Statement on Oklahoma
Student Loan Interest Rates
Condition of Education
Odds and Ends
Statement on Oklahoma
On May 21, President Obama delivered a statement on the deadly tornadoes that impacted Oklahoma. Some excerpts:
"As we all know now, a series of storms swept across the Plains yesterday, and one of the most destructive tornadoes in history sliced through the towns of Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma. In an instant, neighborhoods were destroyed. Dozens of people lost their lives. Many more were injured. And, among the victims were young children, trying to take shelter in the safest place they knewtheir school. So, our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today."
"Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbors, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night."
"[T]he people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground... as long as it takes. For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, parents to console, first responders to comfort, andof coursefrightened children who will need our continued love and attention. There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, bedrooms, and classrooms. Over time, we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community."
Secretary Duncan also issued a statement: "I offer my deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones because of the severe weather that has swept through Oklahoma. I commend the courageous efforts of first responders, including teachers and educators, working on-site to respond to this tragedy. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Department [of Education] are with the people of Oklahoma."
The Administration continues to promote federal early learning initiatives.
First, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services posted Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Annual Performance Reports for Fiscal Year 2011 state grantees: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Second, the Departments proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for the FY 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant competition. The agencies propose to maintain the overall purpose and structure of the previous FY 2011 competition, with priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria almost identical to that competition. Comments must be received on or before June 19.
Third, Secretary Duncan delivered remarks at a special Family Focus dinner honoring Barbara Bowman. "In so many respects, President Obama's Preschool for All plan marks a culmination of Barbara's work," he said. "She helped establish the idea that everything else we do to educate our children starts with early learning. Under the federal-state partnership in the President's plan, states would have great latitude to implement early learning programs responsive to their local needsbut only if they meet the high-quality standards that Barbara has tirelessly promoted. And, I think it's clear that Barbara's vision of a seamless continuum of early learning from birth-to-five, cutting across departments, is at the heart of the President's plan."
Fourth, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proposed a new regulation to strengthen standards for health, safety, and school readiness of children in federally funded child care.
Finally, the Department of Education announced applications for new awards under the Grants for Enhanced Assessment Instruments Program, to support development or enhancement of Kindergarten Entry Assessments aligned with a common set of early learning and development standards. The agency will give priority to early learning collaborative efforts among states. The deadline for applications is July 8.
Moreover, President Obama took part in a literacy lesson with pre-kindergarten students at Moravia Park Elementary School in Baltimore. The students are part of the school's Judy Center, which provides comprehensive early childhood services, including child care, Head Start, intervention services, and family engagement. And, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz met with a coalition of mothers and advocates delivering 30,000 letters and art work thanking the President for his preschool proposal.
Meanwhile, with support from the Department, teaching artists from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and preschool educators are pioneering an innovative approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects through the arts as part of high-quality preschool programming. Presently in classrooms in the Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, the Early STEM/Arts Program will soon be replicated in 16 locations nationwide.
Secretary Duncan recently announced that Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In exchange for this new flexibility, the states have agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness. The Department has now approved waiver requests from 37 states and the District of Columbia. Ten other applications are still under review, and five states have not requested flexibility through this process. California has notified the agency that the state does not plan to request flexibility for the next school year and, instead, will focus on implementing Common Core state standards. The Department will continue its consideration of a separate request for waivers from California Office to Reform Education (CORE) school districts. (Note: In a new video, Chief State School Officers explain what Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility is all about.)
Student Loan Interest Rates
On May 22, the day after he testified before the House Education and the Workforce Committee about the President's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, including reducing a focus on reducing the high cost of college, the Secretary issued a statement on federal student loan interest rates, declaring, "Our priority is to ensure that Congress doesn't allow federal student loan interest rates to double [from 3.4% to 6.8%] on July 1. President Obama has put forward a comprehensive solution that will help middle class students and their families afford college by lowering interest rates on July 1without adding to the deficitand Senator [Tom] Harkin and Congressman [George] Miller have been leaders within Congress to prevent rates from doubling for students and families. While we welcome action by the House on student loans, we have concerns about the current approach, which does not guarantee low rates for students on July 1, makes students bear the burden of deficit reduction, and fails to lock in interest rates when students take out a loanso their rates could escalate in the future."
Condition of Education
On May 23, the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), released "The Condition of Education 2013," a Congressionally mandated report to the country on education in America today. The report presents 42 indicators grouped under four areas: population characteristics, participation in education, elementary and secondary education, and postsecondary education. The report also spotlights some areas of interest: trends in employment rates by educational attainment, kindergarten entry status (on-time, delayed-entry, and repeating kindergartners), the status of rural education, and financing higher education.
Also, a new NCES report on postsecondary institutions presents key data on price of attendance in 2012-13 and enrollment and degrees and other awards conferred in 2011-12.
Odds and Ends
Today, in Hartford, Connecticut, for a town hall on school safety with Governor Dannel Malloy, Secretary Duncan will announce a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant for Newtown Public Schoolstotaling more than $1.3 millionto help with ongoing recovery efforts following the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Last week, the Department announced a new partnership with the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) to advance family engagement in education across the country.
This week, the Secretary announced Arizona will receive funding to turn around persistently lowest-achieving schools under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) Program. Awards are being made on a rolling basis. To date, 35 states have been approved to receive SIG funding.
On May 14, the Department announced the winners of this year's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts, funding for entrepreneurial small businesses using cutting-edge research to develop commercially viable technologies to solve tough problems. More than half12are for games and game-related projects.
On May 21, the Department published a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for the Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) Program, designed to improve education and career outcomes of low-income children with disabilities receiving supplemental security income (SSI). This competitive program is open to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and states may apply together as a consortium. The agency intends to fund three to six projects between $4.5 million and $10 million a year for five years. An intent to apply is requested by June 20. Applications are due by August 19. (Note: To assist with the application process, the Department will host webinars on May 30 and June 4.)
In the latest session of the Department's Student Voices Series, Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier met with 11 inspiring adult learners.
A new report from the Reform Support Network provides data on the growing use of social media by states and school districts striving to reach key stakeholder groups and engage with primary audiences.
Department guidance supplies answers to Frequently Asked Questions about using federal grant funds (discretionary or formula) to: host a meeting or conference, pay for food, and pay for the costs of attending a meeting or conference sponsored by the agency or a third party.
Getting America's schools covered (information on the Affordable Care Act): If your children are under the age 26, you can generally insure them if your policy allows for dependent coverage.
Secretary Duncan, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, May 17. "Some seek to build influence and success through sound bites or an unyielding ideological agenda. That is a seductive road to takebeing brash and controversial attracts attention. But, I'm convinced it's a road that leads in the opposite direction from wise policy.... Today, I want to offer a different road, which, I believe, leads in the right direction to wiser policy. I want to talk about what I see as the three essential threads that weave together in the most effective people I know. They are passion, expertise, and vision."
Secretary Duncan, Morgan State University, May 18. "I learned two valuable lessons in thinking about the future from my teachers, my family, and my mentors. First, I learned the importance of following your passionthat your ability to adapt and be creative, to skillfully manage the inevitable uncertainty that would come, would, in large measure, determine one's success in a knowledge-based, global economy.... Second, I learned I should strive to lead a life of consequenceto try to demonstrate my respect and gratitude to all those who had helped me growing up by working to help others."
President Obama, Morehouse College, May 19. "I understand there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: 'Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.' Well, we've got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It's just that, in today's hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazilmany of whom started with a lot less than all of you didentering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned."
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday.
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