January 08, 2010 ED Review
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 January 8, 2010 (Happy New Year!)
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FAFSA Simplification
Appropriations Bill
ARRA Outreach
Educate To Innovate
Financial Capability
Odds And Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

FAFSA Simplification

Earlier this week, Secretary Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a long-time educator, joined students at Washington, D.C.'s Benjamin Banneker Senior High School as they worked with counselors to complete the new, streamlined Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 2010-11 FAFSA-on-the-Web has been redesigned to be shorter, simpler, and more user-friendly. Questions are now asked only if relevant to the applicant; low-income students, for example, are no longer asked for asset information, and only returning students are asked about prior drug convictions because the question does not apply to first-year students. Also, immediately after submitting the FAFSA, applicants will now receive a confirmation email message which indicates Pell Grant eligibility and links to information about the schools they are applying to, such as graduation and transfer rates and a detailed breakdown of costs and expected expenses associated with the schools.

Later this month, those applying for aid in the spring semester using the 2009-10 FAFSA will be able to retrieve and import their tax data from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). And, in summer 2010, those applying for aid in the 2010-11 a year will also be able to access the IRS web site to retrieve income information to complete the FAFSA.

President Obama has challenged the nation to have the world's highest percentage of college graduates by 2020. Simplifying the federal student aid application process supports that goal by making it easier for students to access financial support for postsecondary studies. Students could begin filing FAFSAs for the 2010-11 academic year on January 1.


Appropriations Bill

On December 16, the President signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 3288), Division D of which provides funding for the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, the bill includes $63.7 billion in discretionary spending for the agency's education programs, about a 2% increase over Fiscal Year 2009, excluding the $100 billion in education funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which covers both FY 2009 and FY 2010. Specifically, the bill includes:

  • $14.5 billion for Title I grants to local education agencies;
  • $11.5 billion for special education state grants;
  • $2.95 billion to help states improve the quality of their teachers and leaders;
  • $250 million for an expanded (PK-12) Striving Readers program; and
  • $17.5 billion in Pell Grants for low- and middle-income college undergraduates.

Among the key new items, there is $50 million for the High School Graduation Initiative; $10 million for the Promise Neighborhood initiative; and a technical change, sought by the Department, to expand school district eligibility for the $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund created under the ARRA.


ARRA Outreach

On December 24, the Department announced it will hold a second round of public input meetings to listen and learn from assessment experts and practitioners. To date, the Department has convened seven meetings in three cities (Boston, Atlanta, and Denver), with 37 states joining agency leaders and nearly 700 members of the public to hear from experts in general assessment, high school assessment, the role of technology in assessment, assessing students with disabilities, and assessing English language learners. Three additional meetings will be held in the Washington, D.C., metro area. As with the previous meetings, the goals of the meeting are two-fold: to gather technical input to inform development of a Race to the Top Assessment Competition and to enable states—who will be the grant applicants—and the public to participate in and learn from these events. Secretary Duncan has pledged to reserve up to $350 million (of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund) to support consortia of states that are working to create new assessments tied to a common set of standards. The grants would be distributed through a competitive process this year.

The meetings will be held on January 13 (a full-day on project and consortium management), 14 (a half-day on procurement in complex cross-state initiatives), and 20 (a full-day on general and technical assessment issues).

All the meetings are open to the public. The official notice, along with information on how to RSVP for the meetings, can be found online. The Department also encourages the submission of written input (see instructions on the submission process online) and plans to post transcripts of every meeting session and all written input submitted to the agency.


  • The deadline for State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Phase II applications is January 11, at 4:30 p.m. ET.
  • The deadline for Race to the Top Phase I applications is January 19, at 4:30 p.m. ET.
  • Revised Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Department ARRA reporting guidance, for the reporting period covering October 1 through December 31, 2009, is posted online.

Educate to Innovate

President Obama, as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, has announced a number of new and innovative partnerships involving companies, universities, foundations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, designed to improve the participation and performance of America's students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These five public-private partnerships—Intel's Science and Math Teachers Initiative, expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative's UTeach Program, a commitment by more than 75 public university presidents to train 10,000 math and science teachers annually by 2015, the PBS Innovative Educators Challenge, and Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science—represent a combined $250 million in financial and in-kind support, adding to the $260 million in support announced in November 2009 at the launch of the campaign. Furthermore, the President called on the 200,000 scientists and engineers working for the federal government to engage in high-impact volunteering alongside STEM educators. In response, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is organizing a multiple-year "Summer of Innovation" enrichment program, in which NASA staff will work with thousands of students and teachers on cutting-edge learning opportunities. At the same event, the President also honored more than 100 outstanding math and science teachers, winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching or the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.


