NEWSLETTERS
April 26, 2013 ED Review

 April 26, 2013
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Early Learning
Honoring Teachers
Honoring Schools
Science Fair
Workforce Preparation
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning

On April 15, Secretary Duncan joined Governor Jack Markell for a tour of St. Michael's School and Nursery in Wilmington, Delaware, observing the early learning program and highlighting the President's Preschool for All proposal to expand access to high-quality preschool for all children. The school is a Delaware Stars Quality School and recipient of the Governor's Award for Excellence in Early Care and Education. The state is using a $50 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant to implement an early success rating system to move more early learning programs to higher quality. The Secretary also delivered remarks at the official launch of the Delaware Early Childhood Council's Early Childhood Strategic Plan, addressing business and community leaders, early learning advocates, and professionals from across the state. The strategic plan has four overall goals: a healthy start for all children; high-quality early education programs and professionals; an aligned and effective early learning system, birth through third-grade; and sustained system improvement.

Next, on April 16, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced they will invest the majority of 2013 Race to the Top funds for a second Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition. About $370 million will be available for states to develop new approaches to increase high-quality early learning opportunities and close the school readiness gap. This year's funding will go toward a new competition and supplemental awards for six grantees—California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin—that received 50% of their initial request. Meanwhile, about $120 million will be available for a second Race to the Top-District competition, supporting locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare students to succeed in college and careers. A Federal Register notice—open for public comment until May 16—proposes a set of priorities for this year's competition.

Then, on April 19, Secretary Duncan's op-ed on early learning, titled "Universal Preschool is a Sure Path to the Middle Class," appeared in the Washington Post, examining the record on early learning's lasting impact. "The evidence is clear," he notes. "We need to stop asking whether early learning works and start asking whether we have the national will to make it a reality for the children who need it most."

Also last week, the Secretary testified on the Administration's continued investments in education before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

And, the PowerPoint presentation used for the April 19 in-person briefing on early learning is now posted online.

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Honoring Teachers

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a committee of 15 national education organizations, organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers. This year's winner, Jeff Charbonneau, is a chemistry, physics, and engineering teacher at Zillah High School in Zillah, Washington, where he has spent his entire 12-year teaching career. During the year, he is released from classroom duties to travel the country as a spokesperson and advocate for the teaching profession.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan honored Charbonneau and the State Teachers of the Year at the White House on April 23 with a ceremony in the Rose Garden. In his remarks, the President thanked teachers for their commitment to America's young people and emphasized, "Teaching is a profession, and it should be treated like one. That means we're going to have to recruit, prepare, and reward our next generation of great educators. Secretary Duncan has been working with folks on a new blueprint for teaching in the 21st century, listening to some of these outstanding teachers and principals so that we can figure out what best practices are out there."

The recently released Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) Blueprint embraces seven critical components jointly identified by the Department and seven other national organizations representing teachers, administrators, and school boards at the Labor-Management Conference last spring. Want to get involved? A new web page outlines actions that can be undertaken, including taking a self-inventory of progress on RESPECT.

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Honoring Schools

On April 22, at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bob Persiacepe, and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley announced 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees. Sixty-four schools were recognized for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition, 14 school districts were recognized with the first-ever District Sustainability Award. The honorees were confirmed from a pool of nominees submitted by 32 states. The honorees include 54 public schools (with seven charter schools, five magnet schools, and four career-technical schools) and 10 private schools, serving various grade levels. Over half of the honorees report more than 40% of their student body receiving either free or reduced-price lunch. A list of all schools and districts, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here, and a report with highlights on the honorees can be found here. The Department is already looking forward to a third year of awards and will be publishing updated competition criteria this summer, working closely with participating states, collaborating organizations, and partner agencies. States are requested to indicate an intent to nominate schools in 2014 by August 1, 2013. (Note: Schools can draw on the same tools used by honorees through the agency's Green Strides resources and webinar series.)

