Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 15, 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...
Expanding Opportunity
Honoring Teachers
Presidential Scholars
From Our Partners
Digest of Education Statistics
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Expanding Opportunity

In his May 2 weekly address, President Obama reiterated his commitment to expanding access to education and spreading the joy of reading to more children and young adults. "All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do," he said from a public library in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. "And, a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before. Making sure all our kids receive [a great education] is the surest way to show them that their lives matter. And, it's the smartest away to prove to them that in communities like this, as well as in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all."

Earlier, the President announced new efforts that build upon the progress of his ConnectED initiative: a challenge to libraries, mayors, and school leaders to help every student get a library card and commitments from libraries and publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-books for low-income students (fact sheet).

The White House also announced the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a new private sector entity. A group of private sector leaders and other prominent citizens have come together to form this independent, non-profit organization. Joined by a range of community, philanthropic, and private sector partners, alliance leaders will work to expand opportunity for youth, strengthen the American workforce, and fortify the economic stability of communities. Meanwhile, the My Brother's Keeper Task Force will continue to move forward. It will—with great urgency—disseminate best practices, strengthen federal policy, and implement strategies to support communities to expand opportunity for youth. (Note: In a blog post, Senior Advisor John King outlines a conversation between education, philanthropic, and business leaders to identify and enroll 100,000 students of color and low-income students in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.)

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Honoring Teachers

During Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8), nearly 50 Department headquarters staff—several of them former teachers—called 380 teachers across the nation to express gratitude for educating America's children. Moreover, a dozen Department regional staff called 140 more teachers. Staff recommended teachers with whom they have interacted that exemplify leadership in the classroom and are making a difference. Staff also referred their favorite teachers from their days as students. As a highlight, watch these videos of Secretary Duncan surprise calling teachers.

The Secretary also dropped in at a teacher appreciation breakfast at Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (video) and participated in a teacher appreciation event at the White House with members of the President's Cabinet and area educators.

In addition, the Department hosted a symposium for male educators of color, bringing together more than 140 men of color who are committed to teaching America's youth.

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Presidential Scholars

This week, Secretary Duncan announced the 2015 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts. Each year, 141 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, and 20 students are scholars in the arts. Over 4,000 candidates qualified on the basis of outstanding ACT or SAT scores and through nominations by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation's nationwide YoungArts competition. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars—appointed by the President—selects the finalists based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations, and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Scholars will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 21.

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From Our Partners

Also this week, the Secretary participated in events with key education partners.

  • On May 11, he joined the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) to release NIEER's "State of Preschool Yearbook 2014" at CentroNia, an early learning and community center in suburban Maryland. This annual report, which includes state profiles and rankings for the 2013-14 school year, shows that state preschool funding increased for the second year in a row, although programs have yet to fully recover from the impacts of cuts in the 2011-12 school year.
  • On May 12, he joined the America's Promise Alliance to release the "2015 Building a Grad Nation" report. This annual report on the progress and challenges in increasing high school graduation rates shows that, for the third consecutive year, the country remains on pace to achieve the alliance's goal of a 90% on-time graduation rate by 2020. (Note: The Secretary's statement is available here.)
  • That same day, he also offered remarks at the National Summit on Youth Violence Prevention (see video) and the White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (see fact sheet).
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Digest of Education Statistics

The "Digest of Education Statistics, 2013," from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), is the 49th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from pre-kindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by NCES. The digest contains data on the number of schools, students, and teachers, as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. Details on population trends, education attitudes, labor force characteristics, and federal aid supplies helpful background for evaluating the education data.

Also: New data from NCES indicates the first significant decrease in school-based bullying since the federal government began collecting such data in 2005. The reported prevalence of bullying among students ages 12 to 18 dropped to 22%, after remaining around 28% for the past decade. Since 2010, the Department has taken a series of actions to combat bullying and cyberbullying, including supporting the work of the StopBullying.gov web site.

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Odds and Ends

  • In honor of the season, a White House blog pulls together favorite commencement addresses from Administration officials.

  • For those with federal student loans, a Department blog outlines general eligibility requirements for each situation of student loan forgiveness.

  • The Department has announced the availability of $60 million under the First in the World program to improve postsecondary education attainment. This year's competition features two types of grants: Development grants to test innovative practices, and Validation grants to confirm the effectiveness of promising practices when implemented more broadly. Of the $60 million, the competition has a set-aside of $16 million for institutions designated as minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The deadline for applications is June 26. (Note: The program team is hosting three pre-application webinars and seeking peer reviewers.)

  • The Department also announced more than $24.8 million in grants to 67 school districts in 26 states to establish or expand elementary and secondary school counseling programs.

  • Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle will leave the Department on June 30 to become executive director of ASCD. "Deb has been a savvy leader, a good friend, and a passionate fighter for the best interests of children," Secretary Duncan emphasized in a statement. "I am grateful for her invaluable contributions to our work over the last three years and wish her well."

  • President Obama has nominated Lloyd Horwich as the Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs.

  • This month's "Education Matters" bulletin, released by the Department's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, focuses on the 30 million word gap.

  • Flyers are now available for the Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program, which helps feed children who may otherwise go hungry when school is out. During the regular school year, some 21.4 million needy children receive a school lunch at little or no cost. Yet, when summer arrives, participating children drop dramatically, to just 3.8 million. The federal government is seeking to close that gap.

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Quote to Note

"Our history provides us with a better story—a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together, then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together we can overcome anything that stands in our way.... And, you don't have to be President of the United States to start addressing things like poverty, and education, and lack of opportunity. Graduates, today you can mentor a young person and make sure he or she takes the right path. Today, you can volunteer at an after-school program or food pantry. Today, you can help your cousin fill out her college financial aid form so that she could be sitting in those chairs one day. But, just like all those folks who came before us, you've got to do something to lay the groundwork for future generations."

        First Lady Michelle Obama (5/9/15), delivering the commencement address at Tuskegee University

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Upcoming Events

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

On May 26, 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is hosting a policy briefing, titled "History, Policy, and Research and Implementation of New Standards for English Language." Nationally recognized scholar and researcher Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University will present a broad historical overview of the policy and research to effectively implement college- and career-ready standards for English Leaners, and a panel of educators will provide their perspectives in response to the presentation and research findings. To attend the briefing in person (at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.) or participate virtually (via EDstream), please RSVP to Anthony.Sepulveda@ed.gov.

June 12-18, coinciding with the National Maker Faire, the White House will celebrate a "Week of Making," lifting up makers and builders and doers of all ages who are funneling their ingenuity into amazing projects, developing creative solutions to important problems and bringing their innovations to the market.

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Last Modified: 05/15/2015