NEWSLETTERS
August 16, 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...
Student Loan Interest Rates
Teacher Fellowships
ESEA Flexibility
Input Requested: Testing Review Process
Veterans' Educational Success
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Student Loan Interest Rates

On August 8, President Obama signed into law a bipartisan compromise cutting interest rates on all new student loans this year and saving a typical undergraduate student $1,500 over the life of his or her loans. The plan allows borrowers to benefit from the low interest rates currently available in the marketplace and guarantees borrowers are able to lock-in rates over the life of their loans. In the future, fixed rates will be determined each year by market conditions, helping ensure that borrowers' rates are more in line with the government's own cost of borrowing, while capping how high rates can rise.

Under the new law, some 11 million borrowers will see their interest rates decrease on new loans made after July 1, 2013. About 8.8 million undergraduate borrowers will see rates drop from 6.8% to 3.86%, while about 1.5 million graduate unsubsidized Stafford borrowers will see rates drop from 6.8% to 5.41%. Moreover, over 1 million Grad PLUS and Parent PLUS borrowers will see rates drop from 7.9% to 6.41% (the first reduction in years).

In the weeks and months to come, the Administration will continue to work with Congress to tackle rising college tuition and unaffordable debt.

Also, a new analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes a closer look at the more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loans, as well as alternative repayment plans to lower payments.

In addition, as part of the Department's Student Voices Series, Secretary Duncan met with college student leaders from across the country, nominated by their State Higher Education Executive Officers to discuss a wide range of ideas and strategies on college access, affordability, and completion.

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Teacher Fellowships

Also last week, the Secretary announced the eight teachers selected as Teaching Ambassador Fellows for the 2013-14 school year. Three teachers will become full-time employees at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C., and five teachers will remain in their classrooms and participate on a part-time basis. "Improving education is about schools and classrooms, so it's vital that the clear and strong voices of teachers and principals guide our work," he noted. "Our Teaching Ambassadors play a critical role in ensuring that we hear directly from classroom teachers across the country and helping us understand their needs and hopes for students." Now in its sixth year, the fellowship program was created to give outstanding teachers an opportunity to learn about national policy issues in education and contribute their expertise to those discussions. Fellows, in turn, share what they have learned with other teachers in their professional networks, contributing to a larger understanding of federal initiatives and encouraging broader input into policy and programs designed to improve education at all levels. This year's fellows will continue to interact with the 80 previous fellows. (Note: The group is joined by 2013 Resident Principal Joshua Klaris, who is advising the Department from an experienced school administrator's perspective and assisting in the launch of a 2013 Principal Ambassador Fellowship program later this fall.)

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ESEA Flexibility

Secretary Duncan recently announced that Maine will receive flexibility from the burdensome mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In exchange for this new flexibility, the state has agreed to raise academic standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to boost teacher effectiveness. The Department has now approved waiver requests from 40 states and the District of Columbia. Seven other applications are still under review. Five states have not requested flexibility through this process.

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.

Meanwhile, the Secretary approved a one-year waiver from NCLB for eight California school districts (Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana). Earlier this year, California notified the agency that it did not plan to request Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility for the 2013-14 school year and, instead, will focus on implementing new college- and career-ready standards. As a result, the Department considered a separate, joint request for waivers from the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) districts, which together serve over one million students and are leading the way for their state in moving forward with higher standards for all students. Since California adopted new standards in 2010, the districts have created shared plans for implementation, systems to improve instruction and promote continuous learning, and joint professional development and supports for educators. The one-year waiver covers six ESEA requirements and the associated regulatory, administrative, and reporting requirements. The Department will monitor the districts' implementation of their plans and work with the California Department of Education, the California State Board of Education, and the districts to develop an integrated monitoring strategy.

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Input Requested: Testing Review Process

As required by ESEA, the Department reviews and approves certain state assessments through panels of peer reviews. This process has been instrumental in helping states improve the reliability of their assessment systems and the accessibility of these assessments for all students, including English Learners and students with disabilities. However, the agency suspended the process in December 2012 in order to update it to align with the new and more robust demands of what high-quality assessments should be. Now, as a step in that direction, the Department is asking the public—and, particularly, experts in assessments—to respond to questions related to the peer review of state assessments. All responses should be directed to ESEA.Assessment@ed.gov (subject: "Title I Peer Review") by September 30, 2013.

