Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 28, 2014

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...
Education Record
Top Ten List: Early Learning
Completing the FAFSA
English Learners as Assets
Protecting Student Privacy
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Education Record

Playing in his fourth NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, Secretary Duncan paced his East squad to victory, scoring 20 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and doling out six assists—prompting comedian Kevin Hart, who had been voted MVP by the fans, to give him the award. (Don't miss this highlight reel.) During the game, the Secretary wore the number 80, a number rarely seen on a basketball jersey but one representing a record in education. That number—80%—is the newly announced high school graduation rate, the highest in American history.

In a blog post, titled "Why I Wear 80," the Secretary asserts, "Often in sports, but rarely in education, do you hear about the heroes whose skill, hard work, creativity, and tenacity resulted in the achievement the whole country should know about. We should all take heart from the passionate, caring work being done in classrooms, schools, and communities across the country." Specifically, he raises up work from Seattle, where Grover Cleveland High School, with federal grants and other reform funds, has transformed from a struggling school to a Washington State School of Distinction—with a 75% graduation rate. "But, I see 80% as a starting point," he closes. "We have so much further to go—for the one in five students who don't graduate; for the many who graduate less than fully prepared for college; and for the groups of students that, despite recent progress, are achieving and graduating at lower rates. The potential of American students is limitless."

While in New Orleans, the Secretary also visited Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School to help out on a City Year volunteer project to revitalize the school building. He was joined by NBA players and officials, as well as Clark basketball players, student council members, and staff.

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Top Ten List: Early Learning

On February 23, Secretary Duncan participated in the Education and Workforce Committee session, "Supporting Governors' Innovation in Early Childhood Education," at the National Governors Association's (NGA) Winter Meeting. In his remarks, the Secretary referenced a handout in governors' binders, highlighting those states that are making rapid progress in early learning, K-12 education, and higher education. He also presented a Top Ten list of why he thinks it is "inevitable" that states and the nation are going to see a dramatic expansion of high-quality early learning over the next few years. "Now, I absolutely applaud the tremendous, bipartisan leadership the governors have shown on early learning," he stated. "And, I want to encourage each of you to take the next step. Please continue to invest and speak frankly about the need to expand high-quality early learning. There are real, practical challenges that states face in expanding access and improving quality. However, as a nation, many of the challenges that we face in the early learning space require political courage and willingness to challenge misinformation, as much as anything else."

In his own remarks to governors gathered at the White House, President Obama also referenced early learning: "While Congress decides what it's going to do on making high-quality pre-K available to more kids, there is bipartisan work being done among the folks in this room. You've got governors like Robert Bentley [Alabama], Jack Markell [Delaware], Susana Martinez [New Mexico], and Deval Patrick [Massachusetts] all expanding funding or dedicating funds to make that happen in their states. We want to partner with you. This year, I'll pull together a coalition of philanthropists, elected officials, and business leaders, all of whom are excited and interested in working with you, to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need."

Also, the public comment period for Preschool Development Grants is now closed—480 comments are online—but the Department will be providing additional opportunities for input in the near future.

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Completing the FAFSA

In a February 26 letter to the nation's superintendents, Secretary Duncan outlined new resources from the Department that are designed to increase the number of students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA completion correlates strongly with college enrollment, especially among low-income students. The FAFSA takes an average of only 23 minutes to complete online, and it is entirely free and secure.

The FAFSA Completion Tool was created to help financial aid professionals, school administrators, and practitioners track and increase FAFSA completion. The tool—updated bi-weekly through the spring—provides every high school in the U.S. whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the 2014-15 application year, as well as comparison data from the 2013-14 application year. And, coming online soon will be a resource for states to provide counselors with information to see if particular students have completed their FAFSA.

And the Financial Aid Toolkit was designed to assist counselors, educators, and others by consolidating financial aid resources in one place, making it easier to find and access information to help students and parents understand the financial aid process, apply for aid, repay loans, and generally prepare for college. For example, there are tips on how to host a FAFSA completion workshop. There are also sample tweets, Facebook posts, videos, blog posts, infographics, and other resources that can be used to encourage and help students and parents.

In a separate blog post, the Secretary makes the case for College Signing Days to honor the students who continue their education after high school.

Also, in related news, three different negotiated rulemaking committees—Program Integrity and Improvement, Gainful Employment, and Violence Against Women Act—are working on various changes to Higher Education Act (HEA) Title IV regulations.

