Press Room NEWSLETTERS
November 22, 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
Power of Education
Blue Ribbon Schools
School Improvement Data
PIAAC
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Early Learning

On November 13, Secretary Duncan joined members of Congress, business, law enforcement, and military leaders, teachers, parents, and students to announce the introduction of a bipartisan early learning bill. The Strong Start for America's Children Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY), builds on the framework laid out by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address and Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal. It focuses on four critical goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; supporting broad-scale quality improvements to child care programs; and encouraging continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.

The legislation would establish a new federal-state partnership with formula funding for four-year-old preschool—with a state match—to all eligible states, based on each state's proportion of four-year-olds under 200% of the federal poverty level. States would make subgrants to high-quality, local providers, including school districts and community partners, such as child care and Head Start. The legislation also authorizes Prekindergarten Development Grants to help support state and local initiatives.

"The early learning bill introduced today reflects a growing, bipartisan understanding that to ensure our nation's children have the educational and economic opportunities they deserve, we must act early," the Secretary added in a statement. "It's long been clear that high-quality early learning opportunities produce lasting benefits, including higher high school graduation rates and lower incarceration rates. Now, a broad coalition is calling for action on President Obama's plan to make quality preschool available to every four-year-old in America, drawing on the example of leading states.... This is the most important single step we can take for the future of our young people. Let's join together to make it happen."

Note: The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (WHIEEAA) hosted a recent discussion on the importance of high-quality early care and education opportunities in the lives of African-American children.

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Power of Education

First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Duncan last week visited with sophomores at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. In her remarks, the First Lady spoke to young people about committing to their education so they can create a better future for themselves, their communities, and their country. She also shared some of her personal academic experiences to illustrate her belief that attitude, rather than circumstances, define one's future.

After her remarks, Jeff Johnson and Keshia Chante of Black Entertainment Television (BET) facilitated a conversation with the students—who represent the college Class of 2020—encouraging them to discuss their goals and aspirations, challenges, and concerns as they contemplate and prepare for higher education.

The First Lady and Secretary also shared a few resources to help students navigate the college application process. They suggested exploring studentaid.gov to learn more about what it takes academically and financially to go to college. Other great resources include the College Scorecard and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet—tools that provide students and families with easy-to-understand information about institutions of higher education.

Note: Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier testified at a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Also, the Department of Labor, collaborating with the Department of Education, announced the availability of $100 million in revenues from the H-1B visa program to fund Youth CareerConnect grants, for individual or multi-state projects providing high school students with the industry-relevant education and skills they need for a successful future. Jobs for the Future President and CEO Marlene Seltzer writes that such grants will "provide a boost we need to ensure quality pathways to postsecondary credentials and high-demand careers."

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Blue Ribbon Schools

At a special awards luncheon in Washington, D.C. this week, Secretary Duncan honored 286 schools as 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools. "Excellence in education matters, and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers," he explained. "National Blue Ribbon Schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education."

In addition to the Secretary, other guest speakers included Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle; Marc Johnson, the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year; Sheila Harrity, the 2014 National High School Principal of the Year; and Jeff Charbonneau, the 2013 National Teacher of the Year.

The Department also recognized seven National Blue Ribbon School principals as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients:

  • Hattie Alexander (W. H. Council Traditional School, Mobile, Alabama)
  • Jennifer Nauman (Richard A. Shields Elementary School, Lewes, Delaware)
  • Jared Jenks (Sugar-Salem High School, Sugar City, Idaho)
  • Kevin Suther (Chapman High School, Chapman, Kansas)
  • Sheila Harrity (Worchester Technical High School, Worchester, Massachusetts)
  • Kathleen Decker (Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Vicki Harmdierks (Gertie Bell Rogers Elementary School, Mitchell, South Dakota)

The award, named after the former Secretary of Education and presented by the Department in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Association for Middle-Level Education, honors school leaders for the essential role they play in guiding their students and schools to excellence—frequently under challenging circumstances.

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School Improvement Data

Yesterday, the Department released 2011-12 school- and district-level state assessment data and a brief analysis of School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools. The data reflects continued progress across various SIG models, school levels, and locations. Despite difficult learning environments, SIG schools have increased proficiency rates in reading and math—demonstrating the importance of targeted investments over time.

The SIG program is a key component of the Department's strategy for helping states and districts turn around the nation's lowest-performing schools. To date, more than 1,500 schools have implemented comprehensive interventions aimed at drastically improving achievement. Cohort 1 schools began implementing SIG turnarounds during the 2010-11 school year, and Cohort 2 schools began implementing turnarounds during the 2011-12 school year.

