August 15, 2008 ED Review
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 August 15, 2008
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Back to School
NCLB Update
Picturing America
Descriptive Data
ACT Scores Survey
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Back to School

It's that special time of year! In preparation for the return to school, the federal government's web portal,, has posted an impressive collection of web sites (, with resources for students, parents, and educators. In particular, browse the Census Bureau's annual Back to School feature (
), which highlights customary statistics on students, teachers, and learning, as well as data concerning back to school shopping ($7.5 billion was spent at clothing stores in August 2007, surpassed only by November and December), lunchtime (9.3 billion apples were produced in the U.S. in 2007, half from the State of Washington), and the rewards of staying in school (with an advanced degree, the average annual earnings of workers 18 and older in 2006 was $82,320; with a bachelor's degree, $56,788; with solely a high school diploma, $31,071; without a diploma, $20,873). The Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) also issued selected Back to School statistics:


NCLB Update

On August 4, Secretary Spellings announced that Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have been approved under a pilot program to allow school districts to reverse the order in which public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) are offered to eligible students in schools in the first year of improvement, offering SES a year earlier than usual, or offer both choice and SES to eligible students during that first year of improvement. In addition, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Indiana have been approved for this same flexibility under the differentiated accountability pilot program announced in July. In exchange, states and participating districts must meet several conditions, including increasing the capacity to provide SES (with at least two SES providers for each participating district), providing timely notification and outreach to parents, and reporting trends in participation in choice and SES. For more information, please go to

Regarding differentiated accountability, in a recent letter to Chief State School Officers (, the Secretary invited eligible states to submit new proposals to differentiate between underperforming schools in need of dramatic interventions and those that are closer to meeting the goals of No Child Left Behind. "As we continue to work with Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act and because we have not yet reached our initial cap of 10 states to participate in the pilot," she said, "I am offering states the opportunity to submit a proposal to incorporate differentiated accountability into their current accountability system for the 2009-10 school year, based on assessments administered in 2008-09." To be eligible to participate, states must meet five criteria, such as having a fully approved standards and assessment system. Moreover, all proposals must be consistent with 10 core principles, outlined in the Department's comprehensive peer review guidance ( The deadline for proposals is September 17.

The Achiever newsletter, available solely online, focuses on how successful schools across the U.S. are working toward the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act: to have every student reading and doing math at grade-level by 2014. The latest story, leading with a "recipe for student success," spotlights a Providence, Rhode Island, school that has produced double-digit growth in academic proficiency. Between 2005 and 2007, the percentage of students proficient in reading at Albert Shaw Feinstein Elementary School—where one in four students is an English language learner—jumped from 29% to 50%, and the school saw even bigger increases in math proficiency, from 14% to 42%. For more information, please go to


Picturing America

This fall, after the most successful application process in the history of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), more than 26,000 schools and public libraries across the country will be receiving free Picturing America materials—high-quality reproductions of 40 great American works of art (approximately 24" x 36" in size) and an illustrated teacher resource book with notes for all grade levels. For schools and public libraries that did not apply during the initial application period, NEH is now accepting another round of applications through October 31. Free materials will be delivered in spring 2009. Picturing America is designed to promote the study, teaching, and understanding of American history and culture by exposing students and the public to America's art treasures. From the courage and leadership portrayed in Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware to the power of democracy shown through Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Speech, these images of people, places, and events in American history allow citizens to better understand our nation's past and the principles for which it stands, while also introducing the broader world of the humanities. For more information and to apply, please go to


Descriptive Data

Over the last two weeks, the Department's National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) has released some initial findings from its 2007 National Household Education Surveys (NHES) Program:

  • Parent and Family Involvement in Education: School Year 2006-07 (
    ) presents data collected, through interviews with parents of students in grades K-12, from January to May of 2007. Selected findings: 89% of parents indicated that an adult member of the household attended a school or PTA meeting; 78% of parents indicated that they attended a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference; and 89% of parents indicated that there was a place set aside for homework in the home. Among students in the upper grades, less than 1% had parents who said they did not expect their child to complete high school; 40% expected them to earn a four- or five-year college degree, and 30% expected them to earn a graduate or professional degree.