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English Learners as Assets

In a recent op-ed published in the Los Angeles Daily News, the Secretary and Assistant Deputy Secretary for English Language Acquisition Libia Gil identify the estimated 4.6 million students learning English—the fastest-growing student population in American schools—as a "valuable yet untapped resource." "These students come to school already speaking a variety of home languages, most commonly Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, or Hmong. These languages are significant not only to our economic competitiveness but also to our nation's security," they explained. The Department is encouraging innovations in English learner education, in part by making it a priority under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. "We challenge our schools and communities to invest in our future leaders with bi-literacy and multi-literacy skills."

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Protecting Student Privacy

This week, the Department's Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) released new guidance to help school systems and educators interpret and understand the major laws and best practices protecting student privacy while using online educational services. The guidance summarizes the major requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) that relate to these educational services. It also urges schools and school districts to go beyond compliance, to follow best practices for outsourcing school functions using online educational services, including computer software, mobile applications, and web-based tools.

To review this guidance and solicit feedback, the Department and PTAC will be hosting a joint webinar on March 13 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Moreover, in a speech at the Common Sense Media Privacy Zone Conference, Secretary Duncan took a strong stance on student privacy, saying, "We cannot ask our schools to choose between privacy and progress."

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Odds and Ends

  • President Obama has launched a new White House initiative called "My Brother's Keeper," which will bring the public, private, and non-profit sectors together to test a range of strategies to support young males of color.

  • On February 26, Secretary Duncan participated in Discovery Education and the White House's "Of the People" webinar series, exploring the transition from traditional classrooms to digital classrooms. The series offers middle and high school students access to senior Administration officials via 30-minute virtual events broadcast live from the White House and open to all classrooms nationwide.

  • Also that day, as part of the Smithsonian Institution's "Digital Directions in Learning" webinar series, Richard Culatta, Director of the Department's Office of Educational Technology, joined a discussion on open resources and personalized learning.

  • And, on February 27, Culatta was part of the New American Foundation's "Connected Communities in the Age of Digital Learning" forum.

  • The Secretary announced that nine more states—Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming—will receive more than $71 million in awards from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools.

  • Teacher Ambassador Fellow Emily Davis recently sat down with the Secretary to discuss his thoughts on the President's State of the Union address and the importance of school culture and fair discipline.

  • 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 Massachusetts districts adopting rigorous course requirements for high school students; Washington, D.C., district and charter schools collaborating regarding college- and career-ready standards; and Ohio's new school models to spur innovation. Ideas for content may be sent to progress@ed.gov.

  • The New Teacher Center, with an i3 grant, is refining critical elements of its teacher induction model, learning through evaluation how to effectively impact teacher retention, instructional practices, and, ultimately, student success.

  • As part of the fourth anniversary celebration of "Let's Move!," First Lady Michelle Obama announced proposed guidelines for comprehensive school wellness policies.

  • "Projections of Education Statistics to 2022," issued by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides data on student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for schools and degree-granting institutions.

  • Also, a new NCES First Look report provides national data on services and support programs offered to military service members and veterans enrolled for credit at postsecondary institutions, as well as those dependents with military or veteran's financial education benefits.

  • A final report from the Council of Economic Advisors finds that the Recovery Act had a substantial positive impact on the economy, helped avert a second Great Depression, and made targeted investments that will pay dividends for years to come.

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Quote to Note

"Inappropriate access to, or use of, our personal information is something we think about a lot at home, with our 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Ours is not a low-tech home, although my kids, correctly, claim they have a pretty low-tech dad since they have to share my iPad, and because my wife and I limit their non-educational screen time. We've been learning code together, though they are ahead of me. Our kids can access their school assignments on the web and turn them in using document sharing. They track their own grades and progress. And we use some web-based tools to support their learning, including online video lessons and foreign language courses."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2/24/14), speaking on technology in education

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Upcoming Events

More than 2,500 students from across the country responded to the President's call to make a video telling how technology has or could make a difference in their learning. Today, at 2:30 p.m. ET, you can watch the 16 finalists present their work at the White House.

On March 4, at 1:30 p.m. ET, the Department will brief stakeholders on the President's Fiscal Year 2015 budget request. Stakeholders are welcome to join in person (at 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202) or watch the briefing streamed live. That day, budget materials will be posted here. (Note: Congressional Justifications and some of the detailed documents from the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] will not be available until the following week.)

March is Women's History Month. 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 39 resources specifically highlighted for this month.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 03/13/2014