Press Room NEWSLETTERS
April 3, 2015

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...
Science Fair
ESEA Update
ESEA Flexibility
Improving Education: View From Classroom
Transparency and Accountability for Students
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Science Fair

On March 23, President Obama welcomed more than 100 young researchers from over 30 states for a celebration and showcase of their remarkable achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As part of the 2015 White House Science Fair, approximately 35 student teams exhibited innovative projects—including discoveries and insights in important areas such as disease diagnostics, clean energy, and information security—as well as inventions ranging from the "why didn't I think of that?" (automatic page-turner for people with arthritis) to the "who'd have ever thought that possible?" (a hiccup-curing lollipop). The President personally viewed some of these projects (video), marveling at the incredible ingenuity on display from students, some as young as six-years-old.

In his remarks to an audience of science fair participants, mentors, educators, and leaders in government, business, and philanthropy, the President praised the extraordinary students. "These young scientists and engineers teach us something beyond the topics that they're exploring. They teach us how to question assumptions, to wonder why something is the way it is and how we can make it better. They remind us that there's always something more to learn, and to try, and to discover, and to imagine—that it's never too early or too late to create or discover something new," he asserted. "That's why we love science. It's more than a school subject, the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It's an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world and to share this accumulated knowledge."

The President also announced a number of new steps to advance his Educate to Innovate campaign—an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more students inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in the STEM subjects (fact sheet):

  • a $150 million philanthropic effort to empower a diverse cadre of promising early career scientists to stay on track to become scientific leaders of tomorrow;
  • the $90 million "Let Everyone Dream" initiative to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth;
  • a $25 million Department competition (see Ready to Learn Television) to create science- and literacy-themed media that inspires students to explore;
  • 120 colleges and universities committing to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the "grand challenges" of the 21st century; and
  • the coalition of CEOs known as "Change the Equation" committing to expand effective STEM programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year.

With these new commitments, the campaign has surpassed $1 billion in financial and in-kind support for STEM.

And, to highlight this year's science fair theme—diversity and inclusion—Administration leaders hosted two roundtable discussions in which students shared stories about opportunities and challenges they face in STEM studies. In the morning, a group of female leaders met with all-star female students participating in the science fair, where they talked about the changing image of women in STEM and the need for even more female role models to tell their STEM stories. In the afternoon, Vice President Biden met with students, teachers, and key advocates, where they talked about offering STEM programs to all Americans, regardless of their background, and the tremendous opportunities becoming available every day because of advances in science and technology.

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ESEA Update

Secretary Duncan visited Edwin M. Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia last month (blog post) to emphasize the need to support students and teachers by investing in schools—as part of his vision for a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). At the school, he joined federal, state, and local leaders for a roundtable discussion. Parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents discussed how the community came together to keep the school from closing several years earlier. The Secretary noted the need for equitable spending in states. Recent data shows that students from low-income families in 23 states are being shortchanged when it comes to state and local education funding. In these 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.

Echoing the theme, the Secretary, National Urban League President Marc Morial, and National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia penned an op-ed for The Hill, contending, at this critical moment, it is time to replace the current ESEA with a bipartisan law that upholds the promise of equitable opportunity.

See also this new video of the Secretary and President Morial discussing ESEA after a White House event.

And, a Washington Post editorial weighed in on ESEA, stating, "[Congress] should not abandon this fundamental principle: schools need to know whether students are learning and do something about it when they aren't."

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ESEA Flexibility

Last week, the Department announced ESEA flexibility renewal for five states: Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia. Until a new ESEA is in place, No Child Left Behind remains the law of the land. That means states need a new round of waivers that provide flexibility from top-down, prescriptive provisions of the law so that they can continue implementing innovative changes. These five states are on track to fully meet their commitments under the flexibility program. They were invited to participate in an expedited review process—developed with input from states—which included submitting their renewal requests in January and meeting with agency officials in person. They will have four more years of flexibility, through the 2018-19 school year. (Note: Approved flexibility requests and renewal letters are available here.)

All other states were required to submit their renewal requests by March 31. The Department will make decisions on these submissions through late spring and summer. In the event that Congress reauthorizes ESEA, the agency will work with states to help them transition to the new law.

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Improving Education: View From Classroom

Teachers across the country are working together to increase student success. They are learning from data, from test scores to parent feedback, and engaging students through meaningful work to prepare them for college and careers. For a closer look at how classrooms are being transformed, the Department launched a behind-the-scenes video series. The third video in the series, "Improving Education: A View from King/Drew Magnet High School," shows teachers who are inspiring students to reach new heights by setting high standards for learning and focusing on the whole child. It reveals students engaged in learning who believe "there is no other pathway that will bring you success like education." See how teachers are encouraging their students to overcome challenges so they can succeed at school and in life.

