Press Room NEWSLETTERS
November 13, 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...
Empowering States to Transform
Next Gen High Schools
Transparency Agenda for Accreditation
Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment
Tribal Nations Conference
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Empowering States to Transform

Yesterday, speaking at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston, Secretary Duncan hailed Massachusetts as proof that, when educators and political leaders work together to raise expectations for students, create systems to deliver on that promise, and stay committed to change, they see tremendous improvements for students. He also talked about the progress the nation has made over the past six years and noted that opportunities like Race to the Top and federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) provided support and incentives that served as a catalyst for action (remarks and video).

"Much of this nation has now put the building blocks in place for transformation—based not on a recipe from Washington, but on ideas and plans developed in states and communities," the Secretary asserted. "I'm convinced that if folks stay on this path, over time they'll achieve improvements just like the ones you've seen here [in Massachusetts].... This didn't happen by magic. It was about creating the conditions for change, in part through opportunities like Race to the Top, which unleashed the pent-up energy and ideas of educators and political leaders. The result has been an extraordinary wave of change—not just in states that received Race to the Top funds, but also in many that didn't..."

The Department also released two new reports documenting how states and school districts responded to the new way of doing business through two of the Administration's signature initiatives (fact sheet).

"Fundamental Change: Innovation in America's Schools under Race to the Top" focuses on the 11 states (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) and the District of Columbia awarded funding in the first two rounds of the Race to the Top competition. Race to the Top enabled these states to transform education by implementing their own plans in four key areas: establishing high college- and career-ready standards; developing and supporting great teachers and leaders; leveraging data systems and technology to improve instruction; and turning around the lowest-performing schools. Even in states that did not win awards, the work to develop an application and establish conditions for change unleashed an incredible amount of courage and creativity at the local level.

"School Improvement Grants National Summary: School Year 2012-13" focuses on the 1,399 schools serving more than 800,000 students in the first three cohorts of SIG funding. SIG schools are improving faster than other schools in reading and mathematics proficiency (on average, Cohort 1 schools increased reading proficiency by six points and math proficiency by eight points) and graduation rates (nearly half of Cohort 1 high schools increased graduation rates by six or more points). Also, SIG schools are offering students more learning time (with 50% of Cohort 1 schools, 54% of Cohort 2 schools, and 43% of Cohort 3 schools providing more than one type of expanded learning time).

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Next Gen High Schools

Earlier this week, the White House hosted the first-ever Summit on Next Generation High Schools, welcoming students, educators, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs who are reinventing the high school experience to better empower students to seize opportunities in today's economy and expanding access to innovative science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teaching and learning. The summit was on the heels of new data showcasing the collective impact of recent federal and local efforts to improve high schools. Figures released by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center reveal a significant reduction in the percentage of students who do not complete high school on-time: from 1,015,946 students in 2008 to 744,193 students in 2012—a 27% decrease in only four years.

To build on this record, the Administration announced several new resources and investments to support the redesign of high schools. Also, this afternoon, the Department will announce an intent to award over $20 million in federal grants through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program to support the reform of high schools that serve a high percentage of low-income students. This program supports organizations transforming education in communities across America by implementing innovative and proven strategies while building evidence of what works to address persistent challenges.

Additionally, a wide-ranging community of businesses, non-profit organizations, foundations, and education leaders announced new steps to support next generation high schools (fact sheet).

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Transparency Agenda for Accreditation

Accreditation serves as an important protection for both students and taxpayers by assuring the quality of the postsecondary education system. Since accreditation is a prerequisite for colleges' participation in federal student aid programs, it also plays a "gatekeeping" role in institutional access to the $150 billion annual investment in federal student aid. However, there is broad agreement and a sense of urgency about the need for significant improvement in both the rigor and flexibility of accreditation.

Recognition that accreditation needs reform has intensified in recent years as a result of the failure of the Corinthian/Heald schools while fully accredited, as well as recommendations from the bipartisan National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) in 2012 and 2015 and a report calling on the Department to strengthen its oversight of schools and accreditors by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2014.

Last week, to help ensure the public can have confidence in the current accreditation system, the Administration announced a series of executive actions to improve accreditors' and the Department's oversight activities and move toward a new focus on student outcomes and transparency. It also outlined a suite of legislative proposals to help guide Congressional action on improving and reforming accreditation (fact sheet).

