Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 9, 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...
Grad Nation
Presidential Scholars
Honoring Teachers
Focus on Early Learning
Civil Rights Matters
Reach Higher
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Grad Nation

On April 28, at the fourth annual "Building a Grad Nation" Summit, Secretary Duncan announced the first-ever national Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate—the most accurate measure yet of high school graduation rates. He also announced that the nation's 2012 high school graduation rate—80%—is the highest in America's history. "The real world impact of that improvement for students, families, and communities is enormous," he said. "Because of graduation rate increases between just 2008 and 2012, an additional 100,000 Latino students and an additional 40,000 African-American students graduated from high school. That is 140,000 students of color alone with a better chance of getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family."

"As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, administrators, students, and families whose hard work made that achievement possible," the Secretary continued in his Grad Nation remarks. "But, even as we celebrate, we all know we have to push beyond 80%. Simply put, for the 20% who don't earn a high school diploma, their life chances are bleak. We have to redouble our efforts for those who aren't even making it to the starting line. Because high school graduation may once have been the finish line, but now it's the beginning."

The corresponding National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report provides graduation rates and dropout rates for school years 2010-11 and 2011-12, including national and state-level Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates—which NCES has been producing for many years as an estimator for on-time graduation—and national and state-level Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates collected by the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) from most states.

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Presidential Scholars

This week, Secretary Duncan announced the 50th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts. Each year, 141 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, and 20 students are scholars in the arts. Over 3,900 candidates qualified on the basis of outstanding ACT or SAT scores and through nominations by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation's nationwide YoungArts competition. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars—appointed by President Obama—selects the finalists based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations, and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Scholars will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 22.

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Honoring Teachers

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a committee of 15 national education organizations, organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers. This year's winner, Sean McComb, is an English teacher at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Baltimore, where he has spent his entire eight-year teaching career. During the year, he is released from classroom duties to travel the country as a spokesperson and advocate for the teaching profession.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan honored McComb and the State Teachers of the Year at the White House on May 1 with a ceremony in the East Room. In his remarks, the President thanked teachers for their commitment to America's young people and stressed "education is a two-way street. It's our job to provide students with great schools and great teachers, and it's their job to do their homework and work hard and do their best. The people you elect have to make sure that teachers and school districts have the resources they need to do their jobs well. And investing in education has been a top priority of mine since the day I took office."

Also, the Administration celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) with a variety of activities and outreach. On May 6—Teacher Appreciation Day—individuals across the country downloaded the Department's #ThankATeacher sign, filled it out, and posted a picture on social media. Moreover, the Department's own Teaching Ambassador Fellows organized the third annual "ED Goes Back to School Day," in which more than 50 officials spent a day shadowing a teacher. That evening, the teachers and the officials who shadowed them met with the Secretary to share stories and implications for their work. And, on May 7, 22 educators nationwide were invited to take part in a White House Social. (Note: During the week, the Secretary made a series of calls to teachers and joined a local school's appreciation breakfast.)

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Focus on Early Learning

The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have posted for public comment (until Friday, May 16 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time) executive summaries for Development Grants and Expansion Grants under the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition—aimed at preparing more states to become ready to participate in the proposed Preschool for All program. All states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will be eligible to apply. States with small or no state-funded preschool programs will be eligible for Development Grants, while states with more robust state-funded preschool programs or that have received a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant will be eligible for Expansion Grants. The agencies intend for high-quality preschool programs to be located in regionally diverse communities or consortia of communities in cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods, districts, or rural or tribal areas with a high level of need or distress, as determined by the state. Preschool programs funded under either category of grants will need to meet the competition's criteria for high-quality preschool programs, but other preschool programs in the state will not be required to meet the criteria. (Note: The agencies will hold an informational webinar on the competition on Monday, May 12 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Participants are asked to submit their questions [by today at 5:00 p.m. ET] to PreschoolDevelopmentGrants@ed.gov. They are also asked to download the executive summaries.)

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Civil Rights Matters

On April 29, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new guidance describing the responsibilities of colleges, universities, and public schools to address sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The guidelines—highlighted by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault's new report released earlier that day—provide clarity about the requirements of Title IX around this issue. Included in the guidance are examples of proactive efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence and remedies schools may use to end such conduct, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. A question-and-answer document examines critical topics, including when schools should respect students' requests for confidentiality, when schools should take immediate steps to protect students who complain about sexual violence from the alleged perpetrator and potential retaliation, and how to determine whether sexual violence occurred and the appropriate remedies for such violence. And, the guidelines clarify that its terms apply to all students, including gay and lesbian students, transgender students, and undocumented students. (Note: A related "Know Your Rights" document is available in English and Spanish.)

