Press Room NEWSLETTERS
June 26, 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
Update: College Ratings System
ESEA Flexibility
Presidential Scholars
President's Education Awards
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Protecting College Students

As part of an effort to ensure that former Corinthian College students receive the debt relief that they are entitled to, while also protecting taxpayers (see fact sheet), the Department has appointed Joseph Smith as Special Master. In addition to advising the agency on issues related to Corinthian students, Smith will help develop a broader system to support students at other institutions who believe they have a defense to repayment of their federal student loans (blog post with video).

The Department's aim is to make the process of forgiving loans efficient, transparent, and fair. Although Smith will not have ultimate decision-making authority in granting relief to Corinthian students, he will report to Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell and advise on the following areas:

  • creating a simple application for debt relief for all borrowers applying for loan forgiveness;
  • advising on issues of law and fact related to specific borrower defense claims; and
  • strengthening the process by which the Department can recover money from schools after successful borrower defense claims.

The agency has tasked Smith with regularly communicating with students, stakeholders, and the public, as he and the Department work through the process of evaluating claims. He will issue a report at the end of the summer, which will summarize his initial findings and advice.

Smith has extensive experience in the independent oversight of complex financial services settlements. In 2012, he was appointed by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, the federal government, and the nation's five largest mortgage servicers to monitor the National Mortgage Settlement—the largest consumer financial protection settlement in U.S. history. Then, in 2013, he was appointed to monitor the consumer relief obligations included in the $13 billion settlement between the Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase. At this time, he oversees Chase as it distributes $4 billion in credited consumer relief.

In related news, federal courts have upheld the Department's right to demand that career colleges show their graduates make enough money to repay their loans. "Today's decision is a win for America's students and taxpayers," Secretary Duncan said in a statement. "Far too often, career colleges leave students burdened with debt they'll never be able to repay and stick taxpayers with the bill. Two federal district courts have now thrown out entirely the for-profit industry's attempts to fight basic accountability measures—a clear sign that the courts continue to recognize both our legal authority and our reasonable approach in establishing these consumer protections. Every student who enrolls in college of any kind deserves a fair shot at a degree or credential that equips them for success" (see gainful employment regulations).

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Update: College Ratings System

In a new blog post, Deputy Under Secretary of Education Jamie Studley gives an update on the agency's development of a college ratings system. Some excerpts:

"Later this summer, we plan to release new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes. This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college's value. And, as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions, and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.

"Through our research and our conversations with the field, we have found that the needs of students are very diverse, and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely. By providing a wealth of data—including many important metrics that have not been published before—students and families can make informed comparisons and choices based on the criteria most important to them. With assistance from the creative U.S. Digital Services team, we are using feedback from students, parents, college advisors, and high school guidance counselors to examine how we can make critical information about college costs and outcomes relevant and useful to guide decisions about college search and selection.

"At the same time, we will continue our efforts to identify colleges providing the best value and encourage all colleges to improve. We will share this new data and methodological considerations with institutions, researchers, application developers, and other interested players to jump start and accelerate efforts across the country to develop meaningful metrics for accountability, and—as the President asked—we will continue to improve these measures and find ways to make sure that student aid investments are directed to colleges that provide meaningful opportunities and deliver a quality, affordable education for their students."

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ESEA Flexibility

On June 23, the Department announced that seven states and the District of Columbia have received multiple years of continued flexibility from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind. These recipients are implementing comprehensive, state-designed plans to ensure student success and a continued commitment to college- and career-readiness for every student. Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have three more years of flexibility, through the 2017-18 school year, while New York has four more years of flexibility, through the 2018-19 school year. (Note: Approved flexibility requests and renewal letters are available here.)

Back in March, the agency approved five states—Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia—for an additional four years of flexibility. All of the states up for renewal have submitted or will soon submit a request to extend their flexibility, and Nebraska requested flexibility for the first time. More renewal decisions will follow over the coming weeks.

In the event Congress reauthorizes ESEA, the Department will work with states to help them transition to the new law.

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Presidential Scholars

Also this week, the President signed an Executive Order expanding the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program to establish a new category of outstanding scholars in career and technical education (CTE). Fittingly, the White House announced this new award category as it hosted 2015 Scholars, featuring a briefing by a panel of senior staff. The day before, Secretary Duncan awarded each Scholar a presidential medallion at a special ceremony. Next summer, the White House will welcome the inaugural class of 20 CTE Scholars, nominated by Chief State School Officers and selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. The announcement complements a June 30 White House convening on CTE, which will recognize students, teachers, and administrators who have shown exceptional leadership in driving innovation in the field of CTE. (Note: In a blog post, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin praises the President's action for elevating CTE "to a level...on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.")

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President's Education Awards

Since 1983, the President's Education Awards Program (PEAP) has bestowed individual recognition from the President to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence. School principals determine the number of qualifying students based on selection criteria and verify orders for awards. There is no limit on the number of awards, as long as students meet the criteria. Students receive a certificate and congratulatory letter signed by the President and the Secretary. This year, nearly three million elementary, middle, and high school students from over 30,000 schools were recognized under PEAP. (Note: A list of 2015 PEAP participating schools by state is posted online.)

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Odds and Ends

  • Last week, Secretary Duncan joined U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in Baltimore for a series of events focused on engaging the community. During a stop at Liberty Elementary School, they witnessed first-hand how a school's use of technology has accelerated student learning. Following a tour of Liberty Rec and Tech Center, they participated in a roundtable discussion in conjunction with the National Week of Making to discuss the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and fostering a culture of invention, innovation, and imagination (blog post).

  • Also last week, the Administration made a series of announcements designed to serve more free meals this summer in rural and tribal areas (blog post).

  • The Department recently awarded the Pine Ridge School in South Dakota $218,000 under the Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program to aid in the recovery from student suicides and suicide attempts.

  • At the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics' Early Learning Symposium, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago pledged $3.3 million as part of its 2016-17 grant cycle, with 40% of those resources going to schools, community centers, and neighborhoods serving primarily Hispanic families.

  • June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and the Department is sharing immigration stories of its staff. The first story comes from Assistant Deputy Secretary for English Language Acquisition Libia Gil.

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Quote to Note

"We, as adults, love the chance to work with young people who are committed and resilient. Several of you have battled homelessness, survived violence, and endured the death of a loved one. Yet, you've never let those setbacks define or limit who you are. If anything, the adversity has helped to fuel your passion. You've shaped your legacy on your own terms, not just by 'passing' high schools, but by thriving despite the very real challenges life threw at you. When people look at you, they don't see you as the sum of your challenges. They see unique individuals who've forged your own paths to success."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (6/13/15), delivering the commencement address at Washington, D.C.'s Eastern Senior High School

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Upcoming Events

Today, Secretary Duncan will participate in a panel discussion on educational technology and make a major announcement about the importance of parent, family, and community engagement at the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Convention.

On July 1, Secretary Duncan will participate in a "Let's Read! Let's Move!" event, highlighting the importance of students' staying engaged and healthy during the summer months. The Secretary will be joined by Miss America Kira Kazantsev, renowned chef Jose Andres, and United States Archivist David Ferriero. This series convenes students from around the Washington, D.C., area for learning and fitness activities.

To support the work of the White House Task Force on New Americans, the Department is sponsoring seven webinars over the next six months focused on the educational and linguistic integration of immigrants and refugees.

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Last Modified: 06/26/2015