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Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment

The Department recently announced a new experiment that will expand access to college coursework for secondary school students from low-income backgrounds. For the first time, such students will be able to access federal Pell Grants to take postsecondary courses via dual enrollment—in which students enroll in college coursework while also working toward a secondary school diploma. The agency is inviting postsecondary institutions—in partnership with public secondary schools or districts—to apply to participate in the experiment. It will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students. Research shows that participation in dual enrollment can lead to better grades in secondary school, increased enrollment in college following secondary school, higher rates of persistence in college, greater credit accumulation, and increased rates of credential attainment (fact sheet and blog post).

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Tribal Nations Conference

On November 5, the White House hosted the annual Tribal Nations Conference. President Obama and Cabinet officials discussed issues of importance to tribal leaders, emphasizing how the Administration can continue to make progress on improving the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure these gains continue in future administrations. Youth delegates also participated in the conference, sharing a unique perspective (fact sheet).

During the conference, the Departments of Education and the Interior announced $2.5 million in grants to eight federally recognized tribes to bolster educational programs and advance self-determination goals through the development of academically rigorous and culturally relevant programs.

Also, in a blog post, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell shared success in providing Native youth access to digital learning and education technology resources.

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Odds and Ends

  • Last week, in Newark, New Jersey, President Obama announced new actions aimed at helping Americans who have paid their debt to society rehabilitate and reintegrate back into their own communities (fact sheet). In a related blog post, Teaching Ambassador Fellow Meredith Morelle addresses "righting the wrongs of inequity through educational opportunity."

  • Louisiana has received approval for continued flexibility from key provisions of ESEA.

  • Secretary Duncan issued a statement on the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

  • On Veterans Day, in an open letter to veterans, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell pledged that the Administration would work with Congress to restore the HEA's original 85/15 ratio (requiring that a for-profit college must derive at least 15% of its revenue from non-federal student aid funds to continue participating in the Department's student loan and grant programs) and close the GI Bill loophole (whereby servicemembers' and veterans' education aid counts toward non-federal student aid funds).

  • Last week, the Department hosted 200 parents from across the country for ParentCamp USA. Over the coming months, the agency is committed to hosting and participating in ParentCamps elsewhere. It will also gather and disseminate tools and resources that states, districts, schools, and families need to build meaningful partnerships (see blog posts 1 and 2).

  • Chief of Staff Emma Vadehra reflects on her experience visiting Maya Angelou Academy as part of the Department-wide effort to shadow principals during National Principals Month. Moreover, Principal Ambassador Fellow Joseph Manko writes about his conversation with the three finalists for the National Principal of the Year.

  • In order to deepen expertise and capacity on the Pay for Success (PFS) financing model, the Department has welcomed Janis Dubano as a PFS Fellow. She has extensive experience in PFS and played a role in developing and implementing the first early learning PFS project in Salt Lake County, Utah.

  • The College Board issued its annual studies on trends in college pricing and student aid and benefits of postsecondary education.

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Quote to Note

"Schools must be productive places for teaching and learning, but we also have to rethink how we create safe and supportive learning environments for all of our students, and for the adults in school. Our schools must be a pathway to opportunity, not a pipeline to prison. And no student should feel unsafe or fearful of being harmed while in school, in class. To do better, we also have to take a hard look at ourselves, and our history, and the implicit biases that we all carry. The ugly truth—a harsh reality—is that, still today, some children are far more likely to face harsh discipline than others, simply because of their zip code or the color of their skin. That's unacceptable and not a reality anybody should be willing to live with."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (8/30/15), in a statement on the classroom arrest at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina

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Upcoming Events

American Education Week (November 16-20) celebrates teachers and school staff. The week's tagline, "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility," is a call for all Americans to do their part in making public schools great for every child. During the week, education support professionals will be honored on Wednesday, while substitute educators will be honored on Friday.

International Education Week (November 16-20) celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This year's theme is "International Education: Advancing Access for All." In his video message, Secretary Duncan encourages everyone to promote the global mission of ensuring that every child receives a world-class education.

The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program provides K-16 educators with unique opportunities for overseas experience. The program is open to teachers and administrators with responsibilities for curriculum development in fields related to the arts, humanities, languages, and area studies. Topics and host countries vary annually, although all seminars are held outside of Western Europe. There are seminars being offered this summer in Peru, India, and Senegal. The deadline to submit applications is December 9.

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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: 11/13/2015