NEWSLETTERS
August 30, 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...
A Better Bargain
Civil Rights and Education
ESEA Flexibility
Early Learning Challenge
All Means All
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

A Better Bargain

On August 22 and 23, as part of a broader initiative to secure a better bargain for middle class families, President Obama visited four cities on a college affordability bus tour across New York and Pennsylvania. Starting at the University at Buffalo, the largest campus in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the President laid out three steps to ensure that college remains within reach for all young people: (1) pay colleges and students for performance, (2) promote innovation that cuts costs and improves quality, and (3) help students manage loan debt. "At a time when a higher education has never been more important or more expensive, too many students are facing a choice that they should never have to make: either they say no to college and pay the price for not getting a college degree—and that's a price that lasts a lifetime—or they do what it takes to go to college and run the risk that they won't be able to pay it off because they've got so much debt," he said. "Now, that's a choice we shouldn't accept.... Today, I'm proposing major new reforms that will shake up the current system, create better incentives for colleges to do more with less, and deliver better value for students and their families."

Many resources are available to learn more about the President's plan to combat the soaring costs of higher education, including:

Also, a new report from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides initial results from the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The report describes percentages of students receiving various types of financial aid and average amounts received, by type of institution, attendance pattern, dependency status, and income level. Notably, 71% of undergraduates and 70% of graduates received some type of financial aid, averaging $7,100 and $21,400 in students loans, respectively. (Note: Secretary Duncan's statement on the NCES report, emphasizing the important role of federal financial aid, is posted online.)

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Civil Rights and Education

This week, 50 years after the historic March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Obama delivered remarks at the "Let Freedom Ring" commemoration ceremony on the National Mall, pointing to laws, social change, and himself as examples of how far the nation has come since Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. "But, we would dishonor those heroes... to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete," he said. Among next steps, he called for the courage to "stand together for the right of every child—from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia—to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them." (Note: Several blog posts written by Administration officials in recognition of the anniversary are available here.)

In an PBS Newshour interview after his speech, the President said he would push his economic agenda—including early childhood education—as a way forward in the struggle for equal rights. "I want to get early childhood education done because we know that's the single most important thing we can do to increase upward mobility and opportunity for disadvantaged kids," he said. "And, if Congress isn't willing to pass a law, then I'll start meeting with mayors, and we'll start meeting with governors, and we'll start meeting with non-for-profits and philanthropies."

Earlier, Secretary Duncan addressed students and civil rights leaders at a local high school in Washington, D.C., and to students nationwide via live stream. He discussed education as the "civil rights issue of our time" and the progress the country has made toward providing all students an opportunity to succeed through high-quality education. And, he urged all students to "join a struggle that began long before" they were born. "If Dr. King were here today, he would remind all of us of the fierce urgency of now, and the need to press for real progress—not over decades but over days and months and years," he said. "So, when you see schools that don't give kids real opportunities, don't wait for change. Speak out. When politicians discount education funding, speak out. When communities don't keep their young people safe, speak out ... Honor the memory of the March on Washington. Honor the struggle of the people who fought to get this far. Honor their sacrifice not just through reflection, but through action. Don't wait for change." (Note: The Secretary also penned a blog post on the anniversary.)

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ESEA Flexibility

Secretary Duncan announced that Pennsylvania 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 41 states and the District of Columbia. Six applications remain under review, and five states have not requested flexibility through this process.

Also, the Department recently announced that states that applied for and received flexibility for the 2012-13 school year, whose waivers will expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year, can apply for a renewal of flexibility. This two-year renewal, which will extend waivers through the 2015-16 school year, allows states to continue implementing the reform efforts outlined in their original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility request. A total of 34 states and the District of Columbia are eligible now for renewal. States seeking renewal must submit a completed renewal request form, as well as a redlined version of their current flexibility request, during one of three submission phases: January 2-10, 2014 (Phase A); January 22-31, 2014 (Phase B); and February 12-21, 2014 (Phase C). The agency will conduct comprehensive and thorough internal reviews of states' requests, and determinations will be made in time for any state that is not renewed to return to complying with NCLB by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Meanwhile, in an op-ed titled "America's Kids Need a Better Education Law," the Secretary called for Congress to "listen to those doing the real work of education change. Principals, teachers, governors, state education chiefs, superintendents, parents, and teachers know what is and isn't working. They can guide us to a better [ESEA] law."

