Press Room NEWSLETTERS
October 10, 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...
POTUS: Education and the Economy
VPOTUS: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony in Joplin
Job Training Partnerships
Equal Access to Resources
Blue Ribbon Schools
Teach to Lead
New Grant Awards
My Brother's Keeper
Odds and Ends
Upcoming Events

POTUS: Education and the Economy

During a recent speech at Northwestern University, President Obama noted that the progress that America is seeing in the nation's education system—improved student achievement, record high school graduation rates, and more young people going to college—is helping to fuel a stronger economy, and he encouraged continued commitment toward building an education system that supports every student. Specifically, the President set goals to further strengthen education, starting with youngest learners. "If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work," he said. "We'll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. Today, I'm setting a goal: by the end of this decade, let's enroll six million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger." Similarly, "If we redesign our high schools, we'll graduate more kids with the real world skills that lead directly to a good job in our new economy. If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we'll help more workers fill good jobs that are coming back to this country. If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we'll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want. So, let's do this—let's keep reforming our education system to make sure young people at every level have a shot at success" (see blog post).

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VPOTUS: Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony in Joplin

On October 6, Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan returned to Joplin, Missouri, to celebrate the reopening of Joplin High School—three-and-a-half years after a devastating tornado killed seven students and one staff member and left the city nearly destroyed. The new school is more than just a building. It is a new vision of education for the community's students. The opening also marked the launch of the Career Path curriculum. Students can choose one of five career paths, developed and implemented by school, community, and business representatives, centered on core foundational knowledge and skills, plus the soft skills employers demand for their employees (see blog post, Vice President's remarks, and Secretary's remarks).

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Job Training Partnerships

On October 8, Secretary Duncan and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez visited Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts, spotlighting the Administration's investment in job training partnerships between community colleges and employers. Last month, the Vice President announced $450 million in new grants to nearly 270 community colleges partnering with more than 400 employers under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, which is co-administered by the Departments of Education and Labor. Since 2011, the agencies have awarded some $2 billion in grants to almost 700 institutions to strengthen and expand partnerships (see fact sheet and blog post).

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Equal Access to Resources

Last week, Secretary Duncan announced new guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter to states, school districts, and schools, to ensure that students have equal access to educational resources—such as academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, technology, other instructional materials, and safe school facilities—regardless of race, color, or national origin, so that they all have equal opportunity to succeed in school, careers, and life. This guidance, issued by the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides detailed and concrete information to education officials on standards set in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is one part of President Obama's larger equity agenda, which includes the Excellent Educators for All initiative, and takes into account the ongoing efforts of states, districts, and schools to improve equity (see fact sheet [English and Spanish], blog post, press call audio recording, and Resource Comparability Materials web site.)

"This will put important tools in the hands of schools and communities and districts and states to ensure that all young people receive what they need and deserve," the Secretary noted in remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Public Policy Conference. "We will be a partner in that effort, and we will be a watchdog. Because we are serious about increasing education success and attainment for all students, we must also be serious about increasing equitable access to opportunity and ending the tired, decades-long practice of offering students of color less than what we offer to other students.... We've long enforced laws to ensure that students receive the educational resources that they're entitled to. But today's letter provides needed clarity."

The guidance is intended to provide education officials with information regarding how OCR investigates resource disparities and what states, districts, and schools can do to meet their civil rights obligations. Under Title VI, states, districts, and schools must not intentionally treat students differently based on race, color, or national origin in providing educational resources. Also, they must not implement policies or practices for providing educational resources that disproportionately affect students of a particular race, color, or national origin, unless there is a substantial justification and no comparable but less discriminatory alternative. The law does not require all students receive the exact same resources to have an equal chance to learn and achieve. It does, however, require all students have equal access to comparable resources in light of their educational needs.

The guidance draws upon many of the findings and recommendations published in the Equity and Excellence Commission's 2012 report, "For Each and Every Child."

Earlier this year, OCR released civil rights data from every public school in the country, as well as snapshots on school discipline, early childhood education, college- and career-readiness, and teacher equity.

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Blue Ribbon Schools

Also last week, via the Department's USTREAM channel (see archived video), the Secretary announced 337 schools as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at the highest levels or where progress is being made on closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Chief State School Officers nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education nominates private schools. All schools will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., November 10 and 11. In its 32-year history, the program has bestowed this coveted award on nearly 7,900 of America's schools.

