Press Room NEWSLETTERS
January 9, 2015 (Happy New Year!)

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...
America's College Promise
Completing the FAFSA
English Learner Guidance
Educator Equity Data
Teacher Leadership Summit
Year of Action
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

America's College Promise

This year, President Obama is laying out some of his State of the Union message and policies ahead of his address to Congress on January 20. This afternoon, he will visit Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, to propose more ways to help young Americans go to college and get ahead. Specifically, he will propose making two years of community college free for responsible students (see blog post and video). Federal funds would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college; participating states would be expected to contribute the remaining funds. If all 50 states choose to implement the proposal, it could save a full-time student on average $3,800 in tuition per year and benefit roughly nine million students each year.

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Completing the FAFSA

On January 1, the 2015-16 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available. Completing the FAFSA is critical to getting access to more than $134 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds. Moreover, it is free, quick (on average, taking about 20 minutes!), and easy.

To make sure that students do not leave money on the table, the Department has prepared a number of blog posts:

Also, First Lady Michelle Obama issued a FAFSA Season Message to Students, noting that completing the FAFSA early ensures students maximize their federal student aid and encouraging high schools to take the Reach Higher FAFSA Completion Challenge.

Furthermore, for school counselors and administrators, there is 7 Ways to Promote FAFSA Completion at Your School.

Visit StudentAid.gov for complete information on federal financial aid, including types of aid available, qualification criteria, and managing loans.

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English Learner Guidance

The Departments of Education and Justice recently issued guidance reminding states, school districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. "Four decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Lau v. Nichols that all students deserve equal access to a high-quality education regardless of their language background or how well they know English," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon. "Today's guidance not only reminds us of the court's ruling but also provides useful information for schools as they work to ensure equity for students and families with limited English proficiency."

This is the first time that a single piece of guidance has addressed the array of federal laws that govern schools' obligations to English learners. The guidance recognizes the 40th anniversaries of Lau and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Similar to Lau, the EEOA requires schools to take appropriate action to help English learners overcome language barriers and ensure their ability to participate equally in school.

Almost five million students in the U.S. are English learners—about 9% of all public school students. From 2002 to 2011, the percentage of English learners served in public schools increased in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Currently, three of every four public schools enroll English learners.

The Departments also released new tools and resources to help schools serving English learners and parents with limited English proficiency:

  • A fact sheet—in English and other languages—regarding schools' obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school.
  • A fact sheet—in English and other languages—regarding schools' obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
  • A toolkit to help districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). (This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help states and districts meet their obligations to English learners.)

In response to the guidance, several local superintendents issued statements of support.

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Educator Equity Data

Last month, the Department released educator equity data for every state: a profile that summarizes publicly available data and a large data file that brings together several public data sources. States may consider using this data in revising their "State Plans to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators." As part of the Excellence Educators for All initiative, announced this summer, each state must submit by June 1 a comprehensive state plan—consistent with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—that ensures "poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers."

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Teacher Leadership Summit

More than 150 teacher leaders, educators, and advocates from across the country will gather this weekend in Denver to share strategies and build plans of action to advance teacher leadership in their schools, districts, and states. The Denver summit is the second of three regional summits being convened by Teach to Lead, a joint initiative of the Department and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, along with 62 supporter organizations. The teams from 30 states and Washington, D.C., were selected based on ideas they submitted for teacher-led efforts to improve student outcomes.

Additional teacher leader ideas have been submitted for the upcoming Boston summit (February 6-8).

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Year of Action

In his State of the Union address last year, President Obama vowed that 2014 would be a year of action. In fact, over the course of the year, the Obama Administration took more than 80 new executive actions to help grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The White House has released a year-end report detailing those actions. For example, the President supported an ambitious expansion of high-speed broadband in the classroom via his ConnectED Initiative. He also made student loan payments more affordable by expanding the Pay As You Earn option.

Among the Administration's other end-of-the-year lists:

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Quote to Note

"I find myself telling the story about what's happening in Massachusetts quite a bit when I travel around the country, and I come back to the state often to visit schools and meet with educators, students, parents, and community and political leaders. It is not by accident. I have always been impressed by Massachusetts' deep commitment to education. From the founding of America's first public schools, through the historic Education Reform Act of 1993, and to today, the state has shown a commitment to improving student outcomes, raising academic standards, closing achievement gaps—and to the opportunities for all that a world-class education can create.... I congratulate Governor Deval Patrick and thank him for his leadership and for truly being an "education governor." And, I look forward to the more opportunities in the years ahead to come and celebrate education achievement in Massachusetts."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (1/5/15), in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe

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Upcoming Events

Monday, January 12, Secretary Duncan will deliver a speech on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) during a visit to Seaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C. He will outline his priorities for elementary and secondary education for the coming months, laying the foundation for the Administration's continued work in ensuring a quality pre-kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade education for all students. His remarks and a related blog post will be posted on ED.gov at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 19 by making the holiday a day ON—versus a day off. MLK Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site offers up a toolkit to plan for the day of service, enables organizers to register projects nationwide, and provides free lesson plans on Dr. King's legacy of service.

A reminder: the Department is accepting applications for the 2015-16 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows through January 20 (blog post). Teachers and leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, West Virginia, and the Tribal Nations are especially encouraged to apply. No fellows have come from these locations yet.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement—Joseph P. Walsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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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: 01/09/2015