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Early Learning Challenge

On August 28, the Administration released the application for the second Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competition, which will provide $280 million in state-level competitive grants to improve the quality of early learning and development programs and close educational gaps for children with high needs. The program also supports states' efforts to design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning and development programs and services. In 2011, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services conducted the first RTT-ELC competition and awarded grants to nine states. In 2012, the agencies awarded grants to the next five highest-rated states from 2011. In response to public comments, the agencies made some language changes to this year's competition and included a request for data on participation of children to be disaggregated by race and ethnicity. New competitive priorities have been added to allow states to describe strategies for addressing the unique needs of rural populations in their states and to create preschool through third-grade approaches to sustain early learning outcomes. Grant awards will range from $37.5 million up to $75 million, depending on the state's share of the national population of children from low-income families birth through five-years-old and their proposed plans. Current grantees are not eligible to apply for this year's competition. Applications are due on October 16, and winners will be announced in December. (Note: Invitations for a technical assistance overview webinar on September 4 and a technical assistance planning workshop on September 10 will be made available through state governor's offices.)

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All Means All

The Department has proposed regulations to transition away from the so-called "2% rule," emphasizing a commitment to holding all students to high standards. Until now, states have been allowed to develop alternate assessments aligned to modified academic achievement standards for some students with disabilities and use the results of those assessments for accountability purposes under Title I of ESEA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Specifically, in making accountability determinations, states may count as "proficient" scores for up to 2% of students with disabilities in the grade assessed using the alternate assessments. Under the proposed regulations, students with disabilities who have been taking alternate assessments will transition to college- and career-ready standards and general assessments aligned with those standards and accessible to all students. Accessible general assessments, along with appropriate supports and instruction, promotes high expectations for all students, including students with disabilities. (Note: Comments on the proposed regulations must be received by October 7.)

Moreover, the Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued guidance to teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders on the matter of bullying of students with disabilities. (Note: OSERS Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin wrote a blog post on the guidance.)

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Odds and Ends

  • With many students back to school, Secretary Duncan responded to pressing education questions from SmartBlog on Education.

  • Last week, the Secretary and Attorney General Eric Holder announced research findings showing correctional education programs reduce recidivism, save money, and improve employment.

  • This week, the Department announced new grant awards under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program ($5.2 million for three states), Advanced Placement (AP) Test Program ($28.8 million for 42 states), and Impact Aid Discretionary Construction Program ($20 million for eight districts).

  • Bernard Piala, Director of New Jersey's Office of School Facilities, blogged about his experience on the third leg of the "Education Built to Last" Best Practices Tour, visiting several U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools in New York City and northern New Jersey.

  • The percentage of high school graduates meeting all four of ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks (26%) is relatively unchanged from last year. Based on the actual performance of successful students in college, these benchmarks specify the minimum scores needed on each ACT subject area test to indicate a student is ready to succeed (a 50% chance of earning a "B" or higher or a 75% chance of earning a "C" or higher) in a typical first-year, credit-bearing college class in that subject area. Lack of college readiness is most evident in science: only 36% are ready for college-level biology.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is soliciting applications for the "Research: Art Works" program. Grant awards support research that investigates the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components within the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other or with other domains of American life. The NEA anticipates awarding up to 25 grants—from $10,000 to $30,000 each. The deadline for applications is November 5. Projects can begin as early as May 1, 2014.

  • The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) is seeking qualified and passionate individuals to serve four-year terms and help lead groundbreaking initiatives involving the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The following positions will be open next year: fourth-grade teacher, eighth-grade teacher, secondary school principal, Chief State School Officer, and general public member. The deadline for nominations (self or other) is October 18.

  • The Educational Resources Information Center, better known as ERIC, is undergoing a series of changes to provide an improved level of service to the community at a reduced cost to taxpayers.

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Quote to Note

"Civil rights is more than just the absence of chains.... Civil rights means having the same opportunities that other people do—regardless of what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love. And, in today's world, to have real opportunity you must have a world-class education. If you can ride at the front of the bus, but you cannot read, you're not free. If your schooling limits you to poverty wages, you're not free. And, if you don't have the skills to make it in the global, knowledge-based economy, you're not—truly—free."

        Secretary Arne Duncan (8/27/13), in remarks on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington

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Upcoming Events

September 9-13, Secretary Duncan and senior officials will visit four states and dozens of cities across the American Southwest as part of the Department's fourth annual Back to School bus tour. This year's theme is "Strong Start, Bright Future." Stops will highlight education successes and engage communities in conversations about, among other topics, early learning, K-12 reforms, and college affordability and completion.

Immediately preceding the Secretary's bus tour (September 4-6), the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will travel through south and west Texas. The outreach tour will make nine stops in seven cities that include a combined population of nearly 2.6 million people, including nearly 2.2 million Hispanics. Stops will highlight the Administration's education priorities, as well as parental engagement, teacher preparation, and STEM education strategies in the Hispanic community.

Seeking to build on the success of the first Connected Educator Month in August 2012, the Department is supporting a second Connected Educator Month in October 2013. This year's endeavor will emphasize helping districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development. Educators at all levels, as well as those who support them, are invited to sign-up for regular updates about interactive webinars and other real time events, forums, showcases, and contests. Educators are also encouraged to develop, host, and run their own activities, publish content, and generally promote the 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
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: 08/30/2013