Completing the FAFSA
Letter to Superintendents
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
On January 16, in front of a crowd that included victims of gun violence, families who lost loved ones to gun violence, and children who had written letters asking him to do something to prevent more senseless massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama announced a series of sweeping reforms to curb gun violence across the nation. "We can't put this off any longer," he asserted. "Just last Thursday... news broke of another school shooting, this one in California. In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun. And, every day we wait, that number will keep growing."
The reforms are the result of the effort led by Vice President Biden and members of the Cabinet, including Secretary Duncan, to come up with concrete steps that can be taken to keep children safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the country's broader epidemic of gun violence. "The Cabinet members and I sat down with 229 groups... from law enforcement agencies and public health officials to gun advocacy groups, hunters and sportsmen, and religious leaders. And, I've spoken with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and had extensive conversations with governors and mayors and county officials," the Vice President said. "The recommendations we provided to the President on Monday call for executive actions he could sign, legislation he could call for, and long-term research that should be undertaken. They're based on the emerging consensus we heard from all the groups..."
The President initiated 23 executive actions and issued three presidential memoranda. However, the most important reforms require Congressional action. Among other items, the President is calling on lawmakers to require universal background checks for all gun sales, ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
Regarding school safety, "The actions the President is taking and proposing to reduce gun violence echo what educators say they need to better protect and support students in school and in their communities," Secretary Duncan said. "America's schools are among the safest places in our country. The President's comprehensive approach will make schools and communities safer." Indeed, the President has proposed to provide new resources that communities can use to:
- hire School Resource Officers (SROs)specially trained police officers who not only enforce the law but act as teachers and mentors;
- hire school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to support students struggling with mental health issues and help avert crises before they occur; and
- purchase school safety equipment, like security cameras and secure locking systems.
The Department will also work with states and school districts to ensure that every school has in place a high-quality emergency plan. And, the agency is proposing to help 8,000 schools put in place proven strategies to reduce violence, bullying, drug abuse, and other behavior problems and to gather and share best practices on school discipline.
In the area of mental health, the President also:
- called for a new initiative to train teachers and other adults who regularly interact with students to recognize young people who need help and ensure they are referred to mental health services;
- proposed providing stipends and tuition reimbursements to train over 5,000 additional mental health professionals to serve students and young people; and
- called for a new initiative targeted to providing students with needed services, like counseling, to help break the cycle of violence in schools facing pervasive violence.
In town for Inauguration weekend? The Presidential Inauguration Committee's web site offers a wealth of information about the inauguration and related activities. Specifically, today, a number of federal agencies are holding open houses to welcome the public and explain the work and resources in the Executive Branch. The Department of Education's open housefrom 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the lobby and auditorium of the agency's headquarters (400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.)will feature an open exhibit time with staff sharing information and answering questions, a short speaking program with policy overviews, and breakout sessions led by senior officials. Also, on Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Department will exhibit on the National Mall for the National Day of Service, highlighting ways for everyone to create a culture of academic success.
Completing the FAFSA
On January 1, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) released the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2013-14 academic year. Completing the new FAFSA is the first step in accessing more than $150 billion available in federal student aid, including grants, loans, and work-study funds. In addition, many states and colleges use FAFSA data to determine student eligibility for state and institution-based aid.
Recent blog posts outline five reasons to complete the FAFSA and provide answers to the top three questions about the FAFSA.
Later this month, FSA will launch a public service campaign to promote the availability of financial aid for college. The campaign will include TV, radio, print, and web advertisements. A version of the ad is posted here.
The deadline for applications for the Department's 2013-14 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship, offering highly motivated and innovative school teachers the opportunity to work for one year for the agencyeither full-time in Washington, D.C., or part-time in their home statesis fast approaching. In particular, to help achieve the program goal that "the final team of selected fellows... represent the diversity of our student body and settings in which students receive instruction across the country," the Department is seeking applications from the 17 states that have not had a fellow in the program's five years: Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The Department is also encouraging tribal educators to consider applying. All fellows will be selected based on their record of leadership, impact on student achievement, communications skills, and insight from school and classroom experiences. Applications are due by January 29. Fellows will be named in early summer.
Letter to Superintendents
In a January 14 letter to local superintendents, marking the "midpoint of the traditional school year," Secretary Duncan recognized "all of you for the work you do and your commitment to student achievement." In particular, he recognized "those of you who recently started in new positions. Whether this is your first year leading a school system or you are a seasoned veteran who has moved onto a new challenge, taking the reins of a district is an immensely rewarding opportunity that few will ever experience." He also listed initiatives undertaken by the Department over the last four years "to set a strong foundation that ensures your districts can provide high-quality programs and supports to our nation's students," including Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility, Race to the Top state and district funding, and Investing in Innovation (i3) and Promise Neighborhoods grants. "As we enter 2013 and President Obama begins his second term," he added, before concluding with a note about the tragedy at Newtown, "I am excited about the potential to improve student learning and achievement in districts like yours all across the nation."
Odds and Ends
The second public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is out for review through January 29. The draft standards were created through a collaborative, state-led process. To date, 26 partner states are providing leadership to the writing teams and to other states as they consider adoption of the NGSS.
The Department has invited applications for new awards under the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which supports the development and implementation of magnet schools that reduce, eliminate, or prevent minority group isolation and provides an opportunity for eligible entities to expand public school choice for students attending low-performing schools.
The Department is also seeking high-quality applicants for a position in the Implementation and Support Unit (ISU), within the Office of the Deputy Secretary. This position will work directly with state and/or district leadership to support efforts to implement comprehensive education reforms.
"Projections of Education Statistics to 2021," released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides data on student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for schools and degree-granting institutions.
Think Global Flight is an international in-flight effort that intends to cultivate and promote a greater awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in classrooms by way of an around-the-world flight of adventure, taking off in April 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) features this activity among its industry partnerships.
Quote to Note
"Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their rights to bear arms for hunting, or sport, or protection, or collection. I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that, if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown. That is what these reforms are designed to do."
|||President Barack Obama (1/16/13), announcing new measures to prevent gun violence|
The President is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address on February 12.
On January 22, NCES will release "Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009-10," presenting the number of high school graduates, Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and dropout data, disaggregated by year, gender, race/ethnicity, and, where applicable, grade.
On January 29, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Department will open an exhibit at its headquarters titled "Diversity Means," featuring the works of over 70 school-age artists from among the 2012 winners of the National PTA's Reflections Program. Racquel Charles of Georgia, the National Outstanding Interpretation Winner in Dance Choreography, and Polly Moser of Maryland, the National Outstanding Interpretation Winner in Musical Composition, will perform. They will be joined by senior agency officials, the National PTA president, Reflections Program chairman, and board members, and other educators and leaders. To RSVP to attend or learn more about the Department's year-round exhibit program, please contact Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov.
In March, Secretary Duncan will join education ministers, education organization and union leaders, and teachers from countries and regions with high-performing or rapidly improving education systems for the 2013 International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This year's summit will focus on teacher quality, including professional standards and teacher appraisal.
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