Press Room NEWSLETTERS
April 25, 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...
Teacher Preparation Plan
Green Honorees
ESEA Flexibility
Focus on Higher Education
Job Training Investments
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Teacher Preparation Plan

Research confirms that the most important factor in a student's success in school is a strong teacher. However, almost two-thirds of new teachers report that their teacher preparation program left them unprepared for the realities of the classroom. Moreover, for decades, institutions that prepare teachers have lacked the feedback needed to identify their strengths and weaknesses and had little information on where program graduates go to teach, how long they stay, and how they perform in the classroom.

Today, President Obama directed the Department to lay out a plan to strengthen America's teacher preparation programs for public discussion by this summer and to move forward on schedule to publish a final rule within the next year. The Administration will encourage and support states in developing systems that recognize excellence and provide all programs with information to help them improve, while holding them accountable for how well they prepare teachers to succeed in today's classrooms and throughout their careers (fact sheet and blog post).

Specifically, the Department's plan will:

  • build on state systems and efforts and the progress in the field to encourage all states to develop their own meaningful systems to identify high- and low-performing teacher preparation programs across all kinds of programs, not just those based in colleges and universities;
  • ask states to move away from current input-focused reporting requirements, streamline the current data requirements, incorporate more meaningful outcomes, and improve the availability of relevant information on teacher preparation; and
  • rely on state-developed program ratings of preparation programs to determine program eligibility for TEACH grants, which are available to students who are planning to become teachers in a high-need field in a low-income school.

This afternoon, Secretary Duncan will join Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, teachers, and other educators to discuss the importance of supporting high-quality teachers at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. The event will feature a town hall with educators and teacher preparation experts talking about training teachers to be classroom-ready.

The Department is deeply committed to supporting America's educators. Recently, the Secretary announced Teach to Lead, a new initiative to ensure that teachers have the opportunity to play a critical role in the decisions that impact their classrooms and their students without leaving the classroom. The President has also requested $200 million in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the ConnectEDucators program to support teachers' efforts to learn how to make the best use of technology and digital learning materials in their classrooms. These efforts are in addition to the RESPECT proposal to elevate the education profession through enriched preparation and early career support, teacher leadership and development opportunities, and improved work environments. And, through other federal programs, such as the Teacher Incentive Fund, Race to the Top, and Investing in Innovation, states and school districts are finding innovative new ways to develop, support, and retain the educators they need for the future.

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Green Honorees

On April 22, in a live webcast, Secretary Duncan and Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots announced 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees (blog post). Forty-eight schools were recognized for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. Additionally, nine school districts were recognized with the District Sustainability Award. The honorees were confirmed from a pool of nominees submitted by 30 states. The honorees include 39 public schools (with 10 early learning programs, three charter schools, a magnet school, and three career-technical schools) and nine private schools, serving various grade levels. Over a third of the honorees report more than 40% of their student body receiving either free or reduced-price lunch, and 18 are rural. A list of all schools and districts, as well as their nomination packages, is available here, and a report with highlights on the honorees can be found here. The Department is already looking forward to a fourth year of awards—with a new postsecondary category—and will be publishing updated competition criteria shortly. States are requested to indicate an intent to nominate in 2015 by August 1, 2014. (Note: All schools can draw on the same tools used by honorees through the agency's Green Strides resources and webinar series.)

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ESEA Flexibility

The Secretary recently announced that Illinois 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 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Three applications remain under review, and five states have not requested flexibility through this process. (Note: In the interest of transparency and to help inform other states, the Department has posted here initial and approved flexibility requests, highlights of each state's plan, and peer review notes, as well as the agency's letter regarding peer review feedback and the Secretary's approval letter.)

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Focus on Higher Education

The Department is asking student advocates, designers, developers, and others to respond to a Request for Information on how application programming interfaces (APIs) could increase access to higher education data or student financial aid programs. APIs are sets of software instructions and standards that allow machine-to-machine communications. There may be ways that key forms—like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—or information-gathering processes could be made easier for students by incorporating the use of APIs (blog post).

Last month, Secretary Duncan met with student leaders from the American Student Association of Community Colleges. The conversation focused on ensuring high-quality instruction, accrediting certification and degree programs, and improving support for transition programs. Community colleges are the single largest sector of the American higher education system, enrolling nearly half of all undergraduates each year.

Also, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) continues to produce helpful blog posts on student loans: "5 Things to Consider When Taking Out Student Loans," "Class of 2014: What's Next for Your Student Loans?," and "6 Things You Must Know About Replaying Your Student Loans."

