Press Room NEWSLETTERS
June 12, 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...
Protecting College Students
Investing in Innovation
Turnaround Arts Initiative
Honoring Sustainability
Stop Summer Hunger
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Protecting College Students

Over the past six years, the Department has taken unprecedented steps to hold career colleges accountable for providing students what they deserve: a high-quality, affordable education that prepares them for their careers. It has established tough regulations targeting misleading claims by career colleges and incentives that drove officials to enroll students through dubious promises. It has cracked down on bad actors through investigations and enforcement actions. And, it has issued gainful employment regulations, which will help ensure that students at career colleges do not end up with debt they cannot pay. The agency will continue to hold institutions accountable in order to improve the value of their programs, protect students from abusive practices, and safeguard the interests of taxpayers.

This week, the Department announced new steps in this work, particularly to address the concerns of students who attended schools owned by Corinthian Colleges. The agency has worked to rapidly develop a streamlined process for getting debt relief to Corinthian students. The aim is to make the process of forgiving loans fair, clear, and efficient—and make sure that students who are eligible to participate know about this opportunity.

Helping students whose schools have closed —

When a college closes, students are generally eligible to discharge their federal student loans if they were attending when the school closed or withdrew from the school within 120 days of the closing date. Given the unique circumstances for former Corinthian students, the Department is expanding eligibility for students to apply for a closed school loan discharge, extending the window of time back to June 20, 2014, to capture students who attended now-closed campuses after Corinthian entered into an agreement with the agency to terminate Corinthian's ownership of its colleges.

The Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been and will continue to contact potentially affected student borrowers to provide information about their options, including loan discharge applications, as well as providing additional information on the FSA web site.

Also, the Department has worked with a group of organizations and institutions as they have established an independent volunteer advising corps that will help students navigate their options. The resource is available at www.NextStepsEDU.org, where students can sign up and be connected to a volunteer advisor from the field.

Helping students who believe they were victims of fraud, regardless of whether their schools closed —

In order to receive loan forgiveness under "defense to repayment" or "borrower's defense," students must assert that a college's actions violated state law and affected their provision of educational services or federal loans. Wherever possible, the Department will rely on evidence established by appropriate authorities in considering whether whole groups of students are eligible for borrower defense relief. This will simplify and expedite the relief process, reducing the burden on borrowers.

Further information about this process—including the attestation form—is available on the FSA web site.

Also:

  • All former Corinthian students who apply for borrower defense have the option of having their federal loans immediately placed into forbearance, which stops their monthly payments to ensure they do not fall behind or default on their loans while the Department works to resolve the claim.
  • The Department will appoint a Special Master to oversee borrower defense issues and charge that person with making sure the process is fair and simple to students and taxpayers. (In coming weeks, there will be an online form for these borrowers, and students can call a borrower defense hotline at (855) 279-6207 to ask about their options.)
  • The Department will develop new regulations to clarify and streamline loan forgiveness under the defense to repayment provision, while maintaining or enhancing current consumer protection standards.

Additional resources on these topics include a fact sheet (with press call audio and transcript), blog post by Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, and blog post for students.

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Investing in Innovation

Last week, the Department launched its 2015 Investing in Innovation (i3) Validation and Scale-Up grant competitions. These grants will fund successful innovations that support new teachers and leaders; help educators align their instruction to college- and career-ready standards; improve student learning across science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; or reform high schools by making the standards more engaging, rigorous, and relevant for students. Each Validation grant will provide up to $12 million to fund efforts with prior evidence of success. Each Scale-Up grant will provide up to $20 million to fund the expansion of efforts that have a strong track record of success. As with prior competitions, all projects focus on high-need students, particularly those in rural areas.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to notify the agency of their intent to submit an application for funding by completing a web-based form. The deadline for a notice of intent is June 25. The deadline for applications is August 4.

