Press Room NEWSLETTERS
July 3, 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...
Importance of Parents
Results-Driven Accountability: Special Education
ESEA Flexibility
Focus on Early Learning
Focus on Higher Education
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Importance of Parents

On June 20, Secretary Duncan addressed about 1,200 parents, teachers, and students gathered in Austin, Texas, for the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Convention.  In his speech, he shared his aspirations for his own children -- who attend public schools -- and discussed his views on a range of hot topics, including higher standards, better assessments, the rising cost of college, school safety, and helping students to become lifelong learners.  “If you remember only one thing from what I say today,” he said, “please make it this: to prepare our children for the future that they’ll face, public education has to change.  It has to evolve.  And, there is growing agreement in this country about what we need to do.”

Specifically, the Secretary stressed a “shared mission: to make sure that every student, everywhere, receives an effective education.”  That mission begins with access to high-quality early learning opportunities, continues with a great school with great teachers and leaders that set high expectations, personalize instruction, and cultivate a safe, nurturing environment, and extends to affordable postsecondary education.  “Making that happen at scale -- for the many, and not just for the few -- that will take real action,” he said.

“I ask you to hear my remarks as a call to action,” the Secretary concluded.  “I ask you to be a voice for higher expectations, for elevating the teaching profession.  I ask you to be a voice for supporting educators as they strive to make schools ready for the future….  I ask you to continue to work with urgency and with courage to make these important changes a reality for every single child.  I’m excited to do this work together.”  (Note: JoLisa Hoover, a 2008 and 2014 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, penned a blog post on the Secretary’s remarks and her experience working with parents in schools.)

While in Texas, the Secretary also:

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Results-Driven Accountability: Special Education

Last week, to help improve the educational outcomes of the nation’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the Department announced a significant shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.  Until now, the agency’s primary focus was to determine whether states were meeting procedural requirements, such as timeliness for evaluations, due process hearings, and transitioning children into preschool services.  While these compliance indicators remain important, under a new Results-Driven Accountability (RDA) framework, the Department will also include educational results and outcomes for students with disabilities in making states’ annual determinations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The Department has worked extensively with states to ensure meaningful access to special education and related services for students with disabilities and has noted major improvements in compliance over the last several years.  However, educational outcomes for students with disabilities continue to lag.  With this year’s IDEA determinations, the agency used multiple outcome measures that include students with disabilities’ participation in state assessments, proficiency gaps between students with disabilities and all students, and performance in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to provide a more comprehensive and thorough picture of performance of students with disabilities.

Last year, when the Department considered just compliance data in annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements.  This year, when the agency included data on how students are performing, only 18 states and territories met requirements (graphics).  If a state needs assistance for two straight years, IDEA requires actions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grantee.  If a state needs assistance for three straight years, IDEA requires specific actions, including requiring the state to prepare a corrective action plan, enter into a compliance agreement, or, ultimately, withholding a portion of state funding.

As part of the move to RDA, the Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) will fund a new, $50 million technical assistance center: the Center on Systemic Improvement.  The center will help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funding they now receive to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.  OSERS will also work with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.  (Note: In a blog post, OSERS Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin calls RDA “a long-overdue raising of the bar for special education.”)

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ESEA Flexibility

This week, the Department announced that six states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, South Dakota, and Virginia -- have received a one-year extension for flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  These extensions allow states to move forward with the critical work of implementing the bold reforms they committed to in their original flexibility requests -- which expire this summer -- with the ultimate goal of improving achievement for all students.  In order to receive an extension, states must demonstrate they have resolved any state-specific issues and next steps as a result of the agency’s monitoring, as well as any other outstanding issues related to ESEA flexibility.  States could also request amendments to support their continuous improvement efforts.  The extension is through the 2014-15 school year.

The Department is reviewing state requests for one-year extensions on a rolling basis and anticipates approving additional extension requests over the next several weeks.  Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico currently have ESEA flexibility, 35 of which expire this summer.  Of those, 29 have submitted an extension request to date.

ESEA has been due for Congressional reauthorization since 2007.  In the absence of that reauthorization, President Obama announced in September 2011 the Administration would grant waivers from parts of the law to qualified states, in exchange for adopting college- and career-ready expectations for all students; creating accountability systems that target the lowest-performing schools, schools with the largest achievement gaps, and other schools that are not meeting targets for at-risk students; and developing and implementing teacher and leader evaluation and support systems that take into account student growth -- among multiple measures -- and are used to help educators improve their practices.

Looking for more information?  The Department has posted here approved flexibility requests and highlights of each state’s plan.

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Focus on Early Learning

The White House, in partnership with the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, recently hosted a Summit on Working Families with the aim of having a national conversation and setting an agenda to bring U.S. workplaces into the 21st century.  The discussion focused on the full spectrum of working families -- from low-wage workers to high-paid CEOs -- who are working to help their families succeed (fact sheet).  In conjunction with the summit, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services issued a report showing what Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grantees and other states are doing to assist working families find high-quality early learning programs.

