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November 16, 2012 ED Review
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 November 16, 2012
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Blue Ribbon Schools
Investing in Innovation
Race to the Top
Dispelling the Myth
Hurricane Sandy
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Blue Ribbon Schools

This week, at an awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan honored 314 schools as 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools. "Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential," he said. "Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future."

In addition to the Secretary, other guest speakers included Department Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss on the agency's Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) Project; Marc Johnson, the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, on scaling up National Blue Ribbon School practices; Dee Gardner, principal of the National Middle School of the Year, on intuitive leadership in a data-driven world; and Michelle Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year, on the complexity of teaching and the power of the human factor. Moreover, educators had opportunities to share their best thinking on current educational issues as part of the Department's "National Conversation about the Teaching Profession."

The Department also recognized seven Blue Ribbon School principals as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients:

  • Pam Camper (Russell D. Jones Elementary School, Rogers, Arkansas)
  • Christopher Todd Hall (Pocomoke Elementary School, Pocomoke City, Maryland)
  • Blaine Helwig (J. Walter Graham Elementary School, Austin, Texas)
  • Tracy McDaniel (KIPP Reach College Preparatory School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
  • James Mireles (Garden City High School, Garden City, Kansas)
  • Dianne Reynolds (Spencer Elementary School, Mobile, Alabama)
  • Liana Szeto (Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, San Francisco, California)

The award, named after the former Secretary of Education and presented by the Department in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association for Middle-Level Education, honors exceptional leaders who overcome challenging circumstances and maintain committed to providing an excellent education for every student.

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Investing in Innovation

Also this week, the Department announced the 20 highest-rated applications for potential funding under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. These potential grantees—school districts, institutions of higher education, and non-profit organizations—were selected from 727 applications and must secure private matching funds by December 7, 2012, in order to receive federal funding.

This year's competition required applicants to submit proposed projects focused on one of six priorities: supporting effective teachers or principals; promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; supporting the implementation of high standards and high-quality assessments; increasing parent and family engagement; turning around persistently low-performing schools; and increasing student achievement and high school graduation rates within rural schools. Preference was also given to applications focused on other key reform areas: improving early learning outcomes; increasing college access and success; addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities and English Learners; improving productivity; and using technology.

The Department selected the highest-rated applications based on recommendations from peer review panels. Eight are in the "validation" category, and 12 are in the "development" category. (This year, the agency did not identify any potential grantees for the "scale-up" category, instead choosing to invest in promising applicants in the other two categories.) Validation grants provide up to $15 million to fund projects with moderate levels of evidence of their effectiveness, and grantees must secure matching funds equivalent to 10% of their awards. Development grants provide up to $3 million to support promising but relatively untested projects with high potential for impact on student achievement, and grantees must secure matching funds equivalent to 15% of their awards. Final 2012 awards will be announced no later than December 31, 2012.

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Race to the Top

The Department officially received 371 applications—representing more than 1,100 districts—for the Race to the Top-District competition. This nearly $400 million competition supports classroom-level reform efforts that encourage transformative change within schools. Applicants were invited to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students and provide school teachers and leaders with key tools that help them best meet their students' needs. The agency plans to support 15-25 high-quality proposals from applicants across a variety of districts. These four-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. Final 2012 awards will be announced no later than December 31, 2012. (Note: The list includes all districts that applied and does not indicate their eligibility for the competition.)

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Dispelling the Myth

In his remarks at Education Trust's "Dispelling the Myth" awards ceremony, Secretary Duncan defended the Department's granting of flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). "Contrary to what you may have read, these waivers will push states to dramatically accelerate achievement and attainment for disadvantaged students and students of color," he said. "Our goals for waivers in remaking No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are clear: protect children, set a high bar, and provide as much flexibility as possible. But, frankly, that is simply a starting point, not an ending point. As important as goals are, what is most important are actual outcomes for children. What matters most is results: whether kids are learning, and if achievement gaps are narrowing dramatically." The Secretary also gave a special "shout-out" to the three schools being honored: DeQueen Elementary School in Arkansas, Laurel Street School in Compton, California, and Edward Brooke Charter School in Boston.

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Hurricane Sandy

The impact of Hurricane Sandy on schools (57 schools in New York City are too damaged to reopen, forcing the relocation of 34,000 students, and 14 schools in New Jersey are still closed) is a reminder of the need to build a comprehensive, all-hazards school emergency management plan that is framed by the four phases of emergency management—Prevention-Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. Two critical aspects include the continuity of education and the provision of mental health supports for students and staff experiencing trauma due to disasters or significant incidents. Visit the Hurricane Sandy web site and the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center for guidance and resources.

Also, the emergency underscored the importance of facilities' maintenance and environmental health, controlling utility costs, and schools serving as emergency shelters, as well as the need for effective environmental education (blog post).

Meanwhile, Scholastic is donating one million books to schools and libraries in the hardest-hit areas of the tri-state region.

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Odds and Ends

  • More than 500 colleges and universities, enrolling over 2.5 million undergraduate students (13% of all undergraduate students), have committed to adopting the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet during the 2013-14 academic year.

  • A new Federal Student Aid (FSA) blog entry spotlights three things to know about financial aid for veterans.

  • Last month, the White House and the Department hosted an "Education Datapalooza" showcasing entrepreneurs and innovators working with open educational data to improve educational outcomes.

  • This month, the Department's Family Policy Compliance Office released its annual notice to states and districts of their responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).

  • The 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange found that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 5.7% to a record high of 764,495 in the 2011-12 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by 1.3%.

  • The deadline to participate in Project Tomorrow's annual Speak Up survey on education and technology, open to K-12 students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and media specialists, is December 21.

  • The Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company, the agency that administers the federal E-rate program, recently published the dates of the filing window for the 2013 program year. Through March 14, 2013, schools and libraries may request their share of $2.3 billion in discounts through the E-rate program. All non-profit schools, public and private, are eligible for discounts ranging from 20% to 90% of the cost of their telecommunications services and Internet access, as long as their endowment does not exceed $50 million.

  • To learn about the history of Thanksgiving, find interesting food facts, and get tips on how kids can help with the meal, visit the Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site's Thanksgiving page.

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Quote to Note

"The American people reaffirmed many things on Election Day. But, one of the most important things they affirmed is that education is an investment in the future of our nation and our children—all of our children. It is not just an expense on a budget line that can be sacrificed in tough economic times. In the next two months, many tough decisions lie ahead. The fiscal cliff and threat of sequestration could cripple our efforts to expand access and increase attainment. But, today, I am so happy to see that the American people have recognized education as the key to economic growth and prosperity—and the surest path out of poverty in our knowledge-based economy."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (11/8/12), in remarks at the Education Trust National Conference

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Upcoming Events

On November 19, the Department will host a Correctional Education Summit. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier will deliver opening remarks, and a panel of experts will discuss the state of education in correctional facilities. Following a final presentation of recommendations resulting from the event, Secretary Duncan will close the summit with brief remarks.

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Last Modified: 11/27/2012