Brown v. Board
Focus on Early Learning
Focus on Higher Education
President’s Education Awards
Charter School Guidance
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Brown v. Board
May 17 was the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools. In commemoration of this milestone in our nation's history, Administration officials delivered remarks, issued statements, and penned blog posts, celebrating progress but acknowledging ongoing challenges. Among the highlights:
- Presidential Proclamation: "Thanks to the men and women who fought for equality in the courtroom, the legislature, and the hearts and minds of the American people, we have confined legalized segregation to the dustbin of history. Yet, today, the hope and promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. In the years to come, we must continue striving toward equal opportunities for all our childrenfrom access to advanced classes to participation in the same extracurricular activities. Because when children learn and play together, they grow, build, and thrive together."
- First Lady Michelle Obama visited Topeka, recognizing the achievements of high school students on "Senior Recognition Day" (video).
- Secretary Duncan marked the anniversary in a blog post, noting "Brown outlawed the notion of 'separate but equal' schooling... but did not stop de facto segregation. Many school districts today are intensely segregatedas much they have been since after the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many school districts that were desegregating in the 1960s and 1970s have since resegregated. And within metropolitan areas, educational opportunity and diversity can vary widely among dozens of urban and suburban school districts within a short drive of each other."
- The Secretary also focused on the anniversary in his remarks at the Education Writers Association's national conference. "For... four reasons, education is very much the leading civil rights issue of our generation," he said. "School resegregation, the expanded reach of laws regulating equal opportunity, the elevated importance of education and opportunity gaps, and the continued persistence of discrimination all combine to make closing opportunity gaps a moral imperative. Unfortunately, in 2014, we don't treat inequality and inequity in schools with the urgency and seriousness of purpose it deserves."
- In a blog post, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett added "Our nation did not automatically translate the words of Brown into substantive change. The integration of our schools was a process that was halting, confrontational, and, at times, even bloody. For all the progress our nation has seen over the last six decades, this is a process that continues, and a promise that has yet to be fully realized, even today."
Nearly every major policy initiative the Administration has advanced in education aims to improve outcomes for underserved studentsfrom partnering with states to expand preschool programs to raising expectations for all students, ensuring quality teaching in every classroom, expanding the opportunities of technology through broadband, turning around chronically low-performing schools, and expanding Pell Grants to pay for college. For next year, the Department is proposing Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity, to help states and school districts close opportunity gaps and support students, teachers, and leaders in high-need communities.
Focus on Early Learning
Last week, Secretary Duncan participated in a media call with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) on the release of NIEER's 2013 State Preschool Yearbook, which profiles state-funded preschool programs nationwide. Although much of the recent progress in the funding and expansion of preschool has not been captured in this report, the data is a sobering reminder of how much work needs to be done to ensure that every child is prepared to be successful in school and later in life. For the first time in more than a decade, the number of children enrolled in state-funded preschool programs declined from the previous year, with nearly 9,000 fewer four-year-olds enrolled.
A "First Look" report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) also presents findings from the 2013 State of Preschool data collection, including state-funded preschool enrollment and funding.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the Strong Start for America's Children Act,which would boost funding to expand access and improve quality of preschool programs serving low- and moderate-income families, increase the quality of infant and toddler care by providers, and encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program. (Note: The Secretary's statement on the committee action is available online.)
Focus on Higher Education
Also last week, Secretary Duncan delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University. He praised ASU for "demonstrating what's possible.... Increased excellence and increased access can't be at oddsthey must go hand-in-hand. And, as the 10,000 ASU students graduating today have shown, excellence plus equity is a win-win strategy." He also reminded students that "your ASU education has prepared you to be a change agent. You are ready. As they say on campus, gold equals bold."
In Arizona, the Secretary announced the availability of $75 million in the First in the World (FITW) program (blog post). These grants will fund the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies at colleges and universities that boost attainment and make higher education more affordable for students and families. FITW draws on the approach of the Department's Investment in Education (i3) Fund, in which higher levels of evidence of success divide the competition into several tiers of funding. For the 2014 FITW competition, grants will be awarded in only one tierDevelopment grantsbut additional evidence will be incentivized through the competition. Evaluation will also be a key component. The deadline for applications is June 30. Pre-application webinars are scheduled for May 28 and June 4.
Moreover, Deputy Under Secretary of Education Jamie Studley provided a second update on the agency's development of a college ratings system. "The scope of responses, complexity of the task, and importance of doing this thoughtfully and usefully led us to decide that it is worth taking more time before publishing a proposal for comment, interchange, and improvement," she stated. "We are continuing conversations with educators, families, leaders, and researchers. We are on track to come out with a proposal by this fall and a final version of the new ratings system before the 2015-16 school year."
President's Education Awards
Since 1983, the President's Education Awards Program (PEAP) has bestowed individual recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence. School principals determine the number of qualifying students based on selection criteria and verify orders for awards. There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria. Students receive a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President and the Secretary. Last year, nearly three million elementary, middle, and high school students from over 30,000 schools were recognized under PEAP.
Charter School Guidance
On May 14, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new guidance confirming that federal civil rights laws that apply to traditional public schools apply equally to public charter schools. The guidance highlights critical subjects that have arisen in charter schools, including the schools' obligations to avoid discrimination in admissions practices and the administration of discipline; to provide a free, appropriate public education for students with disabilities; and to take affirmative steps to assist English learners. The guidance also points to OCR publications regarding additional civil rights principles that are equally applicable to charter schools.
Odds and Ends
On May 20, the First Lady welcomed students from across the country for the first-ever White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show. These performances were part of an Administration effort to leverage art, artists, and substantial Department resources to turnaround the nation's worst-performing schools. The results of the Turnaround Arts program has been so successful that the program will be quadrupling in size, adding 35 schools in 11 states and serving over 10,000 students, ensuring they have access to arts education.
The Secretary posted a reflectionon the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society speech.
The Secretary also recently hosted a youth listening session, in partnership with the My Brother's Keeper Taskforce, to get input from youth leaders and youth-serving organizations on a wide range of questions.
Don't miss these compilations on "ED Goes Back to School," from current and former teachers at the Department, from the agency's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), from the agency's Regional Offices, and from a teacher who was shadowed.
On October 7, the Department will honor selected superintendents for their leadership in helping transition their districts to digital learning. This first-ever Connected Superintendents' Summit will provide opportunities for leaders to share lessons learned with each other and with the agency to help disseminate promising approaches nationally. Please take a moment to nominate a superintendent for this honor. (Note: First round nominations will close May 27.)
Quote to Note
"We have achievement gaps and opportunity gaps. But, more importantly, we have a courage gap and an action gap. What is outrageous is that we don't have a knowledge gapwe know the importance of extra time and getting great teachers before the children who need them. Until adults show the courage to close the action gap, we won't be putting children's needs first. My challenge to you would be to either find districts that close the action gap or prod districts about why they aren't doing a better job of getting students the support they need to close achievement gaps."
|||Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (5/20/14), addressing reporters at the Education Writers Association's national conference|
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday.
On May 27, President Obama will host the 2014 White House Science Fair, celebrating student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions. This year's fair will include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovatecampaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to encourage more boys and girls to excel and provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects. (Note: In the run-up to the fair, the White House is asking individuals to share stories and spotlight their first science fair project using #TBTsciencefair.)
On May 28, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) will hold its #AskFAFSA Office Hours on Twitter. (The topic is "Graduation: What's Next?") The session gives students and parents the opportunity to ask FSA experts questions related to federal financial aid. Students may submit questions using the hashtag #AskFAFSA and tune in during the live event for answers.
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