Student Bill of Rights
High School Graduation Rate
Teach to Lead
Special Video on Demand
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Student Bill of Rights
On March 10, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, President Obama announced a Student Aid Bill of Rights, outlining a set of principles that will guide the Administration in its efforts to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans. "[This Bill of Rights] says every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education. Every student should be able to access the resources to pay for college. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan. And, every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans," the President said in his remarks. "It's a simple set of principles that if everybody signed ontoRepublicans, Democrats, state legislators, university presidents, members of Congressit can focus our attention, all the different things that we're doing, into one simple, basic idea: make sure that when you're doing the right thing your society has got your back and is looking out for you."
Working together, the Administration will:
- develop a state-of-the-artand simpleprocess for borrowers to file complaints involving federal student aid, and work with a team across the federal government to figure out the best way to address those complaints;
- ensure that financial institutions that service federal loans are held to high standards and provide better information to borrowers and raise the bar for debt collection to make sure fees charged to borrowers are reasonable and collectors are fair, transparent, and help borrowers get back on track;
- use innovative strategies to improve borrowers' experience and improve customer service (the Department is committed to finding new and better ways to communicate with student loan borrowers and creating a centralized, easier process for repaying loans and will review what changes to legislation and regulations, including bankruptcy law, may be necessary to protect borrowersregardless of type of loan); and
- work across the federal government to see what lessons can be learned from similar situations, like mortgage and credit card markets and other performance-based contracts, to help us make sure that, ultimately, the federal government is continually strengthening consumer protections for students (see Secretary Duncan's blog post with video).
Also, the White House released state data on outstanding federal student loan balances and the number of federal student loan borrowers who stand to benefit from these actions.
Subsequently, the Bill of Rights was a topic of the President's weekly address, during which he laid out his vision for quality, affordable higher education for all Americans and urged everyone to visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/collegeopportunity and sign onto the principles.
At the same time, Dr. Jill Biden and Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell visited Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, and Austin Community College in Texas, which are making transformative changes to their campuses to adapt to the needs of students, and Dr. Biden shared their experience with students, educators, administrators, and entrepreneurs at the South by Southwest Education Conference in Austin (see Dr. Biden's blog post and Under Secretary Mitchell's blog post).
Also last week, Secretary Duncan and National Urban League President Marc Morial held a press call to discuss the importance of ensuring equity in education as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They emphasized the need to close a loophole in federal law to make sure school districts start with a level playing field, so that federal funds go to their intended purpose of providing additional support for the students who need it most. Failing to close the loophole allows inequity in state and local school funding, resulting in wealthier schools receiving more local money than less affluent schools.
"Nationwide, according to our latest data, our highest-poverty districts spend 15.6% less than our lowest-poverty districts in state and local funds," the Secretary stated in his remarks. "And sadly, over the last decade, this dividethis inequityhas only gotten worse. Since 2002, the gap between per pupil expenditures in high- and low-poverty school districts has actually grown widerfrom a gap of 10.8% to a gap of 15.6% now. Especially at a time when wealth is so polarized, it's a profound injustice that we are creating educational haves and have-nots."
The call highlighted 23 states where data shows 6.6 million students from low-income families are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local school funding. In those states, districts serving the highest percentage of students from low-income families are spending fewer state and local funds per pupil than districts that have fewer students in poverty. Similarly, in 20 states, districts serving a high percentage of minority students are spending fewer state and local funds than districts that have fewer minority students. (Note: The Secretary delivered similar remarks at the National Urban League's Legislative Conference on March 18.)
High School Graduation Rate
Data released earlier this year shows that U.S. students are graduating from high school at a record rate (press release). This week, new data shows the graduation rate for African-American and Hispanic students increased by nearly four percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students. Moreover, the data shows the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students narrowed over that time (press release). To view the dataincluding a state-by-state breakdowngo here. Also, see the corresponding blog post with infographic.
Teach to Lead
The last year of work on Teach to Lead (see blog post with video), an initiative convened by the Department and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) to push student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadershipparticularly those that allow teachers to stay in the classroom, culminated on stage at NBPTS's Teaching and Learning Conference. In front of thousands, Secretary Duncan noted, "I was hopeful [about teaching leadership] last year. I am convinced we are onto something really important and special now. Change has to come from teachers who own it and lead it."
The Teach to Lead team, comprised primarily of teachers from the Department and NBPTS, developed a web site that has over 2,000 members on the virtual "Commit to Lead" community, where teachers can share their ideas and receive feedback from colleagues. The web site is also a place to access resources of 70 support organizations and read the inspiring stories of teachers who are leading change. Additionally, three teacher-led regional summits were held during the winter in Louisville, Denver, and Boston. Over 350 teachers from 38 states came alone or in teams equipped with their ideas for change. They left with more than 100 fully formed action plans to implement at homeand the skills to get it done.