Financial Capability

Meeting with students, educators, and community leaders, Secretary Duncan and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner recently announced the first step in an effort to promote stronger financial capability among students: the National Financial Capability Challenge. This non-monetary awards program challenges students to take control of their financial future, by learning about personal finance. It also challenges teachers and schools to incorporate personal finance topics into instruction. Those teachers who sign up to participate will receive a helpful teachers' toolkit. In March, students will take a voluntary online exam to demonstrate what they have learned, assess their financial knowledge, and learn more about why financial capability is important. Top scoring students from each school will receive awards in April, and outstanding teachers and schools will be recognized.

Also: Financial literacy was among the topics covered when correspondent Hari Sreenivsan interviewed the Secretary on "The Rundown," the PBS NewsHour's online webcast.


Odds and Ends

  • A new Department video tells the story of three counselors in the Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools whose jobs were saved by the ARRA.

  • "It's time, once and for all, to make teaching the revered profession it should be," the Secretary writes in "Elevating the Teaching Profession," an article published last month in both "NEA Today" and AFT's "American Educator." "Our guiding principle is simply that teachers should be treated as professionals: they should have the support, tools, and opportunities to perform at their full potential by having timely and accurate data about their students to inform instruction; they should have time to consult and collaborate with their peers; and they should be evaluated, compensated, and advanced based in part on student learning."

  • What motivates someone to become a teacher? The Department asked students at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education why they wanted to enter the teaching profession.

  • On December 16, Secretary Duncan took part in a ceremony honoring the 2009 Preserve America National History Teacher of the Year. He congratulated honoree Timothy Bailey, a history teacher at Escalante Elementary School in Salt Lake City, and used the occasion to praise excellent teaching and highlight the importance of learning history.

  • "Educational Technology in Public School Districts: Fall 2008," a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), includes information on Internet capacity and networks, technology policies, district resources, teacher professional development, and district-level leadership.

  • "Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online," a free guidebook produced through a partnership of over a dozen federal agencies and the technology industry, is designed to help parents when talking with children about Internet safety. Topics include safe use of social networking web sites, cyberbulling, and protecting computers from viruses and other malicious software.

  • "Now is the time to allocate resources to students—not to banks—so they have access to college and other educational opportunities," the Secretary argues in "Banks Don't Belong in the Student Loan Business," an op-ed which ran December 17 in the Wall Street Journal. "We cannot in good conscience let $87 billion in subsidies go to banks, when our students desperately need financial help to realize the dream of getting a college education."

  • In September 2009, the Department's Family Policy Compliance Office issued important guidance for institutions of higher education pertaining to the applicability of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to disclosures to Census Bureau representatives in regard to the 2010 Census. Consistent with that guidance, the office has also issued additional guidance relating to the Bureau's current American Community Survey (ACS).


Quote to Note

"No area of the teaching profession is more plainly broken today than that of teacher evaluation and professional development. In district after district, more than 95% of teachers are rated as good or superior, even in schools that are chronically under-performing year after year. Worse yet, evaluations typically fail to take any account of a teacher's impact on student learning. The truth is that students and teachers don't live in mythic Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. Yet, we have an evaluation system that pretends otherwise. As a result, great teachers don't get recognized, don't get rewarded, and don't help their peers grow. The teachers in the middle of the skill spectrum don't get the support they need to improve. And, the teachers at the bottom don't get the support they need either, and, if they do and still don't improve, they need to be counseled out of the profession. It's not just students who suffer; as [AFT leader] Al Shanker pointed out, 'teachers have to live with the results of other people's bad teaching: the students who don't know anything.'"

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (12/2009), in an article titled "Elevating the Teaching Profession"


Upcoming Events

January is National Mentoring Month, spotlighting the importance of mentors and the need for every child to have a caring adult in his or her life.

January 21-24, the Department will exhibit at the National Title I Conference in Washington, D.C. If you are attending this event, please stop by the Department's booth.


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Last Modified: 04/30/2012