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Teach to Lead

This week, the Department and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that 31 organizations have joined the Teach to Lead initiative as supporters in the effort to advance student learning by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership. Organizations pledged to help engage the field and their members in various ways, including through summits, training, social media, and policy and advocacy work. Moreover, Teach to Lead announced Boston, Denver, and Louisville will be sites for the first regional Teacher Leadership Summits to be held between December and early 2015, convening educators from multiple states to spur meaningful commitments to teacher leadership. In these working meetings, participants and supporter organizations will share resources and collaborate to create plans of action. Each summit will be followed by smaller Teacher Leadership Labs, which will focus on the implementation of plans to help districts drive student success through teacher leaders.

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New Grant Awards

At LaGuardia Community College in New York, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell announced $75 million in new grants to 24 colleges and universities under the First in the World (FITW) program. Through FITW, the Administration supports institutions' efforts to develop and evaluate new approaches that can expand college access and improve student learning, while also reducing costs. Nearly 500 applications were submitted for this year's grant competition. The winning institutions represent 17 states, 19 public, private, and non-profit four-year schools, and five public and private two-year schools. Six of the winners are Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) (see blog post, highlighting selected grantees).

Other new grant awards:

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My Brother's Keeper

In remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner, the President announced the My Brother's Keeper Community Challenge, encouraging communities (cities, counties, suburbs, rural areas, and tribal nations) to implement coherent cradle-to-college-and-career strategies aimed at improving life outcomes for all young people—consistent with the goals and recommendations of the White House's My Brother's Keeper Task Force report. Already, 135 mayors, county officials, and tribal leaders have signed on (fact sheet). Within 45 days of accepting the challenge, communities are encouraged to convene a Local Action Summit with key public and private sector stakeholders to assess needs, determine priorities, and decide what combination of objectives they will tackle. Within six months of accepting the challenge, communities are encouraged to publicly launch a plan of action for accomplishing their goals, including a protocol for tracking data, benchmarks for tracking progress, and a blueprint for how the community will resource its efforts. The National Convening Council will support the local planning process, assisting communities in developing successful strategies for action and tracking their progress.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Department has now approved 29 states and the District of Columbia for one-year extensions of flexibility from key provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

  • The latest "Report to Congress on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act" looks at the status of states during the 2011-12 school year, the last year before many states began implementing No Child Left Behind waivers.

  • Earlier, in a speech at Harvard University, Secretary Duncan reflected on his Back to School bus tour.

  • During a recent installment of "Ask Arne," the Secretary discussed the importance of teacher diversity.

  • The Secretary has appointed five new members of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to serve four-year terms, as well as appointed a new board chair: Terry Mazany, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and board member since 2012. These appointees will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The 26-member group determines subjects and content to be tested, sets achievement levels for reporting, and releases results to the general public.

  • On the Department's Progress blog, one can read about the commitment of Boston Public Schools to engage with parents and community members in turning around low-achieving schools.

  • Check out these new school/district profiles: "Bracken Academy Runs on STEAM Power," "Huntsville Shows Off Its K-16 STEM Pipeline," and Minnesota's U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (1 and 2).

  • Also, don't miss this video of the Secretary and his family participating in the Green Apple Day of Service.

  • As part of the Department's Student Voices Series, the Secretary met with student veterans on realizing college success.

  • The College Board has released results from three of its programs—the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, and Advanced Placement—painting a more complete picture of student progress during high school, revealing missed opportunities for just-graduated students, and showing areas where action can be taken to improve student outcomes for those still in school.

  • On October 21, as part of Jumpstart'sRead for the Record campaign, millions of individuals will read "Bunny Cakes" by Rosemary Wells, attempting to set a world record in the process. There is still time to pledge to read, and simple tools are available to spread the word.

  • Speak Up 2014is a national online research project that provides individuals the opportunity to share thoughts on how to leverage technology in schools to promote learning. Surveys for students, educators, and parents are open now through December 19.

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Upcoming Events

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and a good time for schools (students and personnel), districts, communities, and states to take stock of current efforts to reduce and prevent bullying. In recognition of the efforts to improve school climate and reduce rates of bullying, the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention has released a variety of resources aimed at informing youth and those who work with youth.

The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and OCR have launched their first-ever School Environment Listening Tour to hear from schools and communities on ways to better meet the unique educational and culturally-related academic needs of Native American students. The sessions will focus on school environment—bullying, student discipline, and offensive imagery and symbolism. The organizations will compile the feedback from the tour into a report for the President with recommendations on how to ensure that all Native American students receive a high quality education. The first stop on the tour is today in Franklin, Wisconsin, at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee. Additional listening sessions will be held in the coming weeks in Lacrosse, Wisconsin; Seattle; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Tulsa; Oklahoma City; Troy, New York; Los Angeles; and Anchorage (information will be posted here).

December 2-5, the 2014 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals in Atlanta is designed to provide the most up-to-date information on Title IV programs and evolving federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners.

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Last Modified: 10/10/2014