Press Room NEWSLETTERS
August 15, 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...
Preschool Development Grants
Advanced Placement Grants
Improving College Opportunity
Soliciting WIOA Feedback
Fact Sheet: Immigrant Children
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Preschool Development Grants

On August 13, Secretary Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the availability of applications under the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition. The goal of these grants is to support states in building, developing, and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families. The grants will be jointly administered by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (fact sheet and blog post.)

"Through Preschool Development Grants, we continue our efforts to create educational opportunities that prepare our youngest Americans for success in kindergarten, through elementary school and beyond," Secretary Duncan noted. "This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in the President's proposed Preschool for All program—a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for four-year-olds from low- and middle-income families. We urge states and communities to seize this opportunity, form partnerships, and begin drafting their proposals for the program, because providing high-quality early learning opportunities is the most important single step we can take to improve the future of our young people."

There are two categories of Preschool Development Grants:

  • Development Grants—for states with either small (currently serve less than 10% of four-year-olds) or no state-funded preschool programs. Awards will range from $5 million to $20 million each year, based on a four-year budget. The agencies anticipate awarding 5-8 grants (for a total of $80 million).
  • Expansion Grants—for states that have more robust (currently serve at least 10% of four-year-olds) state-funded preschool programs or have received a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant. Awards will range from $10 million to $35 million each year, based on a four-year budget. The agencies anticipate awarding 7-12 grants (for a total of $160 million).

Preschool programs funded under either category of grants will need to meet the competition's criteria for high-quality programs. All states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are eligible to apply. Governors apply for the grant and designate a lead agency to work with local communities. Funds may be used to provide high-quality preschool programs and support state-level preschool program infrastructure. Applications are due by October 14, and awards will be made in December. (Note: To help develop an efficient process for reviewing applications through peer review, states are asked to submit a notice of intent to apply by September 11.)

The agencies will offer an overview webinar on August 20 and technical assistance planning workshops for potential state applicants on Development Grants (August 25) and Expansion Grants (August 26).

And, Secretary Duncan discussed the Preschool Development Grants competition at two events in Pittsburgh. First, he joined Mayor William Peduto to visit early learning classrooms and met with providers, parents, and community leaders at the Hug Me Tight Childlife Center. Then, he and the mayor participated in a community conversation on early learning, hosted by the city with the National League of Cities.

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Advanced Placement Grants

Also this week, the Secretary announced $28.4 million in grants to 40 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands to help defray the costs of taking advanced placement tests for low-income students. Advanced Placement Test Fee Grants may be used for approved tests administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, and the Cambridge International Examinations. By subsidizing test fees for low-income students, the program is intended to encourage students to take advanced placement tests and obtain college credit for high school courses, reducing the time and cost required to complete a postsecondary degree (press call).

The Obama Administration's commitment to equity in education underlines nearly every significant activity of the Department—from My Brother's Keeper to the proposed Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity grant program, which would create incentives for states and school districts to drive comprehensive change in how they identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps.

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Improving College Opportunity

The Secretary and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz met with community college leaders on August 12 who have made new commitments to ensure student success. "Our nation's community colleges are the engines of our higher education system," Munoz explained in her blog post. "As the largest part of America's higher education system, these institutions provide the education and training to prepare our 21st century workforce and are an ideal place to raise the knowledge and skills of our workforce—and to meet the academic needs of a diverse population of learners, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking new skills."

Following the meeting, the White House announced a number of developments in the effort to expand college opportunity (fact sheet). Among them:

  • The White House will host another College Opportunity Summit on December 4. The goal is to build on the work launched in the first summit last January, while launching initiatives in new areas. This second summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships (see recap of July 31 workshop) and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first-generation, low-income, and under-represented students.
  • Since January, 14 additional community colleges made commitments to implement strategies to help improve college persistence and completion for students who enter college academically under-prepared, including reducing the need for excess developmental courses via better curricular alignment; redesigning assessment and placement to more accurately identify students' academic needs; and improving design and delivery to accelerate student progress, ensure the relevancy of instruction, and provide better student supports.
  • The Department's Institute for Education Studies (IES) is launching a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness led by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College and the social policy research firm MDRC that will work to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college-readiness efforts across the nation.