Note: The Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), which administers the program, is currently hosting its fifth annual Project Directors Meeting. Presentations will be live streamed today, starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

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Turnaround Arts Initiative

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities is expanding its effective Turnaround Arts Initiative into five additional school districts, as the program continues to successfully help turn around low-performing schools, narrow the achievement gap, and increase student engagement through the arts. The expanded program is funded through a public-private partnership, with more than $5 million over three years from the Department, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and other companies and foundations to bring arts education into low-performing schools. The program leverages roughly $10 million contributed in local funds over the same period. The money will be used to hire new arts and music teachers; bring teaching artists, art supplies, and musical instruments into schools; and support arts integration with other core subjects (press release).

Over the last three years, Turnaround Arts has brought intensive arts education resources and expertise into 35 schools and worked with school leadership to incorporate the arts as part of their reform strategy. Research evaluation results show that participating schools are demonstrating improved academic performance, increased student and parent engagement, and value-added culture and climate. On average, Turnaround Arts schools showed a 23% gain in math proficiency and a 13% gain in reading proficiency, as well as sharply increased attendance and reductions of up to 86% in student disciplinary issues.

Note: In addition to its overall work in grades K-8, Turnaround Arts also announced a new focus on early childhood education. The initiative will provide specialized support and resources to Head Start and preschool-through-third-grade classrooms in Turnaround Arts schools to allow them to build creative, engaging, and dynamic learning experiences for their students.

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Honoring Sustainability

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Managing Director Christy Goldfuss and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Director of Education Louisa Koch joined Secretary Duncan to congratulate the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees on their achievements at a June 3 ceremony in Washington, D.C. At the event, 58 schools, 14 districts, and nine colleges and universities were honored for their leadership in reducing environmental impact and costs, promoting better health, and ensuring effective environmental education. The Secretary also announced a new and improvedGreen Strides web site, which features resources and webinars for all schools to go green, as well as information on all past honorees (blog post).

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Stop Summer Hunger

During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced-price school meals. However, during the summer, only 3.8 million children participate in the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. This means that too many children are at risk of hunger because they are out of school. To help prevent summer hunger, the USDA partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to offer free meals. Any child—under the age of 18—can walk into designated summer meal sites and eat for free.

In a joint letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Duncan urge leadership to make sure that children do not go hungry this summer.

To help:

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Odds and Ends

  • In an op-ed for The Hill, Secretary Duncan and U.S. Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) call for increased access to high-quality preschool.

  • Last month, more than 140 educators wrestled with some of the profession's biggest challenges at the Department's second annual Edcamp (recap via Storify and Google doc of sessions supported.)

  • This month, Secretary Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the Miccosukee Indian School has received flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, to use a different definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) that meets their students' unique academic and cultural needs.

  • The new, $2 million Skills for Success Program supports districts and their partners in implementing, evaluating, and refining tools and approaches for developing the non-cognitive skills of middle grade students in order to increase student success. Two former teachers—now at the Department—shared their excitement about this program in two videos: 1and 2. The deadline for applications is July 29.

  • On June 8, in the Department's own cafeteria, nine teams of high school culinary students from across the country competed in the Cooking Up Change National Finals (blog post).

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Quote to Note

"One of the remarkable things about America is that nearly all of our families originally came from someplace else. We're a nation of immigrants. It's a source of our strength and something that we all can take pride in. And this month—Immigrant Heritage Month—is a chance to share our American stories.... This month, I'm inviting you to share your story too. Just visit whitehouse.gov/NewAmericans. We want to hear how you or your family made it to America—whether you're an immigrant yourself or your great-great-grandparents were.... Immigrants have come to our shores seeking a better life. And by sharing our stories and staying true to our heritage as a nation of immigrants, we can keep the dream alive for generations to come."

        President Barack Obama (6/6/15), in his weekly address celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month

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Upcoming Events

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 final summits are in Chicago, on June 15 and 16; Pittsburgh, on June 22 and 23; and Orange County, California, on August 5 and 6.

The Department is accepting applications for fall 2015 internships through July 15. Interns will have an opportunity to learn about federal education policy while developing a variety of other skills, including communication, researching, and writing. They will also participate in group events, such as lunches with senior agency officials, local tours, and movie nights.

Save the date for this year's President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge Fall Gathering, September 10 and 11 at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 06/12/2015