Press Room NEWSLETTERS
September 27, 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...
College Rating System
Blue Ribbon Schools
Broad Prize
Early Learning
Transition Flexibility
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

College Rating System

In August, President Obama put forward an ambitious new agenda to combat rising college costs, encourage colleges to improve their value, and empower students and families with information to make informed decisions about which college to attend. The President's plan included three steps: paying for performance, promoting innovation and competition, and ensuring that student debt remains affordable. As part of this proposal, the President directed the Department to develop a rating system to better inform students and encourage colleges to improve. The ratings will compare colleges with similar missions and identify those that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those that are improving their performance. In the future, the rating system could steer taxpayer dollars toward high-performing institutions.

To develop the college rating system, the agency is seeking the best ideas and most creative thinking on some key themes:

  • college access, such as the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants;
  • college affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and
  • outcomes, such as students' graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.

On September 19, the Department launched a nationwide series of public discussions by convening student advocates and leaders -- since students will benefit the most from these efforts -- at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Over the coming months, Department leaders will be traveling across the country to host open forums, roundtable discussions, and town halls to gather suggestions. And, members of the general public are invited to send their suggestions to collegefeedback@ed.gov. (Note: Additional information about the college affordability and value outreach initiative will be posted here .)

Meanwhile, last week, Secretary Duncan delivered remarks at the TIME Summit on Higher Education, highlighting the President's plan and discussing the challenges of assessing the affordability and value of college. "We know there are no silver bullets or easy solutions here, but we also know we can't let the difficulty of the challenges facing higher education become a discussion-ending excuse for inaction," he said. "We very much want -- and need -- the benefit of your collective guidance and wisdom about how to design a rating system that ensures America's extraordinary system of higher education continues to thrive, grow, and strengthen our entire nation."

Also, to support the ambitious postsecondary agenda, the Department announced the appointment of Jamienne Studley as Deputy Under Secretary of Education. She will serve alongside the agency's other Deputy Under Secretary, Jeff Appel.

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Blue Ribbon Schools

This week, via the Department's USTREAM channel (see archived video), Secretary Duncan announced 286 schools as 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at the highest levels or where significant increases are being made in students' levels of achievement. Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 18 and 19. In its 31-year history, the program has bestowed this coveted award on nearly 7,500 of America's schools.

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Broad Prize

Also this week, Secretary Duncan joined philanthropist Eli Broad to announce the Houston Independent School District in Texas as the winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education -- the largest education prize in America awarded to the most improved urban district. Houston, the nation's seventh-largest district serving more than 200,000 students (88% of whom are African-American or Hispanic, and 80% of whom are low-income), is the prize's first two-time winner, besting three other finalists: Corona-Norco Unified and San Diego Unified in southern California and Cumberland County in North Carolina. The $1 million prize goes to graduating high school seniors for college scholarships; Houston ISD receives $550,000, while the other three finalists each receive $150,000. (Note: A video on the four finalists, featuring interviews with their superintendents, is available online.)

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Early Learning

On September 18, business and not-for-profit leaders, educators, and senior White House and Department officials met at Miami-Dade College to discuss early learning within the Hispanic community. Although Hispanic children represent the fastest-growing segment of the nation's population under age 5, less than half are enrolled in an early learning program. The discussion focused on existing research on the impact of quality early learning, its impact on national security and the economy, and the President's Preschool for All initiative, while encouraging the private and philanthropic sectors to increase investments, complementing federal investments, and encouraging media to dedicate resources. (Note: Don't miss Professor James Heckman's opening video message, as well as video [1, 2, 3, 4, and 5] from the summit's proceedings.)

On September 23, Secretary Duncan attended the 2013 National Business Leader Summit, hosted by ReadyNation-America's Promise Alliance and the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), in Atlanta. He discussed with business executives and public officials the importance of investment in early learning to strengthen the economy and global competitiveness. During the summit, executives affirmed their businesses' commitment to young children as a national economic priority.

Then, on September 25, New York Times Washington Bureau Chief David Leonhardt sat down with the Secretary, former Indiana governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, and former Michigan governor and current Business Roundtable President John Engler for a conversation [1 and 2] on the nation's education system, including early learning.

Moreover, according to a new report by nine organizations focused on early learning and/or public health, President Obama's plan to expand early childhood education and fund it with an increase in federal tobacco taxes would ensure that two million low- and moderate-income children have access to high-quality preschool and prevent 1.7 million children from becoming smokers.

Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Frequently Asked Questions for applicants are available online. States are requested to indicate their intent to apply by September 30, and applications are due October 16.

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Transition Flexibility

This summer, Secretary Duncan declared in a letter to Chief State School Officers that the Department is open to providing additional flexibility for states during the transition to new assessments aligned with college- and career-ready standards. First, for states that have received a Race to the Top grant or flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the agency will consider requests delaying personnel consequences for teachers and principals tied to the new assessments for up to one year beyond current plans, until no later than 2016-17. Second, for all states, the agency will consider requests to allow schools that participate in a field test to have students take only one end-of-the-year test -- either the current statewide assessment or the field test -- with provisions for school-level accountability staying the same for one year. (Note: Guidance on and templates for applying for the flexibilities are posted here.)

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Odds and Ends

  • On September 17, the aforementioned David Leonhardt sat down with Secretary Duncan for a wide-ranging interview at the New York Times' "Schools for Tomorrow" conference.

  • That evening, the Secretary was on The Colbert Report.

  • On September 26, the Secretary delivered remarks at the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week Conference, titled "The Enduring and Evolving Role of HBCUs."

  • A few more items from the "Strong Start, Bright Future" Back to School bus tour: the Secretary's closing remarks in Chula Vista, California; a blog post on Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Michael Yudin's "Let's Move!" event in Marana, Arizona; and Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton's in-depth story and video on Columbus Elementary School in New Mexico.

  • Throughout the month, before the close of the federal fiscal year, the Department has announced grant awards under a number of programs. Some highlights: $30 million for six awards to improve student achievement by increasing the effectiveness of teachers and principals (Supporting Effective Educators Development [SEED] Program); $2.75 million for 12 awards to strengthen minority participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] fields (Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program); and nearly $9.2 million for 58 awards to support campus-based child care services (Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program). Also, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced $474.5 million in grants to community colleges and universities for the development and expansion of innovative training programs in partnership with local employers (part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program).

  • Growth in the sheer number of partnerships between public and private schools prompted creation of the National Network of Schools in Partnership.

  • During a special ceremony at the National Book Festival, five distinguished teenagers were appointed the second annual class of the National Student Poets Program, the nation's top honor for youth poets presenting original work.

  • The Department recently announced in the Federal Register its intention to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations to address the changes to the campus safety and security reporting requirements in the Jeanne Clery Act instituted by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

  • Just 43% of this year's college-bound seniors met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which indicates a 65% likelihood of achieving a "B-" average or higher during the first year of college. This number has remained virtually unchanged during the last five years.

  • The Department is actively soliciting comments on its draft Fiscal Year 2014-18 Strategic Plan, which lays out the agency's goals and how it will meet them. All comments must be sent to strategicplancomments@ed.gov by October 4, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. (Note: A video overview of the draft Strategic Plan, provided by Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton, is posted here.)

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Quote to Note

"I want to speak today about some of the early reaction to the President's announcement [on a college rating system]…. To be absolutely clear, we have not even begun to develop the college rating system, and we are only in the beginning stages of soliciting input from a wide range of stakeholders about the metrics that should and should not be used in the ratings. I'm not sure how this is possible, but a few critics have already gone on the attack, against a rating system they don't like but that doesn’t exist. That is obviously a little premature and more than a little silly. Over the course of the next year, we are going to solicit input on the rating system from literally hundreds and hundreds of stakeholders. Next month, we plan to release a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit comments from technical experts about the metrics we should use. Later in 2014, we plan to release a draft proposal for public comment and review. No later than December of next year, we'll use the feedback we receive to finalize the college rating system."

        Secretary Arne Duncan (9/20/13), in remarks at the TIME Summit on Higher Education

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Upcoming Events

On Monday, September 30, at 1:00 p.m. ET, Secretary Duncan will deliver a major speech on the state of American education at the National Press Club. He will recap today's education challenges and discuss what the Department hopes to accomplish moving forward. The event is only open to NPC members and credentialed media, but it will be webcast and archived online.

October is Connected Educator Month, and the initial calendar features more than 170 events. 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.

NBC News will convene its fourth annual Education Nation Summit October 6 and 7 in New York City. Summit sessions will spotlight "What It Takes" to get a student ready to succeed in college, career, and beyond. Secretary Duncan will participate in several sessions.

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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: 09/27/2013