To make enforcement data and other resources available to students and schools, the Task Force launched a new web site: NotAlone.gov.

Also last week, OCR released a list of institutions of higher education under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. In the past, Department officials confirmed individual Title IX investigations. This list is a comprehensive look at which campuses are under review by OCR for sexual violence allegations. The agency will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. When an investigation concludes, it will disclose, upon request, whether OCR has entered into a resolution agreement to so address compliance concerns at a particular campus or found insufficient evidence of a Title IX violation.

Separately, the Departments of Education and Justice issued this week a Dear Colleague letter confirming that the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et. al. leaves intact the court's prior holdings recognizing that K-12 schools and institutions of higher education may use all legally permissible methods to achieve diversity goals, including programs that consider the race of the applicant as one of multiple factors in the process to achieve the educational benefits in a diverse student body.

Then, yesterday, Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced updated guidance for K-12 schools to ensure enrollment processes are consistent with the law and fulfill their obligation to provide all children—no matter their background—equal access to an education. The guidance package—including a guidance letter to states and districts, a fact sheet, and a question-and-answer document—emphasize the need for flexibility in accepting documents from parents to prove a child's age and to show that a child resides within a school's attendance area. They also provide specific examples of the types of documents that many schools have accepted and remind schools that they may not require certain documents—such as a parent's state-issued driver's license—where such a requirement would prevent a student from enrolling because of his or her parent's immigration status.

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Reach Higher

As part of her effort to help attain the "North Star" goal of having the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, First Lady Michelle Obama joined San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro for the city's College Signing Day. There, at the culmination of the Destination College Week celebration, she revealed a name for her college access initiative: Reach Higher. (Former Department Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Waldo has joined the First Lady's team to lead this initiative.) Also, as a show of support for Reach Higher, individuals across the country, including the President and members of his Cabinet, wore college gear to inspire students to consider applying to college. (Note: Secretary Duncan penned a special blog post on the First Lady's initiative.)

Also in San Antonio, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics announced the release of a new financial aid guide to help support Hispanic students in their efforts to enroll and afford college.

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Odds and Ends

  • According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the performance of America's twelfth-grade students in reading and mathematics has not changed since 2009. "Despite the highest high school graduation rate in our history, and despite growth in student achievement over time in elementary school and middle school, student achievement at the high school level has been flat in recent years," Secretary Duncan noted in a statement. "We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and, as a nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students."

  • The Senate has confirmed Ted Mitchell as Under Secretary of Education (statement).

  • President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Robert Gordon to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (OPEPD).

  • Over the last two weeks, the Secretary testified on the President's Fiscal Year 2015 budget before the House Education and Workforce Committee (remarks), the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (remarks and slides), and the Senate Budget Committee.

  • A new feature on StudentAid.gov allows recipients to directly access their federal student aid history. This enhancement is the second step of a multi-phase project to develop a single point of entry for students accessing federal student aid information, applying for federal aid, repaying student loans, and navigating the college decision-making process. The web site, including this new feature, is completely accessible on tablets and smartphones.

  • Picking up from an earlier blog post on stopping the "summer slide," here are more ideas on how parents and mentors can engage teens during the summer and give them a leg up on what comes next.

  • Speaking of summer, in a joint letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Duncan discuss opportunities for children to receive meals through federal summer meals programs.

  • Solicitations related to research in the area of school safety were recently announced by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice. The "Investigator-Initiated Research" solicitation is wide open, and NIJ will consider any topic that can add to the knowledge base on school safety. The "Developing Knowledge About What Works to Make Schools Safe" solicitation is open to states, districts, and public charter schools and supports a unique opportunity to engage in research that closely examines the effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of various school safety strategies.

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Quote to Note

"You helped improve educational opportunity for tens of millions of children. We are all in your debt and try to live up to the example of public service you set for all of us."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a March note to Dr. Samuel Halperin, one of the architects of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and a dozen other landmark education laws, who passed away on May 6

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Upcoming Events

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage 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 10 resources specifically highlighted for this month.

On May 15, at 11:00 a.m. ET, the Department's Student Art Exhibit Program will host student artists from both coasts demonstrating what it means to be a learner. Students from Los Angeles' School for the Visual Arts and Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will open an art exhibit, "The Learner Project," and perform, through discussion, "What It Means to be a Learner." Joining them will be students from the Elevated Thought Foundation in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who approach education via the arts to achieve social justice and community well-being. Both communities raised money to ensure their students could have this learning experience. To RSVP to attend or learn more about the agency's year-round exhibit program, please contact Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov.

The Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) will host a series of webinars related to research funding opportunities in May and June.

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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: 05/09/2014