Press Room NEWSLETTERS
November 27, 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...
College Application Month
Innovation Grants
Educator Equity Plans
Teaching and Principal Fellowships
IDEA 40th Anniversary
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

College Application Month

November is National College Application Month. In an official proclamation, President Obama calls upon "public officials, educators, parents, students, and all Americans to observe the month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs designed to encourage students to make plans for and apply to college." He also outlines ways in which the Administration has "made it a priority to equip aspiring college students and their families with data on college costs, value, and admissions, so they can make choices that are right for their futures and their budgets."

For example, this fall, the President announced the launch of a new College Scorecard, redesigned with input from students, families, and counselors to provide the clearest, most reliable data on factors such as college cost, graduation, debt, and earnings. The scorecard seeks to empower Americans to rate colleges based on what matters most to them; highlight colleges that are serving students of different backgrounds well; and focus on making a quality, affordable education within reach (fact sheet and select reports of high graduation, low cost, and high salary institutions: 1, 2, 3, and 4).

The President also announced this fall an initiative to allow students and families to apply for financial aid earlier next year—starting in October, as the college application process gets underway, rather than in January. Moreover, students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be able to electronically retrieve tax information filed for an earlier year, instead of waiting until tax season to complete applications (fact sheet).

Regarding the FAFSA, according to the new quarterly report on the Department's Federal Student Aid Data Center, students are filing earlier and more easily than ever before. Indeed, 43% of applicants filed in the first quarter of the application cycle, compared to 37% in 2006-07; 58% of students and 46% of parents used the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool in 2014-15; and, as of September, over 4.2 million Direct Loan borrowers are enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment Plans, a 50% increase from a year earlier and a 147% increase from September 2013. However, a troubling two-thirds of freshmen students filling out the FAFSA only designate a single school to send their financial aid information, running the risk of being turned down for admission or losing out on better educational opportunities and financial aid from another school (press release).

In other news, the U.S. government reached a landmark settlement with Education Management Corporation to resolve allegations that the for-profit education company violated federal and state provisions, and the Department announced results of a joint investigation with the California Attorney General's Office into Corinthian College's Everest and Wyotech programs, concluding the programs misrepresented placement rates to enrolled and prospective students (findings actionable under the borrower defense process).

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Innovation Grants

Last week, incoming Acting Secretary King announced the 13 highest-rated applications for grants under this year's $113 million Investing in Innovation (i3) competition, aimed at developing innovative approaches to improve student achievement and replicating effective strategies across the nation. These potential grantees—representing 11 states—must secure matching funds by next month in order to receive program funding. (Note: In previous years, all highest-rated applications have secured their matching funds and become grantees.) Of the highest-rated applications, seven are in the Development category (supporting promising new ideas for further development; a maximum $3 million each), three are in the Validation category (supporting expanded implementation of established approaches with moderate evidence of effectiveness; a maximum $12 million each); and, for the first time since 2010, there are multiple applications (three) in the Scale-Up category (supporting the growth of models with strong evidence of effectiveness; a maximum $20 million each). Awards will be made by December 31. To date, i3 has awarded $1.2 billion to 143 grantees out of 4,300 applications.

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Educator Equity Plans

Also last week, the Department announced the approval of plans by nine states to ensure equitable access to excellent educators. All these states are taking promising steps to eliminate the gaps some students face in access to strong teaching by implementing strategies and innovative solutions to challenging problems that meet local context and needs. Each of these states engaged a variety of stakeholder groups to ensure their plans comprise of strategies that will actually be effective.

The strategies that states are implementing include, for example, working to support, strengthen, or modify teacher preparation programs so that all teachers are ready to provide high-quality instruction to their students and prepared for success in high-need schools; increasing data-driven decision-making to help ensure that schools and districts have access to accurate, timely information necessary to make constructive decisions; providing financial incentives designed to reward teachers for exceptional work and encourage great teachers to remain in the highest-need schools; and publicly reporting progress to hold themselves properly accountable for meaningful improvement in eliminating identified equity gaps.

The plans themselves and the Department's determinations can be found here. Earlier, the agency approved plans for 33 states and the District of Columbia (1 and 2). Staff are reviewing the remaining plans to determine whether they meet all the requirements set in ESEA and will approve them on a rolling basis.

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Teaching and Principal Fellowships

Applications for the Department's 2016-17 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are now available online. As in years past, there are two options for candidates: the Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment based at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., while the Classroom Fellowship enables educators to participate on a part-time basis and still fulfill regular school responsibilities. Applications must be received by December 14 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. (Note: Principal Ambassador Fellow Alicia Perez-Katz reflects on her experience in a blog post.)

