NEWSLETTERS
March 15, 2013 ED Review

 March 15, 2013
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Early Learning
ESEA Flexibility
Data Points
Funding Opportunities
Principal Fellowships
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning

On March 1, Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland, to highlight the importance of high-quality early learning programs. (The school is home to the Silver Spring Judy Center, which provides comprehensive early childhood services for children from birth through kindergarten.) The Secretaries observed state-fund preschool and Head Start classrooms and toured the Student Health Clinic. In celebration of Read Across America Day, they also read Dr. Seuss's popular "Green Eggs and Ham" to an audience of young students. "Rolling Terrace represents so much of what we want our country to be like and aspire to," Secretary Duncan remarked. "Many of the students grow up in poverty. The children speak as many as 35 different languages—it's a baby United Nations! But, the children are thriving. They have great adults who take care of them and are excited to work with them.... They want to be here, and they are coming to an environment where they are going to be successful...."

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America (fact sheet). Specifically, the President proposed a series of investments to establish a continuum of high-quality early learning—from birth to age five. The proposals include providing high-quality preschool for every child through a federal-state partnership and encouraging states to expand the availability of full-day kindergarten; expanding high-quality early learning opportunities in the years before preschool through investment in a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership; and extending evidence-based, voluntary home visiting, which enables teachers, nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that will improve a child's health, development, and ability to learn.

"As we move forward with this economically vital effort, we can look to states that have shown the way," the Secretaries noted in a Huffington Post op-ed titled "America's Middle Class Promise Starts Early." "In Massachusetts and Michigan, for example, Governors Deval Patrick and Rick Snyder have made expanding access to preschool programs a priority. Likewise, in Alabama, Governor Robert Bentley has proposed new resources to rapidly expand early education. These leaders represent a bipartisan consensus, that America can't win the race for the future by holding back children at the starting line.... Early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make in our future. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not cut back." Doing right by our youngest children is essential to America's middle class promise."

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ESEA Flexibility

The agency received requests from Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming on February 28 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. Since fall 2011, 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education have requested waivers in order to implement next generation education reforms that go far beyond the law's rigid, top-down prescriptions. The Department has approved requests from 34 states and D.C., with other applications still pending. "We continue to see growing momentum for education reform nationwide, and these requests reflect the desire of states to have more flexibility in implementing their ideas about how to improve education," Secretary Duncan said. "We look forward to continuing to work with leaders to support teachers and better prepare all students for college and careers." The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been due for reauthorization since 2007. In the face of congressional inaction, the Obama Administration announced it would grant waivers to qualified states. The new waiver requests will be posted shortly online, along with the names of the peer reviewers who will convene next month to review them.

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Data Points

Furthering the agency's efforts to provide transparent information to parents and students about schools, the Department released provisional school-level graduation data for 2010-11—the first school year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure for reporting high school graduates. While the new measure is not comparable to previously reported graduation rates, it provides a more accurate snapshot of high school graduation and can inform improvement efforts going forward. States, school districts, and schools can use the new, common metric to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide.

Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, graduation rates calculated using this new measure will become a key element of accountability systems for states, including those that are approved for ESEA flexibility.

In the coming months, as additional states report graduation rates and the agency works to finalize data, the Department will update the data set. Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico were approved for timeline extensions, and California, Delaware, and South Carolina submitted data that must be validated. As a result, there is no reported national graduation rate.

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Funding Opportunities

The deadlines for several grant competitions are fast approaching:

  • Carol M. White Physical Education Program (closes 4/12). This program provides funding for districts and community-based organizations (CBOs) to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including afterschool programs, to help students meet their state's physical education standards.
  • Supporting Effective Educator Development Grant Program (closes 4/15). SEED provides funding for national non-profit organizations for projects that are supported by evidence to recruit, select, and prepare professional enhancement activities for teachers and leaders.
  • Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants Program (closes 4/22). This program supports the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that integrate the arts into the core elementary and middle school curricula; strengthen arts instruction; and improve students' academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts.

Also, be sure to review the Department's Fiscal Year 2013 Grants Forecast (as of February 28), which lists virtually all programs and competitions under which the agency has invited or expects to invite applications for awards and provides actual or estimated dates for the transmittal of applications under these programs. (Note: This document is advisory only and not an official application notice of the Department of Education.)

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Principal Fellowships

In a recent speech, Secretary Duncan announced that the Department will be starting a Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program, similar to the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program that has been in place at the agency since 2008. Some principals may be employed for a full-year, while other principals will consult from their schools on a part-time basis. Details are still being determined, but the program will get underway next school year. (Note: To be notified as more information becomes available, please sign up here.)

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Odds and Ends

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Quote to Note

"Fewer than 3 in 10 American four-year-olds attend a high-quality preschool program filled with well-organized learning experiences, guided exploration, art, and storytelling—and led by a skilled teacher. The availability of high-quality care and educational services for infants and toddlers is even lower. And, the gap is especially pronounced in low-income communities. Our failure to ensure access to strong preschool is morally indefensible and economically counterproductive. Strong early learning can translate into school success, which can lead to college and good jobs and ultimately a robust economy. Research shows that every public dollar spent on high-quality early childhood education returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice programs. That's why President Obama has announced a comprehensive plan to help every child develop a strong foundation for future success."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (3/4/13), in a Huffington Post op-ed

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Upcoming Events

March is Women's History Month. Need help planning education activities? The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 39 resources specifically spotlighted for this month.

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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
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 03/26/2013