Press Room NEWSLETTERS
July 5, 2013

ED Review ... ...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
Early Learning
College- and Career-Ready Standards
ESEA Flexibility
College Cost Data
Trends in Academic Progress
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning

The Administration continues to promote President Obama's early learning initiative.

First, on June 20, Secretary Duncan traveled to Kentucky and Ohio to visit early childhood centers and discuss the President's plan to expand early learning opportunities to more children. At both Louisville's St. Benedict Center for Early Childhood Education and Middletown's YMCA Children's Center, he toured preschool classrooms and participated in conversations with state and local educators, elected officials, and business, faith-based, and law enforcement/military leaders. "Everywhere I go, there's great work but tremendous unmet need," he stated. "We want to invest in and partner with states to provide services to more children."

Next, on June 21, the Secretary highlighted early learning in his conversation with Public Policy Institute of California President and CEO Mark Baldassare.

Then, on June 27, Secretary Duncan co-presented with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at the Education Commission of the States (ECS) National Forum on Education Policy in St. Louis. "I hope you'll walk away from this plenary session today with two takeaway messages," Secretary Duncan noted in his prepared remarks. "The first takeaway is that investing in high-quality early learning is the best educational investment we can make as a nation. As President Obama says, it's the best bang for the education buck because it has such a high return on investment…. The second takeaway is…a renewed sense of urgency, and the recognition that we are at a fundamental turning point."

Later that day, Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks (ED) and Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda Smith (HHS) were on panel underscoring the opportunity for states to compete for approximately $300 million in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants this fall.

In the meantime, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy Roberto Rodriguez blogged on Pre-K for All, and the Departments released a new video that offers an easy to understand explanation of the President's plan.

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College- and Career-Ready Standards

On June 25, the Secretary addressed the American Society of News Editors' Annual Convention, discussing the value of news literacy in a changing world and correcting myths and falsehoods about the Common Core State Standards Initiative. To date, 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the new standards in a state-led effort organized by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). "I'd like to make the case that these standards have the capacity to change education in the best of ways -- setting loose the creativity and innovation of educators at the local level, raising the bar for students, strengthening our economy, and building a clearer path to the middle class," he asserted in his opening. "But, for these new standards to succeed, Americans will need to be clear on what's true and what's false."

Below are some key excerpts from the speech:

"I believe the Common Core state standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education -- and the federal government had nothing to do with creating them. The federal government didn't write them, didn't approve them, and doesn't mandate them. And, we never will. Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or willfully misleading."

"States signed on to the Common Core because it was the right thing to do. They knew that their children were being cheated [by low expectations], and they refused to continue to be a part of it -- and, for that, they deserve our deepest praise and gratitude. In fact, dozens of states that didn't get a nickel of Race to the Top money are committed to those higher standards, and American education will be better because of it."

"Some of the hostility to Common Core comes from critics who conflate standards with curriculum, assessments, and accountability. They oppose mandated testing, and they oppose using student achievement growth and gain as one of multiple measures to evaluate teachers and principals. They also oppose intervention in chronically low-performing schools. Some seem to feel that poverty is destiny. It's convenient for opponents to simply write it all off as federal over-reach, but these are separate and distinct issues, and they should be publicly debated openly and honestly with a common understanding about the facts."

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ESEA Flexibility

The Secretary also recently announced that both Alabama and New Hampshire 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 39 states and the District of Columbia. Eight other applications are still under review, and five states have not requested flexibility through this process. And, California notified the agency that the state does not plan to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act(ESEA) 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.

In the interest of transparency and to help inform other states, the Department has posted here initial and approved flexibility requests, highlights of each state's plan, and peer review notes, as well as the agency's letter regarding peer review feedback and the Secretary's approval letter.

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College Cost Data

Last week, as part of the Administration's ongoing effort to increase transparency around the cost of higher education, the Department updated lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center. The lists spotlight institutions with the highest and lowest tuition and fees, highest and lowest average net prices, and highest percentage increases in tuition and fees and average net prices. Also, responding to requests for more comparison data, the center provides tuition and fees and net price information for all institutions, broken out by sector (less-than-2-, 2-, and 4-year; public and private; non- and for-profit).