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IDEA 40th Anniversary

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Department released guidance designed to ensure that the nation's six million children and youth with disabilities have the same opportunity for a high-quality education as their non-disabled peers. The guidance clarifies that students with disabilities should not only have access to a free, appropriate public education but also individualized education programs (IEPs) aligned with state academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled. Such alignment will help make sure all students receive quality instruction that prepares them for success in college and careers.

In addition to the guidance, the agency also issued resources for parents and educators, including:

  • a new web site with resources developed by grantees on effective IEPs, instructional practices, assessments, student engagement, school climate, home and school partnerships, and post-school transition;
  • tips for teachers with evidence-based, positive, proactive, and responsive classroom behavior intervention and support strategies;
  • a new, two-part blueprint on teaching behavioral expectations throughout schools; and
  • tip sheets for parents to help children with disabilities successfully reach adulthood.

President Gerald Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act into law in 1975. At the time, an estimated one million children with disabilities were excluded from public schools and, thus, separated from their non-disabled peers. Four decades later, most students with disabilities are educated alongside non-disabled students in regular classrooms. (Note: Department intern and Gallaudet University student Jacqueline Wunderlich celebrates disability as diversity in a blog post.)

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Odds and Ends

  • In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Secretary Duncan discusses racial harassment, hostility, and insensitivity on college campuses, noting the recent incidents at the University of Missouri and Yale University but acknowledging "decades of history stretch across many campuses." "At issue is whether college campuses are safe and welcoming to every student, regardless of race, religion, background, and identity," he stated. "To be clear, work to maintain inclusive campus communities is not about chilling free expression. It is about creating strong cultures and dealing with attacks that violate the law." He shares tips to address the problems at the root of protests, gathered from a convening this month of college presidents, faculty, students, and legal experts.

  • In a separate blog post, OCR Senior Counsel Jessie Brown recaps a meeting with college students on the issue of sexual violence and related policies on college campuses.

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

  • On November 19, the Department's Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) awarded Little Wound School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling more than $325,000. The grant will be used to assist the school with ongoing recovery efforts following 12 suicide deaths on the reservation, including the deaths of current and former Little Wound students and relatives and friends of the students. This is the third Project SERV grant awarded to school districts serving the reservation, following a significant increase in student suicides.

  • Also on November 19, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett joined a panel discussion with mayors and federal agencies as part of the National League of Cities' (NLC) National Briefing on Educational Alignment for Young Children. NLC, through its Institute of Youth, Education, and Families, has identified 10 common elements of effective systems alignment. It is providing technical assistance on three key elements to six cities (Longmont, CO; Hartford, CT; Rochester, NY; Austin and Fort Worth, TX; and Richmond, VA) selected via a competitive process.

  • In response to feedback from the field, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell announced an expansion of the agency's Competency-Based Education experiment. The expansion will permit flexibility for subscription delivery models in which schools charge students a flat fee for a period of time. Under this model, institutions would distribute federal student aid based on the student's anticipated enrollment for the subscription period, versus requiring completion of a specific number of competencies before subsequent disbursements are made (blog post).

  • A National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) "Statistics in Brief" describes the percentages of public schools reporting teaching vacancies and subject areas with difficult-to-staff teaching positions.

  • The Secretary recorded an emotional conversation with LaWanda Crayton, whom he had mentored a quarter century ago in Chicago, for StoryCorps' The Great Thanksgiving Listen.

  • "Education at a Glance," the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) annual report, compares education systems in 34 member countries using a range of indicators, such as student participation and achievement, public and private spending, conditions for students and educators, and the state of lifelong learning.

  • The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange found that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 10%, to a record high of 974,926 in the 2013-14 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by 5%.

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Quote to Note

"It is good news for our nation's schools that Congress is taking the next step forward toward a serious bipartisan plan to revamp the outdated No Child Left Behind law. America's students deserve a bill that increases educational opportunity for all and lives up to the civil rights legacy of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We are encouraged that Congressional negotiators appear to be moving toward a framework that accomplishes those goals. We urge members on both sides of the aisle to continue working together to produce and pass a good piece of legislation."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (11/13/15), in a statement responding to the announcement of an ESEA conference framework, subsequently approved by the House-Senate conference committee (39-1).

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Upcoming Events

Calling all teacher leaders! Do you have a great idea for your school or district that you want to put into action? The Teach to Lead team is now accepting idea submissions for the sixth Teach to Lead Summit, February 13-14 in Baltimore.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funds tuition-free summer programs for school and college educators. Participants receive stipends to help cover travel and living expenses. Programs are held across the country. These one- to five-week study opportunities focus on important topics, texts, and questions in the humanities; enhance the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build a community of inquiry and provide models of excellent scholarship and teaching; and promote connections between teaching and research in the humanities. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2016.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 12/08/2015