This data release continues the agency's commitment to transparency of school-level data to inform parents, community members, and the general public regarding changes in schools in their communities. The Department released national- and school-level data for SIG schools, as well as SIG leading indicator data, in June 2013. Moreover, it has released school-level assessment data for all schools for the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 school years.

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PIAAC

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented initial results of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), showing that U.S. average performance is significantly lower than the international average on three domains: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. (Watch the Department's briefing on the results here.) In response, the Department asked OECD to take a closer look at the backgrounds of the U.S. low-skilled population, identify policy implications, and offer a broad set of recommendations to provide a framework to help the nation build upon its strengths and systemically address some of its weaknesses. The report, "Time for the U.S. to Reskill?," shines a crucial spotlight on a segment of the American population (about 36 million adults ages 16-65) historically overlooked and underserved.

The report affirms the Administration's overall reform priorities, including high-quality preschool for all, college- and career-readiness standards, high schools that engage students and introduce them to careers, affordable college degrees that lead to good jobs, and expanded broadband access. The report also affirms raising expectations for learners of all ages. It calls for increased action in improving the preparedness of the low-skilled adult population.

To better understand these challenges, inform the development of a national response, and gather input from a range of stakeholders, the Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) has launched a national engagement process, with the goal of developing a national plan to improve the foundational skills of low-skilled adults.

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Odds and Ends

  • President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ericka Miller as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

  • In a blog post, Secretary Duncan recapped his two-day trip to Haiti, calling it "inspiring and heart-breaking."

  • In a letter to Chief State School Officers, Assistant Secretary Delisle outlines the process and expectations for states seeking a one-year extension of their Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility requests.

  • Thinking about year-end grants? The Department has announced finalists for the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) and the Investing in Innovation (i3) competitions. The 31 RTT-D finalists, representing 80 districts across 21 states, were selected from more than 200 applications. i3's 25 highest-rated applications, representing 13 states and the District of Columbia, were selected from 618 applications. Under both competitions, awards will be made no later than December 31.

  • TEACH and the Ad Council have partnered to launch "Make More," a new public awareness campaign to recruit the next great generation of teachers. Students who encounter the TV, radio, outdoor, and digital PSAs are encouraged to visit TEACH.org to explore the teaching profession. The web site walks students through interactive pathways to become a teacher and connects them with information about certification for various teaching jobs.

  • Libia Gil, the newly appointed Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), writes about the agency's commitment to English learners, including the awarding of a new contract for the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.

  • The Department has announced its intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare proposed regulations to address program integrity and improvement issues for federal student aid programs. The Federal Register notice sets a schedule for committee meetings and requests nominations for individuals to serve on the committee.

  • Student loan guidance: "5 Things You Need to Know About Your Student Loans," "4 Common Student Loan Mistakes," and "4 Things to Do Before You Make Your First Student Loan Payment."

  • The President signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, encouraging schools to plan for severe asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

  • In a joint letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Duncan discuss ways to ensure a healthy nutrition environment in schools.

  • The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange found that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 7.2% to a record high of 819,644 in the 2012-13 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by 3.4%.

  • Mapping the Nation, introduced at an International Education Week event at the Department, is a new, interactive map that pulls together demographic, economic, and education indicators—nearly one million data points—to show the U.S. is a truly global nation.

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Quote to Note

"More rigorous standards for what students should know and be able to do have the potential to drive much-needed improvements in America's classrooms. The state-created standards, known as the Common Core, are widely supported by teachers—three-quarters of whom have said in surveys that higher standards will improve instruction—and by leaders from both sides of the aisle.... I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation's schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities. This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement.... As a parent of two children in public school, I know no one enjoys hearing tough news from school, but we need the truth—and we need to act on it."

        Secretary Arne Duncan (11/18/13), in a blog post on college- and career-ready standards for students

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Upcoming Events

In late October, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) launched its monthly webinar series. These webinars aim to highlight "Bright Spots" throughout the country and connect national and local leaders on federal programs and initiatives, relevant policy issues, and evidence-based practices benefiting the Hispanic community. Invitations for future webinars will be sent through the WHIEEH listerv.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funds tuition-free summer programs for school and college educators. Participants receive stipends to help cover travel and living expenses. Programs are held across the U.S. and abroad. These one- to five-week study opportunities focus on important topics, texts, and questions in the humanities; enhance the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry and provide models of excellent scholarship and teaching; and promote connections between teaching and research in the humanities. The deadline for applications is March 4, 2014.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
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Last Modified: 11/22/2013