Moreover, to ensure more families can afford a higher education and promote the responsible use of taxpayer dollars, the Department has proposed new regulations to update eligibility standards and improve access for student and parent borrowers under the federal Direct PLUS loan program. In particular, the proposed regulations would update the definition of adverse credit history and require PLUS loan counseling for approved borrowers with an adverse credit history. The Department plans to publish the final rules by November 1, allowing borrowers to take out a PLUS loan under the new criteria for the 2015-16 school year. Meanwhile, those who are denied for a PLUS loan under the current rules can continue to apply for reconsideration. The agency is also considering implementing final regulations before the 2015-16 school year begins so that borrowers could benefit even sooner.

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Soliciting WIOA Feedback

The Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) invite the public to submit comments and recommendations to help implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This new law seeks to maximize opportunities for youth and adults—with and without disabilities—to succeed in postsecondary education and in high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand jobs. Specifically, the offices are seeking comments on amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 made by Title IV of WIOA and the new version of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act in Title II of WIOA. Please submit feedback online by August 29.

Also, on August 28, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, OCTAE will host a webinar on WIOA, providing a broad overview of the legislation, key dates for implementation, and useful information on resources and materials for adult education and literacy partners and stakeholders. The event will feature a panel of representatives from OSERS and the Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor. For other WIOA updates and resources, visit the OCTAE, OSERS, and Labor web sites.

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Fact Sheet: Immigrant Children

Schools in the U.S. have always welcomed new immigrant children into their classrooms. Indeed, according to the most recent data, there were more than 840,000 immigrant students in the nation and more than 4.6 million English learners. The Department has begun to receive inquiries regarding educational services for a specific group of immigrant children: those from Central America who have lately crossed the U.S.-Mexican border. A fact sheet provides information to help education leaders better understand the responsibilities of states and districts in connection with such students and the existing resources available to help educate all immigrant students.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Department has approved 18 states for one-year extensions of flexibility from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA): Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. 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 goal of improving achievement for all students. 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. (Note: The Department has posted here approved requests for flexibility and highlights of each state's plan.)

  • In a special blog post, titled "My Top Advisers," Secretary Duncan spotlights what he has learned recently in conversations with teachers and principals.

  • In the latest session of the Department's Student Voices Series, young people from across the country chatted with the Secretary and senior staff about what it is like to be a student in America today.

  • "Engaging Educators: A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts" details states and districts that are proactively engaging educators in helping to shape key reforms, including evaluation, feedback, and support systems (graphic).

  • Speaking in Parade magazine, 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb offers Back to School advice for parents.

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Quote to Note

"We can never take for granted the flash of insight that comes from watching a great documentary or reading a great memoir or novel or seeing an extraordinary piece of architecture. We can't forget the wonder we feel when we stand before an incredible work of art or the world of memories we find unlocked with a simple movement or a single note. The moments you help create—moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow—add texture to our lives. They are not incidental to the American experience; they are central to it. So, we not only congratulate you this afternoon—we thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement."

        President Barack Obama (7/28/14), in remarks honoring the 2013 National Medals of Arts and Humanities

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Upcoming Events

Next week (August 21), the Department will celebrate the 50th anniversary of federal TRIO Programs—outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. The symposium will be streamed live from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. Also, the event will be recorded and archived.

August 18-22, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Falken and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach Lucy Johnson will visit schools in West Virginia and Lexington, Kentucky, as part of the first leg of the agency's second annual Green Strides Best Practices Tour. This year's tour, "Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students," is focused on environmental health. Federal, state, and local visitors will bring attention to best practices of honored schools and districts. The tour will later stop in Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, and Maryland. Events are open to the public.

Green Apple Day of Service, on Saturday, September 27, gives students, parents, teachers, businesses, and local organizations the opportunity to transform schools into safe, healthy, and productive learning environments through local service projects. Secretary Duncan and his family will participate in an event. Find an event in your area or post your own.

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Last Modified: 08/15/2014