Press Room NEWSLETTERS
January 8, 2016
(Happy New Year!)


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...
Saving Kids' Lives
Meet John King
ESSA Update
Completing the FAFSA
Promise Zones
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Saving Kids' Lives

On December 30, in the basement of Saint Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side of Chicago, Secretary Duncan delivered his final speech as Secretary of Education. He called for continued work to save the lives of America's children by protecting them from violence, combatting disconnectedness from society, and creating hope and opportunity for every student (video).

"Why a church basement? It wasn't an accident. My life's work started in a church basement," he said. "Movements have come out of church basements. We could have been in a fancy hotel downtown. We could have done something else. But that didn't feel right. This feels like home. If we can use church basements here in the South Side, the West Side—not just in Chicago, but across the nation—to move our country where we need to go, hopefully some of that can start here."

"If I could leave you with one number—16,000," he continued. "In my first six years as Secretary of Education, that's the number of young people who were killed across our country. That's an average of seven a day. That's a devastating rate of loss. White, black, Latino; urban, rural, suburban. This is a Chicago issue. This is a national issue. It's a crisis that we have to come together to work on. That's in the first six years. If you add in 2015's numbers, it's probably north of 18,000."

"We must ask so much more of ourselves at a time of real crisis," he added. "We have to honestly address everything—address the big picture. This is a time, if ever there was one, where we have to challenge everything—to think big and to think long term. The truth is that in virtually every community plagued by devastating levels of violence, you will also find a perfect storm of high unemployment, under-resourced schools, little economic development, high percentage of people returning from prison, and few—if any—positive options for the children we care so much about. What's harming our children is not just gun violence.... It's the lack of hope and the disconnectedness that leads children to pick up those guns when they have challenges. Simply put, if we want to change kids' lives and not just keep them alive, we must put in place what I'm going to call a 'new deal.' A new deal for children and a new vision for the communities in which they live. Our children need hope—hope not in the unseen or the distance, but in what they can see every day on their block and in their schools and in their communities."

The Secretary concluded with four ideas he is "convinced would both transform our children's opportunity structure and, just as importantly, help them believe that they have a future," including broader access to early childhood education and meaningful incentives for great teachers to work in high-poverty schools, as well as mentorships and support for job creation in poor neighborhoods.

Note: Before signing off, Secretary Duncan also posted a piece on Medium elaborating on his remarks and had an op-ed published in Politico on five questions the presidential candidates need to be asked.

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Meet John King

Acting Secretary King hit the ground running this week, revisiting his elementary school in Brooklyn, greeting students and teachers at JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres in Silver Spring, Maryland (part of the same school district where his children attend school), and hosting a meeting with teachers active on social media.

He also penned an introductory blog post, with an embedded video and outlining three resolutions for 2016:

  • working to ensure every student in America—regardless of zip code or background—has the opportunities of a high-quality education;
  • supporting the nation's educators and elevating the teaching profession; and
  • improving access, affordability, and completion in higher education for all students.

And, the Acting Secretary has been active on Twitter, assuming the Secretary's account and quarter of a million followers. Follow him @JohnKingatED and ask him questions using #AskJohnKing. Please also follow former Secretary Duncan @arneduncan.

Meanwhile, in light of recent world events, the Department released a Dear Colleague letter—signed by former Secretary Duncan and Acting Secretary King—encouraging school district and college and university leaders to foster safe, respectful, and non-discriminatory learning environments for their students. The letter reminds schools of their obligation under federal civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived race, religion, or national origin and includes suggestions to help schools maintain safe learning communities. It also includes links to resources to help school officials, educators, students, and families in promoting positive school climates and about bullying and harassment.

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ESSA Update

A reminder that January 11 is the first of two public hearings to provide advice and recommendations concerning issues related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for which regulations may be helpful to clarify statutory ambiguities or to provide appropriate flexibility. Registration is now closed for presentations, but the public is welcome to observe the meeting at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Also, the meeting will be livestreamed.

The second public hearing is January 19 at the University of California-Los Angeles. The deadline to register for this meeting is January 12 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Please send a message with your name and organization to ESSA.publichearing@ed.gov.

