Press Room NEWSLETTERS
December 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...
Every Student Succeeds Act
National Education Technology Plan
Computer Science Education Week
Protecting College Students
NAEP Assessment Schedule
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Every Student Succeeds Act

Yesterday, in a South Court ceremony, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The signing capped a remarkable week of Congressional activity, with the House (359-64) and Senate (85-12) overwhelmingly approving the bipartisan legislation to replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the previous version of the ESEA that has been up for reauthorization since 2007.

The ESSA includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and school districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from more onerous provisions of NCLB. It helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:

  • holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers;
  • ensuring accountability by stipulating that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps;
  • empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence;
  • reducing the burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests do not crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to know their children are learning;
  • providing more children access to high-quality preschool; and
  • establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for American's students.

In further recognition of the ESEA's legacy as a civil rights law—upholding critical protections for disadvantaged students—the ESSA holds schools to account for the progress of all students, prescribing meaningful reforms to remedy under-performance in those schools failing to serve all students; maintains dedicated resources and supports for students with disabilities, English Learners, Native American students, homeless children, neglected and delinquent children, and migrant and seasonal farmworker children; and keeps states and districts on task with the work they began this year to ensure all students have equitable access to excellent educators.

There is much to be figured out as the nation moves to implement the new law, but the White House and the Department have released a number of materials to help educate the public about the ESSA, including:

Many of these materials are posted on the Department's ESEA web page, and additional materials will be posted as they become available. In the meantime, questions may be directed to ESSA.questions@ed.gov.

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National Education Technology Plan

Also yesterday, the Department released the latest National Education Technology Plan and announced new commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders working to improve teaching and student achievement through the effective use of technology. Updated every five years, the plan is the flagship educational technology policy document for the country. The latest plan outlines a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. While acknowledging the continuing need to provide greater equity of access to technology itself, the plan goes further to call upon all involved in American education to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology.

In addition, the Department celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Future Ready initiative with the announcement of new commitments, including the launch of 17 statewide Future Ready initiatives. Since the launch of Future Ready in 2014, more than 2,000 superintendents have signed the pledge and committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning in their district and to share what they have learned with other districts. Some 44 national and 12 regional partner organizations have committed to assisting states, districts, and schools become Future Ready.

Moreover, the Department's Office of Educational Technology unveiled a set of professional learning resources to help superintendents and their teams effectively lead the transition to digital learning. These resources include personalizable video playlists for district leaders that highlight exemplary, peer-based stories and practices from districts across the nation.

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Computer Science Education Week

Last year, during Computer Science Education Week, President Obama became the first President to write a line of code and announced public and private commitments to expand access to computer science (CS) education in schools. For this year's CS Ed Week (December 7-13), the White House hosted its first-ever CS Tech Jam, gathering students, educators, and developers to generate new ways to bring engaging CS experiences, coding, and computational thinking into K-6 classrooms. Throughout the remainder of the week, White House officials and federal agency leadership hosted and spoke at a number of community-based CS events around the nation. Organizations are encouraged to submit commitments by December 22 for first round consideration and by January 5, 2016, for second round consideration. Early next year, the Administration will announce new commitments to CS education. Also, anyone is welcome to nominate a student, educator, or enthusiast to be recognized as a CS Education Champion of Change by December 18 (blog post).

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Protecting College Students

On December 3, Special Master Joseph Smith delivered his second progress report on the borrower's defense (BD) process. This report documents substantial progress on a number of student debt relief goals, including: the Department's progress in granting BD and closed school relief to eligible student loan borrowers; details on the population of BD and closed school claims under review; and the standards under which BD relief has been granted and the steps being taken to develop additional rules under which further relief may be granted. The report also discusses the issues that Smith continues to examine, including developing rules for resolving BD claims still under review and continued engagement with state attorneys general to expedite relief to students.

Under Secretary Ted Mitchell accepted Smith's recommendation to grant approximately $27.8 million in relief to 1,312 former Heald College students who have filed BD claims. The Department has notified this initial set of borrowers that their claims have been approved. Within 120 days, borrowers will receive confirmation that their loans have been discharged (press release).

In conjunction with the relief announcement, the Treasury Department also issued guidance clarifying that Corinthian College (Everest, Heald, or WyoTech) students whose loans are discharged based on BD will not be required to report discharged amounts for federal income tax purposes.

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NAEP Assessment Schedule

At its quarterly meeting in November, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) approved an updated schedule for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the "Nation's Report Card." Responding to budget constraints and priorities for the NAEP program, the schedule postpones the administration of NAEP at twelfth-grade in four subjects and the next long-term trend exams by four years. The schedule will allow NAGB to protect its top priorities, namely: transitioning NAEP to completely digitally-based assessments by 2017; continuing to assess broad-based curricular areas with a priority for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and providing state-level data in curricular areas beyond reading and math (press release).

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Odds and Ends

  • Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark, attended a Department meeting with campus leaders to tackle the issue of racial harassment on campuses and lay out solutions to foster supportive educational environments and wrote a statement of solidarity to the Rutgers community.

  • Last week, the Department, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and ASCD hosted a Teach to Lead Supporter Convening, designed for the more than 100 organizations that have committed support for Teach to Lead and the hundreds of teacher participants to reflect on this work and collectively envision a true teacher leadership movement.

  • A reminder: applications are due by December 14 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time for the Department's 2016-17 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows. (Note: Teaching Ambassador Fellow Patrick Kelly reflects on his experience in a blog post.)

  • In a separate blog post, Kelly recaps his visit to a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School.

  • The Department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently hosted a first-ever Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges. Over 250 participants from 120 institutions exchanged practices with peers, networked with 13 federal agencies, and learned how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice.

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Quote to Note

"The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) builds on our Administration's vision for education, and the fact is, this new agreement actually embodies and codifies much of it. Let's talk about four key ideas: college- and career-ready standards; focused support and attention for the lowest-performing 5% of schools; expanding preschool opportunity; and support for local innovation and investing in what works. None of those existed in previous versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They're ideas that this Administration put forward, and they're in this bill. They're here to stay.... I'm not saying this is the bill I'd have written myself. No compromise ever is. However, fundamentally, the idea of Americas as a country that expects more of our kids and holds ourselves responsible for their progress—that vision is alive and well."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (12/8/15), from remarks at the Learning Forward conference

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Upcoming Events

On December 17, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department's Offices of English Language Acquisition (OELA) and Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) will sponsor the last in a series of webinars from the White House Task Force on New Americans. "Pathways to Postsecondary Education and Career Training Success" will share policy, current research, and successful practices to support pathways to postsecondary education and career training for young adult and adult immigrants and refugees. (Note: All previous webinars are archived here.)

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with other federal agencies, is seeking applications from after-school and out-of-school programs for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. Twelve applicants will receive $10,000. The deadline for applications is February 2, 2016.

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Last Modified: 12/11/2015