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Transparency and Accountability for Students

This week, the Department released a list of colleges and universities that are on Heightened Cash Monitoring, which is a step the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) can take with institutions to provide additional oversight for a number of financial or federal compliance issues. It is important to note that Heightened Cash Monitoring is not necessarily a red flag to student and taxpayers but serves more as a cautionary measure. It demonstrates that FSA is watching these institutions more closely to make sure they use federal student aid in a way that is accurate to students and taxpayers.

The announcement was made via a blog post by Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. As of March 1, there were 560 institutions on this list. The list has been released to members of the press that requested it and will be published on FSA's web site in the coming days and updated on a regular basis.

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Odds and Ends

  • School principals: here are four reasons to nominate students for 2015 President's Education Awards.

  • This May, First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative is encouraging mayors, principals, and teachers to celebrate students in their community with a College Signing Day Celebration. It has created a toolkit, with resources and real examples of how to answer the First Lady's call to action, and anyone can complete a speaker request form. To show support, please take a photo in your college t-shirt and Instagram it, Facebook it, or Tweet it with the hashtag #ReachHigher.

  • A study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), "What is the Price of College?," presents total price of attendance, net price after grants, and out-of-pocket net price after financial aid by type of institution in the 2011-12 academic year.

  • The Department is soliciting pre-applications for Investing in Innovation (i3) "Development" grants. Applicants will select from four areas of focus—improving principal effectiveness, increasing STEM education, strengthening the use of technology, and addressing non-cognitive factors, such as behavioral and social and emotional skills—as well as projects that primarily serve rural communities. The Department will be inviting applications for the other types of i3 grants—"Validation" and "Scale Up"—later this spring.

  • Ahead of this week's International Summit on the Teaching Profession in Canada, Director of International Affairs Maureen McLaughlin blogged about what was learned from past discussionsand progress on commitments made by the U.S. delegation at the end of each summit.

  • The Department's Progress blogspotlights state and local innovative ideas, promising practices, lessons learned, and resources informed by the implementation of K-12 education reforms. Currently, one can read about Ohio rural districts collaborating to increase opportunities; Tennessee principals receiving coaching on observing teachers and providing feedback; and Rhode Island partnering with low-performing schools to facilitate a turn around. Ideas for content may be sent to progress@ed.gov.

  • The Department's own Joe Conaty was awarded the American Educational Research Association's "Distinguished Public Service Award" in recognition of his work to implement policies that are well-grounded in education research.

  • In a Government Executive magazine feature, profiling the downward trend of customer satisfaction with government services, the Department's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) portal was praised as a "beacon of light," achieving a customer satisfaction score among the very best across all of government and private industry.

  • President Obama asked students to create short films about the impact of "giving back" and to show what service meant to them. There were about 1,500 submissions and, last month, 15 selections were screened at the White House (blog post).

  • In a recent op-ed in USA Today, Secretary Duncan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell urge schools to keep lunches healthy.

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Quote to Note

"While a strong, bipartisan reauthorization of [ESEA] remains our top priority, we want to continue to empower state and district leaders to develop plans designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction. We will continue to partner with the states to support them through the ESEA flexibility process—starting with these five states."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (3/31/15), announcing ESEA flexibility renewal for five states

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Upcoming Events

April is Financial Capability Month.

The First Lady is again challenging the most creative junior chefs to put their talents to good use and whip up delicious lunchtime recipes. The "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids' State Dinner" invites children ages 8-12, with the help of an adult, to create and submit an original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty. Fifty-six children and their parent or guardian—one pair from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories—will be flown to Washington, D.C., to attend a special Kids' State Dinner at the White House, where a selection of winning recipes will be served. Recipes may be submitted online through April 30.

September will mark the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. In commemoration, the initiative launched the "Anniversary Year of Action: Fulfilling America's Future" and is calling for commitments to action that make a meaningful and quantifiable contribution to increase and support outcomes for Hispanics—from cradle-to-career—in a number of areas. To learn more about the year of action and how to develop a commitment, join a webinar on April 8 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Future Ready Regional Summits offer district leaders expert support to create digital learning plans that align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students. These summits are open to district leadership teams on a first-come, first-served basis, from districts where the superintendents have signed the Future Ready District Pledge. The next three summits are in Phoenix, on April 13 and 14; Providence, on April 21 and 22; and St. Louis, on April 28 and 29.

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) will hold a White House Summit on May 12. The summit, which provides a unique forum to actively engage with hundreds of AAPI leaders nationwide, is part of a series of events to be held May 11-15 during AAPI Heritage Month. The summit is free of charge and open to the public.

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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: 04/07/2015