Also, the White House released a video message from President Obama on the importance of supporting early learning to bridge the “word gap” and improve children’s chances for success in school and life.  Research shows that, during the first years of life, a poor child hears roughly 30 million fewer total words than his or her more affluent peers.  And, children who experience this drought in heard words have vocabularies that are half the size of their peers by age 3, putting them at a disadvantage before they step foot in a classroom (blog post).  The President’s message was part of a week-long campaign organized by Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation.  Later this fall, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services will team up with Too Small to Fail and the Urban Institute to host an event to increase public understanding and make progress on closing the word gap.

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Focus on Higher Education

On June 30, as part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to increase transparency around the cost of higher education, the Department updated lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center.  The lists spotlight institutions with the highest and lowest tuition and fees, highest and lowest average net prices, and highest percentage increases in tuition and fees and average net prices.  And, responding to requests for more comparison data, the center provides tuition and fees and net price information for all institutions, broken out by sector (less-than-2-, 2-, and 4-year; public and private; non- and for-profit).  Notably, over the last few years, the Administration has also released tools to help families as they pursue postsecondary education.  The College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet aim to hold institutions accountable for cost, value, and quality, so that students choose institutions that are well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably, and consistent with their educational and career goals.  (Note: Last month, Secretary Duncan and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell hosted a town hall on college value and completion.)

Meanwhile, at the American School Counselor Association Conference, First Lady Michelle Obama called counselors the link to higher education for many high school students, noting they are “the ones planting the seeds about college as early as elementary and middle school.”  Yet, one-fifth of all public schools lack access to counselors, and the national student-counselor ratio for public schools is 471:1.  In response, the First Lady announced three steps.  First, she touted a letter from the Secretary, sharing information on federal initiatives that may support the hiring, development, and retention of counselors.  Second, the White House will host an event on school counseling later this month.  Third, next year, along with honoring the National Teacher of the Year, the White House will honor the National School Counselor of the Year. Top


Odds and Ends

  • On July 2, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, some of the original Freedom Riders boarded buses at the Department for a symbolic and celebratory ride to Richmond.  They were joined by 49 student leaders from across the country who were selected through a competitive process (recap via Storify).  The law outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  The law’s biggest impact came in promoting equality in voting, education, and public accommodations.  An offshoot was the creation of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 1966.  (Note: Secretary Duncan issued a statement on the anniversary, and individuals are encouraged to explore an interactive map highlighting facts, data, and stories.)

  • The Department has awarded new Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grants to Littleton Public Schools in Colorado and Brunswick City School District in Ohio.

  • The Department has posted the highly rated pre-applications for the 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) Development competition.  The agency received 395 pre-applications for the initial phase of the competition and has invited 118 pre-applicants to submit full applications by August 11.  Following a peer review process, the Department will announce the highest-rated applications this fall.  (Note: According to a new report, i3 is among the world’s top 20 government innovation teams.)

  • Tom Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education offers five takeaways from the June 6 EdCamp at the Department.

  • June 22-25, 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars participated in their National Recognition Program, including a medallion ceremony with the Secretary (remarks), a visit to the White House featuring the First Lady, and performances by the Arts Scholars at the Kennedy Center (recap via Storify).

  • Don’t miss these insightful blog posts authored or informed by the Regional Offices: “Focusing on the Needs of Rural Students,” “Bracken Academy Runs on STEAM Power,” and “Building on Progress: Closing the Gender Gap and Expanding Women’s Access to Non-Traditional Occupations.”

  • The Department is developing new social media tip sheets to help states and school districts expand online engagement.  The first tip sheet focuses on innovative engagement, showcasing ways in which states are engaging with audiences in unique ways.  The second tip sheet focuses on how to effectively build capacity within either a state or district.

  • The Improving Regulation and Regulation Review web page has all the information needed to submit comments on current and proposed regulations.

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Quote to Note

“This fall…we face a seminal moment in public education.  For the first time in our nation’s history, we project that America’s public schools will enroll a majority-minority student body.  Our collective future depends on meeting the needs of all students, and particularly those minority students, better.  Let me be clear: our challenges are not isolated to poor or minority students.  The absolute fact is that all students -- regardless of race, income, and geography -- must learn at higher levels if we expect to catch up with our international competitors and to pass them by.  No one is exempt from the call for educational improvement.”

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/20/14), in remarks at the National PTA Convention

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Upcoming Events

This summer, the Department will again offer the “Let’s Read! Let’s Move!” summer enrichment series, hosting local children, preschool through third-grade, for a one-hour program that aims to combat summer learning loss and the growing epidemic of childhood obesity by offering high-quality literacy and health and nutrition-related activities.  The series will kick-off on July 9.

Results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) financial literacy assessment are scheduled for release July 9.

Through August 21, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) invites proposals that advance the role of the humanities at community colleges through curriculum and faculty development on the theme of “Bridging Cultures.”  NEH expects to award five to seven grants of up to $120,000 each.

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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: 07/07/2014