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Job Training Investments

In this year's State of the Union address, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a reform of America's job training programs, making sure that these programs "train Americans with the skills employers need and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now." On April 16, the President and Vice President visited the Community College of Allegheny County-West Hills Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to declare progress on that reform. "CCAC is an outstanding model of the kind of job-driven training we're trying to encourage all across the country," the President said. "You're doing something right that is making a difference in people's lives—and we want to spread the word" (blog post, with remarks and video).

The President announced a nearly $500 million competition in which the federal government will award grants to community colleges and employers partnering together to develop job-driven training programs. Under the program, applicants will be required to identify sectors with open jobs to fill, partner with the public workforce system and employers in that sector to address the skills needed for open jobs, and create pathways from entry-level positions to move advanced positions to ensure room for growth for employees with the lowest starting skills levels. This program is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Community College and Career Training grant program that has, over the last three years, supported community colleges preparing dislocated workers and other adults for jobs in their regional economies (fact sheet).

The program is designed to ensure that an eligible institution in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico receive dedicated funding of at least $2.25 million. Single institutions may apply for grants of up to $2.5 million, and consortia of institutions in the same state or that share an economic region may apply for grants up to $15 million. The deadline to apply is July 7.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a new blog post, "What I've Learned in 50 States," Secretary Duncan recaps his experiences visiting all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The entry features an interactive map, allowing users to recall individual stops. "America's public schools embody our American values of creativity, industry, and ingenuity," he notes, "and, from Hawaii to Maine, I am fortunate to have learned this firsthand."

  • Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Howard University, participating in a discussion about the challenges of attending college and the importance of finding ways to overcome these challenges while using them as tools to success.

  • Following the launch of the 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) "Development" competition—which resulted in nearly 400 pre-applications—the Department announced the start of i3's "Validation" and "Scale-up" competitions. These competitions include priorities that target specific areas of need, expanding the i3 portfolio of solutions that addresses persistent challenges in education. Complementing the Administration's efforts to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities, the Department has included an invitational priority in both the "Validation" and "Scale-up" categories.

  • The Secretary announced that four additional states—Alabama, Arizona, California, and New Hampshire—will receive over $76 million in awards from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program (here and here) to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools.

  • The Department also awarded grants, totaling over $33 million, to 67 school districts and community-based organizations to implement comprehensive, integrated physical activity and nutrition programs through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program.

  • 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 Tennessee-created report cards to help teacher preparation programs target improvement; Colorado teachers leading the transition to new academic standards; and the work of Georgia's Performance Learning Centers helping disengaged students get back on track to graduate. Ideas for content may be sent to progress@ed.gov.

  • Every year, about 1 in 10 American teenagers experiences physical violence at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend, and many others are sexually and emotionally abused. The Department is dedicated to working with students, families, educators, and communities to prevent abuse and support survivors. A new compilation of resources provides information to support schools and communities in their efforts to create safe, healthy learning environments and identify, investigate, and remedy teen dating violence and sexual assault. (Note: This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month—blog post.)

  • In a new video, the Secretary expresses his support for the United Nations Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), an international effort to raise the profile of education. In accepting the challenge of becoming a GEFI "Champion Country," the U.S. pledges to lead by example and advance GEFI's three priorities: put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship.

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Quote to Note

"When it comes to training our workers, not all of today's good jobs require a four-year college degree, but I promise you, there's not a job out there that's going to pay a lot if you don't have some sort of specialized training. So our best bet is keeping ahead in the skills race. And you see what happens when we put effort into making sure workers have new skills—the education that's required for this 21st century economy. At a time when traditional manufacturing is back on the rise, Pittsburgh is seeing new factories manufacturing new technologies across the board."

        President Barack Obama (4/16/14), in remarks on skills training in Oakdale, Pennsylvania

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Upcoming Events

Urban, rural, and tribal leaders are invited to Promise Zone initiative stakeholder webinars on April 29 and 30. (Note: Please RSVP for all three webinars by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time today.) Also, the Department of Housing and Urban Development published a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comment on the proposed selection process and criteria for the second round of the Promise Zone initiative. (Note: The public comment period closes June 16). A minimum of five and up to 15 designations will be made.

On May 7, at 10:00 a.m. ET, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) will release results from the "Nation's Report Card: 2013 Mathematics and Reading, Grade 12." A panel of experts will provide an in-depth analysis of the data. The public is invited to join the event to be held at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., or watch the event via live stream.

This spring, the First Lady will deliver commencement addresses at Dillard University in New Orleans, an assembly of high schools in Topeka, Kansas, and the District of Columbia College Access Program.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

Please feel free to contact the Office of Communications and Outreach with any questions:
Deputy Assistant Secretary, State and Local Public Engagement—Joe Walsh, (202) 401-0026, Joseph.Walsh@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!), contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/index.html.


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Last Modified: 04/25/2014