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Veterans' Educational Success

As part of the Administration's ongoing effort to foster postsecondary educational opportunities and dramatically improve employment outcomes for returning service members, the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs have announced a challenge to education institutions to adopt best practices supporting educational success. Over 250 colleges and universities across 24 states and the District of Columbia immediately answered the call to implement the 8 Keys to Success, with more expected to rise to the challenge in the coming months. These keys build on the Administration's ongoing work to provide veterans and military families with a high-quality, affordable education. (Note: The Department's Military Families and Veterans landing page is here.)

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Odds and Ends

  • Diondra Hicks, a student at Georgetown University, offers back to school tips for parents to help their children prepare for the new school year.

  • Secretary Duncan's remarks at the U.S. Agency for International Development Global Summit, titled "Education is the Only Solution," are posted here.

  • To date, the Department has hosted two technical assistance webinars for the 2013 Race to the Top-District competition, with additional webinars planned for August 27 and September 4. (A reminder: Districts are requested to indicate their intent to apply by completing a form no later than August 23.)

  • On August 6, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of preschool and elementary school children from the area participated in the fifth and final event in this summer's "Let's Read! Let's Move!" enrichment series. Joining the Secretary were Drew and Jonathan Scott, hosts of HGTV's hit show "Property Brothers." They read books in front of the Green Schools exhibit, which featured the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition program.

  • Regarding Green Ribbon Schools, federal, state, and local officials recently wrapped up the second and third legs of the "Education Built to Last" Best Practices Tour, visiting honorees in New England, New Jersey, and New York. Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist blogged about the experience. The next leg of the tour will visit honorees in Wisconsin, August 22-23. (A reminder: State education agencies are requested to indicate their intent to submit nominees for in next year's competition by sending a note to Green.Ribbon.Schools@ed.gov by September 1.)

  • Negotiators have been selected for the Gainful Employment negotiated rulemaking committee, and public sessions have been scheduled for September 9-11 and October 21-23 in Washington, D.C.

  • Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Catherine Lhamon as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Janet LaBreck as Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner.

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes critical investments to increase health care access. Among them, it expands and modernizes community health centers across the country to serve up to 20 million more patients; brings more primary care providers to the neediest school communities by tripling the size of the National Health Services Corps, which offers loan repayment and scholarships for those serving in areas that most need health care providers; and improves funding for Area Health Education Centers, which serve the primary care needs of rural and other underserved populations. When parts of the health care law take effect, individuals will be able to go to HealthCare.gov to buy insurance from qualified private health plans and check their eligibility for financial assistance. (Note: Fact sheets explain what the ACA means for students, parents and teachers, and school communities.)

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Quote to Note

"Even though we've been able to stabilize the interest rates on student loans, our job is not done, because the cost of college remains extraordinarily high. It's out of reach for a lot of folks, and for those who do end up attending college, the amount of debt that young people are coming out of school with is a huge burden on them and their families. It makes it more difficult for them to buy a home. It makes it more difficult for them if they want to start a business. It has a depressive effect on the economy overall. We've got to do something about it. So, I'm going to be looking forward to engaging this same coalition to see if we can continue to take additional steps to reform our higher education system, and I'll have some more things to say about that in the weeks to come."

        President Barack Obama (8/9/13), in remarks at the signing of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013

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Upcoming Events

Today, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, you are invited to join Secretary Duncan in a Google+ Hangout with students from Maker Camp, a free, virtual summer camp for teenagers, to talk about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), technology in education, and the President's ConnectED proposal to expand high-speed Internet to 99% of the nation's students.

Register now for the third annual President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering, September 23 and 24 on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Participants will have opportunities to tell stories about what is happening on their campus, learn about best practices, and celebrate ongoing work, so that they will return to their campuses truly inspired to take the President's challenge to the next level.

December 3-5, Global Youth Justice will hold its eighth annual Global Youth Justice Training Institute in Las Vegas. Participants will learn how to establish and enhance local juvenile justice diversion programs (i.e., student court and peer juries). Topics include training youth and adult volunteers, delivering high-quality community services and programs, and conducting mock family intake meetings and juvenile referral sources.

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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: 08/16/2013