Press Room NEWSLETTERS
December 19, 2014 (Happy Holidays!)

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...
Early Education Summit
College Ratings System
Education Appropriations
Correctional Education Guidance
Teaching and Principal Fellowships
Personnel Update
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note

Editor's Note

This is the final issue of ED Review for 2014. Publication will resume January 9, 2015. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

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Early Education Summit

Last week, at the White House Summit on Early Education, Secretary Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced more than $226 million in grants to 18 states under the Preschool Development Grants program (fact sheet). These grants support states to: (1) build or enhance their infrastructure to provide high-quality preschool programs and (2) expand high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities. More than 33,000 additional children will be served in high-quality preschool programs in over 200 communities during the first year of the program. (Note: The Secretaries issued a letter to governors announcing the winners, and a number of documents, including applications and abstracts and reviewers' scores and comments for all 36 states that applied, are posted on the Preschool Development Grants web page.)

The grants were part of more than $1 billion in federal and private sector investments in early learning announced by the White House during the summit (fact sheet). Secretary Burwell also announced over $435 million in grants to hundreds of communities in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands under the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants program (see grantees), and President Obama announced over $330 million in private sector commitments (see pledges). Furthermore, the President announced a public awareness campaign, "Invest in US," in partnership with the First Five Years Fund.

To encourage local leaders to continue expanding early learning in their communities, the White House designed a playbook of strategies being used around the country and pulled together 10 resources to offer technical assistance to these efforts.

The Secretaries also announced other important policy initiatives, such as a statement on suspension and expulsion practices in early learning.

And, Secretary Duncan and Grammy Award-winning artist Shakira, a member of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and a strong advocate for early childhood education, took to Twitter to answer questions (recap via Storify).

Additionally, the President's Council of Economic Advisors released "The Economics of Early Childhood Investments," describing the economic returns to investments in childhood development and early education. Some benefits, such as increases in parental earnings and employment, are realized immediately; other benefits, such as greater educational attainment and earnings, are realized later. Research suggests expanding early learning initiatives would provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent.

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College Ratings System

This week, based on extensive consultation with stakeholders, the Department released a framework for a college ratings system for further public comment. This framework summarizes the basic categories, institutional groupings, data, metrics, and tools that the Department is currently weighing in designing the ratings system. The purposes of the rating system are to: (1) help students and families make informed choices when searching for and selecting a college; (2) help colleges measure, benchmark, and continue to improve across the principles of access, affordability, and outcomes; and (3) enable the incentives and accountability structure in the federal student aid program to be properly aligned to these key principles (fact sheet and blog post).

In the months ahead, the Department will arrange and participate in many structured discussions about the ratings system to continue and focus the thoughtful exchange helping to identify, assess, and refine the best ways to improve access, affordability, and outcomes in higher education. Sessions will be announced by early January. Comments may also be directed to collegefeedback@ed.gov through February 17, 2015.

The agency expects to publish the college ratings system before the 2015-16 school year and will continue to refine the ratings system over time based on user and institutional experience, input from the field, and the availability of additional data.

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Education Appropriations

President Obama recently signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015, essentially level-funding Department of Education appropriations from FY 2014. Under the bill, both Title I and special education grants to states each receive modest $25 million increases. There is also $250 million for the Preschool Development Grants program and funding to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 to $5,830. Among the significant cuts: $21.6 million from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and $58.8 million from the Teacher Incentive Fund.

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Correctional Education Guidance

On December 8, Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder released a correctional education guidance package, aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America's estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day. The package builds on recommendations in the My Brother's Keeper Task Force Report, from May, to "reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education."

The package includes four components:

The Secretary and Attorney General visited the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center School to release the package. The "d-center school," as it is referred to by students and staff, helps students earn their high school diploma, obtain scholarships to community and state colleges, and have a positive impact in their own communities (blog post).

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Teaching and Principal Fellowships

Applications for the Department's 2015-16 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are now available (blog post). As in years past, there are two options for candidates: the Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment based at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the Classroom Fellowship enables teachers and principals to participate on a part-time basis and still fulfill regular school responsibilities. Applications must be received by January 20 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Personnel Update

New York State Education Commissioner John King, Jr. will join the Department as a Senior Advisor. "John is an extraordinary leader who has dedicated his life to improving the opportunities of our young people, as a teacher, a school leader, and a leader of school systems," noted Secretary Duncan. "His passion, his fierce intelligence, and his clear understanding of the difficult but vital work of education change will be an enormous benefit to this Department and to the nation." King is expected to begin work at the agency in early 2015 and will be officially delegated the roles and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary of Education.

Also, the Senate confirmed James Cole, Jr. as the agency's General Counsel. "James is an energetic and insightful public servant who will help this Department ensure that every child is prepared for college, careers, and life," the Secretary affirmed in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Senate next year to gain confirmation of the Department's other nominees."

Still pending: Robert Gordon for Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development; Ericka Miller for Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education; and Michael Yudin for Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a letter to Chief State School Officers, Secretary Duncan encourages districts and schools to review their emergency operations plans with public health authorities, as well as plan for continuity of teaching and learning during a school dismissal, in preparation for the height of the flu season or other infectious disease outbreak. The letter lists a number of resources on the Ebola virus developed for public information.

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to boost funding for the federal E-Rate program by $1.5 billion annually, to support expansion of high-speed broadband access to 43.5 million more students, 101,000 more schools, and 16,000 more libraries. "This is another huge step forward in our ConnectED Initiative's work to provide high-speed Internet access to schools and high-quality digital learning resources to teachers and students," the Secretary said in a statement.

  • To support those states developing a request for renewal of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility (see guidanceand fact sheet), the Department has prepared Frequently Asked Questions.

  • With the announcement of Louisiana, the Department has approved all 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico that had applied for one-year extensions of ESEA flexibility through this school year.

  • Secretary Duncan finalized 15 priorities and related definitions for use in discretionary grant programs.

  • The Department of Labor announced the availability of $100 million in grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries, such as health care, biotechnology, information technology, and advanced manufacturing. Approximately 25 grants, from $2.5 million to $5 million each, will be awarded using funds collected from employers who use H-1B visas to hire foreign workers.

  • A White House fact sheet outlines the steps that the Administration and partners are taking to help support foster youth.

  • Moreover, a Student Voices session at the White House featured 15 Native youth sharing stories of perseverance before entering foster care and of their strong desire to remain connected to their tribes when placed in foster homes.

  • In a blog post, Russell Shilling, executive director of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the agency's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), emphasizes the need for "new research and development tools that will lead to breakthrough innovations that dramatically improve student outcomes and go to scale to serve students across the nation."

  • In a blog post, parents and caregivers are encouraged to use the holidays to teach children about customs that are different from their own and help them understand and embrace other cultures.

Quote to Note

"In too many places, parents' income and real estate prices predict the quality of public education—and minority and low-income students attend schools that receive lower per-pupil spending. And, significant spending inequities exist not just across district lines, but inside them as well. It should embarrass all of us that such injustices endure. But, the good news is that we can do something about it, if we get serious about changing the way we think about school funding. Getting funding right is a matter of fairness and justice, of ensuring that schools have adequate resources to do their vitally important work. But, beyond that, equitable funding reinforces our founding values as a country and signals to all citizens how seriously we take our commitments to one another."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (12/12/14), in an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer

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Last Modified: 12/19/2014