State of the Union
In His Own Words
Focus: Higher Education
Ending Sexual Assault
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
State of the Union
Starting with his opening line"Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her part to lift America's graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades"President Obama highlighted the importance of education during his 2014 State of the Union address (see education excerpts). The President laid out an agenda (see fact sheet) that emphasizes the Administration's commitment to equity and opportunity for all citizens. This commitment underlies nearly every major activity of the Department.
The President shared specific executive actions he will take to ensure students have the skills and opportunities they need to get ahead, including:
- connecting 20 million students in 15,000 schools to high-speed broadband to enrich and personalize K-12 education, and
- increasing college opportunities and graduation, building on the White House Call to Action on College Opportunity with over 150 new commitments from colleges, universities, businesses, and others to improve college access and success for low-income students.
The President also outlined key areas where he will continue to work with Congress, including:
- building on the progress in 30 states and the District of Columbia to provide high-quality preschool for every child, and
- redesigning high schools to better connect students with college or careers and better equip them with the real world skills they need for a good job.
To learn more about the Administration's key priorities in education, visit the Department's Progress for America's Children web page. From this page, one can learn more about:
- Early Learning: America's Middle Class Promise Begins Early
- K-12 Education Reforms: Strategic Initiatives to Foster Real Change
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM): Education for Global Leadership
- Teachers and Leaders: America's Engineers of Learning and Growth
- Working to Keep Schools and Communities Safe
- College Affordability and Completion: Ensuring a Pathway to Opportunity
- Equity of Opportunity
- A Great Education Helps to Create Ladders of Opportunity for All Students
- Students and educators were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union.
- Immediately after the speech, a panel of White House advisors answered questions submitted via Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and by an in-person audience.
- The White House hosted a first-ever virtual "Big Block of Cheese Day," during which dozens of Administration officials, including Secretary Duncan, took to social media to answer questions from citizens in real time.
- The President traveled around the country to promote Opportunity for All, including visiting McGavock High School in Nashville.
- Vice President Joe Biden will lead an across-the-board review of how to best reform federal training programs (see fact sheet).
President Obama recently signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014, increasing Department of Education funding by $1.6 billion over FY 2013. While not restoring the full $2.3 billion in discretionary funding cut by the 2013 sequestration, this bipartisan act adds funds to a dozen large elementary and secondary formula programs and several higher education and student loan programs. For early learning, the act provides $250 million for another iteration of the Race to the Top early learning competition and a $1 billion increase for Head Start. For K-12 education, the act has $14.4 billion for Title I (+$624 million over FY 2013) and $11.5 billion for special education state grants (+$480 million over FY 2013), allows five-year awards under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program, and makes funding available for school safety proposals. Under higher education, the act provides $75 million for the First in the World initiative aimed at college access and affordability. Meanwhile, the President will release a summary of his FY 2015 budget proposal on March 4.
In His Own Words
- On January 22, Secretary Duncan participated in a working meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Education Reform Task Force. The mayors adopted a cradle-to-career agenda, with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap. Also, a day later, the Secretary joined Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarett and other Cabinet secretaries for a panel discussion on partnering with local communities to promote opportunity for Americans across the nation.
- On January 27, the Secretary addressed the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's (ASCD) Leadership Institute Conference. "All education stakeholders, many of whom are represented in this room todayteachers, principals, district and state leaders, non-profits, researchers, parents, and students themselveshave a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to both dramatically enrich and accelerate learning and improve instructional practice," he said. "This is the educator's moment. This is your chance at an educational moonshot. Please seize the day."
- In an op-ed published last week in the Washington Post, titled "Behind Progress, Common Sense and Courage," the Secretary noted, "The changes America's children need to get a better education require political courage and hard work, but, in many cases, the steps are surprisingly straightforwardand may be taken anywhere."
Focus: Higher Education
The Departments of Education and the Treasury and Intuit, Inc., have announced an innovative public-private collaboration to raise awareness of income-driven repayment plans and other repayment options for federal student loan borrowers. This tax filing season, Intuit will feature a banner in its TurboTax Online tax preparation software, with a message to let users know they have options for repaying their federal loans. The banner will link to the Education Department's Repayment Estimator, where users will be able to determine if they could lower their monthly student loan payments through income-driven repayment plans. From there users will be able to sign-up for an income-driven or other repayment plan. Last year, some 18 million Americans used TurboTax to prepare their tax returns.
Also, at the latest Student Voices session, 15 high school and college students from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania offered feedback on improving the college application process.
Ending Sexual Assault
As part of an unprecedented national effort to tackle alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to establish a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The national statistics around sexual assault are jarring. A report issued by the White House Council on Women and Girls"Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action"reveals one in five women and one in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. The task force, which will include Secretary Duncan, is charged with sharing best practices and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. It builds on federal efforts already underway which seek to break devastating cycles of violence on campuses and around the country. (Note: The Secretary penned a corresponding op-ed published this week in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
Odds and Ends
Last week, Secretary Duncan discussed the role of private funds and interests in education with Teacher Ambassador Fellows Lisa Clarke and Joiselle Cunningham.
This week, the Secretary announced that seven statesColorado, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Utah, and Washingtonwill receive over $39 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through new awards from the SIG program.
The agency has published the list of candidates for the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
The Department's Progress blog spotlights state and local innovative ideas, promising practices, lessons learned, and resources informed by the implementation of K-12 education reforms. Currently, one can read about Delaware and Hawaii teachers and coaches using data to identify student needs and inform instructional improvement strategies; Maryland elementary school students learning STEM via new foreign language courses; and hundreds of students from rural communities in Florida gaining access to STEM learning opportunities through a Race to the Top initiative. Ideas for content may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
During National Drug Facts Week (January 27-February 2), schools and teachers have an opportunity to help shatter the myths about drug use.
Quote to Note
"Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans wantfor all of us to focus on their lives, their hopes, and their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead."
|||President Barack Obama (1/28/14), in his State of the Union address|
Today, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, President Obama will take a virtual road trip across the country via Google+ Hangouts to discuss the issues laid out in his State of the Union address.
On February 4, at 3:45 p.m. ET, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will host a stakeholder call on the Administration's early learning and development efforts (call: 1-888-989-3384; passcode: 6021992).
The Department is developing a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System to assess the performance of institutions of higher education, advance institutional accountability, and enhance consumer access to useful information. To aid in this effort, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has invited experts to supply information about data elements, metrics, methods of data collection, methods of weighting or scoring, and presentation frameworks at a technical symposium on February 6. The public is invited to participate, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET, via webinar (password: pirstech1; event number: 742484116).
February is African-American History Month, and February 17 is Presidents' Day. Need help planning education activities? The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers more than 1,500 free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 140 resources specifically highlighted for these events.
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