Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 1, 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...
Promise Zones
Honoring Teachers
Honoring Sustainability
Classroom of the Future
Civil Rights Update
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Promise Zones

On April 28, the Obama Administration announced eight additional "Promise Zones" across the country, including six urban centers (Sacramento, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Camden), a rural area (South Carolina Low Country), and a tribal community (the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota). Through the Promise Zone designation, these communities will work directly with federal, state, and local agencies to use proven tools to improve the quality of life in some of the nation's most vulnerable areas. "Promise Zones bring multiple agencies together with local leaders, to breathe new life into underserved neighborhoods," said Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro. "A zip code should never limit the opportunities and hopes that parents have for their children. Helping these communities build stronger neighborhoods will help unlock those doors that have been closed for far too long" (fact sheet and web site).

The communities were selected from 123 applications from 36 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Each applicant prepared a clear description of how the Promise Zone designation would accelerate and strengthen their community's own efforts at comprehensive community revitalization.

Promise Zones will be coordinated by a lead community-based organization in partnership with the Administration. HUD is the federal lead for the urban centers, while the Department of Agriculture will be the federal lead for rural and tribal communities. Promise Zones receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff on the ground to help them implement their goals, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen capacity of Promise Zone initiatives.

These newly designed Promise Zones join five others that President Obama designated in January 2014—Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The work underway in these communities is already showing results.

A competition to select a third round of Promise Zones will commence later this year.

Note: Secretary Duncan was in Minneapolis, at the Northside Achievement Zone, for the announcement. While in the state, he also visited a North St. Paul preschool classroom with Governor Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius to underscore the governor's proposal to significantly expand voluntary universal preschool.

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Honoring Teachers

The National Teacher of the Year is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a committee of 15 national education organizations, organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers. This year's winner, Shanna Peeples, is an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, where she is splitting her days as a teacher and a mentor, challenging her colleagues to grow in the teaching profession. During the year, she is released from classroom duties to travel the country as a spokesperson for teachers.

President Obama and Secretary Duncan honored Peeples and the State Teachers of the Year on April 29 in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. In his remarks, the President thanked teachers for their "outstanding contributions to the life of our nation." "America's future is written in our classrooms," he emphasized. "We all depend on our teachers, whether we have kids in the schools or not. They deserve our support and our appreciation.... That's what today is all about."

Next week, the Administration will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8) with a variety of activities and outreach.

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Honoring Sustainability

To celebrate Earth Day (April 22), Secretary Duncan announced 2015 U.S. Department of Education-Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awards, and first-ever Postsecondary Sustainability Awards. Joined by Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Secretary celebrated the 58 schools, 14 school districts, and nine postsecondary institutions chosen for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM, and green career pathways (see video and blog post). All honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 3. (Note: To learn more about the honorees, view the award applications and highlights document.)

There are resources available for all schools—preschool through postsecondary—through the agency's Green Strides portal.

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Classroom of the Future

The Secretary laid out his vision for the classroom of the future in his inaugural post on Medium, a new, self-publishing platform that encourages people to share ideas and stories that matter. He writes, "Innovation in education isn't about the latest gadget or app or how adept a student is at using a smartphone to consume the latest Internet meme. It's about how technological tools can empower students to become who they want to be and who we need them to be—the kind of students who ask, 'What can I improve? How can I help? What can I build?'"

Also on Medium, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Antero Garcia writes about the recent Games for Learning Summit, where nationally recognized educators, the designers of some of today's most popular video games, and Department officials encouraged collaboration focused on the learning needs and interests of young people in the U.S.

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Civil Rights Update

The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued a guidance package emphasizing the responsibility of districts, colleges, and universities to designate a Title IX coordinator. The package also contains an overview of the law's requirements in key areas, including athletics, single-sex education, sex-based harassment, and discipline. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

The package includes three documents:

Also this week, OCR released a report of its Fiscal Year 2013-14 activities, highlighting continued efforts to protect civil rights and advance equity in schools.

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Odds and Ends

  • In a blog post, Secretary Duncan and Roy Bostock, vice chair of the board of Delta Air Lines, call for national policy to include preschool.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver remarks at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparatory High School in Chicago and Oberlin College in Ohio because of their outstanding video submissions under the two commencement challenges she issued last October: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Challenge and Near-Peer Mentoring College Challenge.

  • The initial list of evidence-based, whole school reform modelsunder the School Improvement Grants (SIG) final requirements has been posted for consideration by districts as they apply to their states for funds.

  • In a Federal Register notice and press call, the Department announced the availability of Native Youth Community Project grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready.

  • Also, the Department is soliciting applications under the State Tribal Education Partnership program to promote increased collaboration between tribal education agencies, state educational agencies, and local educational agencies that serve students from affected tribes.

  • This is an ideal time to consider the Department-funded Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center's no cost trainings by request for developing or enhancing a school's emergency operations plan.

  • The English Learner Toolkit by the Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is intended to help states and districts meet their obligations to English Learners.

  • The Career Pathways Exchange from the Department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) offers high-quality information, resources, and events on career pathways from a single source.

  • The Financial Literacy Guidance from the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) supplies a framework that institutional professionals can use to inform students about crucial financial concepts to help them make informed budgeting, borrowing, and loan repayment decisions.

  • According to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in U.S. history, geography, and civics, the overall academic performance of eighth-grade students has remained unchanged since 2010.

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Quote to Note

"Without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, what we also know is that, if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they've got parents—often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves—[who] cannot do right by their kids; it's more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than they go to college.... If we are serious about solving this problem, then we're going to not only have to help the police, we're going to have to think about what can we do—the rest of us—to make sure that we're providing early education to these kids; to make sure that we're reforming our criminal justice system so it's not just a pipeline from schools to prisons.... Now, I'm under no illusion that we're going to get massive investments in urban communities, so we'll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training.... But if we really want to solve the problem, we could. It's just that it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant—and that we don't just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don't just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We're paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids. We think they're important, and they shouldn't be living in poverty and violence."

        President Barack Obama (4/28/15), addressing the unrest in Baltimore during a press conference with the Prime Minister of Japan

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Upcoming Events

Secretary Duncan will deliver commencement addresses at Georgia Institute of Technology (May 2), North Carolina Central University (May 9), and the Community College of Denver (May 14).

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 two summits are in San Francisco, on May 4 and 5, and Houston, on May 18 and 19.

The Department is committed to meaningful consultations with Indian tribes on policy decisions that have direct tribal implications. Consultations were recently held in Albuquerque (April 22) and Reno (April 26). The next consultation will be hosted in St. Paul (June 28).

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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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Last Modified: 05/05/2015