The agency is also accepting written comments through January 21—see the Federal Register notice for instructions on submitting comments.

The Department will decide whether to proceed with negotiated rulemaking after considering the feedback received via the public hearings and online. If it decides to proceed with negotiated rulemaking, it will provide more information regarding the process for nominating potential negotiators at that time. The ESSA requires negotiators be chosen "from among individuals or groups that provided advice and recommendations" concerning regulations under Title I.

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Completing the FAFSA

On January 1, the 2016-17 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became available. Completing the FAFSA is critical to getting access to billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds. Moreover, it is free, quick (on average, taking less than 30 minutes!), and easy.

To make sure that students do not leave money on the table, the Department has prepared a number of blog posts:

Also, Acting Secretary King recorded a video encouraging students to complete the FAFSA.

Visit StudentAid.gov for complete information on federal financial aid, including types of aid available, qualification criteria, and managing loans.

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Promise Zones

Last month, the Obama Administration announced a competition to designate a third and final round of Promise Zones. The zones are part of the President's plan to create a new pathway to the middle class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, improve educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime. Urban, rural, and tribal communities nationwide are invited to put forward a plan to partner with community leaders to make evidence-based investments that reward hard work and expand opportunity. In exchange, these designees will receive priority access to federal investments that further their strategic plans, federal staff on the ground to help them implement their goals, and five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members to recruit and manage volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the initiatives (fact sheet).

So far, nine urban communities, two rural communities, and two tribal communities have been designated as Promise Zones (designees, finalists, and applicants).

Any community meeting the eligibility criteria can apply for such designation. The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture will designate seven Promise Zones across urban, rural, and tribal communities. Applications are due by February 23 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

For further information, see the urban application guide, the rural and tribal application guide, and Frequently Asked Questions, and leaders are invited to join stakeholder webinars on January 13 and February 1.

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Odds and Ends

  • The Department has awarded the Baltimore City School District a Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant totaling $292,647. The grant will be used to assist with ongoing recovery efforts following community unrest in April 2015.

  • Representatives from the Department's Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently visited with leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, supporting former Secretary Duncan's promise that the agency would not forget the community.

  • A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provisional "First Look" report shares data from three postsecondary surveys: graduation rates, student financial aid, and admissions. A finding: approximately 60% of first-time, full-time students at four-year institutions in 2008 completed a bachelor's or equivalent degree within six years at the institution where they began their studies.

  • Another NCES report, "Comparative Indicators of Education in the U.S. and Other G-20 Countries," provides data on population and school enrollment, academic performance, contexts for learning, expenditure for education, and educational attainment and income. A finding: in 2011, the U.S. awarded 16% of first college degrees in math, science, and engineering, making it one of just three G-20 nations for which that percentage was lower than that awarded in the arts and humanities.

  • Last year was an exciting year for the What Works Clearinghouse (by the numbers), which continued to publish a range of products to help educators make sound, evidence-based decisions.

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Quote to Note

"The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence. But, we are the only advanced country that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It's not even close. And, as I've said before, somehow we've become numb to it, and we start thinking that this is normal.... All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important. Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well.... Because our right to worship freely and safely—that right was denied to Christians in Charleston. And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill and Sikhs in Oak Creek.... Our right to peaceful assembly—that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun."

        President Barack Obama (1/5/16), in his remarks on common sense gun safety reform (fact sheet)

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Upcoming Events

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month (fact sheet). Trafficking can involve school-age youth, particularly those made vulnerable by challenging family situations, and can take a wide variety of forms, including forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation. "Human Trafficking in America's Schools" is a free guide for school staff with information on risk factors, recruitment, and how to identify trafficking; what to do if you suspect trafficking, with sample school protocols and policies; and other resources and potential partnership opportunities.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 18 by making the holiday a day ON—versus a day off. MLK Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site offers up a toolkit to plan for the day of service, enables organizers to register projects nationwide, and provides free lesson plans on Dr. King's legacy of service.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 01/08/2016