates (of at least 40% in a single year or 25% or greater for three consecutive years) may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs. This year, two schools are subject to sanctions. (Note: The public can search for individual school default rates online.)

Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), published new postsecondary education studies on tuition, fees, and degrees and employees, salaries, and student financial aid.

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Education Appropriations

President Obama recently signed into law a Continuing Resolution (CR) agreement, extending funding for education programs and other parts of the federal budget at Fiscal Year 2012 levels through March 27, 2013.

Also, a new federal report uses Department and publicly available data sources, including Recovery.gov, to examine (1) how much states and districts received in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) K-12 education funds and (2) whether and how the distribution of funds varied by key characteristics.

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Grant Awards

Before the close of the federal fiscal year, the Department announced grant awards under a number of additional programs. First, $28 million in grants were awarded to 46 school districts and non-profit groups to improve the literacy skills of low-income students. These grants are designed to increase student achievement by promoting early literacy for young children and by motivating older children to read. Beyond high-quality literacy activities, grantees will also distribute free books to children and their families. Second, $9.9 million in grants were awarded to three states to improve statewide academic assessments. Third, $290 million in grants were awarded to 35 states, districts, and groups to improve pay structures, reward great teachers and principals, and provide greater professional opportunities to teachers in high-poverty schools. The 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund competition encouraged applicants to enhance educator compensation systems through one of two models: career ladders or performance-based pay with the option for additional responsibilities. With either model, applicants were able to submit a general proposal or a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-focused proposal. Fourth, $52 million was awarded to 22 Comprehensive Centers to raise the capacity of states to help districts and schools meet student achievement goals. Fifth, over $1.5 million was awarded to 17 institutions of higher education to create, plan, develop, and implement programs to strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages and over $2.9 million was awarded to 23 institutions and groups to support overseas projects in research, training, and curriculum development.

Also, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced $500 million in grants for community colleges, universities, and employers to develop programs that provide pathways to good jobs, including building instructional programs that meet specific industry needs. These grants are the second installment of a $2 billion, four-year initiative. The Department of Labor is implementing and administering the program in partnership with the Department of Education.

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Civic Learning and Engagement

At a White House event this past January, the Administration released "Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy," a road map and call to action to prepare all students for citizenship as informed, engaged, and responsible members of society. Since the release, the Department has been implementing a strategy to achieve its nine objectives. As part of this process, the agency is seeking the public's input on how we understand "civic learning and engagement activities" and how we can best support these activities. Students, educators, practitioners, researchers, and others are encouraged to submit thoughtful comments pertaining to the outline here.

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Odds and Ends

  • For the bus tour, the Department developed a brochure on helping create a culture of academic success in your community.

  • Also, the Department has released a free, two-part training toolkit designed to provide classroom teachers and other educators with the knowledge and skills to intervene in bullying behavior and de-escalate threatening behaviors at school.

  • Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that four new cities (Camden, NJ, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Philadelphia) will join the original cities (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Salinas and San Jose, CA) in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention to reduce youth violence and gang activity and improve public safety.

  • This month, Secretary Duncan joined leaders from the disability community for a panel discussion on the 39th anniversary of the enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report on its disability rights enforcement activities over the last three years.

  • The latest Teachers@ED entry profiles Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education.

  • In celebration of National Principals Month, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and New Leaders are collaborating with the Department on a shadow program with principals across the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. During the second week in October, more than three dozen schools will host senior agency staff—culminating in a briefing with the Secretary. This first-hand experience will help inform the Department how federal policy can better support principals in their service to all students.

  • Data sets and content previously found at data.ed.gov can now be found at education.data.gov.

  • In a September 20 letter, Secretary Duncan encourages schools, teachers, and administrators to seek innovative ways to increase student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program.

  • Only 43% of this year's college-bound seniors met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which indicates a 65% likelihood of achieving a "B-" average or higher during the first year of college.

  • Speak Up 2012, which opened on October 3, is a national online research project that gives individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts on how to leverage technology in schools to promote learning.

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Quote to Note

"[No Child Left Behind] waivers are not a pass on accountability—but a smarter, more focused, and fair way to hold ourselves accountable. In exchange for adopting high standards and meaningful systems of teacher support and evaluation: states set ambitious but achievable targets for every subgroup; more children at risk—who were invisible under NCLB—are now included in state-designed accountability systems, including low-income students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and local districts decide the most effective way to intervene in under-performing schools, instead of applying rigid, top-down mandates from Washington. With flexibility, states also recognize growth and progress in more and more schools rather than having to label them as 'failures,' even when they're improving."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (10/2/12), in remarks at the National Press Club

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Upcoming Events

On October 12, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Department will officially open an exhibit at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., featuring the works of 54 school artists from among the 2012 winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition. Also featured will be the winning films and animations, game design, and teen writing. The first-ever National Student Poet from this region, Luisa Banchoff, will read from her works at the ceremony. She will be joined by senior agency staff and representatives from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. To attend, please RSVP to Nicole.Carinci@ed.gov. To learn more about the agency's year-round exhibit program, please contact Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov.

Also on October 12, from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. ET, the Department and Jobs for the Future will co-host the second in a series of three webinars on rural dropout prevention and recovery. (Note: Recordings of all webinars will be available after the live events.)

The 2012 Great Shakeout will be conducted on October 18 in Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. This earthquake drill—which can be conducted in as little as 90 seconds—provides an opportunity for the entire community to get prepared, practice what to do to be safe ("Drop, Cover, and Hold On"), and learn what emergency plans need to be improved. Schools, colleges, universities, businesses, organizations, and households are encouraged to join the more than 14 million participants.

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Last Modified: 10/11/2012