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Science Fair

Also that day, the President hosted the third White House Science Fair, featuring the inventions and research of 100 students from more than 40 states. From portable windmills and oil-producing algae to underwater robots and dehydration-preventing football gear—spread out from the South Lawn to the State Dining Room—projects showcased the talents of America's next generation. After viewing some of the displays and talking with students about their work, the President addressed students, parents, and teachers. He also announced new steps to advance his Educate to Innovate campaign, designed to get more boys and girls inspired about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and ensure everything is being done to equip the nation's future innovators. (Note: A complete list of students and exhibits is here, and number of videos from the science fair—including LeVar Burton and Bill Nye interviewing some young inventors—are posted online.)

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Workforce Preparation

The Department announced it will begin conversations with the higher education community on rules that would be designed to ensure colleges and universities are providing students a high-quality education that prepares them for the workforce and lifelong success. Last year, the agency held discussions about rules that would be designed to prevent fraud and abuse of Title IV federal student aid funds, especially within the context of current technologies. In particular, it announced its intent to propose regulations to address the use of debit cards for disbursing federal student aid, as well as improve and streamline campus-based federal student aid. This year, it is considering adding the following topics to the regulatory agenda:

  • Cash management
  • State authorization for distance education programs
  • State authorization for foreign locations of domestic institutions
  • Clock to credit hour conversion
  • Gainful employment
  • Campus safety and security reporting
  • Definition of "adverse credit" for the Direct PLUS loan program

Hearings on these subjects will be held in May in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C. Based on comments at these hearings, the Department will draft a list of topics to be considered by rulemaking committees. Negotiations would likely begin this fall.

In related news, the Departments of Education and Labor announced the availability of $474.5 million to create and expand innovative partnerships between community colleges and businesses to educate and train workers with the skills employers need. This is the third round of funding since 2009 under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training grant program, for a total of nearly $1.5 billion. The program is one component of the President's plan to help every American achieve at least one year of postsecondary education and for the country to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

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Odds and Ends

  • According to the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's twelfth-graders have not shown improvement in their knowledge of economics since 2006. However, some student groups—lower-performing students, Hispanic students, and students whose parents did not finish high school—showed signs of progress. All these groups scored higher in 2012 than in 2006.

  • Earlier this month, an ED Youth Voices panel discussion introduced students, educators, and communities to the federal policies and programs that youth credit with helping them succeed.

  • On Arts Advocacy Day, thousands of advocates from across the country came rallied in support of arts education programs in schools, while the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) issued a bulletin on how the arts support achievement in school, bolster skills demanded of a 21st century workforce, and enrich the lives of young people and communities.

  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory has launched a new web site, designed especially for students and teachers, to learn about the critical role of public health labs in protecting the public against diseases and other health hazards.

  • A new blog entry, titled "Cloudy with a Chance of Data," explains what it actually means to "put data in the cloud." It is important for everyone to be informed about how data is being protected and how student data is being used to improve the learning experience.

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Quote to Note

"The U.S. badly lags behind other nations in supporting early learning. Out of 29 industrial nations, we devote less public spending to early learning as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) than 24 of the countries. The Czech Republic and Chile devote more government spending to early learning. So do Iceland and Italy. And, the U.S. ranks 28th among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations in our enrollment of four-year-olds in early learning. Now, in an era of tight budgets and limited resources, it is critical that we ask ourselves, what is the smartest use of our education dollars? The answer, I believe, is that high-quality early learning is the best education investment we can make in our children, our communities, and our country."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (4/19/13), in an op-ed on early learning

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Upcoming Events

2013 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be announced on May 6 and invited to Washington, D.C., for recognition events June 15-18.

Nominations are open through July 1 for the Secretary of Transportation's Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering (RAISE) Award, honoring innovative scientific and engineering concepts by high school, college, and graduate students that will have a significant impact on the future of aviation or aerospace. Winners will be formally recognized in the fall.

Through August 27, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites proposals that advance the role of the humanities at community colleges through curriculum and faculty development on the theme of "Bridging Cultures." NEH expects to award seven to nine grants of up to $120,000.

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Last Modified: 04/26/2013