The next step is to get more "boots on the ground." The team is choosing 2-3 ideas out of each summit to develop through leadership labs. The labs are opportunities for local teams to receive hands-on, targeted technical assistance from the team and supporting organizations, convene key stakeholders to discuss status of plans and future actions, and develop approaches to integrate teacher leadership into systems and structures within local context.
Special Video on Demand
The Department recently announced the availability of free, video-on-demand children's television programming for thousands of students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. Dozens of children's and family television episodes may now be viewed online featuring closed captioning and descriptions through the agency's Accessible Television Portal Project. The portal is part of the agency-funded Described and Captioned Media Program, which includes video-on-demand content provided at no cost by the major television networks and producers and distributors like Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, Scholastic Media, Sesame Workshop, and Sprout.
Odds and Ends
This month, the First Family traveled to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery. Amid the events, the President and First Lady reflected on their experience (video)walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge, addressing the crowd (video), visiting the National Voting Rights Museum, and greeting some surviving foot soldiers who risked everything on that Bloody Sunday (audio stories).
Earlier this week, President Obama met with large city superintendents. Each of them brought at least one objectfrom photos to books to chartsthat represented what federal Title I funding means to their districts. Listen to each of these school leaders describe the vital programs in their districts that Title I helps fund.
The Department's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships released a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to the college enrollment and financial aid process for high school students. This guide is an invitation to the nation's faith leaders, neighborhood associations, and community-based organizations to join with the agency in strengthening students' pursuit of higher education. Each section provides background information and suggestions of ways to become involved in promoting college access and completion.
Arkansas school leader Melissa Fink writes about being among 15 principals from across the country invited to the Department for a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and senior staff, stating "the day was spent with reciprocal learning happening around us."
In a letter to superintendents, Secretary Duncan shares links to information and resources produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the signs, symptoms, and severity of measles, as well as the proper steps to help prevent its spread. An accompanying resources page offers additional links supporting schools, students, staff, and families. And, the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a fact sheet on addressing the risk of measles in schools while protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities. (Note: These documents are posted on the agency-funded Readiness and Emergency Management of Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center web site, which offers a variety of resources related to infectious disease planning and control in schools and on postsecondary campuses.)
Did you miss Pi Day? March 14 has become an unofficial holiday dedicated to the irrational number that can be calculated to over a trillion digits beyond its decimal point. Check out these resources and consider incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-themed activities.
The Department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has invited states to apply for grants to assist in using data in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) to inform their efforts to improve education in critical areas. IES is also currently holding a special competition for the Evaluation of State Education Programs and Policies. This competition is focused on three categories: college- and career-ready standards and assessments, identification and improvement of lowest-performing schools and/or schools with the greatest achievement gaps, and educator evaluation and support systems.
The Department of Defense is soliciting applications for Grants to Military-Connected Districts for Academic and Support Programs. These grants are designed to support research-based programs to increase student achievement and ease the challenges military children face due to their parents' military service. The deadline for applications is May 5.
Quotes to Note
"With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity. Americans don't accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity. And if we really mean itif we're not just giving lip service to itand are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need."
|||President Barack Obama (3/7/15), in remarks at the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches|
"Fifty years ago, the marches from Selma to Montgomery were for voting rights. Today, the march for equal access and opportunity continues, especially in our classrooms. No matter students' race, gender, zip code, disability, or first language, they deserve the opportunities access to an excellent education can provide. The Edmund Pettus Bridge may exist in Selma, but the spirit of what that bridge represents today should live in each of us. That spirit should keep us working hard until every child who lives in an under-privileged community has access to the same educational opportunities as the child who lives across the tracks in an affluent suburb. That spirit should force us to put politics aside and do what is right for all children, not just a few."
|||Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (3/7/15), in a statement on the Selma to Montgomery marches|
On March 23, President Obama is hosting the fifth annual White House Science Fair, welcoming over 100 of the nation's brightest young mindswith some showcasing innovative discoveries, inventions, and science projects. With students from a broad range of STEM competitions, this year's fair will also include a specific focus on girls and women who are excelling in STEM and inspiring the next generation with their work. The event will be streamed live.
The first-ever White House Demo Day will take place this summer. The day will spotlight stories that exemplify how to "grow the pie" by including everyone in the start-up economy and lift up best practices from all sectors aimed at making sure entrepreneurs get a crack at success (see blog post). Key players are encouraged to get involved by filling out an online form.
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