  • School Readiness of Young Children: School Year 2006-07 (
    ) presents data collected, through interviews with parents of children ages 3-6 who had not yet entered kindergarten, from January to May of 2007. Selected findings: 58% of parents reported their children attended either a day care center or preschool; 89% of parents reported they expected to enroll their children into kindergarten on-time (parents of boys were more likely than parents of girls to plan to delay entry into kindergarten); and a majority (55%) of parents reported they or another family member read to their children every day. On average, children watched TV for 2.6 hours on a typical weekday and 2.7 hours on a typical day of the weekend.

For more information, please go to


ACT Scores

Despite an amazing 9% increase over last year in the number of students taking the ACT (fueled, partly, by Michigan joining Colorado and Illinois in making the test part of its statewide assessment system for eleventh-graders), the 2008 national average ACT composite score was 21.1 (on a scale of 1 to 36), up from 20.9 in 2004 and only a slight dip from 21.2 in 2007. Scores on all four subject-area tests were stable, with math scores (21.0) unchanged from last year, English (20.6) and reading (21.4) scores dropping by one-tenth of a point, and science scores (20.8) dropping by two-tenths of a point. Similarly, scores among all racial/ethnic groups subgroups were steady, with Hispanic (18.7—with 21,560 more test takers) and white (22.1—with 116,441 more test takers) scores unchanged from last year and African-American scores (16.9—with 26,005 more test takers) dropping by one-tenth of a point. Nevertheless, the results suggest students must continue to take courses beyond minimum high school requirements to adequately prepare for college. In fact, just 14% of graduates who took Algebra I and II and geometry earned a score of 22 or higher on the math test (compared to 38% of graduates who also took trigonometry), while just 20% who took general science, biology, and chemistry earned a score of 24 or higher on the science test (compared to 38% of graduates who also took physics). Students with these scores have a high probability (75%) of earning a "C" or better and an even chance of earning a "B" or better in college algebra and biology classes, respectively. For more information, please go to (The Secretary's statement is available at

Also: President Bush has nominated Cheryl Oldham to be the Department's Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. Oldham, who is currently Chief of Staff for the Undersecretary of Education, previously served as executive director of the Secretary's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. For more information, please go to

Top Survey

When you visit the Education Department's web site (, why do you come and what do you hope to accomplish? The agency is trying to identify the most important or popular tasks at Please add your two cents! Simply go to
and select the five tasks that are most essential to you. The survey takes less than five minutes to complete.


Quote to Note

"The National Technical Advisory Council (NTAC) will play a vital role in ensuring that we address the technical needs of states and their accountability systems. Its work will be invaluable as we move forward in strengthening and improving No Child Left Behind."

        Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (8/13/08), announcing the appointment of 16 members to the NTAC (


Upcoming Events

Attention! On Monday (August 18), the Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) is hosting a National Symposium on Emerging Issues in Character Education in the Department's auditorium (400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.). The event will bring together grantees, educators, researchers, and the business community to hear from five authors commissioned to prepare research papers on a variety of topics. Following the symposium, a monograph, including an overview of the proceedings and the papers, will be produced. For more information, please contact Linda McKay at

Next, on September 11, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans will host a Summit on Education Reform and Hispanic Education Attainment, also in the Department's auditorium. The event will underscore promising practices White House Initiative partners are employing to improve education outcomes for Hispanic students. Presenters and attendees will represent a cross-section of partner organizations and stakeholder groups; featured speakers include Secretary Spellings and U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral. For more information, please go to

Then, on September 19 and 20, the Department will host a Global Summit on Education, subtitled "Inclusive Practices for Students with Disabilities," at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel (downtown Washington, D.C.). The purpose of this event is to bring together advocates, educators, researchers, and government officials to (1) connect with colleagues to promote an international dialogue, (2) gather tools to continue building academic opportunities for students with disabilities, and (3) share successes and challenges from a global perspective. On the first day, Secretary Spellings will deliver the keynote address. For more information, please go to


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This newsletter contains hypertext links to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user's convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information. Furthermore, the inclusion of links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered, on these sites, or the organizations sponsoring the sites.


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Last Modified: 05/21/2009