In addition to the lists, the Administration has released other tools to help families as they pursue postsecondary education. The College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet are among the latest resources that provide consumers with easy-to-understand information about institutions. These tools aim to hold institutions accountable for cost, value, and quality, so that students choose institutions that are well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably, and consistent with their educational and career goals.

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Trends in Academic Progress

Also last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released "The Nation's Report Card: Trends in Academic Progress 2012," a long-term trend assessment designed to track changes in the achievement of students ages 9, 13, and 17 since the 1970s. Both 9- and 13-year-olds scored higher in reading and math in 2012 than students their age in the early 1970s. However, 17-year-olds did not show similar gains. Most notable in the report is the improvement among today's African-American and Hispanic students compared to their peers years ago: in 2012, on average, 9-year-old black students scored 36 points higher in reading and math; 13-year-old black students scored 24 points higher in reading and 36 points higher in math; 9-year-old Hispanic students scored 25 points higher in reading and 32 points higher in math; and 17-year-old Hispanic students scored 21 points higher in reading and 17 points higher in math. As a result, while racial/ethnic achievement gaps persist, they are generally smaller than they were four decades ago.

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Odds and Ends

  • A new blog post, "Seize the Summer," outlines ways parents, guardians, and community members can help give children the best foundation for the upcoming school year.
     
  • Another blog post answers questions on the new Stafford Loan interest rate hike.
     
  • This week, Secretary Duncan addressed the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools conference.
     
  • Also at the conference, Uncommon Schools was announced the winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Notably, all three finalists for this year's award are current grantees of the Department's Charter Schools Program (CSP).
     
  • Last month, the Department released both a national summary and state-by-state summaries on School Improvement Grant (SIG)-awarded Cohort 1 schools. The documents present information on student demographics, student and teacher attendance, advanced course-taking, school year minutes, academic achievement, and graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year. They also provide an overview of the quality of SIG leading indicator data for the 2010-11 school year. (Note: To access the related data file online, follow the detailed instructions here.)
     
  • "Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2012," a new report issued jointly by NCES and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, examines crimes occurring in school, as well as on the way to and from school, and presents data on safety at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals. It covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, and the availability and student use of drugs and alcohol.
     
  • On June 28, the Department released a video as part of the "It Gets Better" project, where staff share personal stories and identify tools that support students experiencing bullying and discrimination. The agency has redoubled efforts to give students, parents, and educators the resources they need to stop harassment, including through civil rights enforcement and the StopBullying.gov web site.
     
  • In a "Dear Colleague" letter and accompanying pamphlet, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter supplies information on school retention problems associated with young mothers and fathers and the requirements related to these issues contained in the agency's regulation implementing Title IX.

  • "Education at a Glance," the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual report, compares education systems in 34 member countries using a range of indicators, such as student participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and educators, and the state of lifelong learning.

  • Getting America's schools covered (information on the Affordable Care Act): Many insurers are now required to cover preventive services, including new preventive services for mothers and vaccinations for children.

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Quote to Note

"I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case today preserves the well-established legal principle that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body and can lawfully pursue that interest in their admissions programs. As the court has repeatedly recognized, a diverse student enrollment promotes cross-racial understanding and dialogue, reduces racial isolation, and helps to break down stereotypes. This is critical for the future of our country because racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in an increasingly diverse workforce and society. The Department continues to be a strong supporter of diversity and will continue to be a resource to any college or university that seeks assistance in pursuing diversity in a lawful manner."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/24/13), in a statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling on Fisher
(Note: In late 2011, the agency issued guidance supporting voluntary efforts to promote diversity and reduce racial isolation in education.)

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Upcoming Events

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Falken and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White will visit Green Ribbon Schools in Alabama next week (July 10 and 11), on the first leg of the agency’s “Education Built to Last” Facilities Best Practices Tour. This tour will spotlight school building and grounds design, construction, operations, and management to support health, educational outcomes, equity, energy efficiency, and cost savings.

This summer, the Department will again offer the "Let's Read! Let's Move!" summer enrichment series, hosting local children, preschool through third-grade, for a one-hour program that aims to combat summer learning loss and the growing epidemic of childhood obesity by offering high-quality literacy and health and nutrition-related activities. The series will kick-off on July 10.

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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
To be added or removed from distribution, or submit comments (we welcome your feedback!), please contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/index.html.


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Last Modified: 07/16/2013